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Showing posts from October, 2011

World Population Reaches 7 Billion October

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By B. McPherson

The world human population is predicted to reach 7 billion people by the October 31. The UN predicts that this will swell to over 9 billion in 40 years and predictions are that by this century’s end it will grow to a staggering 10 billion plus people on this planet. This trend started about 700 years ago but has gained momentum, especially after the end of WWII. Many different things have contributed to the exponential increase in human numbers over the past 60 years. The advent of antibiotics saved many lives from death by infection. Before the widespread availability of penicillin, infections were the leading cause of death. Pneumonia was nicknamed “the old man’s friend”. Advances in medical treatments and development of effective vaccines allowed many children to grow up, marry and have children of their own. Currently an estimated one billion people go to sleep at night hungry and malnourished. Children deprived of a good diet often suffer brain damage and stunted g…

NOAA Scientist Martin Hoerling Paints Picture of Increasing Drought in Mediterranean

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By B. McPherson
The area of the Mediterranean Sea east to Iran usually receives the bulk of its rainfall in the wintertime. According to figures released by NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, the last 20 winters have had 10 extremely dry winters in that area.  This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.” NOAA NewsAs the water temperature of the oceans increases due to planet warming, the atmosphere responds. When the Indian Ocean warms in response to planetary temperatures, it tends to push the weather systems north into central and northern Europe which then receive  more precipitation while the arid south receives less. The NOAA scientists use data from many sources to reach their conclusions.
The natural climate fluctuations may or may not be affected by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. Humans may not be causing the Earth’s climate to shift from a co…

NOAA Scientist Martin Hoerling Paints Picture of Increasing Drought in Mediterranean

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By B. McPherson
The area of the Mediterranean Sea east to Iran usually receives the bulk of its rainfall in the wintertime. According to figures released by NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, the last 20 winters have had 10 extremely dry winters in that area.  This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.” NOAA NewsAs the water temperature of the oceans increases due to planet warming, the atmosphere responds. When the Indian Ocean warms in response to planetary temperatures, it tends to push the weather systems north into central and northern Europe which then receive  more precipitation while the arid south receives less. The NOAA scientists use data from many sources to reach their conclusions.
The natural climate fluctuations may or may not be affected by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. Humans may not be causing the Earth’s climate to shift from a co…

How Deadly Is the Ongoing Disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Station?

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By B. McPherson

The catastrophe that hit Japan this last March continues. The combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation has made 2011 a most deadly year for the Japanese. New figures being released show that the radiation release from nuclear plant Fukushima Daiichi was probably twice as high as initially thought. Apparently, the Japanese government failed to measure the amount of radioactive particles that were released into and over the ocean, only taking into consideration that which fell on the surrounding land.
Andreas Stohl, of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, said measurements taken from a global network of sensors showed that the plant had released 36,000 terabecquerels of caesium-137 between 11 March and 20 April.The Guardian UK
New figures being made public show that there was a massive release of cesium 137 into the ocean. This element is radioactive and takes 30 years for half of it to decay to a non-radioactive substance. This constitutes the larg…

Floods in Italy Turn Deadly

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By B. McPherson

Violent weather assaulting Italy turned deadly in the Tuscany region when flash floods churning through towns killed at least 24 people(source: BBC News). Five people remain missing. About 40 000 people have been displaced. Torrential rains hit Italy from the Tuscany region south to Sicily. Some places received upwards of 99 mm of rain in a short time.
As the rains ease, some Italians have been able to return to their homes, but about half of those displaced remain homeless. The River Po which empties into the Adriatic Sea is expected to crest this weekend. The Gran San Bernardo tunnel linking Switzerland to Italy has been reopened.
This series of storms battered Switzerland as well, resulting in the deaths of 11 people. A village was destroyed when a mudslide crashed down on it.
In addition to the loss of human life, Italy is adding up the destruction done to historic buildings. Damage to farmland and crops is widespread. The clean up bill is estimated to be $2.6 billion(…

Kuwait is Turning to Solar and Wind Electrical Production

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By B. McPherson

In a move that surprises many at first glance, Kuwait is turning to solar and wind generation of electricity. At second glance it is a smart move to free up moreoil for export. Kuwait is aiming at producing about 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Currently there are no large solar or wind arrays in the country, but tenders have been let for plants. Kuwait is currently the fifth largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel, but they are finding that demand within their own country is rising steadily and using up a big chunk of oil that could be exported. Currently about a half million barrels of oil per day are used to keep the lights on in Kuwait City and surroundings. During the hot summer months, Kuwait imports natural gas to augment the fuel needed to run air conditioners.
At the Lebanon Sustainability Week held last June, some of these ambitious plans were presented. Solar powered desalination plants were also on the drawing boards. The desalination plants a…

Ecuador People Take Action Against Texaco/Chevron Pollution

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By B. McPherson


Members of the Cofan indigenous people are joining in a multibillion dollar lawsuit against the Texaco oil company, now sold to Chevron to force clean up of highly polluted land. When Texaco was drilling for oil in the Ecuador rain forest, they dumped at least 18 billion gallons of run off onto local lands. Pits designed to sequester toxic sludge were left unlined and uncovered. Local rivers, sources of drinking water and food became poisoned. When Chevron took over Texaco in 2001 they inherited the problems. A legal action taken against them in the US failed. The new lawsuit is being progressed in Ecuador. Steven Donziger, acting as legal counsel for the Cofan tribe is quoted in Al Jazeera:

Texaco created a system where they dumped literally billions of gallons of toxic waste water", said Steven Donziger, legal counsel.
Donziger, who represents the plaintiffs, says the dumping saved the company billions of dollars in operating costs.Al Jazeera

On the other hand the …

Dead Birds in Ontario Being Investigated

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By B. McPherson The death of about 6 000 dead waterfowl in Ontario, Canada’s Georgian Bay region is being investigated. The dead birds are scattered along the shoreline of Lake Huron, having been washed ashore. The initial explanation for the die off is blaming the presence of the botulin toxin. At this time of year, the bacterium Clostridium botulinum reproduces in conditions that allow a buildup of the botulin toxin. Fish are killed by the toxin and it is thought that this episode of bird die off results from the birds eating the poisoned fish. The Ministry of Natural Resources for Ontario will test the birds for other causes of their death, but pointed out that bird kills at this time of year in the Great Lakes are not uncommon, citing an event about ten years ago in Lake Erie that saw 25 000 birds killed by botulism. Homeowners along the shoreline are being advised to keep a tight rein on their pets to prevent them from eating fish or birds dead from this toxin. The provincial autho…

Amazon Highway Hits a Roadblock

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Deadly Virus Spreading From BC Fish Farms to Wild Salmon

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US Politicos Deny that Oil is the Reason for US Troops in Uganda

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Keystone Pipeline Controversy Won’t Go Away

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by B. McPherson
The Keystone Pipeline controversy is getting larger rather than dying down. It threatens to become an election issue in the next US presidential elections.  The Keystone Pipeline is proposed to carry heavy oil from the northern Alberta oil sands, south to Texas for refining. Over the course of the pipeline, it would pass over many sensitive environmental regions. There is some oil pipeline infrastructure already in place supplying some areas of the US, but this new route would be more direct. Unfortunately, the route goes through the Nebraska Sand Hills where the crucial aquifer known as the Oglalla Aquifer is near the surface and vulnerable to pollution. For a good map showing the proposed route, refer to the Washington Post offering.
While Canada is going ahead with the development of the massive oil sands, people remain divided within that country. In addition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, a route for another oil pipeline has been proposed through the Great Bear Ra…

GMO Salmon May Have Hit Roadblock

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By B. McPherson The approval in Canada of GMO super salmon may have hit a roadblock. The environmental watchdog for Canada is deciding whether to allow the manufacture of Atlantic salmon eggs that also contain genes from the Pacific Chinook salmon as well as a little known fish call a sea pout. The research facility for AquaAtvantage salmon is located in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island(PEI) and the company wishes to convert to commercial production of the transgenic eggs. The salmon eggs are engineered to produce salmon that will grow twice as fast as normal salmon. These GMO animals were reviewed last year by the USA’s Federal Department of Agriculture(FDA) and given tentative approval – not expected to be harmful to eat and have little effect on the environment. According to information in the Vancouver Sun newspaper, these fish, manufactured by AquaBounty Technologies would become the first GMO animals deemed safe to eat.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Agency(…