Posts

Showing posts from May, 2014

Greenpeace makes move on Arctic drillers

Image
B. McPherson
Greenpeace activists made a couple of bold moves this week in their efforts to save the Arctic from oil pollution. They have boarded two vessels that were on their way to drill during the short Arctic summer.
The drill rig GSP Saturn was boarded when it was in a Netherlands harbour, preventing its departure to drill for the Russian firm Gazprom. You may remember that when the Greenpeace activists attempted to board a drill rig once it was drilling in the Arctic, they were arrested and their ship was impounded. Many were kept in questionable circumstances until Russian president Putin pardoned them just before the Winter Olympics and just before seizing the Crimean Peninsula. This time, the move was made in Europe where the courts are more hospitable to defenders of the environment.
The other vessel boarded was the Norwegian Transocean Spitsbergen owned by Statoil. It is stationed in the Barents Sea.
It is believed that a bonanza of oil lies beneath the Arctic Ocean. Whi…

HRW Exposes American Tobacco Fields Use of Child Labour

Image
B. McPherson

Human Rights Watch has issued a report exposing the plight of child farm workers on America’s tobacco farms. Children as young as seven  have been found working  in the tobacco industry.  As HRW points out in its May report Tobacco’s Hidden Children the law in the States prohibits the purchase and consumption of tobacco products to those under 18, but allows field workers as young as 12 to work tobacco. The usual age for the children to begin work in the fields is 13, usually to help the family earn enough to live.
Most children were paid minimum wage for the area, usually $7.25 an hour, but others were paid piecework depending on productivity. Deductions in the pay were made for drinking water or other unexplained reasons.
All tobacco workers are exposed to nicotine and pesticides. A sickness known as Green Tobacco Sickness which causes nausea, vomiting and headaches is consistent with nicotine poisoning. Those youngsters who are still growing and developing are the mos…

CFL’s Dirty Little Secret

Image
B. McPherson
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are in most people’s homes in Europe and Canada. Governments mandated the switch from conventional incandescent light bulbs to the CFLs in order to save electricity. Incandescent bulbs are no longer available for sale.
There was a bit of a hullaballoo about infringement on choice, but generally the old style hot bulbs were consigned to history. Some people bought lifetime supplies of their favorite hot bulbs. They were generally regarded as slightly touched. Perhaps it was ourselves who were.
Environmentalists pointed out that the CFLs contained mercury, a toxic heavy metal. The safe disposal of the new bulbs was going to be a problem. We were assured that there was so little mercury in them that it would never be a problem. Your old light bulbs main hazard was the possibility of broken glass, so wrapping in newspaper and placing in the garbage was sufficient.
In the province where I live, BC, the electrical company advises consumers to ta…

Climate Warming Will Change Our Coastlines

Image
B. McPherson
There continues to be a small minority of people who refuse to recognize the changes in our world’s climate. The change is not consistent world wide, but the trend is towards a warmer world. Because much of our planet is covered by oceans, the ability to plan for a warmer world is extremely important.
As long as humans have been trading, the importance of sea ports has grown. With the predictions of sea level change by the end of this century reaching at least 8 inches(0.2m) and possibly as much as 6.6ft.(2m) coastal cities need to start preparations now for the changes that are coming. Some have in Europe with London and Venice installing barriers to protect against storm surges.
According to NOAA’s predictions some US areas will be affected more than others by rising sea levels. Alaska and the US Pacific Northwest are still rebounding from the last ice-age, so the land is rising. Other areas of the US are not so lucky. Chesapeake Bay area is subsiding as is the Gulf C…

Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest Average

Image
B. McPherson Graphic showing the year over year average of atmospheric CO2. Blue dot Antarctic, red Hawaii Carbon dioxide levels recorded at the mountain top observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, show a continuing trend higher. Scientific measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide were started in 1958 by a scientist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and have continued under NOAA. While the current measurements are taken in Hawaii at elevation and global averages vary by location and season, one trend is obvious. The atmospheric load of carbon dioxide is increasing. April saw the highest CO2 average to date recorded at 400 parts per million(ppm).
Some of this increase may be due to the northern hemisphere experiencing winter. Plant growth slows in the winter so uptake of atmospheric carbon also slows. Nevertheless, the upward trend is there and the curve is increasing.
The UN scientists have set a figure of 450ppm to limit the world to a 2 to 3 degree Celsius(3.6 F) average increase…

Dead Blue Whales Raising Big Stink in Newfoundland

Image
B. McPherson
Three dead blue whales have washed ashore in Newfoundland. These behemoths died this past winter when they and six of their pod were trapped in sea ice. Usually when whales die they sink to the bottom and provide nutrients to the other ocean dwellers. These ones floated long enough to land on three different beaches.
What is the problem with that? These whales are endangered and this gives everyone in the villages a rare chance to see one. The whales are massive. A fully grown blue whale can reach 30 metres(98 ft) in length and weigh 170 tonnes(190 tons). As it starts to decompose, that’s a huge amount of rotten meat.
As the decomposition continues, bacteria are generating methane gas. The whales’ skin is still holding the gases in, so the whales are slowly inflating and beginning to look like the Goodyear blimp. While local children are fascinated by the procedure, adults are beginning to worry that the carcasses will explode. It is not a fantasy. A scientist sent to au…

Twix Chocolate Bars Threatened by Indonesian Drought

Image
B. McPherson Are you killing the orangutans? Demand clean palm oil. The palm oil industry in tropical south east Asia has been hit by a severe drought. Rainfall has dropped to levels not seen in over a decade. The oil palms are very sensitive to lack of water and adapt by producing fewer and smaller fruits which, crushed, are the source of palm oil. Indonesia normally produces 86% of the world’s supply of this versatile oil.
Twix chocolate bars are a small fraction of the uses industry has for this oil. Widely used in the food industry, palm oil is also found in many cosmetics and used as biodiesel in some countries.
The two largest consumers of palm oil, India and China, are facing steep increases in the price of the commodity as production has fallen 12%. Some shortfall may be made up by competing oils produced in the Western Hemisphere, canola and soybean oil.
The agricultural industry has been hit in other areas as well with a falling off of rice and coffee production due to errat…