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Offline RE

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The Unspoken Failures of “Save the Earth Science”
« Reply #60 on: May 01, 2017, 02:26:32 AM »
http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-unspoken-failures-of-save-the-earth-science-world-destruction-with-nuclear-weapons-the-poisoning-of-the-earths-ecology/5587796

The Unspoken Failures of “Save the Earth Science”: World Destruction with Nuclear Weapons, The Poisoning of the Earth’s Ecology
By Edward Curtin
Global Research, May 01, 2017
Theme: Environment
In-depth Report: Nuclear War

“In our society those who have best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane.” – George Orwell, 1984

“This has inspired me to new heights, to wage war against these forces [‘the unfruitful ocean’] and subdue them.”  Faust from Goethe’s Faust

The recent marches on April 22nd to promote science and to celebrate Earth Day were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda. Obviously science has benefited us in certain ways, but it has become untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality and its unending efforts to sabotage faith in human freedom by rationally “proving” its illogical deterministic credo. And in doing so it has created and sustained a nightmarish world on the brink of destruction and undermined people’s will to resist this death march. Ostensibly rational, it has engendered a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis.

“In short,” says Dostoyevsky’s underground man,

    “one may say anything about the history of the world – anything that might enter the most disordered imagination.  The only thing one can’t say is that it’s rational.”

For two of the major problems the world faces – world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth’s ecology and atmosphere – are the result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies” (Little Boy and Fat Man) that were used by the U.S. to massacre hundreds of thousands of Japanese and now threaten to incinerate everyone, and the chemical and toxic inventions that have despoiled the earth, air, and water and continue to kill people worldwide through America’s endless war-making and industrial applications.

The Save-the-Earth-Science marchers failed, for self-serving reasons or ignorance, to see the obvious.  But their failure goes even deeper than omitting the links between science, war, and pollution.

In our technopoly, logical thinking has become illogical; cause and effect, means and ends have been inverted.  The causes of our problems are touted as the means to end them. These “solutions” are always offered with a straight face, as if they made perfect sense.  This is how societies operate when in the grip of myths.  In this case, the myths of science, progress, and history.  Such myths render the obvious invisible as they create a hopeless inevitability in people who can imagine no alternative and have been convinced that science is the secret to salvation and the means to the things they have learned to desire, including longevity and perhaps “immortality.”And these things have become the means to additional means in an endless loop from which, by definition, ends are absent.  As a result, the search for truth, celebrated as a goal of science, is slyly eliminated.

In this comforting yet absurd myth, science is viewed as the “miraculous knight of reason.”  John Saul Ralston elaborates:

    Science led the way in the battle against the forces of darkness. Discoveries were celebrated as if new territories were won on the road to a place of eternal light where knowledge would reign. And yet these very real advances in the uncovering of nature’s secrets seemed increasingly to create a world which escaped the control of society. New knowledge and new positive powers in the hands of man seemed inevitably to be matched with new inaccessible elites and a new sophistication in the arts of violence and destruction….As for the scientists, the vast majority of whom continue to believe in the inviolability of progress, they still do so with the driven purity of terrorists.

Comforted and paradoxically terrorized by our creations, yet immobilized by our myths, we seem to lack the imaginations to conceive a different approach.  So we applaud what seems so “sensible”: marching for science to save the planet.  Meaning well becomes a substitute for missing the meaning of our contradictory thinking and the myth that sustains it.

Delude ourselves as we might, the probability of making all possibility impossible is very real.  Poised on the edge of nuclear conflagration and environmental collapse, we tell ourselves that reasonable minds will prevail, knowing, if we choose to think at all, that the central experiences of the past century – the mass slaughter of human beings with progressively more “advanced” weapons and ecological destruction as a result of scientific/technological “advances” (we are always advancing in the myth) – were not prevented by such “reasonableness.” In fact, instrumental reason and its perverted logic of efficiency – our Gods – caused them.

We inhabit a nightmare, and reason is insufficient to awaken us.

    “The madman,” wrote G. K. Chesterton, “is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

This is true even when the reasoning is faulty.

This scientific/technological nightmare is a world where everything has become a means and the ends no longer exist.  We are travelling at breakneck speed to nowhere, but as long as long as we keep moving in our “usefulness,” no one seems to notice that we are travelling in circles and getting nowhere.

    He’s a real nowhere man
    Sitting in his nowhere land
    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

    Doesn’t have a point of view
    Knows not where he’s going to
    Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

 I’d say the boys – the Beatles – have a point, wouldn’t you?  But what do artists know?

We can’t conceive of our ends since they conjure up nothing, having been swallowed by the means, while the purpose of our lives is reduced to staying alive as long as possible.  The Faustian goal has always been immortality, and we have been infected with the fear that death, and therefore life, may be meaningless.  The quest for scientific “immortality” is a means to a means without end.  It is a symptom of the profound spiritual crisis of the age.

Writing about our twisted logic that has banished anything “useless” or “gratuitous,” – including art, people, and nature – the great French sociologist Jacques Ellul says this about modern science:

    Once, knowledge of truth was what mattered, but then after the philosophers came the scientists.  They developed their theories, which were then applied, first in order to prove the truth of these theories, and then because of their usefulness. From that point on, science was lost!  Technical means gradually came to dominate the search for truth.  Science became more and more about the effectiveness of technical means. Science today takes its meaning from technique; it is completely oriented to application.  It is in the service of means.  It has become a means of perfecting the means.  The ab- straction ‘science,’ to which we still pay lip service, has replaced the search for truth.

Yes, marching for science is marching for science, but not in the way the demonstrators think.  It is marching for a means to a means.  Wedded to government support and instantaneously applied to technical applications, science serves no ultimate end but its own existence. Holding signs supporting science as a cure for the planet’s ills that science has created is like taking psychotropic drugs for depression because you were told the “cause” of your depression is a brain abnormality for which no causal scientific evidence exists since there are no definitive empirical lab tests. In the former case the cause becomes the solution; in the latter, the imagined cause is remedied by an imagined solution. In both cases, delusional thinking prevails.

Such inverted logic about cause and effect is the way the myth of science works today. No evidence required. The cause is the solution. The means justifies the means.

It is the same “logic” used to support the materialistic, murderous, and imperialistic American empire. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. – bomb, invade, kill, destroy – and when those means don’t work, double down on them.

Paul Virilio, the great scholar of dromology (the study of speed), asks:  “Has the prohibition to prohibit – the basic law of scientific progress – become the only law of a lawless globalism?”  His answer: Yes.  This prohibition to prohibit informs our science, war-making, rapacious globalization, and capitalist death trip – everything – as we accelerate toward global suicide.

It was Dostoevsky who long ago warned us of the path we were on and the spiritual nihilism that lay at its heart:

    That is not all; then, you say, science itself will teach man (though to my mind it’s a superfluous luxury) that he never has really had any caprice or will of his own, and that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ, and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature; so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature.  Consequently, we have only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him.

But “easy” turned out to be hard, as an uneasiness of profound proportions wed to the spiritual crisis of free will created by science has been dismissed as the rantings of religious fanatics who want to return us to the dark ages.  Blinded by the myth of science, we fail to see that the loss of our belief in our own freedom is connected to the instrumental rationality that threatens all life.

Nature and all living creatures, including ourselves, have become our enemies and are rejected as ends in themselves. Everything and everyone is a means. We must bomb, bulldoze, manipulate, drug, control, poison, etc.– all in the service of a diabolical willfulness that brooks no resistance.

American society is nihilistic and the ruling political and intellectual elites are of course the leading nihilists. But this nihilism is widespread because it works at the mythic level. Unable to grasp the circular and repetitive nature of instrumental reason and its propaganda that have resulted in a spiritual/existential crisis that is leading to world destruction, average people fall into a deeper malaise that leads to widespread despair, unhappiness, and hopelessness. Everything becomes a means to a means in a kaleidoscopic death trap.

The question is: how can we break out of this mystification of experience that has resulted in a double-bind that has trapped us?

I thing Goethe hints at a solution in a “warning” that the devil, Mephistopheles, gives to a student in Faust, and which Faust failed to heed:

    Who would study and describe the living, starts

    By driving the spirits out of the parts:

    In the palm of his hand he holds all the sections,

    Lacks nothing, except the spirit’s connection.

But are we capable of taking such a hint? Or have we passed a point of no return?

I will take up this hint in a sequel to this article, and explore the possibility of a path out of the seeming impossibility of escaping the cul-de-sac of our spiritually disinherited current condition.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/
The original source of this article is Global Research


Copyright © Edward Curtin, Global Research, 2017
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Offline knarf

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The Unspoken Failures of “Save the Earth Science”...
« Reply #61 on: May 01, 2017, 04:31:20 AM »
"it is not guns that kill people, it is people who kill people". I think the same goes for the scientific method. Science has given us many very constructive things that we take for granted daily. It has had a basic means to create almost everything we use today. Apparently humankind was evolving into having the ability to become logical and experiment with the elements that our earth produces. No weapon there. So I do not think "science" is at fault. It seems to be that mankind is not ready for the technology that has been created, and especially the technology that fell into the hands of unscrupulous people. The root of this tragedy, IMHO, is the lie of infinite growth married to very wealthy, unethical, greedy, and selfish people who use money to make and control the the dystopian world we now live in.
  The Trump administration are those greedy, unethical people who wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is all about the manipulation of huge amounts of "money", caring nothing for the human suffering and environmental repercussions of their vision to "make America great again".  They are dismantling the progress we had made in almost all areas of human life. THAT is the situation. Trump and his minions ( including those who voted for him ), were not satisfied with their lot in life. This says more about the worldview of those people, and it is like their view is retarded.  Now the scientists are concerned about not being heard, and possibly losing their jobs. I am sorry, but we all made this bed we are jumping up and down on, and the outcome looks like a broken bed.
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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #62 on: May 12, 2017, 04:21:34 PM »
PDF attached and here is link to original article: https://www.wired.com/2017/05/trees-will-die-will/
JOW


2017-5-13
ADAM ROGERS
The Deaths of Millions of California Trees Endanger the Lives of Thousands of California Humans
ALL THE TREES WILL DIE, AND THEN SO WILL YOU
The Los Angeles River in Long Beach, CA borer, a brown-black beetle from southeast Asia,
never gets bigger than a tenth of an inch. It breeds inside trees; pregnant females
drill into trunks to create networks of tunnels where they lay their eggs. The
beetles also carry a fungus called Fusarium; it infects the tunnels, and when the
eggs hatch, the borer larvae eat the fungus.
Unfortunately Fusarium also disrupts the trees’ ability to transport nutrients and
water. Holes where the beetle bored into the tree get infected and form oily lesions.
Sometimes sugars from the tree’s sap accumulate in a ring around the hole—that’s
called a “sugar volcano.” The tree dies, and the wee baby beetles fly off to continue
the circle of disgusting life.
This would just be a scary story for arborists and tree-huggers, except: Fusarium
dieback is on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California in the next
few years, almost 40 percent of the trees from Los Angeles to the Nevada border
and south to Mexico. That’s more than just an aesthetic tragedy. It means that
thousands of human beings are going to die, too.
I’m not just being a monkeywrenching fearmonger. Dead trees mean dead people,
and scientists are finally starting to figure out why. In the 1990s, spurred by a
program to plant half a million trees in Chicago, researchers started trying to
quantify the value of a tree beyond the fact that one is, like, at least slightly more


The Deaths of Millions of California Trees Endanger the Lives of Thousands of California Humans | WIRED
lovely than a poem. It’s a field of study today called ecosystem services. “I’ve been
trying to quantify the impacts of trees on rainfall interception, pollutants in the
atmosphere, cooling and energy used by buildings, CO 2 stored and emitted,” says
Greg McPherson, a research forester with the US Forest Service who conducted the
latest study of SoCal’s trees. “But I think those are the tip of the iceberg.”
And at the base? Public health impacts—and differences in illness and death in
populations that live near greenery versus those that don’t. It’s only been in the
past few years that anyone has been willing to go out on a limb and associate
morbidity and mortality numbers with nature. Oh, sure, everyone agrees that trees
pull particulate-matter pollution out of city air. Simply by dint of being shady,
trees reduce the “urban heat island” effect that drives people to run their AC all
the time, a contributor to climate change. And, yes, trees inhale carbon dioxide,
another win for the climate.
But fighting disease is a whole other question. What is a “dose” of nature? What’s
the response curve? By what mechanism would a walk in the park alleviate, let’s
say, heart disease? Is it the park? Or the walk? (Some Japanese researchers think
trees literally emit life-giving chemicals, like that weird M. Night Shyamalan movie
where trees kill people, but in reverse. No, wait, that’d be people killing trees,
which actually happens. The converse, then.)
Whether the mechanism is stress reduction, pollution reduction, or increased
physical activity, somehow trees make a difference. The biophysics is less
important than the epidemiology. In 2013 another researcher with the US Forest
Service named Geoff Donovan took advantage of the fact that another beetle, the
emerald ash borer, killed 100 million trees across 15 states in the US. Using
statistical models to rule out the impacts of a whole bunch of other potentially
confounding factors—race, education, income—Donovan’s team was able to
connect illness with places that had ash borer infestations and concomitant loss in
tree cover (which you can see in satellite imagery).
His result: Counties with borers had 6.8 additional deaths per year per 100,000
adults from respiratory disease, and 16.7 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Over
the arc of the paper, that means 100 million dead trees—roughly 3 percent of tree
cover on average—killed 21,193 people. “The implicit thing I’m saying here is that if
you either kept the trees or increased the amount, you’d get the opposite effect,”
says Donovan, now on a sabbatical at Massey University’s Center for Public Health
Research in New Zealand. “I don’t think it’s the worst assumption in the world.”
Donovan isn’t the only one on the case. A 2015 meta-analysis of the few studies
that had tried to take up the issue showed that higher exposures to green space,
https://www.wired.com/2017/05/trees-will-die-will/
2/92017-5-13
The Deaths of Millions of California Trees Endanger the Lives of Thousands of California Humans | WIRED
even controlling for things like poverty and education level, indeed resulted in a
statistically significant reduction in death from cardiovascular disease. Other
outcomes, like higher-birthweight babies and lower rates of antidepressant
prescriptions, have also shown up in the literature.
That means that if Southern California doesn’t somehow stave off the loss of 11
percent of its tree cover, that loss is going to be deadly over time. “It’d probably be
unwise to try and just turn the crank and say, ‘That’s going to be X thousand
people,’” Donovan says. But the risk isn’t one of overstatement. Southern
California has a much higher population density than the area he studied. “You
might anticipate a major public health impact.”
That’s what McPherson is worried about, too. He was collecting data on California
trees and Fusarium dieback for a journal article when he met John Kabashima, an
entomologist working for the University of California on the Fusarium problem—
an invasive pest that wasn’t jeopardizing crops but landscape. Kabashima realized
that McPherson’s data might be what he needed to get some bureaucratic
attention. What McPherson had come up with was, as he says, “the first statewide
assessment for California, and probably the first nationally to combine satellite
data and field plot data, and to incorporate the benefits and services of trees.” By
his count, if the beetles spread as widely as he’s predicting, it could cost $1.4 billion
in lost ecosystem service benefits—not counting the public health cost.
The next step will be figuring out what to do about the bugs. “A normal response to
an invasive pest means millions of dollars would be thrown at it,” Kabashima says.
“This one has received hundreds of thousands.” The people he’s working with at
least know that it’s not enough to cut down an infected tree. If you don’t chip it, the
beetles inside survive to infect another host. And the little holes and sugar
volcanoes tend to show up first 1 on the north side of the trunk or limb. “You have to
get out and walk around each tree, which we’re doing in Orange County parks,”
Kabashima says. “We go out on off-road Segways. We can cover square miles in a
day.”
Meanwhile, all over the state, McPherson and other forestry researchers are
looking for new species of trees to replace the ones sure to be lost. Resistance to
shot borers and Fusarium won’t be the only criteria. “We developed a five-step
process for identifying promising trees, scoring them on factors like drought
tolerance, salinity tolerance, invasiveness,” McPherson says. Even characteristics
like root depth might be important—deeper roots mean less destruction of
sidewalks. “We’ve narrowed it down to 12 new species for coastal Southern
California and 12 for the inland.”
https://www.wired.com/2017/05/trees-will-die-will/
3/92017-5-13
The Deaths of Millions of California Trees Endanger the Lives of Thousands of California Humans
The problem is, it takes a lot longer to grow experimental tree species and see if
they’re up to spec than it does for drought, polyphagous shot borers, and fungus to
do their work. The race is on—and not for all the usual reasons. “We don’t think of
trees as something essential to our urban infrastructure, like roads or sewers. In
fact, we see them as something that can interfere with those things,” Donovan
says. “But health benefits are where it’s at. Trees are an essential part of our public
health infrastructure.” If you believe that the ballpark value of a statistical human
life, stated most coldly, is around $7 million, then the potential of tens of
thousands of additional lives lost makes the cost of saving trees, and getting
healthier ones planted, a bargain.
1
UPDATE 5/9/17 10:20 AM Corrected to more accurately reflect the progress of
polyphagous shot hole borer infestation.
https://www.wired.com/2017/05/trees-will-die-will/
4/9

Offline RE

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Nature Does Not Grade On A Curve
« Reply #63 on: May 14, 2017, 12:50:54 AM »
http://www.ianwelsh.net/nature-does-not-grade-on-a-curve/

Nature Does Not Grade On A Curve
2017 May 13

tags: Capitalism, climate change, Democracy
by Ian Welsh

One of the problems with how we are educated and how we work is that almost all of it is “grading on a curve”. What matters is what our teacher thinks of us; what our boss thinks of us. Except when it comes to sickness, nothing else matters even nearly as much.

It’s all “on a curve”, it’s all social bullshit. If you can convince your boss or teacher to pass you, you pass, and there’s no objective level required in most cases: the difficulty is set by a person.

Nature does not grade on a curve.

If a bear is chasing you and you can’t run fast enough, you’re probably dead.

If your capitalist democratic system can’t handle climate change, a problem predicted decades ago, with plenty of time to fix it, billions of people will die.

It doesn’t matter whether there are “reasons” why we couldn’t handle it, not to the dead.

It also doesn’t matter if there are “reasons” why we can’t come up with a better way of running the world than capitalism with a side of democracy or autocracy, depending on the country.

People are always nattering on about how capitalism is the bestest system ever. (Although what has really produced the changes they like is mostly industrialization, not capitalism, though that’s a different article.)

It’s nice that we can’t come up with something better than capitalism (er, ok, not nice), but capitalism has failed. That it hasn’t blown up yet is irrelevant to this. If my brakes and steering fail at 90 miles an hour as I’m heading towards a mountain cliff, well, no catastrophe actually happens till I not only go off the cliff, but hit the ground, but the future is set.

That’s where we are, the future is essentially set. We aren’t going to stop climate change, it’s doubtful we even can (it would, even theoretically, take massive geo-engineering at this point), so capitalism and the political systems attached to it, like democracy and Chinese one-party autocratic rule, have failed.

It is that simple. And nature does not give a fuck if capitalism is the “bestest bestest system that we ever came up with” or if, qua Churchill “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

They have failed.

And what people are not getting thru their heads is that they will be seen to have failed by those who have to suffer the consequences of our monstrous abnegation of responsibility.

They will be loathed; even as we who live in this era and especially those who were adults in the 80s and 90s, will not just be loathed, but treated as lepers, similiar to how we consider Nazis. (Yeah, I went there, deal.)

One of the problems with de-naturing; with living in almost entirely human made systems, and with pushing those bits we don’t control like illness off into ghettos, is that it means most people almost never experience a benchmark that isn’t set by other human beings. They feel, in their guts, that if only other people are convinced, any problem can be fixed or finangled.

No.

The bear doesn’t care that you can’t run fast enough because TV is funner than going for a jog; and nature doesn’t care that shareholders needed value and that oil barons didn’t want to be a little poorer (or whatever).

And neither will those who suffer climate change due to our ethical monstrosity and sheer incapability.

Capitalism is a shit system in a number of ways. It can be made to work, by people who stay right on top of it, as between the 30s and 70 or so, but it is prone to going off the rails. If all that meant was that the poor suffer what they must and the powerful do as they will, well, so be it, but it isn’t.

We must come up with better ways to run our societies. We are creating existential threats to our very existence by failing to do so, and our infatuation with capitalism risks taking democracy down with it.

Worse worlds are always possible. So are better ones, and no system is ever “the best”.

And nature doesn’t grade on a curve.
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Offline knarf

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Nature Does Not Grade On A Curve
« Reply #64 on: May 14, 2017, 05:01:07 AM »
I don't think nature "grades" at all. The anthropomorphic influence on nature, has changed it extremely fast. It is trying to adapt to it's own set of mysterious ways to this rapid change, and those changes are affecting the ignorance of what us homo saps have done with it. We are all feeling like collapse is inevitable. Even with any change in our political leaders, and law makers. This ignorant use of nature has caused a sort of fuse to be lit, and it is heading for a catastrophe. It has happened in history many times. In fact it seems that homo saps repeat it like it is a collective habit. We have fought to survive by killing each other, there have been numerous plagues, famine and pestilence, and extreme flooding, etc.... Now that we have 7 billion people, still as ignorant about nature, what else would anyone expect?
  Yep, we get a F/failing grade, by our own standards of warped success. It is basically why I dropped out of formal education when I was a junior in high school. I did graduate, but by the skin of my teeth. I was considered gifted, put ahead in school, and then tested like a lab rat. My instincts were already telling me that their standards and teaching bias were not for me. So I taught myself, reading two-three books a week, and contemplating their message.
  Atom bombs don't kill people, it is the prehistoric animal in us that uses our retarded logic to drop that object. We have made our bed, now we have die in it. Maybe that was natures plan all along.   
« Last Edit: May 14, 2017, 05:03:56 AM by knarf »
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The World’s Trashiest Beach Is on a Remote Island in the South Pacific
« Reply #65 on: May 18, 2017, 06:03:20 AM »
The World’s Trashiest Beach Is on a Remote Island in the South Pacific

And yes, we should all feel terrible.

Plastic trash on Henderson Island. Plastic trash on Henderson Island. JENNIFER LAVERS/UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA

Imagine the most perfect square meter of white sandy beach you can. It is powdery and warm in the sun, but cooler once you burrow a hand into the wetter sand beneath. Now take 671 separate bits of plastic—buoys, scraps of fishing nets, water bottles, every manner of unidentifiable junk—and cram it into the sand before you lay down your towel.

That’s what researchers from the University of Tasmania and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recently found on Henderson Island, at 14-square-mile fleck of sand, jagged coral, and palm trees in the middle of the South Pacific. They estimate the entire island’s current total at 38,000 pounds of plastic, all in a place that, according to Henderson’s Wikipedia page at the time of this writing, “is one of the world’s last two raised coral atolls whose ecosystems remain relatively unaffected by human contact.” This is what relatively unaffected looks like now. And this is why we can’t have nice things.

Hermit crab living in an Avon bottle, Henderson Island. Hermit crab living in an Avon bottle, Henderson Island. JENNIFER LAVERS/UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA

Henderson is one of the most remote places in the world, more than 3,000 miles from the nearest significant population center. It has some human history—a few generations of Polynesians, some explorers, the wreck of a whaler, visits from timber harvesters from Pitcairn Island—but nothing to suggest the tide of garbage all over it. We’re on the hook for that, all of us, as it comes from the South Pacific Gyre, a current that sucks in floating debris and keeps it on a perpetual tour of the better part of a hemisphere. Henderson Island is unfortunately right in the path of this current, so it filters the debris out of the ocean. This has made it the trashiest beach ever documented, and there are some trashy beaches out there. Also alarming is just how quickly it all seems to have accumulated. Researchers estimate that 3,570 new pieces of litter washed up on just one beach in a single day.

Plastic trash on Henderson Island. Plastic trash on Henderson Island. JENNIFER LAVERS/UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA

“It’s likely that our data actually underestimates the true amount of debris on Henderson Island as we were only able to sample pieces bigger than two millimeters down to a depth of 10 centimeters, and we were unable to sample along cliffs and rocky coastline,” said study leader Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania, in a statement.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
« Reply #66 on: July 21, 2017, 08:28:20 AM »
Noting new under the sun here, but the news is that rolling stone published it, and that so many familiar threads are wound together in one piece.

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

Nightmares Are Already Here

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

Walruses, like these in Alaska, are being forced ashore in record numbers. Corey Accardo/NOAA/AP

Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state's Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public's attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren't cut, "We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization."

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen's study, said their new research doesn't necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon "safe" level of climate change — "would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise."

Hansen's new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, "This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding."

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still "unclear" whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren't even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth's biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Related: Apocalypse Soon: 9 Terrifying Signs of Environmental Doom

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. "It's unbelievable," Thomas told a local paper. "Whales are all overthe place."

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented "haul out" of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that's ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs. 

 

Salmon
Salmon on the brink of dying out. Michael Quinton/Newscom

 

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he's been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn't exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

"You talk to fishermen, and they all say: 'We've never seen anything like this before,' " says Peterson. "So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, 'What the hell's going on?' "

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year's, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven't yet figured out precisely what's behind them and why they happen when they do. It's not a permanent change — the ocean's temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

"The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature," says Peterson, "but the main problem we've had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can't keep up with it, and neither can the animals." Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: "At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over." 

 

India
Pavement-melting heat waves in India. Harish Tyagi/EPA/Corbis

 

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean's food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a "quite traumatic" impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it's converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means "the whole food chain is going to be different."

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we're heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she's trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren't. The ancient data she studies shows "really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We're talking less than a decade."

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling "the blob" — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that's thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what's happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that's persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" — weather patterns just aren't supposed to last this long.

What's increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world's oceans, it's not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world's reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it's also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it's been blamed on accelerated beach erosion "almost as significant as some hurricane events." 

 

Turkey
Biblical floods in Turkey. Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency/Getty

 

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study's authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Sciencemagazine that the snails' shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled "cauliflower" or "sandpaper." A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world's top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an "effectively irreversible" change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world's oceans.

"I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct," James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. "But this change we're seeing is happening so fast it's almost instantaneous." 

Thanks to the pressure we're putting on the planet's ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here's what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the "Great Dying," when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered "Great Dying" took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans' most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. "Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today," Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she's seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world's marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: "A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn't mean it's not a good indicator of change."

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: "This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then . . . everything could change, right?"

Alin's frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins "heightened the whole issue," she says. "I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed." 

 

Katharine HayhoeKatharine Hayhoe speaks about climate change to students and faculty at Wayland Baptist University in 2011. Geoffrey McAllister/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty

 

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she's already planning her exit strategy: "If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don't have an exit strategy. . . . So that's who I'm here trying to help."

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That's because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that's also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children's Trust, a legal advocacy organization that's filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn't just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it's also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that's enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.        

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Cancer-Causing Pollutants Found In Scarsdale Drinking Water, Study Shows
« Reply #67 on: July 28, 2017, 05:31:03 AM »
You can bet this will be cleaned up faster than Flint.  Scarsdale is where RICH people live.

RE

https://patch.com/new-york/scarsdale/cancer-causing-pollutants-found-scarsdale-drinking-water-study-shows

Cancer-Causing Pollutants Found In Scarsdale Drinking Water, Study Shows
A new study found 11 harmful contaminants in the state's drinking water. How clean is your community's water supply?


By Michael Woyton (Patch Staff) - Updated July 27, 2017 4:45 pm ET
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Cancer-Causing Pollutants Found In Scarsdale Drinking Water, Study Shows

SCARSDALE, NY — When water flows out of the faucet and into a glass, it usually appears clean and healthy. A report released Wednesday, though, found hundreds of harmful contaminants across the American water supply that can cause cancer, developmental issues in children, problems in pregnancy and other serious health conditions.

In the communities served by Westchester County Water District #1, nine contaminants above health guidelines were detected across the district's water supply, according to data from the Environmental Working Group that was released on Wednesday.

EWG notes, however, that tap water provided by this water utility was in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards in the latest quarter address by the Environmental Protection Agency, which was from January to March 2017.

From 2010 to 2015, EWG collected results of tests conducted by the water utility, which was provided to them by the New York Department of Health-Bureau of Public Water Supply Protection, as well as information from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database.

The following contaminants were detected above health limits in communities served by Westchester County Water District #1:

    Bromodichloromethane
    Chloroform
    Dichloroacetic acid
    Radiological contaminants
    Trichloroacetic acid

Long Island Water Conference Legislative Committee Co-Chair Paul Granger did not agree with this study. "This report is nothing more than a fear mongering scare tactic for the sole purpose of selling unnecessary water filters," he said.

Read Granger's full statement below:

    "The premise of this report is patently false and the information portrayed is extremely misleading. This report is nothing more than a fear mongering scare tactic for the sole purpose of selling unnecessary water filters. The water being delivered to our customers is meticulously regulated by federal, state and local authorities on a weekly basis. Under no circumstances would water containing harmful levels of these chemicals, or any other chemical for that matter, come out of our treatment plants and be sent to the public. In fact, water providers publicly release information about their water quality on an annual basis. The authors of this report should be ashamed of themselves for purposely broadcasting misinformation about the safety of drinking water to the public for the sake of selling water filters."

“There are chemicals that have been linked to cancer, for example, that are found above health-based limits, or health guidelines, in the water of more than 250 million Americans,” said Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science at EWG.

In New York, EWG tracked 140 contaminants across the state’s water supply. The following contaminants have been detected above health limits in New York (contaminants in bold have been linked to cancer):

    Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which are linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer and fetal development issues
    Chloroform which is linked to cancer and fetal development issues
    Bromodichloromethane which is linked to harm to child and fetuses, as well as reproductive difficulties
    Radium-226 and -228 which is linked to cancer
    Dibromochloromethane which is linked to cancer and harm to fetuses
    Dichloroacetic acid which is linked to cancer and harm to reproduction and child development
    Trichloroacetic acid which is linked to cancer, and harm to reproduction and child development
    Chromium (hexavalent) which is linked to cancer, liver damage and productive system damages
    1,2,3-Trichloropropane which is linked to cancer

These contaminants were detected above legal guidelines:

    Trihalomethanes which are linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer and fetal development issues
    Haloacetic acids (HAA5) which is linked to cancer and harm to fetuses
    Arsenic which is linked cancer, harm to the central nervous system, harm to the brain and nervous system, skin damage, changed to the heart and blood vessels, heart disease, stroke and diabetes
    Barium which is linked to harm to the kidney, high blood pressure and harm to the heart and blood vessels
    Radium which is linked to cancer

EWG, in conjunction with outside scientists, assessed health-based guidelines for hundreds of chemicals found in drinking water across the country and compared them to the legal limits. The law often permits utilities to allow these dangerous chemicals to pollute our waters.


Contaminants in Your Water

EWG has released a public database cataloguing contaminants in water systems in every state in the country — the first comprehensive database of its kind that took two years to build. First select the state where you live, and you'll see state-level data. For more local information, enter your zip code.

After you enter your zip code, you'll be directed to a page showing the water utilities in your county. Select your town to see which contaminants put your families at risk.

No single group has collected all this information for all 50 states in an easily searchable database — until now. And it’s incredibly easy to use it to see what contaminants are coming through your faucet.
What You Can Do

Once people know about the high levels of dangerous contaminants lurking in their water, the question becomes what they can do to protect their health.
Get free real-time news alerts from the Scarsdale Patch.
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”There’s a way to reduce those levels simply by buying a water filter,” said Leiba.

“We don’t want to scare the population by saying there are 250 chemicals and just leaving it there,” she continued. “As a consumer you may look at it and get a little overwhelmed."

For this reason, EWG provides a guide to buying water filters.

Hudson Valley based-Consumer Reports also has a buyers guide for water filters. See it here.

The EWG website allows you to search for filters that block particular chemicals and pollutants. If you find that your local water supply has a particularly high level of a dangerous chemical, you can search for a filter that blocks that substance.

There are many types of filters, including carbon filters, deionization filters and distillation filters. Each type has its own strengths and weakness, so sometimes a filter will include multiple filtration methods to eliminate more potential threats.

To find the most effective filter, look for certifications from the Water Quality Association and NSF International. Different filters remove different contaminants.

It’s important to remember, though, that even high-quality filters are not 100 percent effective.

“Filters don’t remove everything,” Scott Meschke, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at Washington University, told Patch. He emphasized that it’s important to make sure you’re using a filter that is designed to fit your local needs.

He also said that users should change water filters on a regular basis. Old filters that are never replaced can host bacterial, which also pose potential dangers.

People who don’t get their water through a public utility will have different needs.

“If you are on a private well, I would say that you need to be monitoring your water. You should be paying on a regular basis to have it tested,” Meschke said.
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Offline Golden Oxen

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Re: The Environment Board - The Grind: Whaling in the Faroe Islands
« Reply #68 on: October 14, 2017, 09:14:25 AM »
Just blew me the fuck away. Speechless. Don't know what to think or say.  :icon_scratch:

The photography is so special you will be put into a trance if you watch it.

The Grind: Whaling in the Faroe Islands (Full Length)

There’s not much agriculture in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago in the North Atlantic, roughly equidistant from Norway, Iceland, and Scotland. Aside from the sheep that freely roam the fjords and a few root vegetables, the Faroese have always relied on the surrounding sea as a source of fish, seabirds, and the pilot whales they slaughter in a hunt known as the grindadráp, or grind. "Grind,” which rhymes with wind, is Faroese for pilot whale, and can refer to the event of the whale slaughter, the whale meat, or the whales themselves. Hunting whales for food is a tradition as old as the islands have been inhabited. But in the past few decades, animal activists have taken issue with the grind, despite Faroese insistence that it is sustainable and humane. Motherboard visited the Faroe Islands to see a grind first hand as the Faroese defend their way of life against pressure from a visiting Sea Shepherd operation.

                                         <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/HYOTkwFhe-w" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/HYOTkwFhe-w</a>





Offline Golden Oxen

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You won't find me pretending to know much about this stuff, but it sure sounds pretty bad to me.
Came across it a while a few minutes ago and know it is a Diner topic of interest.

                                 
      Oil sands at Fort McMurray. Alberta is home to 68% of Canada’s natural gas production, 47% of its light crude oil production as well as 80% of all crude oil and equivalents. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

theguardian.com
'This is a really big deal': Canada natural gas emissions far worse than feared | World news
Ashifa Kassam


Alberta’s oil and gas industry – Canada’s largest producer of fossil fuel resources – could be emitting 25 to 50% more methane than previously believed, new research has suggested.

The pioneering peer reviewed study, published in Environmental Science & Technology on Tuesday, used airplane surveys to measure methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in two regions in Alberta. The results were then compared with industry-reported emissions and estimates of unreported sources of the powerful greenhouse gas, which warm the planet more than 20 times as much as similar volumes of carbon dioxide.

“Our first reaction was ‘Oh my goodness, this is a really big deal,” said Matthew Johnson, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and one of the study’s authors. “If we thought it was bad, it’s worse.”

Carried out last autumn, the survey measured the airborne emissions of thousands of oil and gas wells in the regions. Researchers also tracked the amount of ethane to ensure that methane emissions from cattle would not end up in their results.

In one region dominated by heavy oil wells, researchers found that the type of heavy oil recovery used released 3.6 times more methane than previously believed. The technique is used in several other sites across the province, suggesting emissions from these areas are also underestimated.

In the second region, home to a mix of gas and light oil wells, researchers found results that were roughly equal to those reported by industry and unreported sources. However, they found that only 6% of methane emissions in this region were from industry-reported sources, with the remaining emissions, known as fugitive emissions, from unreported sources such as unintentional equipment leaks.

The finding could have major implications as Alberta and Ottawa strive to reduce methane emissions by 45% from 2012 levels by 2025, said Johnson. “It shows how much isn’t captured in current reporting requirements, and therein is a challenge and an opportunity all wrapped in one.”

The study then sought to conservatively extrapolate the findings, correcting only for sites that are home to heavy oil. What they found was in Alberta – home to 68% of Canada’s natural gas production, 47% of its light crude oil production as well as 80% of all crude oil and equivalents – total emissions were likely 25 to 50% higher than previous government estimates. The findings excluded mined oil sands, which are believed to be responsible for about 11% of methane emissions.

Canadian advocacy group Environmental Defence described the findings as alarming. “The methane gas currently being wasted would supply almost all the natural gas needs of Alberta, and is worth $530m per year,” Dale Marshall of the organisation said in a statement. “This represents an economic cost for governments in the form of lost royalties and taxes, and for industry in terms of revenue.”

Marshall pointed to the readily available solutions for controlling leaks and intentional releases of methane gas, portraying them as some of lowest cost strategies available to reduce carbon emissions.

Researchers said they have already begun presenting their findings to various levels of government, depicting it as a chance for industry and regulators to more effectively tackle emissions of methane – a gas far more potent than CO2 but which persists for less time in the atmosphere.

“When you take methane emissions and convert them to CO2 emissions so you can compare to cars, for Alberta, the total methane we’re talking about on a 100-year scale is 8 to 9.7 million vehicles. If we do it on a 20-year timescale, we’re talking maybe 28 to 33 million vehicles,” said Johnson. “This is a real opportunity.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/study-methane-emissions-from-alberta-oil-and-gas-wells-are-worse-than-thought :icon_study:


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Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans 'Foreign Waste'
« Reply #70 on: December 10, 2017, 12:36:47 AM »
Now we get to keep our own garbage.

RE

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/09/568797388/recycling-chaos-in-u-s-as-china-bans-foreign-waste

Environment
Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans 'Foreign Waste'

December 9, 20178:00 AM ET

Cassandra Profita

Jes Burns

From
Oregon Public Broadcasting


China's ban means recycling is piling up at Rogue Waste System in southern Oregon. Employees Scott Fowler, Laura Leebrick and Garry Penning say their only option for now is to send it to a landfill.
Jes Burns/OPB/EarthFix

Like many Portland residents, Satish and Arlene Palshikar are serious recyclers. Their house is coated with recycled bluish-white paint. They recycle their rainwater, compost their food waste and carefully separate the paper and plastic they toss out. But recently, after loading up their Prius and driving to a sorting facility, they got a shock.

"The fellow said we don't take plastic anymore," Satish says. "It should go in the trash."

The facility had been shipping its plastic to China, but suddenly that was no longer possible.


Portland residents Satish and Arlene Palshikar want to see the U.S. become less dependent on China for recycling.
Cassandra Profita/OPB/EarthFix

The U.S. exports about one-third of its recycling, and nearly half goes to China. For decades, China has used recyclables from around the world to supply its manufacturing boom. But this summer it declared that this "foreign waste" includes too many other nonrecyclable materials that are "dirty," even "hazardous." In a filing with the World Trade Organization the country listed 24 kinds of solid wastes it would ban "to protect China's environmental interests and people's health."

The complete ban takes effect Jan. 1, but already some Chinese importers have not had their licenses renewed. That is leaving U.S. recycling companies scrambling to adapt.

"It has no value ... It's garbage."

Rogue Waste Systems in southern Oregon collects recycling from curbside bins, and manager Scott Fowler says there are always nonrecyclables mixed in. As mounds of goods are compressed into 1-ton bales, he points out some: a roll of linoleum, gas cans, a briefcase, a surprising number of knitted sweaters. Plus, there are the frozen food cartons and plastic bags that many people think are recyclable but are not.
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For decades, China has sorted through all this and used the recycled goods to propel its manufacturing boom. Now it no longer wants to, so the materials sits here with no place to go.

"It just keeps coming and coming and coming," says Rogue employee Laura Leebrick. In the warehouse, she is dwarfed by stacks of orphaned recycling bales. Outside, employee parking spaces have been taken over by compressed cubes of sour cream containers, broken wine bottles and junk mail.

And what are recyclables with nowhere to go?

"Right now, by definition, that material out there is garbage," she says. "It has no value. There is no demand for it in the marketplace. It's garbage."

For now, Rogue Waste says it has no choice but to take all of this recycling to the local landfill. More than a dozen Oregon companies have asked regulators whether they can send recyclable materials to landfills, and that number may grow if they can't find someplace else that wants them.

At Pioneer Recycling in Portland, owner Steve Frank is shopping for new buyers outside of China.

"I've personally moved material to different countries in an effort to keep material flowing," he says.

Without Chinese buyers, Frank says U.S. recycling companies are playing a game of musical chairs, and the music stops when China's ban on waste imports fully kicks in.

"The rest of the world cannot make up that gap," he said. "That's where we have what I call a bit of chaos going on."

Adina Adler, a senior director with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, says China's new standards are nearly impossible to meet. The group is trying to persuade China to walk back its demanding target for how clean our recycling exports need to be. But Adler doesn't think China's decision is all bad.

"What China's move is doing is probably ushering in a new era of recycling," she says.

A helping (mechanical) hand

Bulk Handling Systems is betting that robots can be the future of recycling. At its research facility, bits of waste pass by on a conveyor belt as robotic arms poke down, sucking up plastic bags and water bottles then dropping them into bins.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/xcUv71TPm1A" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/xcUv71TPm1A</a>

CEO Steve Miller says the robot uses cameras and artificial intelligence to separate recycling from trash "in the same way that a person would do it," but faster and more accurately.

"It actually moves at a rate of 80 picks per minute," he says. "A person might only get 30 picks per minute."

Miller believes technology like this could let the U.S. make its recycling clean enough for China. But the robots are expensive, and few companies have them.

For now, the best bet may come back to the curbside bin.

Recycling companies are considering changing the rules for what's allowed in them or adding an additional bin for paper only to help streamline the sorting process. Steve Frank says Pioneer Recycling is even looking into adding cameras to collection trucks to catch people putting trash in their recycling bins.
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From hotumn to meatmares: The words that defined our planet this year
« Reply #71 on: December 23, 2017, 04:00:41 AM »
http://grist.org/article/from-hotumn-to-meatmares-the-words-that-defined-our-planet-this-year/


Grist / Amelia Bates
Year in Review
From hotumn to meatmares: The words that defined our planet this year
By Kate Yoder on Dec 22, 2017

Every December, dictionary editors declare their picks for “Word of the Year,” expressions that encapsulate the year’s defining spirit, its zeitgeist. The choices so far reflect 2017’s biggest stories: Donald Trump and sexual misconduct, with a complementary ray of hope. Dictionary.com selected complicit. Merriam-Webster picked feminism. Oxford Dictionaries introduced us to youthquake — “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.”

In an explanation for the selection process, Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, lamented the lack of new or revived words to describe our changing environment. Had there been any, Grathwohl implied, they might have been in the running for Word of the Year:

    As our process got underway we scoured the language corpora for a 2017 coinage giving voice to Mother Nature’s anguish and wrath. Alas. We may have talked until we were arctic blue in the face, but we found no evidence of a new or re-emerging word that embodies what’s happening to the Earth.

For the record, people did try to apply words to the vast planetary changes that occurred this year: the fast-melting Arctic ice, the balmy autumn days, the monster hurricanes that flattened entire islands. I set out to document them. After scouring news stories, conducting a few calculated Google searches, and begging Twitter for ideas, here’s what I came up with: the top 11 terms that shaped environmental discussion in 2017 — the kind that could end up in a dictionary a few years from now.

500-year flood (n.) A flood event that has a 1 in 500 chance of occurring in a given year. The phrase comes from flood-risk maps used for disaster preparedness.

Hurricane Harvey, for instance, hit Houston with the city’s third 500-year flood in the past three years. The phrase keeps popping up because climate-charged weather has made a mess of previous estimates. Flood risk maps look increasingly outdated since they often ignore increased risks from climate change and rising seas. After the media used the phrase widely, even President Donald Trump tweeted about it.

Antevernals (n.) Spring flowers that bloom uncannily early in the year.

The term antevernals, coined by Michelle Nijhuis, is one we might hear more often as climate change drives earlier springs and premature flower buds. The United States experienced its second warmest February on record in 2017. East of the Rockies, temperatures averaged as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Category 6 (adj.) An unofficial category given to a hurricane so powerful that it breaks the scale.

The widely used Saffir-Simpson measure of hurricane strength goes from Category 1 (very dangerous winds) to Category 5 (widespread catastrophic damage). So, there’s no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane. But that didn’t stop people from talking about it. In September, scientists pointed out that if the traditional scale was extrapolated, Hurricane Irma’s intense wind speed would have put it at a Category 6. With intense hurricanes happening more frequently (thanks again, climate change!), we’re likely to hear more talk of Category 6 storms in the future. Or we may wind up with new scales that take more than wind speed into account.

Climate dismissive (n.) A person who dismisses any evidence of climate change.

In an interview with NPR in May, the renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe called for a new name for climate deniers, one that’s more accurate and less likely to immediately end a conversation. For these folks, “dismissing the reality of climate change and the necessity for action is such a core part of their identity,” she said. So asking them to consider the evidence and change their minds is like asking them to “cut off an arm.” A climate dismissive took over the White House at the start of the year, and, well, we’ve seen the consequences.

Climate tourism (n.) Hurried travel to landscapes that are expected to melt or disappear. An offshoot of “disaster tourism.”

A CBS video earlier this year posed the question: “Is climate tourism the key to funding future environmental research?” As in, given Trump’s proposed cuts to the science budget, are we going to have to fund climate research with the help of tourists flocking to the world’s vanishing landscapes? With soon-to-be-Glacierless National Park getting overcrowded, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Ecoanxiety (n.) Anxiety or worry provoked by the unfolding damage from climate change and other ecological threats.

This spring, the American Psychological Association warned that climate change is beginning to trigger a mental health crisis on a vast scale. Climate change directly affects the mental and physical health of people at the frontlines of disasters, as in the case of post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. But ecoanxiety — a cousin of climate anxiety and climate grief — can also afflict people at a distance, those who feel helpless watching such disasters unfold. A Gallup poll this year found that 45 percent of Americans “worry a great deal” about global warming.

Hotumn (n.) A swelteringly hot fall that’s too unseasonable to call “autumn.”

This fall, New England saw record-breaking temperatures. So did Southern California. And from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest, swaths of the country saw average September temperatures soar several degrees above average. Climate models project we’ll be basking under the hotumn sun more and more frequently.

Meatmare (n.) A nightmare in which a vegetarian or vegan dreams about accidentally eating meat, then wakes up feeling guilty about it.

Our culture’s preoccupation with meat takes a huge toll on the environment (livestock represent about 15 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions). Sometimes, it also takes a toll on the sleep of vegetarians. To learn what experts in psychology, anthropology, and food studies believe causes meatmares (yes, they’re real), read my in-depth investigation from this summer. The short version: “It’s the culture’s way of getting back at you and calling into question the decision to reject meat,” Samuel Boerboom, author of The Political Language of Food, told me.

Medicane (n.) Short for “Mediterranean hurricane,” a rare weather system with the characteristics of a subtropical cyclone in the Mediterranean Sea.

A medicane caused deadly flooding in Greece this year. Last year, one struck Malta. They are — or were — so uncommon that scientists haven’t yet established clear criteria for them. But those who study them say that warmer Mediterranean waters could fuel stronger medicanes going forward.

New Arctic (n.) The new name for the Arctic, which has become so altered by human-caused climate change that it’s well on its way to becoming ice-free.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coined the term in a recent report on the Arctic’s health. Basically, the Arctic as we knew it is already gone, so scientists decided the melting region needed a new name. The loss of sea ice is disrupting cycles that have occurred for millennia and altering global weather patterns.

Weather extremes (n.) A euphemism for climate change.

In August, the Guardian reported that Trump administration officials had instructed staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to avoid using the term “climate change” in their work. Instead, they were to say “weather extremes.” It follows a pattern of censorship under the Trump administration that’s having effects beyond official documents. An NPR report found that scientists have begun censoring themselves and omitting climate change from summaries of their research, using alternative phrases like extreme weather instead.
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Animals (anti-poaching music video 3:14)
« Reply #72 on: December 24, 2017, 12:26:20 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/tk0XeFr-Suo" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/tk0XeFr-Suo</a>
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Oil Spill at Sea From Burned Ship off China Spreads ‘Noticeably’
« Reply #73 on: January 16, 2018, 12:29:04 AM »
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-16/oil-spill-at-sea-from-burned-ship-off-china-spreads-noticeably

Oil Spill at Sea From Burned Ship off China Spreads ‘Noticeably’
Bloomberg News
January 15, 2018, 7:12 PM AKST

    Oil slick now covers 52 square miles, up from 3.9 square miles
    A fire, which was burning off fuel, has now dissipated


A rescue ship sails near the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea on Jan. 14. Photographer: Ministry of Transport via AP Photo

The oil slick caused by the stricken Iranian tanker in the East China Sea has spread “noticeably,” raising the prospect for wider environmental damage from what could be the worst spill in decades.

The fuel from the sunken tanker Sanchi, which was carrying 1 million barrels of condensate, expanded to cover as much as 52 square miles at 12 p.m. local time on Monday, up from about 3.9 square miles the previous day, according to Chinese authorities. A fire, which had been burning off some of the highly flammable type of light oil, has dissipated, the authorities said.

The blaze, which started Jan. 6 after the tanker collided with another ship, had been seen as helping to limit the fallout. The cargo is four times larger than the heavier crude on the Exxon Valdez spilled off Alaska in 1989, affecting about 1,300 miles of shoreline and destroying thousands of marine fauna. If all the condensate leaked into the sea instead of burning off, the spill would be one of the biggest from a ship over the past five decades.

The East China Sea is a large fishing area, and species such as mackerel could be affected by a spill, Greenpeace said last week. If there were a large-scale leak, then there would be an impact on creatures like the small yellow croaker and hairtail, according to the environmental group.

“It is virtually certain that much of the condensate went into the sea in solution, and that toxic underwater hydrocarbon plume will injure marine life exposed to it,” said Richard Steiner, an oil spill specialist based in Alaska. “Even the burned fraction will leave a toxic residue on the water.”

The Chinese authorities are still assessing the damage, the country’s State Oceanic Administration said on Monday. Because the oil slick is drifting southeast away from the coastal area where it sank in the East China sea, the spill isn’t having a significant impact on the marine ecological environment around the shore, according to a report by China National Radio Monday.

— With assistance by Sarah Chen
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Dumpster Fire
« Reply #74 on: January 29, 2018, 01:14:53 AM »
http://grist.org/article/saugus-wheelabrator-incinerator-ash-rumney-marshes/

Dumpster Fire


Two decades after its scheduled closure, a zombie garbage incinerator divides a working-class town in Massachusetts.

By Greta Jochem   on Jan 25, 2018

Sitting on a park bench next to the Pines River on a sunny afternoon in Revere, Massachusetts, a few miles north of Boston, RoseLee Vincent recalls her childhood spent waterskiing on the river.

“This is where poor kids had fun,” the fourth-generation Revere resident remembers.

When she surveys the river today, her gaze often wanders to a garbage incinerator just over Revere’s border, in the neighboring town of Saugus. The facility, run by Wheelabrator Technologies, sits near the confluence of the Pines and the Saugus River. Vincent has spent nearly four years as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives trying to close it.

Wheelabrator Saugus, as the incinerator is known, burns trash gathered from surrounding neighborhoods and turns it into electricity. According to Wheelabrator, the facility can generate as much as 37 megawatts of energy — enough to power close to 40,000 homes. It also generates ash, which can contain hazardous heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead, that gets dumped in an adjacent landfill.

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And that’s what concerns Vincent.

The 50-foot-high ash landfill is located in state-protected marshland, and its dump doesn’t have a plastic liner system underneath, as most modern landfills do. Without that boundary between the waste and the marsh, critics say poisons in the ash can leach into the surrounding marshland, threatening the health of the snowy egrets, herons, and a wide variety of wildlife inhabiting the wetlands as well as people living nearby.

Many residents worry the facility creates health issues — and have plenty of anecdotes related to early cancer diagnoses and development of autoimmune disorders — but finding evidence of this has remained elusive. And the company insists that it follows all local, state, and federal regulations.

“It’s a money maker — it’s very easy to burn and dump, burn and dump,” Vincent says. “It’s a disaster for my constituency.”

Vincent first drew up legislation that would limit the Wheelabrator facility’s activities in 2015, and she’s proposed new legislation in every session since she’s been a member of the Massachusetts House.
RoseLee Vincent   Greta Jochem

But every effort to rein it in keeps getting quashed.

In 1988, when Massachusetts designated the marshland where Wheelabrator’s landfill is located as a protected area, it seemed like the incinerator’s days were numbered. Who would allow a toxic waste pile in a conservation area? In fact, the state planned to close the facility in 1996.

But the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection gave it a critical reprieve, allowing it to stay open until its landfill reached capacity.

Today, the Saugus incinerator’s landfill is nearly full. And Wheelabrator told Massachusetts that as of November 2016, the dump had one year of capacity left. But rather than closing down the facility as the state had decreed, the company requested permission to extend the dump’s life for an estimated five years by changing the gradient on parts of the landfill. The project would expand the size of the dump by 25 percent. The state issued a provisional decision last year allowing the project to move forward.

After more than four decades of operation and an expansion on the horizon, some residents like Vincent wonder when the landfill will actually reach the end of its life — putting to rest their worries about its pollution and their health. Worse, Wheelabrator’s opponents point out that with climate change bringing more forceful hurricanes up the Eastern seaboard, a storm surge could literally empty the landfill’s contents into the surrounding wetlands.

“People said, ‘She’s a crazy environmentalist!,’” Vincent recalls. “I felt compelled to craft legislation that would end this environmental injustice.”

In the town of more than 25,000 residents, the incinerator is a divisive topic. I spoke to Saugus residents in diners and coffee shops. A few would talk in hushed tones only after looking around to see who else was in earshot. Some consider Wheelabrator a steward of the community, a model corporate citizen that provides much-needed tax dollars. For others, it’s a nasty neighbor that’s poisoning their friends and families.

Loretta LaCentra has lived in Riverside, a Revere neighborhood less than a half-mile downwind of Wheelabrator, for more than 30 years. Her home is across the river from the facility, and she regularly kayaks through the Rumney Marshes. The fact that Wheelabrator can keep operating a dump in a protected marshland simply dumbfounds her.

“It’s 50 feet now,” LaCentra says about the ash pile. “How high is high enough for them?”

When trash is incinerated in a typical energy-from-waste facility, two types of ash are created: fly ash and bottom ash. Fly ash is typically 10 to 20 percent of the total ash, and it usually contains most of the dangerous metals.

In 1994, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandated that ash from municipal solid-waste incinerators be considered hazardous when toxic chemicals reach a certain threshold, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency. But the agency’s regulations allow facilities to test their waste-toxicity from the total ash they generate — as opposed to simply testing the more-dangerous fly ash — making it less likely for tests to turn up hazardous levels.

Among the dangerous byproducts of trash incineration are dioxins, which the World Health Organization links to reproductive and developmental issues, damage to the immune system, and even cancer. According to the environmental advocacy group the Conservation Law Foundation, dioxins “have been described as the most toxic chemicals known to mankind.”

Back in 2011, Wheelabrator agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine — at the time Massachusetts’ largest alleged environmental violation settlement — for incidents at multiple facilities they own in the state. Sparked by two whistleblowers who worked at the Saugus incinerator, the state attorney general’s complaint alleged that thousands of gallons of ash spilled into the Wheelabrator parking lot and the Rumney Marshes after a filter broke. The complaint said that the company failed to immediately report the spill to the state and instead tried to clean it up on its own. In addition, according to the attorney general, a hole in the facility’s roof had allowed ash from burning trash to escape.

The company never admitted wrongdoing. But they’ve acknowledged more spills since then, including at least two in 2016.
The Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern   Greta Jochem

Concerns about the toxicity of the ash stem in part from the fact that the plant’s landfill has no liner. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Wheelabrator is one of only two unlined, active landfills in the state.

In Wheelabrator’s case, the disposal pile is built directly on top of an old solid-waste landfill which, in turn, sits on top of natural clay. Joseph Ferson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, said that it was “not feasible” to construct a conventional liner system because the ash landfill was built on top of another dump.

Without a liner, critics say there’s little protection for the salt marshes and tidal flats that make up the 2,800-acre Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern. In its comments when the marshes received their protected designation, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the site “one of the most biologically significant estuaries in Massachusetts north of Boston” but notes that shellfish from the wetlands are too contaminated for human consumption.

Jim Connolly, the company’s vice president of environmental health and safety, told Grist, “The ash monofill adjacent to the Wheelabrator Saugus facility includes a clay/soil barrier wall system that provides the equivalent groundwater protection as a traditional plastic.” He adds that this system complies with federal and state standards.

In 2015, Connolly appeared in a video interview with public policy master’s students at the University of New Hampshire. In it, he argued that because the current ash landfill is built on top of an old landfill, they aren’t dumping in the marsh — though official state documents have described the landfill as being situated within Rumney Marshes.

“The ash has always been placed on the footprint of where waste had previously been placed,” Connolly explained. “The previous landfill was in the marsh. When we got here and started placing ash, the marsh was no longer a marsh.”

Last May, the Conservation Law Foundation filed a notice of intent to sue Wheelabrator for allegedly failing to monitor the groundwater around the landfill and thus violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Their intent letter further alleges that Wheelabrator is violating the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminated groundwater into the nearby surface waters without a permit.

“This is a highly sensitive ecological area that deserves a very, very high level of protection,” says Heather Murray, a staff attorney at the foundation. “A new landfill would never be allowed to be sited there in the first place.”

Last February, members of the Saugus Town Meeting voted in new rules that would limit the height of any ash landfill. They would effectively cap  Wheelabrator’s dump at its current height 50 feet. The Massachusetts attorney general’s office struck the regulations down six months later — saying they intruded on the power of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Before the town voted, Wheelabrator had threatened to sue to have the restrictions reversed (and promised to pass any costs to the company onto the town). It was a serious concern for some residents. “We are forcing Wheelabrator to take the town to court,” Town Meeting member Bill Brown commented to the Saugus Advertiser. “And that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

That’s an expense the community of Saugus — where the per-capita income is nearly 10 percent below the state’s — likely could not bear. The facility is next to several communities that are either low-income or have sizable minority contingents that the state has designated as “environmental justice populations.” In Massachusetts there are six other municipal waste incinerators like the one Wheelabrator operates in Saugus. According to state data, all seven are in or near communities with the designation.
The Wheelabrator Saugus waste-to-energy plant   Google Earth

Complicating Saugus’ relationship with Wheelabrator is the fact that the company is one of the town’s largest taxpayers. The company is quick to remind the community of its financial clout. In an ad the company placed in the Saugus Advertiser in January 2017, Wheelabrator claimed it paid $4 million to the town in taxes and philanthropy.

The company donates to local schools, and provides 60 full-time jobs, according to its website. It won a community service award in 2013 after sponsoring the Saugus High School golf tournament and donating a new scoreboard to the school’s gym. In a series of videos touting its relationship to Saugus, the company said that it gave land to the high school’s golf team to use as a driving range.

“Every time we ask Wheelabrator for help, they not only come through, but in many cases Wheelabrator employees contribute time, energy, and funding beyond what we have asked for,” Mike Nelson, the former Saugus High School athletic director, told The Daily Item, a local newspaper in nearby Lynn.

The company also promotes its maintenance of the 370-acre Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, an area near the facility that plays host to snowy egrets, great blue herons, and buffleheads. The sanctuary popular with local bird watchers — some of whom credit Wheelabrator with providing open habitat for grassland-breeding birds, like sandpipers.

 
Saugus Town Meeting member Bill Brown Greta Jochem

Americans generate a lot of garbage — 254 million tons of trash in 2013, according to the EPA. If it’s not reused or recycled, there are two main options for it: a solid-waste landfill or an incinerator.

“Neither is good for the environment,” says Anne Marie Desmarais, a lecturer in civil and environmental engineering at Tufts University. “But probably landfilling is worse.” Incinerators, she says, are somewhat of a necessary evil.

Bill Brown, the Saugus Town Meeting member, says that when it first opened in the 1970s, many community members saw the Wheelabrator facility — which burns 1,500 tons of trash per day — as environmentally friendly.

“We’re producing electricity, and we’re getting rid of our trash all at once,” Brown recalls town folk thinking.

And thus far, Brown says, no one’s made a convincing case for an alternative. Advocates working to close or limit the incinerator’s operations have yet to present conclusive proof — such as increased rates of cancer or asthma — that living near the facility has harmed their health.

That’s what keeps Brown from joining the crowd aligned against Wheelabrator.

“In everything that they’ve done,” he says, “they’ve never ever offered clinical data, studies, reports, brought forth scientists or anyone that could say the problems in this area are directly related to Wheelabrator.”

But LaCentra, who lives across from the facility, is concerned the incinerator is sickening people. In 1996, her husband, a lifelong Revere resident, was diagnosed with kidney cancer when he was 42. The doctor was shocked he’d developed it so young, LaCentra recalls, because it’s rare for the disease to strike anyone younger than 45. Kidney cancer is linked to exposure to toxins in drinking water, including arsenic.

“I am suspect of Wheelabrator after having seen too many cancer cases, respiratory issues, and autoimmune issues in my 30 years of living in the Riverside neighborhood,” LaCentra wrote in a letter to the state in 2016, asking the state to close the ash landfill.

The data that has been collected doesn’t back up LaCentra’s suspicion. A March 2016 paper by the state health officials looked at incidence of cancer in Saugus and concluded that, overall, there is not an unusual pattern of cancer in the town.

Soon after the report, RoseLee Vincent co-founded the Alliance for Health and Environment, which advocates for closing Wheelabrator’s ash landfill. Members of the organization argue that the study isn’t complete because it only looked at Saugus — leaving out sections of Lynn and Revere that are within a tight radius of the facility. Further, they argue, cancer is not the only potential public health problem: asthma and other respiratory issues are, too.

According to the Bureau of Environmental Health, their cancer study was done at Wheelabrator’s request — though the agency did not evaluate the impact of the company’s incinerator, specifically. The Conservation Law Foundation points to a 2015 report by Massachusetts Department of Health that did find that between 2007 and 2011, residents of Saugus, Revere, and Lynn reported “higher than expected” numbers of new cancer diagnoses — though no underlying cause was identified.

Brown notes that Wheelabrator is not the only industrial facility that’s polluting the area. He points out a General Electric plant across the Saugus River where he worked for 34 years.

“Yeah, Wheelabrator is a contributor,” Brown says. “But so is GE.”

Back by the Pines River, Vincent, the state representative, continues to try to reconcile her carefree childhood on the waterway with the incinerator on its shores today. She’s convinced that now is the time to stop Wheelabrator from increasing its footprint in the Rumney Marshes.

If the company can’t be pushed back now, she says, there’s no end to how tall their ash pile will get.

“This wasn’t here when I was a kid,” Vincent says, looking across the river at the incinerator and landfill. “I would like it to be gone for future generations.”
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