and, this week in the destruction of our children’s future world
  • The Petermann ice shelf in Greenland (the northern-most glacier in the world) has lost a quarter of its mass, calving a 100 square mile iceberg now known as the “Petermann Ice Island (2010)”. Note that there is a “2010″ designation to distinguish this one from a smaller iceberg calved in 2008. Ed Markey had a good idea.

    Relevance to the pending apocalypse: Sign of global warming; loss of Arctic / sub-Arctic environments and habitats; influx of fresh water into the North Atlantic currents; Greenland is smaller.

    sources: AFP, wikipedia.

  • The drought and related fires in Russia continue, threatening, among other things, wheat prices and harvests. Relevance to environmental and social DOOM: Farmlands diverted from other crops to wheat; wheat prices increasing; and, of course, smoke from the fires may contribute to global warming as well as causing shorter-term respiratory problems.
  • Rising temperatures diminish rice harvests. It’s getting too hot at night for rice to grow. Yields have already diminished by 10-20% in some parts of the world, over the last 25 years. Need I mention that rice is the #3 staple food crop? And the primary staple food crop in Asia and Africa?
  • Rising food costs. Related to both the wheat & rice fiascos, the FAO has predicted that staple food prices will rise significantly, between 15 to 45%, over the next decade.
  • Genetically engineered pesticide-resistant strains of canola growing wild on roadsides. “Roundup Ready” and “Liberty Link” varieties have been found, and varieties resistant to both pesticides — indicating cross-breeding of the varieties. Why is this a problem? To the extent these are pest plants — weeds — they will have to be controlled with other, more toxic, pesticides, or controlled through agricultural methods (e.g., plowing) that adversely affect soil erosion. Plus, of course, once those now-wild genes start jumping, the problems will just multiply. As my partner has pointed out, one-in-a-million events happen millions of times with plant propagation.
now bats

This article (“Dark Night for Bats”, Kirsten Weir, Salon.com) compares the current wave of bat deaths with bees’ colony collapse disorder. I’d add the precipitous decline in frogs, as well.

break-break for anxiety

in the middle of a blogging break (for good reasons! welcome ada marie) i bring you this article from salon.com which is scary as fuck and makes me fear for little ada’s future:

Apocalypse Now by Mike Davis.

Davis does not buy any of the Gore-style cheerleading that we might avert a climatically disastrous future through alternative energy sources and sustainable economics. Instead, he predicts that in the new “Anthropocene” (the human-determined geological era just declared “open” by the Geological Society of London) the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and we will become a “planet of slums”.

clinton & obama on global warming

Joseph Romm analyzed both Clinton and Obama’s plans on global warming, noting that they are much better than McCain’s, who has begun teetering toward a Bush position. salon 3/15

Compare Romm’s earlier analysis of McCain’s proposals (salon 2/8)

west coast salmon collapse

Federal officials have indicated that they are likely to close the Pacific salmon fishery from northern Oregon to the Mexican border because of the collapse of crucial stocks in California’s major watershed.That would be the most extensive closing on the West Coast since the federal government started regulating fisheries.

“The Central Valley fall Chinook salmon are in the worst condition since records began to be kept,” Robert Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Ore., said Wednesday in an interview. “This is the largest collapse of salmon stocks in 40 years.”

Counts of young salmon, whose numbers have dwindled sharply for two years, were the first major indication of the problem. The number of fish that survive more than a year in the ocean, or jacks, is a marker for the abundance of full-grown salmon the next year. The 2007 count of the fall Chinook jacks from the Sacramento River was less than 6 percent of the long-term average, Mr. Lohn said.

The Central Valley salmon runs are concentrated in the Sacramento River, the focus of a water struggle between farmers and irrigation districts on one hand and environmental groups and fishermen on the other.

NYT, 3/13

Washington & Alaska fisheries are still okay, but of course this will put major pressure on them.

seed vault now open

The seed vault I wrote about last year has opened, ahead of schedule. (NYT 2/26) Bent Skovmand would be proud.

the bush administration: destroying the media environment and the real environment, again

The NYT tells us today about Kevin Martin & the FCC’s new plan to relax the cross-ownership rules, which restrict large corporations from dominating entire urban markets. And, on the same page, on the same day, a story that has all the classic hallmarks of the Bush approach to the environment: scuttle environmental protection schemes that are working, destroy wildlife, and lie about science. New battle of logging vs. spotted owls

god I’m tired. 460 more days is a very long time.

more extinctions on the way

The western gorilla is “critically endangered” — close to extinction — and all the great apes are in trouble. A number of corals have moved to more endangered positions; the Asian crocodile “Gharial” has moved to critically endangered — only 182 breeding adults in 2006. A number of vultures have declined — largely because of drugs given to livestock and intentional poisonings of carcasses. Here in North America, 90 reptile species are threatened with extinction and 738 are threatened. The Wild Apricot tree in Asia has been declared Endangered, and a Malaysian herb has officially been declared extinct.

All this is from the new report from the IUCN (World Conservation Union), which maintains a “Red List” of threatened species. The Red List of Threatened Species lists 41,415 species in all, listing the threatened species from “vulnerable”, “endangered”, to “critically endangered”. The “critically endangered” category faces an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”, based on rapid decline in population (more than 90% in last 10 years or 3 generations) or range, or extremely small numbers of mature individuals — e.g., fewer than 250.

The 2007 reports lists for “critically endangered”: 1 in 4 mammals, 1 in 8 birds, 1 in 3 amphibians, and 70% of all plants that have been studied are threatened with extinction — a total of 16,306 species in all, an increase of 188 from last year’s list of endangered species. The numbers of threatened species are increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups. Extinction rates are 100-1000 times higher than natural background rates. Species in the tropics are still at the greatest risk. Australia, Brazil, China, and Mexico hold large numbers of threatened species. Continental extinctions are becoming as common as island extinctions.

On the math: Does the “increase of 188″ count species that went extinct last year? The IUCN is not counting the Yangtze River dolphin as extinct, although the most recent survey concluded that they were likely extinct. But, say there were 10 extinctions last year, then that would be 198 species added to the critically endangered list, and 10 taken off as they were moved to extinct. Something to figure out.

I think I want a Battlestar Galactica-like survivors count for Earth. 2007 Sept. 13 CE, survivors count:

  • 6,000 species of mammal (of which the Yangtze River dolphin was one);
  • 10,000 species of birds;
  • 8,000 species of reptiles;
  • 13,000 species of freshwater species;
  • 6,000 species of amphibian.

AP 9/13 via boston.com, Red List Categories & Criteria v.3.1, Introduction to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCNredlist.org, “Extinction Crisis Escalates” (9/12 press release from IUCN).

freshwater dolphin extinction

Yangtze River freshwater dolphin
One of the last Yangtze River
freshwater dolphins.
Photo from CNN/Reuters.

One of only four species of river dolphin is officially extinct; the last member of the species probably died sometime in the last few months. Just thirteen were found in the last survey a few years ago, and the 2006 survey found none. The last member in captivity died in 2002. [Turvey et al, Journal of the Royal Society Biology Letters (2007/8/7); media coverage in CNN;
channel 4
; allheadlinenews
]

Douglas Adams wrote movingly about the Yangtze River dolphin in Last Chance to See, excerpts of which are posted at flying squid blog. The dolphins — which are extinct as a result of human activity, including the Three Gorges Dam — had a hard life over the last decades. They navigated by echolocation, and all the human activity in the Yangtze created constant white noise. It’s unspeakably sad to imagine the experiences of the last Yangtze River dolphins.

The Yangtze River dolphin is the first large mammalian species to go extinct in fifty years, and the first cetacean species to die from human causes in modern history. The other three river dolphin species are also endangered.

Incredibly fucked up.

Lake Tahoe heating up

Thank you, global warming purveyors:

Tahoe City — Global warming seems to have reached the lowest depths of Lake Tahoe, scientists warned Monday, potentially complicating plans to preserve the lake’s fabled water clarity and biological health.

A new study by researchers at UC Davis suggests the lake has heated by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit since the early 1970s, when readings began. The warming may be significantly altering the dynamics of Lake Tahoe’s cold-water upwellings and seasonal mixing of sediments and nutrients, the scientists said.

It’s the latest sign that a changing climate may be showing up in the Sierra Nevada, one of many mountain ranges around the world in which scientists are looking for the subtle impacts of global warming. No one can be certain if any given change is due to human activity, but the widely held assumption is that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are involved.

[A] warming signal is emerging in the lake’s temperature data at virtually all depths, down to as deep as 1, 300 feet.

“The lake has warmed from top to bottom over the past 30 years,” Schladow said. He said there are no local or regional factors big enough to explain the warming, even with all the development that has occurred in the Tahoe Basin in recent years.

Schladow and others said the changes are consistent with emerging data worldwide that point to an increase in temperature taking place far more rapidly than any previous change in the geologic record.

There is no reliable way to gauge Lake Tahoe’s water temperature before the 1930s. But air temperature data in the Tahoe City region go back about 90 years and show about a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase, enough to account for the increase in average water temperature and consistent with the emerging global data on climate shifts.

The data show that relatively wide swings in Lake Tahoe water temperatures are common from one year to the next, at least during the past 30- plus years of regular monitoring and some 7,300 individual measurements.

But after smoothing out the peaks and troughs, scientists said there is a clear upward tilt in the numbers, with temperatures increasing by an average of about 0.027 degree Fahrenheit a year from 1970 to 2002.

— SFGate, 12/21
Lake Tahoe warming mirrors world trend / Deep Sierra basin’s temperature rises 1 degree in 30 years

and the arctic is melting

And in more bad news from the AP [11/10], the Arctic is melting.

(more…)

monster slash

No, it’s not fanfic about Bigfoot & Yeti, together at last. Bobby “Boris” Pickett remakes “Monster Mash” to point out Bush’s slash & burn environmental policies. See monsterslash.org

Lyrics:

We were hiking in the forest late one night
When our eyes beheld an eerie sight
Our president appeared and began to frown
Then he and his friends cut the forest down.
(he did the slash)
they did the forest slash
(he did the slash)
it was brutally brash
(he did the slash)
public opinion was mashed
(he did the slash)
they did it for the cash

The lobbyists were having fun,
The horror party had just begun
The guests include big timber, big oil
Mining magnates and their sons.
These visions haunt me and fill me with disgust
If we don’t stop them our environment will be lost
So come on now and join me; I’m glad to show you how;
Tell our president to save our forests now.