Posts Tagged ‘fish’

The food crisis and too much meat

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Today (1 June) Oxfam has published its hard-hitting report, ‘Growing a better future’. Oxfam’s research forecasts a food price rise of 70-90 percent by 2030 – and when the predicted effects of climate change are included, those price rises could double again.

There are many contributing factors behind this food crisis, which is already a tragic reality in poorer countries and a looming threat for wealthier ones. One of the scandals of our global food system is that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Compassion in World Farming believes a significant factor is the massive global growth in meat production and consumption. As Oxfam’s report points out, “higher incomes and increasing urbanization leads people to eat less grains and more meat, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Such a ‘Western’ diet uses far more scarce resources: land, water, atmospheric space.”

We use 67 billion animals a year for meat, milk and eggs, and of these, three quarters have to endure miserable lives in barren factory farms. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to dangerous climate change – and as we see above, climate change is predicted to double the price of some foodstuffs. So there is clearly an urgent need to address growth in global meat consumption:

  • Over 30 percent of global grains (including wheat and maize) and 90 percent of soya are used to feed farm animals, of whom the majority are in factory farms.
  • Converting plant protein into animal products is wasteful. It takes 20 kilos of feed to produce one kilo of edible beef, 7.5 kilos of feed for a kilo of edible pork and 4.5 kilos for a kilo of edible chicken.
  • If global demand for animal products continues to escalate, ever-increasing amounts of precious grains, and water to irrigate those crops, would be needed to fatten up ever-increasing numbers of factory farmed animals. Such a system is clearly unsustainable for animals, people and the planet.

Compassion believes that one of the easiest solutions to help remedy the situation is for those in high meat-eating populations to reduce their intake of meat and milk overall, and to choose animal products only from higher welfare systems which have paid more regard to environmental protection and animal welfare.

This would help farm animals, as reduced demand would enable a much-needed rise in animal welfare standards across the board. It would benefit human health; the World Cancer Research Funds advises a mainly plant-based diet with an upper limit of 70g of meat per person per day. It would benefit the environment too, as factory farms are highly polluting of air, land and water. And it should benefit the hungry, allowing a more equitable food supply for everyone on the planet.

Read more

Eating the Planet: Feeding and fuelling the world sustainably, fairly and humanely
This research, specially commissioned by Compassion in World Farming and Friends of the Earth, shows that we can indeed feed the world using humane and sustainable agriculture without further deforestation, without massive land use change – and without factory farming. But our options for doing so are greatly increased if high meat-eating populations reduce their consumption.

Beyond Factory Farming
This report examines the impacts of the massive global scale of livestock production. Each year we use 67 billion farm globally for meat, milk and eggs, the majority in industrial-scale farms. At the same time, the livestock population is set to double in the face of growing demand for meat and dairy products, particularly from developing countries such as China and India. The report presents solutions for a humane and sustainable farming system and provides policy recommendations for achieving this change.

The Meat Crisis: Developing more sustainable production and consumption edited by Joyce D’Silva (Director of Public Affairs, Compassion in World Farming) and John Webster (Professor Emeritus, Bristol University Vet School), Earthscan, 2010

The Meat Crisis brings together chapters from global experts to address the major issues around industrial animal farming. In brief, these are:

  • industrial animal farming’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change and the pollution of land and of rivers, lakes and seas
  • industrial animal farming’s demands on precious global resources of water, grains and soya, risking increased food insecurity for the hungry
  • the suffering imposed on the animals themselves
  • the impacts on human health of a diet high in animal products
  • the predicted doubling of demand for meat and dairy by 2050, which could mean roughly a doubling of the number of farm animals used for meat, milk and eggs per year to 120 billion, the majority of whom would be reared in confinement systems.

Interviews with some of the authors at www.ciwf.org/meatcrisis also help bring these issues to life.

Source: The food crisis and too much meat – Compassion in World Farming UK

Date: 01 June 2011

Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.

Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
be co-dependent.

“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.

Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.

Paul explains:

“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”

Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.

Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
of petroleum.

“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”

Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.

Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.

During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.

“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”

In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is  interconnected with every living being on the planet.

“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”

Source: Positive News UK

Date: 14 September 2010

Environmentalists to set up trust fund to save dolphins

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Eight wildlife conservation and environmental protection organizations from central Changhua County announced yesterday the establishment of an environmental trust fund to purchase a vast wetland to save the Taiwan Sousa, also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinesis), living along Taiwan’s west coast.

This is the first ever campaign in Taiwan launched by environmentalists to purchase state land to be reserved for the endangered animals in the form of an environmental trust, with signatures from more than 30,000 people supporting the cause.

The organizers also held a rally in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei to urge the government to respect the people’s wish to safeguard the rare dolphins, commonly known as “white dolphins” or “Mother Sea-Goddess (Matsu) Fish” for local people.

The environmentalists are concerned that the government’s possible approval for constructing a giant petrochemical complex in southwestern Taiwan will cause extensive pollution to farmland and agricultural crops while hampering animal conservation in the area.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Administration said there is no need to purchase the wetland since a panel conducting the environmental impact evaluation project has included a proposal to leave a safe swimming corridor with a width of 800 meters for the dolphins.

Source: Environmentalists to set up trust fund to save dolphins – chinapost.com.tw

Date: 07 July 2010

Carbon emissions threaten fish

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Rising acidity levels in oceans due to CO2  is affecting the behaviour of fish in the  larval stage, according to researchers.

Rising acidity levels in oceans due to CO2 is affecting the behaviour of fish in the larval stage, according to researchers.

Baby fish may become easy meat for predators as the world’s oceans become more acidic due to CO2 fallout from human activity, an international team of researchers has discovered.

In a series of experiments reported in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the team found that as carbon levels rise and ocean water acidifies, the behaviour of baby fish changes dramatically – in ways that decrease their chances of survival by 500 to 800 per cent.

“As CO2 increases in the atmosphere and dissolves into the oceans, the water becomes slightly more acidic. Eventually this reaches a point where it significantly changes the sense of smell and behaviour of larval fish,”

says team leader Professor Philip Munday of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) at James Cook University.

“Instead of avoiding predators, they become attracted to them. They appear to lose their natural caution and start taking big risks, such as swimming out in the open – with lethal consequences.”

Dr Mark Meekan from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, a co-author on the paper, says the change in fish behaviour could have serious implications for the sustainability of fish populations because fewer baby fish will survive to replenish adult populations.

“Every time we start a car or turn on the light part of the resulting CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, turning them slightly more acidic. Ocean pH has already declined by 0.1 unit and could fall a further 03.-0.4 of a unit if we continue to emit CO2 at our present increasing rate.

“We already know this will have an adverse effect on corals, shellfish, plankton and other organisms with calcified skeletons. Now we are starting to find it could affect other marine life, such as fish.”

Earlier research by Professor Munday and colleagues found that baby ‘Nemo’ clownfish were unable to find their way back to their home reef under more acidic conditions. The latest experiments cover a wider range of fish species and show that acidified sea water produces dangerous changes in fish behaviour.

“If humanity keeps on burning coal and oil at current rates, atmospheric CO2 levels will be 750-1000 parts per million by the end of the century. This will acidify the seas much faster than has happened at any stage in the last 650,000 years.

“In our experiments we created the kind of sea water we will have in the latter part of this century if we do nothing to reduce emissions. We exposed baby fish to it, in an aquarium and then returned some to the sea to see how they behaved.

“When we released them on the reef, we found that they swam further away from shelter and their mortality rates were five to eight times higher than those of normal baby fish,” Professor Munday says.

He adds it should be clearly understood that this impact is likely to happen independent of global warming, and is a direct consequence of human carbon emissions.

The research team concludes

“Our results demonstrate that additional CO2 absorbed into the ocean will reduce recruitment success and have far-reaching consequences for the sustainability of fish populations.”

Professor Munday adds

“In its 2008 report on the state of the world’s fisheries the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said “the maximum wild capture fisheries potential from the world’s oceans has probably been reached”. If you add the impact of ocean acidification and other climate change impacts to this, it means there are grounds for serious concern about the future state of world fish stocks and the amount of food we will be able to obtain from the sea.”

Source: Carbon emissions threaten fish - Sciencealert

Date: 06 July 2010

Revealed: Shocking satellite images of lakes show extent of man’s impact on world’s water supply

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

These dramatic before-and-after satellite photos show the terrifying effect man is having on the world’s resources.

Taken over nearly 40 years, photographs show the drying up of several bodies of water around the world – receding as mankind’s demand for water grows.

Included in the shocking collection is the once mighty Aral Sea in Central Asia.

The expanse of water, like several others across the globe, has been reduced to worryingly sparse levels. In April the situation at the Aral Sea was described as ‘one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters’ by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

1973: Satellite image of the Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJbT54ux

1973: Satellite image of the Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world

1999: More than 25 years on the sea has noticeably shrunk to less than half its size  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJbkxZhc

1999: More than 25 years on the sea has noticeably shrunk to less than half its size

2009: Satellite image taken last year shows a situation described as one of the planets worst  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJcJS9pj

2009: Satellite image taken last year shows a situation described as 'one of the planet's worst'

Shown here in images taken from space between 1973 and 2009, slowly but surely the Aral – in fact a salt water lake – has shrunk from being the size of Ireland to a cluster of contaminated ponds.

An inland lake, the Aral is found between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. Since the 1960s, it has lost more than half of its volume.

The drying is due to overuse of the lake’s feeder rivers. In the 1960s the former Soviet Union diverted the Syr Darya and Amu Darya for the irrigation of cotton and paddy fields.

Now 50 years later the water is at a dismal 10 per cent of its level when the projects first began.

So great was the impact on the region the local climate was thought to have changed and pollution has risen to dangerous levels.

The destruction of the lake has also decimated the local fishing industry, causing severe knock-on unemployment and further economic woe for the people living around it.

Across the globe once rich and fertile lands are facing the same catastrophe.

Arid and desolate Iraq was once a green, lush environment even reputed to be the setting of the Garden of Eden.

Seen from above between 1973 and 2000 the Mesopotamia marshlands straddle the borders between Iraq and Iran near the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

1990: Satellite image of drained areas (grey) amongst marshland (dark red) around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Darker areas show deep water  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJdKeEmO

1990: Satellite image of drained areas (grey) amongst marshland (dark red) around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Darker areas show deep water

2000: The same image shows how dramatically the water has receded in just 20 years. The rivers were drained to provide agricultural land  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJdShqna

2000: The same image shows how dramatically the water has receded in just 20 years. The rivers were drained to provide agricultural land

The marshes were systematically drained in the mid- to late 20th century. This was done to provide agricultural land, but also to destroy the habitat of the Shi’a Muslim Marsh Arabs, who were persecuted by the Iraqi ruling Ba’athist Party.

Also included in the before-and-after pictures are the Toshka Lakes, in southern Egypt.

They were formed in the 1990s by diverting water from Lake Nasser, an artificial lake formed behind the Aswan High Dam on the river Nile.

The region was planned to be a major new agricultural and industrial site for Egypt. But as these images show, the region is drying fast.

One image taken in March 2001, shows the lakes near their maximum capacity. A later satellite picture from December 2005 shows how the waters receded due to drought and rising demand for water, leaving a ring of brown wetlands around the edges of the lakes.

Lake Chad, located in the Sahel region near the Sahara, was the fourth largest lake in Africa in the 1960s and had an area of more than 10,000 square miles.

But by the 21st century it had shrunk to less than 600 square miles – around a twentieth of its size. This was caused by increased use of irrigation combined with severe droughts.

The Toshka Lakes in southern Egypt were formed in the 1990s by diverting water from Lake Nasser, an artificial lake that formed behind the Aswan High Dam on the river Nile.

The region was planned to be a major new agricultural and industrial site for Egypt but as these images show – between 2001 and 2005 – the region is drying fast.

The waters have receded, leaving a ring of brown wetlands around the edges of the lakes, because of drought and a rising demand for water in the area.

Dr Benjamin Lloyd-Hughes of the Walker Institute for climate system research, University of Reading, said: ‘Ultimately the disaster seen at the Aral Sea and the marshes are the combined effects of man and rising temperatures in those regions.

‘There has not been much change in rainfall in those areas but the temperature has risen by over 1 degree Centigrade since 1970, which will have enhanced losses due to evaporation.

‘Pollution in the area will have become worse because as the water evaporates, pollutants in the water become more concentrated and less diluted.’

At Lake Chad and the Toshka Lakes the same effect of man in combination with climate change has been observed.

Dr Lloyd-Hughes added:

‘There has been a 30% reduction in annual rainfall since 1900 in these regions but not a significant change in temperature.

‘Reductions in lake levels here seem to driven by reductions in rainfall rather than increased evaporation.

‘The outlook is that there will be no change in rainfall but temperature could increase by another two degrees Centigrade by 2100. This is not good but not so bad as for the Aral Sea and Mesopotamia.

‘Global warming is a problem that is happening everywhere but if drought is happening in your region then it is a far greater problem.’

With the growth of mass-agriculture to feed a severely ballooning global population, water demand has begun to perilously outstrip supply, making disasters like the Aral Sea a grim and alarming likelihood for the future.

Source: Revealed: Shocking satellite images of lakes show extent of man’s impact on world’s water supply – dailymail.co.uk

Date: 03 July 2010

Arctic Climate May Be More Sensitive to Warming Than Thought, Says New Study

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
From left to right, Ashley Ballantyne of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dara Finney of Environment Canada and Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature search for fossils in a peat deposit at Strathcona Fiord on Ellesmere Island in Canadas High Arctic. (Photo courtesy Dara Finney, Environment Canada)

From left to right, Ashley Ballantyne of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dara Finney of Environment Canada and Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature search for fossils in a peat deposit at Strathcona Fiord on Ellesmere Island in Canada's High Arctic. (Photo courtesy Dara Finney, Environment Canada)

A new study shows the Arctic climate system may be more sensitive to greenhouse warming than previously thought, and that current levels of Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide may be high enough to bring about significant, irreversible shifts in Arctic ecosystems.

Led by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the international study indicated that while the mean annual temperature on Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic during the Pliocene Epoch 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit, or 19 degrees Celsius, warmer than today, CO2 levels were only slightly higher than present. The vast majority of climate scientists agree Earth is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping atmospheric gases generated primarily by human activities like fossil fuel burning and deforestation.

The team used three independent methods of measuring the Pliocene temperatures on Ellesmere Island in Canada’s High Arctic. They included measurements of oxygen isotopes found in the cellulose of fossil trees and mosses that reveal temperatures and precipitation levels tied to ancient water, an analysis of the distribution of lipids in soil bacteria which correlate with temperature, and an inventory of ancient Pliocene plant groups that overlap in range with contemporary vegetation.

“Our findings indicate that CO2 levels of approximately 400 parts per million are sufficient to produce mean annual temperatures in the High Arctic of approximately 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees F),” Ballantyne said.

“As temperatures approach 0 degrees Celsius, it becomes exceedingly difficult to maintain permanent sea and glacial ice in the Arctic. Thus current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere of approximately 390 parts per million may be approaching a tipping point for irreversible ice-free conditions in the Arctic.”

A paper on the subject is being published in the July issue of the journal Geology. Co-authors included David Greenwood of Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, Jaap Sinninghe Damste of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Adam Csank of the University of Arizona, Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and Jaelyn Eberle, curator of fossil vertebrates at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History and an associate professor in the geological sciences department.

Arctic temperatures have risen by about 1.8 degrees F, or 1 degree C, in the past two decades in response to anthropogenic greenhouse warming, a trend expected to continue in the coming decades and centuries, said Ballantyne. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million during the pre-industrial era on Earth to about 390 parts per million today.

During the Pliocene, Ellesmere Island hosted forests of larch, dwarf birch and northern white cedar trees, as well as mosses and herbs, including cinquefoils. The island also was home to fish, frogs and now extinct mammals that included tiny deer, ancient relatives of the black bear, three-toed horses, small beavers, rabbits, badgers and shrews. Because of the high latitude, the Ellesmere Island site on the Strathcona Fiord was shrouded by darkness six months out of the year, said Rybczynski.

Fossils are often preserved in a process known as permineralization, in which mineral deposits form internal casts of organisms. But at the Ellesmere Island site known as the “Beaver Pond site,” organic materials — including trees, plants and mosses — have been “mummified” in peat deposits, allowing the researchers to conduct detailed, high-quality analyses, said Eberle.

Ballantyne said the high level of preservation of trees and mosses at Ellesmere Island allowed the team to measure the ratio of oxygen isotopes in plant cellulose, providing information on water absorbed from precipitation during the Pliocene and which yielded estimates of past surface temperatures. The team also compared data on the width of tree rings in larch trees at the Beaver Pond site to trees at lower latitudes today to help them estimate past temperatures and precipitation levels.

The researchers also analyzed the distribution of ancient membrane lipids from soil bacteria known as tetraethers, which correlate to temperature. The chemical structure of the fossilized tetraethers makes them highly sensitive to both temperature and acidity, or pH, said Ballantyne.

The last line of evidence put forward by the CU-Boulder-led team was a comparison of Pliocene ancient vegetation at the site with vegetation present today, providing a clear “climate window” showing the overlap of the two time periods.

“The results of the three independent temperature proxies are remarkably consistent,” said Eberle.

“We essentially were able to ‘read’ the vegetation in order to estimate air temperatures in the Pliocene.”

Today, Ellesmere Island is a polar desert that features tundra, permafrost, ice sheets, sparse vegetation and a few small mammals. Temperatures range from roughly minus 37 degrees F, or minus 38 degrees C, in winter to 48 degrees F, or 9 degrees C, in summer. The region is one of the coldest, driest environments on Earth.

“Our findings are somewhat disconcerting regarding the temperatures and greenhouse gas levels during the Pliocene,” said Eberle.

“We already are seeing evidence of both mammals and birds moving northward as the climate warms, and I can’t help but wonder if the Arctic is headed toward conditions similar to those that existed during the Pliocene.”

This is an artists rendering of the Beaver Pond site on Ellesmere Island, in Canadas High Arctic, as it may have looked about 3 to 5 million years ago. (George)

This is an artist's rendering of the Beaver Pond site on Ellesmere Island, in Canada's High Arctic, as it may have looked about 3 to 5 million years ago. (George)

Elevated Arctic temperatures during the Pliocene — which occurred shortly before Earth plunged into an ice age about 2.5 million years ago — are thought to have been driven by the transfer of heat to the polar regions and perhaps by decreased reflectivity of sunlight hitting the Arctic due to a lack of ice, said Ballantyne. One big question is why the Arctic was so sensitive to warming during this period, he said.

Multiple feedback mechanisms have been proposed to explain the amplification of Arctic temperatures, including the reflectivity strength of the sun on Arctic ice and changes in vegetation seasonal cloud cover, said Ballantyne.

“I suspect that it is the interactions between these different feedback mechanisms that ultimately produce the warming temperatures in the Arctic.”

In 2009, CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center showed the September Arctic sea ice extent was 649,000 square miles, or 1,680,902 square kilometers, below the 1979-2000 average, and is declining at a rate of 11.2 percent per decade. Some climate change experts are forecasting that the Arctic summers will become ice-free summers within a decade or two.

In addition to its exceptional preservation of fossil wood, plants, insects and mollusks, the Beaver Pond site on Ellesmere Island is the only reported Pliocene fossil site in the High Arctic to yield vertebrate remains, said Rybczynski.

Eberle said there is high concern by scientists over a proposal to mine coal on Ellesmere Island near the Beaver Pond site by WestStar Resources Inc. headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Paleontological sites like the Beaver Pond site are unique and extremely valuable resources that are of international importance,” said Eberle.

“Our concern is that coal mining activities could damage such sites and they will be lost forever.”

Source: Arctic Climate May Be More Sensitive to Warming Than Thought, Says New Study – x-journals

Date: 29 June 2010

Forest, agricultural fires threaten the Arctic: report

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Forest fires and straw and stubble burning for farmland in regions as far afield as North America and Eastern Europe have a devastating effect on the Arctic’s environment, a Norwegian study published Tuesday found.

According to the study published by the Research Council of Norway, fires in North America and Eastern Europe release persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including the toxic compound polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

These POPs, which are the result of accumulated pollution and have been stocked in North American and Eastern Europe soils over time, are now found at record levels in the Arctic, where they are brought by winds and contaminate the food chain.

PCB enters the food chain as it is stored in the fatty tissues of living organisms.

The toxic substance affects humans, fish, and carnivores such as the polar bear, already threatened by the shrinking of the Arctic ice field.

Source: Forest, agricultural fires threaten the Arctic: report – France24

Date: 1 June 2010

Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A rare Madagascan wetland bird has been declared extinct in what scientists believe may herald the beginning of a global catastrophe only recorded five times in Earth’s history.

The dying out of the Alaotra grebe, found only in Madagascar and not seen for 25 years, has led biologists to claim we are on the verge of the ‘sixth great extinction’.

The previous five cataclysmic events during Earth’s prehistory, such as the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago possibly caused by a meteorite hitting Earth, were naturally caused. This is the first time humans have been implicated in causing mass global extinction.

The Alaotra grebe has been declared extinct due to the introduction of carnivorous fish into its habitat and the use of fishing nets that caught and drowned the bird.

The disappearance of yet another type of bird has led scientists to believe that the rate at which species are vanishing from the planet could point to a period of mass global extinction.

Scientists now claim we could be on the verge of the next great extinction.

The RSPB’s international director Dr Tim Stowe said:

‘The confirmation of the extinction of yet another bird species is further evidence that we are not doing enough in the fight to protect the world’s wildlife. ‘Although there are some key successes, overall the trend is downward, bringing more species year on year to the brink of extinction and beyond.’

The inclusion of the Alaotra grebe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is the most comprehensive inventory of extinct species, comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

Bird species alone seem to be disappearing at the rate of one per decade.

The wetland bird was last seen in 1985 and its disappearance comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

The number of birds threatened with global extinction now stands at 1,240 species, according to the latest assessment.

The IUCN Red List’s update for birds, carried out by Birdlife International, said 25 species had been added to the list of those at risk.

Other wetland birds are under increasing pressure from the introduction of invasive species, as well as from drainage and pollution of their habitats, the conservationists warned.

Dr Stuart Butchart, Birdlife’s global species programme officer, said:

‘Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food.’

Along with the Azores bullfinch, the yellow-eared parrot from Colombia and the Chatham albatross have been downlisted from critically endangered to endangered.

Dr Butchart said:

‘These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again.’

EARTH’S FIVE GREAT EXTINCTIONS

  • 65 million years ago: Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T extinction). About 75% of species became extinct, possibly caused by a meteorite hitting the earth. Wiped out dinosaurs.
  • 205 million years ago: Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Most non-dinosaurs were eliminated, leaving dinosaurs with little terrestrial competition.
  • 440-450 million years ago: Ordovidician-Silurian. Two linked events that are considered together to have been the second worst extinction on the list.
  • 360-375 million years ago: Late Devonian. A prologued series of extinctions that may have lasted 20 million years.
  • 251 million years ago: Permian-Triassic. Known as ‘The Great Dying’ after about 96% of marine species and 70% of land species disappeared.

Source: Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’ - Mail Online

Date: 26 May 2010

UN official warns on fisheries losses

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The UN’s top environment official has echoed warnings that commercial fishing could be destroyed within 50 years.

“It is not a science fiction scenario. It is within the lifetime of a child born today,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme (Unep).

He made the remarks at a conference in New York previewing a new study on how to make the global economy more environmentally sustainable. (more…)

The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Failure is not in falling down, but in refusing to get up. –Chinese Proverb

There are dark clouds gathering on the horizon. They are the clouds of six hugely troubling global trends, climate change being just one of the six. Individually, each of these trends is a potential civilization buster. Collectively, they are converging to form the perfect storm–a storm of such magnitude that it will dwarf anything that mankind has ever seen. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to calm this storm, without a doubt it will destroy life as we know it on Planet Earth!

The following six trends are converging to form the perfect storm for global destruction, each of which is a potential civilization buster in its own right, if left unchecked:

1. Climate Change: with a 90% degree of certainty, the world’s top scientists believe that our planet’s climate is changing at an accelerating pace, that these changes are caused by man, and will have increasingly severe consequences for our world. Naysayers stress the 10% scientific probability that man is not the cause of current climate changes, but would you board a plane if you were told it had a 9 out of 10 chance of crashing? It is a rare person over the age of thirty who will tell you that the weather is not quite different now from when they were a child. Certainly far more erratic, though not necessarily always hotter.

Recent estimates by a collaborative team of climate scientists, including a group from MIT, calculate that even if we implemented the most stringent greenhouse gas limits currently proposed by some of the world’s governments, it is quite likely that our world’s climate will warm by 6.3F or more over the next century, leading to disastrous crop failures in most of the world’s productive farmlands and “breadbaskets”.

2. Peak Oil: Our global economy and culture are built largely upon a reliance on cheap oil. From the cars we drive, to the jets we fly, to the buildings we live in, to the food we eat, to the clothes we wear–almost everything that encompasses the fabric of our modern life is either powered by oil, built from oil, or made/grown via machines powered by oil. When the price of oil rose to $140 a barrel in 2008, the world’s economy went into a tailspin–collapsing local economies, reducing consumption, and bringing the price of oil back down to a fraction of what it had been just a few months earlier. Global output of traditional crude oil peaked around 2005-2006 and is currently declining. Expensive alternate oil and oil-equivalent sources, like tar sands, deep ocean oil wells, and bio fuels have taken up the slack for the time being, but these are limited resources and their utilization is not growing as quickly as anticipated to fill in the gap caused by the shrinking output from the world’s mature oil fields. In 2008 the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that decline at a rate of the world’s mature oil fields at 9.1% annually, with a drop to “only” 6.4% if huge capital investments are made to implement “Enhanced Oil Recovery” technologies on a massive scale.

3. Collapse of the World’s Oceans: with 11 out of 15 of the world’s major fisheries either in collapse, or in danger of collapse, our world’s oceans are in serious trouble! The ocean’s planktons form the bottom of both the food chain and the bulk of the carbon-oxygen cycle for our planet. According to a recent British government report, the oceans have lost 73% of their zooplankton since 1960, and over 50% of this decline has been since 1990, and the phytoplanktons are also in serious decline! Unfortunately, the coral reefs aren’t doing much better than the planktons. By 2004, an estimated 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs had been destroyed (up from just 11 percent in 2000), an additional 24 percent were close to collapsing, and another 26 percent were under long-term threat of collapse.

4. Deforestation: Over 50% of the world’s forests have already disappeared, and much of the rest is in threatened. Deforestation contributes approximately 25% of all global greenhouse gasses, nearly double the 14% that transportation and industry sectors each contribute. Additionally, the forests of the world are a critical part of the weather cycle as well as the carbon-oxygen cycle. Each large mature tree acts as a giant water pump, recycling millions of gallons of water back into the atmosphere via evaporation from its leaves or needles. It has been estimated that a single large rainforest or coniferous tree has an evaporative surface area roughly equal to a 40 acre lake. When the trees are decimated in a region, a process called “desertification” tends to occur downwind because the trees are no longer there to pump groundwater back into the atmosphere to fall back to Earth as additional rainfall at some down wind location.

5. The Global Food Crisis: Soils, Weather and Water. For the first time since the “green revolution” started, our world is producing less food each year, yet its population continues to rise as we loose more top soil, arable land, and have less water for irrigation. Climate change is currently contributing more to losses than technology is to gains. In 2008 and 2009, food riots threatened the stability of many governments. In 2010 extended droughts in the breadbaskets of both China and India are threatening the food supply for over 1/3 of the world’s population!

6. Over Population: This is the elephant in the room that few are talking about. In the last decade, we have added more people to the population of our planet than were added between the births of Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. In the mid 1980s our world first overshot its capacity to provide for its human population, yet this population continues to grow and we continue to live on borrowed time. One thousand years after Jesus walked the Earth, human population was around 1/2 billion. Eight hundred years later this population doubled to 1 billion. It took only 130 more years to double to 2 billion in 1930. When I was a kid in 1960, world population hit 3 billion people and it only took another 40 years to double to 6 billion in the year 2000.

Source: The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse - The Huffington Post

Date: 19 May, 2010

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Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change

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Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers

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Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis

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Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010

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Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report

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Livestock's Climate Impact

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Livestock & Sustainable Food

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Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change

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The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)

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Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)

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