Thursday, October 12, 2017

'War on the EPA': How Fossil Fuel Industry Executed 'Hostile Takeover' of Key Agency

Must-see Frontline details how Trump administration handed over environmental protection to oil and gas interests 

As Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced this week that he plans to pull the plug on the Clean Power Plan, Frontline released a documentary titled War on the EPA, which details the Trump administration's concerted effort to cater to the fossil fuel industry's demands and roll back environmental regulations.
Among those interviewed for the film are Elizabeth "Betsy" Southerland, a 30-year EPA veteran who publicly resigned this summer and, so far, is the highest-ranking former staffer to speak out against the agency's operations under Pruitt, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and has been a key player in the administration's war on science.
"The atmosphere of EPA is really tense," Southerland said in the film. "What everyone is trying desperately to do is to hope against hope that their facts will change Scott Pruitt's mind—that they'll be special and they'll be able to convince the administrator not to go with whatever the industry people have asked him to do, and to give some deference to the science and engineering behind previous regulations."
Mere weeks after Southerland resigned from the agency, Pruitt announced the EPA had finalized plans to postpone a regulation she had worked on, which sought to prevent coal plants from dumping toxic chemicals in waterways. Pruitt's plans were immediately denounced by experts and conservationists, with the Center for Biological Diversity calling it "mind-bogglingly dangerous."
Rolling back that rule was just one of many moves by the Trump administration to implement an agenda that serves the coal, oil, and natural gas companies. Trump first visited EPA headquarters in late March, to sign an executive order directing the agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan. During his speech at the agency, the president declared: "My administration is putting an end to the war on coal."
The film also features an interview with Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, the largest coal company in the United States. Murray mentioned in the film that not only was he in the audience during Trump's March speech at EPA headquarters, but that the president acknowledged the coal baron when he vowed to "put our miners back to work."
"I would say that people were really devastated by that," Southerland said of Murray's attendance. "That it was considered to be, really, an open slap in our face."
"What it conveyed is, 'this is a hostile takeover.' You, the scientists and lawyers and engineers at the agency are no longer valued," added Eric Schaeffer, who led the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement for five years, and resigned from the agency in 2002, to protest attempts by then-President George W. Bush's administration to weaken federal clean air policy. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Come to Churchill ( Polar Bear Town) Manitoba in Canada

Come on this virtual journey through the realm of the polar bear (, as we follow the life-changing experiences of Nat Hab guests, Expedition Leaders and a WWF scientist during a trip to Churchill—the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Learn how the power of conservation travel can help protect a threatened species like polar bears for generations to come.

Learn more about Churchill Polar Bear Tours and conservation travel with Nat Hab and WWF:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Study underway to help reduce China's air pollution and prolong life expectancy

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Deadly air pollution in China has long been out of control
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Chinese people suffer from a multitude  of respiratory diseases
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Although the government has long been aware of negative effects of air and water pollution, they have been slow to act upon the problems
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Toxic water pollution from industrial and human wastes fill every waterway
Solid waste like plastics cover every shore
 Children play on piles of garbage releasing toxic gases

There are currently an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world exposed to levels of particulate air pollution that are at least twice what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers safe. Yet, the impact of sustained exposure to pollution on a person's life expectancy has largely remained a vexingly unanswered question -- until now.

A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that a Chinese policy is unintentionally causing people in northern China to live 3.1 years less than people in the south due to air pollution concentrations that are 46 percent higher. These findings imply that every additional 10 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter pollution (PM10) reduces life expectancy by 0.6 years. The elevated mortality is entirely due to an increase in cardiorespiratory deaths, indicating that air pollution is the cause of reduced life expectancies to the north.

"These results greatly strengthen the case that long-term exposure to particulates air pollution causes substantial reductions in life expectancy. They indicate that particulates are the greatest current environmental risk to human health, with the impact on life expectancy in many parts of the world similar to the effects of every man, woman and child smoking cigarettes for several decades," says study co-author Michael Greenstone, the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School. "The histories of the United States, parts of Europe, Japan and a handful of other countries teach us that air pollution can be reduced, but it requires robust policy and enforcement."
The study exploits China's Huai River policy, which provided free coal to power boilers for winter heating to people living north of the river and provided almost no resources towards heating south of the river. The policy's partial provision of heating was implemented because China did not have enough resources to provide free coal nationwide. Additionally, since migration was greatly restricted, people exposed to pollution were generally not able to migrate to less polluted areas. Together, the discrete change in policy at the river's edge and the migration restrictions provide the basis for a powerful natural experiment that offers an opportunity to isolate the impact of sustained exposure to particulates air pollution from other factors that affect health.

"Unveiling this important information helps build the case for policies that ultimately serve to improve the lives of the Chinese people and the lives of those globally who suffer from high levels of air pollution," says study co-author Maigeng Zhou, deputy director of the National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, the study provides solutions to several challenges that have plagued previous research. In particular, prior studies: 1) rely on research designs that may be unlikely to isolate the causal effects of air pollution; 2) measure the effect of pollution exposure for a relatively short period of time (e.g., weekly or annually), failing to shed light on the effect of sustained exposure; 3) examine settings with much lower pollution concentrations than those currently faced by billions of people in countries, including China and India, leaving questions about their applicability unanswered; 4) measure effects on mortality rates but leave the full loss of life expectancy unanswered.

Broader Implications -- Introducing the Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI)
Importantly, the results from this paper can be generalized to quantify the number of years that air pollution reduces lifespans around the globe -- not just in China. Specifically, Greenstone and his colleagues at EPIC used the finding that an additional 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM10 reduces life expectancy by 0.6 years to develop a new pollution index, the Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI). The index allows users to better understand the impact of air pollution on their lives by calculating how much longer they would live if the pollution in the air they breathe were brought into compliance with national or WHO standards.
"The AQLI uses the critical data and information gathered from our China research and applies it to every country, allowing the billions of people around the world who are exposed to high air pollution levels to estimate how much longer they would live if they breathed cleaner air," says Greenstone.
Do we want our kids to live longer?? All the scientific evidence and the scientific answers are right in front of us. This requires a global effort. Air and water pollution from other countries affects us just as much as our own. Winds and ocean currents carry it to us and seriously affect our quality of life, our wildlife and aquatic life. Only by cooperation, not isolation, can we mend our damaged planet.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Energy can be harvested from evaporation from lakes and rivers and could potentially power much of US ....New Study

In the first evaluation of evaporation as a renewable energy source, researchers at Columbia University find that U.S. lakes and reservoirs could generate 325 gigawatts of power, nearly 70 percent of what the United States currently produces.
Though still limited to experiments in the lab, evaporation-harvested power could in principle be made on demand, day or night, overcoming the intermittency problems plaguing solar and wind energy. The researchers' calculations are outlined in the Sept. issue of Nature Communications.
"We have the technology to harness energy from wind, water and the sun, but evaporation is just as powerful," says the study's senior author Ozgur Sahin, a biophysicist at Columbia. "We can now put a number on its potential."
Evaporation is nature's way of cycling water between land and air. Sahin has previously shown how this basic process can be exploited to do work. One machine developed in his lab, the so-called Evaporation Engine, controls humidity with a shutter that opens and closes, prompting bacterial spores to expand and contract. The spores' contractions are transferred to a generator that makes electricity. The current study was designed to test how much power this process could theoretically produce.
One benefit of evaporation is that it can be generated only when needed. Solar and wind power, by contrast, require batteries to supply power when the sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing. Batteries are also expensive and require toxic materials to manufacture.
"Evaporation comes with a natural battery," said study lead author, Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, a graduate student at Columbia. "You can make it your main source of power and draw on solar and wind when they're available." Evaporation technology can also save water. In the study, researchers estimate that half of the water that evaporates naturally from lakes and reservoirs into the atmosphere could be saved during the energy-harvesting process. In their model, that came to 25 trillion gallons a year, or about a fifth of the water Americans consume.
States with growing populations and sunnier weather can best capitalize on evaporation's capacity to generate power and reduce water waste, in part because evaporation packs more energy in warm and dry conditions, the researchers say. Drought-prone California, Nevada and Arizona could benefit most.
The researchers simplified their model in several ways to test evaporation's potential. They limited their calculations to the United States, where weather station data are readily accessible, and excluded prime locations such as farmland, rivers, the Great Lakes, and coastlines, to limit errors associated with modeling more complex interactions. They also made the assumption that technology to harvest energy from evaporation efficiently is fully developed.
Klaus Lackner, a physicist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the study, expressed support for the team's findings. Lackner is developing artificial trees that draw carbon dioxide from the air, in part, by harnessing the power of evaporation.
"Evaporation has the potential to do a lot of work," he said. "It's nice to see that drying and wetting cycles can also be used to collect mechanical energy."
The researchers are working to improve the energy efficiency of their spore-studded materials and hope to eventually test their concept on a lake, reservoir, or even a greenhouse, where the technology could be used to simultaneously make power and limit water loss.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Unicorn of the sea ( Norwhals) Endangered

No doubt few of you have ever seen a norwhal and probably fewer have even heard of them. Nevertheless they are fighting for their existence. They are predominately found around Northern Canada and Geenland and have always been valued by indigenous people for their long tusks, meat and their skin which is full of vitamin C and an important part of the Eskimos' diet.
The narwhal looks like a cross between a whale and a unicorn with its long, spiraled tusk jutting from its head. Males most commonly have tusks, and some may even have two. The tusk, which can grow as long as 10 feet, is actually an enlarged tooth. Ongoing research by WWF collaborators indicates that the tusk has sensory capability, with up to 10 million nerve endings inside. The tusk may also play a role in the ways males exert dominance.
Narwhals spend their lives in the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland, and Norway. The majority of the world’s narwhals winter for up to five months under the sea ice in the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait area (between Canada and western Greenland). Cracks in the ice allow them to breathe when needed, especially after dives, which can be up to a mile and a half deep. They feed mainly on Greenland halibut, along with other fish, squid and shrimp.
Narwhals have been listed as endangered since 2008. Very few laws have been proposed in attempts to protect this interesting species. In an effort to support conservation, the European Union established an import ban on tusks. Narwhals are becoming extinct for three main reasons. The primary catalyst for the series of events that have led to decrease narwhal populations is unprecedentedly rapid climate change.
Thousands of years of evolution have prepared an Arctic species like the narwhal for life on and around the sea ice. Because of climate change, this ice cover has dramatically decreased in both extent and thickness, at a rate far too quick for a species to adapt. A narwhal relies on sea ice for a place to feed and a place to take refuge—occasionally even a place to hide from predators. An additional result of climate change is the reduction in the population of the narwhal’s primary prey, the Greenland halibut.

The Melting Ice Of The Arctic
 Melting Arctic ice

Also encumbering rehabilitation efforts for the narwhal species is the increase in oil and gas development. The increased shipping of oil and gas has lead to increased shipping movement in sensitive areas. In addition to the possibility of fatal oil spills, collisions between boats and many species of marine life are certain to occur. Also, shipping, marine construction and military activities cause an increase in noise pollution. Whales, as well as many other marine species, rely heavily on sound for communication. This new interference by noise pollution can negatively affect a narwhal’s ability to find food and mates, navigate, avoid predators and take care of their young. “Man-made noise affects sea creatures like putting a bucket on your head. It cuts off the senses they need to survive. When they can’t hear, they can’t live”
Finally, hunting with modern equipment represents the most long-standing and consistent threat to narwhals throughout their habitat-range.
Are Norwhals important??? Every link in the food chain is absolutely essential to the link that came  before and the link that comes after it and the link after that. That food chain eventually makes it's way to humans, who consider themselves at the top of the chain. When those links start disappearing one by one so does our food.
It's like this...a little fish, while eating a shrimp, gets eaten by a bigger fish, which gets eaten by a bigger fish and so on until the last fish in the line is a huge marlin which is then caught by a man and eaten. That is how the food chain works. So even the species that aren't too pretty, like the  narwhals hold an important place in the survival of the life on our planet.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monster from the Deep

Here’s your daily reminder that the ocean is terrifying and no one really has any idea what’s lurking in the depths of the great abyss.
When Preeti Desai was trying to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, she accidentally stumbled upon the depths of hell.

"What the heck is this indeed", Ms Desai.
The spine-chilling monster with its thick, serpent-like body, daggered teeth and NO EYES had social media stumped - the only thing they knew was that they were never going to swim again.
Some commenters threw out the suggestion of eel and a biologist agreed, telling the BBC it was a fangtooth snake-eel.
Fangtooth snake-eel. Oh okay then, so just a mixture of all of the worst things in the world – cool.
Dr Kenneth Tighe, a biologist and eel specialist, said it could be a conger or garden eel as "all three of these species occur off Texas and have large fang-like teeth".
Ms Desai, who is a part of the Audubon Society – a non-profit group dedicated to conservation, said she was seeing how extensively Hurricane Harvey had damaged the environment when she stumbled upon the creature.
"It was completely unexpected, it's not something that you'd typically see on a beach. I thought it could be something from the deep sea that might have washed on to shore," she reported.
"My main reaction was curiosity, to figure out what the heck it was."
She also said she left the horrifying monster eel on the beach "to let nature take its course".
Can’t say we blame her.
 But, monster or not, it is a citizen of earth, obviously a predator. I have seen conger eels but never one this huge. There are  hundreds of thousands of aquatic species. Any average person has only ever seen a couple of hundred. With the oceans getting more acidic and warmer,  thousands of these species hover on the brink of extinction.
The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.
These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species are becoming extinct each year.