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What A Week It Was: Apocadocuments from
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Species Collapse:(5)
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global warming  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ contamination  ~ carbon emissions  ~ climate impacts  ~ coal issues  ~ economic myopia  ~ health impacts  ~ massive die-off  ~ corporate malfeasance  



ApocaDocuments (34) gathered this week:
Sun, Apr 11, 2010
from Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era:
Climate warming leaves 'em cold
Harrisburg weatherman Rob Dixon is cool toward dire global warming scenarios. He simply doesn't believe people have the ability to predict what's going to happen to the climate years in the future. After all, reasons the ABC-TV 27 veteran, it's hard enough to nail the five-day. Many of his peers in the area side with him. They don't deny that the planet is running a fever. "There's tons of anecdotal evidence," such as retreating glaciers in Montana and dwindling sea ice, Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst said. He and other weathermen think humans play at least a minor role. ...


Doppler dopes.

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Sun, Apr 11, 2010
from Agence France-Press:
Almost all Austrian glaciers shrank in 2009: report
Almost 90 percent of Austrian glaciers shrank in 2009, some by as much as 46 metres (150 feet), the Austrian Alpine Association (OeAV) said Friday. In a report, the OeAV said 85 out of 96 glaciers had shrunk over the past year. The biggest changes were seen in the Oetz valley in western Tyrol province, where three glaciers retreated by over 40 metres, and eight by over 20 metres. "The ice is very thin over large areas, so the glaciers are retreating very quickly," noted Andrea Fischer of the University of Innsbruck, who conducted the measurements for the alpine club. ...


Is there a Viagra for glaciers?

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Sun, Apr 11, 2010
from CanWest News Service:
Scientists turn to Inuit traditions to collect data on Arctic weather
Using traditional Inuit weather knowledge passed down through generations, environmental scientists have uncovered new data on Arctic climate change. In a study appearing this month in the journal Global Environmental Change, researchers working closely with Inuit elders were able to "zero in on what we'd been hearing from the Inuit people for a number of years," said Elizabeth Weatherhead, chief author of the study and environmental scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder... the study found Inuit consider a number of environmental factors when predicting the weather, such as interactions between wind, ocean currents, cloud formations and animal behaviour. The researchers were able to use that traditional knowledge to find evidence of the changes Inuit were describing. ...


Sounds to me like nothing more than a bunch of nanookery.

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Sun, Apr 11, 2010
from New York Times:
Paul Krugman: Building a Green Economy
You might think that this uncertainty weakens the case for action, but it actually strengthens it. As Harvard's Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance -- rather than what is most likely to happen -- should dominate cost-benefit calculations. And utter catastrophe does look like a realistic possibility, even if it is not the most likely outcome. Weitzman argues -- and I agree -- that this risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy. Current projections of global warming in the absence of action are just too close to the kinds of numbers associated with doomsday scenarios. It would be irresponsible -- it's tempting to say criminally irresponsible -- not to step back from what could all too easily turn out to be the edge of a cliff.... And in a more general sense, given the twists and turns of American politics in recent years -- since 2005 the conventional wisdom has gone from permanent Republican domination to permanent Democratic domination to God knows what -- there has to be a real chance that political support for action on climate change will revive. If it does, the economic analysis will be ready. We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We have a good sense of the costs -- and they're manageable. All we need now is the political will. ...


"Political will"? What's that?

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Sun, Apr 11, 2010
from Paul Kedrosky:
Hundreds of ApocaDocs visitors from Paul Kedrosky
Financial blogger Paul Kedrosky, writing in his "Infectious Greed" blog, included in his "Readings" segment an ApocaDocs item (Natural World Vanishes: How Species Cease to Matter), a quipped shout-out to Yale360's full story. Hundreds, via his site, its RSS feeds, its email outreach, and other sites' republishing, ended up visiting ApocaDocs. The story focuses on the key take-away: "Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal." It names a particular beast: the ever-changing "new normal," in which extant nature becomes "normal," no matter how threadbare and tattered. While the stock-watchers at Kedrosky are seemingly not a natural audience for the ApocaDoc message, we hope to see more of them -- since, after all, environmental collapse is and will be the single most important economic drive of the next decade. ...


Anyone who thinks the environment drives the economy doesn't recognize the innovative talent of Homo sapiens!

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010
from London Guardian:
US denies climate aid to countries opposing Copenhagen accord
The US State Department is denying climate change assistance to countries opposing the Copenhagen accord, it emerged today. The new policy, first reported by The Washington Post, suggests the Obama administration is ready to play hardball, using aid as well as diplomacy, to bring developing countries into conformity with its efforts to reach an international deal to tackle global warming. The Post reported today that Bolivia and Ecuador would now be denied aid after both countries opposed the accord.... However, Alden Meyer, the climate change director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned that such a policy risked further inflaming the tensions between the industrialised world and developing countries that have been a major obstacle to getting a deal. ...


Perhaps we should send them to bed without their suppers as well!

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010
from University of Southern California/Keck School of Medicine via ScienceDaily:
Traffic-Related Pollution Near Schools Linked to Development of Asthma in Pupils, Study Suggests
Living near major highways has been linked to childhood asthma, but a new study led by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) suggests that traffic-related pollution near schools is also contributing to the development of asthma in kids. The researchers found that the risk of developing asthma due to exposure at school was comparable to that of children whose exposure occurred primarily at home, even though time spent at school only accounted for about one third of waking hours. Children in schools located in high-traffic environments had a 45 percent increased risk of developing asthma. The study appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and is now available online. ...


This is what we call the school of hard knocks.

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010
from Wildlife Conservation Society via ScienceDaily:
Rarest of the Rare: List of Critically Endangered Species
The Wildlife Conservation Society released a list of critically endangered species dubbed the "Rarest of the Rare" -- a group of animals most in danger of extinction, ranging from Cuban crocodiles to white-headed langurs in Vietnam. The list of a dozen animals includes an eclectic collection of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Some are well known, such as the Sumatran orangutan; while others are more obscure, including vaquita, an ocean porpoise. The list appears in the 2010-1011 edition of State of the Wild -- a Global Portrait. ...


I'll have mine medium rare.

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010
from Reuters:
Missing West Virginia miners found dead, blast toll at 29
Four missing West Virginia coal miners were found dead early on Saturday, nearly five days after an explosion killed 25 others in the worst U.S. mining disaster in nearly four decades. The four bodies were found in an area of the Massey Energy mine briefly searched after the blast on Monday but were missed by rescuers amid heavy smoke, Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration told reporters. Rescue teams found the miners on their fourth attempt after earlier efforts were thwarted by thick smoke, fire and an explosive build-up of methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen... "We did not get the miracle we prayed for," an emotional West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin told a news briefing. ...


prayers unanswered for/miners, canaries who could/not take wing in time

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Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from BBC:
UN climate talks to resume amid fear of more divisions
The first round of UN climate talks since December's bitter Copenhagen summit opens in Bonn on Friday with the future of the process uncertain. Developing countries are adamant that the UN climate convention is the right forum for negotiating a global deal and want it done by the year's end. But others, notably the US, appear to think this is not politically feasible. Some delegates are concerned that the whole process could collapse, given the divisions and lack of trust. ...


Bonn appetite!

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Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from USA Today:
On Plains, concern about another Dust Bowl
...Seventy-five years have passed since the worst of the Dust Bowl, a relentless series of dust storms that ravaged farms and livelihoods in the southern Great Plains that carried a layer of silt as far east as New York City. Today, the lessons learned during that era are more relevant than ever as impending water shortages and more severe droughts threaten broad swaths of the nation...Gary McManus, a climatologist for Oklahoma's state-run climate organization, says global warming could have a "catastrophic" impact across the parts of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma that suffered most in the "Dirty Thirties." He says the region's climate is so dry, even in the best of times, that just a small increase in average temperatures could quickly cause critical amounts of moisture in the soil to evaporate. ...


My concern is more that we won't have John Steinbeck around this time.

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Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from Bloomberg News:
Great Barrier Reef at Risk as Coal-Ship Traffic May Jump 67 percent
The corals, whales and giant clams of Australia's Great Barrier Reef are in the path of a "coal highway" to China that may see shipments jump 67 percent by 2016, increasing the threat of an ecological disaster after a coal carrier ran aground last week. Trade at Gladstone port in Queensland may rise to about 140 million tons, mostly coal, in six years from 84 million tons in the year ending in June, Gladstone Ports Corp. Chief Executive Officer Leo Zussino said in an interview. The port was the loading point for the Shen Neng 1, which hit a sand bank on April 3 at full speed carrying 68,000 metric tons of coal and 975 tons of fuel oil. "It's only a matter of time before a serious oil spill occurs unless we have a better system for regulating the traffic," said Peter Harrison, a professor at Southern Cross University in New South Wales who has studied the impact of oil pollution on coral reefs for three decades. "It's a difficult place to navigate." ...


Perhaps a name change is in order: the Great Passageway Reef.

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Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from BBC:
'World needs a barometer of life'
The world needs a "barometer of life" to prevent ecosystems and species being lost forever, scientists have warned. Existing schemes, they said, did not include enough species from groups such as fungi and invertebrates to provide a detailed picture of what is at risk. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers said the barometer would increase the number of species being assessed from almost 48,000 to 160,000. The data would help identify areas in need of urgent action, they added.... "The barometer would broaden the reach of the Red List to make it representative of all life, that's what it's all about," Dr Stuart explained. The authors hope that broadening the taxanomic base of the Red List and increasing the database to 160,000 species would deliver practical benefits. "A representative barometer would provide a solid basis for informing decisions globally," the authors suggested. ...


The high pressure zone shows no sign of abating.

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Want more context?
Try reading our book FREE online:
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
More fun than a barrel of jellyfish!
Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from Alaska Journal of Commerce:
Research expands to 'sister' issue of global warming
Rising temperatures and sea levels, melting glaciers and extreme weather dominate the discussion on global warming, but a parallel issue with potentially tremendous impact on Alaska's coastal waters is finally gaining attention. Increased research into ocean acidification caused by the saturation of water with carbon dioxide is the focus of Jeremy Mathis of University of Alaska Fairbanks, who stepped onto the national stage for the first time recently in a briefing to a mix of Congressmen, Senators and staffers in Washington, D.C.... A positive response from holders of the purse strings is essential to making up research ground on ocean acidification, which Mathis calls a "sister" or co-equal problem to global warming. Studies of its potential effects on the food chain are few and the lack of baseline data on ocean pH levels is a stark contrast to decades of temperature monitoring from stations positioned around the globe.... A decrease in these mineral levels to food web base species like pteropods, also known as sea butterflies, which make up 45 percent of the diet for juvenile pink salmon, can cause cascading waves of disruption up the food chain. Mathis' research shows a 10 percent decline in pteropod production can lead to a 20 percent reduction in the body weight of mature salmon.... ...


These sisters / are doing it to ourselves...

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Thu, Apr 8, 2010
from Greenwire:
Frightened, Furious Neighbors Undermine German Co2-Trapping Power Project
...The first electric utility in the world to launch a coal-fired power plant designed from the ground up to capture its carbon dioxide emissions, Vattenfall has found that building the complicated 70 million [Euros] pilot plant may have been the easy part. Finding a home for its captured gas? Now that's hard. For more than a year, the plant has been doing its job, capturing 90 percent of its CO2, the heat-trapping gas that drives global warming. Nestled in strip-mining country in eastern Germany, the plant could provide the prototype for the next generation of relatively affordable "clean" coal plants. But until Vattenfall finds a place to stash its CO2, those dreams will be as intangible as the CO2 it collects and vents every few days back into the atmosphere. Vatenfall AB, which is owned by the Swedish government, has been frustrated by boisterous local opposition to its plans to pump CO2 more than a kilometer underground into porous rock formations. ...


NIMUPRF: Not In MY Underground Porous Rock Formations

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Thu, Apr 8, 2010
from Bloomberg:
Kalamazoo Cleanup Delayed After Lyondell Bankruptcy
Environmentalist Jeff Spoelstra says an 80-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River that runs through toxin-laced land in southwestern Michigan was on its way to becoming safe again. The area, once home to Potawatomi Indians and Dutch celery farmers, was finally on the verge of getting cleaned up. Then, in January 2009, Lyondell Chemical Co. filed for bankruptcy protection. The Houston-based petrochemical giant argued in court that as it reorganized, it could avoid what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said were about $2.5 billion in cleanup costs for the river, which flows into Lake Michigan, and another $2.5 billion in liabilities at 10 other polluted spots across the country.... If a company has to pay the billions the U.S. seeks for cleanups, its debt investors can end up getting pennies on the dollar. If the decision goes the other way, the costs can fall on taxpayers. "It's a no-win situation," says Evan D. Flaschen, a bankruptcy lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, who isn't involved in cases mentioned in this story. "If the debtor can walk, the toxins keep boiling, often getting worse with time. If the debtor has to pay billions for a cleanup, they might go out of business, losing thousands of jobs. Pick your poison."... Companies in bankruptcy can argue that environmental liabilities are just like other claims -- and that they can ditch them to get a fresh start.... "It's the most-maddening thing," McKinney says. "It's the community that's going to lose." ...


That smell of toxic bullshit? Lyondell says it "smells like money."

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Thu, Apr 8, 2010
from DailyKos:
...and then there were 25. Numbers and ice.
Number of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, in 1850: 150 (estimated). Number of glaciers remaining in 2003: 27. Number of glaciers remaining as of April 7, 2010: 25. Date at which all remaining glaciers would disappear, 2005 estimate: 2030. Date at which all remaining glaciers would disappear, 2010 estimate: 2020. ...


New Naming Opportunity! The Exxon Glacierless National Park!

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Thu, Apr 8, 2010
from Yale 360:
The Natural World Vanishes: How Species Cease To Matter
Once, on both sides of the Atlantic, fish such as salmon, eels, and, shad were abundant and played an important role in society, feeding millions and providing a livelihood for tens of thousands. But as these fish have steadily dwindled, humans have lost sight of their significance, with each generation accepting a diminished environment as the new norm.... Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon "shifting baselines" or "inter-generational amnesia," and it is part of a larger and more nebulous reality -- the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social relevancy of declining and disappearing species.... As species disappear, they lose both relevance to a society and the constituency to champion their revival, further hastening their decline. A vivid example of this was highlighted in a recent study in Conservation Biology, in which researchers found that younger residents along China's Yangtze River knew little or nothing of the river dolphin, the bajii -- now believed to be extinct -- and the threatened paddlefish. ...


If a species falls in a forest and nobody cares, does it matter?

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from Chicago Tribune:
Material traps radioactive waste, could help nuclear cleanup
It may be oversimplifying to suggest that the microscopic mechanism that Mercouri Kanatzidis and Nan Ding have developed resembles a roach motel of nuclear waste, where the ghastly undesirable checks in but doesn't check out. Kanatzidis prefers to call it a Venus flytrap. Either way, the results are the same. The pinkish, powdery material the two researchers created traps cesium-137, a prevalent, stubborn radioactive contaminant. And trapping it could make clearing it from toxic sites immensely easier...Essentially, the sulfide framework acts as a "very tiny, tiny building with rooms," Kanatzidis said. The cesium enters the building, then bonds to the sulfide "walls" of the interior. At that point, the building begins "making all the doors and windows smaller so the cesium cannot get out," he added. ...


Sounds like a funhouse of cards to me.

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from USDA, via PhysOrg:
Deadly fungus threatens 9 bat species in Ga., Ky., N.C., S.C. and Tenn., expert says
"In the five states where most of my research has centered, little-brown bats and Indiana bats are among the most threatened by WNS - meaning their populations could either be seriously decimated or become extinct," said Loeb, a veteran wildlife researcher based in Clemson, S.C. "Historically, little-brown bats were quite common, but the species appears to be especially susceptible to the fungus and is being hit hard in the states where WNS has taken hold. While populations of the federally endangered Indiana bat showed signs of rebounding in recent years, those gains may soon be negated by white-nose syndrome."... "Virginia big-eared bats are endangered, so their small numbers and limited distribution put the species at serious risk of becoming extinct in Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia if they become infected," said Loeb. "Rafinesque's big-eared bat is a rare species that hibernates in caves in the karst regions of North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Thus they too could be infected with WNS and suffer dramatic declines. However, this species also roosts in large hollow trees and other structures in the coastal plain regions and may be safe from the disease in part of its range."... Loeb is among the many scientists actively studying the spread of WNS. Her research on bat migration will help in monitoring and predicting the spread of WNS in the South. She is also collaborating with partners in the public and private sectors to produce a searchable bat database that will enable researchers to better track populations in the East. The database will serve as a central repository that will provide new insights into bat distributions and movements, which is critical for understanding and predicting the spread of WNS.... The first case of the disease in the United States was reported in New York State in 2006. ...


But are canaries susceptible to WNS in those mines?

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from Greenpeace:
Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine
Billionaire oilman David Koch likes to joke that Koch Industries is "the biggest company you've never heard of." But the nearly $50 million that David Koch and his brother Charles have quietly funneled to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter. Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch have a vested interest in delaying climate action: they've made billions from their ownership and control of Koch Industries, an oil corporation that is the second largest privately-held company in America (which also happens to have an especially poor environmental record). It's time more people were aware of Charles and David Koch and just what they're up to. Greenpeace has released the report "Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine" to expose the connections between these climate denial front groups and the secretive billionaires who are funding their efforts. The Koch brothers, their family members, and their employees direct a web of financing that supports conservative special interest groups and think-tanks, with a strong focus on fighting environmental regulation, opposing clean energy legislation, and easing limits on industrial pollution. ...


This is what plutocracy looks like.

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from Scientific American:
Climate Scientist Hansen Wins $100,000 Prize
U.S. climate scientist James Hansen won a $100,000 environmental prize Wednesday for decades of work trying to alert politicians to what he called an unsolved emergency of global warming. Hansen, born in 1941, will visit Oslo in June to collect the Sophie Prize, set up in 1997 by Norwegian Jostein Gaarder, the author of the 1991 best-selling novel and teenagers' guide to philosophy "Sophie's World." "Hansen has played a key role for the development of our understanding of human-induced climate change," the prize citation said.... "We really have an emergency," Hansen said in a video link with the prize panel in Oslo about feared climate changes such as a thaw of ice sheets on Greenland or Antarctica or a loss of species of animals and plants in a warming world. ...


When asked what he'd do with the money, Hansen said "I've been hankering for a Ford Escalade for awhile now."

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from American Chemical Society, via EurekAlert:
Household detergents, shampoos may form harmful substance in waste water
Scientists are reporting evidence that certain ingredients in shampoo, detergents and other household cleaning agents may be a source of precursor materials for formation of a suspected cancer-causing contaminant in water supplies that receive water from sewage treatment plants. The study sheds new light on possible environmental sources of this poorly understood water contaminant, called NDMA, which is of ongoing concern to health officials.... Although nitrosamines are found in a wide variety of sources -- including processed meats and tobacco smoke -- scientists know little about their precursors in water. Past studies with cosmetics have found that substances called quaternary amines, which are also ingredients in household cleaning agents, may play a role in the formation of nitrosamines. Their laboratory research showed that when mixed with chloramine, some household cleaning products -- including shampoo, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent - formed NDMA. The report notes that sewage treatment plants may remove some of quaternary amines that form NDMA. ...


I suppose you'll say that elbow grease is dangerous too.

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Wed, Apr 7, 2010
from London Guardian:
Salvage experts work to stabilise Chinese ship aground on Great Barrier Reef
Salvage workers and tugboats were today attempting to stabilise a coal-carrying ship that ran aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef in order to prevent it breaking up and further damaging the world's largest coral structure. The Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 was off course and travelling at full speed when it hit the Douglas Shoals - an area in which shipping is restricted - late on Saturday. Environmentalists warned that the effects could be devastating if the vessel broke up. "We would potentially be looking at an environmental disaster," Gilly Llewellyn, the director of conservation for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Australia, told Reuters. "It would be an extremely large spill." Around two of the 950 tonnes of fuel on board the ship have leaked, creating a slick stretching for two miles (3km). ...


This stranded ship, my friends, is starting to sound more and more like a metaphor for the whole planet.

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Tue, Apr 6, 2010
from Reuters:
Tense standoff in Peru as protest turns deadly
The violence broke out near the town of Chala, 372 miles south of the capital Lima, on Sunday when police tried to clear a roadblock set by the miners on the Panamerican Highway leading to Chile. Two of the dead were bystanders, including a taxi driver struck by a stray bullet and a woman who suffered a heart attack. Police said 20 protesters and nine officers were injured in the country's latest conflict over natural resources. Protesters wielding clubs and rocks continued to block a stretch of the road on Monday and traffic was snarled in both directions. Interior Minister Octavio Salazar vowed to try again in the coming hours to break the blockade, where some 3,800 miners are pitted against 1,200 police officers. President Alan Garcia, whose term has been marred by periodic clashes over his natural resources policies, said wildcat miners must pay taxes and stop polluting....Miners say Garcia's new measures, which aim to limit dredging in rivers and prevent wildcat mining in nature reserves, would leave them without jobs and that they need the work to support their families. ...


Let me get this straight. In Peru, the government is fighting for the environment?

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Tue, Apr 6, 2010
from AP, via PhysOrg.com:
Study: Northeast seeing more, fiercer rainstorms
The Northeast is seeing more frequent "extreme precipitation events" in line with global warming predictions, a study shows, including storms like the recent fierce rains whose floodwaters swallowed neighborhoods and businesses across New England. The study does not link last week's devastating floods to its research but examined 60 years' worth of National Weather Service rainfall records in nine Northeastern states and found that storms that produce an inch or more of rain in a day - a threshold the recent storm far surpassed - are coming more frequently. "It's almost like 1 inch of rainfall has become pretty common these days," said Bill Burtis, spokesman for Clean Air-Cool Planet, a global warming education group that released the study Monday along with the University of New Hampshire's Carbon Solutions New England group. The study's results are consistent with what could be expected in a world warmed by greenhouse gases, said UNH associate professor Cameron Wake. He acknowledged it would take more sophisticated studies to cement a warming link, though. "I can't point to these recent storms and say, that is global warming," he said. ...


Don't know why / there's more clouds up in the sky...

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
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We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Tue, Apr 6, 2010
from Wildlife Conservation Society, via EurekAlert:
Madagascar's radiated tortoise threatened with extinction
A team of biologists from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported today that Madagascar's radiated tortoise - considered one of the most beautiful tortoise species - is rapidly nearing extinction due to rampant hunting for its meat and the illegal pet trade. The team predicts that unless drastic conservation measures take place, the species will be driven to extinction within the next 20 years. The team recently returned from field surveys in southern Madagascar's spiny forest, where the once-abundant tortoises occur. They found entire regions devoid of tortoises and spoke with local people who reported that armed bands of poachers had taken away truckloads of tortoises to supply open meat markets in towns such as Beloha and Tsihombe. Poaching camps have been discovered with the remains of thousands of radiated tortoises, and truckloads of tortoise meat have been seized recently. ...


It's their own damn fault for being so tasty.

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Tue, Apr 6, 2010
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
Forest epidemic is unprecedented phenomenon, still getting worse
The Swiss needle cast epidemic in Douglas-fir forests of the coastal Pacific Northwest is continuing to intensify, appears to be unprecedented over at least the past 100 years, and is probably linked to the extensive planting of Douglas-fir along the coast and a warmer climate, new research concludes. Scientists in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have also found that this disease, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon and Washington and costing tens of millions of dollars a year in lost growth, can affect older trees as well as young stands - in some cases causing their growth to almost grind to a halt.... "We can't say yet whether climate change is part of what's causing these problems, but warmer conditions, milder winters and earlier springs would be consistent with that." Another key suspect, scientists say, is the planting for decades of a monoculture of Douglas-fir in replacement of coastal forests, which previously had trees of varying ages and different species. ...


Biodiversity is so messy. Monocultures are at least consistent.

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Tue, Apr 6, 2010
from University of Maryland, via EurekAlert:
New study shows rising water temperatures in US streams and rivers
New research by a team of ecologists and hydrologists shows that water temperatures are increasing in many streams and rivers throughout the United States. The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, documents that 20 major U.S. streams and rivers - including such prominent rivers as the Colorado, Potomac, Delaware, and Hudson - have shown statistically significant long-term warming.... "It's both surprising and remarkable that so many diverse river systems in North America behaved in concert with respect to warming," said Dr. David Secor of the UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory whose work focused on Maryland's Patuxent River, where he has noted a 3F increase since 1939. The analysis indicates that 20 of the 40 streams studied showed statistically significant long term warming trends, while an additional 13 showed temperature increases that were not statistically significant. Two rivers showed significant temperature decreases. The longest record of increase was observed for the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York. The most rapid rate of increase was recorded for the Delaware River near Chester, Pennsylvania. ...


Maybe the endocrine-disrupted fish will look hotter to each other.

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from Mount Sinai Hospital, via EurekAlert:
Exposure to 3 classes of common chemicals may affect female development
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that exposure to three common chemical classes--phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens--in young girls may disrupt the timing of pubertal development, and put girls at risk for health complications later in life. The study, the first to examine the effects of these chemicals on pubertal development, is currently published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. "Research has shown that early pubertal development in girls can have adverse social and medical effects, including cancer and diabetes later in life," said Dr. Mary Wolff, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Our research shows a connection between chemicals that girls are exposed to on a daily basis and either delayed or early development. While more research is needed, these data are an important first step in continuing to evaluate the impact of these common environmental agents in putting girls at risk."... Phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens are among chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the body's endocrine, or hormone, system. They are found in a wide range of consumer products, such as nail polishes, where they increase durability, and in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos, where they carry fragrance. Some are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics such as PVC, or are included as coatings on medications or nutritional supplements to make them timed-release. ...


Phenolical. Or is that "phthalacious"?

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from Post-Tribune:
IDEM shuts down mercury monitors
In its latest cost-cutting move, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has shut down mercury monitors across the state, including at the Indiana Dunes. The cut would save the agency about $285,000 annually. But critics say it would impact the state's ability to assess whether regulation to reduce mercury pollution is working. The Indiana Dunes monitoring station has periodically registered one of the 10 highest mercury concentrations in the nation, said Martin Risch, a hydrologist and project chief with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indianapolis. Kim Ferraro, an attorney with the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana, called removal of the mercury monitoring stations "devastating" to the state's ability to track mercury deposition. ...


How will I know if I can use a fish as a thermometer or not?

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from Environmental Health News:
Study identifies hundreds of obscure - yet persistent - chemicals.
A new study suggests that hundreds of chemicals used commercially could persist and bioaccumulate, yet next to nothing is known about their actions and levels in the environment. Predicting exposures and if and how chemicals may pose a health threat is incredibly difficult. Now, researchers propose a unique way to screen and identify chemicals that may need further evaluation and monitoring...Maybe equally important is that researchers identified 13 silicone-based compounds. Presently, there is no reliable method to detect them in environmental samples, so there is no way to know if the chemicals are contaminating soil, air, water or organisms. There are significant concerns related to how chemicals are regulated under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) implemented by the U.S. EPA. Concerns over the use of proprietary chemicals in consumer products -- that is, the identity of the chemical is unknown to the public -- has prompted some advocacy groups to challenge the efficacy of the TOSCA program. In addition, many argue that TOSCA does not fully evaluate a large enough spectrum of potential health effects as part of its testing program. ...


Maybe ingesting this cocktail of chemicals will make us sooooo smart, we'll figure everything out!

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from McClatchy Newspapers:
EPA may try to use Clean Water Act to regulate carbon dioxide
The Environmental Protection Agency is exploring whether to use the Clean Water Act to control greenhouse gas emissions, which are turning the oceans acidic at a rate that's alarmed some scientists. With climate change legislation stalled in Congress, the Clean Water Act would serve as a second front, as the Obama administration has sought to use the Clean Air Act to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases administratively. Since the dawn of the industrial age, acid levels in the oceans have increased 30 percent. Currently, the oceans are absorbing 22 million tons of carbon dioxide a day. Among other things, scientists worry that the increase in acidity could interrupt the delicate marine food chain, which ranges from microscopic plankton to whales. ...


Note to EPA: Use whatever means necessary.

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from University of Gothenburg, via EurekAlert:
Medicine residues may threaten fish reproduction
Researchers at Umea University and the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered that traces of many medicines can be found in fish that have been swimming in treated waste water. One such medicine, the hormone levonorgestrel, was found in higher concentrations in the blood of fish than in women who take the contraceptive pill. Elevated levels of this hormone can lead to infertility in fish.... The fish in the study were exposed to treated waste water from three sewage treatment works in Stockholm, Umea and Gothenburg. The study shows that levonorgestrel - which is found in many contraceptive pills, including the morning-after pill - can impact on the environment and constitutes a risk factor for the ability of fish to reproduce. Levonogestrel is designed to mimic the female sex hormone progesterone and is produced synthetically. A study from Germany showed very recently that less than a billionth of a gram of levonorgestrel per litre inhibited the reproduction of fish in aquarium-based trials. 
"We are finding these levels in treated waste water in Sweden," explains Jerker Fick at the Department of Chemistry at Umea University. ...


Ah, so it's not overfishing, it's overmedicating.

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