As of March 2010, Google is no longer supporting FTP publishing of it's Blogger blogs. Therefore I will be consolidating all of my blogs into a single front page format that I will be experimenting with and changing from time to time until I find something I like.
Offshore Drilling: No Difference Between Obama and Bush (Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, 20 October 2009) DON'T PURCHASE ANY PRODUCTS FROM SHELL OIL COMPANY The Minerals Management Service, part of the federal Interior Department, yesterday gave Shell the green light to begin exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska in an Arctic area that is home to large numbers of endangered bowhead whales and polar bears, as well as walruses, ice seals and other species. The permission would run from July to October next year, though Shell has promised to suspend operations from its drill ship from late August when local Inuit people embark on subsistence hunting. . . . Environmentalists condemned the decision to allow drilling, saying it would generate industrial levels of noise in the water and pollute both the air and surrounding water. Rebecca Noblin, an Alaskan specialist with the conservation group the Centre for Biological Diversity, said: "We're disappointed to see the Obama administration taking decisions that will threaten the Arctic. It might as well have been the Bush administration." . . . According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, there are between 30,000 and 50,0000 bowhead whales in the world, with up to 9,000 of them feeding in the Beaufort Sea. The whales migrate twice a year through the area and are crucial to the subsistence economy of the Inupiat people. . . . Whale experts warn that the bowhead stocks are sensitive to noise and could be driven further off shore by the disruption of drilling. That in turn would have an impact on their chances of survival, which have already been harmed by early side-effects of global warming. . . . There are also fears that any drilling could lead to oil spills which would be impossible to clean up amid the Arctic's broken sea ice.
Sears Tower to Be Revamped to Produce Most of Its Own Power (SUSAN SAULNY, The New York Times, June 24, 2009) the tallest office building in the Western Hemisphere, will soon have another unique feature: wind turbines sprouting from its recessed rooftops high in the sky. . . . The building’s owners, leasing agents and architects said Wednesday that they are literally taking environmental sustainability to new heights with a $350 million retrofit of the 1970s-era modernist building — and the turbines are only the tip of the transformation. The plan, to begin immediately, aims to reduce electricity use in the tower by 80 percent over five years through upgrades in the glass exterior, internal lighting, heating, cooling and elevator systems — and its own green power generation. . . . the project is bound to be one of the most substantial green renovations ever tried on one site . . . "If we can take care of one building that size, it has a huge impact on society," said Adrian Smith, an architect whose firm designed the Sears Tower renovation. "It is a village in and of itself." . . . Buildings are among the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. After the retrofit, energy savings at the Sears Tower, which is to be renamed the Willis Tower this summer, would be equal to 150,000 barrels of oil a year.
The World's Supply of Fish is Gone! The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 70% of the world's fisheries are now fully exploited (ie, fished to the point where they can only just replenish themselves), overexploited or depleted. The majority of fish populations have been reduced by 70-95%, depending on the species, compared to the level they would be at if there were no fishing at all. In other words, only five per cent of fish are left in some cases. In more practical terms, fishermen are catching one or two fish per 100 hooks, compared to 10 fish per 100 hooks where a stock is healthy and unexploited - a measure of sustainability once used by the Japanese fleet. In England and Wales, we are landing one fish for every 20 that we landed in 1889, when government records began, despite having larger vessels, more sophisticated technology and trawl nets so vast and all-consuming that they are capable of containing 12 Boeing 747 aircraft. . . . Where have all those other fish gone? In short, we have eaten them. "Tens of thousands of bluefin tuna used to be caught in the North Sea every year," says Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of York. "Now, there are none. Once, there were millions of skate - huge common skate, white skate, long-nosed skate - being landed from seas around the UK. The common skate is virtually extinct, the angel shark has gone. We have lost our marine megafauna as a consequence of exploitation." . . . Worse still, after stripping our own seas bare, we have "exported fishing capacity to the waters of developing countries", Professor Roberts warns. Off Mauritania, Senegal and other West African countries, fleets from the rich industrial north are "fishing in a totally unsustainable way with minimal oversight by European countries". In return for plundering the oceans, which deprives local people of food, and artisanal fishermen of their livelihood, these vessels pay minimal fees that impoverished countries are happy to accept. "It is a mining operation," Professor Roberts says, "a rerun of the exploitation of terrestrial wealth that happened in colonial days. This is colonialism in a new guise, albeit with a respectable cloak in the form of access agreements." . . . Such is the human feeding frenzy, there may come a time when there are no fish left to catch. In 2006, a study in the US journal Science warned that every single species we exploit would have collapsed by 2048 if populations continued to decline as they had since the 1950s. By 2003, nearly a third of all species had collapsed, the study found - meaning their numbers were down 90% or more on historic maximum catch levels. Extrapolate that on a graph, and the downward curve reaches 100% just before 2050.
If you want to learn a great deal about the blue whale, things that you can easily remember, just click the link above. This is by far the best interactive whale site I have come across.
One day, when I was at sea with the U.S. Navy, we came upon two blue whales who were floating on top of the sea, apparently sunning themselves. We cut our engines and coasted by them not more than 20 yards away. To my dying day, I will never forget looking directly into one of their eyes. That eye seemed to be as big as me, and I am sure we communicated in some way. ... It was one of the most beautiful and memorable events of my life.
Flooding is already a fact of life in Samut Prakan, this urban port roughly 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Bangkok proper. While many Thais shrug off the flooding as an inconvenience, the country's top disaster specialist sees doom in the rising waters. . . . "Right now, nothing is being done," says Meteorologist Smith Dharmasaroja, head of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center. "And if nothing is ever done? Bangkok will be flooded." . . . By 2030, much of Bangkok will lie under 1.5 meters (5 feet) of seawater, Smith says. It's a claim made doubly ominous by his history of predicting natural disasters. . . . Polar ice melting has the world's sea level rising at more than one-tenth of an inch per year, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Bangkok's steel and concrete buildings, which weigh down on soft clay underneath, are causing the capitol to sink more than 3 inches per year on average, Smith says. And many natural flood buffers, such as coastal mangroves, were replaced with cement long ago. . . . Those factors will conspire, Smith says, to flood Bangkok with seawater. By his math, the low-lying city will take on more than .75 meters (2.5 feet) of water every 10 years. Along Bangkok's posh riverfront - a promenade of deluxe apartments and hotels - city workers are already dispatched to brace the shoreline with sandbags. "This is not a solution," Smith says. "It's temporary and it's a waste of time." . . . At Samut Prakan, practically walking distance from Bangkok's city limits, riverside pavilions are draped with ugly rubber tubing. The bay view is spoiled by gas-powered generators and their corroded pipes, which gush floodwaters over the plaza's railing. The city floods a little almost every morning at high tide, said Sarawut Kankamneard, a glassmaker who lives nearby. "When tide is high, water pressure builds up," he said. "It floods the sewers and runs into the city."
Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary white-skinned Cloud People of Peru
(Daily Mail Reporter, December 4, 2008) A lost city discovered deep in the Amazon rainforest could unlock the secrets of a legendary tribe. . . . Little is known about the Cloud People of Peru, an ancient, white-skinned civilisation wiped out by disease and war in the 16th century. . . . But now archaeologists have uncovered a fortified citadel in a remote mountainous area of Peru known for its isolated natural beauty. . . . It is thought this settlement may finally help historians unlock the secrets of the 'white warriors of the clouds'. . . . The tribe had white skin and blonde hair - features which intrigue historians, as there is no known European ancestry in the region, where most inhabitants are darker skinned. . . . The citadel is tucked away in one of the most far-flung areas of the Amazon. It sits at the edge of a chasm which the tribe may have used as a lookout to spy on enemies. . . . The main encampment is made up of circular stone houses overgrown by jungle over 12 acres, according to archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez. . . . Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications and next to the dwellings are platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and plants for food and medicine. . . . The Cloud People once commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringes of Peru's northern Amazon jungle, before it was conquered by the Incas. . . . Named because they lived in rainforests filled with cloud-like mist, the tribe later sided with the Spanish-colonialists to defeat the Incas. . . . But they were killed by epidemics of European diseases, such as measles and smallpox. . . . Much of their way of life, dating back to the ninth century, was also destroyed by pillaging, leaving little for archaeologists to examine. . . . Remains have been found before but scientists have high hopes of the latest find, made by an expedition to the Jamalca district in Peru's Utcubamba province, about 500 miles north-east of the capital, Lima. . . . Until recently, much of what was known about the lost civilisation was from Inca legends. . . . Even the name they called themselves is unknown. The term Chachapoyas, or 'Cloud People', was given to them by the Incas. . . . Their culture is best known for the Kuellap fortress on the top of a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Incas' Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later. . . . Two years ago, archaeologists found an underground burial vault inside a cave with five mummies, two intact with skin and hair. . . . Chachapoyas chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon wrote of the tribe: 'They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas' wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple. . . . 'The women and their husbands always dressed in woollen clothes and in their heads they wear their llautos [a woollen turban], which are a sign they wear to be known everywhere.' . . . The Chachapoyas' territory was located in the northern regions of the Andes in present-day Peru. . . . It encompassed the triangular region formed by the confluence of the Maranon and Utcubamba rivers, in the zone of Bagua, up to the basin of the Abiseo river. . . . The Maranon's size and the mountainous terrain meant the region was relatively isolated.
[Click the link above to view photos of this discovery.]
A major nature reserve is to become one of the first casualties of the rising seas around Britain. . . . Part of Titchwell Marsh, a favourite spot for birdwatchers on the north Norfolk coast, is to be sacrificed to the waves to save the rest of the site from destruction. . . . The site, owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, has seen its sea defences starting to give way after years of coastal erosion, exacerbated by global sea level rises, according to Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's Director of Conservation. . . . Visited by about 90,000 people a year, Titchwell is home to rare species such as bitterns, avocets, bearded tits and marsh harriers, and in spring and autumn hosts migrating wading birds such as ruffs and curlew sandpipers. But coastal erosion has put the reserve's mixture of brackish and freshwater marshes and reedbeds at risk of inundation, as the sea walls protecting the northerly part of the site are being undercut. . . . "The erosion has been going on for years but it is being accelerated by sea level rise, so we have to act earlier than we would have had to," said Dr Avery. . . . Sea levels are rising because of climate change. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates sea levels are rising at a rate of about 3.1 millimetres per year.
Primates 'face extinction crisis' (Mark Kinver, BBC News, 5 August 2008) A global review of the world's primates says 48% of species face extinction, an outlook described as "depressing" by conservationists. . . . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species says the main threat is habitat loss, primarily through the burning and clearing of tropical forests. . . . More than 70% of primates in Asia are now listed as Endangered, it adds. . . . The findings form part of the most detailed survey of the Earth's mammals, which will be published in October. . . . "In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction," he warned. . . . "Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still quite intact." . . . "It is quite spectacular; we are just wiping out primates," said Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN Species Programme. . . . He added that the data was probably the worst assessment for any group of species on record. . . . "The problem with these species is that they have long lives, so it takes time to reverse the decline. It is quite depressing."
Largest Ecological Restoration in the Country's History (DAMIEN CAVE and JOHN HOLUSHA, New York Times, June 25, 2008) In a deal that environmental groups said would be the largest ecological restoration in the country's history, a plan for the state to buy the nation's largest producer of cane sugar was announced Tuesday by the governor and officials of U.S. Sugar Corporation. . . . The intention is to restore the Everglades by restoring the water flow from Lake Okeechobee, in the heart of the state, south to Florida Bay. That flow had been interrupted by commercial farming and the Everglades have suffered as a result. . . . Under term of the tentative deal, U.S. Sugar would continue farming and processing for six more years before closing the business and allowing 187,000 acres of land to return to its natural state. For its part the state would pay U.S. Sugar $1.7 billion. . . . Governor Charlie Crist said the deal was "as monumental as the creation of the nation's first national park, Yellowstone." . . . Environmental groups hailed the undertaking. "This is putting it back the way it was in 1890," said David Guest, a lawyer with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "When you come back in 20 years, it will look indistinguishable from the way it looked before the white man."
Trashy Bags: A brilliant environmental solution Thinking of plastic packaging in a different way can bring many benefits. The problem with packaging is that after its original role has been fulfilled it is considered to be without any value. Creative and innovative solutions can be found however, that can add value to this seemingly valueless material and at the same time prolong its life by incorporating it into other products.
One such solution is to collect the discarded plastic drink sachets that are found in abundance in Ghana, West Africa, and without expending much energy (unlike some recycling solutions) patch them together and use them as the material for bags and other products. This is how we make Trashy Bags.
By encouraging people around Ghana to collect millions of discarded plastic sachets and paying them a collection fee for each batch of a thousand that they collect we are not only helping to clean up the environment but also providing casual and supplementary employment to people who otherwise would be out of a job or below the poverty threshold. In addition we are teaching people that the sachets can have an inherent value of their own and should be saved rather than discarded indiscriminately.
Once received we wash the sachets three times before disinfecting and drying them and sorting them into different types before storage, ready for sewing together and assembling into unique and useful bag designs such as brief cases, backpacks and tote bags.
Every bag that we sell is an opportunity for us to educate and inform people about the dangers of littering the environment by including a simple leaflet with every bag. We also encourage people to collect sachets and inform them where to find our collection points.
The Trashy Bags workshop is based in Madina a poor suburb of Accra and employs and trains people from the local area. This is helping to reduce the area's high rate of unemployment and bringing badly needed enterprise to Madina.
Giant Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapses (National Geographic, March 25, 2008) New satellite images reveal what scientists call the "runaway" collapse of an enormous ice shelf in Antarctica as the result of global warming. . . . The chunk of coastal ice was some 160 square miles (415 square kilometers) in area—about seven times the size of Manhattan. . . . The shelf's rapid collapse began on February 28 (see image sequence at top right), sending a giant swath of broken ice into the sea (detail at bottom). . . . "[It's] an event we don't get to see very often," Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, said in a press statement. . . . "The collapse underscores that the [Wilkins Ice Shelf] region has experienced an intense melt season. Regional sea ice has all but vanished, leaving the ice shelf exposed to the action of waves." . . . David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey noted that the larger formation from which the chunk detached—the Wilkins Ice Shelf—could itself collapse in 15 years. . . . "Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on West Antarctica yet to be threatened," Vaughan said in the statement. "This shelf is hanging by a thread." . . . As summer in the Southern Hemisphere draws to a close, further disintegration of the shelf seems unlikely, Scambos added. . . . "But come January, we'll be watching to see if the Wilkins continues to fall apart," he said.
[PHOTO courtesy of National Geographic via above link.]
Antarctic shelf 'hangs by thread' (Helen Briggs, BBC News, 25 March 2008) A chunk of ice the size of the Isle of Man has started to break away from Antarctica in what scientists say is further evidence of a warming climate. . . . Satellite images suggest that part of the ice shelf is disintegrating, and will soon crumble away. . . . The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been stable for most of the last century, but began retreating in the 1990s. . . . Six ice shelves in the same part of the continent have already been lost, says the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). . . . Professor David Vaughan of BAS said: "Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened. . . . "I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread - we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be." . . . Jim Elliott, who was on board the plane, said he had never seen anything like it before. . . . He said: "We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage. . . . "Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble - it's like an explosion." . . . A 41-by-2.5km (25-by-1.6 mile) berg appears to be breaking away, with much of the Wilkins Ice Shelf protected only by a thin strip of ice spanning two islands. . . . Since an ice shelf is a floating platform of ice, the break-up will have no impact on sea level. But scientists say it heightens concerns over the impact of climate change on this part of Antarctica. . . . "What we're actually seeing is a chunk of the ice shelf drop off in a way that suggests it is not just a normal part of iceberg formation. . . . "This is not a sea level rise issue, but is yet another indication of climate change in the Antarctic Peninsula and how it is affecting the environment."
Asteroid to make close approach (BBC News, 29 January 2008) A asteroid some 250m (600ft) across is about to sweep past the Earth. . . . There is no chance of it hitting the planet, but astronomers will train telescopes and radar on the object to learn as much about it as they can. . . . The asteroid - which carries the rather dull designation 2007 TU24 - will pass by at a distance of 538,000km (334,000 miles), just outside Moon's orbit. . . . Scientists who study so called near-Earth objects say similar-sized rocks come by every few years. . . . The moment of closest approach for 2007 TU24 is 0833 GMT. The asteroid is only expected to be visible through amateur telescopes that are three inches (7.6cm) or larger. . . . Detailed observations of 2007 TU24 could reveal whether the asteroid is a solid object or simply a loose pile of space rubble. . . . Given the estimated number of near-Earth asteroids of this size (about 7,000 discovered and undiscovered objects, says the US pace agency), an object similar to 2007 TU24 would be expected to pass this close to Earth, on average, about every five years or so. . . . The average interval between actual Earth impacts for an object of this size would be about 37,000 years, Nasa adds. . . . A little over a year-and-a-half ago, a 600m-wide (2,000ft) asteroid known as 2004 XP14 flew past the Earth at just about the Earth-Moon distance.
Our oceans are under attack, and approaching a point of no return. Can we survive if the seas go silent?
The 25 years I’ve spent at sea filming nature documentaries have provided a brief yet definitive window into these changes. Oceanic problems once encountered on a local scale have gone pandemic, and these pandemics now merge to birth new monsters. Tinkering with the atmosphere, we change the ocean’s chemistry radically enough to threaten life on earth as we know it. Making tens of thousands of chemical compounds each year, we poison marine creatures who sponge up plastics and PCBs, becoming toxic waste dumps in the process. Carrying everything from nuclear waste to running shoes across the world ocean, shipping fleets spew as much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the entire profligate United States. Protecting strawberry farmers and their pesticide methyl bromide, we guarantee that the ozone hole will persist at least until 2065, threatening the larval life of the sea. Fishing harder, faster, and more ruthlessly than ever before, we drive large predatory fish toward global extinction, even though fish is the primary source of protein for one in six people on earth. Filling, dredging, and polluting the coastal nurseries of the sea, we decimate coral reefs and kelp forests, while fostering dead zones. . . . "The root cause of this crisis is a failure of both perspective and governance," concludes the seminal Pew Oceans Commission’s 2003 report to the nation. "We have failed to conceive of the oceans as our largest public domain, to be managed holistically for the greater public good in perpetuity." Instead, we have roiled the waters, compromising the equilibrium that allowed our species to flourish in the first place, and providing ourselves with a host of challenges that will test our clever brains and our opposable thumbs as never before. Afloat on arks of dry land, we sail toward a stormy future. . . . No one knows if we’re instigating another ice age. But what we do know is that the tropical ocean is saltier than it was 40 years ago, and the polar ocean fresher. Furthermore, this salinity differential accelerates the earth’s freshwater cycle—creating faster rates of evaporation and precipitation, which release more water vapor into the atmosphere, thereby increasing the greenhouse effect and invigorating the global warming that caused the whole problem in the first place. . . . Fishing provides a vivid illustration of the differences in our attitudes toward the land and the sea. Nowadays we refrain from indiscriminately mowing down wildlife for food; imagine slaughtering lions by the hundreds or bears by the hundredweight, along with all the antelope, deer, wolves, raccoons, and wildebeest around them, in government-funded operations, no less. Yet that’s what we do at sea, with the world’s nations subsidizing 25 to 40 percent of total global fishing revenues. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that $8 billion in revenue and 300,000 jobs could be created simply by better management of U.S. fish stocks, not by continuing subsidies of fishers, their boats, and their gear. . . . Increasingly, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as DDT and PCBs are being found in such high levels in marine animals that some living creatures meet our definitions of toxic waste, including many whales, dolphins, and seals. Female mammals off-load POPs in their breast milk, lessening their own toxic load while poisoning their children. Perhaps consequently, killer whale calves from Puget Sound and the Canadian Southwest are dying in the first year; adult male orca, which have no off-loading capabilities, are also dying off. In 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed this population as endangered. Currently, there is no such listing for the people who rely on marine mammal meat, even though the accumulation of POPs in the tissues of Greenland Inuits has nearly reached levels known to suppress the immune system.
I wonder what this is? I have also viewed this apparent object using Google Earth, which it seems to me would be a difficult place to insert a hoax. Check it out for yourself. It is at 70 33' 07.67" N, 40 02' 17.71" W.