Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Legacy of the human race .... Venimus, vidimus, et destrui



Henderson Island is part of the UK's Pitcairn Islands group

An uninhabited island in the South Pacific is littered with the highest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world, according to a study. Henderson Island, part of the UK's Pitcairn Islands group, has an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris on its beaches.
The island is near the centre of an ocean current, meaning it collects much garbage from boats, large ships and South America. Researchers hope people will "rethink their relationship with plastic".
The joint Australian and British study said the rubbish amounted to 671 items per square meter and a total of 17 tons.
"A lot of the items on Henderson Island are what we wrongly refer to as disposable or single-use," said Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania.


The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, described how remote islands act as a "sink" for the world's rubbish.
In addition to fishing items, Henderson Island was strewn with everyday things including toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and razors.


Could plastic roads help to save the planet? It is one solution being studied.

"Land crabs are making their homes inside bottle caps, containers and jars," Dr Lavers said.
"At first it looks a little bit cute, but it's not. This plastic is old, it's sharp, it's brittle and toxic." Aquatic animals are being put at high risk from the toxins in our garbage, even though they are attempting to adapt to it.
A large number of hard hats of "every shape, color and size" were also discovered, the marine scientist said.
Henderson Island is listed by Unesco as a coral atoll with a relatively unique ecology, notable for 10 rare plant and four bird species.
It is 190km (120 miles) from Pitcairn Island, about 5,000km from Chile, and sits near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre - a massive rotating current.

 
The researchers estimate the rubbish to total 37.7 million pieces

The condition of the island highlighted how plastic debris has affected the environment on a global scale, Dr Lavers said.
"Almost every island in the world and almost every species in the ocean is now being shown to be impacted one way or another by our waste," she said.
"There's not really any one person or any one country that gets a free pass on this."
She said plastic was devastating to oceans because it was buoyant and durable.
The research was conducted by the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the Centre for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
There is no longer any safe habitat for wildlife. We have poisoned every corner of the planet on land and in water and even defiled the air we need to breath. Is there any hope for our wildlife ?? Where the creatures of the earth go, we follow. If we had the ability to look two hundred years into the future, I do not think we'd recover from the shock.

Mr Trump ... Global Warming needs global co-operation

Donald Trump


'Assailed by "enemies" on all sides, the most "unfairly" treated politician in the history of ever', (Wait ... What??) has at least had the consolation of knowing that his emissaries to the latest UN climate talks just finished in Bonn have followed his dictum to the letter. Or have they??
The new White House, in case you missed it, takes a very different view on climate change than the majority of countries in the world.
The Donald Trump-era perspective is that climate change is essentially an exaggerated threat, that coal, oil and gas are tremendous, and that the Paris agreement is a bad deal for America and should be "cancelled".
Given that almost all the small US delegation to Bonn were people who have previously been involved in climate discussions under the Obama administration, it must have been quite the mental u-turn to be instructed to keep repeating the mantra in climate discussions : "Our position is under review."
However, President Trump may be a little distressed to hear that instead of a stony faced resistance to the global warmist hordes in Bonn, the US team has actually been seen as playing quite a positive role.
In fact, one of the areas of discussion that made the most progress in these talks was the shock and horror of COP22 members driven by the US stance.
"What we have seen, to our relief,  is a generally constructive team," said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, an observer at these talks.
"One of the US team was co-facilitator with China of the transparency discussion - this is one of the building blocks of the Paris agreement that made the most progress during this session. So we are quite pleased that there was still a constructive engagement."
The skilled negotiators from 180-plus countries involved in these talks have been doing their best to send soothing signals to Washington that everyone would be better off if the US was to stay in the game.
Fiji will become the first small island developing country to hold the presidency of the key annual meeting of negotiators, COP23, which will be held in November, again in Bonn. The woman who will lead the talks, Fijian climate ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, reached for an appropriate Pacific island metaphor when discussing continued US participation.
"It's very important that all members of the family stay in the canoe and that we paddle in the same direction, and that nobody jumps out," she told BBC News, without specifying the creek up which the aforementioned canoe would be travelling.
"But if they don't (stay) what are our options? The answer is we carry on with the work program and we do it with or without members of the family who have decided to bail out."
Another perhaps less subtle signal has been sent by the European Union.
It is convening a ministerial meeting next week for the first time with representatives of China and Canada to discuss climate issues.
The inference in this is that Asia, Europe and the Americas are prepared to move ahead on climate without the US. Some observers in Bonn welcomed the move.
"This is our hour of need, when we need to see other countries stepping up to ensure that the world remains on course," said Mohammed Adow from Christian Aid
"What we've heard is a clear, strong message from Europe that it is going to help cultivate the diplomatic leadership that is required to keep the world on course.
"Climate change won't wait until we have a better leader in the White House or until the White House gets serious about its commitments because we know the world is warming."
However, others were somewhat worried that overtly trying to force the issue might be the wrong approach, given the temperamental nature of the current US president.
"I think pressure may well be the wrong tactic right now," said Elliot Diringer, a Clinton-era White House press spokesman and a former member of US delegations to the UN climate talks.
"Decision-making in this White House is highly unpredictable and the president can react defensively when pushed against the wall.
"I think the better approach is to encourage the US to stay in and be as ambitious as it can be."
A decision on future US participation is likely after next week's G7 summit in Taormina,

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Washed Up Killer Whale Is Most Polluted Animal On Earth



Image result for contaminated washed up whale

A DEAD KILLER WHALE THAT WASHED UP ON THE SHORE OF A SCOTTISH ISLAND LAST JANUARY WAS THE MOST POLLUTED ANIMAL EVER SEEN ON EARTH, ACCORDING TO A NEWLY RELEASED REPORT. THE WHALE HAD THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENALS, OR PBCS, EVER RECORDED IN AN ANIMAL, ACCORDING TO THE SCOTTISH MARINE ANIMAL STRANDING SCHEME.


An analysis of the orca, who scientists named Lulu, revealed that her blubber had concentrations of PBC 100 time higher than the threshold for marine mammals. And despite being at least 20 years old, the whales ovaries showed she had never reproduced, likely the result of such a toxic concentration of pollutants in her body.
“Previous studies have shown that killer whale populations can have very high PCB burdens, but the levels in this case are some of the highest we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme. “We know Lulu died from becoming entangled, but given what is known about the toxic effects of PCBs, we have to consider that such a high pollutant burden could have been affecting her health and reproductive fitness.”
PCBS, chemicals used in electrical and industrial equipment, were used liberally starting in the 1920s. From then until 1979, an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. government banned the chemicals in 1979 after researchers discovered they were harmful to humans and the environment. But to this day, they’re still leaching into oceans and other habitats. Researchers found PCBs in the furthest reaches of the planet, more than 36,000 feet down in the ocean, according to a study published in February.
“Once PCBs get into the marine environment, they are difficult if not impossible to remove,” said Brownlow. “They accumulate through food webs and persist over time.”
The pervasiveness of the chemicals does not bode well for the pod that Lulu came from. A small group of only eight whales typically seen off the west coast of Scotland, a recorded calf birth hasn’t been seen in the 23 years that scientists have been monitoring it.
“Lulus apparent infertility is an ominous finding for the long term survivability of this group. With no new animals being born, It is now looking increasingly likely that this small group will eventually go extinct,” said Brownlow. “One of the factors in this group’s apparent failure to reproduce could be their high burden of organic pollutants.”
Whales and dolphins have been washing up on beaches around the world with stomachs full of plastic bags and other plastic materials which, their digestive tracts cannot digest, break down or expel from their bodies.
If pollution of our oceans and forests continue unabated for a couple more centuries, all animals in the wild will become extinct, except perhaps all species of insects. Insects have a remarkable adaptivity. So it will be us and the bugs vying for disappearing food, water, and habitat.  And then it will just be the bugs, until it gets too hot on the planet for them to survive. What a splendid future for our descendants.

Stop before it's too late



Monday, May 1, 2017

Sign NOW to urge the White House to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement!

Urge the White House to Stay In and Support the Invaluable Paris Climate Agreement  http://genun.unausa.org/paris_agreement

The United States was a leader in crafting the historic Paris Climate Agreement, but now the U.S. administration is debating whether or not to back out of it. It’s up to us to urge U.S. leaders to maintain our momentum in this vital climate accord.

The Paris Agreement unites all nations around a common goal for our planet: to reduce the pollution that is changing the earth’s climate and causing dangerous global warming that affects human health and our environment. But U.S. participation in the agreement is under threat.

No nation can afford to slow its efforts in the fight against global warming, which is already impacting the United States and countries around the globe.This isn’t just about the environment – this is about health, jobs, national security, the economy, and so much more.

The United States can’t afford for other countries to take the lead on the new climate economy, and the world cannot afford for the United States to abandon its role as a global leader in meeting this challenge.

The administration is currently reconsidering America's role in the climate agreement, so there’s no time to lose. We’re gathering and delivering signatures to top White House officials at the end of this month, and we need you to join us!
Add your voice NOW to urge the White House to stay in and support an ambitious Paris Agreement.  http://genun.unausa.org/paris_agreement

Sunday, April 30, 2017

EPA Wipes Its Climate Change Site as Tens of Thousands March in Washington



Protesters march away from the US Capitol on Saturday in Washington.
Washington


Thousands march through Chicago on 100th day of Trump presidency
Chicago
Toronto
One of my favorite Toronto groups....The Raging Grannies
A woman holds a sign in her right hand reading "dump trump" with a photo of trump's face crossed out on it
Boston
A lane of the highway in los angeles is packed with protesters
Los Angles

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump.
The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.
The change came a day before thousands gathered in Washington DC and other U.S. cities to protest inaction on climate change, and hours before the symbolic 100-day mark of the Trump administration. In fact demonstrations took place in many countries to protest Mr Trump's attitude.
At the marquee climate protest, the Peoples Climate March in Washington, tens of thousands made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue in sweltering heat on their way to encircle the White House. Temperatures neared 90 degrees Saturday, well above the average high of 71 degrees for April 29, according to Weather.com. It seems global warming was sending it's own message to Mr Trump.
Organizers said about 300 sister marches or rallies were being held around the country, including in Seattle, Boston, Denver and San Francisco. In Chicago, marchers headed from the city’s federal plaza to Trump Tower.
Some of the marches drew celebrity attendees, including former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the capital and senator and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders at an event in Montpelier, Vermont.
“Honored to join Indigenous leaders and native peoples as they fight for climate justice,” DiCaprio tweeted.
Any marchers who used their phones to look at the EPA climate change website would have been greeted with a message from the new administration: “ This page is being updated.”
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” said JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs.
Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.
“We want to eliminate confusion,” Freire said, “by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
Information from previous administrations is archived as a link from the EPA’s website.
The EPA is currently led by Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who has denied that carbon dioxide causes global warming.
The Trump administration has called for budget cuts of nearly one-third at the EPA and has sought to weaken protections for human health. For instance, the White House has proposed cutting funding and regulations regarding lead poisoning prevention and is considering rewriting regulations concerning smog.
It has already rolled back a law that prevented coal mining companies from dumping waste in streams.
An article written by Senator Sanders of Vermont made an economic case for a focus on industries meant to ameliorate the effects of climate change, rather than those which contribute to it.
The senator wrote: “No matter what agenda President Trump and his administration of climate deniers push, it is clear that jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors.”
The truth is that Mr Trump cannot halt progress on climate change, alternate fuels and energy sources. He cannot turn back the clock or obliterate scientific knowledge. If he thinks  he can blindside the American people he is very much mistaken; there are too many intelligent and informed citizens our there.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Plastic eating caterpillars could be the answer to plastic waste in oceans and landfills

Wax worm caterpillars in petri dish
plastic eating caterpillars

In a chance discovery, a research team from Europe has learned that a common insect larva is capable of breaking down the plastic found in shopping bags and other polyethylene-based products. This trash-munching caterpillar could inspire scientists to develop a new chemical process to tackle the growing problem of plastic waste.
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Beekeepers are all too familiar with the larvae of the moth Galleria Mellonella, also known as the wax moth. This daring insect has the audacity to lay its eggs inside of bee hives, where they hatch and thrive on beeswax. But as a new study published in Current Biology shows, these caterpillars are not just capable of breaking down beeswax, they can also break down plastic—and that’s probably not a coincidence. The chemical processes are likely similar, and researchers are now excited by the prospect of developing a biotechnological approach to the plastic waste that chokes oceans, rivers, and landfills.



Like so many other scientific discoveries, this one was assisted by a bit of luck. Study co-author Federica Bertocchini of the Spanish National Research Council happens to be an amateur beekeeper. While removing the parasitic pests from the honeycombs in her beehives, she noticed that the plastic bags she used to store the caterpillars became riddled with holes in less than an hour. Like the good scientist that she is, she decided to investigate further, recruiting biochemist Paolo Bombelli from the University of Cambridge to help out.
In experiments, the researchers exposed 100 caterpillars to a plastic polyethylene bag obtained at a UK supermarket. After just 40 minutes, holes began to appear in the bag, and after 12 hours the larvae had managed to reduce the amount of plastic by as much as 92 milligrams. That’s incredibly fast—even faster than the plastic-munching bacteria reported last year, which were capable of biodegrading plastic at a rate of 0.13 mg per day.

In subsequent tests, the researchers ground the caterpillars into a paste, smearing it onto the plastic. The bags degraded in a similar fashion, indicating that chemicals in the caterpillar’s body—likely in the gut—are responsible for the action. Naturally, this has the researchers excited, and they’ve already filed a patent on their discovery.
“If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable,” said Bombelli in a statement. “This discovery could be an important tool for helping to get rid of the polyethylene plastic waste accumulated in landfill sites and oceans.”
Indeed, plastic waste is a growing problem. Around 80 million tons of polyethylene is produced each year around the world, and it takes an inordinate amount of time—upwards of a hundred years—for this substance to degrade completely. Researchers are now looking to nature to find ways of boosting the speed at which we can degrade this stuff. In addition to bacteria, scientists have also discovered plastic-eating fungi.

Nature may have stumbled upon an answer to our plastic problem, but we still need to figure out how these creatures do it if we’re to ramp their biological processes up to an industrial scale.
“The caterpillar produces something that breaks the chemical bond, perhaps in its salivary glands or a symbiotic bacteria in its gut,” said Bombelli. “The next steps for us will be to try and identify the molecular processes in this reaction and see if we can isolate the enzyme responsible.”
Obviously, the caterpillars didn’t evolve to eat plastic. It just so happens that their wax-munching skills also work on human trash. Call it a happy accident.