tagged w/ JanforGore's Community Spotlight
BY ANDREW MIGA
WASHINGTON -- More than 10 weeks after Superstorm Sandy brutalized parts of the heavily populated Northeast, the House approved $50.7 billion in emergency relief for the victims Tuesday night as Republican leaders struggled to close out an episode that exposed painful party divisions inside Congress and out.
The vote was 241-180, and officials said the Senate was likely to accept the measure early next week and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature. Democrats supported the aid in large numbers, but there was substantial Republican backing, too, in the GOP-controlled House.
"We are not crying wolf here," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., one of a group of Northeastern lawmakers from both parties who sought House passage of legislation roughly in line with what the Obama administration and governors of the affected states have sought.
Democrats were more politically pointed as they brushed back Southern conservatives who sought either to reduce the measure or offset part of its cost through spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"I just plead with my colleagues not to have a double standard," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. "Not to vote tornado relief to Alabama, to Louisiana, to Mississippi, Missouri, to - with Ike, Gustav, Katrina, Rita - but when it comes to the Northeast, with the second worst storm in the history of our country, to delay, delay, delay."
One key vote came on an attempt by Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen to add $33.7 billion to an original allotment of $17 billion in aid. That vote was 228-192 and included heavy Democratic support.
Earlier, conservatives failed in an attempt to offset a part of the bill's cost with across-the-board federal budget cuts. The vote was 258-162.
Rep. Mark Mulvaney, R-S.C., arguing for the reduction, said he wasn't trying to torpedo the aid package, only to pay for it. "Are there no savings, are there no reductions we can put in place this year so these folks can get their money?" he asked plaintively.
Sandy roared through several states in late October and has been blamed for 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage, much of it in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It led to power outages and interruptions to public transportation that made life miserable for millions, and the clamor for federal relief began almost immediately.
The emerging House measure includes about $16 billion to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the affected area. An additional $5.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency and Management Agency for disaster relief, and $2 billion is ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.
The Senate approved a $60 billion measure in the final days of the Congress that expired on Jan. 3, and a House vote had been expected quickly.
In the weeks since the storm hit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent about $3.1 billion for construction of shelters, restoration of power and other immediate needs after the late-October storm pounded the Atlantic Coast with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding.
Officials say Sandy is the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm damaged or destroyed 305,000 housing units in New York, and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted there, officials have said. In New Jersey, more than 346,000 households were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 families remain living out of their homes, according to officials.
More at the link
I cried when I read this. It's about time. Good to see money actually going to help Americans instead of sending them to die in a war. The rich got their tax cuts and the fossil fuel companies get their perks and billions in profits as they continue to destroy this planet. I hope those truly in need get the help they need now. To me those who voted against this bill are heartless human beings and that includes the one democrat.BY ANDREW MIGA
WASHINGTON -- More than 10 weeks after Superstorm Sandy brutalized... more
Andrea Germanos, staff writer
A Texas judge has temporarily halted work on part of the Keystone XL, TransCanada's tar sands pipeline, the Associated Press reports on Tuesday, representing a victorious, small step in the battle to stop the flow of the bitumen through the lone star state.
Michael Bishop explaining how the Keystone XL would destroy his property. (See video below for more.) The order comes after a suit filed by Texas landowner Michael Bishop, whose property is in the pipeline path. He told AP that TransCanada "lied to the American people" in saying that the pipeline would carry crude oil, when tar sands crude is substantially different.
"It is also a fact that the firm used coercion and intimidating tactics to obtain the property in question and that acting on the validity of their claim, I settled under duress,” Bloomberg reports Bishop as saying in an affidavit.
The judge sided with Bishop and granted a two-week restraining order. Brantley Hargrove from the Dallas Observer posts this statement from the judge:
It clearly appears from the Application and Affidavit of Plaintiff Michael Bishop, that sufficient cause exists to issue a temporary restraining order until the merits of the Application can be presented to a jury. Without a temporary restraining order, Plaintiff will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, a violation of his Constitutional rights as delineated by the Texas constitution. This Application was heard ex parte and this Order granted without notice to the Defendant because further delay cannot be redressed by the Court; because Plaintiff has lost property and because Plaintiff has been defrauded and denied his Constitutional rights.
More at the linkAndrea Germanos, staff writer
A Texas judge has temporarily halted work on part of... more
Faithful readers have been waiting more than 6 years for reality to catch up to the name of this blog. So I am delighted to report that despite those doomsayers at the New York Times and New Scientist, the United States of America, at least, is finally making some big-time Climate Progress.
How do we know? Because one of our senior negotiators at the international climate conference in Doha, Qatar, Jonathan Pershing, said so:
“Those who don’t know what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous.”
For the uninformed, here is what “enormous” climate progress — in scale and extent — looks like, according to the US Energy Information Administration:
Woo-hoo! All we need is ten more years like 2009, and we’ll achieve the catastrophe-averting 80% reduction in carbon pollution by mid-century that Obama campaigned on.
Yes, the administration is touting emissions reductions that were due in large part to the economic collapse and subsequent slow economic growth, coupled with the low price of natural gas (which itself was partly due to the unnaturally warm weather last winter and spring, as the EIA notes).
Not that the U.S. has been a total slacker in climate policy. Obama has put in place impressive fuel economy standards and made major investments in clean energy. States have pushed renewable electricity through portfolio standards. For a detailed breakdown of all the reasons for the drop in carbon pollution, see “Shale Gas And The Overhyping Of Its CO2 Reductions.”
But the “scale and extent of the effort” is minimal, at best, compared to the scale and extent of the problem.
More at the linkFaithful readers have been waiting more than 6 years for reality to catch up to the... more
It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision – “out of sight, out of mind.”
And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans. Tipping their hats to America’s impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.
Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough writes in The New York Times, he did so, “to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow him to eventually return and tackle the neighborhood’s problems anew.” There’s a moving line in Dreams from My Father where Obama writes: “I would learn power’s currency in all its intricacy and detail” and “bring it back like Promethean fire.”
Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House.
Five years ago, he was one of the few politicians who would talk about it. Here he is in July 2007, speaking in Anacostia, one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C.:
“The moral question about poverty in America — How can a country like this allow it? — has an easy answer: we can’t. The political question that follows — What do we do about it? – has always been more difficult. But now that we’re finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying.”
Barack Obama the candidate said he wanted to spend billions on a nationwide program similar to Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children Zone in New York City, widely praised for its focus on comprehensive child development. In the last three years, only $40 million have been spent with another $60 million scheduled for local community grants.
Obama’s White House team insisted their intentions were good, but the depth of the economic meltdown passed along by their predecessors has kept them from doing more. And yes, billions have been spent on direct aid to families in the form of welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and other payments. What’s needed, as Paul Tough at the Times and others say, is a less scattershot, more comprehensive program that gets to the root of the problem, focusing on education and mentoring. Not easy to do when a disaffected middle class that votes says hey, what about us? — and the wealthy one percent who lay out the fat campaign contributions simply say, so what?
Just a few days ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a report on charitable giving. Among its findings: “Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.” Responding to that study, social psychologist Paul Piff told National Public Radio, “The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become.”
Those few who dedicate themselves to keeping the poor ever in sight realize how grave the situation really is. The Associated Press reports that, “The number of Americans with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level is expected to reach an all-time high of 66 million this year.” A family of four earning 125 percent of the federal poverty level makes about $28,800 a year, according to government figures.
That number’s important because 125 percent is the income limit to qualify for legal aid, but although that family may qualify for help, budgets for legal services have been slashed, too, and pro bono work at the big law firms has fallen victim to downsizing. So it’s not surprising, the AP goes on to say, that there’s a crisis in America’s civil courts because people slammed by the financial meltdown — overwhelmed by foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases – can’t afford legal representation and have to represent themselves, creating gridlock in our justice system — and one more hammer blow for the poor.
We know, we know: It is written that, “The poor will always be with us.” But when it comes to our “out of sight, out of mind” population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible.
Speak out: that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no... more
I've been waiting for Symphony of Science to address climate change in one of their videos. Well worth the wait "We can do this... we can change the world." We just need to see that this crisis and challenge transcends borders and labels and work together as human beings!I've been waiting for Symphony of Science to address climate change in one of... more
An odd mix of environmental leaders, academics and farmers met here this month to exchange ideas about a little-known philosophy called "slow living." Its followers believe that investing in local communities and food systems helps people lead slower, more fulfilling lives -- and it may also be an important tool in combating climate change.
"If we're going to build a sustainable world, it's got to be a world where a lot of things move more slowly," said Oberlin College professor David Orr to a crowd of more than 300 people June 1. The environmental studies and politics instructor went on to call climate destabilization "the most important issue we face as humans."
One connection between slow living and climate change centers on the idea that local goods and foods travel much shorter distances to reach consumers than chain store products and fast food.
The average American meal contains imported ingredients from at least five countries, according to a 2007 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Each year, thousands of tons of produce, such as tomatoes, blueberries and asparagus, is flown into the United States from as far away as Europe and Argentina; other foods travel halfway across the world in cargo ships from Asia and Australia.
Such imports not only increase atmospheric carbon dioxide but also can hurt local farmers in the United States.
Aside from transportation-related emissions, the simple act of farming and clearing new land accounts for up to a third of global greenhouse gases released each year, according to a recent study by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. Farming locally and sustainably could be a significant opportunity to cut carbon emissions, and that's one of the big themes behind slow living.
While it seems deeply local, the slow living movement has some national and international antecedents. Some of its themes will even resonate in the United Nations' Rio+20 talks coming up in Brazil later this month. There, environmental groups, academics and some diplomats will try to make the case that economic growth has risen to a level that can no longer be sustained on the planet.
A new paper by Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich argues that "in biophysical terms, humanity has never been moving faster nor further from sustainability than it is now." In 1968, Ehrlich wrote the best-selling book "The Population Bomb," which warned of the mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation.
The term "slow living" stems from Rome, where activist Carlo Petrini started a "slow food" movement in 1986. That year, a McDonald's restaurant was slated to open near the Spanish Steps, and Petrini was so outraged that he led a campaign against the fast food giant, advocating for "slow food" instead. He eventually wrote a series of books earning him an international following, and today his nonprofit organization, Slow Food, counts 100,000 members in 1,300 chapters worldwide.
"Slow living sounds like a bunch of well-off 60-somethings enjoying fine wine and artisanal cheese ... but it's not that at all," said Ralph Meima, the director of Marlboro Graduate College's sustainability management program and a partner on the second annual Slow Living Summit.
"People are really looking around for ways to make a difference in their own lives and finding that a lot of progress can be made by thinking small and working collaboratively," Meima added. "The purpose [of the summit] was to bring people together in this region to make new connections and relationships possible."
The three-day event in Brattleboro drew nearly 400 people, including speakers like Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and a handful of prominent authors and sustainability experts. Dozens of small-scale farmers also traveled to the summit from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maine -- many of them looking for inspiration on how to improve their farming practices and form better business connections within their communities.
Sustainable farming ideas shared at the conference included building hydroponic greenhouses that double as fish farms to maximize water use and using "manure digesters" to produce biogas, which can then be used to generate electricity. Combining different farming resources is what Vern Grubinger from the University of Vermont calls a "creative economy approach."
The 'Strolling of the Heifers'
"The more you get into this, the more ideas can come out for ways to live differently," said Dottie Smith, a retiree who grows food at her home in New Hampshire. She has attended both Slow Living Summits and says all the ideas "swirl around" in her head after she leaves.
Slow living can also insulate local communities against the damaging effects of climate change, said Kate Stephenson, the executive director of Vermont's Yestermorrow Design/Build School, who spoke at one of the 60-plus workshops offered at the summit. With more extreme weather predicted in the future, small towns are likely to see increased power outages, washed-out roads and water shortages, Stephenson said.
"What are the skills that we need locally -- even on the neighborhood or village level -- to survive under those conditions? I think a lot of the folks that are here at the Slow Living Summit ... are people who are trying to learn those skills."
More at the linkAn odd mix of environmental leaders, academics and farmers met here this month to... more
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) on Thursday introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.
The amendment, S.3240, would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana," thereby allowing hemp farming to be regulated by state permitting programs, bypassing the federal government's long-standing prohibition of marijuana. A sister bill, H.R. 1831, was introduced in the House earlier this session by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
"The federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries," said Wyden in a statement on Thursday. "My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here, helping both producers and suppliers to grow and improve Oregon's economy in the process."
Seventeen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, while eight have removed barriers to its production. Still, farmers in these states are at risk of being raided by federal agents and losing their crops.
Vote Hemp, a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting the crop, is encouraging people to write and call their senators in support of the amendment and has received hundreds of supporter emails, according to National Outreach Coordinator Tom Murphy.
The organization's president, Eric Steenstra, said he thinks current hemp prohibitions stem largely from the failure of federal policy to distinguish between oilseed and fiber varieties of cannabis.
"Senator Wyden's effort is unprecedented and totally commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law, but rather the misinterpretation of existing law by the Obama administration," he said.
More at the linkSenator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) on Thursday introduced an amendment to the farm bill that... more
June 5, astronomers will witness an astronomical event that has been observed in the modern era only six times previously, a passage or transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. The next time such an event will occur is 2117, so researchers are gearing up to devote as many resources as possible to view the transit from both Earth and space. Among other things, scientists hope observations of the transit will inform efforts to detect extrasolar planets -- those around distant stars -- a feat that is achieved in part by observing the dimming of a star as a planet passes between it and the Earth.
Venus' orbit around the sun lies in a slightly different plane than the Earth's, so transits occur only rarely and in pairs. The cycle of transits is 243 years long, with intervals of 8, 105.5, 8 and 120.5 years. The last transit was in 2004 and was also heavily observed, but the upcoming transit will be the first in which astronomers also have a satellite, the Venus Express, in orbit around the planet.
When Venus is fully in front of the sun, it will be visible to the naked eye -- although one should never look directly at the sun without an approved filter to block rays that could damage the eye -- but it will dim the sun's light by only 0.1%. A similar dimming of distant stars observed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft has identified more than 1,000 potential exoplanets, but so far only about 100 of them have been confirmed as actual planets. One problem is that the eruption of sunspots can cause a similar dimming and it can be hard to distinguish between the two events. The 2004 transit of Venus occurred at a time when sunspot activity was at a minimum, but this year's event will be at a time when sunspot activity is fairly high. That should provide astronomers new insight into ways to distinguish between the two events.
The transit will begin about 3:04 p.m. PDT on June 5 and will be visible in its entirety only from the western Pacific, eastern Asia, eastern Australia and at high northern latitudes. The transit will be shown on NASA TV, which is available on many cable and satellite transmission systems, and on NASA TV's website. Astronomers from the European Space Agency will also be blogging the event from a viewing site on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen.
More at the linkJune 5, astronomers will witness an astronomical event that has been observed in the... more
* Arctic's abundant oil, gas attracts global interest
* As sea ice recedes, new trade routes open
(Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will assert U.S. interest in the Arctic, where the prospects for abundant oil, gas and new trade routes has been likened to a modern-day gold rush, when she visits the region on Saturday.
As the sea ice recedes with climate change, huge oil and gas fields are adding vast amounts to global reserves, while sea passages are opening for longer periods each year and cutting thousands of miles off trade routes between Europe and Asia.
Clinton will visit Tromsoe, a Norwegian town in the Arctic Circle, as part of an 8-day trip to Scandinavia, the Caucasus and Turkey.
She follows a host of high-profile international visitors as the region enjoys unprecedented political and economic power.
Norway has moved its military operational headquarters into the Arctic Circle, China has development plans for Iceland and countries, including Russia, are laying claim to exploration rights in the once pristine Barents Sea. Continued...* Arctic's abundant oil, gas attracts global interest
* As sea ice recedes,... more
Oyster hatcheries along the Washington and Oregon coastlines began experiencing calamitous die-offs beginning in 2006. Scientists suspected they were because of increased carbon dioxide levels in the air that were causing ocean acidification. That theory has now proved out, according to a study just published by the journal Limnology and Oceanography.
Researchers studied oysters at Oregon’s Whiskey Creek Hatchery in 2009 after the hatchery reported that oyster production had declined by as much as 80 percent in recent years. The scientists paid close attention to the seawater that had bathed the oysters. Oceans absorb a significant portion of carbon dioxide in the air and when they do so a chemical process takes place called acidification. Laboratory studies have already shown that elevated carbon dioxide changes the pH and reduces the availability of calcium carbonate in the seawater. And calcium carbonate minerals are the material that sea creatures like oysters and corals use for building shells and skeletons.
The study breaks new ground, according to its authors, because this is the first time these theories on the impact of ocean acidification that were tested in laboratories were verified on an actual commercial shellfish farm with ambient ocean waters. The findings linked the production failures of the farms to the carbon dioxide levels in the seawater in which the larval oysters were spawned and spent the first 24 hours of their lives. That is the time when oysters start to develop their first shells.
“I think that the clear take-home message from this research is that for the oceans, the Pacific Oyster larvae are the ‘canaries in the coal mines’ for ocean acidification. When the CO2 levels in the ocean are too high, they die; when we lower the CO2 levels, they live,” Richard A. Feely, a co-author of the study and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a statement released by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The center is deeply invested in the findings because in 2009, it filed a lawsuit demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency address ocean acidification in the waters off Washington State under the Clean Water Act. In a settlement, the E.P.A. agreed that states had a duty to look at the impact of ocean acidification. But the implication for sea life is national and global in scale.
“Oyster die-offs are an unmistakable warning that our oceans are in trouble and we’ve got to cut the carbon pollution if we want to have oysters, corals and whales,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the center, which last week petitioned the White House and E.P.A. to develop a national plan to address ocean acidification.Oyster hatcheries along the Washington and Oregon coastlines began experiencing... more
Every five years, the federal farm bill sets our nation's food policies -- it's the single biggest factor in determining what ends up on your plate.
Right now Congress is only providing minimal support for healthy, local and organic foods while expanding wasteful subsidies and giveaways that support the wealthiest agribusinesses -- at the expense of family farmers. This year's bill could be even worse.
The Senate Agriculture Committee just released a draft version of the 2012 Farm Bill which preserves these handouts while cutting vital conservation programs. The House version of the bill be even worse.2
It's incredibly important that Congress get this right -- so CREDO Action is teaming up with Environmental Working Group to stop the giveaway to Big Ag and support food and farm policies that protect our environment and expand access to healthy food.
Tell the Senate: Stop the giveaway to Big Ag. Pass a Farm Bill that supports local, healthy and organic food.
The Farm Bill affects everything from the food you eat to conservation and nutrition programs. And right now, vital nutrition programs that help feed low-income children and decades-old conservation programs that protect wetlands, grasslands and soil health could be on the chopping block.2
Meanwhile, Big Ag is working hard to keep open the spigot that sends billions of dollars a year in subsidies to growers of commodity crops like corn, soy and cotton. More than 74 percent of that money goes to wealthy agribusinesses, not to small-scale family farmers who need them.
The bill that emerges from the Senate Agriculture Committee will likely be the best version we can hope for right now -- as it will only get more unbalanced in negotiations with the House. It's vital that the committee members hear from you now.
Tell the Senate: Stop the giveaway to Big Ag. Pass a Farm Bill that supports local, healthy and organic food.
Thanks for supporting a healthy food system.Every five years, the federal farm bill sets our nation's food policies --... more
Symptoms of a mysterious disease that has killed scores of seals off Alaska and infected walruses are now showing up in polar bears, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on Friday.
Nine polar bears from the Beaufort Sea region near Barrow were found with patchy hair loss and oozing sores on their skin, similar to conditions found in diseased seals and walruses, the agency said in a statement.
Unlike the sickened seals and walruses, the affected polar bears seem otherwise healthy, said Tony DeGange, chief of the biology office for the USGS's Alaska Science Center. There had been no deaths among polar bears, he said.
The nine affected bears were among the 33 that biologists have captured and sampled while doing routine studies on the Arctic coastline, DeGange said.
Patchy hair loss has been seen before in polar bears, but the high prevalence in those spotted by the researchers and the simultaneous problems in seal and walrus populations elevate the concern, he said.
The USGS is coordinating with agencies studying the other animals to investigate whether there is a link, he said.
"There's a lot we don't know yet, whether we're dealing with something that's different or something that's the same," he said.
The disease outbreak was first noticed last summer. About 60 seals were found dead and another 75 diseased, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most of the affected seals are ringed seals, but diseased ribbon, bearded and spotted seals were also found.
Several walruses in northwestern Alaska were found with the disease, and some of those died as well, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The diseased seals and walruses, many of them juveniles, had labored breathing and lethargy as well as the bleeding sores, according to the experts. The agencies launched an investigation into the cause of the disease, which has also turned up in bordering areas of Canada and Russia.
Preliminary studies showed that radiation poisoning is not the cause, temporarily ruling out a theory that the animals were sickened by contamination from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
Spread of the disease among seals continues. A sickened and nearly bald ribbon seal pup was found about a month ago near Yakutat on the Gulf of Alaska coastline, according to the agency. The animal was so sick it had to be euthanized.
All of the afflicted species are dependent on Arctic sea ice and considered vulnerable to seasonal ice loss.
By Yereth Rosen
More at the linkSymptoms of a mysterious disease that has killed scores of seals off Alaska and... more
Africa is turning to desert. Studies show that as much as two thirds of the continent’s arable land could become desert by 2025 if current trends continue. But a bold initiative to plant a wall of trees 4,300 miles long across the African continent could keep back the sands of the Sahara, improve degraded lands, and help alleviate poverty. Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb reports from Senegal.
GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Now to the West African nation of Senegal where an audacious and ambitious project is underway to create a vast forest across the African continent. It’s known as the Great Green Wall. The idea is to plant 43 hundred miles of trees through 11 African nations, from coast to coast.
The Senegalese government hopes the Great Green Wall will stop the advance of the Sahara Desert southward, but as Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb reports, others see it as a way of alleviating poverty.
[CITY SOUNDS, CARS]
BASCOMB: Horses pull wooden carts alongside cars on the main streets of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Dakar sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean on a peninsula. And while it’s at least a thousand miles to the Sahara desert, the air today is thick with sand. It’s the worst sand storm in a year.
[DAKAR DRIVING SOUNDS]
[SARR SPEAKING IN FRENCH]
VOICEOVER: The rainy season is becoming shorter, it used to start in July or August, now it doesn’t start until September. The climate is definitely changing.
BASCOMB: Papa Sarr says shifting seasons and climate change could make these sand storms more common but he believes there is a solution. Sarr is the technical director for the Great Green Wall in Senegal. The goal of the project here is to plant two million acres of trees. It’s part of a larger initiative to plant a nine mile wide wall of trees, across the African continent. African leaders hope the trees will trap the sands of the Sahara.
More at the linkAfrica is turning to desert. Studies show that as much as two thirds of the... more
Evidence 'compelling' that explosion at Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in 2010 badly damaged colonies in the Gulf of Mexico
A survey of one site near the well in the Gulf of Mexico uncovered "compelling evidence" of pollution damage. Coral communities more than 1,220 metres (4,000ft) below the surface of the ocean appeared stressed and discoloured.
Tests showed that oil from the site bore Deepwater Horizon's chemical "fingerprint".
Determining the impact of oil spills at the bottom of the ocean can be difficult because oil seeps naturally from cracks in sea floor.
The explosion, in April 2010, poured an estimated 405m litres (160m gallons) of oil into the Gulf, causing a major environmental disaster.
Scientists looked at 11 deep-water coral sites three to four months after the well head was capped.
Healthy coral was found at all locations more than 12 miles from the Macondo oil prospecting site, where the blowout occurred. But at one site, seven miles south-west of the well, coral colonies presented "widespread signs of stress", including bleaching and tissue loss. Almost half of the 43 corals observed at that site showed evidence of impact.
The US scientists used an automated submersible, Sentry, and a manned robotic-armed vehicle, Alvin, to obtain images and samples at a depth of more than 1,300 metres. Their findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Charles Fisher, from Pennsylvania State University, took part in the initial dive, by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which identified the site.
He said: "We discovered the site during the last dive of the three-week cruise.
"As soon as the ROV got close enough to the community for the corals to come into clear view, it was clear to me that something was wrong at this site. I think it was too much white and brown, and not enough colour on the corals, and brittle stars.
"Once we were close enough to zoom in on a few colonies, there was no doubt that this was something I had not seen anywhere else in the Gulf: an abundance of stressed corals, showing clear signs of a recent impact. This is exactly what we had been on the lookout for during all dives, but hoping not to see anywhere."
A second, more detailed look, including six dives by Alvin, confirmed the findings.
More at the linkEvidence 'compelling' that explosion at Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in... more
Positive action for positive change...
As part of the Global Day of Action to Shut Down Monsanto on Saturday, this action was co-organized by AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, and GMO-Free Washington. The protest was directed at the Gates Foundation for their efforts to spread Monsanto’s dangerous GMOs throughout Africa.Positive action for positive change...
As part of the Global Day of Action to Shut... more
2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1
It has been a summer to remember. In winter.
Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. As Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro says of the current heat wave:
This remarkable warmth is associated with a bulging ridge of high pressure aloft that is exceptionally strong and long-lasting for March. While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell, given the nature of it and its context with other extreme weather events and patterns in recent years there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity.
This year, U.S. heat records have been outnumbering cold records by a stunning amount — 14-to-1 (19-to-1 in March) – as this chart from Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate makes clear:
Monthly ratio of daily high temperature to low temperature records set in the U.S. for every month of 2011 and the first half of March, seasonal ratio for summer and fall 2011, winter 2011-2012 to date, and annual ratio for 2011 and 2012, data from NOAA.
I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming. If you want to know the historical ratios, see the 2009 analysis, “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.,” which shows that the average ratio for the 2000s was 2.04-to-1, a sharp increase from previous decades. Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), explained, “If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even.”
As Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang notes, this week saw truly “Historic record warm weather“:
Temperatures more characteristic of June have broken hundreds of temperature records over the last several days and promise to continue into the next week in many areas. In some places, temperatures have been an eye-popping 30-40 degrees above normal, nearing or surpassing the warmest temperatures ever recorded so early in the season.
Since Sunday, an amazing 943 new record highs have been broken or tied across the U.S. compared to just 9 record lows
More at the link2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1
It has been a summer to remember. In... more
Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned last month in what he claimed was a de facto coup, warns the country will now find it difficult to make its voice heard on the global
When Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed resigned last month, many people outside the archipelago were shocked to hear the leader, famed for once holding a scuba diving underwater cabinet conference to raise the alarm on rising sea levels, may have been ousted in a de facto coup.
The country was plunged into a political crisis when Nasheed agreed to step down on 7 February amid protests against his rule. He later said he was forced to leave by an army "mutiny" and resigned at gunpoint, a claim denied by Mohamed Waheed – Nasheed’s successor and former vice president, who said the transfer of power was constitutional.
The Commonwealth has suspended the Maldives from its human rights watchdog, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, and at the time of writing is in talks with both parties to try and agree an early election date.
The new parliament was expected to reconvene today after Nasheed's supporters stymied the first attempt on 1 March by blocking Waheed from entering the house, branding the new administration a "rebel government".
Speaking in an exclusive interview with BusinessGreen, Nasheed reiterated his call for an early election, warning the unrest has undermined the Maldives' reputation. He predicted the new government would now struggle to make an impact on the global political stage, particularly in the climate change arena.
"One of the things with us, was that there was nothing the international community could say about us… We were not beating anyone up, we were not doing anything drastically wrong," said Nasheed, who was elected president in 2008, following 30 years of military rule.
"The international community also took the Maldives as a leading country in human rights, in implementing democracy… and, therefore, it was easy for us to go out and advocate with all the moral authority behind us.
"Now this government won't have the moral authority for such advocacy and, therefore, I think it's going to face a huge challenge on climate change negotiations," added Nasheed.
Nasheed’s resignation will also come as a blow to those countries arguing for swift action on climate change. He was widely hailed as a leading voice for the small island states, many of which will be the first to suffer from rising sea levels.
The 1,200 low-lying islands that make up the Maldives are home to 385,000 people, but none of the coral islands are more than 1.8 metres above sea level and they are at serious risk of being inundated if the latest scientific predictions that sea levels could rise by more than one metre by the end of the century prove accurate. Nasheed has even floated the idea of moving the resulting "climate castaways" to Australia.
The Island President, a documentary screening in London this week and nationwide from 3 April, tracks Nasheed’s first year in office, culminating in a behind-the-scenes report of his trip to the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, which includes his powerful plea to fellow negotiators to sign the Copenhagen Accord when talks were on the brink of collapsing.
But while Nasheed is no longer in a position to play a formal role at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), he told BusinessGreen he would try to attend the 18th Conference of the Parties in Qatar in December, as well as the preceding Bonn conference in May, where negotiators will hold the inaugural session of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, agreed in December last year.
“My environmental beliefs don't necessarily stand from where I hold office, so I will always campaign, but the work that I can do as president is far more substantial," he said. "So in that sense I would like to contribute to the climate change debate and I think it’s very, very important that people understand the gravity of the issue. This is not something in the future, but is something that is happening now."
More at the linkFormer president Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned last month in what he claimed was a de... more
This Thursday, March 22, is World Water Day as designated by the UN and celebrated annually since 1993. This year's theme is Water And Food Security. This video presents a primer on this important topic and crisis. Throughout the week up to March 22, I will be posting different sources of information, facts and an entry on March 22 in dedication of water/food. March 22 is a day to bring awareness of water in corrolation to our use of it and the crisis we face. Join Water Is Life this week in bringing awareness and celebrating what gives us life 365 days a year.This Thursday, March 22, is World Water Day as designated by the UN and celebrated... more