World Population Awareness

Impacts and Carrying Capacity

Environmental Impacts from
Unsustainable Population Growth

The human impact on natural ecosystems has reached dangerous levels, even significantly altering the Earth's basic chemical cycles, says a new report, World Resources 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems, The Fraying Web of Life. The report paints a dismal picture of over-fished oceans, over-pumping of water for farming, destruction of coral reefs and forests, even too much tourism, with human population growth and increasing consumption as the two principal drivers of the decline. The report was released by the the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNEP, the World Bank and the Washington DC-based World Resources Institute (WRI). Over 175 scientists contributed to this global research effort, which took more than two years to complete. The report grades the health of coastal, forest, grassland, and freshwater and agricultural ecosystems on the basis of their ability to produce the goods and services that the world currently relies on. "For too long we have focused on how much we can take from our ecosystems, with little attention to the services that they provide," said Thomas Johansson, Director of UNDP's Energy and Atmosphere Programme. "Ecosystems provide essential services like climate control and nutrient recycling that we cannot replace at any reasonable price." The world's population has tripled since 1980, to the current 6 billion people, and is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. By then, economists predict that the global economy may expand by a factor of five. Consumption of everything from rice to paper to refrigerators to oil has risen in tandem with the population -- all at a cost to ecosystems. Demand for rice, wheat, and maize is expected to grow 40% by 2020, pushing water demand for irrigation up 50% or more. By 2050, demand for wood could double. The sponsors of the report said that the study faced limitations and called for a larger, more comprehensive effort to monitor and compile information on current ecosystem conditions, and to analyze the effects of future changes in ecosystems. This larger effort is called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and hopes to bring the best available information and knowledge on ecosystem goods and services to bear on policy and management decisions.   Widespread Decline in the World's Ecosystems September 15, 2000, BBC/World Resources Institute doclink
Humans have gravely altered the chemistry, biology and physical structure of the Earth's land and water, according to the latest findings on the "human footprint on Earth."
  • Half of the mangrove forests, which serve as estuaries in the tropics, have been lost to a combination of coastal development and conversion to aquaculture.
  • Global aquaculture now accounts for more than one-quarter of all fish consumed by humans. In the case of shrimp and salmon -- the fastest growing segment of aquaculture -- two to three pounds of fish are needed to grow one pound of the raised seafood. Thus this practice is depleting the oceans of food for wild fish, birds, and marine mammals.
  • About 3000 species of marine life are in transit in ballast water of ships around the world, resulting in a serious invasion of non-native species in our waterways. A minor but increasing contributor to the problem is escape of non-native fish and plants from aquariums.
  • There are now some 50 'dead zones' in the world's coastal areas, she reported. The largest in the Western Hemisphere is in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus flowing down the Mississippi River
  Nearly Half of Earth's Land Has Been Transformed by Humans July 30, 1999, Eureka Alert doclink
The one process ongoing ... that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.   E.O. Wilson doclink
since loading this page ...The world has added PEOPLE (2.8 /sec. net)
and lost acres of WILD LANDS (1.6 acres/sec)

Click here to see the earth lights at night
  • Half of the world's wetlands were lost last century.
  • Logging and conversion have shrunk the world's forests by as much as half.
  • Some 9 percent of the world's tree species are at risk of extinction; tropical deforestation may exceed 130,000 square kilometers per year.
  • Fishing fleets are 40 percent larger than the ocean can sustain.
  • Nearly 70 percent of the world's major marine fish stocks are overfished or are being fished at their biological limit.
  • Soil degradation has affected two-thirds of the world's agricultural lands in the last 50 years.
  • Some 30 percent of the world's original forests have been converted to agriculture.
  • Since 1980, the global economy has tripled in size and population has grown by 30 percent to 6 billion people.
  • Dams, diversions or canals fragment almost 60 percent of the world's largest rivers.
  • Twenty percent of the world's freshwater fish are extinct, threatened or endangered.
  •   People and Ecosystems, the Fraying Web of Life United Nations Development Programme doclink
    A pioneering analysis of the world's ecosystems reveals a widespread decline in the condition of the world's ecosystems due to increasing resource demands. The analsysis, by the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns that if the decline continues it could have devastating implications for human development and the welfare of all species. The analysis examined coastal, forest, grassland, and freshwater and agricultural ecosystems. The health of the each ecosystem was measured, as based on its ability to produce the goods and services that the world currently relies on. These goods/services include production of food, provision of pure and sufficient water, storage of atmospheric carbon, maintenance of biodiversity and provision of recreation and tourism opportunities. The analysis shows that there are considerable signs that the capacity of Earth's ecosystems to produce many of the goods and services we depend on is rapidly declining. To make matters worse, as our ecosystems decline, we are also racing against time since scientists lack baseline knowledge needed to properly determine the conditions of such systems.   New Analysis of World's Ecosystems Reveals Widespread Decline ENN doclink
    Will our great- grandchildren inherit a desiccated husk of a once shimmering planet, and curse us for a legacy of droughts, plagues,storms and hardscrabble moonscapes? The four-fold increase in humans and the advent of the consumer society - have made the end of the millennium a cusp of history. Affluent consumers in Hong Kong want exotic fish and presto! Poachers in the Philippines destroy vital reefs to meet that demand. In 1998 the Yangtze floods, which resulted in damage of 3,000 dead and $80 billion, were exaggerated by deforestation of the watershed. Millions of workers in China and Russia are plagued with pollution-related ailments. U.S. policy makers seem to be negotiating with nature and debate how much warming might be averted for how much economic pain. In a Scripps Howard poll in 1998, 61% of those questioned agreed: global warming is happening. New threats: the release of synthetic estrogens, compounds that appear in everything from plastics to pesticides, is messing up the endocrine systems of innumerable species, including humans.   What Estate Will Our Century Leave? doclink

    The Oceans

    Protect Corals, Fish and Whales From Ocean Acidification

    April 4, 2012, Center for Biological Diversity

    Without swift, national action to protect the ocean's vast diversity of life from acidifying waters corals, shellfish, salmon and a whole host of beautiful creatures will be lost.

    We need your help to ask President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to get working on a bold plan to curb ocean acidification.

    Carbon dioxide pollution is also being absorbed by the ocean, causing its chemistry to change and become more acidic. This spells trouble for marine animals that are now having difficulty building shells, growing and sometimes even surviving in increasingly corrosive waters.


    Overfishing Causing Global Catches to Fall Three Times Faster Than Estimated

    Landmark new study that includes small-scale, subsistence and illegal fishing shows a strong decline in catches as more fisheries are exhausted
    January 19, 2016, Guardian   By: Damian Carrington

    Seafood is the critical source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people, but over-exploitation is cutting the catch by more than 1 million tons a year.

    Official catch data from FAO rarely includes small-scale, sport or illegal fishing and does not count fish discarded at sea. A more exhaustive study, taking over a decade shows that the annual catches between 1950 and 2010 were much bigger than thought, but that the decline after the peak year of 1996 was much faster than official figures.

    The new research estimates the peak catch was 130 million tons, but declined at 1.2 million tons per year afterwards.

    Prof Daniel Pauly, at the University of British Columbia in Canada and who led the work, said the decline is very strong and "is due to countries having fished too much and having exhausted one fishery after another."

    Prof Boris Worm, at Dalhousie University in Canada and not involved in the new research said. "This was a Herculean task that no one else has ever attempted. While the results necessarily remain uncertain, they undoubtedly represent our most complete picture yet of the global state of fish catches."

    Worm said the world's fisheries were being over-exploited but that some stocks were being sustainably managed: "Where such measures have been taken, we find that both fish and fishermen are more likely to persist into the future."

    Global fish catches rose from the 1950s to 1996 as fishing fleets expanded and discovered new fish stocks to exploit. But after 1996, few undiscovered fisheries were left and catches started to decline. The decline since 1996 has largely been in fish caught by industrial fleets and to a lesser extent a cut in the number of unwanted fish discarded at sea.

    "The fact that we catch far more than we thought is, if you like, a more positive thing," he said. "Because if we rebuild stocks, we can rebuild to more than we thought before."

    There has been success in some places where fishing has been restricted for a few years, for example in the Norwegian herring and cod fisheries. On resumption, catches were bigger than ever.

    Pauly said: "I don't see African countries, for example, rebuilding their stocks, or being allowed to by the foreign fleets that are working there, because the pressure to continue to fish is very strong. We know how to fix this problem but whether we do it or not depends on conditions that are difficult."

    A 2015 study showed nearly 500 Chinese fishing vessels operating off west Africa, with scores of cases of illegal fishing, according to Greenpeace. Illegal and pirate fishing take place in many parts of the world.

    Prof Callum Roberts, at the University of York in the UK and not part of Pauly's team, said: "We can see more clearly now, for example, the immense value of fish to poor people in developing countries," he said. "We can see how industrial fisheries from developing countries are robbing these people of livelihoods and food. We can also see, that in efforts to stem declines, we have been using more and more bycatch that was once thrown away." doclink

    After 60 Million Years of Extreme Living, Seabirds Are Crashing

    A new study finds that the world's seabird populations have plummeted by almost 70% in just 60 years.
    September 22, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Jeremy Hance

    Seabirds have been around for sixty million years, and they are true survivalists: circumnavigating the globe without rest, diving more than 200 meters in treacherous seas for food, braving unpredictable weather and finding their way with few, if any, landmarks.

    But now seabirds seabird abundance has dropped 69.7% in only 60 years, according to a recent paper in PLOS ONE.

    Edd Hammill with Utah State University and co-author of the paper, noted: "What we should take away from this is that something is serious amiss in the oceans."

    Ben Lascelles, with Birdlife International, found the research alarming because the decline appeared practically indiscriminate, hitting a "large number of species across a number of families."

    Michelle Paleczny with the University of British Columbia and the Sea Around Us Project said: "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."

    There are nearly 350 species of seabirds worldwide. Living on both the open ocean and the shoreline, they face overfishing, drowning in fishing lines or nets, plastic pollution, invasive species like rats in nesting areas, oil and gas development and toxic pollution moving up the food chain. And then there is climate change and ocean acidification which threaten to flood nesting sites and disrupt food sources.

    Seabirds are about twice as likely as land-based birds to be threatened with extinction. Paleczny and Hammil's research found that the tern family has fallen by 85%, frigatebirds by 81%, petrels and shearwaters by 79%, and albatrosses by 69%.

    Lascelles said: "Increased efforts should be made to rid seabird colonies of invasive species, reduce bycatch in fisheries or the ensnaring of birds in fish nets, and setting up conservation areas."

    Paleczny also called for the creation of international marine protected areas to cover the wide ranges of seabirds.

    Currently, only 2% of the world's oceans are under some form of protection and less than half of those ban fishing altogether. In contrast, nearly 15% of the world's terrestrial landscape is protected.

    With so little of the ocean closed to fisheries - less than 1% - it's hardly shocking that many seabirds are suffering from overfishing.

    Hammill said the "most pressing issue" is plastic pollution. A paper released last month found that 90% of the world's seabirds likely have plastic in their stomachs.

    Seabirds continually mistake plastic for fish eggs, devouring large amounts. Plastic in animals' stomachs not only release deadly toxins, but can also lead to slow starvation by obstructing the animals' bowels. Birds even feed plastic bits to their young, killing their fledglings en masse.

    In the end, large-scale actions to help seabirds could also go a long way in cleaning-up our increasingly trashed marine ecosystems.

    "The oceans are still woefully under protected and fisheries need greater management and enforcement. All of these activities need investment and support of governments around the world to make them happen," Lascelles said. "These actions will build resilience in the seabird populations in the short term, which they need in the face of emerging threats such as climate change." doclink

    World Ocean Heartbeat Fading? 'Nasty' Signs North Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation is Weakening

    March 23, 2015, Robertscribbler

    Scientists call it Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). But we may as well think of it as the heartbeat of the world ocean system. And when that heartbeat begins to slow down, we'd best sit up and start paying attention:

    Near Greenland in the North Atlantic, salty, dense, ocean water issuing from the tropics along the Gulf Stream begins to cool. The heavier water, burdened with salt, sinks to the bottom in the North Atlantic. This drives a massive ocean conveyer belt, driving less oxygen rich bottom waters to the surface where they can be reinvigorated. It also drives this ocean revitalizing train of currents through every major corner of the world ocean.

    However, scientists have been warning policymakers for 30 years that this salt and heat driven (thermohaline) circulation could be disrupted, reducing oxygen levels throughout the whole ocean system, and greatly reducing the oceans' ability to support life and shifting one step closer to the nightmare ocean state called a Canfield Ocean.

    This disruption could be caused by warmer, salty water cooling and sinking in the North Atlantic. And any disruption of the overturning process in the North Atlantic basically kills off a life-giving circulation to the entire world ocean system.

    For details and graphs, click on the link in the headline. doclink

    Why Ocean Health is Better and Worse Than You Think

    The good news is the world's oceans have not experienced the extinctions that have occurred on land. But as ecologist Douglas McCauley explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview, marine life now face numerous threats even more serious than overfishing.
    February 18, 2015, Yale Environment 360   By: Fen Montaigne

    A group of marine experts published a study in the journal Science which drew conclusions that were both heartening and disturbing: While ocean ecosystems are still largely intact, the marine world is facing unprecedented disturbance, including acidification from the absorption of greenhouse gases and widespread habitat destruction from deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, development, and aquaculture.

    Lead author Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, noted that, while there was a sixth mass extinction that's been happening, the sixth mass extinction is not underway in the oceans. However the bad news is that there were a lot of data suggesting that we're in a really important transition zone and we seem to be on the verge of transitioning from an era in which harvesting and fishing of marine resources has been the main driver of impoverishing biological diversity to one in which massive habitat change and, `global chemical warfare' (acidification) may be waged on the oceans.

    "If you hunt individuals intensely that's going to have negative impacts, but if you go through and actually ravage the homes of these animals, it's going to be a lot harder to recover and the impacts are going to be more profound," he said.

    "Look at the way we are impacting coral reef cover, the way that fish farming is eating up mangrove forest, the amount of factory building that we are doing in the oceans for energy production. Seabed mining can only be described as a gold rush that's underway under the ocean now."

    "Let's keep our eyes on this emerging rising tide of industrialization in the oceans."

    "There are just so many more of us on the planet that have so much higher energy and resource needs, and that we have to start reaching into the oceans for things that we require in our everyday lives."

    We just need to be smarter about how to industrialize the ocean and put industry in the right places. "If we need to develop a section of the oceans that turns out to have really bad impacts for wildlife, we need to do remediation somewhere else."

    "There are millions and millions of dollars that are being invested to build technological capacity to mine minerals, and they are talking about doing this in the deepest parts of the oceans. And the numbers involved are a bit scary -- a million square kilometers that have been staked out in this marine gold rush"

    "There are two major changes that are happening in the oceans as a result of climate change - changing temperature and acidification.""We need to keep climate change and climate change effects on the oceans -- and what this means for wildlife -- at the top of our agenda."

    Some of the "corals are beginning to show the capacity for resiliency to cope with some of these temperature increases.". "So what we need to do is basically slow down the rate of the advance of climate change."

    "We need more parks and protected areas in the ocean. It's something that we need to very actively tell our policy makers to do."

    "The processes of engaging and slowing marine defaunation is made triply hard because large parts of the oceans have no owners. But there is a growing awareness that we need to build international alliances to think about marine wildlife issues." doclink

    The Disaster We've Wrought on the World's Oceans May Be Irrevocable

    July 2, 2014, Newsweek   By: Alex Renton

    Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing global temperatures to rise, which is leading to the melting of the polar ice caps, which in turn has resulted in rising sea levels and a host of ecological issues.

    On the fish counters of Barcelona's central market, thousands of sea creatures making up dozens of species are on display. But by the end of this century, many of these animals may be history due to man's reckless abuse of the planet. The oceans are taking up the greenhouse gases that we dump into the air, which turns the waters deadly to its inhabitants.

    Many species on the market's fish counters are also on one or more European "at-risk" lists: under threat because of overfishing or changes in the chain of foods that supply them, or from the bigger threat of the changing ocean biogeochemistry. Bivalves such as clams, oysters and mussels use calcium carbonate to make their shells. However, in as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone.

    Other sea creatures with shells don't make their shells the same way but the acidification appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behavior of the crustaceans when they are very young.

    This acidification is the fastest change in the ocean's chemistry in 300 million years, according to scientists.

    A significant amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the burning of carbon fuels. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, lowering the pH level and increasing its acidity. "In preindustrial times the ocean's pH was 8.2. It has already gone down to 8.1," says Carles Pelejero, a scientist working in Barcelona. "Depending on what we do, it will reach an average of 7.8 or 7.7 by 2100. It hasn't been that low for 55 million years."

    The ocean is a key food supply for more than 3 billion of us.

    Along the coasts and out in the deep, huge "dead zones" have been multiplying. They are the emptiest places on the planet, where there's little oxygen and sometimes no life at all, almost entirely restricted to some unicellular organisms like bacteria. Vast blooms of algae-organisms that thrive in more acid (and less alkaline) seawater and are fed by pollution-have already rendered parts of the Baltic Sea pretty much dead. A third of the marine life in that sea, which once fed all of Northern Europe,

    What worries Pelejero most is the rapidity of today's changes. The same shifts that happened over the course of a few thousand years during the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) are now due to happen over just a few centuries, counting from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels.

    One ray of hope is that the Obama administration announced a series of measures aimed to conserve the ocean as a key food supply. These included more ocean sanctuaries to curtail overfishing, and new funds to research ocean biochemistry, including acidification. doclink

    Modern Ocean Acidification is Outpacing Ancient Upheaval: Rate May Be Ten Times Faster

    June 2, 2014, ScienceDaily   By: Donald Penman

    In a study published in the latest issue of Paleoceanography, the scientists estimate that ocean acidity increased by about 100% in a few thousand years or more, and stayed that way for the next 70,000 years. In this radically changed environment, some creatures died out while others adapted and evolved. The study is the first to use the chemical composition of fossils to reconstruct surface ocean acidity at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense warming on land and throughout the oceans due to high CO2.

    The oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon humans have pumped into the air since industrialization, helping to keep earth's thermostat lower than it would be otherwise. But that uptake of carbon has come at a price. Chemical reactions caused by that excess CO2 have made seawater grow more acidic, depleting it of the carbonate ions that corals, mollusks and calcifying plankton need to build their shells and skeletons.

    For more, follow the link at doclink

    Human Population Growth and Oceans

    May 31, 2014, Center for Biological Diversity

    Marine fish provide 15% of all animal protein consumed by humans. Under this intense pressure global fisheries are collapsing.

    A 2009 assessment found that 80% of fish stocks are either fully exploited, overexploited, or have collapsed. 90% of the world's large predatory fish are in decline. Of the 21 marine species known to have been driven extinct in the past 300 years, 16 disappeared since 1972 .

    A catch reduction of 20 - 50% is needed to make global fisheries sustainable, but the demand for fish is expected to increase by 35 million tons by 2030 due to increased consumption and a "rapidly increasing human population."

    In addition to overfishing impacts from commercial fishing, coral reefs -- anchors of biodiversity that support thousands of fish species and as many as a million species overall -- are often damaged or destroyed by trawlers and dredging.

    The global fish crisis has become so severe, scientists and wildlife managers are breaking the human population taboo, calling not only for reduced consumption and better regulation, but for alleviation of poverty and "stabilization of the world's human population" . doclink

    Canada: Acidic Water Blamed for West Coast Scallop Die-off

    Nanaimo-based Island Scallops has shut down its processing plant and laid off a third of its workforce
    February 25, 2014, Vancouver Sun   By: Randy Shore

    Ten million scallops that have died in the waters near Qualicum Beach due to rising ocean acidity are the latest victims in a series of marine die-offs that have plagued the West Coast for a decade.

    Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere are being absorbed by the ocean and may have pushed local waters through a "tipping point" of acidity beyond which shellfish cannot survive, according to Chris Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of B.C.

    Rising ocean acidity is a global phenomenon, made worse by higher natural acidity in local waters, Harley said.

    High acidity interferes with the ability of baby scallops to form a protective shell, forcing them to expend more energy and making them more vulnerable to predators and infection.

    Scallop operations big and small are reporting die-offs this year. Mysterious scallop die-offs have also been reported in China since 1996.

    Oyster die-offs in Washington state and Oregon dating back a decade have also been linked by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers to acidification and rising carbon dioxide levels.

    Oyster larvae started dying inexplicably in 2005. Researchers found that deep water welling up from the depths of the ocean was mixing with surface water rich in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rendering the water uninhabitable to some shellfish. doclink

    Ocean Acidification

    December 12, 2013, IGBP - International Geosphere-Biosphere Program

    Click on the link to see this infographic showing what the ocean will look like in 2100.

    "Hot, sour and breathless". -- Ocean acidification is one of the three big stressors on the oceans alongside warming and decreasing oxygen concentrations. Several other stresses include overfishing and eutrophication (excess fertilizers adding to depletion of oxygen in the water). Together they create significant challenges for ocean ecosystems. doclink

    Just How Bad is Overfishing? It's Really Bad

    November 25, 2013, Science Recorder

    Facts on overfishing:

    Since 1950, one in four of the world's fisheries has collapsed due to overfishing.

    77% of the world's marine fish stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or slowly recovering.

    The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. Twenty years later, the fishery has yet to recover.

    Scientists estimate that 90% of the world's large fish have been removed from our oceans, including many tuna, sharks, halibut, grouper, and other top level predators which help maintain an ecological balance.

    Of the 3.5 million fishing vessels worldwide, only 1.7% are classified as large-scale, industrial vessels, yet these vessels take almost 60% of the global fish catch.

    For the other 7 facts about overfishing, click on the link in the headlines. doclink

    Ending Overfishing

    May 21, 2013, You Tube

    Despite an increased awareness of overfishing, the majority of people still know very little about the scale of the destruction being wrought on the oceans. This film presents an unquestionable case for why overfishing needs to end and shows that there is still an opportunity for change. Reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy is almost complete. Fisheries ministers and members of the European Parliament, MEPs, are negotiating a deal for the future EU fisheries subsidies, which should support and end to EU overfishing. In the meantime you can support the campaign to end overfishing by signing the petition at: doclink

    U.S.: Drastic Cuts in Fish Quotas Expected

    December 20, 2012, Boston Globe   By: Beth Daley

    Fishery regulators are likely to impose devastating cuts on the New England fishing fleet in the vast Gulf of Maine; however, blame for the disappearance of once-abundant cod and flounder populations is shifting from fishermen to warming waters and an evolving ocean ecosystem possibly related to man-made climate change.

    Researchers acknowledge they don't know whether prized cod and flounder stocks will ever rebound and what species will take their place. John Bullard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's regional chief. "We can control overfishing -- it's hard but we can do it -- but how do you control this?" The only option is to dramatically restrict fishing to give the fish any hope of a comeback.

    The New England Fishery Management Council would cut up to nearly 80% for some stocks of cod, as well as cuts to other species. To ease the pain, the New England Fishery Management Council, a governmental body made up fishermen, industry representatives, state officials, and environmentalists, will also decide whether to open more than 5,000 square miles of conservation area now closed to most fishermen.

    Fishermen are struggling to comprehend how the sacrifices they made in the last decade to idle boats and catch fewer fish were for naught. Only four years ago, scientists said cod populations were healthy and growing, a rosy assessment that unraveled last year when researchers discovered serious errors in their analysis had led them to overestimate Gulf of Maine cod by nearly 300%.

    Eight months into the fishing year, the entire fleet has caught just 44% of this year's cod quota. Some fisherman say that cuts may not be as drastic as they sound because so many fishermen can't catch their quota anyway.

    The sea floor is recording temperatures of 50.5 degrees. "That is almost unheard of, we should be in the mid-40s," said one fisherman. There have been cycles of cooling and warming, and scientists are not sure whether the Gulf of Maine's warming is from natural cycles, climate change, or a combination of both.

    NOAA research shows that about half of 36 fish stocks they analyzed in recent years, including cod, flounder, and lesser-known species, have been shifting northward or into deeper waters in the last four decades. While locally caught Atlantic cod are disappearing from restaurants and stores, other fish that thrive in warmer water, such as Atlantic croaker, could take their place. But it's unclear if fishermen will be able to make as much money from these species.

    The timing of spring plankton blooms -- the foundation of the marine food web -- may also be shifting, scientists say, coming earlier in the spring, as it did this year. Plankton changes, combined with rising ocean temperatures, could affect the success of young marine life because so many species time their spawning to the spring bloom.

    Predator fish that feed on cod are increasing in the area. doclink

    What Environmental Reporting Leaves Out

    October 4, 2012, Truthdig   By: Alexander Reed Kelly

    Chaos theory says the particulars of the breakdown of the earth's ecosystems are unpredictable. No wonder scientists were "surprised" to find that the size of individual fish in the world's oceans is likely to shrink by as much as one quarter in the coming decades.

    Chaos theory asserts that - as an increasing number of essential parts of a complex system break down - such as a stock market, climate or mechanical engine - the overall system is destabilized, and its exact behavior becomes impossible to predict. This event precedes what's known as "runaway," which occurs when a critical number of those parts stop working and irreversible "tipping points" have been passed.

    Applied to the ecosystems in the earth's oceans, the number of variables that bear upon that species - temperature, salt levels and the state of species nearby or across the world, for example - becomes too great to be included in any predictive model. The relationships between parts within the system become so complex and the changes occur so rapidly that scientists cannot keep up. By the time they identify a problem and propose a solution, their work becomes obsolete, their discoveries made irrelevant. This fact can make it difficult to trust their predictions.

    Scientists don't want to be seen as alarmist, so most will err on the conservative side of the estimates that result from their work.

    "We were surprised as we did not think the effects would be so strong and so widespread," project leader professor William Cheung of the University of British Columbia said.

    Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, who was not among the study's authors, said "Additional impacts of climate change such as the acidification of the ocean and reduction of nutrients in surface waters could decrease fish stocks even further."

    1 billion people currently count fish as their primary source of animal protein, Roberts pointed out. With 9 billion people expected by 2050, that number will assuredly rise, as will the importance of our understanding of how ecological systems deteriorate.

    Predictive models can remain meaningful in the short term, but over time, the growing number of variables that play a role in determining the fate of any plant or animal becomes virtually impossible to make sense of. In their efforts to understand the unraveling, scientists can only scramble to bring their models up to date as their subjects approach levels of complexity that lie beyond the power of any human to comprehend.

    Aside from the unsettling fact that the systems that support human and other life are disintegrating at an increasing rate, no one can say for sure exactly what the world we're rushing into will look like. doclink

    In the News: Plastic Debris Reaches Southern Ocean

    September 27, 2012, Mail and Guardian

    The French scientific research vessel Tara, which has been sailing the world's oceans for 2.5 years to investigate the impacts of climate change, has found traces of plastic waste in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. The researchers had expected levels ten times lower.

    The Southern Ocean is rich in wildlife, from penguins and fish to seals and whales. Chris Bowler, scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans said, "We had always assumed that this was a pristine environment, very little touched by human beings. The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale."

    In addition to plastic bags, bottles and other plastic items, the world's oceans also contain microscopic fragments that result from the degradation of larger items through years of exposure to seawater and sunlight. In addition, synthetic fibres, largely made up of clothing residues from washing machines, also comprised a significant portion of the plastic fragments they found.

    Plastic pollution has many long-lasting and even fatal impacts on marine life. Birds, fish and other animals are known to regularly consume plastic waste, mistaking it for jellyfish or other prey, but it cannot be digested and remains in the stomach. Plastics also slowly release toxins and other chemicals, which can build up in the food chain.

    Much of the waste in the Southern Ocean is thought to originate from Africa, South America or Australia.

    While it is too late to do much about the plastic already circulating in our oceans, which it will take thousands of years to degrade, we can take action against future pollution by advocating the use of biodegradable materials and by changing consumer attitudes and behaviour. doclink

    Speed of Ocean Acidification Concerns Scientists

    September 26, 2012, United Nations Population Division

    "Ocean acidification has happened before sometimes with large consequences for marine ecosystems. But within the last 300 million years, never has the rate of ocean acidification been comparable to the ongoing acidification," said Dr Schmidt of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences.

    The most comparable event was 55 million years ago and was most likely 10 times slower than the current acidification.

    "The geological record shows changes in species distribution, changes in species composition, changes in calcification and growth and in a few cases extinction," she said.

    Dr Claudine Hauri, an oceanographer from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said: "The waters up and down the coast from our conference site here in Monterey Bay are particularly prone to the effects of ocean acidification. The chemistry of these waters is changing at such a rapid pace that organisms now experience conditions that are different from what they have experienced in the past. And within about 20 or 30 years, the chemistry again will be different from that of even today." doclink

    Ocean Acidification Worst in 300 Million Years

    March 2, 2012, Christian Science Monitor

    Carbon dioxide emissions have lowered the pH in the oceans, causing acidity to rise faster than in the past 300 million years, according to researchers at Columbia University who have been studying organisms in Antarctic waters.

    The past 300 million years is a period that includes four mass extinctions, researchers have found. During those times, increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warmed the planet and made the oceans more acidic.

    In the past increases in the atmosphere's carbon dioxide levels resulted from volcanoes and other natural causes, but today the increases are due to human activities, say the scientists. Lead researcher Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said: "We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out - new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about - coral reefs, oysters, salmon."

    Oceans absorb that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where it turns into a carbon acid. This dissolves the carbonates needed by some organisms, like corals, oysters or the tiny snails salmon eat.

    The scientists review appeared March 1 in the journal Science, The closest modern parallel was about 56 millions ago in what is called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when atmospheric carbon concentrations doubled, pushing up global temperatures. Extinctions in the deep sea accompanied this shift. But today the ocean is acidifying at least 10 times faster than it did 56 million years ago, according to Hönisch. doclink

    Food for 9 Billion: Turning the Population Tide in the Philippines

    January 23, 2012, Center for Investigative Reporting

    This story also appeared on PBS NEWSHOUR. A related story can be found on American Public Media's Marketplace.

    Fishing villages near the Danajon Double Barrier Reef off of Bohol Island in the southern Philippines are embracing birth control for the first time, not just as a means to plan their families but as a path to long-term food security, ensuring that future generations enjoy the same abundance of fish. The area is one of the richest marine biodiversity hot spots in the world. More than a million people depend on these fishing grounds for their main source of protein and livelihoods. As the population of this area has nearly tripled in the last three decades, the effect on the reef has been devastating.

    Illegal fishing has become rampant. Many use dynamite or cyanide, indiscriminately killing everything within their reach.

    The shift to smaller families in the rural fishing village Humayhumay is already paying dividends. Fishermen have created a marine preserve to help revive fish stocks. With smaller families, thinking about future generations is a luxury fishermen can afford.

    Every year the Philippines, now with 100 million people, adds about 2 million more mouths to feed and isn't expected to stabilize its population until 2080, at 200 million. The country is already beyond its carrying capacity.

    Jason Bostero: Family planning is helpful because if you control the number of your children, you don't need as many fish to support your family. If you have many children, it's difficult to support them." .. "My income is just right to feed us three times a day. It's really, really different when you have a small family."

    Crisna Bostero: "In my case, we were really hard up before. Sometimes, we would only eat once a day because we were so poor. We couldn't go to school. I did not finish my school because there were just so many of us."

    A community-based family planning programs has made birth control options like the pill accessible and affordable - at about 70 cents a month. Distributors are able to sell pills and condoms anytime. They are as easy as buying soft drinks or matches.

    PATH Foundation Philippines, a group funded mostly through USAID, has made this possible, placing its emphasis on local partners and bringing access to the people. In just six years since the program was first established here, family sizes have dropped from as many as 12 children to a maximum of about four today.

    The program shows how closely tied family planning is with environmental conservation and putting food on the table.

    Jason and Crisna Bostero, both practicing Catholics, don't see a conflict between their religious beliefs and family planning. For them, it's about something much more immediate, like what kind of future they're going to pass on to their two children. " I don't want them to be like us, just to fish the sea, just to farm the land. This is not an easy way to earn a living."

    Outside of Humayhumay, where birth control remains largely out of reach, the struggle to put food on the table from one day to the next dominates life. People have to collect government assistance checks for food.

    Countries like Thailand and Indonesia have largely avoided this scene, thanks to state-sponsored family planning programs. But Congressman Walden Bello says in the Philippines, any efforts to do the same have faced stiff resistance.

    The country is 80% Catholic and the Catholic church leadership opposes any form of artificial contraception and has rallied for a decade against a reproductive health bill in Congress that would guarantee universal access to birth control. Recently, it even threatened the president with excommunication for supporting the bill.

    Filipino Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz says "if you have more mouths to feed, then produce more food to eat! Not the other way around."

    But trying to produce more food tests the limits of ecosystems, both on land and sea. Today, the Philippines imports more rice than any other nation on the planet. And according to the World Bank, every major species of fish here shows signs of severe overfishing.

    Technological advances to boost the food supply have not kept pace with the Philippine's surging population growth.

    More than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Instititute.

    The future of the people in the Philippines could easily be overwhelmed by outside forces, in a world that's projected to have 9 billion mouths to feed by the middle of the century. doclink

    Tragedy of the Commons

    January 21, 2012, Durango Herald

    By Richard Grossman - First published in the Durango Herald

    "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation...." Great Law of the Iroquois

    "They know that they shouldn't fish closer than 500 meters from the coast, but I've seen these boats with their nets out just 200 or 300 meters offshore. The officials don't enforce the laws."

    We were visiting the Greek island of Mykonos while on tour with the Durango Choral Society. We walked along the harbor with our guide, David, admiring the many small fishing boats. He explained facets of the failing Greek economy as well as the ancient and modern sites on this beautiful island. The Aegean Sea around Mykonos was so overfished, David said, that there were few fish left to catch.

    We found proof that David was correct when we sat down to eat. Restaurants, even those overlooking the beautiful blue Aegean, had menus that listed few seafood dishes. Any seafood was prohibitively expensive since it had been caught in distant seas.

    The situation that we encountered in Greece is a good illustration of the "tragedy of the commons". That tragedy can occur when a limited resource is open to uncontrolled use by many people. Any one user may think he can benefit from taking as much of the resource as possible. This behavior is rational only in the narrow sense of self-interest. Regrettably, unbridled use of a resource is likely to lead to its depletion.

    The term "commons" referred to pastureland that was available for everyone to graze his sheep in old England. Now it includes many different vital resources such as the air we breathe, the water we drink and the fish in the Aegean.

    Most of us learned to share in kindergarten. Unfortunately, some adults never mastered that lesson or have forgotten it. When there are many people using the same resource, any person who takes more than his share may deprive others of their fair share. Even worse, selfish people can deplete the resource, so eventually no one benefits from it.

    In the case of fishing off Mykonos, there had been plenty of seafood for centuries. In the past the boats and fishing techniques only allowed small, sustainable catches, so the small proportion of sea life that ended up in nets was quickly replaced. Now, with more fishermen and more effective fishing techniques and many more mouths to feed, the fish supply has been exhausted. The Greek government has tried to prevent depletion by having a "no fish" zone, with poor results. People don't seem to pay attention to the law, or the reason that it is needed.

    Human population growth is one factor leading to the tragedy of the commons: more people using the same resource means less for all.

    Ironically, some of the pollutants we have unintentionally added to drinking water may serve as a feedback mechanism to slow human population growth. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have unintended hormonal effects. They are found in much of our country's drinking water. Some come from insecticides and other agricultural chemicals. Many plastics contain BPA, which has undesirable effects. Another source is the waste of women taking hormones. These chemicals have been shown to produce fish and other animals with sexual aberrations. It is possible that endocrine disruptors will lead to decreased human fertility.

    The amount of fresh water on the planet is limited and, in some cases, is very slow to be replenished. The Ogallala aquifer is an example of a resource that is being used in an unsustainable manner. Much of the food grown in our country's midwestern breadbasket depends on water from this aquifer. Tragically, there are some places in eastern Colorado (and in other states) that rely on the Ogallala where the water table has dropped 40 feet in just 15 years!

    As our human population has grown, the apparent size of the commons has shrunk. Although the first few wells in the Ogallala made little difference to the water table, now we seem to be sucking it dry. Dumping waste into a river or the atmosphere made little difference with few people and fewer factories, but these resources have become toxic in our populous, industrialized nation. We are learning the problems that can be caused by abusing the commons. The people who will suffer the most may be those who come after us, the "seventh generation" in the Iroquois law. Unless we think and plan ahead, our progeny will not have the use of many of the resources that we have enjoyed. doclink

    Deeper Peril for Coral Reefs

    February 24, 2011, New York Times*

    An administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that coastal development, overfishing and climate change are creating a "perfect storm" for the world's coral reefs, nearly three-quarters of which are now at risk of serious degradation, a top federal environmental official warned this week at the unveiling of a comprehensive new report.

    The study, "Reefs at Risk Revisited," an assessment led by the World Resources Institute, is an update to a 1998 study that classified 60% of the world's reefs as threatened.

    If unchecked, growing global and local pressures will place more than 90% of reefs at risk by 2030.

    The updated report added in global threats from climate and rising ocean acidity caused by carbon dioxide pollution to the list of threats to coral reefs. In 2010, one of the warmest years on record, spiking water temperatures damaged coral on a global scale rarely witnessed before.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, is absolutely necessary to prevent a lot of the dire situations presented in the report.

    While 25% of reefs are now within "marine protected areas," less than a quarter of these protected zones were rated as "effectively managed." doclink

    Blue Fin Tuna Decline and Fall

    March 17, 2010, Environmental News Network

    The Atlantic blue fin tuna are delicious and may be on the brink of extinction due to overfishing. The European Union agreed to propose protecting them as an endangered species. Blue fin tuna have been eaten for centuries, but in the 1970s, demand and prices soared, particularly in Japan. As a result, stocks, especially of large, breeding age fish, have plummeted, and international conservation concerns have increased.

    This tuna is one of the most highly prized fish used in Japanese raw fish dishes. In January 2009, a 440 pounds (200 kg) blue fin sold for $173,000. Prices were highest in the late 1970s and 1980s. The practice of tuna farming has brought down prices.

    Atlantic blue fin populations decline became precipitous after the 1970's.

    The EU agreement came ahead of a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that will take place from March 13 to March 25 to consider a number of species, including blue fin tuna, elephants and polar bears.

    The ambassadors attached a number of conditions, including a one year delay to the ban on fishing, and an opt out for fishermen using small boats to supply local markets.

    Malta voted against the proposed ban while Sweden and Austria abstained. Environmental groups said the EU had not done enough to reduce over sized blue fin tuna fishing fleets. Over eight years the EU blue fin tuna fishing industry received subsidies totaling 34.5 million euros. Of this, 33.5 million euros was for the construction and modernization of vessels. Several Arab countries joined Japan in arguing it would hurt poor fishing nations and was not supported by sound science.

    Supporters of the ban, including the European Union and the United States, say it is necessary this is a migratory species that swims from the western Atlantic to the Mediterranean. There is also a growing threat from illegal fishing fleets and the failure of existing measures to keep the population sustainable. doclink

    We're Killing the Oceans

    November 18, 2009, The Boston Phoenix

    Undersea photojournalist Brian Skerry sees the oceans in crisis: destructive overfishing, endangered "big game" fish, dying coral reefs, and subtle but potentially catastrophic shifts that are almost certainly due to climate change.

    North Atlantic right whales, once so plentiful that "a man could almost walk across Cape Cod Bay upon their backs," now number 400 on the planet.

    Atlantic cod - at one time teemed so thick in Boston Harbor one could simply toss a net into the water and pull up a silvery haul - have now been fished down to the last 10% of its population, and that those stocks may never be restored. Much of this has taken place since mechanized fishing.

    Daniel Pauly, leader of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia, reports that, humans have "reduced the populations of large commercial fish . . . by a staggering 90%," in the last 50 years.

    The documentary End of the Line says: change the way we fish or the seas will be barren of seafood by 2048.

    Skerry has photographed underwater around the world. In Mexico he found that the reefs were anemic. They were highly overfished. They consisted of a lot of dead coral, from warming and bleaching. They'd also sustained heavy hurricane damage. In New England he noticed that the huge schools of herring and pollock that he saw in the '70s and early '80s weren't there anymore.

    Skerry has witnessed excessive and destructive fishing like catching shrimp. "You take a net, and you scrape it along the bottom to catch shrimp. In the process, everything else - all the little stuff that lives on the bottom, the sponges and the coral and all the habitat for baby animals - you wipe all that out. To catch one pound of shrimp, we might kill 12 pounds of other animals that get thrown back into the sea as by-catch."

    The giant bluefin tuna continue to grow their entire life. "If we weren't so good at catching them, there would be 30-year-old bluefin that weigh a ton." But, "we're way too good at catching them. So their stocks have plummeted over 90 percent in just the last 30 years."

    The industry has been struggling - severely curtailing fishing quotas and limiting time at sea in order to help replenish those decimated species. Some have been rebuilt: "Hake, monkfish, mackerel, herring, bluefish. There have been quite a few success stories." But, "some of the slower-growing species are not scheduled to be rebuilt until 2025 or sometimes as late as 2050."

    "As the bounty of coastal waters dropped, fisheries moved further offshore, to deeper waters," he writes. "And, finally, as the larger fish began to disappear, boats began to catch fish that were smaller and uglier - fish never before considered fit for human consumption. Many were renamed so that they could be marketed: the suspicious slimehead became the delicious orange roughy."

    Yet even as America struggles to manage its depleted stocks - and those independent fishermen are subjected to ever more draconian regulations - corporate overfishing continues at alarming rates in places such as the European Union and Asia, with governments showing little inclination to rein it in.

    "we're importing 80 percent of our fish," says Vanasse. "We're being extremely cautious and conservative in what we allow our fishermen to take out of the water, but then we supplement our consumption from countries that are known to be non-compliant."

    Another problem, says Skerry - is ocean acidification. That's when an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, soaked up by the ocean, leads to a decrease in the water's pH level, stripping the sea of carbonate ions, which are crucial for calcification.

    The result, says Skerry, is that it "wipes out things like coral reefs - anything with a calcium structure, including shellfish and these little mollusks that are consumed by a lot of other animals."

    "If you wipe them out, the whole floor of the oceanic food chain collapses," says Whitehouse. "And we don't know what happens after that."

    Meanwhile, Annala is noticing other changes. "The Gulf of Maine receives a lot of water from the Labrador Current system," he says, "and depending on the strength of the Gulf Stream, varying amounts of this colder Labrador Current water is entrained into the gulf. That's becoming fresher and cooler as the Greenland ice cap melts."

    Rothschild says that that "puddle of fresh water" floating atop the briny Atlantic "prevents the typical overturn of nutrients going up and down and recycling to make phytoplankton and zooplankton. If this is a recurring phenomena, it's going to change the productivity of the northwest Atlantic in ways that we don't know yet."

    Skerry says the Obama administration's gestures and rhetoric so far have been encouraging. "They get it," he says. "They understand. But the unfortunate reality is there's so much on their plate right now. People's retirement money is vanished and they're losing their jobs and we're gonna send another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan and there's terrorism . . . where do fish fall on that level of importance?" doclink

    Humpback Whales on Rocky Road to Recovery; Endangered Species Success Story Will Be Thwarted If Ocean Acidification and Other Threats Not Addressed

    August 13, 2009, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Humpback whale could be removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, or downlisted to "threatened" status, if the National Marine Fisheries Service finds that their numbers have increased sufficiently.

    Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, but recent surveys have found that humpback whale populations are generally on an upward trend, up to an estimated 20,000 in the North Pacific now. Before commercial whaling, humpback-whale numbers may have exceeded 125,000, but whaling may have reduced the population by as much as 90%.

    Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity said: "Increasing numbers of humpback whales hold promise for recovery, but this Endangered Species Act success story could be reversed if we don't address other threats to the species, primarily the looming disaster of ocean acidification."

    Direct threats to the species include entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, offshore oil development, and military sonar. Also, carbon dioxide from fossil fuels has contributed to an increase of 30% in acidity of the oceans, affecting the humpbacks' reproduction and growth, as well as killing the plankton which the whales eat. Nearly every marine animal studied has had an adverse response to acidification.

    "Without quick action to reduce these threats, humpback whales still need the safety net of protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act."

    The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting information and accepting comments on the humpback-whale status review until October 11, 2009. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More people require more vehicles which emit more carbon dioxide and create other impacts on the planet unless something is done quickly.

    Expanding Marine Protected Areas to Restore Fisheries

    October 13, 2008, Earth Policy Institute - Plan B

    After World War II, population growth and rising incomes drove up the demand for seafood. The oceanic fish catch climbed from 19 million tons in 1950 to 93 million tons in 1997. The human appetite for seafood is outgrowing the sustainable yield of oceanic fisheries. Oceanic harvests expanded as new technologies evolved, ranging from sonar to driftnets. A 2003 study concluded that 90% of the large fish had disappeared as a result of this expansion.

    The 500-year-old cod fishery of Canada failed in the early 1990s, putting some 40,000 fishers and fish processors out of work. Fisheries off the coast of New England soon followed. And in Europe, cod fisheries are in decline, approaching a free fall. Atlantic stocks of the bluefin tuna which, headed for Tokyo's sushi restaurants, can bring in $100,000--have been cut by 94%.

    Negotiating catch limits at sustainable levels can be difficult. After prolonged negotiations, agreement was reached in 1997, to reduce the fishing capacity of EU fleets by up to 30% for endangered species and overfished stocks. But these and subsequent cuts have not been sufficient to arrest the decline of the region's fisheries.

    With restrictions on the catch in EU waters, the fishing fleet has turned to the west coast of Africa. They are competing there with fleets from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan. Unfortunately for the Africans, their fisheries too are collapsing.

    Some 90% of fish in the ocean rely on coastal wetlands, or rivers as spawning areas. Well over half of the mangrove forests in tropical and subtropical countries have been lost and the loss of coastal wetlands in industrial countries is even greater.

    Damage to coral reefs from higher ocean temperatures and acidification caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, pollution and sedimentation, are threatening these breeding grounds for fish.

    Pollution is taking a devastating toll, illustrated by the dead zones created by nutrient runoff from fertilizer and sewage. The Mississippi River carries nutrients from the Corn Belt and sewage from cities along its route into the Gulf of Mexico. The nutrient surge creates huge algal blooms that then die and decompose, consuming the free oxygen in the water, leading to the death of fish. This creates a dead zone each summer in the Gulf that can reach the size of New Jersey.

    For decades governments have tried to save specific fisheries by restricting the catch of individual species. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it failed and fisheries collapsed. Support for the creation of marine reserves has been gaining momentum. These reserves, where fishing is restricted, serve as natural hatcheries. Coastal nations pledged to create national networks of marine parks. Managing reserves that covered 30% of the world's oceans would cost $14 billion a year. Within a year or two of establishing a marine reserve, population densities increased 91%, fish size went up 31%, and species diversity rose 20%.

    Other measures are to reduce the nutrient flows from fertilizer runoff and untreated sewage that create the world's 200 or so dead zones.

    There are now so many fishing trawlers that their catch potential is nearly double any yield the oceans can sustain. doclink

    Ralph says: Immediately after WW2 I was developing sonar systems and spent many weeks up in the Arctic on deep sea trawlers. I vividly remember the enormous size of the catches after the fishing had halted for the war years.

    Companies Promote Sustainable Seafood

    August 10, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle

    The U.N. FAO estimates that one-quarter of the world's fisheries are over-exploited and facing depletion; an additional half are being fished at their maximum capacity.

    Regulation hasn't stopped destruction of the world's fisheries. So in the 1990s, environmentalists began to enlist consumer choice in the fight for more sustainable fishing.

    Nonprofits started issuing seafood scorecards to fisheries they consider sustainably managed.

    Some eco-minded entrepreneurs have created businesses aimed at promoting sustainable seafood. Some of the leaders in the sustainable seafood industry are based the Bay Area.

    Environmental groups in general consider a fishery is sustainable if the population of that kind of fish is allowed to maintain a healthy level, and fishing methods don't damage the ocean environment or other marine species. The fishery prevents overfishing and allows collection of data on the fish population.

    The nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council provides a seal of approval to seafood that meets its sustainability standards.

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch publishes wallet-size cards that give a green, yellow or red light to different kinds of seafood. doclink

    Atlantic Bluefin Going Way of Northern Cod

    November 2, 2007, IPS News

    Fishing wiped out Atlantic Bluefin tuna in Northern Europe 50 years ago. Ongoing pressure is pushing the species to extinction.

    Every summer in the early 1900s, Northern European waters teemed with Atlantic Bluefin tuna. Few could catch the fish until the 1930s and 1940s when bigger, faster boats were designed.

    The Bluefin population crashed in the 1960s and more than 40 years later it still hasn't recovered despite a no-fishing ban for the past 15 years.

    The Atlantic Bluefin fishery is regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of the Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) that set a 2007 quota of 29,000 tonnes, for the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.

    Environmental groups say the ICCAT quota is twice what is sustainable. Moreover illegal fishing is rampant and an independent study revealed the annual tuna catch approached 50,000 tonnes.

    The largest population breeds are in the Mediterranean Sea, another is found in the western Atlantic the third is found in the South Atlantic and is considered to be an endangered species.

    The western Atlantic population is suffering from a 90% decline in fish of breeding age, with a quota of 2,100 tonnes for this year.

    Tagging data provides new evidence that mixing is occurring in the northern waters of the eastern Atlantic and western and eastern stocks of north Atlantic Bluefin mingle in the central Atlantic.

    That means tuna hunters in the North Atlantic are likely harvesting the increasingly rare western Atlantic Bluefin and counting them as eastern Atlantic Bluefin.

    Because breeding is a high-stress time for tuna, closure of breeding grounds to tuna fishing might not be enough. Researchers found that a majority of Bluefins gravitated to the Florida straits and the western part of the Gulf of Mexico for breeding. All fishing should be banned near their breeding grounds during the breeding season.

    The oversized and well-financed tuna fleet can easily take 50,000 tonnes in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic, despite a quota allowing only 29,000 tonnes.

    The only way to guarantee a reduction in fishing effort and facilitate stock recovery is to impose a ban during the month of June. doclink

    How to Save the World's Oceans From Overfishing

    July 9, 2007, Mongo Bay

    The number of large predatory fish has fallen by 90% since the 1950s, one-quarter of the world's fisheries are overexploited. Unsustainable fishing practices deplete targeted species, sea birds, turtles, and other marine life, while destroying deep-sea reefs. It was assumed that ocean species had boundless capacity to recover from overfishing. Industrial fishing put the livelihood of tens of millions of subsistence fishermen at risk while threatening the primary source of protein for some 950 million people worldwide.

    Today some of the world's largest environmental groups are focused on marine life and oceans, with sustainable fisheries management. Conservation groups are working with governments to establish marine reserves, ban destructive fishing practices, protect key species, and educate consumers.

    While the world is willing to protect elephants by banning the ivory trade, we're not there yet with commercial fish species. The U.S. and Canada won't vote for bluefin tuna conservation since they have a strong tuna fishing lobby at home.

    The trouble with bluefin is they are valuable in the Japanese sashimi market. That means we are facing the very prospect of hunting this animal to biological extinction. It is the most valuable fish in the sea: one fish in the Tokyo market can bring more than $150,000. Today fishermen cannot even catch the quota the government gives them, which is symptomatic of a collapsing fishery, like the North Atlantic cod.

    The trouble is that the ocean has always been an open access resource. You get big catches for a few years but then the populations' crash and the fishing communities crash along with them.

    Commercial fishing is much more difficult to address because there is a huge industry lobby. Subsidies are why we have too many boats chasing fish. The acquisition of the boats and equipment is subsidized. There is a diesel fuel tax rebate and all kinds of subsidies for commercial fishing, especially in Asia.

    The idea is to create economic incentives for sustainable fishing and conservation of the ocean. If consumers and businesses give preference to sustainable fisheries, they send a powerful signal that there is a reward for improving fishing practices.

    Many of the nation's biggest seafood buyers are now making commitments to sustainable seafood. The jury is still out on whether sustainable seafood can supply the biggest buyers in the nation. doclink

    Domestic Farmed Fish Go Under the Microscope

    June 13, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle

    Much of imported farmed seafood is unsafe but the demand for fresh seafood has pushed many wild fisheries into crisis mode. Wild yellowfish in a restaurant accounted for 75% of the cost of a meal for four. This is what we can expect when a wild species is on the brink of extinction.

    While freshwater fish have been farmed in the US, the offshore aquaculture industry is still in its infancy. Almost all farmed salmon are raised in offshore open net pens, where concentrated waste decimates the ecology of the coast. These salmon can escape and breed with local species, and throw off the wild breed's ability to reproduce. Cramped pens necessitate the use of antibiotics. Red dye is fed to the fish to give the meat an appealing color. All of these are reasons that salmon farming has been considered unsustainable.

    Salmon are carnivores. Salmon farmers harvest natural wild fish to feed their caged fish. The farming of salmon means raising meat by feeding it meat.

    It takes 2 to 10 pounds of small wild fish to raise 1 1/2 pounds of farmed salmon meat according to MBA's calculations. The salmon industry figures it's 1-to-1, still a wasteful ratio if you consider time, labor, land and transportation.

    Every time you eat a piece of farmed salmon, it takes away food from the wild fish trying to survive in the ocean. A few salmon farms in Europe claim to raise the fish sustainably. Those include Loch Duart salmon from Scotland which live a robust life, have plenty of room to grow, and is fed from sustainable sources that mimic the natural diet of the wild. Loch Duart does not raise fish in high-density pens, allows areas to lie fallow in alternate years and does not use antibiotics, the company says.

    Yet a conservancy organization, Seafood Watch puts all farm-raised salmon in the "avoid" category.

    However, some question the ratings. While farmed clams, mussels and oysters are designated "best choice," no differentiation is made between regionally raised shellfish and oysters flown in from France and Australia, which cost much more in dollars and energy.

    The 2007 National Offshore Aquaculture Act contains provisions to develop offshore aquaculture to offset the $8 billion seafood trade deficit.

    Conservancy organizations fear that NOAA is not taking precautions to make sure that offshore farms raising carnivorous fish do not dot our shorelines, damage ecology and deplete the oceans of wild fish.

    To pay for building new offshore facilities, entrepreneurs, are looking at farming the high-priced carnivorous species, such as tuna, which can require from 10 to 25 pounds of wild-caught small fish to produce 1 pound of edible meat.

    Tuna ranching in the Mediterranean is a disaster in the making, because they're harvesting juvenile wild tuna for fattening, and you have a fishery where both the juvenile and adult tuna are being taken.

    We need more aquaculture to meet global seafood supplies, and species that can be farmed in sustainable ways.

    Most of what we eat is farmed from China. The US imports 80% of the seafood we consume. The aquaculture practices damage the environment, and many use additives and antibiotics banned in the US.

    A new infrastructure must be put in place and several entrepreneurs are experimenting with more sustainable closed aquaculture systems. Seafood designated as "good" and "best" are raised by more environmentally sustainable methods, including proceses that use closed recirculating systems and enclosed ponds. doclink

    European Waters in Trouble Study Finds

    June 8, 2007, Der Spiegel

    European waters are in trouble. It's been known for years that European seas are suffering from pollution, over-fishing and other environmental pressures. But now, growing affluence in Europe is increasing the degradation of the water surrounding the continent. The survey focused on the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic. They found that more wealth in Europe has contributed to the environmental deterioration of European waters.

    In every sea, there was serious damage due to the pace of coastal development, the way we transport our goods and the way we produce our food on land as well as the sea. The study focused on four interrelated problems: habitat change, the over-fertilisation of water, chemical pollution, and over-fishing. Researchers wanted to look at the impact modern lifestyles have are having.

    As affluence increases, so too does the amount of meat in European diets and an increase in the amount of farmland needed. The rise in fertilizer use ups the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus reaching European waters, which can cause vast algae blooms in addition to reducing water quality.

    Increased animal husbandry, results in an increase in the amount of ammonia released into the air which finds its way into the seas.

    More money also means an increase in seaside homes and holiday resorts, particularly along the Mediterranean. Road and resort construction limits coastal habitats for fish. More demand for fish and increased shipping have put pressure on sea life. Controlling catch limits alone will not put a dent in the problem. doclink

    Reduced Numbers of Arctic Cod Due to Global Warming Could Cause Entire Arctic Food Web to Unravel, Put More Strain on Polar Bears and Narwhals

    May 1, 2007, The Earth Times

    Global warming could cause a drop in the number of Arctic cod, which are a key component of the Arctic food web. The Arctic cod is prey for seals, narwhals and salmon in the Arctic, but global warming could be shaking up the food web and starving the cod because of shrinking and shifting pack ice. Global warming is pulling the rug out from beneath the Arctic's food supply because the survival of many plants and animals depends on the explosive summer bloom of marine plants under the sea ice. With more sea ice melting the plants' bloom cycle is likely to be disrupted, jeopardizing the species that depend on it. In Canada, narwhals feed predominantly on the Arctic cod. They are also food for Atlantic salmon, Greenland halibut and Arctic char. The first action is to reduce pollution, especially toxins that build up over time in plants and animals. Juvenile Arctic cod are vulnerable to toxins and oil spills. Overfishing is impacting the food supply for seals and whales and increasingly ice-free waters will open up new potential fishing grounds. Commercial harvests should be closely monitored. doclink

    Ralph says: The chief cause of the lack of fish is the overfishing that has grown in the past decades. I worked in the commercial fishing fleet just after WW2 and spent months in the arctic. Fish "hauls' after WW2 were larger than ever seen as the fishing grounds had been empty during the war.

    UN Gets Fishing Deal, Avoids Bottom Trawling Ban

    November 23, 2006, Reuters

    Countries seeking a ban on bottom trawling in unregulated international waters failed to get UN support. Canada has been argued that stronger management would be more effective than a ban.

    But environmentalists are dismayed. Bottom trawling causes irreparable harm to deep-sea ecosystems.

    Instead of the ban on bottom trawling on the high seas, the countries agreed to enhance protection measures under regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO). They will decide how assessments and enforcement would be carried out.

    For unregulated areas national governments are directed to police their own vessels, applying the same standards. If harm to the ocean is found occurring, governments would apply restrictions at their own discretion.

    The agreement applies to countries that don't belong to the RMO's and will protect fish stocks and sensitive areas.

    If someone steps outside this agreement, life can be pretty miserable for them.

    But the Ecology Action Centre said the decision would allow trawlers to continue ravaging the ocean floor.

    Responsible fishing nations will bring forward precautionary and targeted regulations that will govern their fishing vessels. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Just another example of how regulation fails to mitigate the problems of overpopulation.

    50 Years of Fish...

    November 20, 2006, BBC News

    World fish stocks have collapsed by nearly one-third and the rate of decline is accelerating.

    We assume there will always be another species to exploit after we've completely gone through the last one, but unless we change the way we manage the ocean species, this is the last century of wild seafood.

    The research study incorporates scientists from many institutions in Europe and the Americas.

    In 2003, 29% of open sea fisheries had declined to less than 10% of their original yield.

    The global catch fell by 13% between 1994 and 2003.

    Historical records show declining yields, in step with declining species diversity. Zones of biodiversity loss also tended to see more beach closures, blooms of algae, and coastal flooding.

    We should protect biodiversity, and it does pay off through fisheries yield.

    Experiments in small, contained ecosystems show that reductions in diversity tend to bring reductions in the size and robustness of local fish stocks. The final part of the jigsaw is data from areas where fishing has been banned or heavily restricted.

    These show that protection brings back biodiversity within the zone, and restores populations of fish just outside.

    We're learning that in the oceans, species are very strongly linked to each other. The study attributes damage to the cumulative harm done across the board.

    The benefits of marine-protected areas are clear in a few cases; there's no doubt that protecting areas leads to a lot more fish and larger fish, and less vulnerability.

    Protecting stocks demands the political will, lacking in Europe, where politicians have ignored recommendations to halt the North Sea cod fishery year after year.

    Without a ban, the North Sea stocks could follow the Grand Banks cod of eastern Canada into terminal decline.

    Modern fishing methods such as purse seine nets are very efficient

    Marine reserves and no-catch zones bring an average 23% improvement in biodiversity and fish stocks. doclink

    Ralph says: I was working on a North Sea trawler a few years after World War II and the catches were the largest ever seen, the crew told me. This was due to the halt in trawling for about 4 years during the war. One wonders just how long it would take for the fisheries to regain their volume if in rotation we halted fishing in the various areas?

    Scientists Look to the Bahamas as a Model for Coral Reef

    March 5, 2006, Eurekalert

    Ten percent of the planet's coral reefs have been degraded beyond recovery, and another 60% could die by 2050. The situation is particularly acute in the Caribbean, which has seen an 80% decline. An international team of researchers launched the Bahamas Biocomplexity Project--an interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem management to serve as a model for coral reef conservation. The approach recognizes that natural and human systems are linked, and solutions must transcend traditional boundaries. The country initiated a system of protected areas covering 20% of their marine environment. The Bahamas Biocomplexity Project, in addition to using scientific tools, underwater surveys and population genetics, conduct surveys to assess local attitudes toward conservation, as well as explaining their findings to local decision makers. A study focused on the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which was struck by a mysterious disease that virtually wiped out a species of sea urchin that feeds on algae. The urchins had played a vital role in the reef ecosystem by controlling the spread of seaweed. With the urchins gone, the job of chief seaweed grazer was taken over by the parrotfish which in turn, are preyed upon by large carnivores, whose numbers had increased since the imposition of a fishing ban. Today, Nassau grouper is seven times more abundant inside the park than in three comparable areas. Researchers found that small species of parrotfish were smaller than usual, suggesting that grouper predators were picking off the largest members of their populations. In contrast, the number of big parrotfish increased apparently in response to protection from fish traps. The study concluded that seaweed grazing had doubled because of the burgeoning population of big parrotfish. Parks protecting fishes may also have beneficial effects on corals, by enhancing grazing and thereby contributing to the ability of reefs to bounce back from disturbances. One group team compared the DNA of staghorn corals collected from nine reefs. The results show that genetic family lines can be quite distinct on reefs as close as two kilometers. All reefs more than 500 kilometers apart were genetically distinct. Some marine ecologists advocate restoring dying reefs, but that approach is rarely cost-effective, with a growth rate of about one centimeter per year. Social scientists working within the Bahamas Biocomplexity Project, noted: "Our results in the Bahamas as elsewhere suggest that rigid top-down directives that lack local support will not be effective in protecting or restoring coral reef ecosystems." The parks and marine reserves in the Bahamas are successful. There is a special relationship between the people and the sea. Tourism is based on environmental protection. doclink

    Trend for Deep-Sea Trawling Puts Rare Fish Species on the Ocean's Critical List

    January 22, 2006, Independent

    Key species of deep-sea fish have declined by up to 98% in the past few decades. Three researchers analyzed catches of five deepwater species from the northwest Atlantic and found that populations of all five had fallen precipitously. Similar trends have been seen in European waters. Much of the blame is being put on commercial trawlers. Conservationists worry that because deepwater fish live long lives, and can take up to 25 years to sexually mature, overfishing can wipe them out. doclink

    Ralph says: This brings back a very personal memory. In the 1950's I was developing deep water fishing sonar and made frequent trips on deep sea trawlers to the arctic. Fishing after WW2, during which time little deep sea fishing was carried out, was fantastic. The volume of fish caught was beyond anyone's memory. I well remember the trawler sitting stationary for about 24 hours while the fish captured by one haul of the net was processed. Perhaps "No Fishing" for five to ten years would allow the oceans to regenerate the shoals of fish.

    U.S.: Bush Calling for Private Fisheries

    September 28, 2005, Portland Press Herald

    The Bush administration proposed legislation to overhaul management of the nation's fisheries, by giving regulators greater flexibility and encouraging them to privatize fisheries. Some environmental groups applauded privatization, others said the bill would weaken conservation rules. Bush's legislation would amend the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was last updated in 1996. The Senate's Commerce Committee has been working on a draft of its own bill. The administration's plan would double by 2010 the fisheries that are privatized where access is limited to those who own allocated shares, that can be bought and sold, of the annual catch. Some environmental groups, support privatization because it gives fishermen a financial incentive to conserve fidh stocks. In fisheries where such programs have been implemented, fishermen have enjoyed higher profits, lower costs, longer fishing seasons and a more stable industry. The program has been popular in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, but controversial in New England because of fears that it would allow corporations to take over the fisheries. The goal is to encourage eight new fisheries to use privatization programs. In New England, one could be on Cape Cod, where fishermen use hooks and gill nets to catch cod and haddock in near-shore waters. The Bush plan would revoke the requirement that all fisheries be restored to healthy levels in 10 years and limits the number of fishing days given to New England groundfish boats. The Bush plan would allow regional councils to address the needs of fishing communities when rebuilding stocks. The change would allow fishermen to catch more fish while stocks are rebuilding, and conservation groups worry that this would increase the chance that a species could collapse. Some species, such as Georges Bank cod, have not recovered since the mid-1990s. doclink

    U.S.: Off the Cape, the Cod Continue to Dwindle

    August 17, 2005, Washington Post

    Cape Cod's population of its namesake fish dipped by 25% between 2001 and 2004. Fishermen continue to take too many adult cod and not enough juvenile fish are surviving. A professor of natural resources said the new numbers show the government needs to impose further restrictions on fishing cod. But a spokeswoman for the New England Fishery Management Council said officials did not expect the rebuilding plan to show results for several more months. The average New England fisherman can take groundfish 53 days a year, down from 88 days in 1996. Cod once abounded off the Massachusetts coas, but fell in the mid-1990s because of overfishing. Conservationists said the declining numbers mean federal authorities should protect nursery habitat as well as adult fish. A spokeswoman for NOAA's Fisheries Service, said under federal law regulators have to allow overfishing at times to minimize a rebuilding plan's impact on local commercial fishermen. She added that this week's scientific findings are preliminary. doclink

    U.S.: Rules Altered on Depletion of Fish Stocks

    June 23, 2005, New York Times*

    The National Marine Fisheries Service has released new guidelines for restoring depleted fish stocks, but some worry the rules unduly favor the fishing industry. Current rules mandate that regional fisheries managers aim to restore stocks within 10 years. The proposed rules would let them devise timelines for restoration based on how long it would take to rebound if there were no fishing, plus the average time it takes the species to reach spawning age. This may lengthen the time managers have to restore some stocks. The new rules would also allow coordinated management of species that live, swim, and get netted together, assuming that fish with similar life histories will respond to similar management plans. But species might be minor to a commercial fishery but still play a key role in an ecosystem. doclink

    U.S.: West Coast Trawling Restricted, but Effects May Be Light

    June 16, 2005, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    Regulators voted to impose a permanent ban on trawling in depths beyond 700 fathoms in nearly 300,000 square miles of Pacific waters off the West Coast. The regulations apply to waters that extend from three miles to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. It is aimed at protecting coral beds, kelp forests, rocky reefs and other sensitive fish habitat. Trawl fishermen were skeptical it would boost declining stocks of groundfish but did not think the ban would hurt their livelihoods because most of the areas are too deep for trawlers. Environmentalists say trawling destroys delicate sea-floor habitat, but fishermen say there's no evidence that trawl fishing has affected groundfish stocks that make up West Coast commercial fishing. The council's decision follows a similar move by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates waters off the coast of Alaska. They voted to ban trawling in more than 370,000 square miles off the Aleutian Islands. doclink

    Tracking the Imperiled Bluefin From Ocean to Sushi Platter

    April 28, 2005, New York Times*

    The Atlantic bluefin tuna are a potential bonanza, with choice specimens fetching $50,000 or more in Tokyo. But the trade may empty the waters of this master of the sea. In the last 35 years, exploding markets have devastated many fisheries. Most vulnerable is the population that breeds in the Gulf of Mexico. This was underscored by researchers who have tracked fish using electronic tags. The tuna that spawn in the west are further threatened by an ever-broadening fishery, all to supply the Japanese sushi trade. The new study is based on a decade-long effort to implant hundreds of sophisticated electronic tags in the giant fish that are beginning to reveal their ocean paths. In this study, 772 fish were tagged with devices that continually record body and water temperature, depth and daylight. The team showed that there appear to be distinct populations of bluefin, but when the fish disperse across to feed, they mingle, rendering the management boundary, which runs along the 45th meridian, relatively meaningless. Big quotas, granted for two decades to countries fishing east of the line, probably added pressure to the ailing western bluefin population. Spawning "hot spots" overlap areas where boats, using long lines of baited hooks, pursue another tuna species. When big adult bluefin get caught, the warm water and their metabolism can push them beyond their physiological limits and many die before they can be released. Recommended are seasonal bans on long-line fishing in spawning hot spots in the gulf and tighter controls on fishing in the Central Atlantic. American boat owners say that restrictions on long-line fishing in the Gulf are sufficient. Long-liners in the area use lightweight hooks that hold smaller yellowfin but are designed to uncoil under the powerful tug of a bluefin. Dr. Block said the same smaller hooks caught and killed a substantial number of bluefin. The biggest question is whether the new information can change an international regulatory regime that almost everyone, agrees is broken. A senior fisheries official from Japan acknowledged that the existing system had failed. He said that eastern catch limits needed to be better enforced, and a particular problem was the increased penning of Mediterranean tuna, which disrupts spawning. Many scientists and scholars who study tuna fishing said they doubted much would change. Under the longstanding division of the Atlantic bluefin population, Europe has had the advantage, with quotas of more than 30,000 metric tons of bluefin a year; less than a tenth that is allocated for western waters. Several experts said that Dr. Block's maps, showing the movements of some tuna for more than four years, were sufficiently concrete that they could force an end to the prolonged stalemate. doclink

    The Din Below: Oceans Are Getting Louder

    March 18, 2005, The Standard Times

    The bottom of Cape Cod Bay is saturated with sound that is part of an ever louder man-made din that's filling the world's oceans, and some say harming marine life. Whale beachings have been linked to sonar blasts, but a broader concern is rising levels of background noise generated by commercial shipping. Marine life uses sound for navigation and communication and scientists believe the spreading "acoustic smog" is affecting feeding, breeding and other crucial activities. Evidence is scant of the real effects of sound and even with new technology, ocean animals are hard to track. No system exists to monitor ocean sounds worldwide, and the data is often taken from a small number of sites that measure only certain frequencies. Underwater sound also seems to affect different animals in completely different ways. An acoustics researcher at the NOAA said better research is urgently needed. Sound carries farther and faster in water than air and through the ages, marine animals have learned to take advantage of the ocean's natural sound stages. Whales talk about basic things like where the best food or breeding is. They even seem to to produce the most intricate songs. Some animals use the ocean's "sound channels" to communicate over thousands of miles. Animals have learned that, at a certain depth, the sound bounds ahead with little resistance. Huge increases in commercial shipping have coincided with increased ocean noise. Between 1948 and 1998, the world shipping fleet has increased from 85 million tons to 550 million tons and the background noise has increased roughly 15 decibels. There's evidence marine mammals are changing their sound patterns, which could show their normal communication has been disrupted. Some advocate installing quieter propellers in new ships, which would reduce noise and also increase the efficiency by which ships move through water. Retrofitting current ships would be expensive, and the benefit is uncertain. Sound is perceived by ocean animals so differently that it's almost like a different sense, making it hard to apply what we know about the effects of certain decibel levels to ocean life. doclink

    Biogems - Upper Gulf of California


    Thirty-four species of marine mammals inhabit the Gulf of California, one of the world's most important nursery and feeding areas for porpoises, dolphins and whales. For millions of years, the sediments and freshwater of the Colorado River fed into the Gulf of California. During the 20th century, however, heavy water diversion depleted the river, cutting it off almost entirely from the sea. No more than 500 vaquita marinas survive, the last remaining habitat of this small porpoise. Eight were reported dead in 2004, but estimates put the total number of annual deaths at roughly 40. The Gulf provides half of the Mexixo's fish supply including sharks, northern milkfish, Spanish mackerel, corvine and others. Each year the humpback whale, California gray whale, manta ray and leatherback turtle visit the Gulf, where abundant nutrients can be found year-round. Rich food sources, powerful tides and shallow waters make the Upper Gulf one of the most robust marine ecosystems in the world. Local communities that are reliant on the sport-fishing industry include Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Guaymas and Mulege. doclink

    Deep-Sea Trawling's Great Harm

    October 5, 2004, BBC News

    Bottom trawling consists of dragging a heavy net across the bottom of the ocean, to snag fish that hover close to the seabed. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is spearheading the call for a moratorium on the practice and says the technique is doing harm to fragile ecosystems by gouging out corals. It has been likened to fishing with a bulldozer. A single net can snare a tonne and a half of cold-water corals that grow very slowly, every hour. Some of them off Europe are 8,500 years old and may take hundreds or thousands of years to recover - if at all. Countries with deep-sea bottom-trawling fleets are Spain, Russia and New Zealand, but other fleets operate out of Portugal, Norway, Estonia, Denmark/Faroe Islands, Japan, Lithuania, Iceland and Latvia. These 11 countries took 95% of the catch in 2001. The fleets are after valuable fish species that hug the underwater mountains. Scientists fear bottom-trawling will destroy many of the reefs before researchers can study them. Much of the life on seamounts has yet to be catalogued. Discussions are underway at the UN on fisheries and ocean managemen that will result in resolutions next month. The Coalition is urging the UN to declare a global moratorium until the international community decides how to manage deep-sea fisheries. doclink

    Gas Terminals' Impact on Fish Raises Concerns

    September 29, 2004, Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

    The construction of liquid natural gas terminals could damage commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Concerns forced the Coast Guard to suspend the permit for at least two terminals off the Louisiana coast. The problem occurs when the liquid natural gas (LNG), is heated to gaseous form with Gulf water containing fish and crustacean eggs and larvae. LNG is cooled to minus-260 degrees to turn it into a liquid to be shipped in tankers from wells around the world. The terminals pump seawater and LNG through a piece of equipment where warm Gulf water heats the liquid, which vaporizes into a gas. The water would be cooled in the process, and if the organisms are not killed by the temperature drop, they won't survive the pump machinery or chemicals used to keep the pipes clean. This system would dump the water, 20 degrees to 30 degrees cooler, back into the Gulf, where it could continue to stun and kill sea life. Most of the companies choosing this system have said using a closed-loop system consumes too much LNG as a heat source and undercut the financial viability of the projects and increase air pollution. The development of terminals could increase gas export through the existing pipeline by more than 200%, provide almost $400 million in savings, create more than 13,000 jobs, preserve over 11,000 existing jobs, and inject more than $2.3 billion into the state's economy. Sierra Club officials say approval could threaten the fishing industry. The risk of wiping out species of important fish in the Gulf, is too great to allow further approvals. In several cases, applicants failed to identify the economic impact of lost fisheries. Flow-through systems should be avoided in favor of closed-loop systems. The locations of the terminals are a problem as most are offshore of the estuaries where fish live and reproduce. With 15 LNG terminals proposed for the Gulf, officials have become concerned about the potential effects as they don't know enough about how the terminals will affect the environment. doclink

    U.S.: Gas Terminals' Impact on Fish Raises Concerns

    September 28, 2004, Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

    Federal scientists warn that liquid natural gas terminals could damage commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and force the Coast Guard to suspend permits for two terminals off the Louisiana coast. When the liquid natural gas is heated back into a gas the process sucks in Gulf water containing potentially millions of fish and crustacean eggs and larvae. The terminals would pump the seawater and natural gas through a piece of equipment where the warm Gulf water would vaporize the liquid into a gas and the water would be rapidly cooled. If the organisms are not killed by the temperature drop, they won't survive the pump machinery or the chemicals used to clean the inside of the pipes. The system would then dump the water, 20 degrees to 30 degrees cooler, back into the Gulf, where it could continue to harm sea life. The process also would kill organisms that are food for fish. Using a less-damaging closed-loop system consumes too much of the natural gas as a heat source and might undercut the financial viability of the projects and increase air pollution. It is the money these terminals generate that is attractive to officials in the Gulf Coast states. An Aug. 18 letter from Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the development of several terminals could increase gas export through the existing pipelines by more than 200%, create more than 13,000 jobs, preserve over 11,000 existing jobs, and inject more than $2.3 billion into the state's economy. Sierra Club officials say approval could threaten the fishing industry and NOAA officials say the risk of wiping out entire species of commercially important fish is too great to allow further approval and applicants failed to identify the economic impact of lost fisheries. Flow-through systems should be avoided in favor of closed-loop systems. Concerns must be weighed in light of an lack of basic information about the population of various fish and crustacean species and a limited understanding of how the viability of eggs or larvae could affect those species. The locations of the terminals are a problem as most are offshore of the estuaries where many fish live and reproduce. With as many as 15 LNG terminals now proposed for the Gulf, NOAA Fisheries and state officials have become concerned about the potential effects and officials don't know how the terminals will affect the environment. Coast Guard officials notified Shell that the Gulf Landing permitting process had been suspended until company officials adequately addressed the NOAA Fisheries concerns and suspended the permit application process until the company could justify its conclusion that "egg and larvae impacts are negligible" compared with the amount of sea life in the area. doclink

    Canada's Coastal Cities Worst Sewage Polluters

    September 8, 2004, CNews

    Canada's port cities spew billions of litres of untreated sewage into open waters. Victoria, Montreal, Saint John, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John's discharge human waste and toxic chemicals with little or no treatment. Calgary, Edmonton, and Whistler have upgraded their systems to 100% treatment. Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto and Brandon have improved their treatment systems. Canada is working to develop a treatment program by 2006, regulated by Environment Canada. Victoria discharged 2,920 tonnes of oil and grease, nine tonnes of copper and 2.5 tonnes of cyanide into the ocean in two years. Lead, silver, mercury and other chemicals were also found. Canada is failing to meet the standards of the US and Europe. Montreal dumps 3.6 billion litres of sewage into the St. Lawrence annually while Dawson City continues to discharge one billion litres and Victoria dumps 34 billion litres of sewage into the ocean each year. These chemicals play havoc with sea birds, mammals and marine life and ultimately are consumed by humans through the fish we eat. A Victoria sewage spokesman said the report neglects the steps Victoria has taken to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the sewers and plans to show its strategy has cut the amount in the system. The environmental groups said Canadians are entitled to efficient sewage treatment, national standards and adequate funding. doclink

    Aquaculture and Food Security: Sustaining Fish as a Food

    August 31, 2004, InterPress Service

    The world's annual capture fisheries and aquaculture production has plateaued at 100 million tonnes. If China's aquaculture production is excluded, the world fisheries production including aquaculture, has declined steadily. Demand for seafood continues to outstrip even world population growth and a global shortfall of up to 80 million tonnes per annum is forecast within the next 30 years. Declines in capture fisheries reflect illegal and unregulated fishing, impacts on fish habitats, coastal development, regulation of rivers, urban and agriculture runoff and global warming. A major contributor is exploitation of uncertainty over the nature of change and assessment of causes. Subsidies in developed countries, coupled with trade barriers against countries using cheaper labour costs are used to disadvantage poorer countries. International trade may alleviate poverty for some countries but makes fish as food increasingly unattainable in poor areas. Allocation of resources is not a panacea for fisheries management problems as it is not preceded by an understanding of the measures necessary to ensure conservation. Aquaculture is anticipated to play an increased role in future demand for seafood but if China's figures are excluded, increases in aquaculture production in the last 10 years have not equalled declines in capture fisheries. To meet projected demands for an extra 80 million tonnes would require 4 countries to copy China's 20 million tonne increase in production. Aquaculture in 2004 consumes, as feed, twice the weight of fish it produces. The growth in aquaculture production has occurred in developing countries, suggesting benefits to the poor. However, detailed analyses show concerns with destruction of coastal fish habitats in construction of aquaculture enterprises, increased propagation of fish diseases, negative impacts from translocation of species and the use, as feed, of fish traditionally available for human consumption. 4 million tonnes of "trash" fish are now traded to the aquaculture sector. In several assessments the loss of this fish as food for poor communities is recognised. Furthermore, increased targeting of smaller fish driven by the demand for aquaculture feed, is damaging to ecosystems, and existing commercial fisheries. There are well managed fisheries that produce high yields sustainably and aquaculture ventures that provide incomes and food security for the poor, based on acknowledgement of the impact of external influences, cutting-edge research, and management responses. Science and technological development can meet most challenges that are given priority and resources. doclink

    Too many people wanting too much fish!! Can science and technology keep up?

    Whale Study Reveals Spread of Ocean Contaminants

    January 27, 2004, Greenwich Time (Connecticut)

    Toxins in sperm whale blubber indicate that chemicals have dispersed thoughout the ocean. The goals of this study are whale conservation and whale health to gauge the overall well-being of the ocean. Biopsies of about 30 of 1,000 blubber samples gathered throughout the world showed that all may contain levels of man-made toxins. The International Whaling Commission is a coalition of nations that abide by conservation guidelines. A second round of tests will determine the amount of toxins in the blubber. An adult female whale has a toxic load which is going to be passed to her young and could build up over generations. The most common chemical in sperm whale blubber is DDT, banned in North America in 1972 but still manufactured for use in other countries. The findings are compelling, but the research must be validated. Sperm whales live fairly far from shore and it's surprising to find these chemicals in deep-water animals. Their long life spans and fat stores are indicators of the health of ocean life. They feed on giant squid, which feed on pelagic fish and so the chemicals go up the food chain and they are the final sink for pollutants. In addition to sampling whale blubber, the study is using sonar to estimate the total whale population in the world and plot migration patterns. doclink

    EU Agrees Fishing Quotas

    December 19, 2003, Guardian (London)

    EU ministers agreed to fishing quotas with a compromise to keep fishermen afloat while preserving fish stocks. The 15 nations agreed on 2004 catch quotas and shelved plans for cuts to quotas for cod in waters off Denmark and western Scotland. The fish is at risk of extinction in EU waters with stocks at the lowest. There was agreement on long-term recovery plans for hake, another endangered species. Britain declared this a good deal for UK fishermen, with increases in permitted catches next year for haddock and prawns, and an increase to 15 in the number of days per month trawlers can put to sea. Fleets are pledged to avoid taking cod from certain fishing grounds to allow stocks to recover. The EU said it kept the industry alive, while the recovery plans for cod and hake had been set. The livelihoods of 200,000 people are at stake over quotas but stocks of cod have shrunk in the North Sea to about one-tenth of the level in 1970. Urgent measures were needed to protect the EU from what happened in the waters off eastern Canada in the 1990s, where overfishing resulted in the disappearance of cod and still have not recovered. doclink

    Criticism Over Renewed Trade in Caspian Caviar

    September 9, 2003,

    An alliance of conservation groups is arguing that beluga stocks are declining and the quota for beluga caviar exports should be zero. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a request to list beluga sturgeon as an endangered species. An analysis indicates that beluga sturgeon declined 39% from 2001 to 2002. As a result of monitoring and managing fish stocks and poaching, the situation is starting to turn around. The caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan was halted in 2001. Iran joined the effort. Beluga stocks are recovering and the 2003 catch and export quotas were set below earlier levels. Many spawning grounds have been destroyed and more than 90% of Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon start in artificial hatcheries. The Caspian once accounted for 95% of world caviar, it is now closer to 90%. doclink

    U.S. is Seeking to Limit States' Influence on Offshore Decisions

    August 21, 2003, Los Angeles Times

    The Bush administration is rewriting federal rules to limit states' influence on what happens off their coasts. A letter signed by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) and 90 other members of Congress calls the revision a "pernicious assault on states' rights." California Gov. Gray Davis' administration said the changes would weaken authority over offshore drilling while the Bush administration asserts that federal agencies are the experts on environmental impacts to a state's coastline. They would give greater weight to federal agencies by eliminating the deference given to state agencies. The administration claimed that there is nothing that would limit states' rights. The Commerce Department completed a "comprehensive revision" of those rules in the days of Clinton's presidency. Now it is revising them again. Oil companies support the new rules and would like the process to be predictable and clearly defined. Opponents claim that the Bush administration wants to get rid of delays by governors slowing or stopping federal development and see the rule changes as an end-run around December's ruling which blocked oil drilling until the California Coastal Commission reviews them for environmental hazards. 36 offshore tracts were leased to oil companies but never developed because of state and local resistance and drops in oil prices. Those leases are to expire after 5years, the Bush administration is seeking to extend them, opposed by state officials. doclink

    Human Activities Put Pressure on Great Barrier Reef

    July 10, 2003, Environmental News Network

    The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure, the numbers of nesting loggerhead turtles have declined up to 80%, and dugong populations near Queensland's coast are only 3% of what they were in the 1960s. The flow of sediments and nutrients into the reef has increased four-fold since European settlement. In the past few years unusually hot sea water has caused two coral bleaching events, the worst ever. Tourism to the Reef is estimated to be worth between A$1-2 billion a year and commercial fisheries in the area are worth about A$400 million each year. Queensland organisms such as soft corals, sponges and starfish may be valuable for anti-tumour compounds that may prove successful against human cancers. The government has proposed a six-fold increase in protected areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Worldwide there has been a loss of up to 25% of the world's coral reefs. doclink

    Environmentalists Say Management of International Waters is Needed to Save Oceans

    June 30, 2003, Environmental News Network

    At an international conference organized by Conservational International, ocean activists recommended limiting overfishing and pollution in sensitive breeding grounds which lie in the open sea but acknowledges it won't be easy to regulate international waters. Populations of large, predatory fish including tuna and marlin, have been reduced by 90% due to overfishing and destructive fishing methods. Coastal development, pollution, and climate change, are devastating marine life. It was proposed to expanding protected areas, which currently cover only 1% of oceans. doclink

    Acting Globally to Reclaim the Oceans' Bounty

    May 30, 2003, Washington Post

    Populations of the world's major fish species had fallen to 10% of their natural levels. Marine biologists claim that fishermen could catch more than they do today while causing less damage. The problem dates to 1969, when the Stratton Commission report led to the creation of the National Marine Fisheries Service. But this reflected the emphasis on exploitation and sales. Now the oceans need a respite of several years of reduced catches and there are success stories where depleted fisheries are being restored. Fishermen working off Canada's Atlantic provinces did not reduce their catches as cod populations collapsed in the 1990s and this year the region had to be closed to fishing. The Western U.S. was put off limits last September when populations of rockfish, including Pacific red snapper, got reduced to limits of survival. The U.S. could double its catches if populations were rebuilt. Bottom-scraping trawl nets have scarred sensitive environments at the seabed. There is a demand for policies to reduce the tons of marine life and sea birds that are unintentionally hooked or entangled every year. Shrimp trawls in the Gulf of Mexico capture an estimated 20 million juvenile red snapper every year. Patagonian long-line fishing killed more than 250,000 seabirds in 3 years. Every year, 20,000 acres of coastal spawning grounds are lost because of coastal development. Those that remain are polluted with runoff and toxins, rendering them less productive. Ocean experts say the nation needs an independent agency devoted to ocean health, free of the political missions and biases. Scientists and fishermen call for a network of protected marine reserves in which underwater communities could thrive and "reseed". Consumers can help by buying only fish that are relatively abundant. doclink

    Few of World's Large Fish Remain

    May 15, 2003, Globe and Mail

    Large wild fish have been caught systematically over the past 50 years and 90% of each type have disappeared. Those left are only one half to one fifth the size than those caught before industrialized fishing began in 1950. The biological destruction is unprecedented in its scope and rapidity and blasts the idea that the oceans have uncaught fish waiting to be discovered. The ocean, which makes up 70% of the Earth's surface, is now a man-made system. Other ocean creatures are faring no better. The group that includes dolphins and porpoises, are also in critical danger. The Yangtze dolphin has been reduced to 20/30 in the world. Those fish most prized as human foodstuff: tuna, marlin, swordfish, cod and halibut, as well as sharks, are at the top of the ocean's food chain, and their loss will have a profound if unpredictable effect. Large sharks will die out unless the catch falls by 50%. Technology such as sonar and satellite methods of finding the ocean's warm fronts where fish once congregated have generated the problem. The populations of big fish are so depleted that people spend more time and energy to catch fewer fish. The Atlantic cod, is down to 1% of the pre-1950 numbers and Pacific sardines are showing no signs of recovery either. Other species may recover if levels of fishing are cut immediately. doclink

    Harmful Algae Blooms Linked to Population Growth

    April 16, 2003, Associated Press

    The toxin in littleneck clams from northwest of Bainbridge Island increased fivefold from the 1970s to the '90s as the population of Kitsap County increased 87%. More people mean more fertilizer, sewage and animal waste flowing into Puget Sound, providing rich nutrients for algae. Clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and pink scallops filter algae from seawater, producing toxins. When people eat infected shellfish, the neurotoxin can cause breathing difficulties, nausea, paralysis and death. The relationship between algae blooms and human activities remains unclear. Algae require nitrogen and other nutrients, but it is not understood what are the nutrients that fuels the blooms. Most of the closed shellfish beds are off limits because of high levels of fecal coliform or dangerous pollutants, such as mercury. If you go south you've got more pollution, and if you go north you've got more paralytic shellfish poison. doclink

    Slow-motion Disaster Below the Waves

    November 17, 2002, Los Angeles Times

    Among environmentalists, a baseline is a reference point for measuring the health of ecosystems. The baseline for any given habitat would be what was there before humans had much impact and if we know the baseline we can work to restore it. If the baseline shifted before we chart it, then we end up accepting a degraded state as normal. The number of salmon in the Columbia River is twice what it was in the 1930s, but only 10% of what they were in the 1800s. Environmental groups are trying to decide what we want nature to look like in the future. Data from around the world make the case that overfishing and humans have had an effect on the oceans so that it is difficult to imagine how full of life they used to be. The baselines have shifted for ocean ecosystems and there is disagreement on the future. Some biologists argue that, as the desirable species are stripped out, we will be left with the hardiest, most undesirable species, jellyfish and bacteria. The coral reefs of Jamaica have been degraded into mounds of dead corals covered by algae. Upcoming reports conclude that the oceans are in severe decline. The solutions are known and we must work to prevent their further decline. Our environment has suffered and our lives have suffered in other ways as well. doclink

    Safeguarding the Health of Oceans

    March 25, 1999, World Watch Institute

    Seven out of 10 commercial fish species are fully or overexploited. The
    number of poisonous algal species identified by
    scientists has nearly tripled since 1984, increasing fish kills, beach
    closures, and economic losses. 80 percent of oceanic pollution originates on
    land. People obtain an average of 16 percent of their animal protein from
    fish. About 2 billion people-one third of humanity-live within 100
    kilometers of a coastline. Turning the Tide to Save
    Oceans - Citizens and Governments Build New Alliances

    Coral in Peril

    National Geographic magazine

    In just the past few decades, pollution, overfishing, dense coastal
    development, and other forces have destroyed a tenth of the
    Earth's coral reefs and seriously degraded almost a third. At this
    rate, scientists warn, nearly three-quarters could lie in ruins. doclink

    U.S.: NOAA Forecast Predicts Large "Dead Zone" for Gulf of Mexico This Summer

    Environmental News Network

    The "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf of Mexico this summer could be one of the largest on record. In the dead zone seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters. Dead zones are caused by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water.

    Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

    This hypoxic, or low-to-no oxygen area, is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries by destroying critical habitat.

    "The high water volume flows coupled with nearly triple the nitrogen concentrations in these rivers over the past 50 years from human activities has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone," said Gene Turner, Ph.D., a lead forecast modeler from Louisiana State University. doclink

    King Salmon Vanishing in Alaska, Smokehouses Empty

    Yahoo News

    Yukon River smokehouses should be filled this summer with oil-rich strips of king salmon. But they're mostly empty.

    One Alaska river after another has been closed to king fishing because significant numbers of fish failed to return to spawn. Federal and state fisheries biologists are looking into the mystery.

    King salmon spend years in the Bering Sea before returning as adults to rivers where they were born to spawn and die. Biologists speculate that the mostly likely cause was a shift in Pacific Ocean currents, but food availability, changing river conditions and predator-prey relationships could be affecting the fish.

    People living along the Yukon River think they know what is to blame, pollock fishery, the nation's largest that removes about 1 million metric tons of pollock each year from the eastern Bering Sea. King salmon get caught in the huge pollock trawl nets, and the dead kings are counted and most are thrown back into the ocean. Some are donated to the needy.

    Since 2000, the number of king salmon caught has skyrocketed, reaching over 120,000 in 2007. A substantial portion of those fish were bound for western Alaska rivers. If those fish had lived, an estimated 78,000 adult fish would have returned to rivers from the Pacific Northwest to Western Alaska.

    In 2006, bycatch rules were adopted allowing the pollock fleet to move from areas where lots of kings were being inadvertently caught, thereby avoiding large-scale fishing closures. Then, 2007 happaned, and it was back to the drawing board.

    Last April, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the organization that manages ocean fish, passed a hard cap on the pollock fishery. Beginning in 2011, the portion of the fleet that participates in the program is allowed 60,000 kings a year. If the cap is reached, the fishery shuts down. The loss of the kings is devastating village economies. There's no money to buy anything.

    It is crippling the economy in all of the rivers where they depend on commercial fishing for income.

    An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist pointed to changing ocean currents, plankton blooms and even the carnivorous nature of salmon. River conditions could be changing, too, he said.

    A lot isn't known about what happens to king salmon in the ocean. In a good year, Kwik'pak Fisheries L.L.C. in Emmonak on the lower Yukon employs between 200 and 300 people. This summer, only about 30 people have been hired. The lower Yukon villages are economically devastated.

    Fishermen used to get between $5 million and $10 million from the fishery. Last year, it was $1.1 million.

    That means instead of making between $20,000 and $30,000 in the 1970s, fishermen are making just a few thousand dollars. I's hard to see the villages in such economic hardship but the Yukon should be managed conservatively until the problem of the disappearing kings is better understood. For 50 years, it was an extremely stable fishery. doclink

    It's About the Carbon; What's Worse Than the Gulf Oil Leak?

    The Christian Century Magazine

    by Bill McKibben British Petroleum for a while engaged in a public relations campaign to restyle itself as Beyond Petroleum, but perhaps it would be better called Bigtime Pollution. Barack Obama has been careful at every turn not to offend the big oil and coal companies. Just recently he announced that he was suspending a longstanding moratorium on offshore drilling, saying that "we are going to need vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security." Judging by the way Americans scream every time the price of oil begins to rise, you would think that maybe the needle BP stuck into the bottom of the sea flows straight into our veins.

    If the oil, instead of polluting the Gulf, had made its way up through the drilling pipe, onto the platform, off the gulf into some refinery and thence into the gas tank of a car, or if that West Virginia mine hadn't collapsed on the miners and instead the coal had proceeded smoothly down some rail line to some coal-fired plant, the result would be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A gallon of gas, which weighs a little more than seven pounds, results in about 22 pounds of CO2. The average American car driven the average American distance releases its own weight in CO2 annually. This CO2 traps heat near the atmosphere that would otherwise radiate back out to space.

    The trapping of heat causes everything frozen on the planet to slowly melt; the warm air holds more water vapor than cold, not only putting out more drenching rain storms, but causing more drought in arid areas; with the the extra carbon the oceans have absorbed from the in the atmosphere, they've turned 30% more acidic in recent decades, causing problems forming shells and reproducing for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. Coral reef researchers think that the entire ecosystem may be extinct by mid-century. Forget the slick in the gulf; think of the invisible acid slick now covering all seven seas.

    Before the century is out, if we don't get off fossil fuel, then the climatologists have made the prognosis clear: five or six more degrees.

    This is the ultimate teachable moment, the place where we can insist that our leaders start to take serious action-not just, or even mainly, to make sure that we don't have oil well blowouts in the future, but to make sure that we get off dirty energy.

    The Obama administration has been more involved than its predecessors (5,000 hybrid cars for the federal fleet! Tanks running on biofuels!), but compared to the scale of the problem, those actions are like tossing a roll of Charmin into the gulf to soak up the oil.

    Certain Senators have devised a weak climate "plan" essentially dictated by oil companies and electric utilities, which would reduce America's carbon emissions only 4% from 1990 levels. They couldn't do much more because Obama wouldn't push harder because he didn't see political gain involved-he already has the environmental vote. There is no movement giving him the push to take the issue to the next level.

    We push by becoming politically engaged. On the tenth of October, is coordinating a Global Work Party, a follow-up to the Global Day of Action last October, which sparked 5,200 rallies in 181 countries. We need to spread the word that 350 parts per million CO2 is the most we can safely have in the atmosphere.

    At the Copenhagen climate summit, 117 nations signed on to that 350 ppm concentration target. But they the poor nations. The rich and addicted weren't yet ready to face the truth. On October 10, people around the world will be putting up solar panels and harvesting community gardens and laying out bike paths because they want to send a serious, pointed message to our leaders: If we can get to work, you can get to work.

    Last year in Copenhagen, Desmond Tutu preached a service at the city's great cathedral. When he was done, the cathedral bell range 350 times, and then 3,000 churches across Europe did the same thing. It sent a message: what we're doing to the Earth is not only stupid, it's evil. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Oil is the vehicle that allowed humankind's population to grow beyond its capacity. Now, with agriculture facing climate change and trying to succeed on less and less oil, humankind has a tremendous adjustment to make - so big that many will not make it.

    50-year Domino Effect in the Sea

    National Academy of Science

    Overfishing of whales in the North Pacific Ocean 50 years ago led to the decimation of Alaska's kelp forests today. The killing of great whales from 1946 to 1979 forced killer whales to seek alternative food. Beginning with harbor seals, then fur seals, sea lions, and finally sea otters, the killer whales targeted progressively smaller populations of coastal marine mammals. When the sea otter population was pushed down it allowed an explosion of sea urchins which led to decimation of the Alaskan kelp forests due to the sea urchins' over-grazing. Sea otter populations are on the rise, but this has been slowed by disease. Some scientists think sea otter diseases may have links to pollution, others note that zoonotic diseases are to blame for many sea otter deaths in Europe and U.S. doclink

    Oceans 'Dying Very Quickly'

    Canada East

    Derek Hatfield competes in a solo round-the-world ocean race, this year finishing in third place. Having undertaken long sea voyages since the early 1990s, he has noticed disturbing changes in the ocean wildlife in the last few years.

    "You don't see the fish, you don't see the turtles, you don't see the birds," Hatfield said.

    "Along the coast you will see the odd humpback whale but it is getting more and more rare. Last year I did a transatlantic race and I didn't see one whale in the whole 15 days of racing across the North Atlantic. Not one whale! . . . The oceans are dying and they're dying very quickly."

    Hatfield always used to stop what he was doing when dolphins showed up to race beside the bow of the boat or follow behind. But dolphins have stopped showing. "It is much lonelier without them," he says. "They're such an intelligent animal and such great company, especially when you're out there by yourself. Now it's a rare sight."

    Around the world, people who live, work and play on the water are reporting significant changes in marine ecosystems, including fewer fish and shorebirds, growing blooms of algae to shrinking amounts of seaweed, the result of of climate change, pollution and overfishing.

    A recent report presented to the United Nations last week warned of looming mass extinctions. "We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation," the international panel of marine experts state in the report.

    Alex Rogers of Oxford University, scientific director of the International Program on the State of the Ocean, said the state of the oceans is declining far more rapidly than even the most pessimistic anticipated.

    "The rate of carbon dioxide emissions is huge compared to the past. The closest comparison we have to our present time is about 55 million years ago and at the moment we're pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at about 10 times the rate at which it was entering the atmosphere during that period, which was associated with a major extinction."

    Rogers says global warming, ocean acidification and lack of water oxygen are the greatest peril to ocean life.They are common factors which researchers have found to be linked within all known mass extinctions. Global warming builds up carbon dioxide which is then absorbed into the oceans, which causes acidification, while run-off of fertilizers and pollution chokes off oxygen in the water column.

    Rogers says he was flabbergasted when he found that the upcoming Rio earth summit, " although they spoke about terrestrial environments and freshwater, the oceans (90% of the living space for life on the planet) weren't even mentioned in much of the documentation for that meeting."

    Peter Wells, a marine scientist formerly with Environment Canada and now a professor at Dalhousie University, says "Fishing has created more change over the last few hundred years than any other stress. That's the removal of biomass, that's the removal of species and knocking down populations and in some cases so hard they don't recover, such as the northern cod." doclink

    Deforestation and Desertification

    Illegal Logging Shows Little Sign of Slowing

    A recent report finds regulation loopholes, an uptick in organized crime, and lax land rights are allowing illegal logging to thrive.
    December 30, 2016,   By: Morgan Erickson-davis

    About 30% of the world's timber is harvested illegally, due largely to regulation loopholes and organized criminal networks, and often as part of land clearing for palm oil, beef, and soy production. These findings come from a recent report titled "Illegal Logging and Related Timber Trade - Dimensions, Drivers, Impacts and Responses" - the most comprehensive scientific analysis published on the topic. It was produced with help from more than 40 scientists around the world coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) in association with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

    Crimes related to illegal deforestation "account for up to $152 billion every year, more than all official development aid combined," said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. Trade agreements, such as the European Union's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan, require that timber products imported to the EU be legally harvested. This has prompted illegal-wood sellers to shift to markets which have less stringent regulations, such as India and China, which are now the biggest importers of both legal and illegal tropical wood. Organized crime and insecure land rights are big contributors to illegal logging activities around the world. The sale of Illegally extracted timber helps fund weapons for wars and conflicts in western Africa - namely the DRC, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

    While illegal logging occurs in most tropical nations, it is especially prevalent in Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Indonesia tops the list, generating around 65 million cubic meters of wood-based products in 2013, around 60% of which are estimated to have been harvested illegally. More than 90% of wood produced in Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is harvested illegally. Bolivia, Peru, and Laos come in at around 80% each. Russia is the main source of boreal and temperate wood. About 20% of Russia's timber products come from illegal logging. China uses that wood to make flooring, furniture, and other products that it sells domestically and to markets in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.

    Land tenure issues are "profound drivers" of illegal logging. Previous analyses found that land held and managed by local and indigenous communities is less affected by deforestation than government-managed areas. About 86% of the world's forests are publicly owned, but only around 60% are managed by communities that reside in them, and less than 20% have officially recognized land rights. Reducing illegal logging could benefit the communities that live within the forests, as well as to those affected by organized crime.

    "In addition to bilateral efforts, stronger international cooperation is needed globally to successfully fight illegal logging and related timber trade and prevent it from shifting to less regulated markets," Alexander Buck, IUFRO Executive Director, said in a statement. "Illegal logging is not merely a forest-related problem to be resolved by the ministries dealing with the forest and environment sectors alone. Illegal conversion of forests to agricultural land is an example that clearly shows the need for a broader cooperation, in this case between forestry and agriculture." doclink

    How Big Banks Are Putting Rain Forests in Peril

    December 3, 2016, New York Times   By: Hiroko Tabuchi

    Banks around the world have funded $43 billion in loans and underwriting to companies linked to deforestation and forest burning in Southeast Asia, at least a third coming from American, European and Japanese banks, according to the Rainforest Action Network (working with two other NGOs). Not all financing is made public, so the amount may be more.

    The money is aiding a process that scientists say destroys ecosystems, displaces indigenous communities and drenches the region in smog. The Union of Concerned Scientists claims that burning away forests generates one-tenth of total global warming emissions. Only about 15% of the world's historical forest cover remains intact, according to the World Resources Institute. Yet while endowments and pension funds are divesting from the fossil-fuel industry, and banks are backing away from coal projects, any move away from financing deforestation has been slow to catch on.

    In early 2015, scientists monitoring satellite images at Global Forest Watch focused on the destruction of Indonesian rain forests. In Borneo's West Kalimantan province monitors found a charred wasteland with many orangutans driven from their nests. "There was pretty much no forest left," said Karmele Llano Sánchez, director of the nonprofit International Animal Rescue's orangutan rescue group. Fingers pointed to the Rajawali Group, a local conglomerate known for its ties to powerful politicians, including Malaysia's Prime Minister. Before the fire Rajawali's plantation arm secured $235 million in expansion loans from Credit Suisse and Bank of America, according to the New York Times. As the banks issued those loans, Rajawali was accused of extensive illegal burning, use of child labor, and the use of force against workers at plantations under its control.

    In a 2015 report to clients, Credit Suisse Equity Analyst, Priscilla Tjitra, deemed Rajawali's a successful project that increased landholdings for expanded palm oil production. Demand for palm oil is surging worldwide, driven by rising incomes in markets like China and India and a switch away from trans fats by Americans and Europeans. Indonesia is one of the world's biggest palm oil producers, and forestry loss there and elsewhere ranks as one of the biggest single contributors to global warming.

    But Credit Suisse funding appears to have violated its 2008 forestry and agribusiness policy, which forbids the company from financing or advising companies with operations in "primary tropical moist forests" like those of West Kalimantan. Bank of America 2004 policy also forbids financing for commercial projects that result in the clearing of primary tropical moist forests. Spokesman Bill Halldin said that the most serious accusations against Rajawali came after the 2014 loan. "Today, we would certainly consider more information before making any decision on any client," he said.

    In September, Rajawali's plantation arm secured another $192 million loan from Bank Negara Indonesia, a state bank, to refinance the debt held by its plantation subsidiaries and to double the capacity of palm oil refineries in Papua and West Kalimantan. Bank Negara Indonesia's sustainability policies say that its clients must adopt "minimum environmental, social and governance standards."

    Although deforestation has slowed in many parts of the world, notably in the Brazilian Amazon, forest clearing is on the rise in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, in particular, suffers the world's highest rates of forest loss, an average of almost 2.1 million acres a year, a study published in 2014 found. Daily emissions from Indonesia's forest fires last year at times exceeded emissions produced by all economic activity in the United States. A recent Harvard and Columbia study estimated that the fires caused at least 100,000 premature deaths across Southeast Asia. The World Bank estimates that the fires cost Indonesia's economy $16 billion.

    The world has lost 60% of its Bornean orangutans since 1950, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In July, the Bornean orangutan was listed as critically endangered. International Animal Rescue said its staff had rescued about 50 during the 2015 burning season, which is twice the normal rate. "They were all starving, all skinny," said Ms. Sánchez, the group's director. "The problem is that every time an area is destroyed and orangutans are under real threat, we have to look for areas to release them, and that's challenging,” she said. She is running out of places to release them. doclink

    Large Forest Die-offs Can Have Effects That Ricochet to Distant Ecosystems

    November 17, 2016, Science Daily

    "When trees die in one place, it can be good or bad for plants elsewhere, because it causes changes in one place that can ricochet to shift climate in another place," "The atmosphere provides the connection." said lElizabeth Garcia, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences and lead author of a study led by the University of Washington and published in PLOS ONE.

    Loss of vegetation makes the air drier and also makes the land surface more reflective so that is absorbs less sunlight, producing a cooling effect. These local effects of deforestation are well known, but the new study shows major forest losses can alter global climate by shifting the path of large-scale atmospheric waves or altering precipitation paths. Less forest cover can also change how much sunlight is absorbed in the Northern versus the Southern hemispheres, which can shift tropical rain bands and other climate features.

    Co-author Abigail Swann, a UW assistant professor of atmospheric sciences and of biology said "We are only starting to think about these larger-scale implications."

    Results show that removing trees in western North America causes cooling in Siberia, which slows forest growth there. Tree loss in the western U.S. also makes air drier in the southeastern U.S., which harms forests in places like the Carolinas. But forests in South America actually benefit, because it becomes cooler and thus wetter south of the equator.

    In South America, removing most of the Amazon rainforest also caused Siberia to become colder and more barren, but it had a slight positive impact on southeastern U.S. vegetation. Losing Amazon forest had a significant positive impact on the neighboring forests in eastern South America, mostly by increasing the precipitation there during the Southern Hemisphere summer.

    The model's parameters for forest changes are still preliminary, so the exact mapping of cause and effect at each location is not set in stone.

    "The broader idea is that we must understand and include the effects of forest loss when modeling global climate and trying to predict how climate will change in the future," said Swann.

    Swann's previous research looked at how a hypothetical massive tree planting in the Northern Hemisphere to slow global warming could have the unintended effect of changing tropical rainfall. More recent research has shown how European deforestation over the past thousands of years may have reduced rainfall over modern-day Africa. doclink

    Indigenous Rights Are Key to Preserving Forests, Climate Change Study Finds

    November 2, 2016, Guardian   By: Jonathan Watts

    At least a quarter of forest carbon is stored on communal land and, particularly in Brazil, and the world's indigenous communities need to be given a bigger role in climate stabilization, according to a paper by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Woods Hole Research Centre and World Resources Institute.

    The research is the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the contribution of traditional forest guardians to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The expansion of tribal land rights is the most cost-effective way to protect forests and sequester carbon. The study authors hope this issue receives more prominence a the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Marrakech.

    167 of 188 nations in the Paris agreement, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are home to some of the world's biggest forests, do not recognize indigenous land rights; nor do they include tribal input in national action plans.

    The study estimates community-claimed lands sequester at least 54,546m tonnes of carbon - roughly four times the world's annual emissions.

    Ownership of a 10th of that land is public, unrecognised or contested, which raises the risk that it could fall into the hands of developers, farmers, miners or others who want to clear the forest for short-term financial gain at the expense of long-term environmental costs.

    Alain Frechette of Rights and Resources, said: "When communities have secure forest rights, not only are forests better protected, but communities fare better. It's what economists call an optimal solution. Everyone wins," he said. "By contrast, large-scale development initiatives produce quick wins, but the long-term environmental, economic and political costs are not taken into account. They are just pushed on to future generations."

    "As well as reducing 20-30% of carbon dioxide emissions, the forests provide benefits of clean water, pollination, biodiversity, flood control and tourist attractions that are said to be worth $523bn to $1.165tn in Brazil, $54-119 bn in Bolivia, and $123-277bn in Colombia over the next 20 years.”

    In Latin America 58% of emissions come from deforestation, more than double the global rate of 24%. Brazil with 14,692 megatonnes has twice the amount of the next biggest country, Indonesia.

    The World Research Institute estimates that tropical forests without such protection were two to three times more likely to be cleared.

    "There are causes for concern," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. She urged Brazil not to backtrack. "As this report shows, if Brazil enhances its respect for indigenous peoples' rights, they will be able to contribute more to the Paris agreement. It will be to their benefit. They can measure that in terms of the amount of tonnes of carbon that are being conserved.” doclink

    US Drives Rainforest Destruction by Importing Amazon Oil, Study Finds

    California, despite its green reputation, is refining the majority of crude oil - with one facility accounting for 24% of the US total
    September 28, 2016, Guardian   By: Oliver Milman

    A study, conducted by environmental group Amazon Watch, found that American refineries processed 230,293 barrels of Amazon crude oil a day last year and found that planned oil drilling poses "one of the most serious threats" to the western region of the Amazon, with most of the oil originating from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

    In California, the Chevron facility in El Segundo refines about 24% of the US total of of Amazon crude. California's clean energy policies discriminate against the heavy grade oil produced by countries such as Canada, and so it uses more oil from the Amazon. Also, an explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California, in February 2015 caused the state to increase its gasoline imports to more than 10 times the typical level.

    Environmental groups have had some success against Chevron's Amazon ambitions, other players from countries such as China have moved in. Proposed oil and gas fields now cover 283,172 sq miles of the Amazon - an area larger than Texas.

    Not only are there the carbon emissions from felled trees and from the transport and burning of oil, indigenous communities and the Amazon's vast trove of biodiversity are also at risk.

    Ecuador's state oil company is now drilling close to the Yasuni national park, one of the most biologically rich places on Earth, with 655 endemic tree species - more than the US and Canada combined - as well as two of the last tribes in the world living in voluntary isolation.

    These indigenous people are at risk from pollution, displacement and deadly illnesses due to a lack of acquired immunity.

    "Breaking free from oil dependence and keeping remaining fossil fuels in the ground is an urgent, collective endeavor, and the life-giving Amazon rainforest must be one of the first places we start," said Leila Salazar-López, executive director of Amazon Watch.

    Adam Zuckerman, a California-based campaigner for Amazon Watch, said "virtually every company, city and university in California and around the country contributes to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest."

    It was not known whether new laws were being considered to reduce Amazon crude imports, although the administration has taken "nation-leading action to fight climate change, decarbonize our economy and end our dangerous addiction to foreign oil", according to Governor Brown's office. doclink

    Charting a Course From Charcoal to Clean Energy - Population Growth - Human Rights, the Economy, and the Environment

    July 28, 2016,   By: Suzanne York

    The recently released FAO report found that, in tropical countries, there occurred a net forest loss of seven million hectares per year between the years of 2000 and 2010. It noted that agriculture is still the most significant driver of global deforestation. Yet much of the forest loss, especially in Africa, is also driven by a need for fuel.

    For much of the world, people still rely on charcoal and firewood for producing energy. Approximately 3 billion people use open fires and simple, inefficient stoves to cook and heat their homes, says the World Health Organization,

    In Africa, the production of charcoal has doubled in the past two decades and accounts for over 60% of the world's total, driven by rapid urbanization. According to the UN, "As Africa's population is expected to swell and urbanize at an even faster rate over the next decades, the continent's demand for charcoal is likely to double or triple by 2050".

    Over 90% of rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa depend on firewood or charcoal in Africa as a primary energy source. The charcoal business has a devastating impact on the environment from deforestation, biodiversity loss and increased carbon emissions. And household pollution from cook stoves is a major threat to public health, as toxic pollutants are released into the air. Rural women are impacted the most since they are the primary providers collecting fuel and cooking for their families.

    In Kenya nearly 9 million households in Kenya use charcoal every day. The equivalent of 15,000 soccer fields worth of trees are cut every year. Over 36 million Kenyans are affected by household air pollution, resulting in over 15,000 deaths, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

    GreenChar is a social enterprise that sells smokeless charcoal briquettes made from sugarcane waste and other agricultural wastes, and also distributes clean cookstoves to the local population. It is long lasting and low cost and can save families $200/year. Also women are involved in the sourcing, production, distribution stages. Women outsell men cook stove sellers by nearly 3 to 1.

    In the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo some 4 million people live, many of whom live in extreme poverty and are reliant on charcoal for survival. According to World Wildlife Fund, the nearby city of Goma alone consumes above 105,000 tons of charcoal every year, at a total cost of about US$55.9 million. Surveys spearheaded by park authorities showed that off-grid hydroelectricity plants could generate more than 100 megawatts of energy, which is 25 times more power than the city of Goma - home to over 1 million people - currently receives.

    As the world strives to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to reach SDG 15 - "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss" - will need to encompass an integrated approach. Until people's basic needs are met, they will do whatever it takes to survive, even cutting down forests that sustain so much life.

    In the words of Wangari Maathai, "You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them." doclink

    X-Ray Technology Reveals California's Forests Are in for a Radical Transformation

    October 20, 2015, Los Angeles Times   By: Thomas Curwen

    Greg Asner, a biologist with the Carnegie Institution for Science, has been flying out of Sacramento and Bakersfield with instruments aboard his plane that give him X-ray eyes into the foliage, to assess not just dead trees but trees so stressed by the drought that their death is likely.

    The Forest Service had estimated that nearly 12.5 million trees in the state's southern and central forests were dead. But Asner calculates the loss this year will be 7% to 20%.

    Under normal circumstances, forests lose between 1% and 1.5% of their trees annually.

    Asner's instruments measure how water molecules are bending, stretching, rotating and vibrating inside a leaf undergoing photosynthesis. These motions resonate into the atmosphere as reflected light, which is picked up by an on-board spectrometer. The more reflected light, the drier the foliage.

    The spectrometer works in conjunction with a laser that fans out beneath the aircraft, creating a 3-D image that shows the condition of the forest. Healthy trees are blue, and drought-stressed trees run from mild (yellow) to severe (red).

    Asner's assessment shows that the mountains ringing Los Angeles are "a tinderbox" and the oak forests in the Sierra foothills are "in big trouble." Pinnacles is "not a happy place for a tree," and the forests northwest of Redding are surprisingly compromised.

    "We don't know when the lack of rain will lead to runaway conditions where the forests are beyond repair," Asner said.

    "Think of it as one gigantic ax swing at the forest," he said. "It takes a huge chunk out of the population, and if we see two or three more of these droughts, then that's even more ax swings."

    Jeffrey Hicke, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Idaho, said "Species will march uphill as the climate warms." ... "Sequoia forests might become ponderosa pine or oak. Oak forests might become grasslands.

    The three-week mid-summer survey was paid by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is interested in the findings because the images can provide a more accurate picture of how fire behaves in dry terrain, which can help with the location of fire breaks and the management of controlled burns.

    Diminishment of the state's forests means the loss of clean water and erosion control, recreation and jobs, Ashley Conrad-Saydah of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said. As trees die, decompose or burn, carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, she said. Forests become scrublands with 97% less carbon.

    "This is our chance for science to play a role in supporting innovations in management and policy, rather than just bringing bad news that is not actionable," Anser wrote. doclink

    Desertification and Its Real Cause: Human Overpopulation

    September 20, 2015, You Tube   By: Guillermo López


    Agrarian Settlements Causing Massive Deforestation in Brazil: 'Much More Damage May Be Done'

    A Brazilian policy meant to allocate land to the rural poor in a socially responsible manner has led to inordinate rates of deforestation, according to a recent report.
    September 10, 2015,   By: Mike Gaworecki

    A Brazilian policy meant to allocate land to the rural poor in a socially responsible manner has led to inordinate rates of deforestation, say researchers with the Camara dos Deputados (Brazil's lower legislative body) and the University of East Anglia. The results of the study have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

    Nearly 2,000 agrarian settlement projects have moved as many as 1.2 million settlers to the Amazon. The settlements, which comprise just 5.3% of the 5 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon, contributed as much as 13.5% of all deforestation recorded to date. Forest cover in the settlements declined, on average, to about 44%.

    Co-author Carlos Peres said that, contrary to the notion that "Amazonian deforestation is merely a product of rampaging capitalist development unleashed by free market forces - it is primarily a governance problem that is deliberately designed and deployed by government, and financed by Brazilian taxpayers."

    The agrarian reform settlements began in the 1970s as a means of occupying the vast expanses of forest in the Amazon, lead author Mauricio Schneider, of the Camara dos Deputados, said.

    "Most of the settlements have very low productivity and are economically inefficient, making it hard to defend agrarian reform unless from an ideological point of view," Schneider said.

    Brazil's agrarian agency, the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA), contends that most of the deforestation happened before the settlements were established, an attempt to shift the blame to previous farmers and land grabbers.

    "Contrary to claims by Brazil's Agrarian Reform Ministry, the timing and spatial distribution of deforestation and fires provides irrefutable chronological and spatially explicit evidence of rapid deforestation by resettled farmers both inside and immediately outside agrarian settlement areas," Peres said in his statement.

    Ultimately it is the government driving this deforestation through its agrarian reform policies, Schneider told Mongabay.

    Schnedier and Peres recommend that the INCRA should be avoiding frontier expansion into forested areas and instead prioritizing the allocation of the 30 million hectares of degraded, low-productivity pastures that are available across Amazonia. They also recommend that the simplest measure would be to enforce the law. The settlers who violate the laws have been neither fined nor jailed for violating conservation laws meant to keep the Amazon forest intact. doclink

    Trees Covering An Area Twice the Size of Portugal Lost in 2014, Study Finds

    September 1, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Emma Howard

    In 2014, trees covering an area twice the size of Portugal were lost worldwide, according to analysis form World Resources Institute (WRI). Eighteen million hectares were lost last year satellite data published by Global Forests Watch shows.

    The report shows that west Africa is becoming a new hotspot for tree cover loss, driven by demand for palm oil, with Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Madagascar leading the loss. Last year Madagascar lost 2% of its total forest area to agriculture, mining and the timber industry.

    There has been a shift in tree loss for Brazil and Indonesia to a "second tier of smaller countries that traditionally get much less attention from environmental groups," said Nigel Sizer of the WRI. "These countries are recovering from years of civil conflicts that have made them off limits to investors who are now looking for opportunities - it is a new frontier of investments."

    Governments are now selling off vast areas of land to private companies looking to capitalize on rising demand for palm oil.

    Although Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, it has introduced a moratorium on the sale of primary forests in recent years, under pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, around 80% of which come from deforestation and land use change. 62% of tree loss in tropics occurred outside of Indonesia and Brazil, in comparison to 47% in 2001. Tree loss in Brazil and Indonesia had been on the decline, but is on the rise again - by 16% and 30% respectively since 2013. Sizer said the uptick is due to increasing demand for agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber.

    With an expected increase from Europe in demand for palm oil, companies are turning to west Africa, its closest palm oil-producing region. It is estimated that the ingredient is present in half of all packaged goods, from shampoo to detergent to many food products.

    Liberia's finance minister said the nation is "worried about the ecological consequences" of palm oil but must grow the economy to create jobs.

    Cambodia's tree loss has risen fourfold since 2001, making it the fastest the fastest acceleration in loss. Much of the loss is due to the creation of new rubber plantations.

    WWF is campaigning for stronger protection zones and programs to incentivize countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions caused by the practice.

    "It is very concerning in the run up to the climate talks to be seeing an increase in tree loss - we are not turning the corner globally and particularly in some countries that are difficult to work with," Sizer said. doclink

    Road Rage: Scientists Denounce $60 Trillion Infrastructure Expansion

    G-20 nations make commitment to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years
    March 14, 2015,   By: Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa

    The author watched the 2,500 kilometer-long Interoceanic Highway -- which connects the west coast of Peru with the western Brazilian border -- change from a scraggly dirt and gravel path, blanketed on both sides by massive Amazonian trees in 2009, to a faster, wider, paved road with the trees cut further away from the road and farms developing along the way by 2014.

    Now Brazil could transfer Amazonian produce much faster by exporting west through Peruvian ports, much closer to production sites than the eastern Atlantic coast of Brazil. Global Forest Watch, a subsidiary of the World Resources Institute, monitors land use via satellite imagery across the planet and reports over 67,000 hectares of deforestation in the region around Puerto Maldonado.

    As the forest on either side was cut down, sold, bought, farmed and exploited, the wildlife succumbed to slaughter on the highway.

    The story of this road is like thousands of other stories all over the world. The Bengal tiger, the Amazonian jaguar, and the African forest elephant have suffered great reductions in numbers due to roads. Over 37% of roadkills were reptiles. Amphibians experienced the next-highest mortality rate, followed by birds.

    Last November, at the annual G-20 summit - for the 20 wealthiest of the world's nations, a staggering commitment was made to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years. This is akin to doubling the current value of all global infrastructure put together.

    "The G20's pledge would be the largest financial transaction in human history," writes William Laurance, a Researcher and Australian Laureate at James Cook University. "Unless these projects are managed carefully, their ecological consequences could be almost unthinkable."

    It is expected that there enough paved roads globally by mid century to circle the Earth more than 600 times. Nine-tenths of these new roads will be in developing nations, which sustain many of the planet's most biologically rich and environmentally important ecosystems. Massive hydroelectric projects involving damming some of the world's largest rivers have been planned for the Mekong region, the Congo basin and the Amazon basin.

    The authors recommended that the road planners avoid the first cut, since every road brings with it the potential for further subsidiary roads, thus exponentially increasing the area eventually modified. Even upgrading an existing road cannot be dismissed as irrelevant, because upgraded roads maintain access year-round, which increases traffic speeds and has wide-ranging impacts on the surrounding environment.

    Laurance suggests for those who wish to see the African wilds and all it contains not to hesitate, but to go now, for soon will be too late. Indeed, Global Forest Watch shows large portions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo have been allotted for mining concessions. "It's a bit of a tsunami," Laurance said. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: by all means let's all rush to see it in our jets burning fossil fuel, flaunting the rich polluting lifestyle dream to every region in the world.

    Deforestation Causing São Paulo Drought

    February 5, 2015, Geographical   By: Chris Fitch

    The past twelve months has seen Brazil being hit harder and harder by the effects of drought, as first São Paulo, then other regions of the country, struggle to cope with not only dwindling supplies of water but an immense demand as well. Water rationing, power cuts, and crop slumps have ensued.

    Authorities have come under fire for their failure to upgrade and maintain the necessary infrastructure to stop water being stolen or wasted in transit. There is also the exacerbation of Brazil's general water problems caused by population concentration around the coasts.

    'The Amazon rainforest takes water from the trees, rivers and soil and turns it into clouds known as 'flying rivers', says Richard George, of Greenpeace UK. 'These transport water vapour from the centre of Brazil to fall as rain on coastal areas. But as the forest has been destroyed, the flying rivers are disappearing.'

    The scale of transformation which would accompany the disappearance of the Amazon's flying rivers is outlined in a recent report by Professor Antonio Nobre, researcher at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA).

    The greatest impact from current trends in deforestation to Brazil and surrounding South America, Mr. Nobre says, is the drought: as moisture - no longer trapped by rainforest vegetation - rapidly evaporates, leading to what is described as the 'savannisation' of the Amazon basin. Even though only 19% of the rainforest has been cut down, some of the consequences of total deforestation have already been reached; current computer models appear to underestimate the negative consequences of the situation.

    Richard George of Greenpeace UK adds that Brazil's powerful agribusiness lobby will demand the right to clear even more forest to make up for the declining yields caused by prolonged drought, making an already dire situation worse.

    Nobre's report concludes with a five-point plan to prevent further destruction to the Amazon; spreading rainforest education, ending deforestation, ending fire-clearing techniques, encouraging rainforest regeneration, and forcing world leaders to act to prevent potential crisis. doclink

    'Too Many People': Philippine Island Being Deforested Despite Extensive Protections

    October 31, 2014,   By: Shaira Panela

    The Philippine island of Palawan hosts two World Heritage sites, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the provincial capital, and the Tubbataha Reef in Cagayancillo, and it is almost completely covered in Protected Areas; yet Palawan lost 6.4% of its tree cover since 2001.

    Data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) reveals that many animals -- including 27 endemic species of birds, 19 varieties of land mammals, and 24 kinds of reptiles -- are facing huge population declines.

    The National Statistics Office (NSO) records show that the population in Palawan grew by 2.66% per year from 2000 to 2010. This would double the population in 26 years.

    "It's just too many people, and more people need more space," said Dr. Neil Aldrin Mallari, country program director of Fauna & Flora International - Philippines.

    Illegal logging is one of the biggest contributors to forest cover loss.

    "People living in the mountains still practice slash-and-burn where they cut trees and burn them to make the land available for farming," said an environmentalist, who asked not to be identified. "The problem is so difficult to solve," he said. "In a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest, I would rate the deforestation in Palawan is a 7," he said.

    Deforestation in the southern part of the province results from bark tanning, in which bark harvested of mangroves is used to tan leather. Illegal land conversion and charcoal production are also common in northern Palawan.

    Palawan's palm oil industry has also led to significant forest loss.

    Mining also contributes to deforestation, but it is not the primary culprit. However, this controversial issue led to the 2011 shooting death of a well-known radio announcer and environmentalist in the Province, Dr. Gerry Ortega. Mining is mostly concentrated in the southern tip of the province.

    Mining also adds to the growing of the population in the area.

    Humans are also affected by deforestation. "Forest means life to us because forests are our first line of defense against typhoons, water, clean air and lots of things," Mallari said. "nd it is not just about the size of the forest but the quality."

    Mining-caused deforestation could interfere with groundwater resources and could even make El Nino-induced drought worse in the Philippines. There would be more runoff during storms and less water retained during droughts, when trees are cut down. doclink

    Study Reveals That Accumulated Deforestation in the Amazon is Starting to Affect Climate

    October 30, 2014, World Wide Fund For Nature - WWF

    A recent report launched in Sao Paulo synthesizes the findings of around two hundred leading scientific studies and articles on the role the Amazon forest plays in climate and rainfall regulation and in the exportation of environmental services to areas of production bordering the Amazon region and others far beyond it. The report concludes that achieving zero deforestation is no longer sufficient, on its own, to guarantee the upkeep of the biome's climate functions. It is essential to address the accumulated environmental debt of forest destruction and set in motion a large scale process to recuperate those areas which, in Brazil, represent the equivalent to 184 million football pitches.

    The Amazon Climate Future study (see ), conducted by research scientist Antonio Donato Nobre of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute's Terrestrial System Science Centre, clearly demonstrates the climate potential of the virgin forest or "green ocean", as scientists call it, and the impacts of its destruction through felling and burning.

    Many studies have suggested that the forest has survived in its pristine condition for tens of millions of years due to its great capacity to resist cataclysmic climate events. However, when it is destroyed, its immunity is broken. The occupation of the Amazon has destroyed at least 42 billion trees -- or 2,000 trees a minute -- uninterruptedly, for the last 40 years. The harm of such vast devastation is now beginning to be felt in regions far from the Amazon and the forecasts indicate that the scenario is likely to get worse if deforestation continues and the forest is not restored. doclink

    Booming Populations, Rising Economies, Threatened Biodiversity: the Tropics Will Never Be the Same

    July 7, 2014,   By: Jeremy Hance

    The tropics cover around 40% of the world's surface. A 400-plus page report on the tropics, compiled by 12 institutions, found incredible population growth, rising economic importance, clashes over land-use, imperiled biodiversity, and worsening impacts of climate change.

    The tropics are home to about 40% of the world's population, but house 55% of children under five. Within 40 years, it is expected that more than half the world's population will be in the tropics and a staggering 67% of its young children. According to the report, the region is expected to add another 3 billion people (or 42% of the world's population today) by the end of the century.

    "Because most of the world's children will live in the Tropics by 2050, we must rethink the world's priorities on aid, development, research and education," author Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University said. For example, it is estimated that around 467 million people in the tropics lived in slums as of 2001, representing 46% of the region's urban population.

    A booming population means increased demand for food, water, and other natural resources internally, even while many of these resources are already exported abroad to temperate regions.

    Tropical economies are growing 20% more rapidly than in temperate regions, yet the tropics is still home to two-thirds of the world's population living in extreme poverty.

    There is also good news according to the report: "The prevalence of undernourishment in the tropics has declined by one-third over the past two decades." And life expectancy is on the rise while maternal and child mortality has been slashed. Such changes could.

    Unfortunately people in the tropics face especially challenging diseases rarely found in temperate regions such as dengue fever and malaria. And local people and indigenous groups are struggling to maintain control over their traditional lands as corporations -- often foreign -- seek out more land to grow crops, raise livestock, or extract commodities such as timber, fossil fuels, and minerals. Land-grabbing, as it is known, has become a significant political issue in places like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Kenya, and Cameroon.

    At the same time, conservationists and environmentalists are fighting to preserve rainforests, coral reefs, and other vital ecosystems from destruction. Approximately 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and more than 95% of its mangrove and coral reef-based biodiversity are in the tropics. doclink

    Rapa Nui is the Earth Writ Small

    April 16, 2014, A Blue View for Escondido   By: Margaret McCown Liles

    In a October 12, 1999 letter to the San Diego Union Tribune, Margaret McCown Liles wrote about the Polynesians who in 400 AD colonized a remote, volcanic island in the South Pacific, now called Easter Island. The island was covered by palm forest, abundantly supplied with fresh water, large seabird colonies, and many species of land mammals and birds.

    The population grew, their civilization flourished. Huge statues were carved from the volcanic rock. More palms were cut down and used to roll and lift the huge statues into place. More palms were cleared to create fields. The palm forests were completely gone by 1400. The delicate tropical soil eroded. With no forest to absorb the rain, springs and streams dried up.

    The population peaked at around 10,000 in 1600, while the quality of life continued to decline. Then the population crashed. In 1722, the population was below 2,000.

    As Jared Diamond stated: "Easter Island is Earth writ small. We too have no emigration valve."

    "We too are depleting our natural resources much, much faster than they can be regenerated. In the last 100 years, humans have increased the level of CO2 in the atmosphere 30 percent. For nearly every month in the past ten years, the global mean land temperature has been above the long-term (1880-1998) mean.," Liles continued. "If we do not address the Y6B challenge now, we'll be talking about the Y12B in just 50 years."

    Looking at this, 15 years later, it's hard to see that much progress. There are those who still oppose any measures to combat climate change as being too expensive-too hard on the economy. There are many who still believe overpopulation is a myth. doclink

    The World is Still Losing Its Forests, and These Beautiful Satellite Maps Tally the Toll

    November 14, 2013, Grist   By: John Upton

    A little more than 300,000 square miles of forest was established or replanted worldwide between 2000 and 2012. Unfortunately, almost 900,000 square miles was destroyed during the same time period - logged, ravaged by fire, or attacked by insects.

    Those are the main conclusions of a study that examined hundreds of thousands of images snapped by the U.S. government's Landsat satellites. Academic researchers partnered with Google staff to produce stunning maps displaying the world's forests and areas that have been deforested or reforested since 2000.

    Click on the link in the headline to see the rest of the article and the two videos. doclink

    Brazil: Swallowing Rain Forest, Cities Surge in Amazon

    November 24, 2012, New York Times   By: Taylor Barnes

    The surging population growth of cities is turning the Amazon from the world's largest remaining area of tropical forest, interspersed by remote river outposts, to a series of sprawling urban areas with air-conditioned shopping malls, gated communities and a dealerships selling Chevy pickup trucks.

    Scientists are studying such developments and focusing on the demands on the resources of the Amazon - deforestation in the region already ranks among the largest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions.

    By enforcing logging laws and carving out protected forest areas, the country has made progress in curbing deforestation; however, biologists and other climate researchers fear that the sharp increase in migration to cities in the Amazon, which now has a population approaching 25 million, could erode those gains.

    In the Amazon city of Manaus the number of residents grew 22% to 1.7 million from 2000 to 2010, according to government statistics. Of the 19 Brazilian cities that the latest census indicates have doubled in population over the past decade, 10 are in the Amazon. Altogether, the region's population climbed 23% from 2000 to 2010, while Brazil as a whole grew just 12%.

    Larger family sizes and high levels of poverty in the Amazon are fueling this growth. While Brazil's birthrate has fallen to 1.86 children per woman, one of the lowest in Latin America, the Amazon has Brazil's highest rate, at 2.42.

    There is also an economic allure: soybean farming fueled the growth of Sinop by 50% in a decade. In other cities, it is manufacturing, logging mining or hydroelectric construction.

    Some researchers suggest that the migration to cities may increase deforestation by permitting cattle ranchers, already responsible for razing big portions of forest, to acquire lands held by small cultivators.

    In the Amazon there is an intensifying an urbanization that has been advancing for decades. For more than 20 years, a majority of the Brazilian Amazon's population has lived in urban areas.

    "It's great that people are moving out of poverty, but one of the things we need to understand when people move out of poverty is there is a larger demand on resources," said Mitchell Aide, a University of Puerto Rico biology professor. doclink

    Philippines: Surging Population, Rising Troubles

    May 24, 2011, People and Planet

    The Catholic Bishops Conference warned 23 years ago of Nuestro perdido Eden - our imperiled Eden, echoing the country's national hero, Dr Jose Rizal. Today his words have proved prophetic.

    Rapid population growth, unchecked and unequal access to natural resources and their subsequent over-exploitation, uncontrolled logging, waste disposal and mining and the pollution of rivers, lakes and sea are the root causes of the environmental destruction and degradation both in coastal and upland areas, states a report released by the German Technical Cooperation agency (GTZ).

    All this destruction and its consequences can be curbed only if the population stops growing, now at about 100 million - and projected to reach 140 million by 2050. But Catholic priests and anti-reproductive health bill activists say "No way."

    Metro Manila went from 10 million people in 1992 to 16 million. Population growth that is too fast does not leave time to provide public services and the stresses from rapid urbanization harm the environment and the people living in it, according to Gregory C. Ira, who has worked with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction.

    Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 saw forests blanketing 95% of the country. A WWF study showed that more than 119,000 hectares of forest cover disappears yearly, all likely to disappear in 10 years.

    "Approximately two-thirds of the country's original mangroves have been lost," reported Kathleen Mogelgaard, of Population Action International (PAI). "The productivity of the country's agricultural lands and fisheries is declining as these areas become increasingly degraded and pushed beyond their capacity to produce." .. "Rapid forest loss has eliminated habitat for unique and threatened plant and animal species," she added.

    Fires, slash-and-burn farmers and commercial loggers are mostly to blame. In the past, forest resources helped fuel the economy. In the 1970s, the country was tops among world timber exporters. Urbanization is also to blame.

    75% of the over 30 million poor live in the rural areas where poverty has forced many of them to invade the forest.

    Deforestation has altered the climatic condition in the country. Periods of drought have become more common and extensive in the dry season while floods have prevailed in the rainy months.

    The removal of forest cover has increased soil erosion in the uplands. And siltation, caused by erosion, shortens the productive life spans of dams and reservoirs, reducing the life span of the Magat reservoir, for example, from a probable life span of 100 years to 25 years, and the Ambuklao reservoir from 60 to 32 years.

    Deforestation has also reduced the volume of groundwater available for domestic purposes. Cebu, having lost all forest cover, is 99% dependent on groundwater and more than half of its towns and cities, excluding Metro Cebu, have no access to potable water. The country has lost 30% to 50% of its water resources in 20 years.

    Soil erosion also affects agriculture, which contributes 20% to the country's gross domestic product and employs nearly one-third of the country's total labor force. Nutrients are lost from the soil, reducing crop yields and leading to expanded use of chemical fertilizers, which in turn, pollutes water sources. The eroded soil is carried by the rivers to the coasts, where it interferes with fish nursery areas.

    Rapid population growth and the increasing human pressure on coastal resources have resulted in the massive degradation of the coral reefs, which are some of the world's most ecologically-fragile ecosystems, each reef supporting as many as 3,000 species of marine life. In the Philippines, an estimated 10-15% of the total fisheries come from coral reefs.

    Gandhi once said: "There is sufficiency for man's needs, but not for man's greed." Nor, it seems, for ill-judged dogmas and short-term planning. doclink

    They Paved Paradise...

    May 17, 2011, Population Matters

    2011 is the UN International Year of Forests and forest biodiversity is the theme of this year's International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May. Deforestation is not a new phenomenon. Half of the world's mature rainforest present in 1947 has been lost while half of the UK's ancient woodland has been lost or damaged since the 1930s. Yet forests are important, to wildlife and ecosystems, in the scientific and commercial value of biodiversity, to the large numbers of people that rely on them for food and materials and in the role they play in limiting climate change.

    These losses are continuing. The immediate causes are agricultural expansion, resource extraction, and development. The rise in biofuels, an increase in worldwide per capita meat consumption and the projected need to double food production to meet growing demand all contribute. Pressure on forests can only increase as the world industrialises and as food and resource prices continue to rise. One of the principal underlying causes is the inexorable rise in the human population, projected by the UN to reach seven billion this year, over nine billion by 2050 and ten billion by the end of the century, from three billion just fifty years ago.

    To preserve our forests, and much else, we must make countering this population growth a global priority. We urgently need to find the funds to achieve UN Millennium Goal 5b, the provision of family planning to the over 200 million women who lack access to modern contraceptive methods. We also need to counter the damaging traditions of early marriage and large families and make the case that, for everyone, a smaller family is a sustainable family. doclink

    Amazon Drought Caused Huge Carbon Emissions

    February 8, 2011, Reuters

    The 2010 1.16 million square-mile drought in the Amazon rain forest was worse than a "100-year" dry spell in 2005, according to a study conducted by a collaboration between scientists at the University of Leeds and the University of Sheffield in Britain and Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute

    More frequent severe droughts like those in 2005 and 2010 risk turning the world's largest rain forest from a sponge that absorbs carbon emissions into a source of the gases, accelerating global warming. Trees and other vegetation in the world's forests soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, helping cool the planet, but release it when they die and rot. The 2010 drought was a tree killer and dried up major rivers in the Amazon and isolated thousands of people who depend on boat transportation, shocking climate scientists who had billed the 2005 drought as a once-in-a-century event.

    The study predicted the Amazon forest would not absorb its usual 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in both 2010 and 2011. In addition, the dead and dying trees would release 5 billion metric tons of the gas in the coming years, making a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons, according to the study.

    In comparison, the United States emitted 5.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use in 2009.

    If the droughts are driven by global warming, a vicious cycle of warmer temperatures and droughts could conceivably lead to a large-scale transformation of the forest over a period of decades and large parts of the forest could turn into a savannah-like ecosystem by the middle of the century with much lower levels of animal and plant biodiversity. doclink

    World's Last Great Forest Under Threat: New Study

    August 25, 2009, Science Daily

    In a paper called "Urgent preservation of boreal carbon stocks and biodiversity", the pristine boreal forest across large stretches of Russia, Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia, is under threat. The paper is the result of a study by researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada and the National University of Singapore, who are calling for their urgent preservation to secure biodiversity and prevent the loss of this major global carbon sink.

    This forest comprises about 1/3 of the world's forested area and 1/3 of the world's stored carbon.

    While there has been typically sparse human populations in these regions, the researchers say "now the boreal forest is poised to become the next Amazon."

    "Human disturbances caused by logging, mining and urban development have increased in these forests during recent years, with extensive forest loss for some regions and others facing heavy fragmentation and exploitation."

    Findings include:

    * Fire is the main driver and increased human activity is leading to more fires. Climate change may be increasing the frequency and possibly the extent of fires in the boreal zone. * Fragmentation is increasing with only about 40% of the total forested area remaining "intact". * Russian boreal forest is the most degraded and least "intact. * Except for Sweden, less than 10% of the boreal forests are protected from timber exploitation. doclink

    Brazil Admits Amazon Deforestation on the Rise

    December 19, 2008, ScienceDaily

    Amazon deforestation jumped 69% in the past 12 months as rising demand for soy and cattle pushes farmers and ranchers to raze trees. Some 3,088 square miles of forest were destroyed between August 2007 and August 2008. Brazil's government has increased cash payments to fight illegal Amazon logging, and eliminated government bank loans to farmers who illegally clear forest. The country lost 2.7% of its Amazon rain forest in 2007, or 4,250 square miles. Monthly deforestation rates have slowed since May, but environmental groups say seasonal shifts in tree cutting make the annual number a more accurate gauge.

    Most deforestation is in March and April, and routinely tapers off in May, June and July.

    Environmentalists argue that INPE's deforestation report was to alert the government to deforestation hot spots in time to save the land.

    The Amazon region covers about 1.6 million square miles of Brazil, nearly 60% of the country. About 20% of that land has been deforested. doclink

    Nature Loss Dwarfs Bank Crisis

    October 11, 2008, BBC News

    The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the banking crisis. The annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion, from adding the value of providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.

    Some conservationists see it as a way of persuading policymakers to fund nature protection.

    Wall Street has to date lost $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year.

    Forest decline could be costing about 7% of global GDP.

    As forests decline, nature stops providing free services and human economy has to provide them through building reservoirs, facilities to sequester carbon dioxide, or farming foods that were once naturally available.

    The cost falls disproportionately on the poor. The greatest cost to western nations would come through losing a natural absorber of greenhouse gas.

    A number of nations are beginning to direct funds into forest conservation, and there are signs of a trade in natural ecosystems developing, analogous to the carbon trade. The counter-argument is that decades of trying to halt biodiversity decline by arguing for the worth of nature have not worked.

    By 2010, governments are committed under the Convention of Biological Diversity to have begun slowing the rate of biodiversity loss. doclink

    Reaping Cash From Lake Manyara's Biosphere

    March 24, 2008, Guardian (London)

    Located in the East African Rift Valley, the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve is one of the most thrilling tourist attractions of Tanzania. The lake is an important breeding site for residents and migrant birds. Tourists from different parts of the planet earth flock in this Tanzania`s heaven.

    Communities living along LMBR are partly within the Lake Manyara National Park. According to Maasai elders` narratives, the indigenous Maasai community that lived close to LMNP used very little firewood for cooking due to their eating habit-mainly unboiled milk.

    The town has become cosmopolitan in nature and demands for cooking firewood have increased.

    Government initiative on Tse-tse fly eradication encouraged clearing of forests in the villages and paved way for erection of human settlements closer to the park, leading to deforestation, destruction of livestock routes and wildlife corridors.

    Maasai elders narrate that, some years ago, people indiscriminately harvested the wildlife. Waters for irrigation drained to Lake Miwaleni and was one of the wildlife`s drinking points. The lake has little water while some animals have moved to other areas.

    The cosmopolitan community originated from as far as Kenya and has been living in harmony after settling in the area and attracted by the tourism industry.

    The human population in the biosphere reserve is estimated to over 250,000 people.

    Most of immigrants in the region depend on tourism though poaching causes a menace to biodiversity. People in the area are now engaged in cultural tourism that relieves them from the jungle of poverty.

    Several projects promote activities such as bee keeping or to control the tick infestation in the livestock. Tourists pay for services such as hiring out bicycles, nature trails, food and traditional dances.

    There are mutual benefits in the sense that tourists learn from villagers the ways of life, whereas in doing so, they pay for those services thus benefiting villagers and the village government through contributions.

    Cultural tourism conserves natural resources as people concentrate on other sources of income.

    They have prepared a land use plan which demarcates the land for different purposes and make sure that the type of land use is adhered to. Population pressure has caused blockage of wildlife corridors and creates unnecessary quarrels between the existing communities and wildlife, especially the elephants.

    Frequent fires have started jeopardizing the biosphere`s reserve.

    Poaching remains one of the critical problems in the area. Plans are underway to annex the buffer zones and establish wildlife management areas that will be managed by the National Park and the surrounding communities. doclink

    Rain Forests Fall at 'Alarming' Rate

    February 2, 2008, Yahoo News

    Human encroachment is shrinking the world's rain forests. Africa is a leader in destructiveness. U.N. specialists estimate 60 acres of tropical forest are felled worldwide every minute, up from 50 a generation back. Scientists today worry about Global warming that is expected to dry up and kill off vast tracts of rain forest, and dying forests will feed global warming. The burning or rotting of trees that comes with deforestation sends more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the world's planes, trains, trucks and automobiles. Forest destruction accounts for about 20% of man made emissions. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon. If we don't start turning this around in the next 10 years, the crisis will begin to spiral out of control.

    The U.N. session in Bali may have been a turning point, endorsing negotiations in which nations may fashion the first global financial plan for compensating developing countries for preserving their forests. Because northern forests remain essentially stable, that means 50,000 square miles of tropical forest are being cleared every 12 months. The lumber and fuel wood removed in the tropics alone would fill more than 1,000 Empire State Buildings. Almost 1% of African forests disappear each year. In 2000-2005, the continent lost 10 million acres a year. South American forests are usually burned for cattle grazing or soybean farming. In Southeast Asia, island forests are being cut or burned to make way for giant plantations of palm, whose oil is used in food processing, cosmetics and other products.

    In Africa, it's individuals hacking out plots for small-scale farming. In Nigeria's southeastern state, home to one of the largest remaining tropical forests in Africa, people from surrounding villages go to the forest each day to work their pineapple and cocoa farms. They see no other way of earning money to feed their families. The Cross Rivers government seeks to help would-be farmers learn other trades, such as beekeeping or raising land snails, a regional delicacy. Anyone who wants to cut down one of the forest's valuable mahogany trees must obtain a license and negotiate which tree to fell with the nearby community, which shares in the income. A community benefiting from such small-scale forestry is likely to keep out those engaged in illegal, uncontrolled logging. Environmentalists say such a conservation approach may work for rural, agrarian people in Nigeria, but lessons learned in one place aren't necessarily applicable elsewhere.

    A global strategy is needed. A government earning carbon credits for "avoided deforestation" could then sell them to a European power plant, for example, to meet its emission-reduction quota. But in many ways rain forests are still a world of unknowns. How much carbon dioxide are forests absorbing? How much carbon is stored there? How might the death of the Amazon forest affect the climate in, say, the American Midwest? doclink

    Brazil to Increase Monitors in Rain Forest as Illegal Clearing Spreads

    January 25, 2008, Associated Press

    Brazil said it would send additional federal police to the Amazon following an announcement that illegal clearing of the rain forest had jumped last year.

    Authorities will also monitor areas where the deforestation occurred in an attempt to prevent anyone from trying to plant crops or raise cattle there. The clearing of Brazil's Amazon rain forest jumped in 2007, spurred by high prices for corn, soy and cattle. Officials will try to fine people or businesses that buy anything produced on the deforested land. The plan means a 25% increase in the police force assigned to the region. If the plan doesn't work, Brazil will have an environmental and economic loss.

    As many as 2,700 square miles of rain forest had been cleared from August through December, and Brazil could lose 5,791 square miles of jungle by this August. That would be a 34% increase from the 4,334 square miles of forest that was cut down and burned from August 2006 through July of last year.

    Although preliminary calculations prove only that 1,287 square miles of rain forest were cleared from August through December, officials were still analyzing satellite imagery and working under the assumption that the higher amount of jungle had been cleared. doclink

    Chinese Farmers Are Losing Their Land

    January 23, 2008, People and Planet

    China faces a farming crisis as mass migration into the industrial zones of mushrooming cities eats up fertile land, while patterns of food consumption and land rights change. Historically the Chinese have spent most of their income on food, but to produce grains, vegetables and meat, the country must retain enough arable cropland. From the Ming Dynasty onwards farmers were able to feed a growing, increasingly urbanised population. Population growth was not an issue until the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Today China is importing more food and resources. The sustainable Chinese agriculture has been altered in favour of Western methods that harm the existing ecosystems. China's ability to feed its own people and the environmental destruction provokes serious concern.

    By 2030 Chinese demographers expect the population to level out nearer to 1.5 billion, but predicted that soaring grain imports would upset global markets. Water, more than grain or meat, might well be the crucial issue. As water becomes scarce, 80% of the grain crop is irrigated, as per-acre yield gains are erased by the loss of cropland to industrialization. Densely populated countries undergoing industrialization become food importers as the population shifts from rural to urban workers.

    The world is experiencing rising food prices. The Chinese government is mandating price freezes and subsiding various manufacturing and food industries.

    Water scarcity in China will impact the entire world; the country is experiencing a lack of potable water due to the environmental damage from rapid industrialization without any agencies to protect the ecology.

    China, with 20% of the world's population and 7% of the world's arable land, is losing even more land to industrialization.

    Beijing has mandated that arable land cannot fall below 298 million acres. China's Ministry of Land and Resources noted that the country has lost 6.6% of its arable land in the past decade.

    Corruption also contributes to arable land loss. In central China's Hubei Province every day since November 2, over 10,000 tons of rubbish has turned the small farming village into a stinking dumpsite.

    No legislation exists to protect farmers against crooked officials. Local governments have become the epicentre of corrupt land deals.

    Chinese farmers fall under a village collective system that forbids them to own, buy or sell the land they till. Competition over raw materials has risen dramatically in the last decade; the impact of greater Chinese food demands has affected global markets. Food price inflation is a serious worry for China's leaders.

    The long term outlook is grim, because land is being lost to construction in eastern China. This has degraded the overall quality of the country's remaining arable land. Almost 15% of China's total arable lands are polluted by heavy metals, and more than 40% soil erosion and desertification.

    Without effective measures to solve this crisis everyone is going to suffer. doclink

    Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Seen Surging

    January 17, 2008, Reuters

    Deforestation of the Amazon has surged in recent months. The rise raises questions over Brazil's assertion that its environmental policies are effectively protecting the world's biggest rain forest. Nobre, whose government agency monitors the Amazon, said that 2,300 square miles of forest had been lost in the past four months.

    That compares with an estimated 3,700 square miles in the 12 months ended July 31, which Brazil officials hailed as the lowest deforestation rate since the 1970s.

    Policies such as more controls on illegal logging and better certification of land ownership were reducing the deforestation. But environmental groups warned that rising global commodity prices are likely to fuel more clearing of land for farms.

    Nobre said the major drivers of deforestation were illegal logging and land clearing for cattle farming that remained intact, despite the recent annual declines in forest clearing.

    The three years of reduced deforestation did not bring a cure for illegal deforestation.

    Destruction of forests produces about 20% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. But the government has struggled to stem deforestation, partly due to strong global demand that has made Brazil one of the world's biggest food suppliers. Infrastructure is associated with aggressive and progressive land use change. Continued high oil prices were likely to result in a surge in demand for Amazon land to produce ethanol. doclink

    Indonesia Says More Money Needed to Stop Deforestation

    September 8, 2007, ABC Online

    The Federal Government has nominated climate change as a top focus of the APEC summit. But one of the key climate change initiatives is under fire from the very country which benefits from it, Indonesia.

    Indonesia is accused of being the world's third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases because of the fires across its deforested peat lands.

    Jakarta regularly makes it into the top 10 lists of the world's most polluted cities. The annual fires in Kalimantan's deforested peat lands are to blame for that.

    Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions are behind only the US and China because of the tracts of deforested land where carbon-rich peat decays and catches fire every year.

    It is a problem in search of a solution and Indonesia welcomed Australia's $200 million initiative which is aimed fighting climate change by preserving the world's forests.

    $10 million of that money was committed to developing forest protection projects in Indonesia.

    But Indonesia's Environment Minister, is questioning what in reality the scheme can achieve.

    $200 million divided into so many areas over five years does not give a lot of forest aid and he would like Australia to contribute more.

    Programs like the Australian initiative are challenged by the reality that the forests are worth more dead than alive. Timber and palm oil profits are greater and easier to grasp than sustainability.

    With Indonesia's population of 230 million expected to grow by another 100 million in the next 30 years, Indonesia needs good reasons not to clear land. And local people need economic reasons to keep the forests standing.

    Why is Australia not bold to get the technology of Australia transferred to the developing country? Indonesia wants access to the world's multi-billion dollar carbon credit market not just by planting trees but by keeping them. doclink

    Brazil Denies Amazon Logging Link

    August 21, 2007, BBC News

    Brazil has promised to investigate allegations that its policy of settling landless communities in the Amazon is encouraging deforestation.

    Brazil's environment ministry says deforestation in those areas is falling but it will investigate the claims.

    Land distribution to the poor is an important objective, but Greenpeace says it is encouraging logging and deforestation in parts of the Amazon.

    Greenpeace claims the government's land reform agency, Incra, is setting aside areas for land settlement that are of value to the timber industry, instead of placing people on land that has been cleared.

    Links are encouraged between logging companies and the settlers, which facilitates exploitation of the newly formed settlements.

    In the state of Para, more than 30,000 families were said to have been settled in 2006.

    Deforestation in the Amazon in the 12 months to July 2006 fell by 25%.

    Satellite images show deforestation in settlement areas has been falling, not rising. doclink

    Desertification Threat to Global Stability: U.N. Study

    July 21, 2007, Population Media

    Desertification could drive tens of millions of people from their homes and put new strains on natural resources and on other societies nearby and threaten international instability. Governments are urged to work out ways to slow the advance of deserts, from the Sahara to the Gobi, caused by climate change and land over-use. Better plantings of crops and forests in nearby drylands were simple measures to help.

    Desertification currently affects 100 to 200 million people, and threatens the lives of a larger number. The loss of soil productivity and the degradation of nature pose imminent threats to international stability. About 50 million people are at risk of being forced from their homes by desertification in the next decade.

    The largest area is sub-Saharan Africa, where people are moving to northern Africa or to Europe. The second area is the former Soviet republics in central Asia.

    Improved crop and forestry plantings on drylands could slow desertification and help fight global warming. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, as they grow and release it when they are burnt or rot. Carbon markets might develop financial mechanisms to promote more vegetation in drylands.

    China is planting a 700-km "Great Green Wall" of trees and enclosed grassland to slow the advance of deserts. China was in some cases planting trees that needed large amounts of water, aggravating shortages.

    Eco-tourism could bring jobs to desert regions and help people stay.

    Even fish farms could be an option, as shown by countries including Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. doclink

    Oil Plan Casts Shadow on Bolivia Park

    July 5, 2007, BBC News

    Sergio works in ecotourism in Bolivia's most national park, Madidi. This is where he and four of his 11 siblings show visitors the jungle's many treasures.

    Overall, the park is sparsely populated and encompasses the Andean peaks and the tropical basins of the Amazon. Some feel that protected areas like Madidi could deliver more for the country's poor.

    Farmers have seized a part of the national park near Apolo. They wanted land to cultivate crops, a road and the exploitation of its oil.

    But other villagers say the land is not suitable for agriculture and that extracting oil could cause lasting damage.

    The farmers have drawn back and the government is promising a military post to defend Madidi. But the Bolivian president, visited Madidi to highlight the existence of natural resources.

    "It is impressive how our own mother Earth has natural resources," he said as he watched oil being extracted.

    It was Mr Morales's promise to re-nationalise Bolivia's natural resources and deliver prosperity to the indigenous majority that brought him to power.

    But locals fear the president does not understand life in the jungle and will not defend their interests.

    The government agrees that ecotourism has potential; but it does not see it as a panacea and says people like Sergio need to be more realistic about what is best for Bolivia.

    The government is also concerned that what happens in Madidi will have a domino effect on other national parks and protected areas.

    Activists want sustainable development in the constitution

    The protected areas belong to the people and should provide opportunities for local communities. Conservation makes no sense if it does not generate benefits for society as a whole.

    Environmental groups want to see a commitment to biodiversity and conservation. Biodiversity is Bolivia's biggest competitive strength. We need to define its sustainable development. doclink

    Sudan: Darfur Conflict Heralds Era of Wars Triggered by Climate Change, UN Report Warns

    June 23, 2007, Guardian (London)

    The conflict in Darfur has been driven by climate change and environmental degradation, which threaten to trigger new wars unless more is done to contain the damage. Rainfall is down by 30% over 40 years and the Sahara advancing by over a mile every year. Tensions over disappearing pasture and evaporating water holes threaten to reignite the half-century war between north and south Sudan. UNEP found there could be a drop of up to 70% in crop yields in the most vulnerable areas. As the desert moves south there is a limit to what systems can sustain, and so one group displaces another.

    Estimates of the dead from the Darfur conflict, range from 200,000 to 500,000. The UNEP study suggests the true genesis of the conflict pre-dates 2003 and is to be found in failing rains and creeping desertification. The desert in northern Sudan has advanced southwards by 60 miles over the past 40 years; rainfall has dropped by 16%-30%. Crop yields could drop by 70%.

    Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising from climate change.

    The Darfur conflict has forced more than two million people into refugee camps. Deforestation has been accelerated while underground aquifers are being drained.

    No peace will last without sustained investment in containing environmental damage and adapting to climate change. Mr. Steiner said: "Simply to return people to the situation they were in before is a high-risk strategy. A common approach is supposed to be negotiated under UN auspices at the end of the year." doclink

    Local People Vital to Preventing Desertification

    May 14, 2007,

    Drylands with unpredictable precipitation, little fertile soil, high temperatures and low humidity - are home to 38% of the population and cover 41% of the Earth's surface.

    They are vulnerable to desertification from climate variations and human activity. Already 10% to 20% of drylands have suffered severe degradation, affecting 250 million people.

    Dryland management must consider the interactions between humans and environment.

    Key variables, such as soil stability and demographic trends, can change simultaneously and slowly over time. doclink

    Uganda: Forests in Danger

    March 27, 2007, New Vision Online

    Forest loss in Africa stands at 0.6%, in the world at 0.18%. At this pace, Uganda's forests will have gone in 50 years time.

    Population pressure and poverty are the underlying causes. With 7.1 births per woman, Uganda has the second highest fertility rate in the world. By 2050, Uganda's population will be 130 million, five times the current number.

    Feeding, housing, creating jobs and income for so many people will inevitably eat into the forests. 97% of the population uses charcoal and firewood for cooking. Illegal timber logging has resumed in at times with the support of local politicians.

    The number of people building houses, farming and grazing their livestock in the protected forests went up from 180,000 to 220,000 between 2005 and 2006, an increase of 23%. The encroachers resist any attempts by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to evict them.

    Any response leads to mob action and grievous bodily harm to NFA's staff.

    Deforestation leads to climate change and drought. Scientists are also linking a rise in infectious diseases to loss of forests and climate change.

    By increasing the temperatures under which certain diseases and their carriers flourish, more regions will be affected. South Uganda, which never had malaria in the past, is now hit by the disease.

    Climate change may increase the number of refugees who are forced to migrate to other parts of the country or other countries, and will favour the spread of diseases.

    Tree planting, timber trade and eco-tourism, if properly managed and controlled, can turn into a major activity. The New Vision will distribute eight million seeds as part of a country-wide effort to promote sustainable development. doclink

    Asian Air Pollution Affecting Weather; the Pacific Region Has Become Stormier, Scientists Say

    March 6, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle

    Carried on prevailing winds, the dust, sulfur, carbon grit and trace metals from Asia are having an intercontinental cloud-seeding effect.

    The pollution from Asia makes storms stronger, deeper and more energetic, and there is a direct link from large-scale storm systems to pollution.

    High-altitude storm clouds over the northern Pacific have increased up to 50% over the last 20 years as China and India spew growing amounts of pollutants into the air.

    The changes have helped foster the creation of formations over the northern Pacific known as deep convective clouds.

    The clouds create powerful updrafts that spawn fierce thunderstorms and intense rainfall, particularly during the winter.

    A decade ago scientists discovered that pollution from Asia was worse than suspected. On any spring or summer day, almost a third of the air over California cities can be traced directly to Asia. Dust and industrial pollutants take from five days to two weeks to cross the Pacific.

    A study found that deep convective clouds had increased between 20% and 50%.

    Convective clouds can be many miles thick with a base near Earth's surface and a top frequently at an altitude of 33,000 feet or more.

    The changing cloud patterns were linked to the increasing pollution through computer studies.

    The Pacific pollution also may affect other pervasive patterns of air circulation that shape world climate.

    Among other consequences, the more energetic Pacific storm track could be carrying warmer air and more black soot farther north into the Canadian Arctic. packs, the researchers said.

    It will take more study to understand the international climate ramifications.

    Until recently, most scientists believed that such pollution was a local problem. At low altitudes, the aerosol particles reflects the sun's energy back into space, cooling Earth's surface slightly and form brighter low-altitude clouds that also shield the surface from solar heat.

    But once these particles reach the upper atmosphere, they generate fierce downpours from super-cooled droplets and ice particles instead of gentle warm showers.

    Researchers have captured traces of ozone, carbon monoxide, mercury and particulate matter from Asia at monitoring sites in Washington state.

    They have been picking up the signatures of Asian particulates and other pollutants at several monitoring sites north of San Francisco and, around Southern California.

    The pollutants are suspended at high altitude and it is unclear how much of them reach ground level or what their direct effect on local weather might be. doclink

    OAS Emphasizes Urgency of Change in Consumption Patterns to Preserve Environment

    February 13, 2007,

    The Organization of American States (OAS) renewed the call for changes in production and consumption patterns, to provide a better quality of life and preserve the natural assets. In 2005, the Americas had the highest level of deforestation of any region. "As forest canopies disappear to make way for expanding agricultural lands and urban areas, the vicious circle of poverty, social instability and environmental degradation tightens," said Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin. Sustainable development is shared responsibility among all in society and demands a long-term and strategic perspective on creating growth and distributing wealth. There is a greater level of environmental awareness and sustainable development policies and strategies have been approved and are being implemented. Through international cooperation and global partnerships, more resources are being devoted to sustainable development. But there is growing scientific consensus that there will be an increased frequency and severity of natural disasters.

    The vulnerable countries of the Caribbean and Central America have potential threats to their tourism industry and call for more resources to lessen the effects of climate change.

    Indigenous peoples and civil society in general have a key role in shaping sustainable development efforts and the OAS will to work with its member countries, and partners to tackle the global concerns to promote sustainable development.

    The challenge of sustainable development in the Americas is linked to challenges from globalization and trade liberalization. Development strategies need to include sustainability as an essential requirement for the attainment of economic, social and environmental goals. doclink

    Time to Act to Save Kenya's Dying Lakes

    February 6, 2007, Kenya Times Newspaper

    Nine lakes in the Rift Valley including Nakuru, Elementaita, Naivasha, Baringo, Magadi and Logopeis could be extinct within the next 15 years!

    All the rivers which drain into these lakes are threatened because they rely on the Mau forest as their catchment area and this is being stripped of forest cover by logging for charcoal burning.

    We are refusing to accept the fact that unless we do more to conserve the Mau forest, the lakes are doomed. A sustainable and secure society is one that can meet its water needs without destroying the ecosystems upon which it depends.

    The scale and pace of human impact on water systems continue to be accelerated with population and consumption growth. But unless Kenyans accept that charcoal burning, logging and farming along the rivers constitute pressure on a fragile ecology, then these nine lakes could be no more in the next 15 years.

    Trees in the Mau forest which take years before reaching maturity are hacked down in under a minute by loggers. The laws are weak, and the sanctions for breach virtually non-existent. The requirement that firms treat effluent before the same is discharged into the water bodies is breached with impunity.

    It is quite tempting to measure the additional hectares of land irrigated, jobs created, and population size served but not the fisheries destroyed, aquatic life imperilled and sustainability of water use pattern created.

    We must try a new approach but ask whether we have the personnel who have conviction and share concern that we are destroying our common future. Chiefs have been given dire warnings to ensure that reckless tree cutting is curtailed or they face the sack. Logging goes on unabated and the blame game does the round.

    Environment ministers are meeting in Nairobi to grapple with issues of preservation of an increasingly fragile global ecosystem. doclink

    The Earth is Shrinking: Advancing Deserts and Rising Seas

    November 15, 2006, Earth Policy Institute

    Our civilization is being squeezed between advancing deserts and rising seas. Mounting population densities, once generated by the addition of over 70 million people per year, are now also fueled by the advance of deserts and the rise in sea level.

    Expanding deserts are primarily the result of overstocking grasslands and overplowing land. Rising seas result from temperature increases from the burning of fossil fuels.

    China is losing productive land at an accelerating rate. From 1950 to 1975 China lost an average of 600 square miles to desert each year. By 2000, 1,400 square miles were going to desert annually.

    Satellite images show two deserts in north-central China expanding and merging to form a single, larger desert overlapping Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces. To the west in Xinjiang Province, two even larger deserts--the Taklimakan and Kumtag--are also heading for a merger. Further east, the Gobi Desert is within 150 miles of Beijing. Chinese scientists report that over the last half-century, 24,000 villages in northern and western China were abandoned as they were overrun by drifting sand.

    Kazakhstan, site of the vast Soviet Virgin Lands Project, has abandoned nearly half of its cropland since 1980.

    In Afghanistan, with a population of 31 million, the Registan Desert is encroaching on agricultural areas. A UNEP team reports that up to 100 villages have been submerged by windblown dust and sand. In the northwest, sand dunes are moving onto agricultural land, from the loss of stabilizing vegetation due to firewood gathering and overgrazing. Iran, which has 70 million people and 80 million goats and sheep, is losing its battle with the desert. In 2002 sand storms buried 124 villages in the southeastern province forcing their abandonment. Drifting sands had covered grazing areas, starving livestock and depriving villagers of their livelihood.

    The Sahara Desert is pushing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria northward toward the Mediterranean. In countries from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia in the east, the demands of growing human and livestock numbers are converting land into desert. Nigeria is losing 1,355 square miles to desertification each year. While Nigeria's human population grew from 33 million in 1950 to 134 million in 2006, its livestock population grew from 6 million to 66 million. The food needs forced the plowing of marginal land and the forage needs of livestock exceeded the carrying capacity of its grasslands. Nigeria's population is being squeezed into an ever-smaller area.

    In Mexico, the degradation of cropland forces some 700,000 Mexicans off the land each year in search of jobs in nearby cities or in the United States.

    Rising seas promise to displace greater numbers in the future. During the twentieth century, sea level rose by 6 inches. During this century seas may rise by 4 to 35 inches. Since 2001, record-high temperatures have accelerated ice melting making it likely that the future rise in sea level will be even greater.

    If the Greenland ice sheet, a mile thick in some places, were to melt entirely it would raise sea level by 23 feet, or 7 meters.

    A one-meter rise would inundate many of the rice-growing river deltas and floodplains of India, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and China. A one-meter rise in sea level would cause some 30 million Bangladeshis to migrate, internally or to other countries.

    Hundreds of cities would be at least partly inundated, including London, Alexandria, and Bangkok. More than a third of Shanghai, would be under water. A one-meter rise combined with a 50-year storm surge would leave large portions of Lower Manhattan and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., flooded. If the Greenland ice sheet should melt, it would force the abandonment of thousands of coastal cities and communities. Rising seas and desertification will present the world with an unprecedented flow of environmental refugees and the potential for civil strife.

    We must deal with rapid population growth, advancing deserts, and rising seas. Growth in the human population is accompanied by a growth of livestock populations of more than 35 million per year. The rising concentrations of carbon dioxide that are destabilizing the earth's climate are driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Reverse these trends or risk being overwhelmed by them. doclink

    China's Critical Biodiversity and Its Implications on Tibet

    November 4, 2006

    China's ecosystem damage dates back to the drive towards the expansion and exploitation of resources. Mao didn't respect nature and tried to build China at the cost of defeating nature. Some of the primary reasons for the loss of biodiversity in China are the exploitation of natural resources, intensive farming to feed its growing population and massive human transfer into wildlife habitat. China has a diverse environment, with 600 different terrestrial ecosystems, including a wide range of forests. Within these ecosystems are more than 30,000 species of advanced plants and over 63,000 kinds of vertebrates. South central China also has 230 species of rhododendrons and is also home to snow leopards, forest musk deer, antelope, and baileys goral. Pandas, numbers are significantly decreasing and today there are only about one thousand in the wild and one hundred in captivity.

    Mao wanted to catch up with Great Britain in steel production and he cut down trees to fuel steel furnaces. In 1979, China ranked 120th for forested land with a total forest area of 12.7%. The area decreased to about 8%. One reason for the deforestation and the loss of plants is the need to feed the ever increasing population. China's huge population is putting a lot of pressure on the forest areas. Conversion and degradation of wildlife habitats are a serious problem. China was hit with a famine in 1959-1962, which turned into an environmental disaster. The famine disturbed China's food system so severely that starvation was widespread. The very living creatures people depended on were hunted down and eaten. In Tibet, 670,000 hectares of grassland were converted into cropland altering the local people's nomadic way of living. Much of the grazing lands were converted into deserts beyond recovery. China's urban population grew by 160 million from 1980 to 1995. The transfer of people from the rural to urban areas lead to an increase in the clearing of forest. The environmental concerns are getting little priority due to the fact that there are few Chinese citizens concerned with the issue.

    The tremendous rising trend of China's population growth poses one of the greatest obstacles for the Chinese to recover the loss of biodiversity and prevent further degradation. A government report indicates the extinction of birds in many areas due to the increased use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers by farmers. Deforestation, the conversion of grassland into agriculture land and the increased pace of economic development have all threatened the integrity of China's ecosystem.

    The drive for economic and material development overpowers the government's environmental policy. In China, the lack of a guarantee of freedom to express one's views poses one of the greatest threats to the protection of wildlife and biodiversity. doclink

    Judge Stops Timber Sales; Ruling Reinstates Species Protections

    January 22, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    Judge Marsha Pechman has reinstated the "look before logging" rule on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest, and ordered a halt to 144 timber sales in California, Oregon, and Washington that might imperil about 300 rare animal and plant species. Federal lawyers argued that reinstating surveys would cost the government about $2.7 million a year. Although logging interests say they may restart a lawsuit to have the surveys declared illegal, environmentalists are relieved by the ruling. doclink

    Deforestation Slowing - UN

    November 20, 2005, New York Times*

    Deforestation is slowing because of new planting and natural forest extension, but forests are still being destroyed at an alarming rate. The numbers take into account forest growth from new planting and natural expansion. An average 7.3 million hectares was lost annually over the last five years, down from 8.9 million hectares a year between 1990 and 2000. Deforestation, mainly the conversion of forests to agricultural land, continued at about 13 million hectares per year. More than half of the world's forest area is found in the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, US and China. Deforestation or natural disasters often make the land incapable of regenerating on its own. Forests cover about 30% of the total land area; deforestation was most extensive in South America, where an average of 4.3 million hectares were lost annually over the last five years, followed by Africa with 4 million hectares. North America and Oceania saw smaller forest losses while forest areas in Asia and Europe grew and maybe it will go further down in the future. Forests conserve biological diversity, soil and water and also serve as carbon sinks. The amount of carbon stored in forest biomass is about 283 gigatonnes, roughly 50% more than the carbon in the atmosphere. doclink

    Malawi Is Burning, and Deforestation Erodes Economy

    November 2, 2005, New York Times*

    Malawi is about 20% covered by trees and deforestation is faster than anywhere else. Loggers hawk firewood and charcoal at roadside stands. Malawi loses nearly 200 square miles of forests annually, a deforestation rate of 2.8%. The cutting blights the landscape, dries up streams, pollutes the air, lowers the water table, erodes the soil and silts rivers so that hydroelectric plants are blacked out. There are few other ways that loggers could make a living. In few places do environmentalism butt so painfully against economic reality. Two-thirds of the 12 million people earn less than a dollar a day. Nine-tenths of them live in rural areas where jobs are nonexistent and sales of firewood and charcoal provide their only income and are the preferred cooking and heating fuels. The World Bank estimated in 2001 that charcoal consumption was twice what the woodlands could sustain. Loggers illegally clear 100 square miles of forest each year just to meet the demand for charcoal. Yet the income is meager and provides an income, on average, of about $20 a month. It's a lot of hard work for very little money. Studies indicate that the income from beehives and honey can exceed the profit from firewood. Practitioners of traditional medicine maintain forest mushrooms and exotic plants used in home remedies. Malawians could cook far more cheaply using electricity than by wood or charcoal. But only 2% of Malawians are hooked to the electrical grid, and the cost makes electricity a pipe dream. And so almost all the hills have been shaved, leaving behind a rocky bristle of scrub and dirt. More than a fifth of Malawi's forests vanished between 1990 and 2000, and 23 species of trees are endangered. The nation's heavily populated southern half has lost up to four-fifths of its tree cover. doclink

    If the loggers did not cut the wood for cooking fuel, then the consumers would. What other choice is there?

    China: Human Activities Contribute to Drying Up of Major River Headwaters

    October 19, 2005, World Watch

    As temperatures and human pressures increased in China's west over the past decade, the headwaters of the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers are drying up. The Chinese government has poured in resources to reverse this trend, but observers remain pessimistic about a long-term cure. Residents at the headwaters of the Yangtze River face the predicament of buying water for survival. All but 8 of the county's wells had dried, leaving 80% of the population at the mercy of water peddlers. Eighteen local rivers are now identifiable only by their dried-up riverbeds. The Yellow River faces an even more severe shortage. A recent study reports that no-flow events occur more frequently and last longer than in previous years. About 3,000 of 4,077 lakes in the first county through which the Yellow flows, have disappeared, depriving 3,000 people and 119,000 cattle of easy access to water. Both rivers originate in western China, that covers 363,000 square kilometers and the headwaters of the Mekong River. Approximately one quarter of the water in the Yangtze River and half in the Yellow River comes from this region; the rest is from rainfall and tributaries. This area has witnessed an average temperature increase of 0.88C in the past 50 years. This has caused glacial retreat and permafrost melting as well as degradation of lakes and wetlands that feed the region's rivers. It has affected precipitation and boosted evaporation, resulting in reduced flows and the disappearance of sections of the headwaters. The situation has been exacerbated by intensified human activities. The population has increased from 130,000 in 1949 to 610,000 in 2003. The need to feed a fast-growing population has resulted in grassland degradation and devastation of the ecosystem's water-trapping capabilities. Local vegetation is jeopardized by gold mining and intensive harvesting of Chinese herbs. Officials have pledged to inject approximately 7.5 billion RMB (US $904 million) into a nature reservefrom 2004 through 2010, making it China's largest environmental project. The money will be spent on relocating residents, conserving grasslands, and increasing precipitation through artificial rains. Most of these efforts are targeting local human impacts, which could be curbed effectively with sufficient investment and determination. In the long run, hope for sound restoration is minimal unless regional warming, can be successfully addressed. doclink

    We need to begin deciding how many people any particular section of the world can support without harming the environment. And then work to meet these figures.

    Spain Scolds Careless Public: You Can Prevent Forest Fires

    September 28, 2005, New York Times*

    As Spain emerges from its worst forest fires in a decade, the government has begun scolding the public. More than 90% of fires are started by people, and Spaniards must respect fire regulations. About 23,000 forest fires had been recorded in Spain, an increase of more than 25% over the same period last year. The flames have destroyed more than 370,000 acres of land, an increase of 20%, and killed 17 people. In part, that is a reflection of Spain's dry climate and high temperatures make it vulnerable to fires. But only about 5% stem from natural causes, with the rest caused by people. Portugal, which has the same weather as Spain, has lost about 4% of its woodlands to fires this year and killed at least 13 people and destroyed scores of homes. Officials in Spain have been reluctant to assign blame, fearing a political backlash. But the unusually deadly summer of fires has raised questions whether the government is doing enough. In July, 11 firefighters were killed by a blaze that was started by a campfire. The government responded with tight restrictions on activities in public parks and woodlands, including a ban on smoking in forests. These fires are started mostly by farmers who are trying to remove brush or by ranchers to regenerate pastures, drive away animals or facilitate hunting. They are also starting to modify the use of the land, converting woodlands to pastures or clearing agricultural areas for urban use. doclink

    U.S.: Suit Challenges Roadless Repeal

    September 11, 2005, Los Angeles Times

    Gov. Ted Kulongoski sued the government for abandoning protections that had barred roads and logging in nearly 2 million acres of Oregon national forests.

    He argued that building roads in areas that have escaped development would undermine the water quality and wildlife. Kulongoski, a Democrat, joined with the attorneys general of California and New Mexico in the lawsuit. It asks a federal court to reinstate safeguards the Clinton administration had applied to roadless acres nationally. The lawsuit is a blow to the administration, which had billed its approach as friendly to the states and wants governors to submit petitions specifying which lands in their states should be protected. Kulongoski said the government created a frustrating and uncertain procedure, forcing him to repeat work done by the U.S. Forest Service. He said it keeps us from addressing larger issues of forest policy and he would not submit a petition as called for. Instead, he will ask officials to provide states a simpler and more certain way of returning protection to the roadless lands. Also, he said he would work through the Oregon Department of Forestry to make the state a partner in the revision of national forest management plans. The governor wants addressed the unpredictable logging levels on federal lands and the buildup of flammable tinder. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire did not join the lawsuit but would be pleased to see it succeed. She is trying an approach with the Forest Service to protect most of the forest land. Under the Bush plan, states electing not to file petitions for protections leave roadless areas open to some development. The administration is providing temporary protection for roadless areas while working with states to address lands in each state. An earlier lawsuit had overturned the Clinton protections. Oregon loggers suggested Kulongoski was motivated by politics and national forest decisions should be made locally. There is no drive to develop roadless lands, and about 24 million acres would remain undeveloped under local forest blueprints. The debate has grown into a symbolic choice over the last pristine places. The lawsuit contends the Bush administration illegally reversed the 2001 roadless safeguards without considering the environmental consequences. The Clinton administration justified the forest protections by saying they were needed to stop activities that pose risks to the social and ecological values of roadless lands. The Forest Service held public meetings and received over 1 million comments, most in favor of the protection. Environmental groups said they agreed with Kulongoski, but were disappointed he will not petition the administration to protect all roadless lands in Oregon. doclink

    U.S.: Sequoia National Monument Being Logged Today!

    August 5, 2005, Sierra Club

    The Sierra Club is protesting the decision to allow commercial logging that is bulldozing swathes and removing ancient trees, on ridgetops adjacent to five giant sequoia groves in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. This is called the Saddle Fuels Reduction Project and is removing big trees - it is not about fire control. The project will take more than 5 Million Board Feet of big timber. The Giant Sequoia National Monument was created in April of 2000 and called for restoration from a century of logging but allowed a few timber sales that had been approved prior to the creation of the Monument. The Secretary of Agriculture announced that this logging was estimated to be completed within about two and a half years and should have been completed by November 2003. But the contract deadline was changed giving the industry until 2005, then changed yet again until 2006. Local activists have been investigating the logging site and found stumps over 30 inches in diameter. Logging these ancient trees means that it will be centuries before these areas will recover. The Pacific fisher is making its last stand here in the southern Sierra and we could lose this little creature forever. The Forest Service has not taken seriously its responsibility to protect this wondrous forest. The only explanation is that the Forest Service is as addicted to logging as the timber industry. doclink

    Population drives the demand for more forest materials.

    Widespread Environmental Damage Seen From Shuttle

    August 4, 2005, Reuters

    Aastronauts on Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth. Discovery is linked with the International Space Station and orbiting 220 miles above the Earth. "Sometimes you can see there is erosion, and you can see there is deforestation. It's widespread in some parts of the world. Collins, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected. "The atmosphere is so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have." Noguchi and astronaut Steve Robinson already have done three spacewalks, to remove loose cloth strips protruding from Discovery's belly. The combined crew of Discovery and the space station paid tribute on Thursday to the astronauts who have died in space accidents. doclink

    Ghana's Arable Lands for Farming in Danger

    June 17, 2005, Ghana Home Page

    Studies show that 25 years from now Ghana's arable lands could be unsuitable for farming if nothing is done to halt the rate of desertification. About 35% of the nation's land area is threatened with a high rate of population growth, deforestation, high incidence of bush fires and inappropriate land use. The government was determined to see to the implementation of the UN Convention for anti-desertification, a long-term initiative to alleviate poverty and ensure sustainable use of natural resources. An environmental assessment indicated that natural resources had not been given their due attention. Environmental degradation was a challenge which lead to diminishing supplies of water, degraded soils, deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change. An alarming 70% of the land experienced sheet and gully erosion, and land degradation amounting to 4% of the GDP. Joint efforts were critical due to the inter-linkages of land degradation with poverty and any progress in poverty eradication and environmental protection was unlikely to be sustained if ecosystem services continued to be degraded. Global Mechanism was exploring a variety of initiatives for implementing sustainable land management. Canadian High Commissioner said that Ghana is an African success and Canada is proud to contribute to that success. Canada's assistance had increased from 12.5 million dollars in 2001 to 55.8 million dollars in 2005. doclink

    Growing Deserts a Global Problem

    June 16, 2005,

    Millions of people could lose their homes and livelihoods as the world's deserts expand. More needs to be done to combat desertification, which has emerged as a global problem. Drylands, which range from "dry sub-humid" to "hyper-arid" regions, make up more than 40% of the world's land surface and are home to two billion people. Up to 20% of those areas have suffered loss of plant life or economic use from desertification. Global warming was likely to exacerbate the problem, but human factors have played their part, with over-grazing, over-farming, misuse of irrigation and the unsustainable demands of a growing population contributing to environmental degradation. The world's poorest populations were likely to be among the worst affected, with areas of Central Asia and the north and south of the Sahara in danger of becoming unsuitable for farming. Desertification has been linked to health problems from dust storms, poverty and a drop in farm production. Scientists estimate that a billion tons of dust from the Sahara are lifted into the atmosphere each year and specific local strategies should be employed to tackle spreading deserts. Ecotourism and fish farming could provide an alternative to farming, while better management of irrigation and the adoption of alternative energy sources would all contribute to environmental sustainability. Approximately 60% of the ecosystem supporting life on Earth was being degraded or used unsustainably and the consequences could grow worse in the next half century. doclink

    Out on a Limb - Experts Sound An Alarm, Saying Development is Swallowing 30,000 Acres of Forest and Woodlands Annually in California

    June 7, 2005, Sacramento Bee

    Sixty years after Edwards' father bought 520 acres of forest east of Sacramento, the son struggles to keep it from being overrun by homes. 30,000 acres of private forests and woodlands are swallowed by development each year. Experts predict that California will lose 1 million acres of forest and woodlands, 8% of its 12.2 million-acre total, to development by 2040. As housing prices rise, Californians are willing to pay more for home sites than the land is worth in timber. Private forest owners say they are tempted to sell to developers because log prices have dropped 38% to an average $292 per thousand board feet. The value of California's wood harvests has fallen from $1.1 billion in 1994 to $500 million last year. Some advocacy groups acknowledge that timber-cutting rules meant to protect forests, rivers and water are one factor conspiring to bring development and its pollution threats. More people moving into forests results in declining populations of birds and animals, new pests and tree diseases, more air pollution and watershed erosion. The harvest plans tell foresters where not to cut timber and some counties, have their own stricter rules. About 5.4 million acres of private forestland are in a Timberland Production Zone, in which an owner agrees not to sell for development for 10 years in exchange for property taxes based on timber value rather than residential value. But counties can allow large-lot parcel splits as long as the parcels remain a working forest. Rural residential zoning could allow anywhere from one home per acre to one home per 40 acres. Some new ideas include: promote "California Grown" wood, conservation easements that restrict logging while keeping forests free of development. doclink

    Brazil: Amazon Reduced by 10,000 Square Miles

    May 19, 2005, Associated Press

    In the Amazon rain forest, 10,088 square miles were destroyed in the 12 months ending in August 2004. Nearly 6% more than in the same period the year before. Trees were cut by farmers and ranchers led by Brazilian governor. In 1995, the Amazon shrank 11,200 square miles, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts. Nearly half the total deforestation took place in Mato Grosso state, whose Gov. Blairo Maggi's farming operations are the world's single largest soy producer. The nation's Supreme Court also bears a responsibility for this disaster. Deforestation in Amazon Basin Virgin Amazon rainforest is seen bordering hundreds of acres of farmland that was jungle until recently. The Amazon forest sprawls over 1.6 million square miles and covers more than half the country. It is a key component of the global environment. Its trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is home to up to 30% of the world's animal and plant species. Environmentalists worry that the expansion of farming will be impossible to stop. The Brazilian government announced a $140 million package to curtail destruction. Deforestation in several Amazon states decreased thanks to the government's efforts to implement effective measures. Brazil's rain forest is as big as western Europe and covers 60% of the country. 20% has been destroyed by development, logging and farming. The government announced that 9,170 square miles had vanished in 2003, but corrected the figure to 9,500 square miles. doclink

    California Forest Futures 2005

    May 15, 2005, California Forest Futures

    Recent estimates by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection indicate nearly 35,000 acres of oaks and conifers are being lost to development every year. With every acre lost, we are losing wildlife, water flows and wood products critical to all Californians. doclink

    Why do we feel we must keep up economic growth, -- even if it kills us all?

    Creating a Logjam in Honduras

    March 21, 2005, Los Angeles Times

    After decades of logging that has erased half of Honduras' forests, rural communities are left with the consequences: ruined water supplies, eroding topsoil, thinned-out wildlife and a dried-out climate. A dozen times last year, the people of Salama and thousands of followers blocked highways to stop timber lorries, took over city halls and shut down logging operations. Many of the nation's timber cutters are outlaws who have formed logging mafias and killed activists. The killing of an American nun, Dorothy Stang, who had battled illegal logging in Brazil, brought home the risks. Activists including a priest, Father Tamayo, call for an immediate moratorium on logging until forests can be inventoried and guarantees put in place that all timber be milled and worked in the communities where it was cut. The government and the church opposes a freeze. With or without government or church approval, demonstrators shut down logging whenever and wherever they hear of it. Last month about 100 descended on a logging crew, who had what appeared to have a permit and had brought 20 armed state police to enforce it. After a standoff, the loggers called off the cutting. Many agree that deforestation is a problem but say a moratorium isn't feasible in a poor country where tens of thousands people depend on timber for their livelihoods. The President has tried to impose tighter controls on logging but his government is no match for the rapacious mafias. Total cutting last year was one-quarter of the trees auctioned by the government, partly because logging crews and truck drivers were intimidated. Tamayo said that if out-of-control logging continued, the country would turn into an arid wasteland. Stretches of Highway 15 already look devoid of life. Eight years ago, the Agua Caliente River was filled with bass and the town surrounded with thick pine forests. Now the fish are gone, the river has all but dried up, and, except for one hill west of town, the surrounding area has been mostly stripped of trees. Even more barren than Jimasque, where water is now piped in from a mountain spring 15 miles away because deforestation has destroyed the water table and caused streams to dry up. "Since they cut the trees, the creeks have been dry now for 12 years," a resident said. The loss of water and climate change that followed the clear-cutting of forests a decade ago prompted an almost wholesale flight to Honduran cities or the US. Tamayo rallied his followers to stay firm in the face of intimidation from the logging mafias. His aide said threats to the priest's followers had been increasing and one of the padre's leaders had been gunned down in December. doclink

    African Loggers Begin to See the Light in Forests

    February 28, 2005, Planet Ark

    Several logging firms are working to be certified as responsible managers of the forest in southeastern Cameroon. The companies have agreed to limit work to specific zones and fell only selected trees. But others destroy the forest to produce timber in high demand. The rainforests of the Congo Basin stretch over some 200 million hectares (494 million acres) and six central African states. Only the Amazon has a larger tropical forest area. The region is home to half of Africa's wild animals. If current trends continue, about 70% of the forests may be gone by 2040. An Italian-owned company has committed to sustainable forest management. Once workers have taken the mature trees from this block, they should leave it to regenerate for 30 years. To achieve certification timber firms must also treat workers decently and work with local communities. The leaders of the Congo Basin countries pledged to promote sustainable forestry, but they will need to withstand commercial pressure. Annual sales of Cameroon's timber are between $990 million and $1.2 billion. Some firms have plans to win certification because more Western buyers are demanding it. Activists say firms have a long way to go to win certification and many have no interest, particularly those supplying China's booming economy. Widespread illegal logging outside designated zones has met with little or no punishment. Greenpeace wants Western countries to apply pressure to end collusion between offending firms and authorities. Local communities complain that money paid by logging companies to the state is often not used to help them. The law says 40% of concession fees should go to local councils and 10% to villages. Some communities have invested in wells and scholarships for poor children but some cash is going into the pockets of local officials and others are using it to run their administrations. doclink

    Forest Comeback Not Expected to Last

    February 11, 2005, Duluth Tribune

    The U.S. has gained 10 million acres of forests since 1990. The increase is probably temporary. Growth is concentrated in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain states, while wooded acres dwindled in the South, Midwest and Pacific Coast. Over the past 50 years, according to the Forest Service, 24 states added woodland, seven of them more than a million acres each. New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania were the biggest gainers. Texas, Florida and California lost the most. The U.S. is a bright spot in a world that's losing its forests. Worldwide, 235 million acres of trees vanished in the past decade. Africa and South America lost the most, while Europe and China gained. China is adding 4.5 million acres of trees per year under a massive reforestation program. When European settlers began to colonize America they cut down trees for fuel and farmland, and a long, slow decline of forests began that hit bottom in 1920, when only 735 million acres of woodlands were left and 370 million acres of trees had been taken. The main reason was the switch from a country based on agriculture to an industrial economy. Large, efficient farms replaced millions of small holdings and machinery took over from horses and mules, which needed cropland for their food. Government policies have helped. A belt of trees was planted from the Canadian to Mexican borders under the Soil Bank program of the 1950s to prevent a return of the Dust Bowl. Tax incentives led to tree-planting. More trees are growing now than are being cut down and as a result, the area covered by forests has risen from 735 million to 749 million acres. Trees occupy one-third of the nation's territory. Only 10% of the land in Ohio was forested in 1910. Today trees cover more than 30%, although the population has more than doubled. New York has 6 million more acres of forest than it did in 1920. Pennsylvania gained 4.4 million acres. Almost 90% of Maine is tree-covered, up from 62% a century ago. Texas has lost 8 million acres since 1920, and Florida almost 4 million. The Forest Service projects that all areas of the country will lose woodlands by 2050. By that time, the nation will have 150 million more people and 23 million fewer acres of forest. doclink

    Congo Basin Nations Pledge to Save Forest

    February 7, 2005,

    Leaders of seven Central African countries have signed a treaty to save the world's second largest rain forest, but it's up to those governments to stop the corruption that fuels deforestation. The forests make up the heart of Africa, encompassing 500 million acres. They are home to more than half Africa's animal species, including the world's population of lowland gorillas. Nearly 20 million people depend on the forests for food and shelter. But illegal logging, poaching, ivory trafficking and a bushmeat trade are destroying the forests at alarming rate. Environmentalists say 3.7 million acres in the Congo Basin are lost each year. Sitting alongside the French president were leaders from the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Chad and Central African Republic. The treaty will make it easier for countries to jointly track and combat poachers, provide funds for training and conservation, and harmonize laws in countries that regulate logging. All of the countries concerned are ranked among the world's most corrupt. Watchdogs say there is evidence of large-scale illegal logging and officials embezzling or squandering the money timber companies pay to the state. Little of that money trickles down to local people. Illegal and irresponsible logging remain widespread. The campaigners challenge is to create a similar change in attitude when it comes to corruption. doclink

    Holburgeoning Soybean Market Transforming South American Environment

    December 16, 2004,

    The global market for soybeans is exploding, driven by demand from China, and the resulting agricultural gold rush is transforming the landscape in South America. Farmers are chopping down rainforests, colonizing savannahs, damming rivers, and digging canals, in an effort to get more land to raise the crop, which has lifted many of them out of poverty. Argentinean soybean acreage went from 17 million in 1997 to more than 34 million today, Brazil from 32 million to 57 million. The boom is driving down prices, and American soybean farmers are relying on federal subsidies and may soon be driven from the market. South American governments welcome the economic boost and largely look the other way as forests are cleared illegally. doclink

    British MP Condemns World Bank-backed Plans for Rainforest Logging in the Congo

    December 14, 2004, World Bank

    Bob Blizzard, MP for Waveney, said there was no chance that a World Bank-backed plan to 'develop' the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would benefit the local people but it would instead damage the livelihoods of some of the poorest people on Earth. The Parliamentary debate followed a visit to Congo's rainforests by an All-Party Parliamentary Group who announced a new report, which details the MPs' visit and sets out their recommendations on the future of the vast rainforests. It calls for the continuation of a moratorium on new logging concessions as nine contracts have been awarded to private logging companies and they should be annulled. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said that he would draw the attention of the World Bank to the concerns raised by the MPs. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that UK taxpayers' money will not be spent on destroying Congo's rainforests. doclink

    Philippine Storm Deaths Blamed on Logging; Forests That Prevented Slides Have Been Cleared

    December 1, 2004,

    Over 2,000 families live in eastern Philippines on subsistence rice and coconut farming. As the number of people increased, the trees started disappearing. President Arroyo has turned her anger on illegal loggers as the toll of death and missing from the recent storms rose over 1,000, ordering a nationwide crackdown on the activity. But the problem is complex and the environmental cost is likely to rise without a more comprehensive policy. Poverty drives farmers and other residents to cut trees with little regard for the law. 40% of Nakar town relied on illegal logging and legal loggers are also responsible for much of the damage often cutting trees outside permitted areas while corrupt officials turn a blind eye. The country's rapidly growing population is set to double over the next 50 years from a current 84 million is also raising demand for farmland. But the Roman Catholic Arroyo has refused to back tougher birth control policies. Legal loggers have political clout and that's the reason they can get the timber license agreement. Under a logging ban imposed in the mid-1990s, licensed loggers are only allowed to cut trees in areas that have more than 20% forest cover. But Forest cover has shrunk to less than 18% mostly in the islands of Palawan and Mindanao, from 64% in 1920. The Philippine experience mirrors the situation in Indonesia, where corruption has gone hand-in-hand with the disappearance of rain forest. Environmentalists have blamed large-scale deforestation for deadly floods in rural areas as well as in Jakarta, where trees have given way to housing tracts and golf courses. A flash flood in November in the Gunung Leuser national park in northern Sumatra has devastated a resort village and buried many victims under mud. Indonesia has lost more than 75% of its forests over the past few decades, leaving only 148 million acres. Philippine environmentalists say the consequences of deforestation have become a tragedy. Water and soil slide into the sea, leaving a growing number of areas facing water shortages and damaging coral and fish stock. doclink

    California Will Sue to Block Sierra National Forest Plan

    November 22, 2004, San Jose Mercury News

    California will sue to block the federal government's plan to manage 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada national forests. U.S. Undersecretary has 15 days to decide whether to review the decision before it becomes final. Environmental groups plan to sue as well claiming that the Bush administration maintains its retreat from environmental protection. Regional Forester Jack Blackwell, who approved the plan took umbrage at these remarks saying he wrote the decision, to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic wildfires such as those that devastated Southern California last year, and believes the plan will improve wildlife habitat while reducing fire danger. He was appointed a regional forester under President Clinton, and was transferred to the top post in California a year into the Bush administration. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, who approved the revised plan Thursday, was born and raised in California and held the No. 2 post in the state in the early 1990s. The Schwarzenegger administration is reviewing the plan and has taken no position. doclink

    Recycled Plastic Railroad Ties Making Inroads

    October 19, 2004, Wall Street Journal

    There are nearly a billion wooden railroad ties in the U.S. Railroad ties have been deemed by the EPA as probably a human carcinogen. The cost of wood and insurance against litigation is inspiring some rail operators to switch to ties made from recycled plastics. Manufacturers claim that plastic ties are environmentally friendly, and last longer and resist humidity better than wood counterparts. Makers now have less than 1% of the market, but anticipate a growing share. doclink

    Do Good Stand Up for the Roadless Rule

    September 2, 2004, Grist Magazine

    A plan unveiled in July would toss out the Clinton-era roadless rule, which protects 60 million acres of roadless areas in national forests, and could open these lands to logging, mining, and development. Take action by submitting a public comment to the U.S. Forest Service letting them know how you expect your national forests to be treated. doclink

    Africa: 4x4s Replace the Desert Camel and Whip Up a Worldwide Dust Storm

    August 20, 2004, Guardian (London)

    Dust storms from the Sahara have increased tenfold in 50 years and one major cause is the use of four-wheel drive vehicles. A professor of geography at Oxford University blames this for destroying a crust of lichen and stones that has protected vast areas of the Sahara for centuries. Four-wheel drive use, with overgrazing and deforestation, were the major causes of the world's growing dust storm problem, the scale of which was much bigger than previously realised. The problem has become so serious that 2-3 billion tonnes of dust is carried on the wind each year. Storms transport dust into the atmosphere and deposit it as far away as Greenland and the US. Britain was seeing increasing levels in spring that came direct from the Sahara. From an aircraft over the Alps it was possible to see the red dust on the mountains. Although storms are mainly particles of quartz, they also contain salt, pesticide and herbicide. Microbe-laden dust can also carry diseases such as foot and mouth. The largest dust source is the Bodl depression in Chad, between Lake Chad that is 1/20th of its size in the 1960s and the Sahara. The depression releases 1,270m tonnes of dust a year, 10 times more than when measurements began in 1947. Taking the whole Sahara, and the Sahel, dust volumes increased 4 to 6 times since the 1960s. In the Caribbean, scientists linked the death of coral reefs to smothering by dust that also found its way to Greenland, The dark dust absorbs the sun's heat, causing the ice to melt. The airborne dust reflected sunlight back into space but blanketed the earth holding the heat in. When it dropped in the sea it fertilised the plankton which absorbed carbon dioxide and cooled the ocean surface, creating fewer clouds and less rain. Where the source was the dried-up bed of a lake or sea, salt deposited from the storms could ruin agricultural land. The Aral Sea had almost dried up. Its inflowing rivers were used for irrigating cotton, causing the seabed to be contaminated by pesticide which was now being blown in the dust. Climate change might cause dust problems to return to the US prairies. Dust storms were common in the US and could lead to a disease, Valley Fever, an allergic reaction to pesticides in the dust, killing several people a year. In China, efforts had been made to plant trees to hold back the dust, and increases in rainfall had helped. However, large dust storms emanate from the vast deserts in the north, which included the Lopnor nuclear test site and might contain radioactive particles. Worldwide dust in the atmosphere is predicted to be 2-3 billion tonnes this year and Florida receives more than 50% of the African dust causing increased respiratory problems. Mauritania had two dust storms a year in the 1960s, now has 80 a year. The worst dust storm to reach Britain was in 1903 when an estimated 10 million tonnes landed from the Sahara doclink

    Two-Faced Forest Policy

    August 11, 2004, Los Angeles Times

    There are several reasons to protect New Mexico's Carson National Forest from gas exploration. The alpine meadow was donated to the national forest by an oil company for wildlife habitat and recreation. The land lies next to a Boy Scout camp where, for 65 years, youths have backpacked and worked on conservation projects. The U.S. Forest Service has determined that gas exploration could pollute water and harm wildlife and recreation. The consensus was to reject the request to drill. Then the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining nagged forestry officials to reconsider and they came out with a report more favorable to the exploration. In the New Mexico forest a political agenda blurred environmental science and overrode the objections of a governor, the communities, and the Boy Scouts. Governors in other Western states are trying to preserve wild land from gas and oil leases. Decisions on forest matters should be made by national foresters, based on science and public benefit. Some resource development is appropriate, but it ought to be based on the best use of the land. doclink

    Brazil: The Scent of Biodiversity

    June 21, 2004, InterPress Service

    Fisherfolk on the Brazilian Amazon island of Maraj suffer hunger during the rainy months when the fish disappear. But gathering fruit for the perfume and cosmetics industry has provided a new source of income during that period. The Amazon products are transformed into oils by a small business supplying the cosmetics division of its company. The river-dwelling population stopped cutting down the trees once they realised they could make a living from the fruits. The business is growing 200% a year reflecting the demand. The Brazilian perfume and cosmetics industry reported growth of 37.1% in the past five years, while the country's overall industry saw just 2.7% growth and the cosmetics industry doubled its exports. The trade balance went from a deficit of $59.7 million in 1999 to a surplus of $80.5 million in 2003, when sales reached $224.3 million. The incorporation of oils and extracts is an advantage for Brazilian cosmetics on the international market, where they cannot match the technology of bigger companies. Advances in design and practices for production, with safety testing and analysis have made the Brazilian industry competitive. Its goal for the next three years is to maintain exports growth at 20% annually. It wants to maintain "the forest on its feet," in contrast to the impacts of logging. Companies in the cosmetics and perfume industry want environmental preservation and trade that attend to the communities, paying for their knowledge of local plants. The cosmetics industry could make sustainable activities economically viable, and it teaches the consumer the value of nature. Valuing and preserving nature paints a strong image, especially in Europe. doclink

    Ghana; Forest Resources Under Threat As Nation Loses 70% Forest Cover

    June 17, 2004, Nation, The (Thailand)

    Ghana's loss of over 75% of its forest cover through wildfires has been blamed on men and climatic hazards. The remaining 25% faces rapid population growth, disregard of environmental conservation, improper disposal of waste, illegal and uncontrolled logging and bush fires. The annual incidence of wildfire ranges from 30% in the high forest to 90% in the dry Northern Savanna. Apart from the destruction of forest cover and the ecosystem, the annual loss is estimated at $24 million. If adequate and proactive measures are not taken to address the menace, the establishment may be under a serious threat. The good effort of the region was able to preserve 75% of its vegetable cover which has led to the abundant supply of foodstuff. Some of the loopholes were the weak sanction and reward regimes, apathy, inadequate logistics and motivation. Enforcement of the policy would benefit the region since it has a large number of eco-tourism sites. Law enforcement and the various stakeholders must be proactive in prevention, control and management of wildfires to save the region from economic losses. One objective is to establish incentives for reduction of fire and to put in place a system, which would detect where there would be any fire outbreak. doclink

    U.S.: Governor Schwarzenegger Aims to Axe Forest Protections

    June 7, 2004,

    The Schwarzenegger administration proposes to change forestry in the state in the form of a bill attached to the state's budget. One of the troubling aspects is its creation of new logging plans that would have no limitations or review. They would be granted to corporations that are "certified" through the industry's "Sustainable Forestry Initiative" (SFI) or other programs. SFI has meaningless standards and most timberland owners in California are "certified" through this program. If approved, companies would not have to provide information on the environmental impacts of their operations, and would simply have to file with the state when they intend to log. Other problems include the expansion of "non-industrial" timber management to ownerships totaling 10,000 acres. Fees to process logging plans, to be controlled by the California Department of Forestry (CDF)who could share them with the Department of Fish and Game and the California Geological Survey, but not with Water Quality Boards, and ban fees that they currently collect. doclink

    Where Butterflies Rest, Damage Runs Rampant

    June 2, 2004, New York Times*

    In a federally protected haven for the monarch butterfly, the landscape was barren. Mexico's evergreen forest is supported by millions of dollars in international aid for colonies of orange and gold butterflies. But when they leave each spring, and the tourists go home, this becomes a symbol of the destruction of the nation's forests. Heavily armed mafias chop down about 70 mature trees each day. They ambush police and terrorize villagers who threaten to stop them. Some beleaguered villages fight back using the same violent tactics. Most surrender and sell their trees. The illegal logging is driven by a surging demand for wood, the poverty of the Indians and the resentment over the government's decision to turn the forests into a reserve for insects. The men of San Luis said society cares more about butterflies than their families. One illegal logger said that everyone worries about butterflies, then smashed a photographer's camera, punched a reporter in the face, and threatened to hold the group hostage. Police and government inspectors have also been attacked, and only venture into villages in military style. President Vicente Fox sent the army into the forest to restore order. A former minister of the environment said that in much of the world, including Mexico, deforestation is driven by the poverty of rural farmers who cut down the forest to make way for crops. But Mexico's forests are the strongholds of drug traffickers and rebels, seething with unresolved land disputes. They are far removed from the reaches of the law. From the day the government established the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, peasants here have lived at odds with the government who had given this land to peasants from the revolution. The people of San Cristbal burned their trees, rather than cede control to the government. The Mexican government expanded the reserve to 132,000 acres from 45,000, offering peasants few economic incentives. As the demand for wood grows in middlemen are offering five times the daily wage for a 60-year-old pine. The governor said the growing tensions were one result of a crackdown against industries that buy illegal wood. 100 sawmills had been closed or fined, 159 people had been arrested. But with four million people, fewer than 9,000 police officers and a flourishing illegal marijuana trade, the governor acknowledged he was reluctant to send officers chasing illegal loggers. Mexico's protected areas have fewer than 400 unarmed inspectors to watch over 150 natural reserves. Peasants are ravaging forests from Chihuahua to Chiapas and the country loses 1.3 million acres of forests each year. Villagers who stand against the traffickers have been killed. Aerial photographs, showed that the villages of Francisco Serrato and Emiliano Zapata had lost all of their forests. The people say that if they do not cut them, others will, and then they will have nothing. doclink

    When will people understand that there are more people than can be supported by the earth's natural resources and the situation will only get worse unless population is stabilized?

    Wildlife Survival, Species Extinction, Biodiversity

    The 2012 Living Planet Report Shows Little Progress Towards Sustainability

    May 16, 2012, Huffington Post

    The 2012 Living Planet report estimates that demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966. Increasing demand from the industrialisation of developing countries and from rising populations is not being matched by improvements in productivity or efficiency. For example, biodiversity health in the tropics has fallen by 40% since 1970. Freshwater and marine resources are also under huge pressure with the global marine fish catch rising five fold from 1950 to 2005.

    We continue as a species to consume 1.5 times the amount that the planet produces sustainably each year. By 2030, that could rise to 2 times as population and per capita consumption rise across the world. Climate change poses further challenges.

    The WWF rightly calls for the protection of biodiversity, improved efficiencies in production and consumption, a move to sustainable sources, for developed countries to move to a less meat based diet and for financial and governance frameworks to support sustainable resource use.

    However, a key element to advancing sustainability must be to retard and reverse the growth in human numbers. This means providing universal access to family planning, something that is highly affordable, and which pays for itself through an immediate reduction in health and social costs and through freeing up productive labour. It also means promoting the benefits for sustainability and the environment of having smaller families, particularly in developed countries.

    Simon Ross, Population Matters chief executive commented: "We need to move away from both our fixation on economic growth and our bias for growing human numbers. Many resources are finite and are being grossly overexploited. We can only preserve our environment and create the headroom for the poorest of the world to improve their living standards if we improve resource use efficiency, rein in excessive consumption AND take steps to slow and reverse the growth in human numbers. As we approach Rio+20 and consider the emerging discussion on Sustainable Development Goals, we should be including strategies for population reduction in our discussions." doclink

    Global Biodiversity Down 30 Percent in 40 Years

    May 14, 2012, Live Science

    The world's biodiversity is down 30% since the 1970s with tropical species taking the biggest hit. Humanity is outstripping the Earth's resources by 50% - essentially using the resources of one and a half Earths every year, according to the 2012 Living Planet Report, produced by conservation agency the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

    Colby Loucks of WWF, compared humanity to bad houseguests: "We're emptying the fridge, we're not really taking care of the lawn, we're not weeding the flower beds and we're certainly not taking out the garbage." doclink

    Biodiversity: The Fragile Web

    National Geographic News

    Sixty five million years ago, say geologists, a meteorite made cataclysmic contact with Earth. It was the beginning of the end of the dinosaurs, Earth's last great extinction. The next great extinction will be more fizzle than fireworks. In fact, it's already begun. Biodiversity, the very variety of life, is under attack. Paving and populating, consuming and polluting, humans are causing More is at stake than simply the spice of life. Each species takes its
    secrets to the grave: potential solutions to coming crises, possible cures to medical mysteries. doclink

    Urbanization Costs Five Billion Years of Evolutionary History

    April 26, 2017, Science Daily

    60% of the earth's unbuilt land surface is expected to be urban by 2030. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have studied how plant diversity in the region of Halle an der Saale has changed in over 300 years of urbanization and have also made predictions about the future.

    The researchers drew on lists of species published by botanists since the 17th century as well as data from herbaria. In the 1680s, for example, physician Christoph Knauth recorded a complete list of plant species that occurred in the area of the modern city of Halle. In the centuries that followed, during which the city's population increased more than tenfold, more than 20 botanists recorded the flora of Halle.

    Using this comprehensive data, the team led by UFZ geoecologist Dr. Sonja Knapp demonstrated that the number of plant species in Halle has risen considerably between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 21st -- from 711 to 860 species. At the same time, however, the evolutionary diversity of plants has declined: native species from a wide range of plant families have died out regionally and been replaced by more closely related species. These include both common native species and non-native species introduced from other parts of the world. Overall, 4.7 billion years of evolutionary history have therefore been lost in the Halle region, so great is the loss of evolutionary diversity -- calculated on the basis of plant pedigrees.

    The team calculated how the current evolutionary diversity of Halle's flora would change if, firstly, the plants found in Halle listed on the Red List of endangered species disappeared and, secondly, the most common introduced species in Germany which are not yet found in Halle were to migrate there. "Evolutionary diversity will very probably continue to fall," concluded Dr. Marten Winter from iDiv, a participant in the study.

    The evolutionary diversity of plants is considered to be an important foundation for the stability of ecosystems. It stimulates the diversity of other organisms and can increase biomass production. How many millions of years of evolutionary history would need to be lost to make an ecosystem unstable is however not yet known. Researchers are therefore appealing for the precautionary protection of biological diversity. doclink

    'Silent Extinction': Giraffes Listed as a Vulnerable Species After 30-year Population Plunge

    December 8, 2016, Washington Post   By: Ben Guarino

    Giraffes are among the animals ecologists call "charismatic megafauna," the name for critters that charm people. however, "Only 400 scientific papers have been written about giraffes, versus 20,000 papers on white rhinos," according to the National Geographic. In fact, just how many species of giraffe exist is a matter of some debate.

    In 2010, the IUCN, an international NGO headquartered in Switzerland, listed the giraffe as species of least concern. On Wednesday, the IUCN downgraded the giraffe from least concern, skipped "near threatened" and classified the animal as vulnerable. Giraffes are now considered by the IUCN to be as threatened as African elephants, though the giraffe population is a quarter of its pachyderm neighbors.

    "There is a silent extinction going on,” Julian Fennessy, an IUCN giraffe specialist and director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told The Washington Post by phone early Thursday.

    Over the course of three giraffe generations, the population plummeted between 36 and 40%. 200 years ago, it is possible there were as many as a million giraffes across Africa, he said.

    Human population growth, poaching, and habitat loss were listed as factors for the decline. An invasion of woody, "unpalatable species” of trees where the tastier acacia plants once grew is another reason. In areas disturbed by war and civil unrest, such as South Sudan, giraffe subspecies such as the Nubian giraffe have dropped by as much as 95%.

    Fennessy and other conservationists hope the vulnerable status will bring needed attention to giraffes. doclink

    Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya: What Are the Causes?

    September 27, 2016, PLOS ONE   By: Joseph O. Ogutu , Hans-peter Piepho, Mohamed Y. Said, Gordon O. Ojwang, Lucy W. Njino, Shem C. Kifugo, Patrick W. Wargute

    Extreme wildlife losses have recently been documented for large parts of Africa, including Western, Central and Eastern Africa.

    Considerable effort and resources have been invested in monitoring wildlife, livestock and their environment in Kenya's rangelands since 1977. However, relatively little effort and resources have been invested in analyzing and interpreting the status and trends in wildlife and livestock numbers or their environmental and anthropogenic drivers.

    A study using aerial monitoring survey data collected in rangelands that collectively cover 88% of Kenya's land surface, it was shown that wildlife numbers declined on average by 68% between 1977 and 2016.

    Warthog, lesser kudu, Thomson's gazelle, eland, oryx, topi, hartebeest, impala, Grevy's zebra and waterbuck showed the highest decline (72-88%).

    Cattle numbers decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period.

    Livestock biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011-2013 compared to 3.5 times in 1977-1980.

    The declines occur both inside and outside protected areas.

    These declines have been variously attributed to rapid human population growth, land use and cover changes, land fragmentation, infrastructural development, poaching for trophy and bushmeat, climate change and variability, outbreaks of infectious diseases, proliferation of firearms, weak law enforcement, poor governance, competition with livestock for space, water and pasture, poverty and inequality.

    Rapid human population growth is driving wildlife population declines in Africa through its influence on expansion of agriculture, settlements and development of infrastructure. Deterioration in wildlife and livestock habitats caused by major land use and cover changes is exacerbated by climate change and variability, piling enormous pressures on pastoralism, ranching and wildlife conservation in African rangelands and protected areas .

    The authors have suggested policy, institutional and management interventions likely to succeed in reducing the declines and restoring rangeland health, most notably through strengthening and investing in community and private wildlife conservancies in the rangelands.

    The rangelands are currently home to 32.6% of the Kenyan population, principally pastoral communities.

    More than half of the Kenyan livestock populations are found on these rangelands. The livestock are raised mainly for meat and milk. Over 70% of the protected wildlife reserves and parks occur in the rangelands. Also, about 65-70% of the national terrestrial wildlife populations occur in the human-modified rangelands outside the protected areas. About 10-12% of Kenya is officially designated for biodiversity conservation, with protected wildlife areas covering only 8%.

    Tourism based on wildlife viewing and photography ranks among the leading industries in Kenya, contributing about 13.7% of the gross domestic product and over 10% of the national formal sector employment. For example, in 2011 wildlife-based safaris contributed about US$ 1.16 billion to the national revenue of Kenya . doclink

    Urgent Global Action Needed to Stop Extinction of Earth's Last Megafauna

    July 27, 2016, National Geographic magazine   By: David Maxwell Braun

    The world's gorillas, lions, tigers, rhinos, and other iconic terrestrial megafauna will be lost forever unless a swift and global conservation response is made, according to 43 wildlife experts from six continents whose analysis, Saving the World's Terrestrial Megafauna, was published in the journal BioScience.

    Their analysis covers the precipitous loss of large animal populations around the globe, from the poorly known, such as the scimitar-horned oryx, to more familiar species including tigers, lions, gorillas and rhinoceroses, Panthera, one of the conservation institutions associated with the research, said in a news statement.

    Please go here for a graphic of the threats to megafauna:

    "The more I look at the trends facing the world's largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people," said William Ripple, lead author and distinguished professor of ecology in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. "It's time to really think about conserving them because declines in their numbers and habitats are happening quickly."

    The report includes a 13-point declaration calling for acknowledgement that a "business as usual" mentality will result in massive species extinction; while a global commitment to conservation with support for developing nations is a moral obligation.

    Some megafauna face the threat of obscurity, WCS said. "The loss of elephants worldwide to poachers in pursuit of ivory is well-known and is the focus of extensive efforts to shut down this trade, but the study authors point out that many species are at risk from many similar threats but are so poorly known that effective conservation efforts to save them are difficult.”

    "Among the most serious threats to endangered animals are the expansion of livestock and agricultural developments, illegal hunting, deforestation and human population growth. Large wildlife species are extremely vulnerable to these threats because of their need for extensive spaces to live and low population densities, particularly for carnivores.”

    Panthera President and Chief Conservation Officer and co-author Luke Hunter, said: "Among the world's largest animals, apex predators like the tiger, lion and leopard are increasingly under assault. The protection of these big cats - the great white sharks of our terrestrial Earth - and other large mammals is paramount to the health and survival of thousands of animals and their ecosystems. doclink

    The Diversity of Life Across Much of Earth Has Plunged Below 'Safe' Levels

    July 14, 2016, Washington Post   By: Chris Mooney

    Scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth's land surface, the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a "safe" level identified by biologists.

    The study was led by Tim Newbold of the United Nations Environment Programme and University College London and numerous colleagues representing several British, Australian, Danish and Swiss universities and institutions.

    From grasslands to tropical forests, humans are using more and more land for agriculture, to live on, to build roads and infrastructure upon. This reduces the abundance of species and what researchers call the "intactness" of ecosystems - and when biodiversity levels fall too low, it can mean that larger ecosystems lose their resilience or even, at the extreme, cease to function.

    "Exploitation of terrestrial systems has been vital for human development throughout history, but the cost to biosphere integrity has been high," notes the study.

    1.8 million separate measurements of the abundance of species (39,123 of them) at 18,659 locations across the globe were used.

    The research is based on a "planetary boundaries" concept that "attempts to set some sort of safe limit to the amount of biodiversity we can lose, while biodiversity still supports important ecosystem functions,” said Newbold.

    The concern is that species-anemic ecosystems will struggle or fail, and so become unable to provide us what we actually need in the form of stored carbon, filtered water, fertile soils and much else. Animals need these ecosystem "services,” but so do humans.

    Biodiversity supports things like "pollination, nutrient cycling, soil erosion control, maintenance of water quality,” Newbold said.

    The researchers set a conservative standard, saying that a decline of more than 10% of species abundance in a given area represented crossing into a danger zone for biodiversity. But the study found an average global decline of about 15%. Original species are only about 85% as abundant as they were before human land-use changes.

    Northern tundras and boreal forest ecosystems were still relatively intact, as was much of the Amazon rain forest. But central North America showed a huge gash on the researchers' maps, representing a large region with less than 60% of its original biodiversity intact, stretching all the way from Canada to Texas.

    58% of the Earth has declined below 90% biodiversity intactness, which is into the danger zone. Meanwhile 58% of the Earth is the home to 71% of its human inhabitants.

    There are some major uncertainties with this analysis: who is to say that 90% "intactness", is the right number in all cases? Also, ecosystems have not been losing a net of species because they have been gaining, in many cases, non-original or "invasive” species. So is that a net plus, or a net minus?

    The study decided that, if new species are considered to benefit ecosystems, or if ecosystems can go down to 80 or 70% of their original species abundance, then considerably less of the world is in trouble. But how much risk you want to take with nature? Especially with future challenges like ongoing global warming.

    Mark Urban, who directs a newly founded Institute of Biological Risk at the University of Connecticut, which focuses on biodiversity losses, said, "What this means is we have not only crossed a planetary boundary, but have kept going. At least now we're looking back.”

    Urban added, "this result ignores the accelerating threat from a warming climate. Climate change is about to make things more complicated as we try to pull back from the edge of the Earth's resilience.”

    On the other hand, Erle Ellis, who directs the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, challenged the basis for the 90% figure used in the paper, suggesting the threshold was "arbitrary.”

    The question, then, remains how close we are to a point where global ecosystems could see major tipping points, or dramatic changes of a sort ultimately traceable to us. doclink

    Humans Are Driving Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction

    April 23, 2016, Durango Herald   By: Richard Grossman

    Note: First published in the Durango Herald

    Last summer a big game hunter from Minnesota shot Cecil, a famous male lion, in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean officials didn't press charges against Cecil's killer.

    Many people in this country were outraged that such a rare and beautiful beast had been murdered. The response in Africa was different, however. For us a lion - especially a noble and handsome male - symbolizes freedom and wildness. In Africa, however, a lion means danger.

    We live in a protected bubble from which most predators have been excluded. It is true that occasionally a mountain lion will injure or kill a human, but fortunately, that is a very rare, newsworthy incident. Black bears are also responsible for a few injuries and rare deaths here in Colorado. The real killer is not a predator but the sweet, innocent herbivore - deer.

    Biologist E. O. Wilson has recently written a book advocating that half of the planet become a nature reserve. He wrote: "I propose that only by committing half of the planet's surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it."

    I grieve for the loss of biological diversity. Although we cannot know exactly, it is estimated that species of plants and animals are going extinct at 1,000 times the normal rate; we are in the sixth mass extinction. There have been five previous mass extinctions, the last one being about 65 million years ago when a huge meteor hit off the coast of Mexico. The resulting explosion changed the climate for centuries, killing off dinosaurs. What is different about the current mass extinction is that it is caused by a single species: ours.

    Each species has evolved strategies to maximize reproduction, to gather nutrients efficiently and to ward off other species that imperil it. We are no different, except we have been so amazingly successful. Sadly, our success endangers nonhuman species - and probably ourselves, because our livelihood depends on the web of life.

    I have a problem with those who are "pro-life." Our human success is causing the extinction of other animals and plants. By preventing women from access to family planning and safe abortion services, the people who claim to be "pro-life" are actually destroying the biodiversity that makes our planet habitable.

    Although I haven't read Wilson's Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life, its premise troubles me. Yes, it is important to do what we can to protect other species. Yes, the major cause of loss of species is loss of habitat. Yes, preserves (both terrestrial and marine) have shown their value in preserving biodiversity. The Center for Biological Diversity has a brilliant record of protecting endangered species by preserving habitat.

    Turning half the Earth into preserves would slow the loss of biodiversity. But what about the people who currently live on that land - many of whom live in overcrowded, developing countries? What would happen to them?

    We had the good fortune to visit the Ranthambhore preserve in India, where we observed a Bengal tiger in the wild. We also heard about people who were forced off that land and repatriated to a nearby village. They now make their living by making and selling souvenirs to tourists. This model would not work for half of Earth's surface, however. Where could all those people settle?

    This conundrum is one of the plotlines of The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. This wonderful novel takes place in the Sundarbans, the deltas of four major rivers where they empty into the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of squatters settled on Marichjhanpi Island, an Indian animal refuge, in 1979. Piya, a protagonist, biologist and protector of animals, is distressed when settlers kill a man-eating tiger. Forest Guards moved in and destroyed the settlement - and the settlers. Thousands of people were killed in this genocide. Although this sounds incredible, it is based on history.

    Thanks to the foresight of Americans a century ago, we have the National Park Service, one of the agencies that take care of our public lands. We should be proud that 14 percent of our land is currently protected. Costa Rica may have the highest percentage of land preserved for nonhuman use at 25 percent. It is important to preserve what we have and to continue to protect more wilderness, parks, forests and roadless areas for our enjoyment, and especially for the benefit of other species. However, it is important to keep human rights in mind when considering making new protected areas. Voluntary family planning will help achieve that goal by decreasing population pressure. doclink

    The Biggest Obstacles for Africa's Big Cats

    March 14, 2016, National Geographic magazine   By: Michael Schwartz

    Significant portions of a continent long beleaguered by death, disease, and destitution are showing promising signs of improvement, thanks largely to 21st century advancements. Also, Western civilization has played a fairly substantial role in the African baby boom by providing the means to engage in large-scale food production.

    However, Africa's population in the world grew from 9% of the world total in 1960 to 15% in 2010. By 2050, its share of global population will reach 23%, with East and West Africa having the highest fertility rates, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). The continent could reach 3 billion by the end of the century.

    One of the most direct and unavoidable consequences of growing population is the increasingly pervasive conquering of biosystems and extinction of other species on Earth. This story focuses on the link between higher numbers of people and lower numbers of felines, especially the "big cats", i.e. lions, leopards and cheetahs - on the African continent.

    More humans require more meat and expanding cities use land previously held by wildlife.

    Prior to being outlawed, sustainable use in Kenya occurred on 60% of the total wildlife range. Today, significantly less rangeland remains.

    With 95% of all wildlife tourism taking place in the national parks and reserves, less than 1% of gross revenues goes to landowners living with wildlife.

    One approach to make it more profitable to grow wildlife could be Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), although there are some obstacles with this system too. However, not all rural communities are landowners living adjacent to protected areas; this invariably leads to future wilderness encroachment.

    Lifting Africans from poverty is the key, which means that they would have the ability to find other means of nourishment. doclink

    HL says: I find it odd that a renowned magazine would not see the obvious link between high population numbers and poverty and see growing population as a good thing by itself, and therefore have to strongly disagree with the conclusions.

    Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says

    February 26, 2016, New York Times   By: John Schwartz

    After meeting recently in Kuala Lumpur, a UN-affiliated group released a global assessment of plant pollinators that face the threat of extreme decline or extinction. It documented the need for a more effective international effort to preserve species that are vital to plant pollination, including butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, bats, some birds, and 20,000 species of wild bees. Not only are crops worth $577 billion per year at risk (35% of global crop production), but the balance of nature itself.

    In 2012 the U.N. formed The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a group of 124 nations responsible for the report. By providing analysis and policy proposals to promote biodiversity, this group resembles the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Instead of conducting new research, the group, with the help of 80 experts, synthesized current studies and analysis to reach its conclusions.

    The report concluded that possible extinction looms over many pollinators, including some 2,000 avian species like birds and bats. Although the report defines less clearly the extinction risk for insects, it warns of "high levels of threat" for many bees and butterflies. The decline in pollinators means that many plant types that depend on pollinators have been going unpollinated, which threatens their survival as well. The report points to habitat loss, the increased use of pesticides, and bee parasites and pathogens as key suspects in causing the problem. By cultivating nearly every available acre, farmers eliminate patches of wildflowers and the cover crops where pollinators feed.

    Vice chairman of the group, Sir Robert Watson, Director of Strategic Development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, says that climate change creates new hazards for the bumblebees in North America and Europe by shifting plant flowering times and often the best locations for the plants to thrive.

    The authors said their assessment is not structured to support advocacy, but to give governments, policy makers and organizations a sense of the current state of science and the options to address problems. However, some environmental activists were upset that the report did not conclusively condemn either GMO crops that can survive insecticides or insect attacks or pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which they admit often do not kill bees immediately, but may have long-term effects on both wild and managed bee colonies when they build up in the hive.

    In defense of the report, Dr. Simon Potts, a co-chairman of the assessment and deputy director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at Reading University, said that the GMO claim remains "a very clear knowledge gap." Similarly, concerning the neonicotinoid indictment, he said the report lays out many contributing factors that "can combine in their effects," and he did not want an "unresolved" claim to hijack the findings. Dr. Christian Maus, global pollinator safety manager for Bayer, a producer of neonicotinoids who contributed to the report, agreed. He said "the overwhelming majority of the scientific opinion" on pollinator health states that "this is a complex issue affected by many factors." doclink

    Collapse of the World's Largest Herbivores

    May 1, 2015, Science magazine   By: William J. Ripple, Thomas M. Newsome, Christopher Wolf, Rodolfo Dirzo, Kristoffer T. Everatt, Mauro Galetti, Matt W. Hayward, Graham I. H. Kerley, Taa

    Sixty percent of large wild herbivores (body mass ≥100 kg) are threatened with extinction. Nearly all threatened species are in developing countries, where major threats include hunting, land-use change, and resource depression by livestock. Loss of large herbivores can have cascading effects on other species including large carnivores, scavengers, mesoherbivores, small mammals, and ecological processes involving vegetation, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and fire regimes. The rate of large herbivore decline suggests that ever-larger swaths of the world will soon lack many of the vital ecological services these animals provide, resulting in enormous ecological and social costs.

    The combined impacts of hunting, encroachment by humans and their livestock, and habitat loss could lead to the extinction of a suite of large herbivores relatively soon.

    According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 44 of the 74 largest terrestrial herbivores are listed as threatened with extinction (including 12 critically endangered or extinct in the wild), and 43 ( 58%) have decreasing populations.

    The most-threatened large herbivore species are found in southern Asia, throughout much of extreme Southeast Asia, as well as Ethiopia and Somalia of eastern Africa. The ecoregions with seven threatened large herbivore species are the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, the Sunda Shelf mangroves, and the peninsular Malaysian rain forests. Hunting for meat is the predominant threat in all ecoregions containing at least five threatened large herbivore species. These ecoregions fall mostly within the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome (20 of 30 ecoregions), but biomes containing combinations of grasslands, shrublands, savannas, mangroves, or other forest types represent the other 10 ecoregions with at least five threatened large herbivore species.

    The white rhinoceros follows one of the greatest success stories in the history of modern conservation: the recovery of the southern white rhino from a single population of fewer than 100 individuals in the early 1900s to about 20,000 today. Even with the current crisis of rhinoceros poaching, this illustrates that, with sufficient protection, recovery is possible for relatively slow-breeding species that are highly prized by poachers.

    Many of the largest herbivore species have ranges that are collapsing. On average, these species currently occupy only 19% of their historical ranges. This is exemplified by the elephant, hippopotamus, and black rhinoceros, all of which now occupy just tiny fractions of their historical ranges in Africa. Many of these declining species are poorly known scientifically, and badly in need of basic ecological research. Scientific research effort has been much greater for nonthreatened than threatened species, and greater overall for species in developed countries. Indeed, those that have been most studied are primarily game species in wealthy countries.

    The main threats to large herbivores are hunting, competition with livestock, and land-use change such as habitat loss, human encroachment, cultivation, and deforestation. Extensive overhunting for meat across much of the developing world is likely the most important factor in the decline of the largest terrestrial herbivore. Slow reproduction makes large herbivores particularly vulnerable to overhunting. The largest- and slowest-to-reproduce species typically vanish first, and as they disappear, hunters turn to smaller and more fecund species. In synergy with changes in land use, hunting for meat has increased in recent years due to human population growth, greater access to wildlands due to road building, use of modern firearms and wire snares, access to markets, and the rising demand for wild meat. Demand for wild meat is intensifying, supply is declining, and protected area management budgets for protecting wildlife from overhunting are often inadequate, particularly in developing nations.

    Hunting large herbivores for body parts is also driving down populations of some species, especially the iconic ones.

    Livestock continues to encroach on land needed for wild grazers and browsers, particularly in developing countries where livestock production tripled between 1980 and 2002. There are an estimated 3.6 billion ruminant livestock on Earth today, and about 25 million have been added to the planet every year for the last 50 years. This upsurge in livestock has resulted in more competition for grazing, a reduction in forage and water available to wild herbivores, a greater risk of disease transmission from domestic to wild species, and increased methane emissions. In central Asia, the expansion of goat grazing for cashmere wool production for international export has reduced habitats available to large herbivores with consequent impacts on their predators including snow leopards.

    In many pastoral settings in Africa, domestic livestock are abundant but not regularly consumed for subsistence, and are instead kept as a means of storing wealth, as a status symbol, or for consumption on special occasions. Livestock is a private good, and so, people invest significant energy to protect it, whereas wild herbivores are typically a public good, often resulting in weak incentives for their conservation and in many cases open access to the resource, both of which commonly result in overuse.

    Habitat loss is a significant threat to large herbivores in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The causes of this threat have important drivers originating in developed countries due to demand for agricultural and other products. Southeast Asia has the highest rate of deforestation among tropical regions, and if trends continue, Southeast Asia could lose 75% of its original forests and nearly half of its biodiversity by the end of this century. Habitat loss is typically asymmetrical with respect to quality, with remaining habitat generally being less productive. Additionally, the greater area requirements of larger species make them unable to persist in smaller fragments of habitat, which may still support smaller herbivores. Their larger area requirement also makes larger species that persist in fragments increasingly susceptible to conservation challenges that affect small populations. This suggests a greater likelihood of extinction among the larger rather than smaller herbivores.

    Other threats to large herbivores include human encroachment (including road building), cultivation of crops, and civil unrest, all of which contribute to population decline.

    There are much more items of interest in this article.
    . . . more doclink

    It's Time to Shout Stop on This War on the Living World

    Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce
    October 1, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: George Monbiot

    In the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) If this does not to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it's hard to imagine what could.

    True, this is part of a trend that has lasted 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna - sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant - coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed.

    But now the speed of destruction is even faster.

    Many people blame this process on human population growth, but the rise in consumption and amplification by technology have also played a part. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed.

    Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.

    Pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. The loss of wildlife is a loss of wonder and enchantment, of the magic with which the living world infects our lives.

    Almost all the gains go to a tiny number of people: one study suggests that the richest 1% in the United States capture 93% of the increase in incomes that growth delivers. Working conditions for most people continue to deteriorate, as we find ourselves on short contracts, without full employment rights, without the security or the choice or the pensions their parents enjoyed.

    What and whom is this growth for?

    A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative - we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.

    At which point do we use the extraordinary learning and expertise we have developed to change the way we organise ourselves, to contest and reverse the trends that have governed our relationship with the living planet for the past 2m years, and that are now destroying its remaining features at astonishing speed?

    Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when? doclink

    We've Wiped Out Half the World's Wildlife Since 1970

    September 30, 2014, VOX Media   By: Brad Plumer

    A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the overall number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has declined 52% between 1970 and 2010. This doesn't mean we've wiped out half of all species.

    The populations of land species -- elephants, tigers, gorillas, and so on -- have declined 38% since 1970 and 60% since 2002. Habitat loss is a big problem there, as is hunting. For example, deforestation in West and Central Africa has left forest elephants with just a smattering of disconnected habitats, and they've become easy prey for ivory poachers.

    Marine species -- turtles, sharks, fish, seabirds -- have declined 39% worldwide since 1970. While California's blue whale population is recovering, a large number of turtles, sharks, and seabirds are still accidentally caught and killed by fishermen targeting other species.

    Freshwater populations -- fish, frogs, shorebirds - have declined 76%, due mainly to habitat loss and water pollution, and somewhat to changes in water level due to human activity. doclink

    North American Waterfowl Are Newest Casualty of California's Drought

    July 30, 2014, Sacramento Bee   By: Matt Weise

    As a result of the California drought, millions of migrating birds will be crowded into less habitat, significantly increasing the odds of botulism outbreaks, which spread rapidly and can kill thousands of birds in a matter of days. Officials also are concerned the drought could cause food shortages.

    Already, at least 1,700 waterfowl have died at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge near the Oregon border.

    "We've got this perfect storm, if you will. And it's not going to be pretty," Mark Biddlecomb, Western region director of Ducks Unlimited said. "I think we're looking at the probability of a food shortage in addition to a disease outbreak. If they don't go back in excellent condition, they're not going to be breeding like they would normally, and that will affect the entire flyway from the boreal forests of Canada all the way down to Mexico, frankly." doclink

    Invertebrate Numbers Nearly Halve as Human Population Doubles

    July 24, 2014,

    Invertebrate numbers have dropped by 45% on average over 35 years - the same period in which the human population doubled, according to a study published in Science and led by UCL, Stanford and UCSB.

    The decrease in invertebrate numbers is due to two main factors - habitat loss and climate disruption on a global scale.

    In the UK alone, scientists noted the areas inhabited by common insects such as beetles, butterflies, bees and wasps saw a 30-60% decline over the last 40 years.

    Invertebrates are important for our daily lives. For example insect pollination is required for 75% of all the world's food crops and is estimated to be worth approximately 10% of the economic value of the world's entire food supply. Globally, pollinators appear to be strongly declining in both abundance and diversity.

    Native predators perform the useful service of pest control, valued in the US at an estimated $4.5 billion annually.

    Insects and vertebrates (birds, for example) are important for cycling nutrients and moving them over long distances, without which the integrity of other ecosystem functions such as plant productivity could be compromised.

    Declines in amphibian populations has led to increased algae and the biomass of waste matter, which in turn reduces nitrogen uptake, degrading the water quality.

    The the impact the continuing loss of animals, including invertebrates, has on the spread of human disease needs to be better understood as a priority. doclink

    Booming Populations, Rising Economies, Threatened Biodiversity: the Tropics Will Never Be the Same

    July 7, 2014,   By: Jeremy Hance

    The tropics cover around 40% of the world's surface. A 400-plus page report on the tropics, compiled by 12 institutions, found incredible population growth, rising economic importance, clashes over land-use, imperiled biodiversity, and worsening impacts of climate change.

    The tropics are home to about 40% of the world's population, but house 55% of children under five. Within 40 years, it is expected that more than half the world's population will be in the tropics and a staggering 67% of its young children. According to the report, the region is expected to add another 3 billion people (or 42% of the world's population today) by the end of the century.

    "Because most of the world's children will live in the Tropics by 2050, we must rethink the world's priorities on aid, development, research and education," author Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University said. For example, it is estimated that around 467 million people in the tropics lived in slums as of 2001, representing 46% of the region's urban population.

    A booming population means increased demand for food, water, and other natural resources internally, even while many of these resources are already exported abroad to temperate regions.

    Tropical economies are growing 20% more rapidly than in temperate regions, yet the tropics is still home to two-thirds of the world's population living in extreme poverty.

    There is also good news according to the report: "The prevalence of undernourishment in the tropics has declined by one-third over the past two decades." And life expectancy is on the rise while maternal and child mortality has been slashed. Such changes could.

    Unfortunately people in the tropics face especially challenging diseases rarely found in temperate regions such as dengue fever and malaria. And local people and indigenous groups are struggling to maintain control over their traditional lands as corporations -- often foreign -- seek out more land to grow crops, raise livestock, or extract commodities such as timber, fossil fuels, and minerals. Land-grabbing, as it is known, has become a significant political issue in places like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Kenya, and Cameroon.

    At the same time, conservationists and environmentalists are fighting to preserve rainforests, coral reefs, and other vital ecosystems from destruction. Approximately 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and more than 95% of its mangrove and coral reef-based biodiversity are in the tropics. doclink

    Hungry Monkeys Raid Farms in North India as Forests Shrink

    April 3, 2014, Reuters   By: Ashutosh Sharma

    "The monkeys don't spare any crop in our fields," said Bal Krishan Arya, pointing to the devoured shoots of his wheat plants. "They have destroyed my orange orchard, not leaving a single fruit on any tree."

    Arya blames "reckless tree-felling" due to development activities undertaken by the state - mainly road building and expansion of human settlements - as well as local people's dependence on wood for fuel and other purposes.

    Rajeev Tiwari, a project coordinator for afforestation in the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department, said that since 1991, the region has lost 11,750 hectares of forest land to road construction alone. Other development programmes have also reduced forest cover, he said, adding that his department has been trying to rectify some of the damage over the last four years.

    However, these measures have yet to show results. In frustration, local people have been calling for the sterilisation of monkeys and issuance of gun licenses.

    But villagers allege that these efforts are being thwarted by mismanagement of funds, leading to poor quality work on the ground. They feel such schemes should be implemented with greater transparency and an obligation to demonstrate results. doclink

    Without a Trace

    The Sixth Extinction,' by Elizabeth Kolbert
    February 10, 2014, New York Times   By: Al Gore

    Science writer Elizabeth Kolbert has come out with a powerful new book, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," in which she reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet's ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef. She explores the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50% of all living species on earth within this century.

    Many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet's ecology. For example, we continue to use the world's atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering "world-altering events," Kolbert writes.

    Our oceans, a crucial food source for billions, have become not only warmer but also more acidic than they have been in millions of years. Coral reefs might be the first entire ecosystem to go extinct in the modern era, as Kobert points out.

    The last mass extinction occured some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. Marine ecosystems essentially collapsed, and about 75% of all plant and animal species disappeared.

    E. O. Wilson says the present extinction rate in the tropics is "on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate" and will reduce biological diversity to its lowest level since the last great extinction.

    Kolbert makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong. And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world. doclink

    Human Population Growth and Wildlife Extinction

    January 24, 2014, Center for Biological Diversity

    There are more than 7 billion people on the planet, and we're adding 227,000 more every day. The toll on wildlife is impossible to miss: Species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate -- the fastest rate since dinosaurs roamed the planet. doclink

    Attenborough's Life Stories: Our Fragile Planet

    February 6, 2013, Public Broadcasting System (PBS)   By: Global DD February 06, 2013 HH Attenborough's Life Stories: Our Fragile Planet

    Population has doubled since Attenbourough started exploring the world's wilderness and its creatures and there is no doubt that this world is threatened.

    This wonderful video is available streaming online through February 13 only.


    Australia: Deadline Nears for Action to Protect Great Barrier Reef

    January 23, 2013, Reuters

    The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is home to 400 types of coral, 240 species of birds and 1,500 species of fish and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Plus it is worth A$6 billion annually to the local economy in tourism.

    UNESCO warned Australia last June concerning development on the reef and said swift action must be taken to protect the reef from significant threats from industrial projects. The February deadline set by UNESCO approaches.

    Existing and proposed industrialization along the Queensland coast, including the country's largest coal producer are threatening the environment near the reef. "The Australian government is committed to ensuring the best possible protection and management for the reef," a spokesman said, adding that the government had acknowledged UNESCO's recommendations. doclink

    Rapid Urban Expansion Threatens Biodiversity

    October 26, 2012

    Researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, or 1.2 million square kilometers - or 20,000 American football fields per day. A brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities globally before a boom in infrastructure construction transforms urban land cover. The study was in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The urban growth will include the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities, and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally. An estimated $25 - $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide by 2030, with $100 billion a year in China alone. This large investment will make reversal impossible and have lasting impacts on biodiversity.

    Karen Seto, lead author of the study and associate professor in the urban environment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies said: "We have a huge opportunity to shape how cities develop and their environmental impacts."

    Nearly half of the increase in urban expansion is forecasted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55% of the regional total. In China, urban expansion is expected to create a 1,100-mile coastal urban corridor from Hangzhou to Shenyang. In India, urban expansion will be clustered around seven state capital cities, with large areas of low-probability growth forecasted for the Himalaya region where many small villages and towns currently exist.

    Africa's urban land cover will grow 590% from 2000 to 2030, concentrating in: the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    In North America, 78% of the total population is already in urban areas, but urban land cover will still nearly double by 96,000 square miles by 2030.

    48 of the 221 countries will experience only negligible amounts of urban expansion.

    "We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations."

    Urban expansion will encroach on or destroy habitats for 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species and 25 bird species. The researchers estimate the aboveground, biomass carbon losses associated with land-clearing from new urban areas in the pan-tropics to be 5% of the tropical deforestation and land-use-change emissions.

    "Urbanization is often considered a local issue, however our analysis shows that the direct impacts of future urban expansion on global biodiversity hotspots and carbon pools are significant," said Seto. "The world will experience an unprecedented era of urban expansion and city-building over the next few decades. The associated environmental and social challenges will be enormous, but so are the opportunities." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: no mention of the impact on agricultural lands.

    Rapid Urban Expansion Threatens Biodiversity

    September 25, 2012   By: Karen Seto and Lucy Hutyra

    In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles or 1.2 million square kilometers. $25 - $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide, $100 billion a year in China alone.

    75% of the urban expansion is predicted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55% of the regional total.

    Africa's urban land cover will grow the fastest, at 590% above the 2000 level: concentrating along the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    In North America, where 78% of the total population lives in urban areas, urban land cover will nearly double by 2030.

    "We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations." doclink

    U.S.: The Biggest Gamble in Vegas

    August 24, 2012, Center for Biological Diversity

    A pipeline project by the Southern Nevada Water Authority that envisions unsustainably siphoning more than 37.1 billion gallons of groundwater per year from at least four valleys in central Nevada and pumping it 300 miles to the Las Vegas Valley received bad marks in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) environmental impact statement.

    Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity said "It's really no exaggeration to say that the natural, cultural and social heritage of central Nevada is at grave risk from this project."

    More than 137,000 acres of wildlife habitat will be permanently destroyed or changed because of the lowering of groundwater tables -- by up to 200 feet in many areas. This will drive declines in species like mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, sage grouse and Bonneville cutthroat trout. Most at risk will be species associated with the springs and wetlands that will dry up as the water beneath them is sucked away.

    Many of these species are often found in only one or two springs. As the springs are dewatered and flows are altered and eventually stopped, at least 25 species of Great Basin springsnails will be pushed to, or over, the edge of extinction. Also affected will be 14 species of desert fish such as the Moapa dace and White River springfish; frogs and toads will fare little better, with four species severely threatened by the dewatering.

    The plan envisions a multilayered scheme of monitoring to detect impacts, followed by mitigation measures to reduce the impacts. This places the Water Authority in the driver's seat to do the monitoring and then faithfully report and address it Second, it assumes that any observed impacts can be successfully addressed, while sound science suggests that the lag time between pumping and observation of the impact makes this virtually impossible.

    Finally, it assumes that the Water Authority will have adequate funds available to conduct the monitoring and successfully mitigate damage. Experiences from a similar situation in the Owens Valley of California reveal that tens of millions of dollars are spent annually to mitigate just one problem: dust. "Promises to mitigate the impacts are frankly laughable," Mrowka said.

    "There's still time for the Authority to table the project and begin the much-needed dialogue with the community on better options for meeting the Las Vegas Valley's future water needs - high among them sensible growth management," said Mrowka doclink

    Karen Gaia: Just another example of the dominance of the human species by way of human numbers and over consumption.

    Scientists Warn of Emerging Fungal Peril

    April 12, 2012, Planet Earth Online

    Fungal diseases are a major threat not just to wild plants and animals, but to us, according to a paper in Nature. More and more of these killer fungi are appearing, and they're increasingly attacking animals. We're already heading for huge fungal damage to vital crops and ecosystems over the coming decades.

    Persistent low-level infection of fungi already destroy at least 125 million tonnes a year of rice, wheat, maize and potatoes and soybeans, worth $60 billion. In 2009-10, this lost food could have fed some 8.5% of the world's people. Simultaneous epidemics in several major crops could mean billions starve.

    Emerging fungal epidemics already account for 72% of extinctions from disease - more than bacteria and viruses put together. Amphibians are being wiped out by a deadly chytrid fungus that's been spread by the global animal trade; at least 500 species are thought to be at risk. 40% of amphibian species in some parts of Central America have been wiped out in just a few years.

    Likewise, bats are being struck down by so-called White Nose Syndrome, which has spread all over North America since it was first spotted in 2006. Because bats eat insects that would otherwise attack crops, White Nose Syndrome could end up costing farmers some $3.7 billion a year.

    In the UK the invading North American signal crayfish is wiping out the native white-clawed crayfish with the help of a fungus-like disease that the invader tolerates but that's deadly to its indigenous rival.

    In addition, fungi are adept at swapping genes between themselves, so when we bring different species into contact, dangerously virulent combinations can result.

    New fungal diseases keep appearing, affecting organisms from bees and corals to sea otters. If we don't do more to control them, we could see species wiped out all over the planet.

    By tightening rules on the transport of plants and animals around the world, we could limit these pathogens' spread into new areas. We need to cut down the amount of living material we transport around the world, quarantining what we do transport far more rigorously, and doing more to stop the illegal trade in plants and animals. doclink

    Biodiversity: Next Steps: More of Us = Fewer of Them

    November 26, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    As the world's population counter keeps ticking higher, more and more species are being driven toward extinction.

    Just as we reached 7 billion the Vietnamese Javan rhino, the last mainland Asian rhino, was declared extinct. And this past week, its related western black rhino species in Africa was also declared extinct. Like so many rare species, these rhinos simply ran out of places to live. More humans meant fewer of them, until the last of their kind vanished.

    We recently posted a new report on 10 U.S. plants and animals threatened by the effects of overpopulation: loss of habitat, freshwater scarcity, pesticide bombing and an ever-expanding network of roads that keep the threats traveling: . Find out about imperiled species near you with our online Species Finder:

    We're also hashing it out and keeping you updated on a new Twitter feed, @EndSpcsCondoms. doclink

    U.S.: Don't Let Nevada Water Hogs Drain the Great Basin

    November 22, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Great Basin ecosystem in Nevada and Utah is under attack by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is trying to export groundwater via a 300-mile pipeline to Las Vegas -- a city hoping to expand in the driest desert in North America.

    This is obviously a bad bet, and we need to say so right away.

    The proposal would cut the lifeline of a wild area the size of Vermont. Species that are dependent on the Great Basin ecosystem, like the imperiled greater sage grouse (pictured here), would be hurt, while some fish and springsnails that live nowhere else on Earth could die off completely.

    Please ask the Nevada state water engineer to deny the Southern Nevada Water Authority's applications.

    There are better options for securing water for Las Vegas than laying waste to the heart of the Great Basin.

    Click on the link in the headline to see more and to take action. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More people and more consumption means less water for wildlife, particularly in a desert state like Nevada.

    Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Overpopulation; as Global Population Hits 7 Billion, Panthers, Polar Bears, Sea Turtles Being Crowded Off Planet

    October 31, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    As the human population grows and rich countries continue to consume resources at voracious rates, we are crowding out, poisoning and eating all other species into extinction. The Center for Biological Diversity has released a list of the top 10 plants and animals in the United States facing extinction from pressure caused by overpopulation.

    Some, like the Florida panther and Mississippi gopher frog, are rapidly losing habitat as the human population expands. Others are seeing their habitat dangerously altered - like the small flowering sandplain gerardia in New England - or, like the bluefin tuna, are buckling under the weight of massive overfishing. Still others, like the polar bear, are facing extinction because of fossil fuels driving catastrophic global warming.

    "Human overpopulation and overconsumption are simply taking away the land, air and water other creatures need to survive," Harwood said. "The world population is expected to hit 10 billion by the end of this century. Left unchecked, this massive population growth will have a disastrous effect on biodiversity around the globe - biodiversity we need to maintain the web of life we've always depended on."

    The Center launched its 7 Billion and Counting campaign last month to raise awareness of global population growth and its connection to the accelerating extinction of species. As part of the campaign, the Center is giving out 100,000 of its hugely popular Endangered Species Condoms this year to more than 1,200 volunteer distributors around the country.

    Click on the link in the headline to see a description of all 10 threatened plants and animals. doclink

    Warming Planet Pushing Species Out of Habitats Quicker Than Expected

    August 18, 2011, Live Science

    In a study of regions across the globe, it was found that far more than 2,000 species of plants and animals had strayed from their native habitats. They were moving toward the poles, at an average rate of 11 miles (17.6 km) per decade. They were also moving upward at an average rate of about 40 feet (12.2 meters) per decade. These estimates are about three times farther than previous measures.

    In the areas of greatest temperature increases, species were moving farther and faster, researchers found.

    "There wasn't any clear overall pattern that different types of species were responding more than others," said study researcher Chris Thomas, of the University of York in the United Kingdom. "The amount of change we are seeing is greater in the regions that have warmed the most, the link to climate change is clear." . Within groups there may a wide range of behavior. For examples, in the avian population, the Cetti's warbler has moved to the north by more than 90 miles (150 km) while another bird, the Cirl bunting, moved south by 75 miles (120 km) because agriculture has disrupted its habitat.

    Habitat fragmentation and changing ranges of predators, prey and pollinators (for plants) also influence species' ability to survive in any specific habitat. If a species can't reach the next bit of livable habitat, they would be stuck where they are until climate changes led to their extinction.

    Moving to a new habitat is just one response to climate change. Many species are undertaking evolutionary changes in response to climate," Thomas said. "You don't have to just adapt with the physical conditions, but you need to compete with these new species" that have since moved into their newly warmed digs." doclink

    Predator Loss Can Start Food-Chain Reaction

    July 15, 2011, USA Today

    A paper by two dozen scientists in six countries, published in a recent edition of the journal Science suggests that humans' destruction of top predators is causing reverberations worldwide in ways not apparent even a decade ago.

    The loss of species at the top of the food chain has been happening either because humans believed they harmed livestock, competed for wild game or because ecosystems had become too fragmented.

    Overfishing led to declines of sea lions, the preferred food of killer whales, and they began eating sea otters, whose populations in Alaska's Aleutian Island s declined 90% from the late 1980s to 2005, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Worldwide, tigers have lost 93% of their historic range, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In the past three decades, numbers of African lions have fallen 48.5% to fewer than 40,000, says Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The destruction of lions in Africa resulted in an explosion in the baboon population. These primates carry diseases that crossed over and began infecting nearby humans.

    Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park to bring down elk and deer populations, allowing creekside willows to rebound, making a more fruitful environment for species living in and near the water.

    When whale populations crashed because of industrial whaling, there were less nutrients from their feces in the southern oceans and many ocean areas become much less able to support the simple animals and plankton on which the entire ecosystem was based.

    Wildebeest were almost wiped out by a human-introduced disease, rinderpest, in parts of Africa, which in turn led to a build-up of woody vegetation, resulting in devastating wildfires. doclink

    Scientists Try to Determine Whether Life on Earth is Quickly Heading Toward Extinction

    March 3, 2011, Merucry News

    Extinction levels comparable with those after the dinosaur-deleting asteroid impact of 65 million years ago, are predicted by scientists from UC Berkeley, whose report appears in Nature magazine. They say if current extinction rates continue unabated, and vulnerable species disappear, Earth could lose three-quarters of its species as soon as three centuries from now.

    Nicholas Matzke, a graduate student at UC Berkeley noted: "Once you lose species, you don't get them back. It takes millions of years to rebound from a mass extinction event." This means that not too far in the future, backyards might not be buzzing with bees, bombarded by seagulls or shaded by redwood trees.

    In recent history, we've lost the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon, the Javan tiger and the Japanese sea lion, and now, maybe the eastern cougar -- declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday. Amphibians, mammals, plants, fish -- none are immune to becoming extinct, courtesy of the human impact on fragile ecosystems.

    Only five times in the past half-billion years, have such mass extinctions occured, the best-known occuring 65 million years ago when an asteroid collided with Earth, sending fiery dust into the atmosphere and rapidly cooling the planet.

    Earth is currently on the brink of the sixth mass extinction. To determine whether current losses could equal these mass extinction rates, scientists compared recent rates with species die-offs during the Big Five, taking into account presently endangered species. They also looked at the number of species lost in recent history and found that while rates are dramatically higher than expected, the percentage of vanishing species is not elevated -- yet.

    Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, who was not involved in the study, said evidence of the sixth extinction is all around. For years, he studied the Bay Checkerspot butterfly on Stanford's campus -- but then, the butterfly disappeared from the campus, more than a decade ago. And, when Ehrlich journeyed to Morocco to sample a different Checkerspot species, he found no butterflies, just "sheep droppings and not one blade of grass."

    "Anywhere you go around the world," Ehrlich said, "If you're a field biologist, your sites and organisms are disappearing. " Marine mammals are particularly vulnerable but they haven't yet reached the point of no return. "There really is time to reverse habitat destruction or massive overexploitation of resources."

    Scientists say habitat destruction, global climate change, introducing invasive species, and population growth are contributing to losses.

    In addition to prioritizing species preservation, Ehrlich suggested starting with caps on human population growth and limiting resource consumption. "We could do something about it, but I don't see that we have the slightest inclination to," he said. doclink

    The Fall of the European Butterfly

    December 13, 2010, Environmental News Network

    Grassland butterfly populations have declined by 70% in the last 20 years, says a new study from Butterfly Conservation Europe.

    Butterfly decline is also a problem in other parts of the world, such as the giant swallowtail of Jamaica, the Atewa dotted border from Ghana, and the Oregon silverspot in the Pacific Northwest.

    In Europe, a "Red List of Butterflies" has been created to identify and keep track of all 482 butterfly species of butterflies in Europe. 9% are considered threatened, 10% are near threatened, and only 4% are actually increasing their populations.

    Data was taken from 3,000 sites in 15 countries. Researchers concluded that the main cause of population decline was the switch from small sustainable agriculture was being replaced by industrial farming. Large-scale industrial farming does not leave any open spaces along the periphery which contain flower-filled meadows where butterflies thrive.

    When people first cleared land for hay production and raising livestock, the butterfly population flourished; this is how most of Europe's grasslands were formed.

    Areas of most concern are Eastern Europe, where small-scale agriculture has fallen, and mountainous regions such as the Pyrenees, which are traditionally home to large butterfly populations. The researchers attributed most of the losses to the decline in grasslands on the continent. They also say this can be linked to declines in bees, spiders, birds, and several types of plants.

    Because they are so sensitive, butterflies make good indicators of a healthy ecosystem. They also play important roles in their ecosystem through their pollination activities. doclink

    Population Impacts and Biodiversity

    July 29, 2010, Survival Acres

    * 99% of Rhinos gone since'14.
    * 97% of Tigers gone since'14.
    * 90% of Lions gone since'93.
    * 90% of Sea Turtles gone since'80.
    * 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since'95.
    * 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since'50.
    * 80% of Antarctic Krill gone since'75.
    * 80% of Western Gorillas gone since'55.
    * 60% of Forest Elephants gone since'70.
    * 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since'85.
    * 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since'50.
    * 80% of Western Gorillas gone since'55.
    * 50% of Forest Bird Species will be gone in 50 years.
    * 40% of Giraffes gone since 2000.
    * 40% of ocean phytoplankton gone since'50. ...

    *Ocean plankton declines of 1% per year means 50% gone in 70 years, more than 1% is likely.
    *Ocean acidification doubles by 2050, triples by 2100.
    *30% of Marine Birds gone since'95.
    *70% of Marine Birds gone since'50.
    *28% of Land Animals gone since'70.
    *28% of All Marine Animals gone since'70.
    *Humans and livestock are 97% of earth's land-air vertebrate biomass.
    *10,000 years ago humans and livestock were a mere 0.01% of land-air vertebrate biomass.
    *Humans and livestock are now 97% of land-air vertebrate biomass.
    *Our crop and pasture lands caused 80% of all land vertebrate species extinctions. doclink

    World Fails to Meet Biodiversity Target

    May 9, 2010

    Analysis shows that biodiversity is being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems. It needs to be the year we start taking the issue seriously and increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet.

    Researchers found no evidence of a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity and noted that the pressures facing biodiversity continued to increase.

    Among the drivers of threats to biodiversity are human demands for food, water, energy and materials. The threats include climate change, pollution, habitat loss, as well as over-exploitation of resources and species.

    Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%. These losses are unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development. doclink

    High Arctic Species Plummeting Across the Board, Other Arctic Residents on the Rise

    March 18, 2010,

    Between 1970 and 2004 species in the high Arctic have declined by 26%. Scientists are concerned that environmental impacts such as climate change are worsening natural population fluctuations. Declining species include lemmings, red knot, and caribou.

    The Arctic is host to abundant and diverse wildlife populations, many of which migrate annually from all regions of the globe. The drop in the caribou population may be due a natural cycle or due to climate change. Some migratory species are also on the decline, such as Arctic shorebirds. Researchers are uncertain whether this is due to changes in the Arctic or to migration stops in the south.

    Loss of sea ice is also a concern. A number of high Arctic species, such as polar bears, narwhales, and ringed seals, employ sea ice to survive. Studies have shown declines in polar bear populations in some areas.

    However, when all the Arctic biomes are included species populations have actually risen by 16% in the past 34 years.

    Some migrating geese are on the rise due to a decline in hunting and increased agricultural waste in their wintering grounds. Marine animals such as sea otters, have rebounded after regulations have protected them from overharvesting and overfishing. Marine fish has also increased in the North Pacific, which researchers speculate is due to warming waters. However, sub Arctic species peaked in the 1980s and then began to decline.

    These results comes at a time for finding accurate indicators to monitor global biodiversity as governments strive to meet their targets of reducing biodiversity loss. doclink

    New Research Suggests Conservation Biologists Are Setting Minimum Wildlife Population Size Targets Too Low to Prevent Extinction

    October 13, 2009, Environmental News Network

    Populations of endangered species are unlikely to persist in the face of global climate change and habitat loss unless they number around 5,000 mature individuals or more, according to a new study, 'Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world' from University of Adelaide and Macquarie University (Australia).

    Before the 5,000 number was revealed, the '50/500' rule prevailed: least 50 adults are required to avoid the damaging effects of inbreeding, and 500 to avoid extinctions due to the inability to evolve to cope with environmental change.

    Conservation biologists aim to maintain tens or hundreds of individuals, when thousands are actually needed. The study found that populations smaller than about 5,000 had unacceptably high extinction rates.

    Conservation biologists worldwide are battling to prevent mass extinctions in the face of a growing human population and its associated impact on the planet.

    "Acceptance that more needs to be done if we are to stop 'managing for extinction' should force decision makers to be more explicit about what they are aiming for, and what they are willing to trade off, when allocating conservation funds.," said one of the researchers.

    The paper is available online at doclink

    Kenya's Lions Could Vanish Within 10 Years

    August 20, 2009, New Scientist

    Only 2000 lions are left in Kenya, which is losing 100 lions a year, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The country could have no wild lions at all in 10-20 years. Blamed are habitat destruction, disease and conflict with humans for the population collapse.

    Large lion populations of 50 to 100 prides are necessary to conserve genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding.

    A lion expert says that the decline of the big cats is due to the inexorable growth in human population and consequent conflict with people over livestock, rather than disease. People lace cattle corpses with insecticide in order to poison entire prides. This ends up killing hyenas and birds of prey too.

    Those who kill lions illegally are rarely punished. "Under current policy, there is no way for rural people to benefit from wildlife." .. "They get essentially no income from tourism, and the only other potential source of wildlife income - carefully regulated, high-paying trophy hunting - is prevented by the financial influence of American and British animal-rights lobbies."

    On average each lion eats livestock worth around $270 a year. Each of Kenya's 2000 surviving lions may be worth upwards of $17,000 per year in tourist revenues.

    Kenya is experiencing a very severe drought which drives ever-increasing numbers of people into wildlife areas in search of grazing and water supplies for their herds of livestock. doclink

    Humpback Whales on Rocky Road to Recovery; Endangered Species Success Story Will Be Thwarted If Ocean Acidification and Other Threats Not Addressed

    August 13, 2009, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Humpback whale could be removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, or downlisted to "threatened" status, if the National Marine Fisheries Service finds that their numbers have increased sufficiently.

    Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, but recent surveys have found that humpback whale populations are generally on an upward trend, up to an estimated 20,000 in the North Pacific now. Before commercial whaling, humpback-whale numbers may have exceeded 125,000, but whaling may have reduced the population by as much as 90%.

    Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity said: "Increasing numbers of humpback whales hold promise for recovery, but this Endangered Species Act success story could be reversed if we don't address other threats to the species, primarily the looming disaster of ocean acidification."

    Direct threats to the species include entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, offshore oil development, and military sonar. Also, carbon dioxide from fossil fuels has contributed to an increase of 30% in acidity of the oceans, affecting the humpbacks' reproduction and growth, as well as killing the plankton which the whales eat. Nearly every marine animal studied has had an adverse response to acidification.

    "Without quick action to reduce these threats, humpback whales still need the safety net of protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act."

    The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting information and accepting comments on the humpback-whale status review until October 11, 2009. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More people require more vehicles which emit more carbon dioxide and create other impacts on the planet unless something is done quickly.

    Ecuador: Almost Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Mates at 90

    July 21, 2009, Reuters

    in the Galapagos Islands, Lonesome George, well-known as the last remaining giant tortoise of his kind, may be a father soon, if the five unhatched eggs found in his pen produce hatchlings.

    Originating on Pinta island, the tortoise had shown little interest in reproducing since 1993, when two female tortoises of a different subspecies were introduced into his pen. At age 90, George is said to be in his sexual prime. The eggs were placed in an incubator from which they will hatch in 120 days if they are fertile.

    Last year the 198-pound George mated for the first time, but the eggs laid by one of his female companions turned out to be infertile.

    Tortoises were hunted for their meat to the point of extinction, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland. Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos. doclink

    Mekong Dolphins on the Brink of Extinction

    June 18, 2009, World Wildlife Federation

    On a stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos, the Irrawaddy dolphin population has suffered 88 deaths since 2003. 60% were calves under two weeks old. The latest population is estimated between 64 and 76 members.

    The dolphin's immune systems were suppressed, by environmental contaminants. doclink

    Center for Biological Diversity Announces Support for Global Population Speak Out

    February 26, 2009, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Center for Biological Diversity supports a collaborative effort to highlight overpopulation in efforts to restore the planet's ecological health. For many years human population size and growth has been the elephant in the room. Overpopulation is at the root of virtually all of the ecological threats facing our planet. Species extinction, pollution, resource depletion, and climate change can all be traced back to unsustainable population growth.

    The Center has won protection for more than 350 species and hundreds of millions of acres of habitat. But that could be overwhelmed as too many people compete for too few resources and create too many burdens for ecosystems. The correlation between human population growth and species extinction has been clearly documented.

    Humans use up to 40% of the world's Net Primary Productivity, a measure of energy from the sun that is converted into life-sustaining resources by photosynthesis. A range of extinctions can be tied directly to the energy, housing, food, and other resource demands of our population. The extinction crisis threatens to grow exponentially with climate change, and energy demands of a rapidly growing global populace. doclink

    World Will Miss 2010 Target to Stem Biodiversity Loss, Experts Say; Growing Water Needs, Mismanagement Leading to 'Catastrophic Decline' in Freshwater

    October 11, 2008, Diversitas

    Experts convening for the international DIVERSITAS program in Cape Town for a landmark conference say the world will miss its agreed target to stem biodiversity loss by next year.

    At the 6th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2003, some 123 countries committed to "achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the local, national and regional levels, as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth."

    "We will certainly miss the target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and therefore also miss the 2015 environmental targets within the U.N. Millennium Development Goals to improve health and livelihoods for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people," says Georgina Mace, DIVERSITAS Vice-Chair. "Biodiversity is fundamental to humans having food, fuel, clean water and a habitable climate."

    "Since 1992, even the most conservative estimates agree that an area of tropical rainforest greater than the size of California has been converted mostly for food and fuel. Species extinction rates are at least 100 times those in pre-human times and are expected to continue to increase."

    The DIVERSITAS conference, held Oct. 13-16, this year, calls for new more science-based targets. "Meaningful action should have started years ago. The next best time is now."

    Scientists are developing "GEO-BON" to track biodiversity trends and evaluate the status of everything from genes to ecosystem services. The lack of such information became acutely apparent during preparation of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and in formulating the CBD's 2010 targets.

    There is talk about creating a body akin to that of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called IPBES (the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), which would require UN General Assembly approval.

    The conference considered how to demonstrate and quantify the economic costs and impacts on human welfare globally and locally due to biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation.

    Massive mismanagement and growing human needs for water are causing freshwater ecosystems to collapse, making freshwater species the most threatened on Earth with extinction rates 4 to 6 times higher than their terrestrial and marine cousins, according to conference experts.

    While freshwater ecosystems cover only 0.8% of the earth's surface, they contain roughly 10% of all animals, including more than 35% of all vertebrates.

    Freshwater species in rivers, lakes, ground waters, and wetlands provide a diverse array of vital natural services - more than any other ecosystem type.

    Billions of people are at risk as biodiversity loss affects water purification, disease regulation, subsistence agriculture and fishing. By 2025, some experts say, not a single Chinese river will reach the sea except during floods with tremendous effects for coastal fisheries in China.

    Freshwater ecosystems and their species also absorb and bury about 7% of the carbon humans add annually to the atmosphere.

    The pace of extinctions is quickening in hot spot areas around the Mediterranean, in Central America, China and throughout Southeast Asia.

    To be studied are the ecological and economic risks of the rising global trade in wildlife; catastrophic biodiversity "tipping points," which complicate predictions; how biodiversity loss impacts rates of natural carbon sequestration and carbon cycling on land and in the ocean, the emergence of new human diseases from wildlife such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and H5N1 avian influenza.

    "The single outbreak of SARS cost US $30-50 billion and a truly pandemic H5N1 avian flu outbreak would cost an estimated US$300-800 billion," says Dr. Daszak. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: No mention of the cause of loss of biodiversity: overpopulation. I think if they knew that the solution was to meet the unmet need for contraception and education, they would have at least mentioned it.

    Supreme Court Hears Case on Navy Sonar, Whales

    October 9, 2008, Los Angeles Times

    The Supreme Court was closely split on whether environmental laws can be used to protect marine mammals from the Navy's use of sonar. An administration lawyer urged the court to throw out a Los Angeles judge's order that requires the Navy to turn off its high intensity sonar whenever a whale or dolphin is within 1.2 miles of a ship.

    This order disrupts the Navy's war-game exercises. U.S. Solicitor Gen. Gregory Garre disputed claims that the sonar causes harm to the whales.

    But lawyer Richard B. Kendall said beaked whales dive deeply to escape the sound, and sometimes suffer bleeding and death when they try to resurface. He also said the order has had a minimal impact on the Navy. Only on a few occasions have ships been forced to turn off their sonar.

    The case has turned into a major dispute over whether judges have the power to stop the government from conducting a crucial exercise because it had not carried out an environmental impact statement.

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered "Why couldn't you work this out?" rather than having a court resolve the dispute. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more people you have to defend, the more animals stand in the way of "human supremacy" and have to be sacrificed.

    U.S.: Endangered-Species Protections Reinstated for Gray Wolves

    July 21, 2008, Associated Press

    A federal judge ruled that wolves should be returned to the endangered-species list, derailing plans for wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The 2,000 or so gray wolves that inhabit the three states were removed from the endangered list in March; environmentalists sued to get them back on, saying populations were not yet stable. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, over 100 gray wolves have been killed by hunters in the days since they were delisted. The federal judge will decide if the relisting should be permanent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may appeal. doclink

    Canada: Ontario to Spare Boreal Forests

    July 14, 2008, Globe and Mail

    The government of Ontario will protect 225,000 square kilometres from development, one half of the boreal region in the far north. This land will be off limits to any resource projects and restricted to tourism and traditional aboriginal uses. Countries such as China and India are hungry for Canada's natural resources and it is imperative that the province strike the balance between conservation and development.

    Virtually everyone agrees that the environment needs to be protected. But some accuse the government of creating confusion as the plan contains few specific details and that will take years to implement.

    The boundaries of the areas have not been determined, but they will form a connected network of conservation lands across the far north.

    With the remaining boreal lands, the government will work to create a plan for sustainable development, a process expected to take 10-to-15 years to complete.

    It is one of the world's largest intact ecosystems, with more than 200 sensitive species of animals and birds.

    The forest has remained undisturbed by human activity since the glaciers retreated. But as companies go farther afield in their search for natural resource riches, pressure is growing to open up the wilderness.

    First nations will gets a greater say in any development projects on their traditional lands as well as a share of the riches. Native leaders have been pushing the government to change the province's mining laws to better protect their interests.

    The region absorbs about 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. doclink

    US Florida: Deal Could Restore the Everglades

    June 25, 2008, Los Angeles Times

    The buyout of U.S. Sugar's lands between Lake Okeechobee and the protected territory should allow the land to revert to marshes and waterways soon after sugar operations cease.

    U.S. Sugar will continue to lease the land for the next six years to fulfill commitments. A recent federal court ruling faulted the company's practice of pumping dirty water back into Lake Okeechobee.

    The deal had been quietly in the works for the last seven months. Negotiations on the price should be concluded within 75 days. The agreement was praised as "an achievement of breathtaking significance and priceless value."

    Backers of the package said the lost sugar jobs would be absorbed by other cane growers and millers as well as an expected surge in construction and eco-tourism, once the Everglades recover their original splendor.

    The Everglades have suffered since white settlers first came to Florida in the 1890s. Once spanning 4,000 square miles, the Everglades now cover less than half that. Only about 10% of the region's original 2 million wading birds survive, and the ecosystem is now home to 67 threatened or endangered species.

    The surprise Everglades deal was a stunning comeback for the governor among environmentalists, who lavished praise for his vision and pursuit of the landmark purchase.

    Recovery of the land could be expected "within a handful of years" once the damaging influences of polluted runoff and canal dredging ceased.

    As sugar cane farming and milling wind down, phosphate-laden runoff will gradually be eliminated, allowing water managers to protect the fragile coastal estuaries from damaging freshwater flows. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Once and awhile it is nice to hear a success story amongst all the ones about environmental destruction.

    Climate Change Threatens Two-thirds of California 's Unique Plants, Study Says

    June 25, 2008, Los Angeles Times

    Some 2,300 species of California 's unique plants could be wiped out by the end of the century because of rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.

    The species that cannot migrate fast enough to higher altitudes or cooler coastal areas could face extinction. As the climate changes, many of these plants will have no place to go.

    Half of the plant species that are unique to the continental US grow only in the Golden State, and under likely climate scenarios, many would have to shift 100 miles or more from their current range -- a difficult task given slow natural migration rates and obstacles presented by suburban sprawl.

    The study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed on-line journal PLoS One, is the first to analyze the effect of climate change on all of the plants unique to one of the world's most biologically diverse areas. Previous models have focused on fewer species in areas such as the eastern United States, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

    "The climate is changing 10 times faster than it did during the last ice ages," said ecologist Scott Loarie, who has a doctorate from Duke University and who conducted the study over five years with Ackerly and other collaborators. "The first thing we need to do is to reduce the pace of change."

    The study, which was based on more than 80,000 specimens, was hailed as groundbreaking by leading scientists in the field. "It is a timely analysis of the likely fate of the plants of California in the face of climate change," said Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and coauthor of seminal texts on California flora.

    And in Southern California, given water shortages and habitat disruption, he added, "lots of the populations are right on the edge. . . . The balance could easily be tipped so we could lose many of them in a very short period of time."

    As California 's unique species migrate, they could be separated from the creatures that pollinate them. Animals could be divided from the plants on which they depend, the researchers noted.

    "Individual plants can't pick up and fly away like birds," Ackerly said. "A seed grows into a tree. Then the adult tree drops another seed, which can be carried by the wind or an animal. And that seed grows into another tree."

    The state may also have to set aside new refuges and corridors, and prepare to move some plants if necessary. "Planning for plant refugees will become a new but important concept for natural reserves to think about," said biologist Brent Mishler, director of the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley, the state's most important flora collection.

    Less than 10% of the state's original coastal sage-scrub land and less than 1% of its native grassland remain intact.

    Coast redwoods may range farther north, while California oaks could disappear from Central California in favor of cooler weather in the Klamath Mountains along the Oregon border. Many plants may no longer be able to survive in the northern Sierra Nevada or in the Los Angeles Basin.

    Plants of northern Baja California will migrate into San Diego County ranges. The Central Valley could become the preferred habitat for plants of the Sonoran Desert.

    The study looks at eight scenarios that used different rates of warming and species mobility. There were uncertainties in the analysis, but the climate is outpacing these plants.

    Under the worst-case scenario, plant diversity would decrease by as much as 25%, and 66% of all species unique to California would suffer more than an 80% decrease in range.

    In the most optimistic scenario, diversity might increase along the state's northwest and central coasts. But many species would disappear from Southern California and the Northern Sierra.

    If a plant loses 80% of its range it is hard to say if that plant is extinct or not, but in a hot year, that plant's gone.

    This is a wake-up call for all Californians that global change impacts on our environment are more than just a theoretical issue. doclink

    Bangladesh: Saving the Tigers

    June 9, 2008, The New Nation

    Activists, politicians and the general public in Bangladesh are demanding protection of nature. The question now arises: like whether nature really needs help and whether damage to the environment does exist in the form of global warming, destruction of wetland and forest, and other problems that result from human activities.

    Then we ask why should we save the tigers and nature in Bangladesh when most Bangladeshis are struggling to put their both ends meet? We need to save nature and the tigers because we have cultural and religious connections and responsibility towards nature, because it will reduce natural disaster and its impacts and because it will help all of us.

    Environmental damage incurs a heavy cost on human societies and animals. Environmental damage can lead to many diseases such as asthma, dengue, malaria, jaundice, diarrhea, typhoid and many other ailments. It is the poor that usually suffer from pollution rather than the rich. The loss of productivity of workers due to diseases is an added cost on the economy.

    Other issues like loss of cultivable land, increased severity and frequency of natural disasters continue to inflict severe economic and political blows. It should be noted that some 52% of Bangladesh's labor force is connected with agriculture. Any negative impact on it would spell disaster for the poor and over at least half of Bangladesh. Ensuring a safe habitat for the tiger will allow us to have a sustainable and productive economy.

    The tiger is as Bangladeshi as every human being on this piece of land. If they don't have a domain to live on then I would suggest we should cease to call ourselves and our cricket the "Tigers".

    About 85%, of Bangladeshis follow Islam. The Holy Qur'an and Hadith have instructions on caring for the environment, planting trees and responsibility to animals and other creations of Allah and warn about exploiting nature. Yet, many Muslims are apathetic towards taking care of their environment. Hindus comprise the largest minority and nature is a big part of their religion. However, even Hindus have little concern over the environment now. We are, rejecting Bangali culture and desecrating our religions in the process of decimating the unique Bangladeshi flora and fauna.

    Trees are oxygen factories and carbon storage tanks. Forests help moderate the local as well as global climate. For a sustainable natural environment, a country must have at least 25% of its total area covered by forests, only 14% of Bangladesh is forest.

    Land is very precious in Bangladesh and even a little loss is far too big for us to bear. The Sunderbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Nevertheless, it is constantly being shrunk through illegal logging. It is also under threat from the rising sea levels to which the so-called "developed nations" have a disproportionately high contribution.

    Lastly, saving the tigers helps us all. Tigers are very smart, powerful and dangerous animals. They are the biggest cats on earth. While they have the strength and cunning to hunt humans, they usually ignore humans and prefer their natural prey like the "cheetal" deer and water buffalo. The Bengal tiger is on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction brought about by man.

    The ideology of "Man vs Nature" prevails. This type of selfish, arrogant and downright irresponsible doctrine has been "borrowed" from the elites of the West where their ideologies are increasingly being shunned.

    If we save the tiger we save our forests. It will act as buffer from natural calamities and help ease food crisis. Humans have the intelligence and means to help the environment that will eventually benefit them. Scientists say more than 90% of the plant and animal life that appeared on earth became extinct. Most of these species became extinct before humans appeared on earth according to these scientists.

    As you destroy your environment, you are bound to destroy yourself. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Nothing is said about population. The more people there are, the more there will be conflict between people and wildlife. Bangladesh has a good family planning program, but perhaps not enough people know about it.

    Australia: Fears for Penguin Colony

    April 22, 2008, Age

    A penquin colony living in St Kilda will not get increased protection from the contaminants that will be disturbed this week by the channel deepening project, which includes a removal of the riverbed including an underground sewer owned by Melbourne Water.

    With dredging in the contaminated parts of the Yarra River to begin, the environment group Earthcare at St Kilda has stepped-up calls for the Port of Melbourne and the Government to increase monitoring of the penguins.

    Earthcare said that the sediments contain lead, mercury and DD. Planning Minister Madden recommended the St Kilda penguins be given extra protection. A Department of Sustainability and Environment spokeswoman said a monitoring program on penguins at Phillip Island was deemed sufficient, they will be monitored by weight, and other studies of the primary source of food for the penguins and that research showed that the St Kilda colony would not be adversely affected by dredging. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: same old thing: technology will fix it. But always overlooking that technology takes money and the money isn't always available.

    California's Status as Wildlife State Threatened by Growing Population

    March 31, 2008, Los Angeles Daily News

    California boasts more species than found nowhere else. This biodiversity is stressed by the state's enormous population and further threatened by continuing population growth.

    California's biological diversity arises from the varied landscapes and climates found on the geologically active western edge of the North American continent. California is also the state with the most imperiled wildlife.

    When overpopulation and biodiversity collide, biodiversity invariably suffers. More than 800 species in the state are now at risk. The major stresses impacting California's wildlife and habitats, include water management, invasive species, overgrazing, recreational pressures and climate change. Increasing housing, services, transportation, and other infrastructure place ever-greater demands on the state's land, water, and other natural resources.

    California's population will swell to 60 million by 2050.

    The spread of Homo sapiens is riding roughshod over hundreds of other life forms that have made California their home for eons.

    On the Central Coast, urbanized acreage expanded about 20%. Crowded and costly coastal areas have forced development inland, in areas once dominated by agriculture and large ranches.

    You don't have a conservation policy unless you have a population policy.

    Successive bipartisan commissions all recommended that the US needs to stabilize its population and control immigration or forfeit its environment, including landscape and wildlife.

    Even with conservation planning, growth and development will eliminate important habitats.

    If Californians allow the state's population to hit 60 million in 2050, a large number of endangered species will have vanished forever. doclink

    Congo, Democratic Republic of the: Gorillas, Guns and Blogs

    March 25, 2008, Environmental Graffiti

    Rangers on patrol were ambushed by the Mai Mai rebels, and one of them was killed. These rangers have dedicated their lives to the protection of DR Congo's Mountain Gorillas. Their relationship to these peaceful creatures is no different from any mother to her children. Until the recent resurgence of fighting in Eastern Congo, the rangers would venture out every day to track the gorillas and mark their observations.

    When the rebel leader refused to disarm his soldiers, violence broke throughout the region preventing any monitoring of the Gorilla Sector. Only 700 of this endangered species remain.

    More than 370,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in eastern DR Congo, and thousands more were trying to escape outbreaks of violence. The ranger named Innocent has been protecting gorillas for over 10 years and has witnessed 100 fellow rangers brutally murdered my militant factions.

    Wildlife Direct was established to provide support to conservationists via the use of blogs. This year alone, approximately half a million dollars has been raised through the Gorilla Protection blog. The money goes directly to the recipients, with no administration fee.

    The human population is in dire straits as a result of attacks and unbelievable acts of human atrocities. Hundreds of thousands of people are again on the move, many hundreds have been killed, more still have been injured, children conscripted into the armies and women raped and brutalized.

    Most of the long term damage is a result of the long duration of these wars. The devastation is caused in part by the war, in part because the human population is displaced, hungry, afraid and desperate.

    In 23 nations, the total cost of Africa's 20 or more wars in recent decades have robbed the continent of $300 billion a year.

    The war in eastern Congo has prevented any tourism. These gorillas represent economic value to the Congo. Tourism could generate 21 million dollars per year for the Wildlife Authority from visitation to 15 groups of mountain gorillas alone. Rwanda is doing brisk gorilla tourism business. It's driven by the mountain gorillas which remain, the main attraction. The industry is so important that gorillas have become a national icon.

    Mountain gorillas are confined to four national parks, separated into two forest blocks no more than 45 kilometers apart and comprising approximately 590 sq km of medium altitude forest.

    One population of mountain gorillas inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A census in 2002 recorded 310-315 here. The second population is in the habitat shared by Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcano National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park -Southern Sector (DRC). The Virunga population numbers at least 358 and has grown by 11% in the past 12 years. However, few months ago, the slaughter of 7 gorillas was a wake up call.

    The challenges to conservation in the Virungas are some of the hardest in the world. In addition to armed militias, poachers, charcoal traders and illegal land invasions, the primary threat to mountain gorillas comes from forest clearance as the region's growing human population struggles to eke out a living.

    The charcoal trade is major industry in Virunga National Park, $30 million a year, and many individual, communities, military, and even some rangers become corrupt. Those at the Congolese wildlife agency were suspected of being involved. Gorillas were killed as act of sabotage to discredit conservation in the park.

    Blogging about protecting gorillas has been critical for the rangers in Virunga. After years of working in isolation, the guardians can communicate with supporters all over the world. This has led to an increased global awareness of the threats facing the gorillas. doclink

    Death of the Bees: GMO Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America

    March 25, 2008, Global Research

    There are many reasons given to the decline in Bees, but one that matters most is the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and "Terminator Seeds" that are being endorsed by governments and utilized as our agricultural needs of survival.

    Genetically modified seeds are produced by biotech conglomerates who manipulate government agricultural policy with a view to dominance in the agricultural industry. American conglomerates have created seeds that reproduce only under certain conditions, often linked to the use of their own brands of fertilizer and/or insecticide.

    The genetic modification leads to the concurrent genetic modification of the flower pollen. When the pollen becomes genetically modified or sterile, the bees will become malnourished and die of illness due to the lack of nutrients and the interruption of the digestive capacity of what they feed on.

    There are arguments that the blame be placed on mites, pesticides, or cell phone radiation, but digestive shutdown due to hard material in the digestive tract that compromises the immune system points to GMO flower pollen.

    This increased epidemic of the bee colony collapse has risen significantly since the use of GMO in our foods. It is also suspect in the rise of new cases of medical ailments in humans such as colon cancer, obesity, heart disease, etc.

    The Ecological Impact of horizontal gene transfer and increase of rampant disease is not fully examined and if so, is kept silent by these Conglomerates. Organic farming is relatively untouched as the bee crisis. The economic impact that the scarcity of bees will potentially have on our society is very worrisome. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: another factor mentioned elsewhere is the gathering together of a large portion of a country's bees to pollinate large mono crops such as almonds. When the bees comingle with many other bees, this exposes them to any disease than may be present - similar to the global spread of epidemics among humans. The more people there are, the more corporations profit by economy of scale, and this makes GMO research and large scale food production even more profitable. Of course, the risks are often ignored until disaster strikes.

    Africa: The Life Anoxic

    March 18, 2008, Headway

    Lake Victoria was a heaven for evolutionary biologists. Over time the small fish, haplochromine cichlids, evolved into more than 500 distinct, variations, not found elsewhere. Then, in 1954, a few Nile perch were dumped into Victoria's waters, to bolster a flagging fishing industry. A bloody revolution churned beneath the waves. By the 1980s, the world's largest tropical lake swarmed with insatiable six-foot, 300-pound predators.

    While Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda enjoyed a booming Nile perch export market, the World Conservation Union ranked the voracious fish among the top 100 worst invasive species.

    The problem isn't just that Nile perch devour the lake's native species. The perch's higher oil content also set off a domino chain. Fishermen need to build bigger fires to dry their oily catch. Bigger fires require more firewood. Fewer trees increase erosion. Erosion boosts the lake's nutrient level as soil tumbles into the water. Eutrophied waters nurture an unnaturally dense plant population, which upsets the eco-balance. The result: an economically lucrative, but ecologically devastating situation.

    Lauren Chapman believes a balance can be struck between environmental conservation and maintaining an industry that annually exports over $200-million in perch. She studies how low oxygen levels lead to morphological, physiological and behavioural changes in Lake Victoria's native fish population.

    Twice a year the McGill professor of biology has been setting up camp in Kibale National Park. In Uganda there's a lack of training resources, so international academics play an important role by training graduate students. Chapman makes expeditions to the Lake Victoria basin, as well as the region's swamps, crater lakes and rivers. She is particularly interested in low-oxygen stress, which occurs naturally in heavily vegetated swamps or the bottoms of deep lakes or flooded forests.

    East Africa's papyrus swamps are hypoxic and, for Chapman, a useful model system for exploring adaptations to low-oxygen stress. The researchers are exploring the role of oxygen in the evolution of biological diversity in fish. This is very relevant to Victoria's crisis. "Increased population density, expanding agriculture, deforestation, are a problem in the Lake Victoria basin, which serves 30 million people. Large pieces of the lake bottom are permanently anoxic; these sometimes upwell, leading to fish kills.

    Chapman and her colleagues discovered that Nile perch are sensitive to hypoxia, allowing some native fish to find refuge in hypoxic wetlands bordering the lake. The Nile perch is heavily fished, and she's watched certain cichlids recover. In a Victoria satellite lake touched by the Nile perch, Chapman has seen the cichlid population go from almost nothing in the early 1990s to regaining their place as a major player in the food web. It's really important to look at these systems for a long time, which is hard to do when a lot of funding is directed toward shorter-term projects. doclink

    Agriculture and Biodiversity: Challenges and Opportunities

    March 15, 2008, GreenBiz

    Cultivated land covers approximately 24% of the world's land area. Partly or fully irrigated agriculture claims 70% of the fresh water supplies and accounts for over 3% of global employment.

    Agriculture has a high level of dependence on the whole range of ecosystem services.

    Historically, agriculture led to the creation of new plant and seed strains, attracted new animal species and fashioned fresh habitats for biodiversity. Climate change is leading to desertification and a growth in the number of alien invasive species is threatening biodiversity. There is a growing demand from the growing world population.

    Making land productive often helps to attract greater biodiversity. Land that was once considered unproductive often supports a high number of species, but deforestation has been a significant driver of biodiversity and ecosystem loss.

    As populations are becoming wealthier, the demand for protein such as meat and milk products is going up.

    It is estimated that world cereal stocks are currently at their lowest peacetime levels for more than two decades. The U.N. estimates that, for the first time, the global urban population has outstripped the rural one. In addition, the quest for carbon-neutral energy sources, water scarcity, global food sourcing, put further pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity.

    Biodiversity is fundamental to agriculture, food production and sustainable development.

    The agricultural sector face diminishing supplies or rising costs of key resources and inputs.

    Other potential challenges include governmental restrictions on access to biodiversity. As the world's population continues to grow, it would be unrealistic to set past species diversity on cultivated land as a desired target. Land is limited and further encroachment not sustainable. Agriculture has to be made more effective on the land already cropped.

    The major challenge is to increase agricultural yield while conserving biodiversity, ecosystems. The key is sustainable agriculture that needs to be managed while supporting biodiversity and ecosystem health. Low-tillage avoids plowing the soil and avoids soil erosion and improves water retention. Farmers are the stewards of the agricultural landscape, its supporting ecosystems and biodiversity.

    Some companies are working to develop crop technologies that make agricultural production more effective while respecting biodiversity.

    Ssolutions include energy and water-efficient irrigation techniques, energy-efficient harvesting mechanisms, etc. Examples include paying farmers for margin management, watershed protection or planting cover crops to prevent soil erosion, trading environmental carbon emissions, wetland mitigation credits, or even biodiversity restoration. Certification schemes could also result in biodiversity and ecosystem gains. Companies need the technologies to contribute towards sustainable agriculture. They need to gain an economic return on investment. doclink

    Namibia: Trophy Hunters Bring in Millions

    March 10, 2008, Africa News Service

    In Namibia hunting quotas in the past two years earned the conservancies around N$11 million per year. It is estimated that income from trophy hunting is expected to be around N$500 million.

    Trophy hunting is listed as one of the ministry's achievements in the past 10 years which include environmental protection, sustainable land management conservation of species and habitats and community-based natural resource management and tourism.

    Namibia's protected area network was expected to cover 17% of the country. Around 36% of Namibia is under some form of conservation management.

    Namibia has 29 vegetation types, of which 21 have at least 10% of their area within the protected area, six of the country's biomes have at least 20% of their areas protected while 32% of each wetlands habitat fall within the protected areas.

    There are signs that rare and endangered species are increasing in number. In the northwest, the antelope population has increased while free ranging black rhinos are no longer subjected to poaching. The country has a healthy population of elephants with no incidences of poaching.

    Wildlife on freehold land has increased over the past decade and can support a quality wildlife-based tourism and trophy hunting.

    About 50 communal area conservancies have been formed covering more than 118704 square kilometres.

    During 2005 alone, community participants raked in N$26.1 million while private sector partners generated almost N$70 million.

    The community-based natural resource management programme builds skills, provides jobs and generates income at community level. doclink

    Humanity is Consuming Over 20 Per Cent More Natural Resources Each Year Than the Earth Can Produce

    March 8, 2008, The News

    The report in the WWF's (World Wide Fund for Nature) periodic update on the state of the world's ecosystems said humanity is now consuming over 20% more natural resources each year than the earth can produce. This leads to the destruction of ecological assets, on which the world's economy depends. The report shows that humanity's Ecological Footprint grew by 150% between 1961 and 2000.

    During the same period, the report shows a 40% decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species population. Ten years after the UN Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased by 8% per person, while in the middle and low income countries, it shrank by 8% per person.

    Consumption of fossil fuels increased by almost 700% between 1961 and 2001. But the planet is unable to absorb the resulting carbon-dioxide emissions that degrade the earth's ozone layer.

    We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate.

    The biggest culprit is the US. Although it has only 4.5% of the world's population, it consumes more than 29% of the world's annual output of renewable resources. The US has been urging developing countries to adopt sustainable development, but there is no sign of the US adopting such policies. With more than 120 million vehicles on its roads the US is also the biggest culprit when it comes to generating carbon-dioxide emissions.

    The global community has set targets for sustainability and biodiversity conservation. At the 2004 meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, governments agreed to set targets for creating networks of protected areas. All 191 member states of the UN have signed up to support the MDGs, which not only address the root causes of environmental degradation but include a specific goal on environmental sustainability.

    Some might argue that governments are wasting their time talking. The fact is that governments today are no further to achieving the MDGs than they were seven years ago.

    Populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species fell on an average by 40% between 1970 and 2000. Destruction of natural habitats, pollution, overfishing and the introduction of non-native animals, often drive out indigenous species.

    Trawlers and dredgers wreak destruction across the seabed, crushing entire ecosystems of corals, algae and crustaceans as they go. But will governments take heed? Or will they continue to look the other way? The forest species declined by about 15%, the marine species 35%, while the freshwater species dropped 55% over the 30-year period.

    The earth has about 11.4 billion hectares of productive land and sea space, after all unproductive areas are discounted. Divided between the current estimated global population of 6.4 billion, this total equates to 1.78 hectares per person.

    When the world's population was slightly less than 6 billion, the Ecological Footprint of the world's average consumer was 2.3 hectares, or 20% above the earth's capacity of 1.90 hectares per person versus 1.78 hectares per person today. In other words, humanity now exceeds the planet's capacity to sustain its consumption of renewable resources. doclink

    US Colorado: Local Lynx Survival in Doubt

    March 1, 2008, Durango Herald

    Federal wildlife officials will not designate land in Colorado as critical habitat for lynx. They are uncertain whether the habitat in Colorado will support a lynx population. The agency left Colorado out of its proposal to designate more than 40,000 square miles in six states as critical lynx habitat, despite the success of Colorado's reintroduction program. The agency's main concern was the decreasing number of litters born in the wild.

    Canada lynx were first released into the southern San Juan Mountains in 1999; today, about 150 radio-collared lynx roam throughout Colorado.

    The Fish and Wildlife Services' concerns are valid, in Colorado, it's still an experiment whether lynx are going to survive or not.

    The majority live on U.S. Forest Service land outside Durango. Their territory stretches from Durango north to Silverton and from Dolores east to Pagosa Springs.

    At Durango Mountain Resort, lynx are commonly spotted passing through the ski area. It seems to be an area that's very important for lynx.

    State biologists report they are in excellent health, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about a recent dip in litter numbers.

    Nearly 100 kittens were born in the wild in 2004 and 2005. Litter totals dropped to 11 in 2006 and hit zero in 2007. That was a surprise and the division will be watching litter sizes closely in the next few years. Biologists believe lynx can survive three years of low reproduction rates.

    Colorado has the habitat to allow lynx to survive well into the future.

    Environmentalists disagree, arguing that one of the best ways to protect lynx is to protect their habitat.

    On the one hand, the US Fish and Wildlife is going to designate critical habitat. On the other hand, they're saying we're not sure about the viability of lynx. Environmental groups will probably bring a lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife over the exclusion of Colorado and other areas from the proposal. Reintroduction efforts in Colorado will continue.

    We believe we can reach a sustainable population in Colorado. It can be 10, 20 years before we can really know. Our program won't change. doclink

    Southern California Edison to Build Nation's Largest Man-Made Kelp Forest

    February 9, 2008, FOXBusiness

    Southern California Edison has state approval to create a 150-acre kelp forest off San Clemente. The kelp forest is expected to produce as much as 50 tons of fish annually and enhance Southern California's marine recreation resources. SCE also is developing the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project that will serve as a protected spawning site for ocean fish.

    The reef and wetlands projects fulfill an environmental commitment when granted a permit to build the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The reef project ensures that, Edison's Nuclear Generating Station will have a positive impact on the local environment and will go on producing and nourishing local marine life.

    Water drawn into the plant from 3,500 feet offshore is cloudier due to wave action than the area 6,000 to 8,500 feet offshore where the cooling water is later discharged. As this cloudier water drifted southward toward the San Onofre Kelp bed, it would reduce sunlight and the size of that kelp forest. SCE proposed building the new reef to offset this possibility.

    SCE expects to complete work on the reef this summer.

    SCE engineers went to great lengths to design a system that would safeguard local marine life and protects 94% of the fish that would be trapped if a simple intake pipe were used. About 170 ports are located on the two discharge pipes stretching from about 6,000 to 8,500 feet into the ocean, dispersing the returning water across a large area. As a result, the water temperature is only two to three degrees different from the surrounding ocean. The intake pipe is placed where it is believed the fewest fish are found.

    The direct impact on fish was estimated to be about 50 metric tons. The indirect impact due to the loss of fish larvae is estimated to be about 2,200 metric tons. The reef and wetlands projects will more than offset this loss. doclink

    U.S.: Humans: the Number One Threat to Birds

    Alley Cat Allies

    Concern over the declining populations of certain bird species has generated debate about the most effective steps toward preserving and restoring those populations. The real cause of declining bird populations is the impact of the human species.

    The major cause of bird species loss is habitat destruction, caused by a myriad of human activities, including logging, crop farming, livestock grazing, mining, industrial and residential development, urban sprawl, road building, dam building, and pesticide use.

    Of 1,173 threatened bird species, habitat loss affected 83% of the species. Across the US, little land is left untouched by human development. Human activities have led to the extinction of 10% of the world's bird species, while in some locales, that number rises to 90%. Today more than a thousand bird species are listed as threatened, and between 500 and 600 of those will go extinct in the next 50 years.

    In the US, much of the impact is a result of growing population and faster-growing development of land. Between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. population grew by 33 million people, the greatest increase the country has ever seen. Future growth is predicted to add 27 million people each decade for the next 30 years.

    An analysis reveals that urbanized land increased by 47% between 1982 and 1997 and population in suburbs, increased twice as fast as in cities. By 2030, half of the buildings will have been built after the year 2000. With this level of growth, the loss of bird species - due to habitat destruction, pollution, and fragmentation - will continue for decades to come.

    The real danger to birds is humans. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we SHOULD care about the birds: after they go, humans will follow.

    Our Decrepit Food Factories

    December 15, 2007, New York Times*

    The word "sustainability" has gotten such a workout lately that the whole concept is in danger of floating away on a sea of inoffensiveness, and we must re-examine it's true meaning.

    To call a practice or system unsustainable means is that the practice or process can't go on indefinitely. Critics have been speaking of modern agriculture as "unsustainable" though what form the "breakdown" might take or when it might happen has never been certain. But if a system is unsustainable the signs of breakdown may show up in the most unexpected times and places.

    The methicillin-resistant staph posed a threat mostly to elderly patients. But a more virulent strain is now killing young and healthy people who have not set foot in a hospital. No one is yet sure how or where this strain evolved, but some researchers are looking elsewhere for its origin, to concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

    At at least 70% of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms. Without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced as we practice it could not be sustained. Sooner or later, the profligate use of these antibiotics would lead to the evolution of bacteria. Recent studies found that confinement pig operations have become reservoirs of MRSA. Honeybees, have their own epidemic. Beekeepers in 24 states were reporting losses of between 20 and 80% of their bees. Suspects include a virus, agricultural pesticides and a parasitic mite. They've become vulnerable to new infectious agents.

    You need look no farther than a California almond orchard to understand how these bees, which have become indispensable workers in the vast fields of industrial agriculture, could have gotten into such trouble. Like a great many other food crops, the almond depends on bees for pollination. No bees, no almonds. Almonds today are grown in such vast monocultures, 80% of the world's crop comes from a 600,000-acre swath of orchard in California's Central Valley. When the trees come into bloom there are not enough bees in the valley to pollinate those flowers. So every February the almond growers must import an army of migrant honeybees. Because pollination is critical and the bee population so depleted, almond growers will pay up to $150 to rent a box of bees for three weeks. February bees swap microbes and parasites from all over the world before returning home bearing. We're asking a lot of our bees.

    Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: all driven by the global machine devised to feed the growing numbers of consumers.

    India: Last Chance to Save Tigers

    September 7, 2007, Times of India

    There is still a chance to save the tiger from extinction, but that will require a concerted effort by China and India to control the trade in tiger parts, and to protect habitats.

    Of the seven sub-species the Balinese, Javanese and Caspian tigers have disappeared and the South China tiger is on the brink.

    India is the last hope for the future of the species. But tragically, India's tiger population has collapsed. The Indian population of tigers has plummeted close to the tipping point for the loss of the species.

    Judging by the status of the tiger we would have to discount some of the impressive economic growth that India has achieved in the last decade. The first cause of the crisis is poaching to satisfy the demand for tiger products for traditional oriental medicine in China and other parts of East Asia.

    Poachers have also turned to the remaining 300 or so Asiatic lions in Gujarat because lion parts are indistinguishable from tiger parts. The second reason is that in the past decade the areas inhabited by tigers have fallen by two-fifths, with competition for land, water and forests, and the endless encroachment of villages onto protected land. There are now plans to legalise the sale of tiger parts from tiger farms in East Asia.

    Strong follow-up action is required at all levels. Extinction of the Royal Bengal tiger would be an irreversible loss to India's heritage and a signal of the environmental dangers of the current development path. doclink

    Protecting Endangered Species Could Boost the Democratic Republic of Congo's Economy

    August 8, 2007, ABC News

    The gorillas of Central Africa live in the Virunga Mountains, a region that has seen more killing over the last two decades. Their home spans more than 50 miles between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    In Rwanda and Uganda the gorillas are well protected and reproducing steadily, and that has brought back a booming tourism market.

    But in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, mountain gorillas are dying with little protection from officials. With minimal funding and few guards to keep watch over the species, the DRC's mountain gorilla population is decreasing rapidly. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 700 mountain gorillas live in the wild, 150 reside in the DRC.

    July 22, four mountain gorillas, one male silverback and three females were shot dead in the DRC. A fifth is missing and a 5-month-old baby gorilla is now an orphan.

    This reduced the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Mountains by 1.6%, including the loss of five females. If we can't stop these attacks, our closest living relatives will disappear from the planet.

    The success of tourism in Ugandan and Rwandan wildlife preserves is a model for organizations hoping to improve the lives of mountain gorillas in the DRC.

    While tourist groups in the neighboring countries participate in expensive guided tours in hopes of spotting groups of mountain gorillas, the DRC has no comparable program.

    "The Congolese Park and Wildlife Authority has authority over [the Virunga National Park. They have no money and the trackers and guides are working with no money and food.

    Wildlife organizations help the Virunga National Park become not only a sanctuary for the mountain gorillas but also a source of income for the struggling country.

    UNESCO is planning a mid-August mission in the DRC where it will investigate the gorilla killings and work with the Congolese and wildlife organizations to "avoid an ecological and economic disaster."

    Meanwhile, the effort to train guides and trackers also care for the injured gorillas in the DRC is under way.

    Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project provides an orphanage. Ten young gorillas reside in the facility, many were left alone to fend for themselves a predicament that would have led to their deaths.

    Many of the gorillas are injured when poachers take them away from their mothers, in the hope of capitalizing on tourists' desire to interact with African wildlife.

    Congolese trackers and guides receive medical care, they are tested for communicable diseases before they enter the gorilla habitats.

    There are dangers when humans interact so closely with the mountain gorillas, primarily the transfer of human disease. Only a few groups are designated for tourism, and certain distances are required between tourists and gorillas. Some researchers argue that poachers and bush meat hunters are the real dangers to the gorilla populations.

    The DRC and its neighbors face a choice: fund gorilla preserves or focus on exploiting other natural resources. Sustainable tourism must balance the need to fund conservation and the risk of exploiting the animals. doclink

    Scottish Puffin Population Starving in Climate Change

    August 7, 2007, Scotsman

    Puffin chicks are not able to swallow the snake pipefish brought back from the North Sea by their parents because it is covered in a hard exo-skeleton.

    Shunned by predators, they are left to decay atop the cliffs of St Kilda - the latest victims of climate change.

    With about half of Britain's population, few of the World Heritage Site's puffins are coming of age, leaving the birds' population "verging on catastrophe".

    A survey suggests there are 284,528 Atlantic puffins on St Kilda's uninhabited islands, around a quarter of the entire UK population.

    Yet barely over half of the eggs hatched fledged chicks last year, an increase on 2005's all-time low of 26%. At other sites in Scotland, the threat to the puffin population is equally severe.

    The issue is inextricably bound to the mismanagement of Scotland's waters. Over the past two decades, the surface temperature in the southern North Sea has risen by 2C and is playing out a choreography on the food needed during the seabirds' breeding seasons.

    The puffins thrived on oil-rich sand eels, young herring, or sprats, they are now forced to eke out on snake pipefish, which until recently, was rarely seen.

    The rise in temperature has led to plankton shifts and a change in tidal cycles, which affects fish like sand eels.

    The chicks are dying of starvation, with hundreds of emaciated bodies lying around. At present, only 0.01% of Scotland's water is protected by legislation. That must increase to protect all of Scotland's natural environment.

    This is a sign that Scotland's seas are pressing the red destruct button as a result of human pressures.

    The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland believes seabird breeding has been "disastrous" this year, singling out Orkney and Shetland in particular.

    On Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in Britain, breeding success fell to the second lowest level on record last year. Rangers on the Hebridean island of Canna and St Abbs Head in the Borders, have also reported an increase in pipefish, a scourge for puffins and kittiwakes.

    A blanket ban on the fishing of sand eels would help restore the puffins' food source. The numbers have to fully replenish so the puffins can feed their young. Shifts in plankton populations and a reduction in sand eels have been studied, but nobody foresaw the invasion of the snake pipefish. In an ecosystem as complex as the sea, the disruption caused by climate change can have a huge impact on humans and wildlife alike. doclink

    Anglers Hope Atlantic Salmon Will Be Successfully Reintroduced to Lake Ontario

    July 25, 2007, Brandon Sun Online

    Lake Ontario was once home to the world's largest collection of fresh water Atlantic salmon, then, about 110 years ago, they vanished.

    Conservation officials have teamed up with an an Australian winemaker to undo the human destruction that pushed the fish from their home. Phase one of the Bring Back the Salmon program has resulted in almost one million fish being released into three watersheds. It's expected to take 10 to 15 years to get the salmon population back to what it was before the fish were wiped out in the late 1800s. The program will involve stocking Lake Ontario annually with hundreds of thousands of fish at three different life stages.

    Experts will leave it to the fish to decide how they should mate with each other and evolve their genetic makeup.

    A lack of funding stalled the project until Banrock Station Wines came forward with a cheque for $1.25 million.

    The Australian winemaker donates proceeds from the sale of each bottle of wine to conservation projects around the world. We should eventually start to see the first salmon migration back up a number of small rivers.

    A successful reintroduction of Atlantic salmon will be a model for future restorations of species. It could also shine a steady light on Lake Ontario's waterways, so they're never allowed to degrade so badly again.

    "If we have Atlantic salmon in these streams they're telling us the streams are still good and we're doing a good job of taking care of them. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Nothing is said about what caused the fish to disappear in the first place. Some sort of pollution? Perhaps this cause has to be addressed first.

    Australia: Whales Steer Wide Berth

    July 11, 2007, Age

    Southern right whales have slowly returned to the waters off Warrnambool, where they were once hunted to the verge of extinction.

    However, this year there are none, sparking fears that Santos oil and gas exploration may have caused them to avoid the area.

    Santos has been conducting seismic testing off the Warrnambool coast during May and June.

    Northern hemisphere research showed they avoided seismic testing activity by 25 kilometres.

    The impact of noise on whales is a big unknown. There have been five sub-adult southern right whales sighted this month at Portland, 100 kilometres further west.

    But Santos spokeswoman said seismic work was immediately shut down if any whales were seen nearby and there was no proof that seismic testing affected the whales.

    Bowhead whales off Alaska showed strong avoidance of seismic pulses. But the Australian Petroleum Association found that seismic testing had no significant impact.

    No research has been done on the impact on southern rights and the hearing range of whales varies by species. doclink

    Agency Takes First Step to Protect Emperor Penguin and 9 Others

    July 9, 2007, New York Times*

    The Fish and Wildlife Service took the first step toward declaring the Emperor penguin and nine other species as needing the protections of the Endangered Species Act. The service said it had evidence to begin a review of the 10 groups of penguins, to determine the rates of decline and their possible causes.

    One possibility is commercial fishing, when birds are caught in nets, or when the fishing provides competition for their prey. Other factors include habitat loss, predators and climate change. The penguins may join a list of species, including polar bears and two corals found off Florida, whose survival is deemed at risk in part because of the increasing warmth of the atmosphere and oceans.

    The lists include 568 foreign species. The US government's ability to protect them is largely limited to working in partnership with other governments or international groups.

    A news release said the Emperor penguin colony featured in the 2005 film "March of the Penguins" has declined by more than 50% because of global warming. Krill has declined by as much as 80% since the 1970s over large areas of the oceans in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The 10 species named include the African and Humboldt penguins, as well as southern and northern rockhoppers and the macaroni, white-flippered, erect-crested, fiordland-crested and yellow-eyed penguins.

    The Galapagos penguin is already under the protection. doclink

    U.S.: Grackles in the Coal Mine: Warning

    June 20, 2007,

    Despite its seemingly vast numbers, the grackle population is less than half of what it was 40 years ago. It is one of the birds identified as one of the 20 common birds in serious decline across the country.

    We should care because the decline of the common birds speaks volumes about the declining health of our environment habitat capable of supporting diverse and abundant life.

    Each decline speaks to the need to reinvigorate our efforts to restore our great ecosystems.

    Loss of habitat and competition for water resources are exacerbated by the impacts of global warming. It is not too late to stop the decline of these familiar birds, and the quality of life for everyone and everything. We need to employ wise water-use policies including alternative water supplies, to ensure the sustainability of our communities and abundant water for wildlife.

    We need clean energy strategies to curb the carbon dioxide. We need to curb urban sprawl and plan communities in harmony with ecosystems.

    The decline of these birds should serve as a serious wakeup call that all is not right with the land, the water, or the air. Now is the time to protect our remaining natural resources which support these dwindling common birds as well as ourselves.

    Grackles are canaries in the coal mine. doclink

    Sitting by the Bedside of a Disappearing World

    June 7, 2007, Grist Magazine

    Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimates we are losing 30,000 species per year. By the time scientists isolated a livestock drug as the cause of the deaths, 95% of the vulture population had crashed in less than a decade, and there weren't enough left in the wild to begin a captive breeding program.

    In the Pacific Northwest, spotted owls find themselves in the same dire straits. Last month, a Canadian environmental organization leaked a 50-page report by the Spotted Owl Protection and Enhancement Team, a group of scientists hired by the government of British Columbia to make a recommendation about how to address the rapid decline of the species.

    These captive breeding programs have worked before. Peregrine falcons, DDT was made illegal and bred birds were reintroduced to the wild. They survived, and in places, thrived.

    But the list of threats to the spotted owl population is long and we still like to live in wooden houses milled from their habitat, and haven't begun to address climate change, or stopped the logging practices that make the spotted owls more vulnerable to their greatest predators and competitors.

    The authors acknowledge this, urging a "commitment" to protecting wild spotted owl habitat. But the policy changes that follow will need to be serious and comprehensive. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes a recovery plan that continues to diminish protections of the old-growth forest. Conservation biologists are gathering information so that someday, we will have the scientific information to guide us. Young people armed with incendiary devices took to the logging roads and ski resorts to try to translate the message to the mainstream, who wrote them off because of their dangerous ways. The FBI swept up the "eco-terrorists," who are safely sequestered in jail for many years to come.

    If we scour the Pacific Northwest, sweeping up the last few owls that have survived and cart them off to zoos and labs for a lifetime of forced procreation and artificial insemination, yet do nothing to address the systemic causes of extinction, we'll be losing more than a species. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: When our population was smaller, there was less demand for lumber to build our houses.

    Disproportionate Growth of Urban Population Complicates Biodiversity; Cities Eating Up Resources and Habitat

    May 22, 2007, InterPress Service

    There are more than 400 cities with more than one million people and while they occupy only 2% of the planet's surface, their residents are responsible for at least 75% of the resources consumed by the global population. Climate change is one of the forces responsible for the loss of biodiversity on Earth. For the first time the urban population exceeds those living in rural areas.

    Before the industrial era, nearly 47% of the Earth's land surface was covered with forests; today only 10%. We are consuming more natural resources than can be regenerated and living beyond the capacities of our planet.

    Every year about 10 million hectares of forest are lost to development. A large part of the world's forests are located in tropical regions, where biodiversity thrives in abundance and these forests are home to about 80% of plant and animal species, even though they cover only 7% of the planet's surface. In addition to causing coastal erosions and a decrease in agricultural productivity, global warming will also kill more plant and animal species in the next few decades.

    Plant and animal species are disappearing 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural pace of extinction.

    At least 20% of bird species have vanished and 23% of mammals, 25% of conifers, 3% of amphibians, and 52% of a family of evergreen plants face extinction.

    The planet's biodiversity loss demands urgent action, or by the middle of this century about one-fifth of the world's plant species may disappear. doclink

    Pollution, Toxins, Waste

    Canada's Big Dams Produce Clean Energy, and High Levels of Mercury

    November 10, 2016, New York Times   By: Ian Austen

    In Labrador, local indigenous people protested the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project as it neared the final phases of construction. Their focus is on a side effect of dams. Reservoirs behind them often develop high levels of methyl mercury, a dangerous compound that can lead to mercury poisoning among people who eat fish or game caught downstream.

    Dr. Elsie Sunderland, Professor of Public Health, Environmental Science and Engineering at Harvard has conducting several studies related to Muskrat Falls and is lead author of a recent paper. She said, "I wouldn't say hydro is bad, but you need to evaluate and look at the pros and cons of any project." She said it has been known for decades that methyl mercury concentrates rapidly in dammed up water. (A 2006 report on a dam project in far northern Quebec found that elevated mercury levels in fish caused by dams built in the 1970s forced many Cree people to abandon their fisheries.) Sunderland claims that officials were told about the mercury problem but were reluctant to grapple with it for political reasons. "We've been working on this for years. I've done multiple briefings, and they just didn't care."

    Sunderland said that while some mercury occurs naturally in the soil, more is added by air pollution, largely from burning of coal. As long as the soil is exposed to air, the mercury does little harm. But when the soil is under water and cut off from oxygen, types of bacteria can flourish that convert it to methyl mercury. The effect peaks about three years after a reservoir is first flooded, and elevated levels can persist for decades. The problem with methyl mercury, more than inorganic mercury, is that living things absorb it, rather than excrete it, so it concentrates in the bodies of fish and people who eat them - which in Canada usually means indigenous people.

    There is no consensus on how to deal with the problem. Jacob Irving, president of the Canadian Hydropower Association, an industry lobby group says that practices to mitigate the problem are well known, and "there's never been a recorded public health incident." Yet he could cite only two examples of remediation efforts by industry: warning people downstream to limit or avoid eating fish, and importing fish to communities where the local supply has become contaminated.

    Dr. Sunderland said that research clearly showed that many aboriginal people in Canada living near electrical dams now have mercury toxicity, and she forecasts that methyl mercury levels will double in people living downstream from Muskrat Falls. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of methyl mercury is detrimental to human health at any level, she said. It can cause changes in heart rate, persistent pins-and-needles sensations in the skin, and problems with muscle coordination. Children exposed while in the womb are more likely to develop attention-deficit disorder.

    An agreement in late October allows partial flooding behind the dam. In return, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which owns Nalcor, the utility building the dam, promised to implement the recommendations from an independent advisory group. The protesters want Nalcor to dig up and cart away most of the topsoil that would be covered by the 40-mile-long reservoir. The government has left that possibility open, but it would add to the cost at a time when oil revenues have collapsed, creating financial problems for the historically poor province of 530,000 people. The estimated cost of Muskrat Falls has almost doubled, to 11.4 billion Canadian dollars, and the price it now gets for exported power has fallen. Dr. Sunderland suggests it may be sufficient to remove only the soil with the highest carbon content and increase oxygen or iron levels in the water.

    Muskrat Falls is likely to be just the first of a series of similar fights in Canada, where dams now supply about three-fifths of the country's electricity. The researchers whose work first raised the issue of mercury at Muskrat Falls published a new paper in Environmental Science and Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society. It said that problems loom at 22 major dams now proposed or under construction near indigenous communities in Canada. Based on analysis of soils surrounding those dams, Dr. Sunderland's group concluded that at half of the projects, methyl mercury levels will be similar to or greater than those they expect at Muskrat Falls unless several time-consuming and costly corrective steps are taken. doclink

    Art says, while hydroelectric dams produce renewable energy, they have been faulted for blocking fish migrations. This article adds the specter of methyl mercury contamination, and another recent article described how the water behind dams can release methane into the atmosphere.

    Karen Gaia says: the greater the population, the higher the demand for water storage and the health and safety risks that come with it.

    Twenty Signs China's Pollution Has Reached Apocalyptic Levels

    February 4, 2015, China Uncensored

    9 out 10 cities in China have failed government pollution standards according to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection. A quarter of million Chinese die every year from pollution, rivers turn blood red, and by 2030, China will be COMPLETELY OUT OF WATER! These are just a few of the signs that China's pollution has reached apocalyptic levels, and it's having a global effect on climate change. doclink

    Broken Landscape: Confronting India's Water-Energy Choke Point

    January 19, 2015, You Tube

    In resource-rich Meghalaya, India, the demand for coal is transforming the environment and the people who depend on it. Coal mine owners are prospering from booming production, but few laws regulate the dangerous and polluting practice of rat hole coal mining. Until now. State officials recently banned rat hole mining in the region, shutting down the economy. Coal mine owners and workers staged protests, while people living downstream from the mines are trying to cope with a dead river that once provided their livelihoods, food, and drinking water. Nepalese migrants who crossed the border to mine coal are stuck in the middle. doclink

    Study Links Polluted Air in China to 1.6 Million Deaths a Year

    August 13, 2015, New York Times   By: Dan Levin

    A study by Berkeley Earth found that air pollution hastens the deaths of about 1.6 million Chinese people per year. That is 17% of all the nation's deaths each year or about 4,400 people a day. Most dangerous are airborne particles with diameters under 2.5 microns that are absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream, causing such problems as asthma, strokes, lung cancer and heart attacks. The study is awaiting publication in PLOS One.

    Berkeley Earth bases its mortality estimate on a World Health Organization framework for projecting death rates from five diseases associated with high levels of exposure to fine-particulate pollution. The authors calculate that the annual toll is 95% likely to fall between 700,000 and 2.2 million deaths. Their 1.6 million figure falls at the midpoint of that range. This analysis supports earlier findings about the quality of China's air. For example, Greenpeace East Asia found in April that, 90% of 360 cities studied in China failed to meet national air quality standards in the first three months of 2015.

    The Chinese government often censors data that shows air pollution is killing its citizens (or even alludes to such a conclusion). Though the public has sometimes gained access to air quality readings, censors routinely purge Chinese websites and social media channels of information that the authorities fear might provoke unrest. In March, after a lengthy documentary video about the health effects of air pollution circulated widely online, Chinese websites were ordered to delete it.

    Much of China's air pollution comes from the large-scale coal burning. After studying wind patterns, the researchers concluded that much of Beijing's smog came not from sources in the city, but rather from coal-burning factories 200 miles southwest in Shijiazhuang, a major industrial hub. About three-eighths of the Chinese population breathes that air - air that rates "unhealthy" by U.S. standards.

    Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics includes promises to clean up the air. Beijing's mayor, Wang Anshun, suggests restrictions on vehicles in the city, and state news media called for replacing coal-fired heating systems in urban areas with systems that use natural gas. However, the Berkeley Earth paper showed that to clear the skies over Beijing, mitigation measures must extend across a broad stretch southwest of the capital, affecting tens of millions of people. "It's not enough to clean up the city," said Elizabeth Muller, Executive Director of Berkeley Earth. "You're going to also have to clean up the entire industrial region."

    The researchers also analyzed four months' of hourly readings taken at 1,500 ground stations in mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea and other places in the region. The group said it was publishing the raw data so other researchers could use it to perform their own studies. doclink

    Art says: Life-threatening levels of pollution occur more in Asia than anywhere else. Asia has the perfect storm combination of pollution factors: massive metro areas with high population densities, little breathing space between metro areas for pollutants to dissipate, high and rapidly increasing consumption rates, heavy coal use, and poor pollution-control infrastructures.

    As consumption rates balloon across Asia, fixes like those proposed in the Beijing region will not be enough to combat the pollution associated with such growth. Asia serves as a model for what consequences follow when the growth rates of consumption and population exceed an area's carrying capacity.

    One Fifth of China Soil Contaminated

    Almost a Fifth of China's Soil is Contaminated, An Official Study Released the Government Has Shown
    April 18, 2014, BBC News

    Almost a fifth of China's soil is contaminated, an official study released by the government has shown.

    A study has shown that, between 2005-2013, 16.1% of China's soil and 19.4% of its arable land showed contamination. Cadmium, nickel and arsenic were found to be the top pollutants.

    There is growing concern, both from the government and the public, that China's rapid industrialisation is causing irreparable damage to its environment.

    In the study samples were taken across from two-thirds of China's land area.

    "Due to long periods of extensive industrial development and high pollutant emissions, some regions have suffered deteriorating land quality and serious soil pollution," said China's Environmental Protection Ministry

    About 82.8% of the polluted land was contaminated by inorganic materials.

    "Pollution is severe in three major industrial zones, the Yangtze River Delta in east China, the Pearl River Delta in south China and the northeast corner that used to be a heavy industrial hub," the agency said.

    The public has become increasingly vocal and, in some cases, has taken to the streets to protest against the proposed construction of chemical plants in their cities. doclink

    Pollution Killed 7 Million People Worldwide in 2012, Report Finds

    March 25, 2014, New York Times   By: Andrew Jacobs and Ian Johnson

    According to a World Health Organization report, around the world, one out of every eight deaths was tied to dirty air -twice as many as previously estimated. Its report identified air pollution as the world's single biggest environmental health risk. More than one-third of those deaths, the organization said, occurred in fast-developing nations of Asia, where rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease have been soaring.

    However, the agency said that in 2012 indoor air pollutants were involved in 4.3 million deaths, while toxic air outdoors figured in 3.7 million deaths (total 8 million). Many deaths were attributed to both. The reports by the World Bank and World Health Organization each said the burning of noxious fuels -- coal, wood and animal waste -- was among the greatest threats to human health.

    In India, the health agency estimated, 700 million people rely on biomass fuels like agricultural waste for indoor cooking. Kirk R. Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, said that pollutants from smoky indoor ovens were often comparable to burning 400 cigarettes an hour. "Unfortunately, he said, we have not made a lot of progress in the past decades, and household air pollution is still the largest single health risk factor for Indian women and girls."

    In China, the bigger culprit is coal, which supplies two-thirds of the country's energy. Though the winter heating season has ended, Beijing still displayed a familiar acrid haze, and the U.S Embassy's air monitor rated the air as "very unhealthy," a level at which outdoor activity should be avoided. Alarmed by the worsening smog and the rising discontent among urban residents, Prime Minister Li Keqiang declared a "war against pollution" in his annual report to the nation this month. Chinese leaders have promised to reduce reliance on coal and introduce cleaner-burning motor fuels and more energy-efficient construction methods. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: total pollution = per capita pollution X population size. The more people who are polluting there are, the worse it is for everyone.

    Millions of Microbeads From Soap Have Contaminated the US Great Lakes


    On top of invading Asian carp and algae blooms, the Great Lakes are being polluted with tiny plastic beads from soap. The polyethylene beads are most commonly found in exfoliating facial scrubs, but they also appear in body washes and toothpastes.Americans buy products containing 573,000 pounds of them every year. Incredibly, a single tube of Johnson & Johnson facial scrub Clean & Clear, for example, contains 330,000 beads.

    The microbeads wash down drains and accumulate in our oceans, and according to a recent study the microbeads even flow out into the troubled Great Lakes. There, the tiny plastic beads can be mistaken for fish food. If just eating plastic isn't bad enough for the fish, these beads also soak up toxins like PCBs and pesticides in the water. A recent study of lugworms in the Atlantic, for example, suggests that small pieces of plastic transfer toxins to the creatures that eat them. In other words, our exfoliating scrubs could be turning into pretty poison pills, little floating points of toxicity for fish.

    Currently there is no known way to get rid of the beads from the lakes: because they're so tiny, filtering them out also means capturing plankton, an important food source for aquatic creatures. Even sewage treatment systems aren't equipped to catch the beads before they enter the larger ecosystem. The plastic beads are so small and light that they float, whereas treatment plants are designed to remove heavy, solid materials that sink.

    The 5 Gyres Institute is looking for a solution. They have turned their recent research into microplastics in the Great Lakes into a platform for advocacy, pressuring companies to stop using the plastic beads altogether. In the past year alone, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oréal, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have all announced plans to phase out microplastics from their products in the next few years. The companies say they need to find safe alternatives first. doclink

    Beijing's Bad Air Would Be Step Up for Smoggy Delhi

    New York Times

    In January, Beijing issued urgent air pollution warnings and closed major highways, driving people to put on filtered masks. But New Delhi, where smog was worse that day, had few signs of alarm. Daily pollution figures collected from both cities show that New Delhi's air is often worse than Beijing's, and an average New Delhi day would be a very bad one in Beijing.

    WHO (World Health Organization) links fine particle matter (> 10 mm in diameter) of with premature death from lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. It recommends a daily exposure limit of >25 mg per cubic meter. For the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi's average daily peak reading was 473, more than double the average of 227 in Beijing. By the first time pollution breached 500 in Beijing, Delhi had already had eight such days, and only once in three weeks did New Delhi's daily peak fine particles value fall below 300, more than 12 times WHO's recommended limit.

    Measurements averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011, but 281 In New Delhi, nearly two-and-a-half times higher. They were also 44% higher this year than last, averaging 328 over the first three weeks.

    Yale researchers found that South Asia had 7 of the 10 countries with the worst air pollution, and India probably tops the list. They suspect that India's unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world for lungs, with Indians having far less lung capacity than the Chinese.

    Frank Hammes, chief executive of IQAir, a Swiss-based maker of air filters, said his company's sales were hundreds of times higher in China than in India. He noted that Chinese people seemed more concerned about the air, especially around small children. "It's always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India," said Dr. Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. ". . . India gets no pressure to release better data," so the India public is less well informed. Yet WHO rates India as having the world's highest death rate of chronic respiratory diseases and more asthma deaths than any other nation. The director of the Chest Research Foundation says that half of all doctor visits in Delhi are for respiratory problems.

    The U.S Embassy in Beijing posts the readings of its air monitor to spur awareness of the problem, but it leaves the Indian government to release its own figures.

    In 1998, India's Supreme Court ordered that Delhi's taxis, three-wheelers and buses be converted to compressed natural gas, but improvements in air quality were short-lived as cars flooded the roads, with Delhi going from 800,000 vehicles in the 1970s to 7.5 million now and adding 1,400 more each day. doclink

    Global Waste on Pace to Triple by 2100

    October 30, 2013, World Bank

    Unless sufficient measures are taken, by 2100 the growing global urban population will be producing three times as much solid waste as it does today, former World Bank urban development specialist Dan Hoornweg and his colleagues write in the journal Nature.

    The report is an expansion on their work from the 2012 World Bank report What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management.

    In the earlier report, they warned that global solid waste generation was on pace to increase 70% by 2025. The waste from cities alone is already enough to fill a line of trash trucks 5,000 kilometers long every day. The global cost of dealing with all that trash is rising too: from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025, with the sharpest cost increases in developing countries.

    OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where waste levels are the highest today but populations aren't growing as quickly and waste reduction efforts are underway, expect their trash levels to peak by 2050. Asia-Pacific countries won't peak until 2075.

    Mexico City's Bordo Poniente and Shanghai's Laogang receive more than 10,000 tonnes of waste per day. Waste incinerators pose ash disposal and air pollution problems worldwide. Also landfills produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change.

    "With lower populations, denser, more resource-efficient cities, and less consumption (along with higher affluence), the peak could come forward to 2075 and reduce in intensity by more than 25 percent. This would save around 2.6 million tonnes per day," Hoornweg and his colleagues write.

    San Francisco has set a of "zero waste" by 2020 policy with aggressive recycling. Today 55% of its waste is recycled or reused today.

    Other things that can be done:

    * Reduce food waste with better storage and transportation systems.
    * Reuse construction materials like wood, instead of producing more materials.
    * Employee disposal fees and recycling programs that encourage less waste. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Don't forget: make contraception accessible, affordable and effective and provide consumer advice about it.

    Clearing the Air in China

    October 27, 2013, New York Times   By: Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho

    China's "investments to decarbonize its energy system have dwarfed those of any other nation," and its "regulation to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants may be one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere . . . preventing as many as 74,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2010."

    Of course, the recent smog inundation of the City of Harbin demonstrates both the urgency driving this cleanup and the fact that much more needs to be done. Most of China's pollution results from burning coal, its most abundant fuel supply. China burns 3.8 times as much coal as we burn in the U.S., and it plans to add new coal burning facilities at four times our planned rate. Most of our new power plants use cleaner burning natural gas, and many of our plants designed for coal have converted to gas. But the price of gas has been rising, so our current plans call for only a 2% increase in gas use for power production, while China plans a 19% increase.

    When it comes to carbon-free power, China captures more than twice as much energy from hydro-electric dams as we do, and while we currently generate 9.5 times as much electricity from nuclear plants as does China, China is adding nuclear plants more than three times faster than we are. We currently use about 40% more wind power than China, but China is adding new wind farms at more than double our rate. Neither nation draws much of its power from solar, but while the U.S. has plans for a 22% expansion in solar usage, China plans an 85% expansion during the same period. China has been experimenting with both cap-and-trade and new taxes on carbon-generating fuels. In their advisory roles for the Chinese government, the authors "estimate that a modest tax on carbon dioxide, starting small and rising to about $10 per ton by 2020, could sharply limit the growth of emissions with little effect on GDP."

    That, they estimate, would eliminate 89,000 premature deaths by 2020. Of course, since people can't safely breathe the air in many Chinese cities now, the need is more to reverse the growth of emissions rather than just sharply limit them. But with China's GDP still growing in the range of 8% per year, they have hundreds of new power plants yet to be built.

    Additonal information and charts at doclink

    Just One Word: Plastics

    May 27, 2013, World Watch Institute

    Scientists argue in Nature magazine that plastic should be treated as hazardous waste. The U.S. EPA estimates 45% of plastics are used as containers and packaging, and that only 12% of these are recycled. In 2012, 280 million metric tons of plastic were produced worldwide. These scientists project that a total of 33 billion metric tons will have been produced by 2050. Less than half of the discarded plastic ends up in the landfill; the rest ends up in the wind and sea.

    According to the UN, chemical ingredients of more than 50% of plastics are hazardous. For instance, PVC can be carcinogenic. Some other plastics such as polyethylene-used to make plastic bags-are less dangerous, but can be dangerous when absorbing other pollutants such as pesticides. Scientists quote an unpublished study to argue that at least 78% of priority pollutants listed by the EPA and 61% by the European Union are "associated with plastic debris", which means they are ingredients of plastic or absorbed.

    The plastics industry is largely unregulated and the situation is getting worse and governments seem unable or at least unwilling to tackle the issue.

    The authors suggest using the example of the Montreal Protocol of 1989 that classifies CFCs as hazardous. Production of these refrigerants stopped within 7 years with 200 countries replacing 30 dangerous chemical groups with safer ones. A treaty focusing on just four plastics-PVC (construction, especially pipes), polystyrene (food packaging), polyurethane (furniture) and polycarbonate (electronics)-would be a "realistic first step." These plastics represent about 30% of production, are difficult to recycle and are made of potentially toxic materials.

    While food or pharmaceutical industries have to prove that their products are safe, plastic producers ask governments to prove that plastic is not safe. Scientists call the biggest producers to "act now," as plastic pollution is getting worse every day and the window to deal with it effectively is closing.

    The "great future in plastics" lies in changing policies to ban the worst of them; finding ways to limit consumption of them; redesigning plastics to be environmentally benign; and in developing a closed-loop production, consumption and recycling system to avoid a catastrophic accumulation of plastic in our environment. doclink

    Vietnam: Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish

    Vietnam population has grown from 35 million to 85 million, with many people crowded along the banks of the Mekong and waste goes directly into the river. 4.5 billion dollars worth of fish have been exported by Vietnam in 2009. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Fortunately, Vietnam's fertility rate has reached 1.8 . Unfortunately, growth will take time to level off, due to population momentum.

    16,000 Airplanes Daily Polluting Planet

    Environmental Defense Fund

    At a meteorologist conference in Costa Rica, the secretary of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that airplanes have become one of the main sources of atmospheric pollution and emitters greenhouse gases doclink

    A Special Moment in History

    Atlantic Monthly

    by Bill McKibben Natural cycles of nitrogen production (through algae, soil bacteria and lighting) produce "90-150 million metric tons of nitrogen a year. Now human activity adds 130-150 million more tons...As a result, coastal waters and estuaries bloom with toxic algae while oxygen concentrations dwindle, killing fish; as a result, nitrous oxide traps solar heat, and it stays there for a century or more." doclink

    The Lawyer Who Became Dupont's Worst Nightmare

    Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.
    January 6, 2016, New York Times   By: Nathaniel Rich

    This is a very long account of a lawsuit started by a man that used to represent corporations, and suddenly decided to represent the people.

    It is story of poisoned groundwater, courtesy of DuPont, and the legacy it leaves behind, and the muck it roils, in West Virginia.

    And, it features Rob Bilott, an attorney at a prominent law firm, who stumbles accross PFOA, a highly toxic substance used to make Teflon. It is just one of "60,000 unregulated chemicals out there right now."

    We are treated to a lifestyle where the enemy owns everything one is using, everything, most of all the land that we grow our crops on, water we drink and air that we breathe.

    The story leaves us hanging, with Bilott now representing more than 3,000 clients filing class action lawsuits against DuPont. DuPont has chosen to take them on one at a time, which means the trial could go on for the next 14 years.

    As of October 2011, 3,535 plaintiffs have filed personal-injury lawsuits against DuPont. In total, 70,000 people were drinking poisoned water. Some had been doing so for decades. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: as population grows, the demand for technological wonders increases while economic scale (as well as conveniently ignoring any downside of these chemicals) allows these "wonders" to be developed.

    Pesticides are Killing our Sperm

    March 5, 2013, Grist   By: John Upton

    Pesticides, which are well known to have caused spectacular declines the world over in bees, birds, and other wildlife, are also taking a heavy toll on the virility of men.

    A new study found that the agricultural poisons are reducing the quality and quantity of sperm in men all over the globe, with farm workers bearing the brunt of the sexual desecration. George Washington University researchers found that 15 out of the 17 scientific studies that were published between 2007 and 2012 and reported in the journal Toxicology found "significant associations between exposure to pesticides and semen quality indicators."

    Some studies record a drop by approximately 50% between 1940 and 1990, no small amount. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: No, I am not advocating this as a form of population control. This is a good example of population growth necessitating dangerous pesticides in order to produce enough food to feed us all.

    Plastic Takes Over the Ocean


    In the News: Plastic Debris Reaches Southern Ocean

    September 27, 2012, Mail and Guardian

    The French scientific research vessel Tara, which has been sailing the world's oceans for 2.5 years to investigate the impacts of climate change, has found traces of plastic waste in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. The researchers had expected levels ten times lower.

    The Southern Ocean is rich in wildlife, from penguins and fish to seals and whales. Chris Bowler, scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans said, "We had always assumed that this was a pristine environment, very little touched by human beings. The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale."

    In addition to plastic bags, bottles and other plastic items, the world's oceans also contain microscopic fragments that result from the degradation of larger items through years of exposure to seawater and sunlight. In addition, synthetic fibres, largely made up of clothing residues from washing machines, also comprised a significant portion of the plastic fragments they found.

    Plastic pollution has many long-lasting and even fatal impacts on marine life. Birds, fish and other animals are known to regularly consume plastic waste, mistaking it for jellyfish or other prey, but it cannot be digested and remains in the stomach. Plastics also slowly release toxins and other chemicals, which can build up in the food chain.

    Much of the waste in the Southern Ocean is thought to originate from Africa, South America or Australia.

    While it is too late to do much about the plastic already circulating in our oceans, which it will take thousands of years to degrade, we can take action against future pollution by advocating the use of biodegradable materials and by changing consumer attitudes and behaviour. doclink

    Pandora's Box: Digging the Earth, Killing the Future; Landgrabbing and mineral extraction spell disaster for Earth

    March 2, 2012, Common Dreams

    Across Latin America, Asia and Africa, more and more community lands, rivers and ecosystems are being despoiled, displaced and devoured by mining activities. Over the last 10 years, iron ore production is up by 180%; cobalt by 165%; lithium by 125%, and coal by 44%.

    The rights of farming and indigenous communities are increasingly ignored in the race to grab land and water. Each wave of new extractive technologies requires ever more water to wrench the material from its source. The hunger for these materials is a growing threat to the necessities for life: water, fertile soil and food. The implications are obvious, if not widely ignored by the industrial and economic powers that profit from such activities.

    The Opening Pandora's Box report was spearheaded by the Gaia foundation and supported by Friends of the Earth International, Grain, Oilwatch, Navdanya in India and other groups.

    The increase in prospecting has also grown exponentially, which means this massive acceleration in extraction will continue if concessions are granted as freely as they are now.

    The executive summary to the report says: "if we continue in our current direction, our children will be left to clean up an increasingly barren and unstable planet, littered with toxic wastelands and a huge scarcity of water, which we would have left in our wake."

    Environment editor at The Guardian, Jon Vidal added: Of the 10 biggest mining deals to be completed last year, seven were in Africa, with Anglo American earmarking $8bn (£5bn) for new platinum, diamond, iron ore and coal projects on the continent, and Brazil's Vale planning to invest more than $12bn over the next five years in Africa.

    China now extracts much of the world's mineral resources: 53% of the world's cement, 47% of its iron ore, 46% of its coal and more than 40% of the world's steel, lead, zinc and aluminium and re-exports much of this in the form of finished products for world markets.

    The loss of enormous quantities of soil, and the eviction of people to make way for large-scale extraction now threaten to make millions of people landless and hungry, a recipe for social problems.

    Water could be the limiting factor in the extraction of minerals in future. If demand continues to grow at the same rate that it has in the last decade, industry demands for fresh water are expected to grow from 4,500bn cubic metres today to 6,900bn cubic metres in 2030. Most mining companies have said they are already experiencing shortages.

    "Large-scale mining is now targeting all parts of the planet," said Gathuri Mburu, co-ordinator of the African Biodiversity Network. doclink

    Protect Our Waterways From Pesticides

    November 16, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    Pesticides in our waters are linked to higher cancer rates, hormone disruption and other serious health effects in people. Fish and amphibian populations have been devastated by these toxics, which can be the last straw for endangered species already in crisis.

    Right now chemical and agribusiness lobbyists are pushing a radical revision of our clean-water laws - H.R. 872 - that has already passed in the right-wing-dominated House of Representatives but we may be able to stop this disastrous polluter bill from passing in the Senate.

    Our water supply is too precious to poison. Please take five minutes to call your senators and tell them to protect the Clean Water Act. Senate Bill 718 is a hazard to all life in the United States, and should be rejected, along with any companion bill to House Resolution 872, proposed by Sen. Pat Roberts. Tell them to support the EPA's safeguards against pesticides through the "pesticide general permit" process. This protects our environment and public health.

    Click here to find the number for your senator: Let us know you were able to get through by clicking here: doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Overpopulation has raised the demand for food. As farmlands are lost from overuse, erosion and urbanization, more and more pesticides will be required to produce crops. How to keep them out of the water supply?

    NASA Scientist Hansen Arrested at Tar Sands Protest - a Grim Sign of the Times

    August 31, 2011, Rolling Stone

    In the 1970s, the "blue marble" photo of Earth from space taken by Apollo 17 - suggesting how fragile and precious our planet really is - galvanized the environmental movement. Today the image of the world's best known and most outspoken climate scientist, James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, handcuffed and hauled off to jail is a potent symbol of our times.

    Hansen was taking part in a civil disobedience action at the White House organized to halt the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will bring dirty oil from the Canadian tar sands down to US refineries in the Gulf. Nearly 1000 protesters have been arrested in this action began on August 20.

    Hansen said of President Obama: "If he chooses the dirty needle it is game over [for the earth's climate] because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction," ... "Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer. So if the United States is buying the dirtiest stuff, it also surely will be going after oil in the deepest ocean, the Arctic, and shale deposits; and harvesting coal via mountaintop removal and long-wall mining. Obama will have decided he is a hopeless addict."

    The photo tells you everything you need to know about why, more than 30 years after Hansen first warned us that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet, we have essentially done nothing to change our ways. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: "But we need that oil to transport our multitude of people, to grow our economy." When will we learn the lesson of depleted resources?

    Japan's Food Chain Threat Multiplies as Radiation Spreads

    August 7, 2011, Bloomberg News

    Radiation fallout from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant poses a growing threat to Japan's food chain. 1,183 cattle at 58 farms were fed hay containing radioactive cesium before being shipped to meat markets. 4,108 kilograms of beef suspected of being contaminated was inadvertantly put on sale at 174 stores across Japan

    The government on July 19 banned cattle shipments from Fukushima prefecture, though not before some had been slaughtered and shipped to supermarkets. A ban on shiitake mushrooms from another part of Fukushima was introduced on July 23 because of cesium levels, the health ministry said.

    Seafood is another concern after cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant climbed to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last week,

    Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in central Japan, said "It's possible that contaminated groundwater leaked from the plant."

    Japan has no centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food, leaving local authorities and farmers conducting voluntary tests. Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from Dai-Ichi.

    On June 6, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the plant released about 770,000 tera becquerels of radioactive material into the air between March 11 and March 16, doubling an earlier estimate.

    That's about 14% of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster in modern-day Ukraine. About 2 million people in Ukraine are under permanent medical monitoring, 25 years after the accident, according to the nation's embassy in Tokyo.

    Cases of thyroid cancer in Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine, increased for at least 10 years after 1986 in children younger than 14 and for almost 20 years among 20-24 year olds, according to research by Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: as our population increases, so does our demand for energy, which puts pressure on energy providers to take greater risks, such as in the BP Gulf disaster and now Fukushima.

    U.S.: Save the Frogs

    Natural Resources Defense Council

    April 29 was Save the Frogs Day, and we would like your help to protect frogs from one of the biggest threats to their survival. Please ask the Environmental Protection Agency to ban a widely-used weed killer called atrazine that is threatening frog populations.

    Frogs are especially sensitive to chemicals in their surrounding environment. Their numbers have been plummeting around the world, and one of the major causes is the widespread use of pesticides like atrazine. Frogs act as an indicator species for the overall health of the environment.

    In agricultural areas, as much as 75% of all waterways contain some level of atrazine. Atrazine in our environment isn't good for us either. The European Union has already phased out its use entirely. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the bigger the population, the more farmers relay on chemicals to produce enough food to feed us all.

    Toxic Water Rising Below Johannesburg

    November 26, 2010, Los Angeles Times

    The water from the spring about 20 miles northwest of Johannesburg flows blood red. It is toxic, highly acidic and full of heavy metals, so nasty that newly weaned impala and other animals in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve downstream can't or refuse to drink the water - and some of them die of thirst. Not one living organism survives in the poisoned water.

    Millions of gallons of the same kind of toxic water lie underneath Johannesburg, a city of nearly 4 million people. The water is rising 50 feet a month. If nothing is done, subterranean parking garages will fill with the toxic red water in about two years' time. Tunnels for electrical cables and underground railway stations will flood. And unnatural crimson streams will spring from the ground across the suburbs to the east of Johannesburg as the rising water escapes.

    The city of Johannesburg exploded in a gold rush after the metal was discovered in 1886. Gold mines operated along a 25-mile strip from Roodepoort to the west of Johannesburg to Boksburg to the east, as hundreds of mining companies gouged out a gigantic hole under the city and its suburbs.

    When rain falls, water runs off the hills and much of it is absorbed by the earth. The water turns toxic when it reacts with heavy metals underground.

    When the mines were functioning, pumps siphoned the water away. But one by one the gold mines under Johannesburg were shut down as the gold ran out. The last one - which was pumping all the water from "the void" - was East Rand Proprietary Mines, which stopped pumping in 2008.

    "The government has had acid mine drainage on its urgent agenda since 2009 but has yet to act," said University of the Witwatersrand geology professor Terry McCarthy, who released a study on the problem Thursday in Johannesburg.

    McCarthy warned that current mining operations in other parts of South Africa were doing even more damage, and would eventually pollute some of Johannesburg's main drinking water sources, the Vaal dam and Vaal River, posing greater costs for future generations.

    Some of the toxic water from the mines is polluted with uranium. Stephan du Toit, an environmental specialist with the Mogale municipality near the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, said that the water flowing through the reserve had extremely high sulfate concentrates. doclink

    US Army Can Advance Mission Success by Greening Operations

    September 27, 2008, Environment News Service

    The U.S. Army has become involved with environmental issues in every operation. By better managing environmental issues Army units can gain tactical and strategic advantages that will boost overall mission success. Commanders have not usually given environmental concerns high priority, despite the effect environmental conditions can have on troop health, safety and security, and for the local population.

    These include clean water, sewage-related infrastructure, soldier health, compliance with environmental laws, sustainability, protection of historical and cultural sites, and management of agricultural and natural resources. Research showed that environmental concerns can have significant impacts especially in cost, current operations, soldier health, diplomatic relations, reconstruction activities, and the success of the mission.

    In Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, U.S. soldiers have helped to build wells, sewage treatment plants and other water infrastructure systems. Army leaders should give weight to environmental considerations and develop practices to address environmental issues.

    The Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine highlights the importance of environmental improvements, especially sewage, water and trash, to gain support of the local population.

    Public opinion surveys suggest that Iraqis care about these issues almost as much as security.

    Providing these things can influence whether inhabitants support the local government and U.S. goals and objectives.

    Over the last 20 years, U.S. forces have remained in conflict locations longer than expected. Camps considered temporary have been occupied for many years and often have inadequate environmental systems. Pollution can affect relations with locals, cause health problems for soldiers, and require costly cleanup efforts. Operations that require less fuel, water and other resources, and produce less waste, will reduce the logistics burden.

    Providing reliable sources of potable water, electricity and sanitation has "an important stabilizing effect". doclink

    Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: the Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States

    July 21, 2010, ACS Publications - Environmental Science and Technology

    Food is not only a form of energy but also a consumer of fossil energy in its production, transportation, and preparation.

    A study calculated the energy intensity of food production from agriculture, transportation, processing, food sales, storage, and preparation for 2007 as 8080 ± 760 trillion BTU. In 1995, approximately 27% of edible food was wasted (according to the USDA), and the study concluded from this that 2030 ± 160 trillion BTU of energy were embedded in the 2007 wasted food. This represents approximately 2% of annual energy consumption in the United States, which is substantial when compared to other energy conservation and production proposals.

    Recent food shortages, blamed in part on the growth of the biofuels industry, have created a new awareness of the relationship between food and energy.

    Over last 50 years we have seen increased agricultural productivity thanks to the adoption of new technologies and inputs, which are largely based on fossil fuels. The increase in the energy intensity of agriculture has brought with it unprecedented yields with minimal human labor.

    Mechanization of the agriculture sector, improved fertilizers, more resilient crops, and the development of pesticides, all of which rely on fossil fuels, are the reasons for the increased productivity.

    The 27% food waste figure does not include food wasted on the farm, in fisheries, and during processing and relies on outdated food consumption and waste data, some of which is from the 1970s.

    Because of economic and population growth, the total amount of food production and consumption has grown since the latest food loss study for 1995, and the portion of income Americans spend on food has dropped. From this, the researchers hypothesized that the current amount of food wasted to be higher compared to the USDA's 1995 estimates. If this is true, addressing food waste represents an opportunity for avoided energy consumption.

    Follow the link in the headline to read the complete report. doclink

    Tests Find Nitrogen is Choking Earth

    February 21, 2000, MSNBC

    Plant species replaced, 'dead zones' in water more prevalent. - If farmers continue to depend heavily on nitrogen fertilizer, the agricultural landscape could turn ugly within 50 years, says a University of Minnesota ecologist. David Tilman found, in a two decade study, that, as the amount of nitrogen doubles, species diversity declines by 25%. And as nitrogen levels continue to increase, species are lost at a greater, though less dramatic, rate, leveling off at declines of 40% to 70%. The species that do survive are usually less-desirable, non-native ones such as quack grass, which needs high doses of nitrogen to thrive. Oxygen-starved "dead zones," such as the one now in the Gulf of Mexico, will become increasingly prevalent and many plants will die off, while fewer - and less desirable ones - will take over, he said. To get world food production to double over the past 35 years, farmers have had to use seven times as much nitrogen as they used to, effectively doubling the amount that already comes in from the atmosphere. By 2050, the use of nitrogen may quadruple with the projected increase in the world population by almost 50%, and if it becomes increasingly affluent with a buying power 2.4 times that of today's population and producing a demand for twice as much food. Tilman recommends timing applications of fertilizer better and doing a better job of removing it from sewage. doclink

    Birth-Control Opponents Greenwash Their Message

    May 13, 2010, Grist online magazine

    Opponents of birth control are "going green" these days. "Study after study has shown how the chemicals from the pill discharge into our waterways and wreak havoc on the fish," says the campaign site.

    What the "Pill Kills" site doesn't make clear is that the American Life League opposes all contraception of any kind. If the group cared about the environment, it would acknowledge that unplanned births lead to more environmental degradation than the Pill.

    The League wants you to protest on June 5, to mourn the anniversary of the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right of married couples to use birth control. doclink

    Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

    October 20, 2009,

    As the population of the world grows, so does our demand for food and thus the need for large scale agriculture, which in turn demands fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides for crops and large confined animal facilities to raise livestock.

    In the U.S., the runoff from farms along the Mississippi river of waste water and fertilizer, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, pour billions of pounds of excess nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a dead zone, where waters rich in mineral and organic nutrients promote the growth of algae, reducing the dissolved oxygen content and causing the extinction of fish and other marine life starting from the mouth of the Mississippi River and spanning sometimes all the way to the Texas border.

    The Dead Zone was first recorded in the early 1970's. It originally occurred every two to three years, but now occurs annually, and over the past five years has covered 6,000 square miles.

    The Gulf of Mexico dead zone threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries that generate about $2.8 billion per year. Commercial fishermen are forced to fish elsewhere or stop altogether. Some species of HABs have been proven to cause negative health effects on humans. Advancements in science and management have been made, yet no real difference has been made to the size of the dead zones. doclink

    U.S.: New Mexico Dairy Pollution Sparks 'Manure War'


    Across the country, big dairies are coming under increased criticism for polluting the air and the water.

    More and more milk comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where large herds live in feedlots.

    The average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure daily. With New Mexico's 300,000 milk cows, the manure is enough to fill up nine Olympic-size pools each day.

    But none of these factory farms have a sewage treatment plant. What happens is the muck is hosed off the concrete floor of a milking barn, and it flows into a plastic- or clay-lined lagoon where the liquid evaporates. Then waste from the feedlot is collected and used as fertilizer for grain crops.

    However the New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state's 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland.

    Adding to the problem is the tendency of large dairies to cluster together. On one stretch of road between Interstate 10 between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, more than 30,000 cows live on 11 farms, which have been repeatedly cited for violating the Clean Water Act because manure-laced stormwater was washing into tributaries of the Rio Grande.

    There is a big problem for the residents there: the odor, the flies, and contaminated well water.

    Commodity agriculture, including dairies, is toward fewer and larger farms, which concentrates more manure in smaller geographic areas.

    A dairy industry spokesman suggests that critics suggests that "They may have a septic tank that's leaking. That is the No. 1 reason why domestic wells in New Mexico are contaminated." Dairymen "want to make sure that their families that live on these dairies can drink that water, can bathe in that water and their animals are healthy as well."

    The dairy industry is big in New Mexico, a poor state with little private industry. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: these farms are profitable because a) there is a large population of people drinking milk, b) farms are run in the most efficient manner, which means operating a CAFO. Ideally CAFOs are located in isolated areas, but the size of these are shrinking as population grows.

    Wide Range of Bisphenol a Found in Canned Foods

    November 18, 2009, Consumer Reports Health

    The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, has in some studies been linked to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

    Consumer Reports tested 19 name-brand canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all contain some BPA. Whether or not the label said "organic" made a difference in the BPA level.

    More recent animal and laboratory studies indicating serious health risks could result from much lower doses of BPA than the 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight set as an upper daily limit in the 1980s.

    Consumer Reports recommends limiting daily exposure to one-thousandth of that level, or 0.0024 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.

    7 billion pounds of BPA are produced annually for use in countless products, including dental sealants, PVC water pipes, medical equipment, consumer electronics, and even cash-register receipts.

    The highest levels of BPA in the Consumer Reports tests were found in the canned green beans and canned soup. Consumers eating just one serving of the canned vegetable soup that Consumer Reports tested would get about double what the FDA now considers typical average dietary daily exposure. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We tend to trust that food is safe when millions are eating it. There is safety in numbers, right? Wrong! Manufacturers assume a god-like attitude when they have so many customers. Another problem with large numbers of people.

    Top China Lead Smelter Acknowledges Poisoning Role

    October 13, 2009, Reuters

    968 children out of 2,743 tested, living near some of China's biggest lead plants, showed excessive levels of lead in their blood, according to Xinhua news agency. China's largest lead smelting firm acknowledged partial responsibility.

    Some of the plants and production lines in other provinces have been suspended since the poisoning of children living near smelters.

    "Mass incidents" -- or riots and protests -- sparked by environmental problems have been rising at a rate of 30% per year, according to China's environment minister.

    The boom in metals prices has made investment in mines and smelters very profitable, and dangerously polluting plants have sprung up across the Chinese countryside. Local officials, who worry about losing a large taxpayer and employer, often turn a blind eye to safety and environmental violations.

    Lead poisoning is usually gradual and can result in anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage. The average level of lead in the blood of Chinese children is five times the acceptable level in the United States.

    Lead prices spiked to their highest point this year in early September, when the plant closures were first announced. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: high demand for metals like lead is driven by population growth and consumption. High population in a region makes wages cheap for industries in that region.

    Drinking From Plastic Raises BPA Levels 70 Percent

    October 14, 2009, Natural News

    Urinary levels of toxic bisphenol A (BPA) are increased by nearly 70% by drinking water from plastic bottles made with the chemical, a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed.

    BPA, which makes plastics hard and transparent, is widely used in plastic drinking bottles, infant bottles and other consumer products, and also in resins that line cans of food and infant formula.

    The chemical disrupts the hormonal system, and can lead to reproductive defects as well as brain damage, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

    "The adults in this study were willing participants who understood the risk of exposure, but babies are unwitting victims of the silent but serious threat this hormone-disrupting chemical poses to their health."

    A number of major retailers, including Toys R' Us, Wal-Mart, Nalgene, Gerber, Playtex and others, have agreed to phase out the chemical in some countries.

    The state of Minnesota has banned the use of BPA in food containers intended for children three and younger, as have Chicago and New York's Suffolk County. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This is more of a consumption than an overpopulation problem. We need to tackle both.

    U.S.: New, Highly Toxic Pesticide is Greenhouse Gas 4,780 Times More Potent Than CO2

    July 13, 2009, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Pesticide Action Network, and the Sierra Club recently asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a request from Dow AgroSciences for a permit allowing it to release large amounts of sulfuryl fluoride onto 65 acres of test plots in farm fields in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California.

    The chemical is intended to sterilize soil in farm fields, but is a toxic pesticide "4,780 times as potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide", according to Pesticide Action Network. The permit would allow the release of 32,435 pounds. "A car that gets 30 miles per gallon would have to be driven 23 million miles - the distance of a trip circling the world over 930 times" - to cause as much global warming that the test would emit.

    Craig Segall of the Sierra Club said "We're asking EPA to nip this problem in the bud."

    Sulfuryl fluoride also poses significant human health and ecological risks, due to its high toxicity. The EPA needs to carefully reviewed the health risks for those exposed to the chemical or considered the impacts of the releases on endangered species and other wildlife. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more people there are to feed, the more we need to resort to drastic measures to feed them.

    U.S.: NOAA Forecast Predicts Large "Dead Zone" for Gulf of Mexico This Summer

    Environmental News Network

    The "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf of Mexico this summer could be one of the largest on record. In the dead zone seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters. Dead zones are caused by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water.

    Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

    This hypoxic, or low-to-no oxygen area, is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries by destroying critical habitat.

    "The high water volume flows coupled with nearly triple the nitrogen concentrations in these rivers over the past 50 years from human activities has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone," said Gene Turner, Ph.D., a lead forecast modeler from Louisiana State University. doclink

    Artificial Sweeteners May Contaminate Water Downstream of Sewage Treatment Plants and Even Drinking Water

    June 18, 2009, Science Daily

    Artificial sweeteners are not removed completely from waste water by sewage treatment plants, and contaminate waters downstream and may still be present in our drinking water. Four commonly used artificial sweeteners, acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate, and sucralose were found to be present in German waste and surface water. Both traditional and soil aquifer treatments were examined. doclink

    US Adopts Limits on Clean Water Law Enforcement

    June 5, 2007, Planet Ark

    US law to fight water pollution will now apply only to bodies of water large enough for boats, and their adjacent wetlands, and will not automatically protect streams.

    Environmental groups said they fear the new policy will put many smaller bodies of water at risk. Democrats have introduced legislation mandating protection of creeks, estuaries and other watersheds.

    The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers wrote the new guidelines after the Supreme Court split in a case about which waters fall under the Clean Water Act.

    Because of this lower courts must decide on a case-by-case basis if the law applies to smaller water areas.

    EPA will decide on a case-by-case basis to regulate tributaries that may affect main waterways. doclink

    Worst Forms of Pollution Killing Millions

    October 24, 2008, IPS News

    Gold mining and recycling car batteries are two of the world's most dangerous pollution problems. A 2007 Cornell University study says that 40% of all deaths worldwide are attributable to pollution. In Dakar, women from some poor areas were hoping to make some money recycling car batteries and ended up accidentally killing their children. In the tropics, car batteries only last a year or two and there is a thriving recycling industry. However, much is done by very poor people. Lead dust fills the air and children playing nearby inhaled the toxic lead dust, and some died.

    The lead levels in the blood of surviving children was 10 times the maximum allowed in the U.S. The site in Dakar was cleaned up but is a source of income for the poor. The batteries are now being shipped to proper recycling facilities. Other pollution comes from small-scale mining involving some 15 million miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children. About 95% of the mercury used to recover the gold ends up in the environment, 30% of all mercury emitted into the global environment each year. There are safer and more effective ways of recover gold using a simple tool called a "retort" but education and retraining is required. Education and other international development assistance efforts will fail without reducing the pollution that affects the mental and physical capacity of so many people. doclink

    U.S.: New study links BPA to heart disease and diabetes

    September 17, 2008, Grist Magazine

    Bisphenol A, found in some plastic bottles, baby toys, and canned foods, is linked to heart disease and diabetes, says new research. The FDA recently declared it safe; Researchers studied urine samples from 1,455 American adults; BPA was detectable in 90%, though all were within recommended exposure levels. However, participants with the highest levels of BPA had nearly three times the chance of having heart disease, and were 2.4 times more likely to have diabetes. Other studies have linked the chemical to reproductive and hormonal troubles. Everyone agrees more research is needed, many consumers are trying to avoid BPA. doclink

    US California: Warming Could Radically Change Lake Tahoe in 10 Years

    March 24, 2008, UC Davis News and Information

    A study predicts that climate change will irreversibly alter water circulation in Lake Tahoe, a deep volcanic crater lake, within 10 years.

    One result would be a warmer lake, with fewer cold-water native fish, and more invasive species.

    Still unclear is how the changes would affect the lake's clarity and color. I is expected that deep mixing of Lake Tahoe's water layers will become less frequent, depleting the bottom waters of oxygen. This will result in a permanent disruption to the entire lake food web. This happens annually in most lakes and reservoirs in California, but Tahoe has been beyond such things.

    Research is ongoing to determine if lowered global greenhouse-gas emissions would slow the lake's decline, or prevent it.

    One objective has been to understand the clarity-clouding effects of pollution, so that policymakers can devise solutions. Then it was reported that the lake was warming up, probably because of global climate change.

    Currently, Lake Tahoe water mixes, on average, every four years. This winter Lake Tahoe experienced mixing throughout its 1,644-foot depth.

    Deep mixing moves nutrients from the lake bottom to the water surface, where they promote the growth of algae. And it takes oxygen from the surface and distributes it throughout the lake, which supports aquatic life.

    If greenhouse-gas emissions continue at current levels, mixing could become less frequent, even stop altogether as soon as 2019.

    If mixing shuts down, no new oxygen gets to the bottom of the lake, and creatures that need it will have a large part of their range excluded. Equally worrying is the likelihood that phosphorus that is locked up in the lake-floor sediments will get released. This will fuel algal growth and cause many problems, including reduced lake clarity, unpleasant odors and bad-tasting drinking water.

    The climatic changes are impacting lakes around the world. These concerns have been the topic of a science workshop at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. The goal is to learn more about the security of drinking-water supplies and the ecological sustainability of these lake systems. doclink

    Idyllic Yamaska is Canada's filthiest river

    May 19, 2008, Toronto Star

    The Yamaska flows out of Lac Brome in the Eastern Townships, across some of the most fertile farmland in Canada before spilling into the St. Lawrence River about 75 kilometres east of Montreal. Environment Canada gave the Yamaska an anemic 27.1 out of a possible 100 points.

    The next worst river is in Quebec, the Bayonne, was rated 27.6, has its headwaters north of Joliette and joins the north shore of the St. Lawrence near Berthierville.

    The fourth-dirtiest river in Canada is Ontario's Don rated 34.8, but of the 16 rivers rated as "poor" or "very poor," 13 are in Quebec.

    Biologists say the culprits are phosphorous, ammonia and nitrates the results of pesticide and fertilizer runoff and the animal waste.

    Long-term pollution problems have caused genetic mutations in the bullfrog population and one expert told a rural newspaper she wouldn't drink water out of the Yamaska, even if it's filtered. "It's more like an open sewer."

    In the Yamaska watershed, one of the big problems is pigs, in the rural municipality of Les Maskoutins, for example, there are 80,000 inhabitants and 800,000 pigs.

    On the Bayonne side, the issue is chickens, who produce so much manure it is exported as fertilizer.

    The manure is often spread on local cornfields, whose yield is transformed into pork, chicken feed, and, recently, ethanol.

    Intensive deforestation, especially along riverbanks, have contributed to runoff, erosion and turbidity problems and municipal storm sewers and sanitary sewage have compounded everything.

    The Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), Quebec's most powerful farming lobby group, says "We've been singled out a lot, but in a large majority of the cases, it wasn't just agriculture, cottagers, municipalities, lots of people have an impact on that river and others." The UPA remains committed to more sustainable farming methods. Officials insist that the situation is improving and the toxicity levels are within accepted norms.

    Quebec Environment Minister announced a $200 million strategy to improve the quality of the province's lakes and rivers.

    The government strategy is primarily aimed at reducing the proliferation of the blue algae and at general improvements to water-quality standards.

    Critics warn that the provincial government isn't acting with enough haste. The provincial pollution standards are far too low and the UPA, will succeed in delaying the adoption of stricter practices.

    The rapid development of the St. Lawrence Valley from the 1960s, sophisticated farming techniques that maximize yields, new fertilizers, genetically modified grains, agricultural subsidies, and an emerging ethanol market.

    All stoked by decades of government policies aimed at developing an agricultural sector that can compete on a global scale. doclink

    U.S.: Two Words: Bad Plastic

    July 31, 2007, Salon Magazine

    The American Chemistry Council tells us that bisphenol A makes our lives "healthier and safer, each and every day." But accumulating research indicates it may be adversely affecting women's ability to have children and children's reproductive health. Recent studies link bisphenol A to obesity, breast and prostate cancer, and neurological disorders.

    Bisphenol A is a building block of the plastics used in products ranging from baby bottles to coffee makers. Everyone is exposed to it.

    Bisphenol A is at the center of a controversy challenging established methods of determining chemical safety.

    Legislators in several states have introduced bills that would restrict sale of infants' and children's products containing bisphenol A. San Francisco adopted a law that would ban the sale of baby products with bisphenol A. However, in the wake of a review by the city's health and environmental departments, the city repealed the ban.

    Between 1980 and 2000, U.S. production of bisphenol A grew nearly five times.

    Te Centers for Disease Control has found bisphenol A in 95% of tested Americans at or above levels that have caused abnormalities in animals.

    Bisphenol A can interfere with hormone function. Endocrine disrupters interact in specific ways with the genetic receptors that determine a number of vital bodily mechanisms. In the case of bisphenol A, these apparently include egg cell, reproductive organ, and fat cell development. Its most profound effects appear to take place prenatally and in the early stages after birth.

    Bisphenol A produces its adverse effects in "phenomenally small amounts," that are below those the FDA considers safe for daily human consumption.

    In 1998, molecular biologist Patricia Hunt and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University were investigating chromosomal changes that occur in egg cells as animals age. One day, researchers discovered the contamination that was causing problems came from bisphenol A released by degrading plastic in the mouse cages.

    Low doses of bisphenol A can produce adverse impacts while high doses may not. Low levels of exposure during fetal development can cause lasting changes in reproductive and metabolic development. These changes to the fetus are permanent and irreversible. doclink

    US Montana: Supreme Court Won't Hear W.r. Grace Appeals

    June 24, 2008, The Missoulian

    A Supreme Court decision has potentially cleared the way for a court date for the criminal trial of W.R. Grace & Co.. It rejected the appeals of W.R. Grace and six of its top executives, who are charged with releasing asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from a mine in Libby.

    Appeals by Grace and its executives stems from a February 2005 indictment, which alleges the chemical company knowingly endangered the lives of mine workers and other Libby residents. Asbestos-related disease has killed an estimated 300 to 400 miners at W.R. Grace's now-closed vermiculite mine, their families and others, while hundreds more suffer from fatal illnesses.

    This decision strips Grace of its final chance at blunting the government's case.

    The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case means there is nowhere else for Grace to appeal. The judge has made clear his desire to bring the case to trial as quickly as possible. Grace argued that the U.S. EPA definition of asbestos doesn't cover most of the fibers that contaminated the vermiculite in Libby. After exhausting their appeal to the 9th Circuit, lawyers for Grace asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the rulings.

    Government prosecutors successfully opposed those efforts. There is a need to prevent any unnecessary delay some witnesses and many victims ... are dying from mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases. Molloy's 2006 stymied the government's plans to bring charges of "knowing endangerment," a violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Molloy held that those charges were time-barred.

    Prosecutors argued that the "knowing endangerment" charges lie at the heart of allegations that top Grace executives intentionally concealed the dangers. Grace agreed to pay $3 billion to those sickened or killed because of its actions in Libby, and agreed to pay the U.S. government $250 million to reimburse its investigation and cleanup of asbestos poisoning in Libby. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: as population increases, so does the search for resources, often necessitating exploring materials with hazards that are unknown. In my town, schools and houses sometimes are being built on asbestos-laden soil, the type of asbestos with fibers too small to be measured by standard EPA equipment, and with dangers to health still undetermined, but likely very dangerous.

    U.S.: Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

    June 30, 2008, Washington Post

    The Defense Department is resisting orders from the EPA to clean up military bases where dumped chemicals pose dangers to public health and the environment.

    The Pentagon has declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12 other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country. The actions are part of a standoff between the Pentagon and environmental regulators that has been building during the Bush administration. The EPA will not sue the Pentagon; although the law gives final say to EPA Administrator in cleanup disputes with other federal agencies, the Pentagon refuses to recognize that provision. Experts in environmental law said the Pentagon's stand is unprecedented.

    Pentagon officials say they are voluntarily cleaning up the three sites named in the EPA's "final orders" -- Fort Meade in Maryland, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

    At all three sites, the military has released toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater.

    "Final orders" are the EPA's enforcement tool. If a polluter does not comply, the agency usually can go to court to force compliance and impose fines up to $28,000 a day for each violation.

    Cleanup agreements drafted by the EPA for the 12 other sites contain "extensive provisions" that the Pentagon finds unacceptable.

    Congress established the Superfund to clean up the country's most contaminated places. Some military branches have been more cooperative than others.

    The Pentagon's has about 25,000 contaminated properties in all 50 states. The EPA said final orders were issued because the agency is worried about drinking water and soil contamination. The Pentagon has also fought EPA efforts to set new pollution standards on perchlorate, found in propellant for rockets and missiles, and trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser for metal parts.

    More than 1,000 military sites are contaminated with TCE.

    Since Bush took office, one military site has been added to the Superfund list -- the Navy bombing range at Vieques Island, off Puerto Rico. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more people there are, the bigger the military to defend and the more the pollution.

    US California: Ammonia From Sacramento Waste Could Hurt Delta Ecosystem

    June 1, 2008, Sacramento Bee

    Sacramento's regional sewage treatment plant discharges treated wastewater from nearly 1.4 million people into the Sacramento River without removing ammonia.

    Two recent studies show that ammonia disrupts the food chain in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

    The discovery, if it holds up to further scientific review, illustrates how fixing the Delta will be a costly task. The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District estimates it needs as much as $1 billion to remove ammonia from the metro area's wastewater. It seems to interrupt a natural food production line that would otherwise yield abundant blooms of tiny aquatic animals to feed salmon, smelt and bass, but those species have been in steady decline.

    The ammonia threat was illustrated when dozens of chinook salmon showed up dead in the San Joaquin River near Stockton's sewage outfall. Sacramento's effluent problem is slightly different, the threat is the enormous volume of ammonia-laced wastewater. The plant near Freeport each day releases about 146 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River is traditionally considered the Delta's lifeblood, because it provides the vast majority of fresh water entering the estuary.

    But Sacramento has been growing like gangbusters, and so the water's perhaps not quite clean as we thought.

    The ammonia load in Sacramento's wastewater has more than doubled since 1985 due to rapid urbanization and the regional sewer agency is planning a major expansion that includes no ammonia controls.

    Sewage officials estimate upgrading to filter out ammonia would cost $740 million. To remove excessive nitrates produced as a byproduct of that treatment would raise the cost to $1 billion.

    District engineers estimate these steps would boost sewage rates in the region from $19.75 per month to $62.17.

    Growth in Sacramento's ammonia output has coincided with a decline in diatoms, an important phytoplankton at the base of the food chain.

    The volume of human wastewater may be starving Delta fish by shutting down food production.

    Young fish eat small animals called zooplankton that in turn, feed on diatoms and other phytoplankton.

    Phytoplankton require nutrients and enough sunlight to bloom in sufficient numbers. Nitrates are the favored nutrient. Ammonia is another.

    Phytoplankton can't feed on nitrates when there is too much ammonia in the water. A toxic type of algae, has begun to replace more nutritious phytoplankton. So ammonia may also encourage the rise of harmful foods.

    New studies are under way to confirm whether Sacramento's sewage is the true cause.

    "If it's part of the problem, the river just could never handle that amount and reduce it. Sacramento's regional sewage plant uses a so-called "secondary" treatment process that has become outdated. Most other urban areas have upgraded to "tertiary" systems that add rigorous filtration steps.

    Sacramento has been able to avoid this expense so far, Snyder said, because its wastewater is quickly diluted to legally acceptable levels by the strong flow of the Sacramento River.

    A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled against the district on a number of points filed by many of the water agencies that divert drinking water from the Delta to serve more than 20 million people throughout California.

    The court ruled that the Sacramento district "ignored a significant component of the environment" by failing to fully assess the additional nutrients pumped into the Delta in the region's wastewater.

    The ammonia threat can be fixed if further research confirms it to be a danger.

    But there is no fix for the predicted sea level rise that could overwhelm Delta levees, nor any practical way to remove foreign species invading the estuary. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: how can people be so short-sighted! Duh! If you add more people, you have more impacts of varying sorts. Better to stabilize population by preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place. You can't put people back once they are born (or conceived according to some religions).

    World Water Day 2008: Sanitation Message From UNESCO Director-General

    March 20, 2008, Kazinform

    One of the greatest challenges faced by humankind is to improve the well-being of the 2.6 billion people lacking access to basic sanitation. Progress towards the MDG target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation has been slow and uneven.

    Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services is a prerequisite for achieving the MDGs on poverty, health, gender and environmental sustainability. Primary benefits include enhanced public health, reduction of water-borne diseases, and the prevention of premature death of millions of people. Better sanitation also results in enhanced human development, dignity, privacy and safety, particularly of women and girls, and greater advancement in gender equality.

    Direct disposal of vast amounts of untreated wastewater and human waste poses a threat to the health of aquatic ecosystems. There is an urgent need to address the issue of sanitation in a sustainable manner. Significant advancement has been made in the development of low-cost technologies for sanitation. Mainstreaming sanitation at the national level is a starting point to accelerate progress. UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme addresses the issue of sanitation in the broader context of sustainable urban water management. doclink

    Trickle of Water (1)

    March 24, 2008, Kansas City Star

    The UN believes, because of the lack of toilets and sewage treatment, three-quarters of a million children die every year from ailments connected to fecal contamination.

    The combined population of China and India is about the number of humans without toilets.

    The UN has declared 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. One of the objectives is to cut in half by 2015 the number of people who still lack toilet facilities. doclink

    New Zealand: Clean and Green? Well, Yes and No

    February 1, 2008, The Nelson Mail

    Clean and green isn't the full story, as a new report issued by the Ministry for the Environment on Thursday points out. Environment New Zealand 2007 comes a decade after the first report on the state of the environment. To be produced every five years, it is a measuring tool that will help in decision-making as New Zealand moves towards sustainability. It shows that there is no room for complacency if clean and green is going to be permanently secured. New Zealand is a long way from losing its claim to a special environmental image, and progress has been made in greater use of public transport, protection for some land and waters, better pest management, improvements to waste management and a higher level of recycling.

    Since 1995 the amount of solid waste disposed of at landfills has fallen from 3.18 to 3.16 million tonnes, but converted to tonnes of waste per thousand dollars of GDP, there has been a 26% drop. The number of landfills has fallen from 327 to 60, most with better environmental controls. The report notes that part of the cause is the introduction of user charges to dispose of waste.

    Greenhouse gas emissions are up 25% since 1990, partly due to a growing population and economy but the emissions represent less than 1% of the global total; New Zealand is 12th per head of population.

    There has been a 39% increase in total household consumption expenditure between 1997 and 2006, compared with a population increase of around 11%. About 61% of vehicles are more than 10 years old in 2006, 4% higher than in 2001.

    Poor air quality, mostly from particulates from wood and coal burned for home heating, affects 53% of New Zealanders. The expanding dairy herd went up 24% to 5.22 million cows between 1996 and 2006 and has brought a reduction in fresh water quality, affected soil health and increased some greenhouse gas emissions.

    There is no room for complacency if New Zealand is to continue to profit from primary production and tourism and, more importantly to protect for future generations what has for so long been taken for granted. Staying clean and green will require effort and change. doclink

    UAE Development - Skyscrapers Built on Sand

    March 11, 2008, Ethical Corporation Magazine

    Gulf leaders should wake up to the environmental costs of their rush to attract wealthy visitors. News about urban developments in the UAE has been greeted with a mixture of awe and uncertainty across the world. Growth rates of 16% in the resource-poor emirate of Dubai reinforce optimism, the question remains: who is taking ownership of the sustainability agenda in the UAE?

    Demand for new developments is ever increasing. In Dubai, hotel occupancy levels are at over 80% and rates are at record highs. Dubai's population is a measly 1.4 million people. And the entire UAE is home to 4.1 million, 80% of whom are foreigners.

    Are Dubai's plans for 15 million visitors to contribute 20% of GDP are realistic? The strategy of Dubai authorities is "build it and they will come". But with neighbouring emirates also planning expansion, what happens if demand wanes?

    What is most troubling is the damage they are causing the environment. Palm Islands has clouded Gulf waters with silt. Construction has buried coral reefs, oyster beds and subterranean sea grass, while the disruption of natural currents is leading to the erosion of beaches. doclink

    Africa: Nature's Answers to the Sanitation Challenge

    March 19, 2008, Africa Science News Service

    At a prison on the East coast of Africa, inmates are pioneering a sanitation project, working with nature to neutralize human wastes. The initiative, involving the development of a wetland to purify sewage, is expected to cost a fraction of the price of high-tech treatments. The project is to assess using the wetland- filtered water for irrigation and fish farming. Part of the wastewater with high concentrations of human waste will be used for the production of biogas, that can be used as a fuel, cutting electricity bills, saving money and cutting emissions from the 4,000-strong jail.

    The project, financed by Norway with support from partners including Kenya, Tanzania and the University of Amsterdam. The day and the year are aimed at raising awareness to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015, that include halving the proportion of people with no access to sanitation from the current 40% of the global population or an estimated 2.6 billion people.

    Sewage pollution is estimated to cause four million lost 'man-years' annually in terms of human ill-health, an economic loss of $16 billion a year.

    The new project in Mombasa highlights there are less costly ways of addressing the problem with important spin-offs.

    The sewerage collection and wetland purification system costs, including upgrading of sanitary facilities inside the prison, amount to $25 per person served -- a bargain.

    This does not include reductions of solids that can choke coral reefs and nutrients that can increase de-oxygenated 'dead zones', cuts in bacterial pollution that can contaminate shellfish and a locale where tourism is important to the local economy.

    The project is likely to benefit wildlife. Thus, it can assist to achieve the target of reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.

    This is among projects being undertaken under the activities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO-LaB) initiative. It is others in South Africa using ponds of natural algae to treat wastewaters including sewage.

    The algae assists in de-toxifying the pollutants and is then harvested as a commercial fertilizer and protein-rich animal feed.

    The total project cost here is around $188,000 with economic benefits offsetting the price by $50,000 a year.

    Working with nature it is part of that intelligent decision-making that may prove a faster, more cost effective way of achieving health and poverty goals. doclink

    Increased Corn Production is Damaging Gulf of Mexico, Scientists Say

    The Albuquerque Tribune

    American farmers are growing more corn and sea life in the Gulf of Mexico is paying the price.

    The corn crop is fertilized with nitrogen-based fertilizer. And when that nitrogen runs off fields in Corn Belt states, it makes its way to the Mississippi River and eventually pours into the Gulf, where it contributes to a growing 7,900-square-mile patch so depleted of oxygen that fish, crabs and shrimp suffocate.

    The dead zone was discovered in 1985 and has grown steadily since then. With demand for corn booming, some researchers fear the dead zone will expand rapidly and the ecosystem might change or collapse.

    Environmentalists had hoped to cut nitrogen runoff by encouraging farmers to apply less fertilizer and establish buffers along waterways. But the demand for ethanol has driven up the price for corn. American farmers, mostly in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota planted more than 93 million acres of corn in 2007, the most since 1933.

    Corn absorbs less nitrogen per acre. The prime reasons are the drainage systems used in corn fields and the timing of when the fertilizer is applied.

    The EPA estimates that 210 million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer enter the Gulf of Mexico each year.

    Farmers realize the connection between their crop and problems but with the price of corn soaring, it doesn't make sense to grow anything else. And growing corn isn't profitable without nitrogen-based fertilizer.

    The dead zone begins in the spring and persists into the summer. Its size and location vary each year.

    It was larger in 2002 and 2001, when it covered 8,500 and 8,006 square miles respectively.

    Soil erosion, sewage and industrial pollution contribute to the dead zone, but fertilizer is the chief factor.

    Fertilizer causes growth of algae, which dies and sucks up oxygen as it decays. This creates a deep layer of oxygen-depleted ocean.

    Bottom-dwelling species are most at risk, they can't swim away.

    Crabbers complained in early 2007 that they pulled up bucket upon bucket of dead crabs. People's livelihood depends on the shrimp, fish and crabs in these waters. The nation needs a comprehensive, federal approach to the problem.

    Among the ideas: rules to force farmers to use fertilizers with more care, and the establishment of buffer zones to contain runoff. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More people means more demand for corn for food and fuel, which means more poisoning of our own environment.

    Organo Failure California Study Suggests Link Between Autism and Pesticide Exposure

    July 31, 2007, Los Angeles Times

    California found that exposure to two pesticides may make women more likely to give birth to children with autism. But the scientists cautioned that their finding is preliminary because of the small number of women and children involved.

    Very preliminary data suggests there may be an association. The two pesticides are compounds developed in the 1950s and used to kill mites, primarily on cotton as well as some vegetables and other crops. Scientists determined that the Central Valley women lived within 500 meters, or 547 yards, of fields sprayed with organochlorine pesticides during their first trimester of pregnancy. Eight of them had children with autism, six times greater than for mothers who did not live near the fields. This is a sixfold risk factor in comparison to someone who is not exposed. The findings suggest that 7% of autism cases in the Central Valley during 1996 through 1998 might have been connected to exposure to the insecticides drifting off fields into residential areas. Scientists have been exploring various environmental factors, including children's vaccines and chemical pollutants.

    Scientists collected records of nearly 300,000 children born in the 19 counties of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys, 465 had autism. They compared the addresses during pregnancy to records that detailed the location of fields sprayed with pesticides.

    For most pesticides, no unusual numbers of autism cases were found, but the exception was a class of compounds called organochlorines. Most, including DDT, were banned in the US several decades ago, only dicofol and endosulfan remain.

    The autism rate was highest for children of mothers who lived the closest to the fields. The scientists concluded that the possibility of a connection requires further study.

    A July report said endosulfan can spread far from fields via the air. The agency is likely to designate endosulfan as a toxic air contaminant, and dicofol could follow. That triggers a review to see whether steps should be taken to minimize the chemicals drifting off fields.

    More work on the potential link is needed before it can carry much weight in assessments of the chemicals' risks.

    The two insecticides are used much less than in the years in which the possible connection to autism was found. Insects have built up resistance and cotton farmers have switched to new compounds.

    The chemicals are used most extensively in Fresno, Kings, Imperial and Tulare counties. Dicofol is used on cotton, oranges, beans and walnuts. Endosulfan is used in tomato processing and on lettuce, alfalfa and cotton crops. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More pesticides become necessary to grow more plants required by more people.

    New Tests Needed for Chemicals

    July 12, 2007, BBc News

    Thousands of chemicals should be re-assessed for possible toxicity. Scientists found that conventional tests underestimate how some substances accumulate along the food chain.

    About one-third of organic substances in commercial use would need re-testing.

    It is expected most would turn out to be benign.

    But they all have the potential to be bio-accumulative.

    The European Union legislation will see about 30,000 chemicals in industrial use tested for health and safety impacts at a total cost of about 10 billion euros ($13bn).

    A substance found at a certain concentration in plankton will be at a higher concentration in small fish that eat the plankton, still higher in big fish that eat the small fish, and higher still in bears or seals that eat the big fish.

    Twelve types of toxic persistent organic pollutants have been banned worldwide under the Stockholm Convention.

    One food chain goes from plankton to fish, the second from lichen to caribou to wolves, and the third from plankton through fish to walruses, seals and polar bears.

    Arctic wolves top a food chain with lichen at its root.

    PCB-153 accumulated along all three food chains. But beta-HCH showed accumulation along the lichen/caribou/wolf and marine mammal food chains.

    Its potential to accumulate would have been missed by conventional tests.

    Many may be effectively metabolised in the body and disposed of that way.

    But they should all now be examined using this new measure of bio-accumulation to see if there is a hitherto unexpected threat to health and environmental well-being. doclink

    As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes

    August 27, 2007, New York Times*

    China's rise as an economic power has no parallel in history, and environmental degradation is so severe, that it poses a long-term burden on the Chinese and a challenge to the Communist Party. Public health is reeling and cancer is China's leading cause of death. Air pollution is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year and 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

    Beijing is searching for a magic formula, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

    In industrial cities people rarely see the sun; children are killed by local pollution; and large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

    China is choking on its own success. The growth derives from an expansion that requires colossal inputs of energy, almost all from coal. There is pressure for change, but many refuse to accept that we need a new approach so soon.

    Emissions from China's coal-fired power plants fall as acid rain on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo. Particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China. The International Energy Agency has said China could become the emissions leader by the end of this year.

    For the Communist Party, the political outcome is daunting. Delivering prosperity placates the public, provides spoils for well-connected officials and forestalls demands for political change. A major slowdown could incite social unrest, and threaten the party's rule.

    But officials blame pollution for social unrest. Health care costs have climbed. Water shortages could turn farmland into desert. And the expansion of industries creates dependence on imported oil and dirty coal. China's leaders recognize that they must change course. The government has targets for reducing emissions and conserving energy. Export subsidies for polluting industries have been phased out. Campaigns have been started to close illegal coal mines and close polluting factories. Major initiatives are under way to develop solar and wind power. Environmental regulation have been tightened ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

    Yet most targets for energy efficiency, improving air and water quality, have gone unmet. Land, water, electricity, oil and bank loans remain relatively inexpensive, even for heavy polluters. Provincial officials often ignore environmental edicts. Enforcement is often tinged with corruption. Chinese leaders argue that the outside world is a partner in degrading the country's environment. Chinese manufacturers make the products that fill stores in the US and Europe. Beijing will accept no mandatory limits on its carbon dioxide emissions. It argues that rich countries caused global warming and should find a way to solve it without impinging on China's development.

    But the command-and-control political culture accustomed to issuing thundering directives is now under pressure to submit to oversight from the public, for which pollution has become a deadly reality.

    Industrialization has lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty. But growth came at the expense of the country's air, land and water. A major culprit is coal, on which China relies for about two-thirds of its energy needs. Many of its newest coal-fired plants operate inefficiently and use inadequate pollution controls. Traffic and low-grade gasoline have made autos the leading source of air pollution in major Chinese cities. Only Cairo, among world capitals, had worse air quality as measured by particulates. Emissions of sulfur dioxide are increasing faster than China's economic growth. Other major air pollutants are not widely monitored in China. An even more acute challenge is water. The north, home to about half of China's population, is an immense, parched region that threatens to become the world's biggest desert.

    Many aquifers have been so depleted that some wells in Beijing and Hebei must extend more than half a mile before they reach fresh water. Chinese leaders have undertaken one of the most ambitious engineering projects in world history, a $60 billion network of canals, rivers and lakes to transport water from the flood-prone Yangtze River to the silt-choked Yellow River. But that will still leave the north thirsty.

    Water remains inexpensive by global standards, and Chinese industry uses 4 to 10 times more water per unit of production than the average in industrialized nations.

    The toll water pollution has taken on human health remains a delicate topic. The leadership has banned publication of data for fear of inciting social unrest. An unpublicized report by the Chinese estimated that 300,000 people die each year from ambient air pollution. Annual premature deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution were likely to reach 380,000 in 2010 and 550,000 in 2020.

    China's environmental agency insisted that the health statistics be removed from the World Bank report, citing the possible impact on "social stability."

    The WHO found that China suffered more deaths from water-related pollutants but agreed that the total had reached 750,000 a year. China's pollution is set to get significantly worse, because China has come to rely mainly on energy-intensive heavy industry to fuel economic growth.

    Today, collusion between government and business has made all but the most pro-growth government policies hard to enforce.

    The government last year mandated that the country use 20% less energy to achieve the same level of economic activity in 2010 as 2005 and required that emissions pollutants decline by 10%. Chinese leaders reject mandatory emissions caps, and say the energy efficiency plan will slow growth in emissions.

    But in the first year since the targets were set, emissions increased. Officials have rejected surcharges on electricity and coal to reflect the cost to the environment. The state controls the price of fuel oil, including gasoline, subsidizing the cost of driving.

    The environmental agency still has only about 200 full-time employees. Environmentalists expose pollution and press local government officials to enforce environmental laws. But private individuals cannot cross the line between advocacy and political agitation without risking arrest.

    At least two leading environmental organizers have been prosecuted in recent weeks, and several others have received sharp warnings. doclink

    BP Allowed to Increase Waste Discharges Into Lake Michigan

    July 17, 2007,

    BP received permission from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. EPA to be exempt from laws that cap the amount of toxins discharged into Lake Michigan.

    The refinery needs the exemption to proceed with its $3.8 billion expansion and discharges, which are expected to include 54% more ammonia and 35% more sludge daily. The permit is effective for three years, once the expansion is operational.

    The expansion, which is expected to add 80 jobs, is to be completed by 2011 but an air permit is required before work can proceed.

    The refinery will reduce the concentration of pollutants by mixing them with clean water 200 feet from the shore. The refinery doesn't have adequate real estate to build a larger waste water treatment plant. It has a waste water treatment plant that's in full compliance. State and federal environmental bodies didn't see any risk with the new permit.

    But a Gary environmentalist said BP should try harder to protect the environment.

    It's an important project for the area and the country. We just think they should do the maximum possible to protect the environment.

    The permit violates standards, which prohibit water quality from being adversely affected by the source of pollution. The Clean Water Act was to stop discharge of pollution into waterways. doclink

    U.S.: Gulf Dead Zone to Be Biggest Ever

    July 18, 2007, BBC News

    This year could see the biggest "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions are right for the zone to exceed last summer's 6,662 sq miles (17,255 sq km).

    It is caused by nutrients such as fertilisers flowing into the Gulf, stimulating the growth of algae. The volume of nutrients flowing down rivers into the Gulf has tripled over the last 50 years.

    The relatively high nitrate loading may be due to more intensive farming including crops used for biofuels. u An active storm season could change that forecast, as storms mix the seas, dispersing nutrients and algae. doclink

    Challenge to Farm Emissions Rejected

    July 19, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle

    Farms can't be sued over the pollution or odors they emit if they have an agreement with the EPA.

    The ruling rebuked environmental groups, which sued to change an EPA policy that allows animal operations to skirt environmental laws. Petitioners maintained these operations pollute the air, emit odors that attract flies. They argued that the EPA did not follow proper procedures in crafting an agreement to allow farms to avoid legal punishment for violating emissions requirements. The agreements requires the farms to pay a civil penalty and give the government permission to monitor the facility.

    Nearly 2,600 animal operations have entered into agreement with the EPA. doclink

    BP Says it Won't Increase Pollution

    Baltimore Tribune

    BP will not dump more pollution into Lake Michigan, but critics want to ensure its promises are legally binding.

    BP pledged it will not invoke provisions of a new permit that allows it to release more ammonia and suspended solids into the lake.

    BP said it would abide by the more stringent limits in its previous permit as the company moves forward with a $3.8 billion expansion of its refinery. The decision is a victory for opponents who argued the permit undercut decades of efforts to clean up Lake Michigan.

    BP will search for alternatives to keep pollution out of the lake and scuttle the expansion project if an acceptable solution could not be found. City officials gave BP a report listing technologies at other refineries that reduce ammonia and solids pollution. The report, concluded that BP could upgrade the Whiting refinery's water treatment plant for less than $40 million.

    BP is paying Argonne National Laboratory and Purdue University's Calumet Water Institute to evaluate more aggressive treatment technologies.

    Regulators agreed there was not anything the company could do to keep more pollution out of Lake Michigan and concluded there is not enough room at the refinery for the necessary equipment.

    The permit allows BP to put 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of suspended solids into the lake every day, the maximum allowed under federal guidelines.

    Critics said the permit sets a bad precedent. BP had justified the pollution by noting the expansion would create 2,000 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs. Shortly after company signaled that it would relent to public pressure and change its plans.

    Opponents gathered more than 100,000 petition signatures, and a group of politicians and celebrities urged BP to back off.

    Illinois Gov threatened to sue Indiana, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk prepared legislation that would strip BP of lucrative tax breaks, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Emanuel dipped into their campaign funds to buy radio ads asking people to sign an online petition.

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution urging Indiana regulators to reconsider the permit.

    The company's request to dump more chemicals into the lake runs counter to a provision in the Clean Water Act that prohibits any downgrade in water quality. et.

    To get around that rule, Indiana regulators allowed BP to install equipment that dilutes its wastewater with clean lake water about 200 feet offshore. Federal regulators have frowned on the method, which they describe as a threat to human health and to fish and wildlife.

    The company and the state said there will be no changes to another provision that exempts BP from tough limits on mercury pollution until 2012.

    A BP spokesman, said it would be up to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to alter the permit. But state officials said the company would first have to request the changes. doclink

    Stricter US Refinery Emission Rules Not Needed-EPA

    August 23, 2007, U.S. EPA press release

    The EPA has reviewed its policy on refinery pollutants in a settlement with environmental groups, and has susequently declined to update emission rules because the risks to health and environment are low enough. Environmental groups said the rules would put the 90 million Americans who live within 30 miles of an oil refinery at increased risk due to higher exposure to chemicals.

    The cancer risk from exposure to refinery emissions from the proposal is 70 times higher than federal limits. The Sierra Club said that the evidence shows these standards are not protective of public health.

    The EPA said the 1995 standards have reduced emissions from refineries by about 53,000 tons per year. The agency could require reductions from storage vessels and wastewater treatment plants at refineries. At the end of a risk-analysis process the EPA must conduct on refinery emissions every eight years, separate but related rules are being ewighed to expand pollution controls on the nation's aging oil refineries.

    The EPA has issued rules governing the amount of cancer-causing benzene in gasoline. doclink

    Ozone Hampering Plants' Absorption of Carbon Dioxide

    July 26, 2007, Los Angeles Times

    Rising levels of ozone near the ground are damaging the ability of plants to take up carbon dioxide. When affected by high levels of ozone, plants can absorb up to one-third less carbon dioxide. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile hydrocarbons meet in sunlight. They come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, although plants also emit carbon compounds that can participate in the reaction.

    In the stratosphere, ozone shields Earth from harmful radiation. In the atmosphere, it is an air pollutant that can make it hard for people to breathe.

    Ozone pollution is high downwind of industrial areas and attacks plants by breaking down their cells, reducing growth and causing premature aging.

    Ozone levels are creeping upward because of continued burning of fossil fuels.

    In some areas, ozone levels are above 40 parts per billion. It is projected that 40 parts per billion will be the global norm by 2100 and exceed 70 parts per billion in some areas. The largest reduction in carbon absorption would take place over North America, Europe, China and India but in those areas ozone at higher levels and the capability of trees planted to sequester carbon is going to be limited. doclink

    Groups Seek Ban on Cleaning Chemicals

    June 5, 2007, Los Angeles Times

    Led by the Sierra Club, groups are seeking a ban on nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates in cleaning products. About 400 million pounds of the chemicals are produced each year in the US. Eight petitions have been filed in the last dozen years. The EPA denied the requests. The most recent led to a lawsuit and an agreement by the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate lead in children's jewelry.

    The new petition is the first involving an endocrine-disrupting chemical, a phenomenon discovered by scientists in the early 1990s in which artificial compounds mimic estrogen or other hormones. The EPA is developing methods to screen chemicals but currently does not check for such risks when setting standards.

    Male rainbow trout and other fish exposed to the chemical become part male and part female, producing female egg proteins. The unrestricted manufacture of nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates poses an unreasonable risk to the environment. Human effects are unknown. Workers may be exposed to these chemicals each day. Companies that manufacture or use the compounds say they have been used for more than 50 years and are among the most extensively studied compounds in commerce today. One analysis found that concentrations exceeded standards set by the EPA last year in five of 1,255 sampled waterways.

    Nonylphenol compounds are used in the manufacture of detergents, paper, textiles, paints, lube oils, tires and other products. In addition to the ban for detergents, the petition is seeking restrictions on other uses and labels on all products that contain them.

    Some large U.S. companies have stopped using them, including Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Wal-Mart named nonylphenol ethoxylates as one of three chemicals it had asked its suppliers to phase out.

    The EPA is developing a voluntary program to reward companies that switch to less-toxic cleaning agents.

    The EU is banning many uses and Canada has set stringent standards.

    Legal experts say the EPA has limited authority to ban chemicals already in use when the toxics law was enacted in 1976. doclink

    U.S.: EPA Aims to Get Tougher

    June 21, 2007, Star-Telegram

    The EPA plans to strengthen ozone regulations.

    The changes could mean restrictions on drivers, workers and industries in North Texas. Some are banning drive-through windows during ozone season, limiting hours for motorists to gas up, restricting the use of off-road construction equipment, banning afternoon Texas Rangers games.

    It would basically shut down the entire region and the announcement drew widespread criticism, although some fear it does not go far enough to protect those most sensitive to ozone pollution. Nine Texas counties would violate the new standard and motorists in those counties would have to get annual vehicle emission tests, and local governments would have to spend millions of dollars to slash pollution.

    Further steps would be needed to lower pollution from industrial sources. The problem could be exacerbated by the decision to construct a power plant that will emit as much ozone-forming pollution as 350,000 cars. County Judge Glen Whitley said federal and state regulators should free up money to help the region expand public rail transit.

    The EPA will conduct public hearings before setting the new standard. The agency's advisory committee recommended that the threshold for ozone be lowered to 70 parts per billion, which would be the strongest standard for ozone in our nation's history.

    Air monitors in Dallas-Fort Worth measured ozone concentrations of 70 parts per billion or greater 642 times over 73 days. Th EPA's proposal sets up a clash between business lobbyists and health advocates.

    Expect industry groups to sue the agency contending that the standards go way beyond what the law requires.

    The agency wants to give those who oppose tightening the standard an opportunity to comment and will allow comments from those who want the standard to be as low as 60 parts per billion.

    The EPA, estimated that implementing the existing standard adopted in 1997 would cost $100 billion.

    Groups threatened to sue the EPA saying the standard is nor sufficient to protect children, older adults, people with respiratory ailments and people who work outside. doclink

    Reducing Environmental Risks Could Save 13 Million Lives Annually

    June 13, 2007, International Herald Tribune

    Tackling environmental risks could save 13 million lives annually. Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali and Afghanistan are among the countries most affected by environmental factors. In 23 of the 192 countries in the report, more than 10% of deaths can be traced to unsafe drinking water and indoor air pollution. In 53 countries in the greater European region, an estimated 1.8 million deaths could be prevented each year if we created a healthier environment.

    The report stems from health authorities, scientific literature, expert surveys and health data collected by the WHO.

    WHO officials stressed the report was a preliminary estimate of how environmental factors impact health.

    Water purification could decrease the incidence of diseases that affect a large number of children. Around the world, children under five make up 74% of deaths due to diarrhea and respiratory infections.

    37 children die each day of water-related diarrhea in the greater European region.

    WHO also suggested using gas or electricity for cooking, improving ventilation and keeping children away from smoke could have a major impact on respiratory infections. Countries must not neglect health matters when focusing on development. doclink

    Ralph says: If we reduced the world population [by having smaller families], we could save many lives. Karen Gaia says: reducing the death rate of children and women helps reduce family size.

    Pesticides Increase Parkinson's Risk

    May 30, 2007, Times Online

    People exposed to low levels of pesticides had a 13% higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease, and those exposed to high levels a 41% greater risk. Researchers compared the lifetime of almost 1,000 Parkinson's sufferers with almost 2,000 unaffected people in Scotland, Italy, Sweden, Romania and Malta. The method did not establish which pesticides the sufferers had been exposed to. An accident that causes unconsciousness is even likelier to bring on Parkinson's. Those who had suffered a single knockout had a 35% greater chance of developing the disease, those who had been knocked out more than once more than doubled their risk.

    Muhammad Ali suffers from Parkinson's syndrome a related condition which most medical experts believe was caused by his experiences in the ring.

    The risk of developing Parkinson's disease increases according to the level of exposure to pesticides but it would be difficult to establish which pesticides were responsible. The European Commission said that long-term exposure to pesticides could lead to disturbances to the immune system, as well as sexual disorders and cancers. doclink

    U.S.: Tough Controls on Formaldehyde Enacted

    April 26, 2007, Los Angeles Times

    California passed the world's toughest controls on toxic formaldehyde in wood products. Formaldehyde, used as a glue in construction materials, has been shown to cause throat cancer, respiratory ailments and other problems.

    Formaldehyde is bad. We don't want it in our homes, and stores. It is not healthy. One independent distributor has switched to formaldehyde-free wood products, at the request of large customers seeking environmentally friendly products.

    But there was fierce debate about how the regulations, would affect consumer prices.

    California Air Resources Board said it could cost $6 more for a wood panel, but that would add just $400 to the cost of a new $500,000 home.

    Trade groups testified that the stricter limits could cause prices on wood products to skyrocket. Manufacturers fretted that overseas manufacturers would issue fraudulent paperwork saying the material met the standards. But Columbia Wood said: "We think the industry will be able to comply with no additional costs. We sell for the exact same cost as veneer containing formaldehyde".

    Scientists said there were conflicting studies on heath risks. But the state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said there was no known safe threshold for formaldehyde exposure. Currently there are an estimated 86 to 231 deaths annually from formaldehyde; that would decrease by 35 to 97 deaths.

    The Home Depot did not return requests for comment, but composite-wood manufacturers said the home improvement chain had recently announced it would abide by European standards allowing minuscule amounts of formaldehyde.

    Formaldehyde in wood has been banned or tightly regulated in many countries. California will have the most stringent standard in the world for wood resin products. doclink

    Plant Proposal Irks 'Brockovich' Town

    March 2, 2007,

    A plant to convert sewage sludge to compost may be built 8 miles outside Hinkley, whose troubles from pollution were made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich."

    The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of building the plant eight for processing 400,000 tons of sludge each year.

    Residents said they were afraid it would produce odor and bacteria-laden dust.

    About 120 people attended the meeting.

    Nursery Products LLC, based in Apple Valley, said its plant would be safe and would use only treated sewage.

    Composting biosolids is safe. We're far away from people, communities and industry.

    Hinkley was featured in the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," that portrayed the legal fight of attorney Ed Masry against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. They won a $333 million settlement on behalf of more than 600 Hinkley residents who claimed the utility's tanks leaked carcinogenic poisons into groundwater.

    Citizens in this area moved to a town with open land and open air hoping to have a safe place for their children to visit. Hinkley residents cannot afford to sue to block the project. doclink

    Iraq: Environmental Nightmare Drags On

    March 22, 2007, InterPress Service

    The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are open sewers.

    Industrial and hospital waste, fertiliser run-off, as well as oil spills plague the two rivers that define the Mesopotamia region and provide much of the irrigation and drinking water.

    The natural environment has been devastated by three wars and decades of neglect and mismanagement. The environmental laws were laughable under Saddam. Many of industries were devoted to producing military material, and have been bombed and looted, leaving the country dotted with highly toxic zones. The ongoing conflict also means growing mountains of debris. A study identified 50 hotspots and urged immediate clean up of the worst five.

    Two have been cleaned up, but at least 40 million dollars is required to meet the report's recommendations. The Iraqui ministry lacks the money, equipment and trained personnel to do much more. It has only been in existence three years and has very limited capacity. There is little data and a need to do basic environmental monitoring. But the security situation means that taking water or soil samples can be a dangerous activity.

    Towards the end of 2006 there were reports of black oil being pumped into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set on fire.

    Air pollution is very bad and getting worse. The electrical service has improved and now functions an average of 12 hours per day but the proliferation of gasoline and diesel generators fouls the air.

    Sewage treatment has seen some improvement, with rehabilitated sewage treatment plants expanding access to more than 5.1 million urban Iraqis.

    Roughly 3.5 billion dollars in U.S. reconstruction funds remain, and will be spent on water and sewage services and oil production. But the era of the U.S. construction of large infrastructure projects is over. There have been environmental improvements in terms of stronger legislation and awareness of environmental issues.

    Saddam Hussein's government drained the marshes in the 1980s, destroying up to 90%t of that 9,000-square-kilometre wetland ecosystem.

    In 2003, a re-flooding programme sponsored by Canada, Italy and conservation groups began bringing approximately 25%-35% percent of the marshes back, along with many birds and other wildlife.

    Iraq's pollution is without a doubt harming people's health, but that is not an important issue when you can step outside your door and get a bullet in the head. doclink

    U.S.: EPA's Rules on Pollution Reporting Loosened

    December 1, 2006, The News Journal

    U.S. plants that release less than 2,000 pounds of pollution will not be forced to report pollution under changes to EPA rules. The previous threshold was 500 pounds.

    The move is of interest in Delaware, where 10.3 million pounds of toxic waste were released into the environment from 72 sites in 2004. New Castle County ranks 53rd out of more than 3,000 counties for air pollution.

    Reporting rules would be eased for companies handling bioaccumulative and toxic compounds. Called PBTs, the compounds -- including mercury and long-lived compounds called dioxins -- would not be reported if companies can show they do not reach the environment.

    State regulators ordered controls on mercury emissions for the state's power plants, and ordered Claymont Steel to curb releases from its scrap steel recycling operation.

    EPA said the Toxic Release Inventory changes would reduce regulatory burdens on businesses across the country, saving more than $6 million while encouraging companies to better control or recycle toxic chemicals.

    Claymont Steel manufactures steel plate from scrap and was recently found to be releasing far more mercury than reported. The Toxic Release Inventory required companies to track and report each year on emissions of 650 pollutants but does not track vehicle emissions. Based on 2004 numbers, dozens of sites would likely be freed from reporting.

    The changes come despite public opposition. If the change goes into effect, one out of 10 communities would lose all numerical data on toxic chemicals.

    The EPA said that the changes would create incentives for business nationwide to improve environmental performance and reduce the most toxic chemicals.

    The proposed changes in reporting would in no way affect the amount of chemicals facilities are allowed to release. The EA estimated a savings of about $7.3 million from the original proposal. The Small Business Administration said the changes would help the nation's small businesses stay competitive while protecting the environment. doclink

    Going Downstream: China's Environmental Crisis Weighs on the World

    January 15, 2007, New America Media

    China's environmental pollution has an economic impact on the rest of the world. and is something that the world cannot afford to ignore. China will soon eclipse the U.S. in terms of carbon dioxide emission. Secondly the Asian brown cloud that comes up into the jet streams over to the U.S. and Canada and Mexico is a significant contributor to global pollution. Third, there is desertification in China as a result of a variety of policies. China relies on coal for almost 75% of energy needs. But China's thirst for oil is growing.

    Over the next 10-20 years, oil consumption in U.S. is going to be flat, but in China is going to grow by leaps and bound which will drive up oil prices.

    China and India have changed the world oil market. Experts believe that prices won't come down. It's just supply and demand. The biggest contributor to this demand will be China.

    China's leaders are cozying up to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and to the Iranian fundamentalist regime because Iran has the largest natural gas reserves in the world. China is acting as a shield when it comes to economic sanctions against Iran.

    The Chinese government's five year plan acknowledges the problem of unsustainable development. China has made it a national policy objective to move toward sustainability. But the Chinese economy and its environmental program make it difficult to protect its environment. The U.S. needs to get its house in order if it wants to work with China.

    The hyper rapid growth of the Chinese economy is putting it into conflicts with the rest of the world. The pollution alone is going to create a health care crisis. The demographic in China works against the country's development as China faces a rapidly aging population.

    Both China and the U.S. are living beyond their means. The U.S. through irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies; China by stripping its environment. doclink

    China Fails Environment Targets

    International Herald Tribune

    Only Beijing and five other provinces or municipalities improved energy efficiency by 4% and cut emissions by 2% in the first six months of 2006.

    These targets are part of the 2006-10 Five Year Plan, and call for energy consumption per unit of GDP to be cut by 20%, while pollution emissions should fall 10%.

    National Development and Reform Commission Minister Ma Kai said "it is extremely hard to achieve this year's goal".

    Much of China's airborne pollution comes from coal-burning power stations and car exhaust fumes, neither can be reduced quickly.

    Many factories also ignore the law and pump toxic waste into rivers and lakes.

    There is little sign that things are going to get better any time soon. Senior officials said the situation was worse than ever.

    2006 has been the most grim year for China's environmental situation, vice-minister Pan Yue said on the Web site of the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa). doclink

    Climate Change

    Pollutants Mucking with Food Production

    May 24, 2012, Discovery News

    Black carbon and tropospheric ozone, both of which derive from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, are the most likely primary drivers of the tropical expansion observed in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the main culprit is depletion of stratospheric ozone.)

    A map of the expanded tropics can be seen by clicking on the headline.

    When the tropics widen, mid-latitude storms shift toward the poles, and southern portions of the U.S. and Asia could become drier, which could in turn disrupt regional agriculture, warns climatologist Robert J. Allen of the University of California, Riverside.

    Direct observations have shown that the tropics widened by 0.7 degrees latitude per decade between 1979 and 2009, and previous climate simulations revealed that heating of the atmosphere at mid-latitudes is to blame. Allen and his colleagues discovered that simulations that ignored black carbon and tropospheric ozone underestimated the observed tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere by about a third.

    The results imply that these two pollutants are responsible for about 70% of the recent tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Black carbon and tropospheric ozone both absorb solar radiation and both persist in the atmosphere only one or two weeks, so they cause the greatest atmospheric heat gain near their sources, which in the Northern Hemisphere tend to be the heavily populated low- to mid-latitudes.

    "Greenhouse gases do contribute to the tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere," Allen said. "But our work shows that black carbon and tropospheric ozone are the main drivers here. We need to implement more stringent policies to curtail their emissions, which would not only help mitigate global warming and improve human health, but could also lessen the regional impacts of changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation."

    ~ ~ ~

    Note: From Wikipedia: In Climatology, black carbon or BC is a climate forcing agent formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. The term black carbon is also used in soil sciences and geology, referring either to deposited atmospheric BC or to directly incorporated BC from vegetation fires. Especially for the tropics, BC in soils significantly contributes to fertility as it is able to absorb important plant nutrients.

    Up to 30 % of the total carbon stored in soils is contributed by black carbon. Especially for tropical soils BC serves as a reservoir for nutrients. Experiments showed that soils without high amounts of black carbon are significantly less fertile than soils that contain black carbon. In this context, the slash and burn agricultural practice used in tropical regions does not only enhance productivity by releasing nutrients from the burned vegetation but also by adding black carbon to the soil. Nonetheless, for a sustainable management, a slash-and-char practice would be better in order to prevent high emissions of CO2 and volatile black carbon. Furthermore, the positive effects of this type of agriculture are counteracted if used for large patches so that soil erosion is not anymore prevented by the vegetation. doclink

    UN: Meat Consumption Must Be Cut to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

    April 16, 2012, Environmental News Network

    A recent study by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the developed world needs to cut its meat consumption by 50% per person by the year 2050. This is a necessary step in reducing one of the most potent greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O), currently the third highest contributor to global warming, but the most difficult to control and the most potent of the three big greenhouse gases because it is a better absorber of infrared radiation.

    The main sources of N2O are the spreading of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers used in agriculture, the storage of fertilizers, and the use of livestock manure. Microbes break down the fertilizers and manure, and then release N2O into the air.

    Reducing meat consumption would decrease both sources of nitrous oxides. Less livestock means less manure as well as less need for synthetic fertilizers due to less agricultural produce required to feed them. N2O emissions can also be controlled by better management of fertilizer and manure.

    IPCC author Dr. Eric A Davidson of the Woods Hole Research Center, outlines four scenarios which represent possible pathways of reductions in greenhouse gases. The most aggressive scenario, where N2O concentrations would stabilize by 2050, would require a 50% cut in meat consumption, 50% cut in industrial emissions, and an equal level of improvement in agricultural practices.

    Dr. Davidson said, "If you had asked me 30 years ago if smoking would be banned in bars I would have laughed and said that would be impossible in my lifetime, and yet it has come true. Are similar changes possible for diet? That will depend not only on education about diet, but also upon prices of meat. Some agricultural economists think that the price of meat is going to go way up, so that per capita consumption will go down, but those are highly uncertain projections." doclink

    Karen Gais says: Peak Arable Land is another reason for cutting down on meat consumption. We will need the land to grow enough crops to feed humanity; forget the meat. Also, until we develop an adequate substitute for liquid fuel, Peak Oil requires us to conserve oil and crop production so that we have enough to a) power our food supply, and b) produce clean energy equipment and infrastructure to meet future demands.

    Global Warming Could Thaw Far More Permafrost Than Expected, Study Says

    Research says more than 40 percent of the frozen tundra could un-freeze if global temperatures continue to rise, scientists find.
    April 10, 2017, Inside Climate News   By: Zahra Hirji

    A study conducted by Eleanor Burke, a permafrost scientist at the Met Office -- along with colleagues at the University of Exeter, University of Leeds, Stockholm University and University of Oslo -- shows that over 40% (2.5 million square miles) of the world's permafrost is at risk of thawing even if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to the international goal of 2 degrees Celsius. The area would be about twice the area of Alaska, California and Texas combined.

    Permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon in the form of plants that died since the last ice age and have remained frozen rather than decomposing. When permafrost thaws, this long-trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere, further propelling future warming.

    Thawing permafrost could release up to 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by the next century, according to a 2015 study.

    "These results alarm me because they predict even greater permafrost loss than shown in the global models for the 2°C warming target," said Kevin Schaefer, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Even hitting the global 2°C warming target implies major impacts to people and infrastructure in the Arctic."

    Roughly 35 million people live in permafrost zones. Collapsing ground under roads and buildings present serious risks to those communities. doclink

    U.S. Faces Huge Crop Losses If Temperatures Keep Rising

    With the days of heat above 30 degrees Celsius expected to double, maize harvests could fall by half, with wheat and soybeans hit too
    January 19, 2017, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Alex Whiting

    According to a new report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the United States faces big drops in harvests of major food crops by 2100, which would likely push up global food prices.

    If we continue with "business as usual", by 2100 the world will see twice as many days with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) as it does now, an international team of scientists wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

    When temperatures rise above 30 degrees C., crop yields start to drop. U.S. wheat yields would fall by 20%, maize (corn) by 50% and soybeans by 40%.

    "If the U.S. has a problem with its yields then world market prices may rise, because the U.S. is such a huge exporter," co-author of the study Bernhard Schauberger said.

    Crops in other parts of the world are likely to be similarly affected.

    Irrigation may help protect yields, softening the water stress that causes plants to grow more roots and cut back on producing grain above ground.

    Plants also close openings in the leaves to prevent water loss, which reduces their intake of carbon dioxide - an essential building material for the crops. More irrigation could also help prevent that happening, the scientists said. However, irrigation would be limited if there was a lack of water resources.

    Ultimately, the best way to protect crop yields is to curb greenhouse gas emissions as agreed under the Paris Agreement on climate change and hold global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, the scientists said.

    The Paris agreement seeks to phase out most greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century. doclink

    Climate Change Escalating So Fast it is 'Beyond Point of No Return'

    New study rewrites two decades of research and author says we are 'beyond point of no return'
    December 1, 2016, Independent UK   By: Peter Walker

    A report by a long list of researchers and published in the Nature journal, assembled data from 49 field experiments over the last 20 years in North America, Europe and Asia, has declared that global warming is beyond the "point of no return".

    The full impact of climate change has been underestimated because scientists haven't taken into account a major source of carbon in the environment.

    Dr Thomas Crowther, lead author of the report said that carbon emitted from soil was speeding up global warming.

    The United Nations is already adopting the findings, which say temperatures will increase by 1C by 2050.

    Dr Crowther has branded Donald Trump's sceptical stance on climate change as "catastrophic for humanity".

    "It's fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can't reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them," said the biodiversity expert.

    The study found that the majority of the Earth's terrestrial store of carbon was in soil, and, as the atmosphere warms, increasing amounts are emitted in what is a vicious cycle of "positive feedbacks”.

    55 billion tons of carbon, not previously noted by scientists, will be emitted into the atmosphere by 2050.

    Organisms become more active as the earth warms up, and "the more active they become, the more the soil respires - exactly the same as human beings," said Dr Crowther.

    Dr Crowther predicts climate change will lead to widespread migrations and antagonism among communities. "These effects of climate change will certainly be felt disproportionately by poorer people, particularly the billions of people whose livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the land,” he added.

    Mr Trump's threat to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate deal still lingers.

    "Uncertainty is nothing like a reason enough to suggest climate change isn't happening. There's a nice analogy; if you step in front of an oncoming bus, no doctor in the world can tell you how damaging the impact is going to be. "But we do know the damage is going to be huge. This alone should be enough information to persuade us to avoid the bus.”

    The last two decades of the 20th century were the hottest in 400 years.

    He added: "I would just like to stress that I could get a hell of a lot more money than academia offers me if I were to do a study that suggests that climate change is not real."

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN and World Meteorological Organisation, is incorporating the study's data.

    Prof Janssens, of the University of Antwerp said, "I'm an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product. "If this happens by 2050, then we can avoid warming above 2C. If not, we will reach a point of no return and will probably exceed 5C.” doclink

    Indigenous Rights Are Key to Preserving Forests, Climate Change Study Finds

    November 2, 2016, Guardian   By: Jonathan Watts

    At least a quarter of forest carbon is stored on communal land and, particularly in Brazil, and the world's indigenous communities need to be given a bigger role in climate stabilization, according to a paper by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Woods Hole Research Centre and World Resources Institute.

    The research is the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the contribution of traditional forest guardians to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The expansion of tribal land rights is the most cost-effective way to protect forests and sequester carbon. The study authors hope this issue receives more prominence a the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Marrakech.

    167 of 188 nations in the Paris agreement, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are home to some of the world's biggest forests, do not recognize indigenous land rights; nor do they include tribal input in national action plans.

    The study estimates community-claimed lands sequester at least 54,546m tonnes of carbon - roughly four times the world's annual emissions.

    Ownership of a 10th of that land is public, unrecognised or contested, which raises the risk that it could fall into the hands of developers, farmers, miners or others who want to clear the forest for short-term financial gain at the expense of long-term environmental costs.

    Alain Frechette of Rights and Resources, said: "When communities have secure forest rights, not only are forests better protected, but communities fare better. It's what economists call an optimal solution. Everyone wins," he said. "By contrast, large-scale development initiatives produce quick wins, but the long-term environmental, economic and political costs are not taken into account. They are just pushed on to future generations."

    "As well as reducing 20-30% of carbon dioxide emissions, the forests provide benefits of clean water, pollination, biodiversity, flood control and tourist attractions that are said to be worth $523bn to $1.165tn in Brazil, $54-119 bn in Bolivia, and $123-277bn in Colombia over the next 20 years.”

    In Latin America 58% of emissions come from deforestation, more than double the global rate of 24%. Brazil with 14,692 megatonnes has twice the amount of the next biggest country, Indonesia.

    The World Research Institute estimates that tropical forests without such protection were two to three times more likely to be cleared.

    "There are causes for concern," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. She urged Brazil not to backtrack. "As this report shows, if Brazil enhances its respect for indigenous peoples' rights, they will be able to contribute more to the Paris agreement. It will be to their benefit. They can measure that in terms of the amount of tonnes of carbon that are being conserved.” doclink

    The Pope's Climate-change Blind Spot: Women's Rights

    When women are empowered to make decisions about their lives, it's a win-win for people and the planet
    September 1, 2016, Sierra magazine   By: Cally Carswell

    In May Pope Francis published Laudato Si', the first encyclical exclusively dedicated to an environmental issue. Its core message a plea for equity, making an strong case not only for climate action but also for climate justice -- solutions that reduce emissions and vast global imbalances in wealth, power, and consumption.

    He also argued that people could continue to multiply and their lives could improve if the rich stopped consuming so much. Any suggestion that reducing the birthrate is the solution to the climate crisis, he wrote, is an attempt by developed countries to evade responsibility for their excessive consumption.

    While it is true that rich nations need to kick their fossil-fueled habits, birthrates do matter. UN projections say that by 2050, population could reach 8.7 to 10.8 billion. Where we end up on that spectrum will affect the global rate of emissions - and, may influence our ability to adapt to the effects of the carbon already baked into the system.

    Carmen Barroso, former director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Western Hemisphere Region, says Pope Francis' argument is partly from the Catholic Church's stance on contraception and abortion, but it's also a leftover reaction to the dark history of the population-control movement.

    In the 1960s and '70s, many people feared that runaway population growth would lead to famine and ecological ruin. Calls for controlling growth were primarily directed at poor countries and resulted, in some cases, in horrific violations of women's bodies and basic dignity. For example, there were forced sterilizations of both men and women in India in the 1960s. Even today women in India are still paid by the state to be sterilized, and about a dozen women recently died in mass sterilization camps.

    If you say, 'women cannot have more than one or two children,' there is a problem. But "if you respect women's rights, give them the resources access to the means of controlling their own fertility as they wish, we also have the indirect effect of having fewer people on the planet. And that will be good for the environment," said Barroso.

    The population paradigm shift started during the 1980s and -- at the 1994 United Nations' International Conference on Population and Development at Cairo -- activists and 179 governments came together. Instead of setting goals for reducing fertility rates through improved family planning, the unlikely alliance of women's-rights and population-stabilization advocates successfully promoted an agenda that put the status of women front and center.

    The radical idea that came from the conference was: "If you invest in women's empowerment in a broad sense-access to education, economic opportunity, health care, and reproductive choice-slower population growth will follow," said Barroso.

    "The answer to sustainability was not to restrict and abuse human rights," says the UN Population Fund's Daniel Schensul. It was to put women first, and trust that many indirect social and environmental benefits would accrue.

    Something else came from Cairo: the idea that marginalized women don't just need the ability to choose whether or not to have children, but they also need better health care during pregnancies, education and jobs to help support their families, and freedom from genital mutilation and child marriage. Promoting gender equality is crucial on its own, Schensul says, but it has also proved more effective than draconian policies at curbing growth.

    Internationally, funding for family planning halved from 1995 to 2007. The reasons: The apocalyptic famines never came to pass. There was strong opposition to funding for family planning from the Vatican and Republican administrations. The coercive and abusive policies of the past had given the field a bad rap.

    Today, an estimated 225 million women in developing countries worldwide would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using modern contraception. On the other hand, between 1990 and 2010, the enrollment gap between boys and girls in primary school was essentially eliminated in many countries, and maternal mortality fell by nearly half. The global fertility rate, meanwhile, declined by 23%. Population growth dropped from 1.52% 20 years ago to 1.15% between 2010 and 2015.

    The connections between population and climate change are less linear than one might think. Niger, which has the highest fertility rate in the world at 6.79 children per woman, also produces very few per capita carbon emissions. The US has only 1.87 children per woman but far more carbon emissions. So slowing population growth in Niger won't do a lot to help deflate the global carbon bubble.

    "Whatever the population trajectory, you've got to deal with the energy base and consumption patterns of the population," Schensul says. There are only about 2.03 billion people in the world who make enough money to really be considered as contributing to climate change.

    But Pope Francis casts this as an either-or issue. Brian O'Neill, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, published a study in 2010 demonstrating how low, medium, and high rates of population growth might affect emissions this century, taking into account differences in consumption as well as demographic factors other than growth, such as urbanization. He found that if the population grew at a moderate pace as opposed to a rapid one between now and 2050, we'd prevent about 1.7 gigatons of carbon emissions annually by that year. This would amount to about one-fifth of the reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    By 2100, a population that had grown to around 9 billion people -- rather than nearly 14 billion -- would emit seven gigatons less carbon a year. In industrialized countries like the United States, smaller reductions in growth resulted in bigger emissions benefits. But slower growth in developing countries mattered, too, particularly in India and China.

    Unfortunately, those least responsible for creating the problem -- poor people in developing countries -- are likely to suffer the most from its fallout. And in these places, rapid population growth and poverty could make dealing with environmental disruption more difficult.

    In the Sahel -- the southern edge of the Sahara Desert -- population could triple by 2050, from around 100 million to 300 million. At the same time the area will also be hotter, by 7° - 10°F, making farming more difficult. 12 - 18 million people are already chronically underfed.

    Alisha Graves, cofounder of an initiative on the Sahel at the University of California at Berkeley says that child marriage is common in the Sahel, and women who marry young often drop out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities and increases their risk of dying during or soon after childbirth. About 25% of women in the region would like to have fewer children or space their children farther apart, but they have scarce access to the information, resources, and social support needed to do so. A leading cause of maternal mortality is unsafe abortion.

    The threats that climate change poses underscore the urgent need to invest in the well-being of girls and women, says Malcolm Potts, also with the Berkeley initiative. Add infrastructure for agricultural adaptation, such as water storage, and you've got a start. Change can occur, but right now "we don't have the will, and we don't have the money," Potts laments.

    Climate change may intensify hardships that women already experience, according to Nalini Singh, a program manager with the organization ARROW, in Nepal and Laos, women are walking farther to fetch clean water for their families. In the Philippines, a Catholic country where there is little or no access to contraception, women reported that waters had warmed and fish had migrated elsewhere. In some cases, men leave the village in search of other work, so their wives are bearing more responsibility for day-to-day family life. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, more frequent floods and cyclones have left pregnant women with poor or nonexistent health care and delivery services. Women are also more vulnerable to sexual violence during and after disasters.

    Jade Sasser, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California at Riverside cautions that, to support justice for women means supporting their right to have children, as well as to not have them, while offering an array of health services. "Given their full choice, not all women would choose to have two children or fewer."

    Francis issued new papal proclamations on the family in April, speaking in favor of gender equality and choice in family size, and he didn't expressly forbid the use of contraception -- but neither did he condone it. However, the Vatican has continued to lobby against expanded access to contraception and abortion.

    While population advocates came around to recognizing the centrality of women's rights, and it looks like environmental activists are coming to recognize it, too, will the Vatican? The church's willingness to do so will be one important test of how truly radical Francis's reign turns out to be. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: while this a great article, and wonderful that the Sierra Club published this in their magazine, there is no mention of resource depletion. Water, arable land, energy sources, are all being depleted at an alarming rate.

    An Epic Middle East Heat Wave Could Be Global Warming's Hellish Curtain-raiser

    August 10, 2016, Washington Post   By: Hugh Naylor

    Countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and beyond have been scorched by record-shattering temperatures this summer, and climate experts are warning that this could be a sign of worse to come.

    U.N. officials and climate scientists have predicted that the mushrooming populations of the Middle East and North Africa will face extreme water scarcity, temperatures almost too hot for human survival and other consequences of global warming.

    This means that conflicts and refugee crises far greater than those today are probable, warned Adel Abdellatif, a senior adviser at the U.N. Development Program's Regional Bureau for Arab States.

    These countries have grappled with remarkably warm summers in recent years, but this year has been particularly brutal.

    Parts of UAE and Iran experienced a heat index of 140 degrees in July; a heat index is a measurement that factors in humidity as well as temperature . Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, recorded an all-time high temperature of nearly 126 degrees. Record-breaking temperatures in Israel led to a surge in ­heat-related illnesses.

    On July 22, Basra in Iraq saw 129 degrees. A day earlier, it reached 129.2 in Mitribah, Kuwait. If confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, the two temperatures would be the hottest ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere.

    The bad news isn't over, either. Iraq's heat wave is expected to continue this week.

    Stepping outside is like "walking into a fire," said Zainab Guman, a 26-year-old university student who lives in Basra. She has rarely left home during daylight hours since June, when temperatures started rising above 120 degrees and metal objects outside turned into searing-hot hazards.

    Bassem Antoine, an Iraqi economist, estimates that Iraq's gross domestic product - about $230 billion annually - has probably contracted 10 to 20% during the summer heat. Scores of farmers across the country have been struggling with wilting crops, and general workforce productivity has decreased.

    Tens of thousands of Iraqis displaced by battles between government forces and Islamic State militants have endured the heat in tents and other makeshift shelters. "A lot of these people are probably dying, but it's hard to know," said one NGO official.

    In Baghdad, the capital has been 10 and even 20 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.

    Most Iraqi homes and businesses suffer daily power cuts for 12 hours or more, and most Iraqis are too poor to afford 24-hour air conditioning anyway.

    While a stubborn ­high-pressure system is the immediate cause, a fundamental shift in the country's weather patterns appears to be taking place. The number of days with temperatures at 118 degrees or higher has more than doubled in recent years.

    According to some estimates, Iraq's population of about 33 million people will nearly double by 2050.

    A study published by the journal Nature Climate Change in October predicted that heat waves in parts of the Persian Gulf could threaten human survival toward the end of the century. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia recently predicted a similarly grim fate for the Middle East and North Africa, a vast area currently home to about a half-billion people.

    The region's governments are generally not prepared to deal with rapidly growing populations and climactic shifts, said Francesca de Châtel, an Amsterdam-based expert on Middle Eastern water issues.

    The UN predicts that the combined population of 22 Arab countries will grow from about 400 million to nearly 600 million by 2050. That would place tremendous stress on countries where climate scientists predict significantly lower rainfall and saltier groundwater from rising sea levels. Already, most countries in the region face acute water crises because of dry climates, surging consumption and wasteful agricultural practices. doclink

    Carbon Sinks in Crisis - it Looks Like the World's Largest Rainforest is Starting to Bleed Greenhouse Gasses

    August 5, 2016, Robertscribbler   By: Robertscribbler

    In 2005 and 2010, the vast Amazon rainforest, which has been described as the world's lungs, briefly lost its ability to take in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Its drought-stressed trees were not respiring enough to draw carbon out of the air. Fires roared through the forest, transforming trees into kindling and releasing the carbon stored in their wood back into the air.

    This year a severe drought is again stressing trees even as it is fanning wildfires to greater intensity than during 2005 and 2010. Early satellite measures seem to show the rainforest and the lands it inhabits are now being hit so hard by a combination of drought and fire that the forest is starting to bleed carbon back. For the first time this gigantic and ancient repository of atmospheric carbon appears to have turned into a carbon source.

    The places that would normally draw carbon out of the atmosphere -- carbon-absorbing oceans, boreal forests, and great equatorial rainforests -- all are impacted by the warming brought about by fossil-fuel burning. This warming causes the oceans to be able to hold less carbon in their near-surface waters and sets off droughts and fires that can reduce a forest's ability to take in that carbon.

    Throughout the past 10,000 years of our current epoch, the Holocene, the healthy forest carbon sinks have helped to keep these gasses, and by extension, Earth's temperatures, relatively stable.

    Though these sinks have taken in more than half of the great volume of carbon emitted from fossil-fuel burning, the total portion of heat-trapping CO2 has risen from 280 ppm to more than 400 ppm. The oceans acidified as they strained beneath the new carbon overburden. And the forests took in this carbon even as they fought off expanding deforestation. As a result of all the excess carbon now in the atmosphere, the Earth has warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius above 1880s levels.

    It appears that the grace period that the Earth's carbon sinks have given us to get our act together on global warming is coming to an end.

    But by 2015 and 2016, record global temperatures had again sparked a terrible drought in the Amazon region. According to NASA officials, the new drought was the worst seen since at least 2002 and was sparking worse fire conditions than during 2005 and 2010.

    Extreme fire risk in 2016 has spread across the southern Amazon. The Brazilian states of Amazonas, Mato Grosso, and Pará are reportedly at the highest risk.

    So far, the Amazon has seen more fires through June 2016 than in previous years, which NASA scientists said was another indicator of a potentially rough wildfire season.

    Atmospheric carbon monitors at the Copernicus Observatory picked up a spike above the Amazon with methane levels higher than 2,000 ppb (which is often a drought and wildfire signature) and carbon dioxide levels in the range of 41o to 412 ppm. Comparable spikes were over industrial regions of the world like eastern China, the U.S. and Europe. doclink

    Climate Change is Here and Now, Dire NOAA Report Warns

    'The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us, in real time'
    August 2, 2016, Common Dreams   By: Nadia Prupis

    NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) released its annual State of the Climate report with the warning that 2015 was the hottest year on record since at least mid 19th century, confirming the "toppling of several symbolic milestones" in global temperature, sea level rise, and extreme weather.

    Last year's record heat was fueled by a combination of the effects of global warming and one of the strongest El Niño events on record since at least 1950.

    "Last year's El Niño was a clear reminder of how short-term events can amplify the relative influence and impacts stemming from longer-term global warming trends," said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

    Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record high values during 2015, as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, which has a 58-year record.

    The 2015 annual global surface temperature hit record warmth for the second consecutive year, exceeding the average for the mid- to late 19th century by more than 1°C (1.8°F) for the first time.

    Sea surface temperatures highest on record. The globally averaged sea surface temperature was also the highest on record, breaking the previous mark set in 2014. The highest temperature departures from average occurred in part of the northeast Pacific, while the the North Atlantic southeast of Greenland remained colder than average and was colder than 2014.

    Global upper ocean heat content exceeded the record set in 2014, reflecting the continuing accumulation of thermal energy in the upper layer of the oceans. Oceans absorb over 90% of Earth's excess heat from global warming.

    Global sea level rose to a new record high in 2015 and was about 70 mm (about 2¾ inches) higher than the 1993 average, the year that marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record. Over the past two decades, sea level has increased at an average rate of 3.3 mm (about 0.15 inch) per year, with the highest rates of increase in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

    A general increase in the water cycle, combined with the strong El Niño, enhanced precipitation variability around the world. An above-normal rainy season led to major floods in many parts of the world. In contrast, areas in "severe" drought rose from 8% in 2014 to 14% in 2015.

    The Arctic continues to lose sea ice, impacting marine life by forcing walruses to shore and sending fish populations out of the region; harmful algal blooms spread in the northeast Pacific; and tropical cyclones worldwide were well above average. doclink

    Drought 'Shuts Down Amazon Carbon Sink'

    July 22, 2016, BBC News   By: Mark Kinver

    Carbon sinks are zones where CO2 from the atmosphere is absorbed and retained. The Amazon basin holds 17% of the terrestrial vegetation carbon stock in the Earth's carbon cycle.

    An international team of scientists gathered data from almost 100 locations across the Amazon basin. The Global Biogeochemical Cycles journal recently published a study of drought events that occurred in 2005 and 2010 based on that data. It found that during those two periods rain forest growth rates declined and many trees died - effectively halting carbon sink services in that region.

    Report co-author Oliver Phillips from the University of Leeds, UK, explained that trees in the Amazon normally take up hundreds of millions more tons of carbon in growth than they lose. But he added, "Both the 2005 and 2010 droughts eliminated those net gains."

    Co-author Ted Feldpausch from the University of Exeter, UK, said the study was the first large-scale, direct demonstration of tropical drought slowing tree growth. He said that during the drought periods even some plots that had not experienced the drought were losing as much carbon as they took in. What's more, during the 2010 drought, trees subject to the most intense precipitation anomalies had lower growth and higher mortality than had occurred in 2005. He concluded that the response of trees to droughts was complex and dynamic. "Something did change in the way that these trees responded to drought, so it raises questions about other environmental conditions that are changing across the Amazon basin, such as the temperature increasing." He then called for more study on the interaction between precipitation deficits and increasing temperature.

    Dr Feldpausch did not find only bad news. The forests proved resilient. Between the drought years, the plots again served as carbon sinks. Only during 2005 and 2010 did they become carbon neutral. "In terms of policy, that is an important thing to note. This shows that these forests do have the continued capacity to take up carbon even though they are affected by these drought events. So they do provide this great ecosystem service... but that means that the forest needs to remain standing to provide this service." doclink

    Art says: The terrestrial vegetation in carbon sinks eventually either returns to the atmosphere in different ways or gets transformed into coal, gas or oil, which reside in carbon reservoirs. Prior to man, the contents of carbon reservoirs were rarely disturbed. Burning large quantities of coal, gas or oil increases air-born CO2 in a way that breaks the natural balance of the carbon cycle, as does the conversion of carbon sinks to roads and cities.

    U.S.: Water Knives in the Near Future - 16 Year Drought Brings Lake Mead to New Record Low

    June 23, 2016, Robertscribbler   By: Robertscribbler

    Over the past four days (June 23, 2016), highs have peaked at 109 to 111 F. Similar heat blasted all up and down the Colorado River Basin, squeezing moisture out of a key water supply for 25 million people in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

    For over the past 16 years the Colorado River has been assailed by drought. This is a new kind of mega-drought that has almost certainly been spurred by a human-forced warming of the world.

    As of June 21, 2016, the water level for Lake Mead was 3 feet below the 1075 mark breached for the first time in the reservoir's history last year. And if Lake Mead remains below that line by the end of this year, it will mean mandatory cuts to Arizona and Nevada's water supply.

    The US Bureau of Reclamation predicts a 64% likelihood that Lake Mead will not only remain below the 1075 foot level by 2019, but that it will plunge to as low as 1025 feet -- only 125 feet above Lake Mead's dead pool line of 900 feet. This would mean mandatory water cuts all up and down the Colorado River Basin.

    California retains senior rights to the river's water supply. If the 16 year drought along the Colorado River basin continues, 6 million people and related industries in Nevada and Arizona will be first hit; water rationing is almost certain to take effect in Arizona and Nevada over the next few years.

    If the drought continues, and the water level hits 1025 feet at Lake Mead by 2019 to 2022, then the Department of the Interior will step in to take control of Lake Mead's water management. At that point, all bets are off even for California and its 19 million people using Lake Mead water - who would likely then see a 10% reduction in the water provided them by Lake Mead.

    Studies indicate that factors related to human-caused climate change prevent weather systems bearing precipitation from reaching the US West Coast. The most intense drying is expected to occur in the Southwest. Record to near record high temperatures results in greatly increased rates of evaporation. So what rain does fall doesn't stay in rivers or in the soil as long.

    NASA notes that reductions in fossil fuel emissions help to blunt the intensity of the coming droughts, but that worsening drought conditions will still occur. doclink

    The Atmosphere Has Hit a Grim Milestone - and Scientists Say We'll Never Go Back 'Within Our Lifetimes'

    June 13, 2016, Washington Post   By: Chris Mooney

    At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the longest global record of Co2 has been compiled. "Our forecast supports the suggestion that the Mauna Loa record will never again show CO2 concentrations below the symbolic 400 ppm within our lifetimes," write the researchers, led by Richard Betts of the U.K. Met Office's Hadley Center, in Nature Climate Change. The study was conducted with colleagues from the Hadley Centre and Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

    Before the era of industry began, carbon dioxide concentrations were around 280 parts per million. Since then concentrations continually climbed throughout the 20th century, as documented by the famous Keeling curve, based on observations taken at Mauna Loa dating back to the late 1950s.

    On this curve concentrations go up and down every year, because of the life cycles of plants across the globe, which draw in carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. But the long-term trend is steadily upward because humans are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than plants and other natural "sinks" can pull back out again. Last year the annual average concentration at Mauna Loa was more than 400 parts per million for the first time (it was 400.9).

    The strong 2015-2016 El Niño event has pushed concentrations upward more than usual for a given year - El Niños tend to do that, because they dry out tropical regions, lessening tree growth and sparking vast wildfires.

    The paper also predicts that this El Niño will drive a year-to-year rise in average atmospheric concentrations of 3.15 parts per million, exceeding the single-year change caused by the last major El Niño, from 1997-1998, of 2.9 parts per million.

    On June 12, concentrations were at 407.26 parts per million, according to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, which monitors the data. But they should start to decline soon, according to the seasonal cycle, which reaches a peak in May and a low in September and is driven by the growth of plants in the northern hemisphere (where there is much more total land area).

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to rise even though global greenhouse gas emissions from industry may be leveling off somewhat, the study adds - because each year still represents a net addition to the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a very long-lived greenhouse gas. Thus, even by 2050, the researchers don't think we'll find any way of getting back below 400 ppm.

    "In the longer term, a reduction in CO2 concentration would require substantial and sustained cuts in anthropogenic emissions to near zero," they write. doclink

    Karen Gaia say: Note that this rise in CO2 is not only a function of consumption but also of the rising numbers of people doing the consumption.

    Increase in Average CO2 Concentration

    June 6, 2016, Bhodi Paul Chefurka Facebook Page


    Polar Heatwave Digs in as Arctic Sea Ice Crashes - Blue Ocean Event Looking More and More Likely

    May 13, 2016, Robertscribbler   By: Robertscribbler

    Recently, a huge pulse of warm air rose up over Northwest Canada and Alaska, driving a broad warm front which forced near or above freezing temperatures over 1/4 to 1/3 of the Arctic Ocean zone. Air temperature anomalies in the entire Arctic zone above 66 North went to about 3 C above average and in one large section centered on the Beaufort temperatures ranged between 10-15 C above average. It was as if June had arrived a month early.

    The effect of all this heat on the sea ice has been tremendous. Huge areas of dark, ice-free water have opened up. The Bering is practically ice free. The Chukchi is plagued with thin ice, large polynyas, and melt ponds. In the Beaufort a 120 to 200 mile wide region of open water continues to expand.

    The NSIDC extent measurement shows Arctic sea ice extent levels widening the gap from previous record lows for this time of year.

    Current new sea ice extent lows are about 9-10 days ahead of the previous record low, 22-24 days ahead of the 2000s average line, more than a month ahead of the 1990s average line, and fully a month and a half ahead of the 1980s average line. In other words, there is something seriously, seriously wrong with the polar region of our world.

    On top of all this, a second massive polar warm front is in the process of bulging northward from the region of Eastern Siberia near the East Siberian Sea. This warm front - driven on by an anomalous ridge in the Jet Stream and backed by warm winds flooding up from the East Asian heatwave and wildfire zone - is predicted to encompass all of the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev, traverse the 80th parallel, continue on past the North Pole, and then flood out into the Barents. Essentially, it's a warm front that will cross the polar zone in total - completely ignoring the laws of Jet Stream dynamics and basically rupturing what is traditionally an area of cold centering on the Pole.

    By May 20, most of the Arctic Ocean is predicted to see near-freezing or above-freezing temperatures. Readings that for the entire Arctic region above 66 North are predicted to be 5 C above average.

    These are conditions were practically unheard of for any single day at the peak of summer warmth during the 1980s. Conditions now predicted to happen in late May.

    This is an event that many scientists thought wouldn't be possible until the 2070s or 2080s as little as ten years ago. doclink

    World CO2 Energy Emissions to 2040

    May 11, 2016, US Energy Information Administration


    Arctic Sea Ice Extent is at Record Low

    May 8, 2016, Bhodi Paul Chefurka Facebook Page

    The Arctic sea ice extent was lower yesterday than it has been on any other May 5 for the last decade. But it's nothing to get anxious about. Just another thing that's happening in the world. doclink

    Ocean's Oxygen Starts Running Low

    Rising levels of CO2 are making it hard for fish to breathe in addition to exacerbating global warming and ocean acidification
    May 2, 2016, Scientific American   By: Niina Heikkinen

    According to scientists using an earth system modeling approach at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Georgia Institute of Technology, climate change is not only warming the world's oceans; it's also making it harder for marine life to breathe.

    As soon as 2030 to 2040, climate-driven declines in oxygen levels will be detectable in oceans all over the globe. In some places, like the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins, evidence of climate-linked deoxygenation is already apparent, while other regions won't see changes by 2100.

    "In some parts, you can actually detect a change relatively early, like right around now. The signature of the climate being warmer is creating something that is unlike anything that is seen in history. Other places it is much harder to detect, either oxygen is decreasing slowly or there is so much variation. So basically the results depend on where you are," Curtis Deutsch, researcher and associate professor at the University of Washington's School of Oceanography said.

    For each degree of ocean warming, oxygen concentration goes down by 2 percent. Over the short term, the higher temperatures slow the rate of ocean circulation, exacerbating regional oxygen depletion. The rising temperatures cause layers of ocean water to stratify so the more oxygen-rich surface waters are less able to mix with oxygen-poor waters from the deeper ocean.

    At the same time, the higher temperatures are putting more stress on marine species, causing their metabolisms to speed up and their need for oxygen to increase.

    For more accurate predictions, Deutsch would like to see broader use of ocean oxygen monitoring through close to 4,000 Argo floats, autonomous ocean robots that collect data and send information to satellites.

    A study published in Geophysical Research Letters in 2011 found widespread declines in oxygen concentration in the upper ocean between the 1970s and the 1990s. The scientists conducting the study suggested the main driver of the oxygen loss was increased stratification between surface waters and the deeper ocean, preventing oxygen from mixing sufficiently.

    Tony Koslow, a research oceanographer emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has researched the impact of climate-change-driven warming on what are known as oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), naturally occurring low-oxygen regions found well below the ocean's surface. In 2011, he published a study on how populations of fishes that live just above the OMZs off the southern coast of California had changed since the middle of the 20th century. Since 1951, 24 taxa of these mid-water fishes had declined more than 60%. In the last 20 years, the OMZ had expanded upward toward the ocean surface by 40 meters, and oxygen levels had fallen by 20% in the past decade. Koslow hypothesized that the decreased oxygen had forced the fishes closer to the surface, where they were more vulnerable to predators. He described the decline of this magnitude as "potentially of huge significance."

    Though the fishes were not commercially valuable, they are an important source of food for marine predators like other fish, squid and whales, and help to support ecosystem health. More broadly, previous research had found that oxygen levels had declined in OMZs in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans since the 1950s.

    Ocean acidification is another problem by climate change. doclink

    Drought, Drought, Drought!

    March 12, 2016, WOA website

    California Government Prepares For Extreme Effects Of Climate Change

    California is in it's 5th year of drought. California grows a third of all vegetables in the U.S. and two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts. The total economic impact of the 2015 California drought is at $2.7 billion, with an estimated loss of 10,100 seasonal farm worker jobs.

    In Mexico's thirsty capital, a renewed focus on recycled rainwater

    Mexico City is sinking, in some places by as much as 8 inches a year. 70% of homes in Mexico City already have cisterns on the property, the most expensive part of setting up a rain harvesting system.

    Four Billion People Face Severe Water Scarcity, New Research Finds

    In January, water crises were rated as one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the next decade by the World Economic Forum, alongside climate change and mass migration.

    Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

    Strong El Niño Causes Ethiopia's Worst Drought Crisis in Decades; Millions in Need of Food

    2.9 million children and adults were estimated to be food insecure in January 2015, a number that has risen to 10.2 million over the course of a year.

    An estimated $1.4 billion is needed to provide food and other resources. So far about 30% of that amount has been raised from donors.

    Two-Thirds of the World Faces Severe Water Shortages

    Half of the four billion people who experience conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year live in either China or India. Previous studies had estimated that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people were affected by extreme water shortages. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The more people there are, the smaller the portion of water for each.

    Climate Change Threatens Staple Crops in Africa, Study Says

    March 7, 2016, CarbonBrief   By: Robert Mcsweeney

    If carbon emissions aren't cut, large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa will not be viable for growing such key crops as maize, beans and bananas, slowing progress towards curbing malnutrition across the world, according to a recent study just published in Nature Climate Change.

    The researchers picked nine major crops that make up around half of all the food grown in Africa and used crop models to find which fruits, vegetables and cereals could still be grown as the climate is predicted to change during this century.

    Fundamental changes to farming may be needed in the coming decades to maintain food security, they said.

    An area is deemed unsuitable once its climate has changed so much that the crop fails to grow in 10 out of 20 years. It's essentially the point at which adaptation would be required in order for farmers to keep producing that particular food.

    The simulations assume a business-as-usual scenario, where global greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

    60% of areas currently used to grow 40% of all the beans in sub-Saharan Africa will see their climate become unsuitable this century.

    Beans are highly sensitive to heat stress, which we know can reduce productivity by 50% or more in some cases.

    Banana growing regions in West Africa and maize growing regions in Southern Africa will also become unsuitable during this century, the model predicted. Bananas and plantain provide more than a quarter of food energy needs for around 70 million people.

    Root crops, such as yams and cassava, and the drought-resistant cereals millet and sorghum are less affected by a changing climate. Typically less than 15% of sub-Saharan Africa becomes unsuitable for those crops during this century.

    For example, the northern edge of the Sahel - the strip of land to the south of the Sahara desert that crosses Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger - is expected to become unsuitable for as many as five of the nine crops by the 2050s, co-author Dr Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a research fellow at the University of Leeds said.

    Similarly at risk is northern Botswana and Namibia. Climate change is likely to push these areas beyond marginal into unsuitable for various crops simultaneously.

    Overall, African governments "will need to prepare for possible large losses in national production potentials, and production areas, of up to 15% by 2050 and over 30% by 2100," the paper says.

    Adaptation options for farmers and governments range from improving existing farming methods all the way up to farmers switching to different crops or other ways of making a living. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: not mentioned is the rapidly growing population in Africa, expected to double by 2050.

    Zimbabwe Cops Brunt of El Niño and Declares State of Disaster

    February 8, 2016,   By: Megan Palin

    Zimbabwe has declared a state of disaster after a super El Niño, similar to the ones in'97-98 and'82-83, severely impacted Zimbabwe, devastating crops and causing some families to go up to two weeks without a decent meal. Starving cattle wander over parched riverbeds in the region

    The phase is caused by warmer sea temperatures in the Pacific sucking warm, moist air over North America while leaving southern Africa and Australia hot and dry.

    One quarter to the 13 million Zimbabweans are in need of urgent food aid, according to the World Food Program.

    Once known as a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe is suffering a declining economy and rising unemployment. With mines and other industries closing because of economic problems, people can't afford to buy rice, maize, cooking oil. and other food imported from South Africa.

    Some villagers trade maize for fish.

    Most Zimbabweans rely on agriculture for a living. The government plans to import 700,000 tons of maize to distribute to the needy, but there are fears from many that corruption will keep them from getting any. Only those close to the district councillor get to eat, said one person.

    The Zimbabwe Peace Project cited 135 cases of "food violations" from September to December 2015.

    In January, dozens of villagers from rural Mutasa district reportedly stormed a government grain warehouse, demanding an end to the politicisation of food aid.

    The United States and the European Union said last month that they are increasing humanitarian funding. doclink

    Proof That a Price on Carbon Works

    January 19, 2016, New York Times

    Energy policies adopted by some American states and Canadian provinces demonstrate that action to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon would not hurt businesses and consumers as some lawmakers claim.

    Nearly 40 nations, including the 28-member European Union, and many smaller jurisdictions are engaged in some form of carbon pricing. In this hemisphere, British Columbia, Quebec, California and nine Northeastern states have raised the cost of burning fossil fuels without damaging the economy.

    A direct tax on emissions or a cap on emissions are the two forms of carbon pricing. British Columbia, for instance, has levied a tax on emissions from fuels like gasoline, natural gas and heating oil. California and Quebec, which are working together, place a ceiling on overall emissions and allow utilities, manufacturing plants, fuel distributors and others to buy and sell permits that entitle them to emit greenhouse gases. The number of these permits time, becoming more expensive.

    But both systems effectively raise the price of using fossil fuels, which encourages utilities and other producers to generate more energy from low-carbon sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.

    British Columbia taxes a ton of carbon emitted at about USD $21. Emission permits in California and Quebec are trading at only $13 a ton. In the Northeastern trading system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, covering emissions from power plants in nine states that include Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, permits recently sold for $7.50 a ton.

    In British Columbia people pay more for energy but pay less in personal income and corporate taxes. And low-income and rural residents get special tax credits. Researchers have found that the tax helped cut emissions but has had no negative impact on the province's growth rate.

    California and the nine Northeastern states and Quebec are investing the revenue generated by auctioning emission permits in mass transit, energy efficiency, renewable energy and other strategies to reduce carbon emissions. Some of the revenue is also dedicated to helping low-income families cope with higher energy costs.

    Recently, the leaders of Ontario and Manitoba said they would join the California-Quebec cap-and-trade system. In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said he was interested in linking the Northeastern system to the California-Quebec trading platform.

    These actions provide a template for the rest of the world. Broad participation is essential to keep companies from moving their operations to nations that do not impose a cost on carbon emissions.

    China announceed last year that it would set up a national cap-and-trade system. Only a few years ago, China barely acknowledged climate change.

    Yet Congress has refused to act even as it becomes clear that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions is the most direct and cost-effective way to address climate change. doclink

    Climate Change, Health, and Population Dynamics: a View From Tanzania

    January 7, 2016, The Nature Conservancy   By: Kristen Patterson

    As people around the world celebrate the agreement in Paris to address climate change, there's a genuine opportunity for us to adapt to an ever changing world - especially people in developing countries who are most vulnerable.

    One way of helping people adapt to climate change is to improve their health. Many scientists and governments have made the connection between population growth and global carbon emissions and have recognized the multiple benefits that family planning provides.

    Slowing global population growth could lead to lower carbon emissions. Approximately 225 million women in the world have an unmet need for family planning, but are currently not using modern contraception. Meeting their needs through providing voluntary, rights-based family planning information and services could be a global hat trick-for women, their children and the climate.

    Far removed from the negotiations that took place in Paris, some 900 million vulnerable rural people are relying on decisions made at the negotiation table to pave the way for policies that will help them adapt to the realities of climate change.

    Tanzania is acutely vulnerable with 80% of the population relying on agriculture and grazing for their income. And family planning is a critical component of building resilience.

    Mean annual precipitation in Tanzania has decreased significantly across the country from 1960 to the present, and seasonal rainfall patterns have already changed. Only 26% of married women in Tanzania use modern contraception, compared with 53% next door in Kenya.

    In August 2011, I visited the Buhingu regional health center in western Tanzania to meet the head doctor and see the facilities. Despite its magnificent location on a promontory overlooking a beautiful bay on Lake Tanganyika, the walls were crumbling, shelves were bereft of medical supplies, and the rooms were empty. Except for one, where two women lay on metal beds with decrepit foam mattresses; one of the women was nursing a newborn.

    The doctor said that he'd done Cesarean surgeries on both women the night before. One baby survived; the other didn't.

    The moment encapsulated why projects that address health and voluntary family planning as well as conservation and natural resource management in remote regions are not so far-fetched after all.

    Two dozen villages are now participating in the Tuungane Project (Kiswahili for "Let's Unite), a partnership between TNC and Pathfinder International that holistically address reproductive health, the environment and livelihood needs of these communities in this region.

    Lake Tanganyika is the world's second largest lake by volume, and the lake and surrounding forest are mega hotspots of global biodiversity, from a freshwater and terrestrial perspective, boasting endemic cichlids and chimpanzees. And when women face health emergencies, such as obstructed labor, getting a boat and fuel to travel to the nearest hospital, several hours away in Kigoma, is a real challenge.

    Tanzania is a large country; it's about the size of Texas and Colorado combined. Tanzania's population is quite young: as of 2014, 45% of the population was under the age of 15. By 2050, unless the birth rate slows substantially, there will be 2.5 times as many people in Tanzania as there are today, 129.4 million, which would make it the 15th largest country in the world.

    The total fertility rate in western Tanzania is 7.1, among the very highest in the world. Having babies in rapid succession is often accompanied by high maternal mortality. There is an urgent need to make voluntary contraception more available in places like rural western Tanzania so that women and their families are able to live healthier, productive lives and space and plan their families.

    As for early marriage, almost 40% of girls in Tanzania are married before the age of 18, whereas only 33% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.

    Western Tanzania's intertwined challenges of population dynamics, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation need to be addressed in an integrated way.

    Understanding the need for voluntary family planning for women and children at the individual level and for the planet would benefit millions of people - in Tanzania and around the world. doclink

    A Single Gas Well Leak is California's Biggest Contributor to Climate Change

    Rupture of Aliso Canyon well has released more than 77,000 metric tons of methane and refocused attention on America's accident-prone infrastructure
    January 5, 2016, Guardian   By: Suzanne Goldenberg

    On October 23, Southern California Gas discovered a leak in its underground Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. For over two months now this facility has been spilling methane into the atmosphere at up to 110,000 pounds per hour (62 million cubic feet per day). That makes it the largest leak on record and the worst environmental disaster since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

    Although the gas is invisible, infrared video shows it rolling over the foothills. Residents who remain in the area get headaches and have trouble breathing. Two schools were relocated for the 2016 semester and thousands of people have to relocate.

    The leak also contributes to world climate change. It releases the emissions equivalent of seven million cars. Although methane burns cleaner than coal, the raw gas has over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere. A report by the Environmental Defense Fund says that 195 nations are working to keep methane out of the atmosphere. It is therefore important, not just for the company to halt his leak as soon as possible, but also for the state act and ensure safer natural gas storage and transportation in the future.

    Engineers believe that a well casing failed deep below the surface. Repairing the leak requires careful drilling far from the source to avoid igniting the gas and causing an explosion, and that could take several more months.

    The Environmental Protection Agency is due to issue much-anticipated rules to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry later this year. doclink

    Art says: Governor Brown has declared this an emergency and demanded faster repair work plus a way to capture the leaking gas. Over 2500 people are either relocated or seeking relocation.

    Hunger Threatens Millions as El Niño Causes Drought and Floods

    Aid agencies call for urgent action as failed harvests, stunted crops and soaring prices trigger widespread food shortages in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia
    December 30, 2015, Guardian   By: John Vidal

    "The effects of the strongest El Niño in several decades are set to put the world's humanitarian system under an unprecedented level of strain in 2016 as it already struggles to cope with the fallout from conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere," reports Oxfam. ActionAid, Care International, Plan and Catholic Relief Services are also involved.

    60 million people -- a level unknown since the second world war -- have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict, according to the UN refugee agency. Nearly 39 million people will need food aid because of shortages. "Millions of people in places like Ethiopia, Haiti and Papua New Guinea are already feeling the effects of drought and crop failure. It's already too late for some regions to avoid a major emergency," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam GB's humanitarian director.

    "The situation is serious and deteriorating, and urgent early action is required to prevent a slide into crisis that would put the humanitarian system under enormous strain," she said.

    "Livelihoods are being destroyed. Gains that have been made through development efforts in these communities over several years are at risk," Geir Olav Lisle, deputy secretary general at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said.

    Food shortages are expected to peak in southern Africa in February. Malawi estimates that 2.8 million people will require humanitarian assistance before March.

    A further 2 million people across Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua already need food aid after drought and erratic rains, and millions more in Haiti and Papua New Guinea are likely to need help. The situation is expected to deteriorate in January as floods affect Central America.

    The UK's Department for International Development said it was providing emergency support for 2.6 million people and 120,000 malnourished children, as well as food or cash support from January. "Ensuring security for those affected by El Niño is important to their countries but also in Britain's national interest. Only by protecting and stabilising vulnerable countries can we ensure people are not forced to leave their homes in search of food or a new livelihood," development minister Nick Hurd said.

    Dr Nick Klingaman, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "By some measures this has already been the strongest El Niño on record. "In a lot of tropical countries we are seeing big reductions in rainfall of the order of 20-30%. Indonesia has experienced a bad drought; the Indian monsoon was about 15% below normal; and the forecasts for Brazil and Australia are for reduced monsoons."

    A La Niña event, which can have opposite but similarly harmful effects could follow this El Niño. In places where we are seeing droughts from El Niño, we could be seeing flooding from La Niña next year. doclink

    Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits

    December 7, 2015, New York Times   By: David Jolly

    Everyone who studies the issue understands that transportation, which is still 95% reliant on petroleum, is the world's fastest-growing energy-based contributor to greenhouse gases. About 75% of the total comes from motor vehicles.

    Few disagree that the best solutions include the adoption of electric vehicles and, especially in cities, making it easier for people to forgo cars by using public transportation or riding bicycles.

    Lewis M. Fulton, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, cites "carbon intensity" - the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each mile traveled - as an area where advances can be made. By 2030, he said, it should be possible to cut the carbon intensity of new cars powered by fossil fuel by 50% from 2005 levels. Already, he said, there has been about a 20% improvement.

    However, the number of automobiles on the world's roads is on pace to double - to more than two billion - by 2030. If the number of cars doubles, and the average mileage improves by only 50%, all of the fuel-economy gains would be offset by the emissions from the new vehicles.

    That is because much of the expansion will be propelled by the rise of the consumer class in industrializing parts of the globe, especially in China and India, as hundreds of millions of new drivers discover the glory of the open road. Those populous and geographically sprawling countries might be hard pressed any time soon to assemble the ubiquitous electricity grid required for recharging electric vehicles; and much of the electricity China and India will produce in coming decades will come from coal-fired power plants that are some of the planet's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. doclink

    Is There An Optimum Temperature for the Global Economy?

    December 4, 2015, World Economic Forum   By: Emma Luxton

    A paper published by Nature reports that climate change will push many nations above the optimal temperature for economic activity. 166 countries were studied over 50 years. The study suggests climate change will widen inequality because global warming is more harmful to hot countries, which tend to be poorer.

    The analysis identifies an optimal temperature band centered on 13°C, and calculates that global warming will push many economies, including China and the US, above this level, and predicts a 23% cut in global economic output by 2100. The average income in the poorest 40 countries is predicted to fall by 75%.

    The analysis focuses solely on the impact of temperature change and doesn't take into consideration extreme weather events and rising sea levels. doclink

    The World Will Run Out of Breathable Air Unless Carbon is Cut

    A new study finds that unabated greenhouse gas emissions will cripple ocean phytoplankton's ability to produce oxygen.
    December 3, 2015, Take Part   By: Taylor Hill

    A new study by Sergei Petrovskii, an applied mathematics professor at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, calculated that, if the world's oceans warmed by 6 degrees Celsius -- a realistic possibility if global emissions continue unabated -- the tiny marine plants called phytoplankton would halt oxygen production. Marine plants such as phytoplankton are estimated to produce more than half the Earth's atmospheric oxygen, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    By 2100, the earth at sea level could have atmospheric oxygen levels comparable to the top of Mount Everest today. "And as far as I know, people cannot normally stay on Everest without oxygen masks for more than a few minutes," Petrovskii said.

    Phytoplankton can continue to produce oxygen and photosynthesize at levels below 6 degrees of temperature rise, so there will be few warning signs and little change before it is too late, Petrovskii said.

    More research is needed to determine what increase in global temperatures would halt phytoplankton's ability to photosynthesize, he added.

    The study was published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. doclink

    Brazil's Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat


    A satellite image of Brazil's Amazon rainforest shows a vast 1,000 mile swath of what should be some of the wettest lands on the globe running south of the world's largest river, and it is covered by a dense pall of smoke. The fires' tell-tale plumes streak out over a drought-parched Brazil, across the Atlantic, and over to Africa where the plume is again thickened by yet more wildfires.

    The greatest rainforest in the world is belching out a thick pulse of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere that is already greatly over-burdened with industry-emitted greenhouse gasses.

    The crisis threatens to turn South Brazil into a desert, and one of the world's vast carbon stores into a carbon emissions source, and to eventually convert the great rainforest itself into dry grasslands.

    Human-caused warming of the globe is causing the rainforest to slowly heat up and dry out. Add to this the insults of what amounts to a half century of slash and burn agriculture. Immense swaths of the forest have been cut and burned away, converted into farmlands. Increasingly, large sections of the forest are isolated into smaller, less productive islands.

    To top it off, Brazil is experiencing the effects of what is likely to become the strongest El Nino ever recorded, warming the Pacific Ocean which causes the rainforest to dry. With the great Amazon already suffering from at least a decade of drought, the impacts on the rainforest are horrendous.

    Clear cutting, wildfire, and drought have left the Amazon rainforest less and less able to pump water into the atmosphere. Its once massive 'flying rivers' are drying out. Over the past two decades, the massive cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have suffered from increasingly frequent droughts, which have been particularly extreme over the past three years.

    In area surrounding Sao Paulo, the largest reservoir remains below dead pool levels even as other reservoirs have fallen under increasing stress. Many of the area's 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security.

    If dry conditions continue, Rio de Janeiro will almost certainly see Brazil's second largest city fall into a crisis similar to that of Sao Paulo. Satellite data from NASA shows that the drought in much of southeast Brazil -- also home to the region's breadbasket -- is much worse than originally believed.

    Continuing droughts will put a strain on electricity supplies, on commercial activity, and on practically every aspect of city life - which is largely dependent upon access to water. In eastern Brazil, more than 30 million people now face the threat of this climate change induced destabilization. But what's worse is the fact that the ongoing burning and drought in the Amazon to the north practically ensures that the flying rivers will continue to wilt, that the droughts in the southeast will grow to become city-killers. doclink

    $1 Spent on Family Planning Saves One Ton of Carbon Emissions

    November 23, 2015, Population Matters

    Research we recently commissioned in partnership with Lancaster University has revealed that investing in family planning services is an even more cost-effective way to abate carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought.

    Reducing future energy demand by preventing unwanted births and hence lifetimes in developed as well as developing countries is far cheaper - US $1.11 per ton - than any renewable energy alternative. The benefits multiply in perpetuity via each never-existing person's never-existing descendants. Furthermore, by reducing the sizes of future populations, the same dollar spent has many other benefits: improving food and water security; reducing soil degradation and desertification; helping to prevent civil conflict and mass migration; protecting biodiversity; empowering women; improving health; stimulating economic development; and reducing unemployment and poverty.

    In 2014, more than half of women of reproductive age in developing regions wished to avoid pregnancy. However, approximately 25 per cent of these women - about 225 million - were not using effective contraceptive methods. Those not doing so account for approximately 81 per cent of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions. A respected analysis has shown that fully meeting the global need for modern contraceptive services would cost only about $9.4 billion.

    Population Matters Chair Roger Martin said, "Government has been reluctant to consider population size and growth as relevant to energy demand. This study should make them think - not least because the potential cost savings to the taxpayer are enormous. Family planning is a highly cost-effective complement to - not a substitute for - the conventional United Nations approach and if they are serious about climate change it would be irresponsible to ignore it." doclink

    Reducing Future Energy Demand by Preventing Unwanted Births Can Be Done for Only US $1.11 Per Ton of Carbon Emitted

    November 23, 2015, Population Matters

    Research by Lancaster University reveals that investing in family planning services is an even more cost-effective way to abate carbon dioxide emissions and is far cheaper than any renewable energy alternative - only US $1.11 per ton.

    The investment in family planning services would prevent unwanted births and hence lifetimes in developed as well as developing countries, with benefits multiplying in perpetuity via each never-existing person's never-existing descendants.

    Additional benefits to preventing unwanted births: improved food and water security; reduction of soil degradation and desertification; less cause for civil conflict and mass migration; preservation of biodiversity; empowerment of women; health improvements; stimulation of economic development; and reduction of unemployment and poverty.

    Last year, half of women of reproductive age in developing regions wished to avoid pregnancy. Approximately 25% of these women - about 225 million - were not using effective contraceptive methods, leading to 81% of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions. Fully meeting the global need for modern contraceptive services would cost only about $9.4 billion.

    Population Matters Chair Roger Martin said, "Government has been reluctant to consider population size and growth as relevant to energy demand. This study should make them think - not least because the potential cost savings to the taxpayer are enormous. Family planning is a highly cost-effective complement to - not a substitute for - the conventional United Nations approach and if they are serious about climate change it would be irresponsible to ignore it." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: more and more articles are making the connection between family planning and climate change.

    How Family Planning Could Help Slow Climate Change

    November 20, 2015, Ms Magazine   By: Kristen Patterson

    The author was a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, living in a mud hut in a village in Niger, a West African country consistently ranked as one of the poorest in the world. It was incessantly hot, and there were a lot of babies.

    Today Niger women are having an average of 7.6 children and it's getting even hotter and drier. The population has gone from about 9 million people in 1996 to almost 19 million today, and is expected to rise to more than triple to 68 million by 2050 unless the birth rate slows substantially.

    Only 12% of married women in Niger use a modern form of contraception, compared to an average of 29% across Africa and 56% globally. There is an urgent need to make voluntary contraception available so that women and their families are able to live healthy, productive lives.

    Half of girls in Niger are married before their 16th birthday, which extends the length of their childbearing years, and some of them die during childbirth from laboring too long to deliver a baby too large for their still developing adolescent body. Niger is rated the worst place in the world to be a mother.

    Niger is acutely vulnerable to climate change, with only about 13% of the country suitable for agriculture, and even that land is dry for much of the year. Families are having a harder time each year eking out enough food from this parched land, and it's difficult to provide enough pasture and water for their livestock, too.

    Research shows that fewer people in the world could lead to substantial long-term climate-related benefits by lowering carbon emissions. About 222 million women in the world would like to plan the number and spacing of their children, but currently are not able to because they don't have access to modern contraception. Providing voluntary, rights-based family planning could be a global solution for women, their children and the climate. In addition the additional health, education and economic benefits that accompany family planning would reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and build their resilience.

    Recently, more scientists and governments have made the connection between population growth and global carbon emissions and have recognized the multiple benefits that family planning provides.There is a strong chance for real progress at the Paris climate talks. The author's hope is that additional headway will be realized through climate negotiations that acknowledge the compound benefits of rights-based voluntary family planning for women and children at the individual level and for the planet. doclink

    Long in the Background, Population Becoming a Bigger Issue at Climate Change Discussions

    November 10, 2015, New Security Beat   By: Robert Engelman

    Unfortunately the topic of population is fraught with the potential for shaming of high-fertility groups and individuals, and scars from coercive population programs by some governments in the past.

    However, in late 2014 IPCC made a strong statement on the contributions of population growth to rising greenhouse gas emissions and touted the benefits of wider access to voluntary family planning services.

    Recently (Nov 2015), the word 'population' (referring to size or growth) appears 20 times in a 66-page synthesis of country pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Secretariat.

    The country pledges to reduce emissions - "intended nationally determined contributions," or INDCs - offered in advance of Paris mark an intriguing step forward for governments.

    Both developed and developing countries were asked to quantify the proportion of global emissions reductions they can contribute between now and 2030 to help keep the planet's average temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average. This quantification is a country pledge for "intended nationally determined contributions," or INDCs. [162 countries have submitted their INDCs]

    In order to fit their pledged contributions into the global picture, governments must consider how many people will live within their borders in 15 years and how per-capita emissions multiplied by population might evolve. Any specific pledge a government makes to cut, cap, or restrain growth in national emissions, it soon becomes obvious, will be more challenging to achieve the more a country's population grows. Per-capita emissions will need to decline to meet and sustain pledges as populations grow.

    The UNFCCC synthesis report takes into account different population growth scenarios for the next decade and a half and references the latest UN Population Division estimates and projections of world population, which only came out this July.

    In the synthesis report, in addition to population changes, some governments also let it be known that population growth is a significant challenge as they try both to restrain emissions and adapt to climate change already experienced or expected. Several governments state, the UNFCCC authors report, that their countries' population growth or density constrains their ability to adapt to climate change and protect their citizens.

    This should not be a surprise. Non-government researchers and advocates have called attention to the connections between population and climate change for years. At the same time they've touted the co-benefits that improving reproductive health, education, and the status of women worldwide has for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

    The Worldwatch Institute and the Population Reference Bureau assembled an expert group from the reproductive-health and climate fields to consider the link the effect that family planning has on climate-compatible development. There is no reason to stigmatize the relationship, they said. It is not about pointing fingers, but linking arms - in developed as well as developing countries - to empower women and men to achieve their desired family sizes and improve the well-being of current and future generations.

    Connecting population and climate change can support epochal improvements in the lives of women and girls. It supplements the many other arguments for sweeping away barriers to the use of contraception in all countries.

    Linking population and climate change can help combat gender-related abuses such as child marriage since very young wives are often pressured to bear children early and often. The resulting high fertility rates lead to a higher proportion of dependent young people to economically productive adults - the reverse of the much-touted "demographic dividend” that helps economies prosper. The same high fertility increases population growth, contributing to the challenges some governments say hold back their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

    The impact of population on climate change and other environmental changes is so important, that governments are being compelled to explore and acknowledge the relationship. As national governments plan for and try to constrain climate change, they may pull international agencies and experts into more dialogue on demography too. Vigilance to assure that any policies that result are based on the rights and reproductive choices of individuals and couples can help assure that this emerging interest promotes human well-being in more ways than one. doclink

    Long in the Background, Population Becoming a Bigger Issue at Climate Change Discussions

    November 10, 2015, New Security Beat   By: Robert Engelman

    The word 'population' (referring to growth or size) appears 20 times in a new 66-page synthesis of country pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's Secretariat.

    Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talked about the effect of population growth on rising greenhouse gas emissions and touted the benefits of wider access to voluntary family planning services.

    Worldwatch Institute's Family Planning and Environmental Assessment project has also noticed: worldwide, researchers are increasingly recognizing the strong population-climate change link.

    Unfortunately the topic remains too fraught with the potential for shaming of high-fertility groups and individuals, and scars from coercive "population programs" by some governments in the past. Yet the problem of population affecting the environment cannot be wished away.

    Most countries have reported on the proportion of global emissions reductions they can contribute between now and 2030 to help keep the planet's average temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average.

    In doing so, governments had to note how many people will live within their borders in 15 years and how per-capita emissions multiplied by population might evolve. It should become obvious that the more a population grows, the more challenging it will be to achieve any specific pledge a government makes to cut, cap, or restrain growth in national emissions.

    The UNFCCC synthesis report will show different population growth scenarios for the next decade and a half. The synthesis report references the latest (July) UN Population Division projections of world population, and suggests that a few governments aren't using the best - or any - population data in calculating "business-as-usual" emissions scenarios.

    Some governments also want the world to know that population growth is a significant challenge as they try both to restrain emissions and adapt to climate change already experienced or expected. Several governments state that their countries' population growth or density constrains their ability to adapt to climate change and protect their citizens.

    The Worldwatch Institute and the Population Reference Bureau have joined to assemble an expert group from the reproductive-health and climate fields to consider the link the effect that family planning has on climate-compatible development. In our recommendations, we tried to make clear that there is no reason to stigmatize the relationship. The population perspective on climate change is not about pointing fingers, but linking arms - in developed as well as developing countries - to empower women and men to achieve their desired family sizes and improve the wellbeing of current and future generations.

    Properly managed and sensitively expressed, connecting population and climate change can support epochal improvements in the lives of women and girls. It supplements the many other arguments for sweeping away barriers to the use of contraception in all countries.

    Even the IPCC authors noted that some industrialized countries with high per-capita emissions have high levels of unintended pregnancy.

    Gender-related abuses such as child marriage could be helped by the linking population and climate change conceptually.

    Young wives are pressured to have babies early and often, with the resulting high fertility rates leading to a higher proportion of dependent young people to economically productive adults, setting back low-income countries economically. This is the reverse of the "demographic dividend" with which economies prosper. Also the resulting population growth creates challenges which some governments say hold back their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

    Finding out what will be needed to avoid catastrophic climate change will require us to conjure up innovations and ways of thinking and behaving.

    Vigilance to assure that any policies that result are based on the rights and reproductive choices of individuals and couples can help assure that this emerging interest promotes human well-being in more ways than one. doclink

    X-Ray Technology Reveals California's Forests Are in for a Radical Transformation

    October 20, 2015, Los Angeles Times   By: Thomas Curwen

    Greg Asner, a biologist with the Carnegie Institution for Science, has been flying out of Sacramento and Bakersfield with instruments aboard his plane that give him X-ray eyes into the foliage, to assess not just dead trees but trees so stressed by the drought that their death is likely.

    The Forest Service had estimated that nearly 12.5 million trees in the state's southern and central forests were dead. But Asner calculates the loss this year will be 7% to 20%.

    Under normal circumstances, forests lose between 1% and 1.5% of their trees annually.

    Asner's instruments measure how water molecules are bending, stretching, rotating and vibrating inside a leaf undergoing photosynthesis. These motions resonate into the atmosphere as reflected light, which is picked up by an on-board spectrometer. The more reflected light, the drier the foliage.

    The spectrometer works in conjunction with a laser that fans out beneath the aircraft, creating a 3-D image that shows the condition of the forest. Healthy trees are blue, and drought-stressed trees run from mild (yellow) to severe (red).

    Asner's assessment shows that the mountains ringing Los Angeles are "a tinderbox" and the oak forests in the Sierra foothills are "in big trouble." Pinnacles is "not a happy place for a tree," and the forests northwest of Redding are surprisingly compromised.

    "We don't know when the lack of rain will lead to runaway conditions where the forests are beyond repair," Asner said.

    "Think of it as one gigantic ax swing at the forest," he said. "It takes a huge chunk out of the population, and if we see two or three more of these droughts, then that's even more ax swings."

    Jeffrey Hicke, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Idaho, said "Species will march uphill as the climate warms." ... "Sequoia forests might become ponderosa pine or oak. Oak forests might become grasslands.

    The three-week mid-summer survey was paid by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is interested in the findings because the images can provide a more accurate picture of how fire behaves in dry terrain, which can help with the location of fire breaks and the management of controlled burns.

    Diminishment of the state's forests means the loss of clean water and erosion control, recreation and jobs, Ashley Conrad-Saydah of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said. As trees die, decompose or burn, carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, she said. Forests become scrublands with 97% less carbon.

    "This is our chance for science to play a role in supporting innovations in management and policy, rather than just bringing bad news that is not actionable," Anser wrote. doclink

    Ethiopian Drought Threatens Growth as Cattle Die, Crops Fail

    October 15, 2015, Bloomberg View   By: William Davison

    Rain failure from February to May this year in Ethiopia has left 8.2 million people in need of emergency support, with the crisis set to worsen through September next year, according to the UN.

    Since agriculture accounts for 40% of output, employs almost 77% of Ethiopia's 97 million people and receives significant government support, the effect may spread to the economy, according to the World Bank.

    El Nino is one of the causes of the drought, Ethiopia's economy, which has averaged about 10% growth over the past decade, contracted by more than 3% in 2003, the last time El Nino occurred.

    Ethiopia will need about $191 million to combat the drought this year. 15 million people may need food aid in 2015. The number of children needing emergency treatment for malnutrition reached 43,000 in August, more than during any month in the last major Ethiopian humanitarian crisis in 2011, according to the UN.

    In the Amibara district of Afar region, 200 farmers in Sa'adin Omar's community have benefited from government help to irrigate 146 hectares of corn from the river, which is Ethiopia's longest. Because of drought, only half the plot may produce crops, amd the carcasses of dozens of cows lay scattered around. The price for the animals has crashed from 7,000 birr to as low as 1,500 birr as desperate herders saturate the market. doclink

    Methane Release From Melting Permafrost Could Trigger Dangerous Global Warming

    A policy briefing from the Woods Hole Research Center concludes that the IPCC doesn't adequately account for a methane warming feedback
    October 13, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: John Abraham

    Carbon dioxide is considered the most important human-emitted greenhouse gas (GHG), but methane is also important and has also increased in the atmosphere. Molecule for molecule, methane traps 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide; but it is present in much smaller concentrations.

    Carbon dioxide is emitted primarily through burning of fossil fuels, but methane has a large natural emission component from warming permafrost in the northern latitudes. Permafrost is permanently frozen ground. Much of the permafrost is undisturbed by bacterial decomposition.

    As the Earth warms, and the Arctic warms especially fast, the permafrost melts and soil decomposition accelerates. Consequently, an initial warming leads to more emission, leading to more warming and more emission. It is a vicious cycle and there may be a tipping point where this self-reinforcing cycle takes over.

    A policy briefing from the Woods Hole Research Center cites two recent papers that study the so-called permafrost carbon feedback.

    One of these studies uses projections from a recent IPCC report to estimate that up to 205 gigatons equivalent of carbon dioxide could be released due to melting permafrost. This would cause up to 0.5°C (0.9°F) extra warming. And this permafrost melting would continue after 2100 which would lock us into even more warming. Under this scenario, meeting a 2°C limit would be harder than anticipated. Current IPCC targets do not adequately take into account this feedback.

    There is twice as much carbon in permafrost as in the atmosphere. With the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the globe as a whole, the upper layers of this frozen soil begin to thaw, allowing deposited organic material to decompose. A network of monitoring stations have measured ground temperatures and detected a significant heating trend over the past few decades and so has the active layer thickness.

    Woods Hole expert Robert Max Holmes said, "It's essential that policymakers begin to seriously consider the possibility of a substantial permafrost carbon feedback to global warming. If they don't, I suspect that down the road we'll all be looking at the 2°C threshold in our rear-view mirror."

    If we are to stop the warming-thawing-more warming cycle, it is critical to reduce carbon emissions now. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: One area we can concentrate on reducing methane emissions is in cow manure in confined feed lots. If we ate less meat this would be less of a problem. Another greenhouse pollutant is soot which is produced by burning wood. The fires in Indonesia and some of the forest fires in the drought areas of the U.S. emit a lot of soot that we should look into preventing.

    The Environmental Food Crisis


    Note: this report is older, written about 2009, maybe. However the trends it reports are still happening today

    A new rapid response assessment report released by UNEP warns that up to 25% of the world's food production may become lost due to environmental breakdown (i.e. climate change, water scarcity, invasive pests and land degradation) by 2050 unless action is taken. Prepared by the Rapid Response Assessment Team at GRID-Arendal and UNEP-WCMC, the report provides the first summary by the UN of how climate change, water stress, invasive pests and land degradation may impact world food security, food prices and life on the planet and how we may be able to feed the world in a more sustainable manner.

    The 2008 spike in food prices and a 50-200% increase in selected commodity prices triggered riots from Egypt to Haiti and Cameroon to Bangladesh, drove 110 million people into poverty and added 44 million more to the undernourished. There were dramatic impacts on the lives and livelihoods, including increased infant and child mortality of those already undernourished or living in poverty and spending 70-80% of their daily income on food.

    Key causes were the combined effects of speculation in food stocks, extreme weather events, low cereal stocks, and growth in biofuels competing for cropland and high oil prices. World food prices are expected to be 30%-50% higher in coming decades and have greater volatility.

    The demand for food will increase by 50% by 2050 as a result of population growth, increased incomes and growing consumption of meat.

    Unless more sustainable and intelligent management of production and consumption are undertaken food prices could indeed become more volatile and expensive in a world of six billion [now 7.3 billion] rising to over 9 billion [even more with current projections] by 2050 as a result of escalating environmental degradation.

    The fertilizer and pesticide-led production methods of the 20th Century are unlikely to help: they will increasingly undermine the critical natural inputs and nature-based services for agriculture such as healthy and productive soils; the water and nutrient recycling of forests to pollinators such as bees and bats.

    In response to the food, fuel and financial crises of 2008 UNEP launched its Global Green New Deal and Green Economy initiatives: food is very much part of the imperative for transformational economic, social and environmental change.

    Food production rose substantially in the past century, due to increasing yields due to irrigation and fertilizer use as well as agricultural expansion into new lands, with little consideration of food energy efficiency. In the past decade, however, yields have nearly stabilized for cereals and declined for fisheries. Aquaculture production to just maintain the current dietary proportion of fish by 2050 will require a 56% increase as well as new alternatives to wild fisheries for the supply of aquaculture feed.

    It is uncertain whether yield increases can be achieved to keep pace with the growing food demand. Furthermore, projections have not taken into account the losses in yield and land area as a result of environmental degradation.

    Land degradation, urban expansion and conversion of crops and cropland for non-food production, such as biofuels, may reduce the required cropland by 8%-20% by 2050, if not compensated for in other ways. In addition, climate change will increasingly take effect by 2050 and may cause large portions of the Himalayan glaciers to melt, disturb monsoon patterns, and result in increased foods and seasonal drought on irrigated croplands in Asia, which accounts for 25% of the world cereal production. The combined effects of climate change, land degradation, cropland losses, water scarcity and species infestations may cause projected yields to be 5%-25% short of demand by 2050. Increased oil prices may raise the cost of fertilizer and lower yields further. If losses in cropland area and yields are only partially compensated for, food production could potentially become up to 25% short of demand by 2050. This would require new ways to increase food supply.

    Conventional compensation by simple expansion of croplands into low-productive rain-fed lands would result in accelerated loss of forests, steppe or other natural ecosystems, with subsequent costs to biodiversity and further loss of ecosystem services and accelerated climate change. Over 80% of all endangered birds and mammals are threatened by unsustainable land use and agricultural expansion. Agricultural intensification in Europe is a major cause of a near 50% decline in farmland birds in this region in the past three decades.

    Large numbers of the world's small- scale farmers, particularly in central Asia and Africa, are constrained by access to markets and the high price of inputs such as fertilizers and seed. With lack of infrastructure, investments, reliable institutions (e.g., for water provision) and low availability of micro-finance, it will become difficult to increase crop production in those regions where it is needed the most.

    Developing alternatives to the use of cereal in animal feed, such as by recycling waste and using fish discards, could sustain the energy demand for the entire projected population growth of over 3 billion people and a 50% increase in aquaculture.

    Reducing climate change would slow down its impacts, particularly on the water resources of the Himalayas, beyond 2050.

    A major shift to more eco-based production and reversing land degradation would help limit the spread of invasive species, conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services and protect the food production platform of the planet.


    To decrease the risk of highly volatile prices, price regulation on commodities and larger cereal stocks should be created to buffer the tight markets of food commodities and the subsequent risks of speculation in markets. This would include a global fund to support micro-finance to boost small-scale farmer productivity.

    Subsidies and blending ratios of first generation biofuels should be removed, which would promote a shift to higher generation biofuels based on waste (if this does not compete with animal feed), thereby avoiding the capture of cropland by biofuels. This includes removal of subsidies on agricultural commodities and inputs that are exacerbating the developing food crisis, and investing in shifting to sustainable food systems and food energy efficiency.


    Develop alternatives to animal and fish feed by increasing food energy efficiency using fish discards, capture and recycling of post- harvest losses and waste and development of new technology, thereby increasing food energy efficiency by 30-50% at current production levels..

    Support farmers in developing diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems that provide critical ecosystem services (water supply and regulation, habitat for wild plants and animals, genetic diversity, pollination, pest control, climate regulation), as well as adequate food to meet local and consumer needs. This includes managing extreme rainfall and using inter-cropping to minimize dependency on external inputs like artificial fertilizers, pesticides and blue irrigation water.

    Increased trade and improved market access as well as price regulation and government subsidies for small farmers.


    Limit global warming, including the promotion of climate- friendly agricultural production systems and land-use policies at a scale to help mitigate climate change.

    Raise awareness of the pressures of increasing population growth and consumption patterns on sustainable ecosystem functioning.

    [Editor's note: Meet the worldwide unmet need of 225 million for contraception, which would prevent 87 million pregnancies a year, contrasted with the current population growth of about 80 million per year. Reduce the consumption of meat worldwide. ]


    Each day 200,000 more people are added to the world food demand. Combine this with the effects rising incomes and dietary changes towards higher meat intake. Meat production is particularly demanding in terms of energy, cereal and water. Today, nearly half of the world's cereals are being used for animal feed.

    Africa will experience the most rapid growth, over 70% faster than in Asia (annual growth of 2.4% versus 1.4% in Asia, compared to the global average of 1.3% and only 0.3% in many industrialized countries) (2007).

    Only an estimated 43% of the cereal produced is available for human consumption, as a result of harvest and post-harvest distribution losses and use of cereal for animal feed. Furthermore, the 30 million tonnes of fish needed to sustain the growth in aquaculture correspond to the amount of fish discarded at sea today.

    An additional 3 billion could be feed by using the world's food crop more efficiently, such as eating less meat and stopping the growing biofuels on cropland. At the same time, these alternatives would support a growing green economy and greatly reduce pressures on biodiversity and water resources.

    The three primary factors that affected recent increases in world crop production are: increased cropland and rangeland area (15% contribution); increased yield per unit area (78% contribution); and greater cropping intensity (7% percent contribution).

    Aquaculture, freshwater and marine fisheries supply about 10% of world human calorie intake - but this is likely to decline or at best stabilize in the future, and might have already reached the maximum. Of the 110-130 million tons of seafood captured annually, 70 million tons are directly consumed by humans, 30 million tons are discarded and 30 million tons converted to fishmeal.

    The world's fisheries have steadily declined since the 1980s, its magnitude masked by the expansion of fishing into deeper and more offshore water. Over half of the world's catches are caught in less than 7% of the oceans, in areas characterized by an increasing amount of habitat damage from bottom trawling, pollution and dead zones, invasive species infestations and vulnerability to climate change.

    Eutrophication from excessive inputs of phosphorous and nitrogen through sewage and agricultural run-off is a major threat to both freshwater and coastal marine fisheries. Areas of the coasts that are periodically starved of oxygen, so-called 'dead zones', often coincide with both high agricultural run-off and the primary fishing grounds for commercial and artisanal fisheries.


    Meat production increased from 27 kg meat/capita to 36 kg meat/capita in the last two decades of the last century, and now accounts for around 8% of the world calorie intake. In addition to being energy inefficient when animals are fed with food-crops, the area required for production of animal feed is approximately one-third of all arable land. Dietary shifts towards more meat will require a much larger share of cropland for grazing and feed production for the meat industry.

    Expansion of land for livestock grazing is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder. About 70% of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock. Further, the livestock sector has an often unrecognized role in global warming - it is estimated to be responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions , a bigger share than that of transport.

    It takes, on average, 3 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of meat. About 16,000 litres of virtual water are needed to produce 1 kg of meat. Hence, an increased demand for meat results in an accelerated demand for water, crop and rangeland area. If animals are part of an integrated farm production system, the overall energy efficiency can be actually increased through better utilization of organic waste. This is not the case for mass production of pigs and poultry in specialized stables, which may take up an increasingly larger proportion of the production of feed crops.

    Reducing meat consumption in the industrialized world and restraining it worldwide to 2000 level of 37,4 kg/capita in 2050 would free enough cereal to cover the annual calorie need for an additional 1.2 billion people. [ In another section, it says: "From a calorie perspective, the non-food use of cereals is thus enough to cover the calorie need for about 4.35 billion people.Taking the energy value of the meat produced into consideration, the loss of calories by feeding the cereals to animals instead of using the cereals directly as human food represents the annual calorie need for more than 3.5 billion people."]


    Cellulose is the most abundant biological material in the world, but the energy it contains is not readily available for animal production. Due to the interest in using this material for bioethanol production, there are currently large research programs underway to chemically and enzymatically degrade this cellulose into glucose. If this becomes possible and in a cost-effective manner, wood glucose can, to a large extent, replace cereals as a feed source for both ruminants and monogastric animals.

    Other sources for feed that are not fully exploited include seaweed, algae and other under-utilized marine organisms such as krill. However, their potential is uncertain, since technological challenges still remain.


    Discarded fish from marine fisheries is the single largest proportion lost of any food source produced or harvested from the wild. The proportion is particularly high for shrimp bottom trawl fisheries. Mortality has been estimated to be as high as 70-80%. If sustainable, the amount of fish currently discarded at sea could alone sustain more than a 50% increase in aquaculture production. However, many of these species could also be used directly for human consumption.

    The potential to use unexploited food waste as alternative sources of feed is also considerable for agricultural products.

    Food losses in the field (between planting and harvesting) could be as high as 20-40% of the potential harvest in developing countries due to pests and pathogens. In the United States, the losses of fresh fruits and vegetables have been estimated to range from 2% to 23%, depending on the commodity, with an overall average of about 12% losses between production and consumption sites Losses could amount to 25-50% of the total economic value because of reduced quality. Others estimate that up to 50% of the vegetables and fruits grown end as waste. Finally, substantial losses and wastage occur during retail and consumption due to product deterioration as well as to discarding of excess perishable products and unconsumed food. Food waste represents a major potential, especially for use as animal feed, which, in turn, could release the use of cereals in animal feed for human consumption.

    In 2007, US$148 billion was invested in the renewable energy market, up 60% from the previous year. Recovering energy from agricultural wastes is becoming increasingly feasible at the industrial production level.

    In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water. Losses at the farm level are probably about 15-35%, depending on the industry. The retail sector has comparatively high rates of loss of about 26%, while supermarkets, surprisingly, only lose about 1%. Overall, losses amount to around US$90 billion-US$100 billion a year.

    Africa: In many African countries, the post-harvest losses of food cereals are estimated at 25% of the total crop harvested. For some crops such as fruits, vegetables and root crops, being less hardy than cereals, post-harvest losses can reach 50%.

    Europe: United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88%) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed.

    Environmentally, food waste leads to: wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food, creating more methane - one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming. WRAP (Waste and Resource Action Program), a UK based group, estimates that if food were not discarded in this way in the UK, the level of greenhouse gas abatement would be equivalent to removing 1 in 5 cars from the road. [See].


    Land degradation and conversion of cropland for non-food production including biofuels, cotton and others are major threats that could reduce the available cropland by 8-20% by 2050. Species infestations of pathogens, weeds and insects, combined with water scarcity from overuse and the melting of the Himalayas glaciers, soil erosion and depletion as well as climate change may reduce current yields by at least an additional 5-25% by 2050, in the absence of policy intervention.

    There has been a growing trend all over the world in converting cropland to other uses due to increasing urbanization, industrialization, energy demand and population growth. China, for example, lost more than 14.5 million ha of arable land between 1979 and 1995.

    An additional 120 million ha - an area twice the size of France or one-third that of India - will be needed to support the traditional growth in food production by 2030, mainly in developing countries, without considering the compensation required for certain losses. The demand for irrigated land is projected to increase by 56% in Sub-Saharan Africa (from 4.5 to 7 million ha), and rainfed land by 40% (from 150 to 210 million ha) in order to meet the demand, without considering ecosystem services losses and setbacks in yields and available cropland. Increases in available cropland may be possible in Latin America through the conversion of rainforests, which in turn will accelerate climate change and biodiversity losses, causing feedback loops that may hinder the projected increases in crop yields. In Asia, nearly 95% of the potential cropland has already been utilized.

    Some studies estimate that globally, 20,000-50,000 km2 of land are lost annually through land degradation, chiefly soil erosion, with losses 2-6 times higher in Africa, Latin America and Asia than in North America and Europe. The major degrading areas are in Africa south of the Equator, Southeast Asia, Southern China, North-Central Australia and the pampas of South America.

    Environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services will directly affect pests (weeds, insects and pathogens), soil erosion and nutrient depletion, growing conditions through climate and weather, as well as available water for irrigation through impacts on rainfall and ground and surface water. These are factors that individually could account for over 50% in loss of the yield in a given "bad" year. A changing climate will affect evapo-transpiration, rainfall, river flow, resilience to grazing, insects, pathogens and risk of invasions, to mention a few. In the following section we attempt to provide for each variable, rough estimates of how much environmental degradation and loss of some ecosystem services could contribute to reducing yields by 2050.

    Unsustainable practices in irrigation and production may lead to increased salinization of soil, nutrient depletion and erosion. An estimated 950 million ha of salt-affected lands occur in arid and semi-arid regions, nearly 33% of the potentially arable land area of the world. Globally, some 20% of irrigated land (450,000 km2) is salt-affected, with 2,500-5,000 km2 of lost production every year as a result of salinity.

    Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly impacted by land degradation. In Kenya, over the period 1981-2003, despite improvements in woodland and grassland, productivity declined across 40% of cropland - a critical situation in the context of a doubling of the human population over the same period. In South Africa, production decreased overall; 29% of the country suffered land degradation, including 41% of all cropland; about 17 million people, or 38% of the South African population, depend on these degrading areas.

    Erosion is very significant in land degradation. On a global scale, the annual loss of 75 billion tonnes of soil costs the world about US$400 billion/year, or approximately US$70/person/year. It is estimated that the total annual cost of erosion from agriculture in the US is about $44 billion/year or about $247/ha of cropland and pasture. In Sub-Saharan Africa it is much larger; in some countries productivity has declined in over 40% of the cropland area in two decades while population has doubled. Overgrazing of vegetation by livestock and subsequent land degradation is a widespread problem in these regions.

    The productivity of some lands has declined by 50% due to soil erosion and desertification. Yield reduction in Africa due to past soil erosion may range from 2-40%. Africa is perhaps the continent most severely impacted by land degradation.

    Biofuels, including biodiesel from palm oil and ethanol from sugarcane, corn and soybean, accounted for about 1% of the total road transport in 2005, and may reach 25% by 2050. For many countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, biofuels are also seen as an opportunity to improve rural livelihoods and boost the economy through exports. The US is the largest producer and consumer of bioethanol, followed by Brazil. Brazil has now used 4.5% of the cropland area for biofuels, mainly sugar cane.

    While biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, the conversion of rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce biofuels in the US, Brazil and Southeast Asia may create a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels. Corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, will nearly double greenhouse emissions over 30 years . Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on US corn lands, will increase emissions by 50%. It is evident that the main potential of biofuels lies in using waste biomass or biomass grown on degraded and abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials.

    Production of crops for biofuels also competes with food production. The corn equivalent of the energy used on a few minutes drive could feed a person for a day, while a full tank of ethanol in a large 4-wheel drive suburban utility vehicle could almost feed one person for a year. A 2007 OECD-FAO report expected food prices to rise by between 20% and 50% by 2016 partly as a result of biofuels..

    Projected losses in food production due to climate change by 2080: regional impacts will be strongest across Africa and Western Asia where yields of the dominant regional crops may fall by 15-35% once temperatures rise by 3 or 4º C. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be worst affected, meaning the poorest and most food insecure region is also expected to suffer the largest contraction of agricultural production and income.

    Lobell et 2008 identified 3 general classes of crop responses to climate change projections: 1) Consistently negative, for example, Southern African maize; 2) Large uncertainties ranging from substantially positive to substantially negative, for example, South Asian groundnut; and 3) Relatively unchanged, for example, West African wheat.

    Cline in 2007 concluded that by 2080, assuming a 4.4° C increase in temperature and a 2.9% increase in precipitation, global agricultural output potential is likely to decrease by about 6%, or 16% without carbon fertilization.

    Agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of the water consumption, with some estimates as high as 85%. Water scarcity will affect over 1.8 billion people by 2025. Water demand is likely to double by 2050 .

    Water is probably one of the most limiting factors in increasing food production. Yields on irrigated croplands are, on average, 2-3 times higher than those on rainfed lands. Irrigated land currently produces 40% of the world's food on 17% of its land, most of it downstream and dependent upon glacial and snowmelt from the Hindu Kush Himalayas. It is evident that in regions where snow and glacial mass are the primary sources of water for irrigation, such as in Central Asia, parts of the Himalayas Hindu Kush, China, India, Pakistan and parts of the Andes, melting will eventually lead to dramatic declines in the water available for irrigation, and hence, food production.

    Climate change could seriously endanger the current food production potential, such as in the Greater Himalayas Hindu Kush region and in Central Asia . Currently, nearly 35% of the crop production in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan is based on irrigation, sustaining over 2.5 billion people. Here, water demand is projected to increase by at least 70-90% by 2050. This also includes supply to regions of Central Asia, China and Pakistan, which are under direct water stress today.

    Recent studies show that cost of water has increased by about 400-500% since 1990 in the Indo-Gangetic Basin of India.

    Floods and particularly drought can offset production gains and create great fluxes in crop production, as well as in the survival of livestock. Nine major droughts in selected African countries between 1981 and 2000 resulted in an average livestock loss of 40%, with a range of 22-90%. Similar effects may be observed on crop production. Based on the extent of irrigated cropland impacted in Asia and increasing water scarcity as a result of extreme weather, an annual reduction in the future from climate-induced water scarcity and decreasing water tables may account for an estimated reduction of the world food production by 1.5% by 2030 and at least 5% by 2050.

    Actual observations from Nepal indicate that current warming at high altitudes is occurring much faster than the global average, up to 0.03º C per year , and even faster at higher altitudes, up to 0.06º C per year. Scenarios suggest that the effects on the rivers are highly variable, ranging from a major increase in annual flow until around 2050 followed by a relatively rapid decline in flow for the Indus , to a gradual decline in flow in rivers such as the Brahmaputra. If temperatures rise quickly, such as >0.06º C per year, the annual flow of the rivers will invariably decline over time, particularly for those dependent on the mountains, but less so for those more dependent on the monsoons .

    The combined effects of melting of glaciers, seasonal floods and overuse of ground and surface water for industry, settlements and irrigation, combined with poor water-use efficiency are difficult to estimate. However, given that 40% of the world's crop yields are based on irrigation, and almost half of this from the basins of rivers originating in the Himalayas alone, the effect of water scarcity can be substantial.

    Invasive alien species (IAS) are now thought to be the second gravest threat to global biodiversity and ecosystems, after habitat destruction and degradation. The steady rise in the number of invasive alien species is predicted to continue under many future global biodiversity scenarios, although environmental change could also cause non-alien species to become invasive. Environmental change (e.g., rising atmospheric CO2, increased nitrogen deposition, habitat fragmentation and climate change) could promote further invasions. As invasive or alien species comprise over 70% of all weeds in agriculture (estimated in the US), increases in invasive species pose a major threat to food production.

    Up to 70% of agricultural pests are introduced, with major impacts on global food production.

    Across Africa, IAS of the genus Striga affects more than 100 million people and as much as 40% of arable land in the savannahs. These invasive species stunt maize plant growth by attacking the roots and sucking nutrients and water. Invasive alien species such as pests and diseases have been estimated to cause an annual loss of US$12.8 billion in yield of eight of Africa's principal crops.

    Importantly, increased climate extremes may promote the spread of invasive species, plant diseases and pest outbreaks.

    Current and future global food crises may also facilitate the spread of invasive species. Also the spread of invasive species frequently occurs in the provision of humanitarian emergency food aid. Lower sanitary and phytosanitary standards apply to food aid, particularly emergency food aid, so it may not be surprising that the introduction and spread of potentially invasive species would follow the distribution of emergency relief.

    To cope with pest and disease problems, modern agriculture depends to a great extent on the use of pesticides and the continuing production of new crop varieties with specific resistance genes, although the value of integrated pest management techniques and biological control are increasingly recognized.

    Small-scale farmers in developing countries continue to depend on local genetic diversity to maintain sustainable production and meet their livelihood needs. Loss of genetic choices, reflected as the loss of traditional crop varieties, therefore diminishes farmers' capacities to cope with changes in pest and disease infection, and leads to yield instability and loss. Intra-specific diversity can be used to reduce crop damage from pest and diseases today and for maintaining levels of diversity against future crop loss, that is, crop populations that have less probability that migrations of new pathogens or mutations of existing pathogens will damage the crop in the future.

    In China, interplanting 2 varieties of rice has been found to have significant effects on disease incidence and productivity.

    Climate change and increased CO2 assimilation in the oceans will result in increasing ocean acidification, die-back of up to 80% of the world's coral reefs and disruption of thermohaline circulation and other processes. It will particularly impact dense-shelf water cascading, a "flushing" mechanism that helps to clean polluted coastal waters and carry nutrients to deeper areas. Coastal development is increasing rapidly and is projected to impact 91% of all inhabited coasts by 2050 and contribute to more than 80% of all marine pollution. Increased development, coastal pollution and climate change impacts on currents will accelerate the spreading of marine dead zones, many in or around primary fishing grounds.


    Aquaculture production has increased more than seven-fold in weight from 1980 to 2000. In 2006, the world consumed 110.4 million tonnes of fish, of which about half originated from aquaculture. To meet the growing fish demand, aquaculture will have to produce an additional 28.8 million tonnes each year, to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels. Aquaculture growth rate is declining, however: from 11.8% 1985-1995 to 6% 2004-2006.


    Almost 40% of all aquaculture production is now directly dependent on commercial feed. Most farmed fish that are consumed in the developing world, such as carps and tilapia, are herbivores or omnivores. But other species like salmon or shrimp - often raised in developing countries - are fed other fish in the form of fishmeal or oil. In 2006, aquaculture consumed 56% of world fishmeal production and 87% of total fish oil production. Over 50% of the sector's use of fish oil occurs on salmon farms. Fishmeal and fish oil production has remained stagnant over the last decade and significant increases in their production are not anticipated, according to FAO. At the same time, the volume of fishmeal and fish oil used in formulated aquaculture feeds tripled between 1996 and 2006. This was made possible by a significant reduction of the poultry sector's reliance on fishmeal for poultry feeds.

    As for meat production, feed is a major bottleneck. It is extremely difficult to project the future role of fisheries and aquaculture, but it is evident that the growth in aquaculture may be limited by access to feed, which, in turn is partly dependent on capture fisheries. There is no indication that today's marine fisheries could sustain the 23% increase in landings needed to sustain the 56% growth in aquaculture production required to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels. Given the grave nature of the trends and scenarios on overfishing and ocean degradation, a future collapse of ocean fisheries would immediately affect aquaculture production and the prices of aquaculture products. Even assuming that marine fisheries landings can be maintained at current levels, the proportion of fish in the diet (in terms of calorie intake) may go down from the current 2% of world human calorie intake to 1.5% by 2030 and to only 1% by 2050. This loss will have to be compensated for by either meat or crops.

    This is a very long article, but well-worth reading. Please go to the source article to read the entire report, if you are interested. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: meeting the unmet need of 225 million women will reduce by up to 29% of the carbon emissions needed to avoid the consequences of carbon change and will allow women and their families to be more resilient in the face of climate change.

    In addition, suppose we do eat less meat and live more sustainably, allowing the population to grow by an additional several billion, what then? We will have even more people to feed in the next generation and in the meantime, there is less arable land per person and that land is being degraded. And there is even less water per person.

    What Exxon Knew About Climate Change

    September 18, 2015, New Yorker   By: Bill Mckibben

    Exxon (now ExxonMobil), one of the world's largest oil companies) knew, as early as 1977, that its main product would heat up the planet disastrously. This did not prevent the company from then spending decades helping to organize the campaigns of disinformation and denial that have slowed-perhaps fatally-the planet's response to global warming.
    . . . more doclink

    Scientists Expect Hawaii's Worst Coral Bleaching Ever

    September 13, 2015, Washington Post   By: Audrey Mcavoy


    Hawaii is home to 85% of the coral under U.S. jurisdiction. Bleaching occurs when warm waters prompt coral to expel the algae they rely on for food. Hawaii experienced a mass bleaching event in 1996, and another one last year This year, ocean temperatures around Hawaii are about 3 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. 30 - 40% of the world's reefs have died from bleaching events over the years. People should avoid fertilizing lawns and washing cars with soap so contaminants don't flow into the ocean. doclink

    Study Predicts Antarctica Ice Melt If All Fossil Fuels Are Burned

    September 11, 2015, New York Times   By: Justin Gillis

    Excerpts .... Click on the link in the headline to read the article.

    Burning all the world's deposits of coal, oil and natural gas would raise the temperature enough to melt the entire ice sheet covering Antarctica. A sea level rise of 200 feet would put almost all of Florida, much of Louisiana and Texas, the entire East Coast of the United States, large parts of Britain, much of the European Plain, and huge parts of coastal Asia under water. doclink

    Here's Why the Northeast's Next Winter is Going to Be Freakishly Cold

    New research shows that vanishing Arctic summer sea ice'a consequence of global warming'may drive extreme winters in lower latitudes for decades to come.
    August 31, 2015, Take Part   By: Emily J. Gertz

    New research published in in the journal Nature Geoscience connects the unusually brutal winter of 2014-15 along the East Coast of North America to rapidly vanishing summer sea ice on the western side of the Arctic Ocean.

    Jong-Seong Kug and his colleagues of South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology have demonstrated that the extent of summer sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas has been tracking below 2010, 2013, and 2014 levels since mid-August-three years that each went on to see significantly colder, snowy winters in the Northeast-according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    The report suggests that these record-breaking extremes have not been a pause in the advance of human-driven climate change but a result of it. And it suggests that as the Arctic continues to thaw, the mercury will crash over many winters to come.

    Parts of Buffalo in upstate New York disappeared under more than 100 inches of snow in November, before winter had even formally commenced. Snow fell for 23 straight days during February in Syracuse, another upstate New York city.

    "The jet stream is taking a big northward swing, creating what we call a very strong ridge," said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University who studies Arctic ice and its effects on weather patterns in lower latitudes of the northern hemisphere. "Downstream of that ridge, the effect is like taking a jump rope and giving it a big whip: It creates a big wave further downstream, a southward dip in the jet stream," ... "That means that cold air is able to plunge down into that area from the Arctic, and that's been contributing to these very cold winters in eastern North America."

    Once the Arctic Ocean becomes completely ice-free in summer, which scientists expect to happen in the next 25 to 35 years, weather patterns are likely to shift again in ways that are impossible to anticipate.

    "There is so much disturbing evidence coming out these days about the impacts of increasing fossil fuel burning and other human-caused climate change," said Francis. "It's hard to imagine that anyone can just snub their noses at it and say 'Things are fine-we don't have to do anything.' " doclink

    Earth Overshoot Day - Aug 13 This Year

    August 12, 2015, Global Footprint Network

    In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature's budget for the entire year, according to data of Global Footprint Network. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel now make up more than half of humanity's demand on nature.

    Global Footprint Network tracks humanity's demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) -- see -- against nature's ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). The Ecological Footprint adds up humanity's annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas provide - fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing and carbon dioxide absorption.

    Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

    "Humanity's carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the largest and fastest growing component of the Ecological Footprint. It is widening the gap between human demand and the planet's biocapacity," said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. Over the course of 2015, the absorption of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuel alone would require 85% of the planet's biocapacity.

    If global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30% below today's levels by 2030, in keeping with the below-two-degrees-Celsius scenario worked out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030. doclink

    A Huge Algae Bloom Off the Pacific Coast is Poisoning Shellfish and Sea Lions

    August 10, 2015, Vice   By: Esha Dey

    A poisonous algae that infects seafood and could sicken humans if they consume it -- is spreading in the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Southern California north to Alaska. The massive algae bloom has been growing steadily since May.

    Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) said "The toxin levels are also the highest we've measured. Because it has lasted so long, the toxins have worked their way into the food web, resulting in closures of various sport and commercial fisheries along the West Coast."

    Scientists believe that the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean and increased use of fertilizers in farms due to the ongoing drought might be playing a role.

    According to researchers from the University of Washington, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Institute of Ocean Sciences in British Columbia, sea surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific were remarkably warm during the winter of 2013-2014. By May 2014 the region of unusually warm waters, popularly referred to as "the blob," extended into coastal areas along the Pacific.

    A strong El Niño formation, a naturally occurring spike in Pacific Ocean temperatures that can lead to heavy rainfall on the West Coast, persists in the eastern Pacific and is widely expected to last until next spring. Scientists say the current warm conditions could develop into one of the strongest ever - and climate change might have something to do with it.

    High concentrations of Pseudo-nitzschia, a type of phytoplankton produce a neurotoxin that can destroy nerve tissue and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and dizziness in humans. In severe cases it can also result in breathing trouble, confusion, cardiovascular instability, seizures, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma, or death.

    Sea lions have been greatly impacted.

    In Lake Erie the algae bloom is worse than last year's, which forced Toledo, Ohio to shut off its drinking water supply due to high levels microcystin.

    The Chesapeake Bay also comes under annual attack from algal blooms due to agricultural and industrial runoff, as well as warming water temperatures. The infamous "red tides" off the New England coast are also vast algae blooms.

    As sea surface temperatures increase, algae blooms are becoming more common across the globe. doclink

    Earth's Ice is Melting Much Faster Than Forecast. Here's Why That's Worrying.

    August 4, 2015, Huffington Post   By: Jason E. Box

    In 2002 conventional knowledge held that the ice sheet in Greenland was frozen at its bed and so the reaction time of the ice sheet to climate warming was measured in tens of thousands of years. However an expanding melt season meant that all marine-terminating glaciers across the southern half of Greenland doubled in speed simultaneously between 2000 and 2005.

    From 2007 to 2012 ice loss from surface meltwater runoff took over the lead in the competition between glacier flows into fjords versus meltwater runoff. Nearly each summer set higher and higher melt records, owing to persistent and unforseen weather that by 2012 would become a signature of climate change.

    The competition between how much ice is lost through glacier flows into fjords versus meltwater runoff is intimately synergistic with meltwater interacting with ice flow all along the way. Increasing melt sends more water down through the ice sheet, softening the ice so it flows faster. Once at the bed the water lubricates flow. Squirting out the front of glaciers into the sea, the meltwater drives a heat exchange that undercuts glaciers, promoting calving, loss of flow resistance and faster flow.

    Glaciologists realized in 2008 that the trigger effect for galloping glaciers was warm pulses of subtropical waters that undermine glaciers at great depth in the sea, at the grounding lines where this warm water can invade.

    The planetary energy imbalance due to the enhanced greenhouse effect is loading far more heat into the oceans than the atmosphere or land. The world is 70% ocean-covered after all.

    The natural greenhouse effect was a good thing, keeping temperatures tolerable at night. But after more than a century of people externalizing the environmental costs of stupendous economic growth, loading the atmosphere now with 42% more carbon dioxide, 240% more methane, 20% more nitrous oxide, 42% more tropospheric ozone, etc, we have far too much gaseous carbon compounds now in our atmosphere. The carbon pollution is also making our oceans too acidic, threatening the base of the marine food chain.

    The key question is how to project what the sea level will soon be due to ice sheet melting. But we don't really know what to expect. We keep being surprised by nature being more sensitive and complex. We see more interconnection, where multiplying feedbacks produce surprisingly fast responses.

    The few negative feedbacks we have found for ice -- like more snow as a result of a warming climate, more reflective frost, more efficient sub-glacial water transmission -- are clearly being outdone. And at the global scale, despite some negative feedbacks like more clouds, clearly we are not seeing net cooling.

    Climate models are not keeping up with the surprises -- they don't yet encode key pieces of physics that have ice melting so fast. They don't incorporate thermal collapse -- ice softening due to increasing meltwater infiltration. They don't yet incorporate increasing forced ocean convection at the ocean fronts of glaciers that forces a heat exchange between warming water and ice at the grounding lines. Or the ice algae growth that darkens the bare ice surface. They don't yet prescribe background dark bare ice from outcropping dust on Greenland from the dusty last ice age.

    Climate models don't include increasing wildfire delivering more light-trapping dark particles to bright snow covered areas, yielding earlier melt onset and more intense summer melting.

    Climate models have under-predicted the loss rate of snow on land by a factor of four and the loss of sea ice by a factor of two.

    Climate models also don't yet sufficiently resolve extended periods of lazy north-south extended jet streams that produce the kind of sunny summers over Greenland (2007-2012 and 2015) that resulted in melting that our models didn't foresee happening until 2100.

    As a result, global assessment reports intended to help guide policy decisions and national discussions of climate change are very conservative averages of dozens of models that don't include the latest, higher sensitivity physics. doclink

    Alaska's Terrifying Wildfire Season and What it Says About Climate Change

    July 26, 2015, Washington Post   By: Chris Mooney

    Alaska is seeing hundreds of wildfires this summer, leaving in their wake millions of acres of charred trees and blackened earth.

    The staggering 2015 Alaska wildfire season may soon be the state's worst ever, with almost 5 million acres already burned - an area larger than Connecticut. And the Alaska's burning dwarfs all burning across all the other U.S. states.

    Scientists say the fires are just the latest indicator of a climatic transformation that is remaking this state - its forests, its coasts, its glaciers, and perhaps most of all, the frozen ground beneath - more than any other in America.

    Alaska has warmed much more than the continental United States: by more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the past half-century. 75 billion metric tons of ice have been lost from its glaciers. The warming has also destabilized the permafrost, the frozen ground that underlies 80% of the state and whose thaw can undermine buildings, roads and infrastructure, and caused seas to rise, causing intense erosion as seas rise and declining sea ice exposes shores and barrier islands to punishing waves. Some native communities may be forced to be relocated.

    Seventeen percent of U.S. forests are in Alaska. While there have always been forest fires, recently the blazes have been so intense and extensive that they could hasten the thawing of permafrost - which itself contains vast quantities of ancient carbon, ready to be emitted to the air. The more intense the fire, the deeper it burns through the organic layer, and the higher the chance it will go through this complete conversion," says Ted Schuur, an ecologist at Northern Arizona University who is a specialist in permafrost. "What happens in the summer of 2015 has the potential to change the whole trajectory of [the burned area] for the next 100 years or more."

    This year most fires have been caused by lightning, rather than people. The whole system was simply ready to burn. A warm spring (7.1 degrees Fahrenheit above average) melted snow well ahead of schedule, allowing the ground to dry out sooner.

    More troubling to climate scientists, the fires could contribute to the worsening of climate change. Intense wildfires burn deep into the duff layer, sending up still more carbon.When fires burn all the way down to the mineral soil, the frozen ground loses its insulation, and permafrost can thaw.

    Across the global north, it is estimated that permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the planet's atmosphere. If thawing is hastened by fires, that could make global warming worse. doclink

    Top 10 Greenhouse Gas Emitters: Find Out Which Countries Are Most Responsible for Climate Change

    June 24, 2015, EcoWatch   By: Johannes Friedrich, Mengpin Ge and Thomas Damassa / World Resources Institute |

    In the past couple of weeks, leaders of the G7 agreed to a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical on climate change, and Morocco and Ethiopia joined the U.S., European Union and other countries in putting forward its plans for post-2020 climate action. More countries are expected to release their own post-2020 climate commitments in the coming months, and all of these actions set the stage for a new international climate agreement to be finalized at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris in December 2015.

    The top 10 emitters contribute 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use change and forestry). On the other hand, the lowest 100 emitters contribute less than 3%. While universal climate action is necessary, significant mitigation actions are needed by the largest emitters, taking into account that they have different capacities to do so. doclink

    Science Publishes New NOAA Analysis: Data Show No Recent Slowdown in Global Warming

    June 4, 2015, NOAA

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, released in stages between September 2013 and November 2014, concluded that the upward global surface temperature trend from 1998­­-2012 was markedly lower than the trend from 1951-2012. This apparent observed slowing or decrease in the upward rate of global surface temperature warming was nicknamed the "hiatus."

    However, NOAA scientists have since made significant improvements in the calculation of trends and now use a global surface temperature record that includes the most recent two years of data, 2013 and 2014--the hottest year on record. Their finding shows an increase in global warming in the last 15 years.

    There has been an improvement in measurements and a correction from data from buoys and on site data. incomplete spatial coverage, particularly in the Artic, also led to underestimates of the true global temperature change previously reported in the 2013 IPCC report. The number of weather stations available for analysis has more than doubled. doclink

    Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change

    June 3, 2015, Nature magazine   By: Carolyn D. Ruppel

    Some scientists raised an alarm that large quantities of methane (CH4) might be liberated by widespread destabilization of climate-sensitive gas hydrate deposits trapped in marine and permafrost-associated sediments

    Even if only a fraction of the liberated methane were to reach the atmosphere, its potency as a greenhouse gas and the persistence of its oxidative product (CO2) heightened concerns that the disassociation of gas hydrate (an ice-like substance formed when methane and water combine at low temperature and moderate pressure) could represent a slow tipping point for Earth's contemporary period of climate change.

    An estimated 99% of gas hydrates in the world occurs in the sediments of marine continental margins at saturations as high as 20% to 80% in some formations; the remaining 1% is mostly associated with sediments beneath areas of high-latitude, continuous permafrost. Warming a small volume of gas hydrate can liberate large volumes of gas.

    Methane is twenty time more potent that carbon dioxide. But after ten years in the atmosphere, it will oxidize into carbon dioxide.

    CH4 concentrations have risen by ~150% since pre-industrial times. Present-day methane emissions are dominated by wetlands, ruminants, fossil fuel production, and rice cultivation.

    Methane emitted at the seafloor only rarely survives the trip through the water column to reach the atmosphere. Only 5% of subsea methane is expected to reach the surface. doclink

    The False Promise of Hydropower

    June 1, 2015, Waterkeeper Alliance   By: Gary Wockner

    Hydropower is generally considered climate-friendly because it doesn't burn fossil fuels to produce electricity. But as the organic materials that flow into the lakes behind hydroelectric dams decompose, they emit methane and carbon dioxide into the water and the air. Studies suggest that in tropical environments and high-sediment areas, where organic material is highest, dams could release more greenhouse gas than coal-fired power plants.

    Philip Fearnside, a research professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon, in Manaus, Brazil, who is frequently cited on climate change issues, refers to dams as "methane factories." Brazil's National Institute of Space Research calls them the largest single source of human activity-related methane, totaling 23% of all emissions. The methane produced behind one dam on the Ohio River was nearly equal to the amount produced by 6,000 dairy cows.

    A 2014 U.S. DoE report called for "new hydropower development across more than three million U.S. rivers and streams." Calls for carbon-free hydropower are embedded in the Kyoto protocol's "Clean Development Mechanism" to address planetary climate change. The program calls for a bigger investment in hydropower. Such recommendations heavily influence funding-decisions made by the U.S. government and international lenders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The World Bank states on its website: "As demand grows for clean, reliable, affordable energy, along with the urgency of expanding access to reach the unserved, hydropower has assumed critical importance."

    Governments and funders have gravitated more to hydropower over the last 10 years. But dams and reservoirs have flooded and displaced communities, destroyed rivers and perpetrated massive human rights abuses.

    Nations are building dams at a record pace. No less than 3,700 hydropower projects are now scheduled or under construction across the world. Along the Colorado River, the directors of Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams claim those dams supply "clean energy” versus the alternative of coal power. The Chinese government recently proposed to build the largest hydropower project in the world across the border in Tibet. Just one of the dams to be included would be three times the size of the current world-record-holder, Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

    The methane problem is rarely considered. If it were, nations like Costa Rica might not achieve the "carbon neutrality” goals it has pledged to achieve by 2021. Costa Rica is now completing the largest hydropower dam in Central America. The 426-foot-tall structure is being touted as an example of Costa Rica's commitment to the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. The methane emissions it will create appear to have not been considered, and may never be measured - as is generally true in similar projects. doclink

    Art says: I would like to know what becomes of the organic matter not blocked by dams. Does it not eventually settle somewhere and decompose in much the same way it does behind a dam? John Harrison, Associate Professor in the School of the Environment at the Washington State University-Vancouver says, "How much reservoirs contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions is still a big question mark because the issue remains relatively unstudied. "I don't think we really know what the relative greenhouse gas effect of reservoirs is compared to other sources of energy in the U.S."

    Ocean Acidification, Global Warming's 'Evil Twin'

    May 29, 2015, Earthzine   By: Osha Gray Davidson

    When people hear "climate change," they think of the gases surrounding our planet. But the surface of the ocean and the atmosphere interact to form a single system. We now produce about 10 billion tons of CO2 per year, about 40% of which stays in the air, with the rest split about equally between land and the ocean.

    Dr. Richard Feely -- senior scientist at NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle -- has made more than 50 voyages in three years to chart how humans are altering the ocean's chemistry. He calls ocean acidification (OA) global warming's Evil Twin. The term first turned up in scientific literature in 2001. It became more widespread in 2003 when a paper in the journal Nature ran with this stark prediction: "The coming centuries may see more acidification than the past 300 million years."

    But our understanding of OA and its effects on sea life is still rudimentary. In a 2004 cover article for Science, Feely and his co-authors for the first time presented an overview of OA's impact. Feely says we are lowering the ocean's pH (increasing it acidity) about 100 times faster than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Since humans first began burning fossil fuels on a large scale, the ocean has increased its acidity by 30% and the rate of increase is accelerating. "If we continue on the same trajectory," he cautions, by 2100 we will see a 100-to-150% increase in ocean acidity.

    Some species, like sea grasses, could benefit from the change. But the situation is very different for corals, snails, clams and oysters. These organisms produce a calcium carbonate shell. Acidity makes it harder for marine creatures like oysters to build and maintain their shells, a change that threatened to wipe out the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest. This was first noticed in 2006, when oyster larvae in hatcheries had difficulty producing shells and often died within their first two days of life.

    By 2009, the problem became a crisis for the Washington's shellfish industry, with sales of $100 million per year. After U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, obtained $500,000 to find out what was killing the larvae, researchers traced the cause to high acidity and fixed the problem by adding sodium carbonate to the water. Feely called this a "stopgap measure" because enclosed hatcheries can control water chemistry. This solution does nothing to help the shellfish farmers who work in the wild.

    Coral reefs won't stand a chance. The combined effects of warming and acidity are worse than either one on its own. Researchers have found that acidity makes corals more prone to rapid bleaching, a potentially fatal condition in which the coral polyps expel their food-producing symbiont. Acidity also appears to affect the neurotransmitters of some fish, causing changes in behavior responses that make them more vulnerable to predators.

    OA also impairs reproductive success in other marine creatures, and it interferes with respiration in squids. In their first year of life, fish such as salmon rely on a diet that includes pteropods, tiny marine snails, to survive. Pteropods build calcium carbonate shells so delicate that they're transparent and are tremendously sensitive to acids. Their shells are already dissolving. "That," says Feely, "doesn't bode well for the entire food chain in the ocean."

    Ocean chemistry, including pH level, varies depending on several factors including water temperature and salinity. For example, cold water more readily absorbs CO2, so pteropods and other creatures at high latitudes are affected sooner than similar organisms in warmer waters. The Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) is a recent internationally coordinated effort to monitor levels of carbon in the ocean around the world.

    Scientists have been coordinating ocean observations since the U.N. Intergovernmental Conference on Oceanographic Research, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1960. Roger Revelle, then-director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, stressed the need for such an international effort. More than two decades before anthropogenic climate change entered public discourse, Revelle called for international cooperation and coordination in taking the observations and recording the results.

    Revelle wanted to learn whether the absorbed CO2 remain in the surface layers or spread throughout the debths. By 2010, researchers like Feely were recording 1 million measurements a year. Today, participants use sensors on ocean buoys, dedicated research vessels, and ships to collect daily readings from several countries.

    Feely directs the U.S. West Coast monitoring system for NOAA, working with states and eight federal agencies while also working to expand monitoring efforts internationally. But many regions still lack the necessary infrastructure to monitor acidity. "That's the next big push," says Feely. And the stakes, Feely emphasizes, couldn't be higher. "One in seven people on the planet depend on seafood for protein." doclink

    Amazon Deforestation Takes a Turn for the Worse

    A new report reveals an uptick in the destruction of Brazil's rainforests
    May 19, 2015, Scientific American   By: Richard Schiffman

    In Brazil, the problem of deforestation had plummeted because of environmental regulations and a ban on the sale of soyeans gown on rainforest cleared land. Between 1990 and 2010 clearing of tropical forests had increased 62% worldwide, but in Brazil, such destruction plummeted from 2004 to 2011

    But after 2011, deforestation has come back, according to a satellite analysis of the Amazon.

    Most of the increase is due to cattle grazing land spurred on by higher prices for beef. The new president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has called for new hydroelectric dams and a new highway which would cut through the heart of the Amazon.

    Brazil's National Institute for Space Research has shown that atmospheric moisture has migrated to the south. Scientists say that the change is a possible factor in a severe drought that has necessitated rationing of water in Brazil's largest metropolis, São Paulo.

    Phillip Fearnside, a biologist at Brazil's Amazon research institute INPA says that, if clearing of the Amazon continues, says , "you will end up with a permanent drought, not just a one-year thing." doclink

    Economic Collapse Will Limit Climate Change, Predicts Climate Scientist

    April 14, 2015, Huffington Post   By: Till Bruckner

    A World Bank report, authored by climate scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and released in late 2014, drew on 1,300 publications and concluded: "There is a considerable likelihood of warming reaching 4°C above pre-industrial levels within this century"

    "Crop yields are expected to decline by 30 percent with 1.5-2°C warming and up to 60 percent with 3-4°C warming."

    Marginal rain-fed cropland will be abandoned or transformed into grazing land. Current grazing land may become unsuitable for any agricultural activity.

    With a 4°C average world temperature, in parts of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq mean summer temperatures are expected to be up to 8°C warmer, and in the 2071-2099 period, by 2100 65% of summer months will see unprecedented heat extremes, and by 2100, percentages rises to 80%.

    The 'unprecedented heat extreme' was quantified in the report as 5-sigma. The 2003 heat wave in Europe, in which an estimated 70,000 people died during a 2.3°C hotter-than-usual summer, was only a 3-sigma event.

    Christopher Reyer, one of the co-authors of the study said that he believed that the world was headed for +8°C by 2100, but that will never happen. "We are not even on track for +6°C because economies will be collapsing long before we get there. We know that after +2°C, dangerous things start happening, and we start passing crucial tipping points, like the West Antarctica ice sheet collapse, which has reportedly already begun."

    "Two degrees is not a picnic either. Imagine events like the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave which had repercussions on the global wheat market, and Hurricane Katrina, all of them happening simultaneously everywhere in the world." doclink

    Hot Hands: Fingerprints of Climate Change All Over California Drought

    April 2, 2015, Washington Post   By: Jason Samenow

    California's astonishingly low snowpack which is a pathetic 5% of normal isn't some fluke. It's a likely consequence of climate change.

    For three years the atmosphere steering flow has hit a road block along the West Coast (dubbed the "ridiculously resilient ridge"). Climate change probably isn't directly driving the weather pattern behind the drought, but it is helping to raise the background temperatures. Atmospheric levels of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide, due to increased industrialization, have risen about 25% since 1958.

    Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases substantially increase the likelihood that new climate records are set.

    The state of California set a number of heat records in the last two years. Among them.................

    * The hottest year on record in 2014

    * The hottest winter on record in 2014-2015.

    * Los Angeles doubled its record for 90-degree days last March, logging 6 such days compared to the previous record of 3.

    * In March, Redding, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego set records for average highs.

    The added heat from climate warming acts to intensify the drought in important ways:

    * When it's warmer, the evaporation of water speeds up, allowing the ground to heat up faster, which then evaporates more water in a vicious cycle which continues until meaningful rain stops it.

    * When it's warmer, the snow season shortens. In other words, snow starts falling later in the fall and stops falling earlier in the spring, and snowpack declines.

    * When it's warmer, snow levels rise. In other words, the elevations at which rain changes to snow in the mountains goes up, and snowpack declines.

    It's interesting to note that in 1976-1977, California experienced a similar weather pattern to this year but the drought was not as severe because California's April snowpack in 1977 was 25% of normal compared to 5% in 2015.

    Stanford professor Noah Diffenbaugh said "It really matters if the lack of precipitation happens during a warm or cool year." .. "We've seen the effects of record heat on snow and soil moisture this year in California, and we know from this new research that climate change is increasing the probability of those warm and dry conditions occurring together."

    Future projections suggest warming temperatures will continue to lead towards stronger and more frequent droughts.

    "We found that essentially all years are likely to be warm - or extremely warm - in California by the middle of the 21st century," said Daniel Swain, a graduate student of Diffenbaugh's. "This means that both drought frequency - and the potential intensity of those droughts which do occur - will likely increase as temperatures continue to rise." doclink

    Richard says that the picture of the skiers and riding the chairlift is absolutely terrifying. There is hardly any snow anywhere to be seen.

    Antarctica Just Got Hotter Than Has Ever Been Recorded, Twice

    March 28, 2015, Think Progress   By: Ari Phillips

    The coldest place on Earth is getting warmer.

    A temperature of 63.5°F was recorded at Argentina's Esperanza Base, located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, on March 24th. It was a record for the polar continent, eclipsing all previous highs, according to the Weather Underground.

    Setting a new all-time temperature record for an entire continent is rare and requires the synthesizing of lots of data, as Weather Underground's Christopher C. Burt explains. For example, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the official keeper of global temperature data, the previous high temperature for Antarctica was 59°F in 1974.

    As Burt reports, these temperature records occurred nearly three months past the warmest time of year in the Antarctic which occurs traditionally in December, but, he adds, previous records at Esperanza have been set in October and April, so these anomalies are not "unheard of."

    Rapid melting of ice is happening at increased rates in Antarctica. A new study found that ice shelves in West Antarctica have lost as much as 18% of their volume over the last two decades, with rapid acceleration occurring over the last decade. The study found that over the last decade West Antarctic losses increased by 70%.

    The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed almost 5°F in the last 50 years, according to measurements taken by the British Antarctic Survey.

    46 nations or territories out of 235 have set or tied record highs since 1910, while four have set record lows. doclink

    Amazon's Carbon Uptake Declines as Trees Die Faster

    March 19, 2015, Exeter, University of

    The results of a 30-year survey of the South American rainforest involving an international team of almost 100 researchers, has concluded that trees are dying faster than before and this is affecting the rainforest's ability to store carbon.

    Initially, an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - a key ingredient for photosynthesis - led to a growth spurt for the Amazon's trees, the researchers say. But the extra carbon appears to have had unexpected consequences.

    Although the study finds that tree mortality increases began well before an intense drought in 2005, it also shows that drought has killed millions of additional trees. The Nature paper shows how the Amazon's carbon sink has declined as tree death accelerated. From a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year in the 1990s, the net uptake by the forest has weakened by a half, and is now, for the first time, being overtaken by fossil fuel emissions in Latin America.

    "Regardless of the causes behind the increase in tree mortality, this study shows that predictions of a continuing increase of carbon storage in tropical forests may be too optimistic," one of the study authors and researchers said.

    The study involved eight countries in South America and was coordinated by RAINFOR, a unique research network dedicated to monitoring the Amazonian forests.

    "All across the world even intact forests are changing", says Oliver Phillips of the University of Leeds. He adds, "Forests are doing us a huge favour, but we can't rely on them to solve the carbon problem. Instead, deeper cuts in emissions will be required to stabilise our climate." doclink

    Richard says: The "lungs of the Earth" may not be as healthy as previously imagined

    The Fate of Trees: How Climate Change May Alter Forests Worldwide

    By the end of the century, the woodlands of the Southwest will likely be reduced to weeds and shrubs. And scientists worry that the rest of the planet may see similar effects
    March 12, 2015, Rolling Stone   By: Jeff Tietz

    Heat-aggravated droughts have been killing trees for decades: mountain acacia in Zimbabwe, Mediterranean pine in Greece, Atlas cedar in Morocco, eucalyptus and corymbia in Australia, fir in Turkey and South Korea. In 2010 a group of ecologists wrote the first global overview of forest health describing droughts whose severity was unequaled in the "last few centuries" and documented "climate-driven episodes of regional-scale forest die-off." Even though they couldn't prove that warming climate was responsible, they warned, "far greater chronic forest stress and mortality risk should be expected in coming decades."

    In 2011, Park Williams, a postdoctoral student at Los Alamos National Laboratory wanted to predict the future of the dominant iconic conifers of the American Southwest - the Douglas fir, the piñon pine and the ponderosa pine and so he began to amalgamate a millennium's worth of data, documenting the lives of 10,000 trees, spanning the years 1000 to 2007. From his research, Williams came up with a "forest-drought stress index" (FDSI), the first-ever holistic metric of atmospheric hostility to trees.

    With global warming, the Southwest is projected to dry out and heat up faster than most places - few places will be more punishing to trees. Williams needed a formula that could accurately weigh the variables of heat, aridity and precipitation, and translate atmospheric projections into a unified measure of forest health.

    High temperatures can be as deadly to trees as lack of water. Under normal conditions, a tree photosynthesizes when it opens the pores in its leaves called stomata and inhales CO2. Solar-charged chemical reactions then transform the CO2 into carbohydrates which become the parts of the tree such as leaves and wood. During this process, a fraction of the tree's internal water supply evaporates through its stomata, creating the negative pressure that pulls water from the soil into the tree's roots, through its trunk and up to its canopy.

    When it is hot trees lose moisture, and the rate at which they lose it escalates exponentially with temperature -- even a small temperature increase can make a big difference. "Forests notice even a one-degree increase in temperature," says Williams.

    When water is sucked from the leaves faster than it can be replaced by water in the soil, and the resulting partial vacuum fatally fractures the tree's water column. If a tree closes its stomata to avoid this, shutting down photosynthesis, it risks starvation. Normally trees protect themselves against insects with a toxic sap that repels predatory insects. But many insects can detect when the sap dries up by scent. A hotter climate generally means more insects. It also means more, and more intense, wildfires.

    In a 2013 Williams published paper titled "Temperature as a Potent Driver of Regional Forest Drought Stress and Tree Mortality," predicting that by the 2050s, the climate would turn deadly for many of the Southwest's conifers. By then, he wrote, "the mean forest drought stress will exceed that of the most severe droughts in the past 1,000 years."

    In 2000, the Southwest had entered an extreme, ongoing drought - the worst since a 20-year-long drought in the middle of the last century. Conditioned by near-record temperatures, dry soils and a lack of rain, the atmosphere stripped trees of moisture with exceptional force.

    "It was like looking through a telescope into the future to see how forests would respond, and it felt awful," Williams says. "The result was totally unimaginable: wildfires, bark beetles, a huge reduction in forest growth, massive mortality. .... All over New Mexico, trees keeled over."

    Williams' postdoctoral adviser at Los Alamos, Dr. Nate McDowell had been concurrently conducting his own experiments on conifers in the wild. Simulating climate conditions for the remainder of the century, McDowell could see what Williams had foreseen. "The Southwest is going to be a grassland, with the occasional rare tree," McDowell says. "It's going to be a different place. And there's reason to think that's the same for big chunks of the world."

    All trees share an essential anatomy and physiology; they employ corresponding mechanisms to fight insects, to transport water, to make food, to outlast drought. They have the same vulnerabilities. Can they survive as they are? The conifer forests of the Southwest, if climate projections are even minimally accurate, cannot, but what about the rest of the world's forests?

    In August 2011, a team of scientists led by Dr. Yude Pan, a U.S. Forest Service researcher, reported that between 1990 and 2007, forests sequestered about 25% of all greenhouse-gas emissions - everything not in the air or seas. "Forests . . . exert strong control on the evolution of atmospheric CO2," Pan wrote. They constituted a gargantuan "terrestrial carbon sink."

    Climatologists worry that if forests across the planet deteriorate, they could, on balance, begin releasing as much carbon as they absorb. One of Pan's collaborators, Dr. Richard Birdsey, said: "But if the carbon sink in forests fails, a simple speculation is that global temperatures would increase proportionally to the increase of CO2 concentration, so about 25 percent above current climate projections."

    "The more forests die, the less carbon they take out of the air, the warmer it gets, the more forests die," McDowell says. "It's a thermostat gone bad."

    Williams has analyzed climate and tree-health data from the dry forests of inner Asia, including northern China, Mongolia and Russia. "I saw the same thing that I saw in the U.S. Southwest," he said.

    By 2100, McDowell believes rising temperatures could kill more than 50% of the conifer forests in the Northern Hemisphere. This would result in a "massive transfer of carbon to a decomposable pool."

    The rest of this article is a 'must read.' Please go to the link in the headline for more. doclink

    Did Climate Change Spark 2011 Syrian Uprising?

    March 3, 2015, Business Standard

    Researchers say a record drought that ravaged Syria in 2006-2010 destroyed agriculture in the breadbasket region of northern Syria, which, in turn, drove dispossessed farmers to cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in the spring 2011 Syrian uprising. The conflict has since evolved into a complex multinational war that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced millions.

    The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Coauthor Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said the drought " added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict."

    A growing body of research suggests that extreme weather, including high temperatures and droughts, increases the chances of violence, from individual attacks to full-scale wars.

    The recent drought affected the so-called Fertile Crescent, spanning parts of Turkey and much of Syria and Iraq. The study authors showed that since 1900, the area has undergone warming of 1 to 1.2 degrees Centigrade (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit), and about a 10% reduction in wet-season precipitation. They showed that the trend matches neatly with models of human-influenced global warming, and thus cannot be attributed to natural variability.

    Global warming appears to have indirectly weakened wind patterns that bring rain-laden air from the Mediterranean, and higher temperatures have increased evaporation of moisture from soils during the usually hot summers, giving any dry year a one-two punch. While there were substantial droughts in the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s, 2006-10 was easily the worst and longest since reliable recordkeeping began.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that the already violent Mideast will dry more in coming decades as human-induced warming proceeds.

    Population growth -- from 4 million in the 1950s to 22 million in recent years -- has also made Syria vulnerable. Other factors include growing water-intensive export crops like cotton and illegal drilling of irrigation wells which dramatically depleted groundwater, said coauthor Shahrzad Mohtadi, a graduate student at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs who did the economic and social components of the research.

    The drought caused agricultural production to drop by a third. Livestock herds were practically obliterated; cereal prices doubled; and nutrition-related diseases among children saw dramatic increases. 1.5 million people fled from the countryside to the peripheries of cities that were already strained by influxes of refugees from the ongoing war in next-door Iraq. In these chaotic instant suburbs, the Assad regime did little to help people with employment or services, said Mohtadi. It was largely in these areas that the uprising began.

    High global food prices may also have been a factor.

    Research by other scientists has suggested that the Akkadian Empire, spanning much of the Fertile Crescent about 4,200 years ago, likely collapsed during a multi-year drought. doclink

    Brazil's Ravaged Forests Are Taking Their Revenge

    Thanks to massive deforestation along Brazil's Atlantic coast and the Amazon, São Paulo's reservoirs are at just 6% of their capacity and water rationing is in place. But this is just the beginning of a long term drying process that could be recreated around the world as forests are laid waste and
    March 2, 2015, Ecologist   By: Robert Hunziker

    Brazil has about 12% of the world's fresh water, but São Paulo is running dry. The city's reservoir, which is a water resource for 6.2 million of the city's 20 million, is down to 6% of capacity! The city's other reservoirs are also dangerously low. The water is turned off every day at 1:00pm.

    Deforestation is the problem. The Atlantic Forest, which surrounds São Paulo, stretches along the eastern coastline of the country. A few hundred years ago it was twice the size of Texas. Today it is maybe 15% of its former self and what remains is highly fragmented. The forest harbors 5% of the world's vertebrates and 8% of Earth's plants.

    Brazil holds one-third of the world's remaining rainforests. In the past, deforestation was the result of poor subsistence farmers, but today large landowners and corporate interests have cleared the rainforest at a rate that will further reduce the Amazon rainforest by 40% by 2030.

    The rainforests act as the world's thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns, and they are absolutely necessary in maintaining Earth's supply of drinking and fresh water.

    Rainforests are home to 50% of its plants and animals, and they act as the world's thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns, and they are absolutely necessary in maintaining Earth's supply of drinking and fresh water.

    "The original untouched resource of six million square miles of rainforests" (in the world) has already been chopped down by 60%. Only 2.4 million square miles remains today.

    In this month's National Geographic magazine, Scott Wallace said "During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down-more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began." ... "In the time it takes to read this article, an area of Brazil's rainforest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed." doclink

    The Worst Droughts in 1,000 Years May Be on the Horizon for the American West

    If you think the current drought in California is bad, take a look at what some scientists predict for the second half of this century
    February 28, 2015, PRI - Public Radio International   By: Adam Wernick

    This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

    A new study in the online journal "Science Advances" predicts global warming will cause a 35 year mega-drought in the Southwest and Plains states worse than any drought of the past 1,000 years.

    Such droughts took place in the American Southwest about 1,000 years ago, physical evidence shows.

    The research team under Jason Smerdon, an associate research professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, compared models of future climates with historical data, and their simulations predicted an 80% chance that a 35-year mega-drought would occur in the latter half of this century as compared to only a 10% chance of such a drought when they ran the data for the period between 1950 and 2000.

    And worse: the predicted dryness periods in the Southwest and the Great Plains look worse than previous mega-drought periods.

    These results surprised most scientists, but one thing they're certain of is that global warming is the main cause of the increased dryness. Prolonged dryness, Smerdon says is due to less rain and snow on one hand, and increased evaporation from the soil due to higher air temperatures on the other.

    The droughts in the West have already had "huge impacts on our economy, our food supply, our recreation. All of these things are related to water supplies. Now just imagine those continuing for multiple decades and what that means for the water resources that are already in short supply," Smerdon says.

    "These kinds of droughts will become more frequent and more persistent as a consequence of an increase in greenhouse gases as we move into the 21st century," he said. doclink

    Richard says "35 year mega-drought? Reading this can only make me think of a Cormac McCarthy novel about an apocalyptic future."

    3 Counterintuitive Connections Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather

    February 27, 2015, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Kelly Levin and C. Forbes Tompkins

    A growing body of evidence shows strong connections between climate change and extreme events, and impacts once thought of as a distant future threat are already occurring and widespread.

    Over 98 inches of snow has fallen in Boston this season, while a the same time, California, in the grip of an epic drought, had its fourth-driest January ever recorded with just 15% of average precipitation.

    However, warming is still occurring. Even though cities in regions like the Midwest and Northeast endured record cold during 2014, the national average temperature was warmer than normal, and at the global scale 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded.

    Research suggests that a contributing factor of this drastic east-west temperature contrast could be a weaker polar jet stream which can increase the frequency of phases where Arctic air seeps south into regions like the eastern United States while warmer air protrudes north in the western half of the country.

    A warming planet can make some regions much snowier. The warmer the air is, the more water vapor it can hold. This additional moisture can bring more intense rain or even snowfall. Also, when sea surface temperatures are warmer than average as they currently are in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean the atmosphere becomes fueled with more moisture and energy.

    In the U.S., all regions except Hawaii have experienced an increase in very heavy precipitation events since the late 1950s. However, snowfall has decreased in most parts of the country mostly because more winter precipitation has come from rain instead of snow.

    Gradual warming is reducing the number of very cold days in many regions, but in the event when temperatures are cold enough, the increased moisture can cause heavier snowfall events.

    Climate change can also lead to both drought and extreme precipitation in the same location. Since 2010, regions like the Midwest have been impacted by numerous extreme drought and flooding events that have each exceeded $1 billion in losses. California is in the midst of a drought that is the worst in at least 1,200 years. Yet in December the city of San Francisco received more rain in a matter of days than it did all of 2013, causing flooding and mudslides, washing out roads and damaging homes.

    It's time decision makers pause to acknowledge the role that human-induced climate change is playing in our changing weather - and commit to ambitious policy changes that reverse these trends. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the weaker polar jet stream is the result of the lowered contrast between a warmer Arctic and the surrounding area, according to an article I read.

    Bad Climate Outcomes -- Atmospheric Warming to Ramp Up as PDO Swings Strongly Positive?

    February 26, 2015, Robertscribbler

    This article details the effects of anthropogenic influences on the oscillation of sea water in the Pacific Ocean. and how current sea-surface temperature models show that the current spate of cold winters are a climactic "speed bump" on our way to a warmer world. It is accompanied by a series of charts and images showing increases in the warming of surface waters of the Pacific Ocean, as well as bar charts and satellite pictures depicting pools of ultrawarm surface waters in the Pacific Ocean.

    Last year the Pacific Ocean quietly changed from one in which cooler surface waters absorbed atmospheric heat, to one in which warmer surface waters caused the atmosphere to absorb that excessive heat.

    This shift was heralded by a powerful oceanic Kelvin Wave. One that brought warm water up from the depths and spread them across the Pacific Ocean surface. Ever since that time, warm Kelvin Waves have continued to refresh this surface water heat pool.

    And so the Pacific Ocean surface warming continued throughout 2014.

    It's a major swing in Pacific Ocean surface temperatures to a phase where more heat is dumped into the atmosphere. One that is causing some scientists to warn that a new period of rapid atmospheric warming may just be getting started.

    PDO and The Multi-Decadal Heat Pump Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a periodic change in sea surface temperature states in the Pacific, thought by many researchers to have a strong influence on global weather and temperature variability.

    When PDO is in the negative state, La Nina events prevail, which also coincide with a downswing in global temperatures as the vast Pacific waters take in more heat. In the positive state, PDO tends to encourage El Nino events which result in the great ocean belching heat into the air -- pushing atmospheric temperatures higher.

    Normally, this natural variability would pan out -- marking upswings and downswings in a global average. However, human fossil fuel burning and related greenhouse gas emissions have bent this curve upward by trapping more and more heat in the lower atmosphere. So warming has tended to ramp atmospheric warming drastically during positive PDO phases, while atmospheric warming has tended to merely slow down even as oceanic warming sped up during negative PDO phases.

    Two positive and two negative phases of PDO have been recorded since human greenhouse gas made a difference. In the first positive PDO phase during 1925 through 1945, global average temperatures jumped upward by about 0.5 degrees F (+0.25 F per decade).

    Given the present rate of warming in the range of +0.15 F per decade during periods in which the Pacific Ocean is taking on atmospheric heat, one could expect the next positive PDO phase to see decadal warming in the range of +0.55 F or higher (or by about 1 C in 20-30 years).

    Such a rapid pace of warming could challenge the fabled 2 C 'point of no return' before 2050. Already the world has warmed by about 0.85 C above 1880s levels. And it is for this reason that some scientists are now starting to sound alarm bells.

    Any rate of warming above 0.3 F (0.2 C) per decade is enough to achieve post ice age warming of 4 C in only 2 centuries where it took 10,000 years to achieve such warming before. Warming at 0.4 F to 1 F per decade would be both drastic and devastating to current climates, geophysical stability, weather stability, glacial stability, water security, food security, and ocean health. doclink

    Lester Brown: 'Vast Dust Bowls Threaten Tens of Millions with Hunger'

    Over his 50-year career, Lester Brown has become known for his accurate global environmental predictions. As he enters retirement, he warns the world may face the worst hunger crisis of our lifetimes
    February 24, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Suzanne Goldenberg

    At 80, Lester Brown is best known for his writings on population and for founding first the Worldwatch Institute (the first U.S. environmental think tank ) and later the Earth Policy Institute. Brown plans to retire as President of the Earth Policy Institute in June and wind down a prolific career. His 53 books in 630 editions helped shape the thinking of two generations of academics and activists. Both President Lyndon Johnson and the government of China based policy decisions on Brown's advice.

    As Brown nears retirement, he fears the world may soon face a huge hunger disaster. Much of the world is exhausting its ground water due to overuse and overpumping. He noted two large regions in particular where people are running out of land to grow food, and millions of acres are becoming wasteland due to over-farming and over-grazing. In the Sahel region of Africa, an area wracked by war, a huge dust bowl that extends from Senegal to Somalia is losing a lot of top soil. "Eventually they will be in serious trouble," he said. And in northern and western China, where much of the land is too depleted to raise flocks or grow food, villagers are leaving. "At some point they will have abandoned so much farming and grazing land that China no longer will be able to expand food production." This will be worse than what America saw in the 1930s. "Our dust bowl was a confined area. Within a matter of years we had it under control, but these two areas don't have that capacity. We are pushing against the limits of land that can be ploughed and the land available for grazing."

    Although Brown believes that most people now accept that family planning and improving childhood nutrition are essential to development, he says that was not the case when he started. "In so much of the developing world people live in cities, not so many in the countryside, and so they buy their food," he said. "What is happening in countries like Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Peru is that low-income families have reached the point where they can no longer afford to eat every day."

    "I have been working on these issues for half a century plus, and it is only in the last year or two that this actually become an issue in a number of countries. It used to be the low end of things where you only had one meal a day." But for the first time, he