Analiese’s Reading 4/23

Environment and ecology edition: Status of the Wilkins ice shelf, how not to solve global warming, Obama administration policy on climate, U.S. wind power capacity, turning Colombia into a desert, too much water in some parts of India, too little in others, flame-retardant in coastal waters, the toxic byproducts of water purification, plastic found in leatherback turtles, traveling off the grid, enjoying the birds of Belize, saving Madagascar, a solar cooker made of cardboard, concrete mixed with environmental impact in mind, avoiding 1,4-dioxane, reusing steel shipping containers, environmental toxicity and concentrations of color, an interesting interactive map of U.S. factory farms, Germany bans GM corn, treating for bee colony collapse, and NASA’s list of air-purifying house plants.

Ice shelf about to break away from Antarctica

‘New rifts’ appeared this week along Wilkins; shelf holds back ice on land


Why global warming doesn’t pose a problem

…Because God doesn’t want it to. That’s what Illinois Rep. John Shimkus says:

MN Publius

US: Warming Gases Are Health Threat

Having received White House backing, the Environmental Protection Agency declared Friday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a significant threat to human health and thus will be listed as pollutants under the Clean Air Act – a policy the Bush administration rejected.


Science Chief Discusses Climate Strategy

The Obama administration might agree to auction only a portion of the emissions allowances granted at first under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution, White House science adviser John P. Holdren said yesterday, a move that would please electric utilities and manufacturers but could anger environmentalists.

Washington Post

Report: Wind could supply enough power to meet US electricity needs

Wind turbines off US coastlines could potentially supply more than enough electricity to meet the country’s current electricity demand, the US interior department reported today.

Simply harnessing the wind in relatively shallow waters – the most accessible and technically feasible sites for offshore turbines – could produce at least 20% of the power demand for most coastal states, interior secretary Ken Salazar said, unveiling a report by the department’s minerals management service that details the potential for oil, gas and renewable development on the Outer Continental Shelf.


Colombia’s desert war

I recently received a disturbing email from southern Colombia warning that the fragile Amazonian soil could “soon be turned to desert”. They were the words of a Catholic priest, so I rang a church worker whose parish lies deep in the Amazonian state of Caquetá. Military planes targeting coca farms, funded by the US, had been spraying mists of herbicides over food crops, grazing animals and even areas where children were playing, she said: locals were complaining of breathing problems and rashes; “strips of skin” have been peeling off cows, and chickens have died; and maize, yucca, plantain and cacao crops have wilted and shrivelled. “We fear there will soon be a very serious food shortage in the region,” she said.

The Guardian

India’s climate refugees forced to fight – here and now

The rising sea has drowned two of Jalaluddin Saha’s small homes and threatens a third. Last monsoon surging water ruined his crops and he and his family ran for their lives. His livestock drank the brine and died.

In eastern India, this 62-year-old retired schoolteacher is experiencing climate change first hand. So are the other 8,000-odd residents of Baliwara and other villages in the little island called Mousuni, facing the Bay of Bengal at one of the numerous mouths of the Ganga river that Indians consider sacred.

Thaindian News

1,500 farmers commit mass suicide in India

Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today.

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

“The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago,” Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine. “Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well.”

The Independent

Concerns Raised About Coastal Levels of Flame-Retardant Chemicals

Flame-retardant chemicals that have been linked to reproductive and neurological problems in animals have seeped into coastal environments even in remote regions and have been found in high concentrations off populated areas such as Chicago and Southern California, a federal study revealed Tuesday.

“This is a wake-up call for Americans concerned about the health of our coastal waters and their personal health,” said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released the report.


10-Year Study Uncovers Toxic Aspects of DBPs

University of Illinois geneticist Michael Plewa said that disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in water are the unintended consequence of water purification.

“The process of disinfecting water with chlorine and chloramines and other types of disinfectants generates a class of compounds in the water that are called disinfection byproducts. The disinfectant reacts with the organic material in the water and generates hundreds of different compounds. Some of these are toxic, some can cause birth defects, some are genotoxic, which damage DNA, and some we know are also carcinogenic.”

Environmental News Network

Leatherback Turtles Consuming Plastic

A new study looked at necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherbacks that have died since 1885 and found plastic in the digestive systems of more than a third of the animals. Besides plastic bags, the turtles had swallowed fishing lines, balloon fragments, spoons, candy wrappers and more.

Discovery Channel

Travel Unplugged: 15 Off-the-Grid Destinations

Visiting tourist sites “off-the-grid” usually means trekking to a geographically remote area with your bug spray, anti-malaria meds, and pith helmet in tow. In these secluded spots, going green is a necessity; there is simply no power supply to plug into. But even some of tourism’s urban sites are getting into the green game by creating cutting edge constructions or, sometimes, by simply changing the source of their electricity.


A Paradise of Birds in Belize

Flamboyant feathered residents like emerald toucanets, scarlet macaws, pale-billed woodpeckers and hundreds of others can be spotted in the rain forests of western Belize in the Cayo District.

NY Times

Saving Madagascar

Current’s Adam Yamaguchi goes to otherworldly Madagascar, an island struggling to flourish after bouts with environmental suicide.


Prize for ‘Sun in the box’ cooker

A cheap solar cooker has won first prize in a contest for green ideas. The Kyoto Box is made from cardboard and can be used for sterilising water or boiling or baking food. The Kenyan-based inventor hopes it can make solar cooking widespread in the developing world, supplanting the use of wood which is driving deforestation.

BBC News

Concrete Is Remixed With Environment in Mind

The bridge, built to replace one that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people, is constructed almost entirely of concrete embedded with steel reinforcing bars, or rebar. But it is hardly a monolithic structure: the components are made from different concrete mixes, the recipes tweaked, as a chef would, for specific strength and durability requirements and to reduce the impact on the environment. One mix, incorporated in wavy sculptures at both ends of the bridge, is designed to stay gleaming white by scrubbing stain-causing pollutants from the air.

NY Times

Personal Care and Cleaning Products Safety Guide

Make a difference by avoiding 1,4-dioxane and supporting the companies who do!

The Organic Consumers Association (pdf)

15 Awesome Ways to Reuse Shipping Containers

Steel shipping containers outlive their usefulness as cargo carriers within 5 years, and they used to sit abandoned at shipyards for years. Now, they’re gaining increasing recognition for their durability, adaptability, light weight, low cost and ease of stacking, spurring a recycling trend that has resulted in shipping container sculpture, homes, hotels, museums and more. The possibilities are seemingly endless, as illustrated by these 15 amazing examples of cargo container reuse.


Race and Toxic Release Facilities

Environmental sociologists have noted that environmental toxicity is most concentrated in communities that include a disproportionate proportion of poor, working class, and non-white people. The map below compares the locations of toxic release facilities (green) with the percentage of people of color in neighborhoods in and near Los Angeles (yellow = 0-40 percent people of color; red = 80-100 percent of color). The overlap is striking.

Sociological Images

Interactive Map of U.S. Factory Farms

Food & Water Watch has an interesting interactive map that allows you to click on states and see how many factory farms it has per county, broken down into cattle (meaning beef, I assume), hogs, dairy, broilers, and layers (the last two are both chickens). You can look at number of facilities or number of animals.

Sociological Images

Germany Bans Cultivation of GM Corn

Germany has banned the cultivation of GM corn, claiming that MON 810 is dangerous for the environment. But that argument might not stand up in court and Berlin could face fines totalling millions of euros if American multinational Monsanto decides to challenge the prohibition on its seed.

Spiegel Online

A cure for honey bee colony collapse?

For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

Environmental News Network

10 Air Purifying Plants For Homes & Offices

Even in huge, busy cities, outdoor air is cleaner and preferable to indoor air. Why is that? One reason is that trees and plants are constantly cleaning the air outside. This suggests that the eco-minded homeowner or office dweller should go out and buy some plants – but which ones? With all the hype of “going green”, every plant on the market is being promoted as an air purifier! But not to worry – NASA has conducted an official study on the top 10 air purifying plants, assigning each one a score based on how well they remove chemical vapors, resist insects, and how easy they are to maintain.


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