The one process ongoing ... that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
January 14, 2015,
Hemholtz Centre for Environmental Research
By: Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt
Research from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Yale University and Michigan State University demonstrates that several key resources have recently passed, at around the same time, their "peak-rate year" -- the maximum increase year. It seems that as substitution becomes arduous, global society's expanding needs will be harder to fill.
The research analyzed the production and extraction rates of 27 global renewable and non-renewable resources, including 20 renewable resources, such as maize, rice, wheat or soya -- which represent around 45% of the global calorie intake according to FAO -- as well as animal products, such as fish, meat, milk and egg.
The term peak was popularized in the discussion about peak oil initiated in the mid-1970s. Though oil production has actually continued to expand beyond its predicted peak, "for many resources, but not oil, we indeed observed a peak pattern", noted one of the researchers landscape ecologist Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt.
20 resources had a peak-year and for 16 of those 20 resources, the peak-year lay between 1988 and 2008. "The key commodities that a person needs for food and must harvest are limited", summarizes Dr. Seppelt, Head of the Landscape Ecology Department at the UFZ. The maximum global growth rate in crop yields for soya beans was in 2009, for milk it was 2004, for eggs it was 1993 and for the fish caught it was 1988. Data from other studies show that the crop yield per area with maize, wheat, soya and rice on more than a quarter of the farming area around the world is stagnating or decreasing according.
Many of the peak-years occur at about the same time because of the rising population and change in diet in regions such as India and China increased the demand for renewable resources increased in order to produce as much food as possible. The highest rate of increase in the cultivation of arable land was found to be in the 1950s; the peak for human-made irrigation areas then followed in the 1970s, and the peak for nitrogen fertilizers was subsequently in the 1980s, as "the land available for agriculture was used more intensively for growing food", concludes Dr. Klotz, Head of the Department of Community Ecology.
"Experts see opportunities for further increases in agricultural yield of about one to two percent per year due to better breeding techniques and genetically modified organisms", states Dr. Seppelt. But then it will be tight: "The global community needs to accept that renewable raw materials are also reaching their yield limits worldwide".
As the foundation of humanity's current standard of living is eroding, it becomes essential to take action by using fertilizer and water more efficiently. "At the individual level, we can start by preferring a vegetarian diet, or eating chicken instead of beef", said Dr. Seppelt.
End of "Resource Depletion" section pg ... Go to page 12
A new study finds that the world’s seabird populations have plummeted by almost 70% in just 60 years.
September 22, 2015,
Mail and Guardian
By: Jeremy Hance
Seabirds have been around for sixty million years, and they are true survivalists: circumnavigating the globe without rest, diving more than 200 meters in treacherous seas for food, braving unpredictable weather and finding their way with few, if any, landmarks.
But now seabirds seabird abundance has dropped 69.7% in only 60 years, according to a recent paper in PLOS ONE.
Edd Hammill with Utah State University and co-author of the paper, noted: "What we should take away from this is that something is serious amiss in the oceans."
Ben Lascelles, with Birdlife International, found the research alarming because the decline appeared practically indiscriminate, hitting a "large number of species across a number of families."
Michelle Paleczny with the University of British Columbia and the Sea Around Us Project said: "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."
There are nearly 350 species of seabirds worldwide. Living on both the open ocean and the shoreline, they face overfishing, drowning in fishing lines or nets, plastic pollution, invasive species like rats in nesting areas, oil and gas development and toxic pollution moving up the food chain. And then there is climate change and ocean acidification which threaten to flood nesting sites and disrupt food sources.
Seabirds are about twice as likely as land-based birds to be threatened with extinction. Paleczny and Hammil's research found that the tern family has fallen by 85%, frigatebirds by 81%, petrels and shearwaters by 79%, and albatrosses by 69%.
Lascelles said: "Increased efforts should be made to rid seabird colonies of invasive species, reduce bycatch in fisheries or the ensnaring of birds in fish nets, and setting up conservation areas."
Paleczny also called for the creation of international marine protected areas to cover the wide ranges of seabirds.
Currently, only 2% of the world's oceans are under some form of protection and less than half of those ban fishing altogether. In contrast, nearly 15% of the world's terrestrial landscape is protected.
With so little of the ocean closed to fisheries - less than 1% - it's hardly shocking that many seabirds are suffering from overfishing.
Hammill said the "most pressing issue" is plastic pollution. A paper released last month found that 90% of the world's seabirds likely have plastic in their stomachs.
Seabirds continually mistake plastic for fish eggs, devouring large amounts. Plastic in animals' stomachs not only release deadly toxins, but can also lead to slow starvation by obstructing the animals' bowels. Birds even feed plastic bits to their young, killing their fledglings en masse.
In the end, large-scale actions to help seabirds could also go a long way in cleaning-up our increasingly trashed marine ecosystems.
"The oceans are still woefully under protected and fisheries need greater management and enforcement. All of these activities need investment and support of governments around the world to make them happen," Lascelles said. "These actions will build resilience in the seabird populations in the short term, which they need in the face of emerging threats such as climate change."
Scientists call it Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). But we may as well think of it as the heartbeat of the world ocean system. And when that heartbeat begins to slow down, we'd best sit up and start paying attention:
Near Greenland in the North Atlantic, salty, dense, ocean water issuing from the tropics along the Gulf Stream begins to cool. The heavier water, burdened with salt, sinks to the bottom in the North Atlantic. This drives a massive ocean conveyer belt, driving less oxygen rich bottom waters to the surface where they can be reinvigorated. It also drives this ocean revitalizing train of currents through every major corner of the world ocean.
However, scientists have been warning policymakers for 30 years that this salt and heat driven (thermohaline) circulation could be disrupted, reducing oxygen levels throughout the whole ocean system, and greatly reducing the oceans' ability to support life and shifting one step closer to the nightmare ocean state called a Canfield Ocean.
This disruption could be caused by warmer, salty water cooling and sinking in the North Atlantic. And any disruption of the overturning process in the North Atlantic basically kills off a life-giving circulation to the entire world ocean system.
For details and graphs, click on the link in the headline.
The good news is the world’s oceans have not experienced the extinctions that have occurred on land. But as ecologist Douglas McCauley explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview, marine life now face numerous threats even more serious than overfishing.
February 18, 2015,
Yale Environment 360
By: Fen Montaigne
A group of marine experts published a study in the journal Science which drew conclusions that were both heartening and disturbing: While ocean ecosystems are still largely intact, the marine world is facing unprecedented disturbance, including acidification from the absorption of greenhouse gases and widespread habitat destruction from deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, development, and aquaculture.
Lead author Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, noted that, while there was a sixth mass extinction that's been happening, the sixth mass extinction is not underway in the oceans. However the bad news is that there were a lot of data suggesting that we're in a really important transition zone and we seem to be on the verge of transitioning from an era in which harvesting and fishing of marine resources has been the main driver of impoverishing biological diversity to one in which massive habitat change and, `global chemical warfare' (acidification) may be waged on the oceans.
"If you hunt individuals intensely that's going to have negative impacts, but if you go through and actually ravage the homes of these animals, it's going to be a lot harder to recover and the impacts are going to be more profound," he said.
"Look at the way we are impacting coral reef cover, the way that fish farming is eating up mangrove forest, the amount of factory building that we are doing in the oceans for energy production. Seabed mining can only be described as a gold rush that's underway under the ocean now."
"Let's keep our eyes on this emerging rising tide of industrialization in the oceans."
"There are just so many more of us on the planet that have so much higher energy and resource needs, and that we have to start reaching into the oceans for things that we require in our everyday lives."
We just need to be smarter about how to industrialize the ocean and put industry in the right places. "If we need to develop a section of the oceans that turns out to have really bad impacts for wildlife, we need to do remediation somewhere else."
"There are millions and millions of dollars that are being invested to build technological capacity to mine minerals, and they are talking about doing this in the deepest parts of the oceans. And the numbers involved are a bit scary -- a million square kilometers that have been staked out in this marine gold rush"
"There are two major changes that are happening in the oceans as a result of climate change - changing temperature and acidification.""We need to keep climate change and climate change effects on the oceans -- and what this means for wildlife -- at the top of our agenda."
Some of the "corals are beginning to show the capacity for resiliency to cope with some of these temperature increases.". "So what we need to do is basically slow down the rate of the advance of climate change."
"We need more parks and protected areas in the ocean. It's something that we need to very actively tell our policy makers to do."
"The processes of engaging and slowing marine defaunation is made triply hard because large parts of the oceans have no owners. But there is a growing awareness that we need to build international alliances to think about marine wildlife issues."
Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing global temperatures to rise, which is leading to the melting of the polar ice caps, which in turn has resulted in rising sea levels and a host of ecological issues.
On the fish counters of Barcelona's central market, thousands of sea creatures making up dozens of species are on display. But by the end of this century, many of these animals may be history due to man's reckless abuse of the planet. The oceans are taking up the greenhouse gases that we dump into the air, which turns the waters deadly to its inhabitants.
Many species on the market's fish counters are also on one or more European "at-risk" lists: under threat because of overfishing or changes in the chain of foods that supply them, or from the bigger threat of the changing ocean biogeochemistry. Bivalves such as clams, oysters and mussels use calcium carbonate to make their shells. However, in as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone.
Other sea creatures with shells don't make their shells the same way but the acidification appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behavior of the crustaceans when they are very young.
This acidification is the fastest change in the ocean's chemistry in 300 million years, according to scientists.
A significant amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the burning of carbon fuels. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, lowering the pH level and increasing its acidity. "In preindustrial times the ocean's pH was 8.2. It has already gone down to 8.1," says Carles Pelejero, a scientist working in Barcelona. "Depending on what we do, it will reach an average of 7.8 or 7.7 by 2100. It hasn't been that low for 55 million years."
The ocean is a key food supply for more than 3 billion of us.
Along the coasts and out in the deep, huge "dead zones" have been multiplying. They are the emptiest places on the planet, where there's little oxygen and sometimes no life at all, almost entirely restricted to some unicellular organisms like bacteria. Vast blooms of algae-organisms that thrive in more acid (and less alkaline) seawater and are fed by pollution-have already rendered parts of the Baltic Sea pretty much dead. A third of the marine life in that sea, which once fed all of Northern Europe,
What worries Pelejero most is the rapidity of today's changes. The same shifts that happened over the course of a few thousand years during the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) are now due to happen over just a few centuries, counting from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels.
One ray of hope is that the Obama administration announced a series of measures aimed to conserve the ocean as a key food supply. These included more ocean sanctuaries to curtail overfishing, and new funds to research ocean biochemistry, including acidification.
In a study published in the latest issue of Paleoceanography, the scientists estimate that ocean acidity increased by about 100% in a few thousand years or more, and stayed that way for the next 70,000 years. In this radically changed environment, some creatures died out while others adapted and evolved. The study is the first to use the chemical composition of fossils to reconstruct surface ocean acidity at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense warming on land and throughout the oceans due to high CO2.
The oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon humans have pumped into the air since industrialization, helping to keep earth's thermostat lower than it would be otherwise. But that uptake of carbon has come at a price. Chemical reactions caused by that excess CO2 have made seawater grow more acidic, depleting it of the carbonate ions that corals, mollusks and calcifying plankton need to build their shells and skeletons.
For more, follow the link at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602170341.htm
Marine fish provide 15% of all animal protein consumed by humans. Under this intense pressure global fisheries are collapsing.
A 2009 assessment found that 80% of fish stocks are either fully exploited, overexploited, or have collapsed. 90% of the world's large predatory fish are in decline. Of the 21 marine species known to have been driven extinct in the past 300 years, 16 disappeared since 1972 .
A catch reduction of 20 - 50% is needed to make global fisheries sustainable, but the demand for fish is expected to increase by 35 million tons by 2030 due to increased consumption and a "rapidly increasing human population."
In addition to overfishing impacts from commercial fishing, coral reefs -- anchors of biodiversity that support thousands of fish species and as many as a million species overall -- are often damaged or destroyed by trawlers and dredging.
The global fish crisis has become so severe, scientists and wildlife managers are breaking the human population taboo, calling not only for reduced consumption and better regulation, but for alleviation of poverty and "stabilization of the world's human population" .
Nanaimo-based Island Scallops has shut down its processing plant and laid off a third of its workforce
February 25, 2014,
By: Randy Shore
Ten million scallops that have died in the waters near Qualicum Beach due to rising ocean acidity are the latest victims in a series of marine die-offs that have plagued the West Coast for a decade.
Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere are being absorbed by the ocean and may have pushed local waters through a "tipping point" of acidity beyond which shellfish cannot survive, according to Chris Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of B.C.
Rising ocean acidity is a global phenomenon, made worse by higher natural acidity in local waters, Harley said.
High acidity interferes with the ability of baby scallops to form a protective shell, forcing them to expend more energy and making them more vulnerable to predators and infection.
Scallop operations big and small are reporting die-offs this year. Mysterious scallop die-offs have also been reported in China since 1996.
Oyster die-offs in Washington state and Oregon dating back a decade have also been linked by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers to acidification and rising carbon dioxide levels.
Oyster larvae started dying inexplicably in 2005. Researchers found that deep water welling up from the depths of the ocean was mixing with surface water rich in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rendering the water uninhabitable to some shellfish.
End of "The Oceans" section pg ... Go to page 12345678910
Wildlife Survival, Species Extinction, Biodiversity
The tropics cover around 40% of the world's surface. A 400-plus page report on the tropics, compiled by 12 institutions, found incredible population growth, rising economic importance, clashes over land-use, imperiled biodiversity, and worsening impacts of climate change.
The tropics are home to about 40% of the world's population, but house 55% of children under five. Within 40 years, it is expected that more than half the world's population will be in the tropics and a staggering 67% of its young children. According to the report, the region is expected to add another 3 billion people (or 42% of the world's population today) by the end of the century.
"Because most of the world's children will live in the Tropics by 2050, we must rethink the world's priorities on aid, development, research and education," author Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University said. For example, it is estimated that around 467 million people in the tropics lived in slums as of 2001, representing 46% of the region's urban population.
A booming population means increased demand for food, water, and other natural resources internally, even while many of these resources are already exported abroad to temperate regions.
Tropical economies are growing 20% more rapidly than in temperate regions, yet the tropics is still home to two-thirds of the world's population living in extreme poverty.
There is also good news according to the report: "The prevalence of undernourishment in the tropics has declined by one-third over the past two decades." And life expectancy is on the rise while maternal and child mortality has been slashed. Such changes could.
Unfortunately people in the tropics face especially challenging diseases rarely found in temperate regions such as dengue fever and malaria. And local people and indigenous groups are struggling to maintain control over their traditional lands as corporations -- often foreign -- seek out more land to grow crops, raise livestock, or extract commodities such as timber, fossil fuels, and minerals. Land-grabbing, as it is known, has become a significant political issue in places like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Kenya, and Cameroon.
At the same time, conservationists and environmentalists are fighting to preserve rainforests, coral reefs, and other vital ecosystems from destruction. Approximately 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and more than 95% of its mangrove and coral reef-based biodiversity are in the tropics.
May 1, 2015,
By: William J. Ripple, Thomas M. Newsome, Christopher Wolf, Rodolfo Dirzo, Kristoffer T. Everatt, Mauro Galetti, Matt W. Hayward, Graham I. H. Kerley, Taal Levi, Peter A. Lindsey, David W. Macdonald, Yadvinder Malhi, Luke E. Painter, Christopher J. Sandom, John Terborgh, Blaire Van Valkenburgh
Sixty percent of large wild herbivores (body mass ≥100 kg) are threatened with extinction. Nearly all threatened species are in developing countries, where major threats include hunting, land-use change, and resource depression by livestock. Loss of large herbivores can have cascading effects on other species including large carnivores, scavengers, mesoherbivores, small mammals, and ecological processes involving vegetation, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and fire regimes. The rate of large herbivore decline suggests that ever-larger swaths of the world will soon lack many of the vital ecological services these animals provide, resulting in enormous ecological and social costs.
The combined impacts of hunting, encroachment by humans and their livestock, and habitat loss could lead to the extinction of a suite of large herbivores relatively soon.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 44 of the 74 largest terrestrial herbivores are listed as threatened with extinction (including 12 critically endangered or extinct in the wild), and 43 ( 58%) have decreasing populations.
The most-threatened large herbivore species are found in southern Asia, throughout much of extreme Southeast Asia, as well as Ethiopia and Somalia of eastern Africa. The ecoregions with seven threatened large herbivore species are the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, the Sunda Shelf mangroves, and the peninsular Malaysian rain forests. Hunting for meat is the predominant threat in all ecoregions containing at least five threatened large herbivore species. These ecoregions fall mostly within the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome (20 of 30 ecoregions), but biomes containing combinations of grasslands, shrublands, savannas, mangroves, or other forest types represent the other 10 ecoregions with at least five threatened large herbivore species.
The white rhinoceros follows one of the greatest success stories in the history of modern conservation: the recovery of the southern white rhino from a single population of fewer than 100 individuals in the early 1900s to about 20,000 today. Even with the current crisis of rhinoceros poaching, this illustrates that, with sufficient protection, recovery is possible for relatively slow-breeding species that are highly prized by poachers.
Many of the largest herbivore species have ranges that are collapsing. On average, these species currently occupy only 19% of their historical ranges. This is exemplified by the elephant, hippopotamus, and black rhinoceros, all of which now occupy just tiny fractions of their historical ranges in Africa. Many of these declining species are poorly known scientifically, and badly in need of basic ecological research. Scientific research effort has been much greater for nonthreatened than threatened species, and greater overall for species in developed countries. Indeed, those that have been most studied are primarily game species in wealthy countries.
The main threats to large herbivores are hunting, competition with livestock, and land-use change such as habitat loss, human encroachment, cultivation, and deforestation. Extensive overhunting for meat across much of the developing world is likely the most important factor in the decline of the largest terrestrial herbivore. Slow reproduction makes large herbivores particularly vulnerable to overhunting. The largest- and slowest-to-reproduce species typically vanish first, and as they disappear, hunters turn to smaller and more fecund species. In synergy with changes in land use, hunting for meat has increased in recent years due to human population growth, greater access to wildlands due to road building, use of modern firearms and wire snares, access to markets, and the rising demand for wild meat. Demand for wild meat is intensifying, supply is declining, and protected area management budgets for protecting wildlife from overhunting are often inadequate, particularly in developing nations.
Hunting large herbivores for body parts is also driving down populations of some species, especially the iconic ones.
Livestock continues to encroach on land needed for wild grazers and browsers, particularly in developing countries where livestock production tripled between 1980 and 2002. There are an estimated 3.6 billion ruminant livestock on Earth today, and about 25 million have been added to the planet every year for the last 50 years. This upsurge in livestock has resulted in more competition for grazing, a reduction in forage and water available to wild herbivores, a greater risk of disease transmission from domestic to wild species, and increased methane emissions. In central Asia, the expansion of goat grazing for cashmere wool production for international export has reduced habitats available to large herbivores with consequent impacts on their predators including snow leopards.
In many pastoral settings in Africa, domestic livestock are abundant but not regularly consumed for subsistence, and are instead kept as a means of storing wealth, as a status symbol, or for consumption on special occasions. Livestock is a private good, and so, people invest significant energy to protect it, whereas wild herbivores are typically a public good, often resulting in weak incentives for their conservation and in many cases open access to the resource, both of which commonly result in overuse.
Habitat loss is a significant threat to large herbivores in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The causes of this threat have important drivers originating in developed countries due to demand for agricultural and other products. Southeast Asia has the highest rate of deforestation among tropical regions, and if trends continue, Southeast Asia could lose 75% of its original forests and nearly half of its biodiversity by the end of this century. Habitat loss is typically asymmetrical with respect to quality, with remaining habitat generally being less productive. Additionally, the greater area requirements of larger species make them unable to persist in smaller fragments of habitat, which may still support smaller herbivores. Their larger area requirement also makes larger species that persist in fragments increasingly susceptible to conservation challenges that affect small populations. This suggests a greater likelihood of extinction among the larger rather than smaller herbivores.
Other threats to large herbivores include human encroachment (including road building), cultivation of crops, and civil unrest, all of which contribute to population decline.
There are much more items of interest in this article. . . . more
There are more than 7 billion people on the planet, and we're adding 227,000 more every day. The toll on wildlife is impossible to miss: Species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate -- the fastest rate since dinosaurs roamed the planet.
A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the overall number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has declined 52% between 1970 and 2010. This doesn't mean we've wiped out half of all species.
The populations of land species -- elephants, tigers, gorillas, and so on -- have declined 38% since 1970 and 60% since 2002. Habitat loss is a big problem there, as is hunting. For example, deforestation in West and Central Africa has left forest elephants with just a smattering of disconnected habitats, and they've become easy prey for ivory poachers.
Marine species -- turtles, sharks, fish, seabirds -- have declined 39% worldwide since 1970. While California's blue whale population is recovering, a large number of turtles, sharks, and seabirds are still accidentally caught and killed by fishermen targeting other species.
Freshwater populations -- fish, frogs, shorebirds - have declined 76%, due mainly to habitat loss and water pollution, and somewhat to changes in water level due to human activity.
Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce
October 1, 2014,
Mail and Guardian
By: George Monbiot
In the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) If this does not to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it's hard to imagine what could.
True, this is part of a trend that has lasted 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna - sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant - coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed.
But now the speed of destruction is even faster.
Many people blame this process on human population growth, but the rise in consumption and amplification by technology have also played a part. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed.
Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.
Pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. The loss of wildlife is a loss of wonder and enchantment, of the magic with which the living world infects our lives.
Almost all the gains go to a tiny number of people: one study suggests that the richest 1% in the United States capture 93% of the increase in incomes that growth delivers. Working conditions for most people continue to deteriorate, as we find ourselves on short contracts, without full employment rights, without the security or the choice or the pensions their parents enjoyed.
What and whom is this growth for?
A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative - we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.
At which point do we use the extraordinary learning and expertise we have developed to change the way we organise ourselves, to contest and reverse the trends that have governed our relationship with the living planet for the past 2m years, and that are now destroying its remaining features at astonishing speed?
Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when?
Science writer Elizabeth Kolbert has come out with a powerful new book, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," in which she reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet's ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef. She explores the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50% of all living species on earth within this century.
Many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet's ecology. For example, we continue to use the world's atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering "world-altering events," Kolbert writes.
Our oceans, a crucial food source for billions, have become not only warmer but also more acidic than they have been in millions of years. Coral reefs might be the first entire ecosystem to go extinct in the modern era, as Kobert points out.
The last mass extinction occured some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. Marine ecosystems essentially collapsed, and about 75% of all plant and animal species disappeared.
E. O. Wilson says the present extinction rate in the tropics is "on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate" and will reduce biological diversity to its lowest level since the last great extinction.
Kolbert makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong. And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world.
As a result of the California drought, millions of migrating birds will be crowded into less habitat, significantly increasing the odds of botulism outbreaks, which spread rapidly and can kill thousands of birds in a matter of days. Officials also are concerned the drought could cause food shortages.
Already, at least 1,700 waterfowl have died at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge near the Oregon border.
"We've got this perfect storm, if you will. And it's not going to be pretty," Mark Biddlecomb, Western region director of Ducks Unlimited said. "I think we're looking at the probability of a food shortage in addition to a disease outbreak. If they don't go back in excellent condition, they're not going to be breeding like they would normally, and that will affect the entire flyway from the boreal forests of Canada all the way down to Mexico, frankly."
End of "Wildlife Survival, Species Extinction, Biodiversity" section pg ... Go to page 12345678910
GE crops of corn, soybeans and cotton have increased use of weed-killing herbicides by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008; 46% of the total increase occurred in 2007 and 2008. However, GE corn and cotton have reduced insecticide use by 64 million pounds, resulting in an overall increase of 318 million pounds of pesticides over the first 13 years of commercial use.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report links the increase in pesticide use on GE, "herbicide-tolerant" (HT) crops to the emergence and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. Farmers are already critical of GE crops because of drastically rising biotech seed prices.
The agricultural biotechnology industry claims that the higher costs of GE seeds are justified by the decreased spending on pesticides. But the need to make additional herbicide applications in an effort to keep up with resistant weeds is also increasing cash production costs. Corn farmers planting GE hybrids in 2010 will spend around $124 per acre for seed, almost three times the cost of conventional corn seed. A new-generation "Roundup Ready" (RR) 2 soybean seed will cost 42% more than the original RR seeds they are displacing.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is now being resisted by weeds which are starting to infest millions of acres; farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses.
A UCS report claims that engineered crops have largely failed to increase crop yields, despite the industry's consistent claims to the contrary. Dr. Margaret Mellon, food and environment program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. said that "growth in pesticide use has important implications for farmers' bottom lines, public health and the health of the environment."
"The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment."
The Agriculture Department has given preliminary approval for the commercial production of a food crop containing human genes.
The plan calls for large-scale cultivation in Kansas of rice that produces human immune system proteins in its seeds.
The proteins are to be extracted for use as an anti-diarrhea medicine and might be added to yogurt and granola bars.
The idea is to help children with diarrhea get better faster. Protection should keep the engineered plants and their seeds from escaping.
Critics say gene-altered plants migrate out of their home plots and could result in pharmacologically active proteins in the food of unsuspecting consumers.
Als there would be little control over the doses people might get exposed to. Other companies grow such plants in vats and it is unwise to produce drugs in plants outdoors.
Consumer advocacy groups also opposed the plans. Ventria has developed three varieties of rice, each with a different human gene that makes the plants produce one of three human proteins. Two are bacteria-fighting compounds found in breast milk and saliva.
A study concluded that children with severe diarrhea recovered a day and a half faster if the fluids they were prescribed were spiked with the proteins.
Production in plants is cheaper.
The company is talking to the FDA about putting the proteins into health foods. Its third variety of rice makes a blood protein used in medical therapies.
Ventria sought permission to grow its rice commercially on as many as 3,200 acres in Geary County, Kan. A previous plan to grow the rice in southern Missouri was dropped when Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest rice buyer, threatened to stop buying rice from the state if the deal went through.
Because no other rice is grown in Kansas the risk of escape or cross-fertilization is nil, the company said. It will mill seeds on site to minimize the risk of seeds getting mistakenly released or sold.
The Agriculture Department concluded that the project posed no undue risks. The public can comment until March 30.
The agency revealed that a type of rice seed in Arkansas had become contaminated with a different variety of genetically engineered rice, that was never released for marketing. The error was discovered in the investigation into the contamination of U.S. rice by another gene-altered variety, LL601, which has seriously disrupted rice exports.
Those problems, along with the previous discovery of unapproved, gene-altered StarLink corn in food and the accidental release of crops that had been engineered to make a vaccine for pig diarrhea, undermine the USDA's credibility.
This winter was the warmest on record worldwide and the report comes after the IPCC said global warming is very likely caused by human actions. A NASA study report found that an important counter-balance to warming, sunlight blocked by pollution and other aerosol particles, appears to have weakened.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined land and ocean temperatures for December through February were 1.3 degrees F above average for the period since 1880.
During the past century, global temperatures have increased at about 0.11 degrees per decade. But that increase has been three times larger since 1976. Most scientists attribute the rising temperatures to greenhouse gases that build up in the atmosphere and trap heat somewhat like a greenhouse.
Also contributing to this winter's record warmth was an El Nino. It was particularly strong in January, but the ocean surface has since begun to cool.
In the N. Hemisphere the combined land and water temperature was the warmest ever at 1.64 degrees above average. In the Southern Hemisphere, the temperature was 0.88 degree above average and the fourth warmest.
New technologies have made gene splicing and transgenic crops obsolete. The new technology is called marker-assisted selection (MAS) and offers a method to accelerate classical breeding. A growing number of scientists believe MAS will eventually replace GM food. Environmental organisations are guardedly supportive of MAS technology.
Instead of using molecular splicing to transfer a gene, scientists are now using MAS to locate desired traits in other varieties or wild relatives of a particular crop, then crossbreeding those plants with the existing varieties. This reduces the risk of environmental harm. Using MAS, researchers can upgrade classical breeding, and cut the time needed to develop new plant varieties.
Researchers at the US department of agriculture have used MAS to develop a strain of rice that is soft on the outside but remains firm on the inside after processing. Most of the transgenic crops introduced into the fields express only two traits, resistance to pests and compatibility with herbicides.
There is still much work to be done in understanding the factors which interact to affect the development of the plant. Also, MAS is of value when used as part of an approach to farming that integrates new crop introductions with a proper regard for all factors that together determine the sustainability of farming.
The continued introduction of GM crops could contaminate existing plant varieties. MAS technology is being looked at with interest within the EU. The struggle between a younger generation of sustainable-agriculture enthusiasts and entrenched scientists determined to maintain control over the world's seed stocks is likely to be hard-fought. MAS technology could be the right technology at the right time in history.
Evidence from the fields shows Monsanto's claims about its BT cotton variety to be spurious. A study of 481 Chinese farmers in five provinces found that after seven years of cultivation they had to spray up to 20 times to deal with secondary insects, bringing a net income of 8% less than conventional cotton farmers. Failure of BT cotton crops in India resulted in the suicides of an estimated 700 farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, to escape debt incurred by buying the expensive GM seed. BT crops have been attacked by a disease unseen before which affected BT more than the non-BT cotton crop. Genetic engineering and BT cotton will neither revolutionise the countryside nor improve food security, but a new farm economy based on the principle of food sovereignty and farmers' rights as the centrepiece of the country's economic development model will.
Dow AgroSciences specializes in the provision of "innovative crop protection, seeds, and biotechnology solutions." The reluctance of African countries to establish regulatory frameworks to guide the use of biotechnology will be one of the continent's undoings. The continent faced the risk of isolation because of its reluctance to embrace biotechnology. Biotechnology has the potential to improve biodiversity, reduce insecticide use, advance food security and transform agriculture in the next 10 years.
Africa's solution to drought and crop diseases may be in growing genetically engineered crops specifically tuned to resist weather conditions and mature quickly. This could result in saving crops from losses of harvests, which are followed by hunger and starvation. Nearly 200 million people in Africa are undernourished. The consequences are manifest in the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition. The FAO stated that 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa were in need of urgent food assistance. They included Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to almost one-quarter of the developing world's food-deprived people. Surveys revealed that 33% of African children are stunted, underweight, or emaciated. The majority of African countries still do not favor GMO crops or foods due to the lack of systems to safeguard biodiversity.
This is so despite the fact that more than 35 countries have signed the Cartagena Protocol, that seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by biotechnology. Agricultural science and technology must work with local governments and scientists to make biotech available starting with capacity building and infrastructure for the approval of regulatory frameworks and adoption of the technology.
Issues that need to be addressed,include the availability of seeds to farmers at affordable prices and providing safety procedures to protect human beings and the environment during field trials. This may not be possible if the governments do not understand people's needs and how technology can solve them. We cannot underestimate the importance of establishing strong regulatory frameworks to protect the environment and the food chain. Proponents of GMO argue that Africa has serious food gaps and should embrace biotechnology farming for enhanced food production and nutrients. Since 1996 , the global planted area of biotech crops has soared 4.2 million acres in six countries to 222 million acres in 21 countries in 2005.
At present, most African countries cannot advance GM crop research because national policies or regulatory systems are not prepared to deal with safety requirements. Only South Africa and Nigeria have a specific policy for biotechnology.
South Africa began growing its first genetically modified commercial crops in 2003, with cotton farmers reporting yields improved up to 89%. It was also among the 11 developing countries where biotech crops have increased income of 7 million poor farmers.
Research is ongoing that is focusing on staple crops in many developing countries. These include rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, cowpea, banana and maize. Researches are focusing on problems such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, and pest resistance.
Farming is the most important economic activity in Africa, occupying 60% to 80% of the population and contributing 30% to 50% of the GDP in African countries. Eighty percent of farming is in the hands of small-scale farmers and remains an unattractive occupation and those involved are members of the lowest rungs in the poverty index.
Lands in developing countries, especially in Asia, are degraded due to exploitation and they must be helped to restore their soil fertility if they are to grow commercially attractive crops and compete in the global food economy.
European countries bristled at a world trade ruling that touches on sovereignty over genetically modified (GMO) foods, with some saying they would do their level best to keep farming GMO-free. Europe's consumers are well known for their hostility to GMO crops, often dubbed as "Frankenstein foods." The biotech industry insists its products are perfectly safe, however, and no different to conventional foods. A WTO panel ruled that various EU countries had broken international rules by imposing national bans on specific GMOs. Some reacted angrily saying they would defend their legal right to block EU-approved products if they wanted. EU law dictates that bans must be scientifically justified. Austria has banned imports of three GMO maize types and is considering a ban on growing a GMO rapeseed and said they will be as restrictive as possible. Greece is against genetically modified foods. All prefectures have declared their area GMO-free and need to discuss with Brussels and scientists safeguards before lifting the ban. Last June, EU governments rebuffed attempts to order the five countries to lift their national GMO bans. The Commission did not think the bans justified, nor did the WTO. It also said the EU's de facto GMO moratorium between 1999 and 2003 broke world trade rules. France has a long-standing consumer opposition to biotech food and bans two types of GMO rapeseed but has allowed some small-scale growing of GMO maize. French consumer and farming groups deplored the WTO ruling, insisting that a majority of consumers opposed GMOs. A poll in France this week showed that 78% would like a temporary ban to evaluate their health and environmental impact. Green groups said consumer resistance has increased in Europe since the three major GMO growers filed their WTO complaint. U.S. officials regretted there was a level of misinformation in Europe about the benefits of biotech crops but hoped that the WTO ruling would let the EU open its doors more to GMO imports. In Argentina, officials said it was too early to contemplate seeking some kind of economic compensation from the EU.
End of "Bioengineering" section pg ... Go to page 123456
Uganda: Will Mother Nature Survive Population Pressure?
July 7, 2010,
According to the UN Habitat report 2009, the population density in Kampala is so high, about 12 families occupy a single plot of land, and about 1.5 million people live in slums in Kampala. The wetlands and swamps have now been turned into residential areas because of the increase in population.
This has caused environmental damage. In Kampala, damage to wetlands and swamps has resulted in floods, especially in Kalerwe, Bwaise, Kawempe, Zana, Ndeeba, Bwaise and Kanyanya. In the east and north east of Uganda, mudslides and floods are becoming common.
The 20-year stability and improvement in livelihood and child mortality, coupled with a high fertility rate have contributed to a population growth rate of 3.3% compared to the global average of 1.1%. This makes Uganda one of the countries with the fastest growing populations in the world.
80% of the Ugandan population relies on resources like land and lakes for livelihood. 99% uses firewood and charcoal for cooking, putting a strain on forests, wetlands and causing a shortage of agricultural land. Kampala has swallowed up the greenery that once covered the empty hills and valleys.
More wetlands in Kampala have been cleared for human settlement and industries.
When the floods hit Kampala early this year, the former minister of environment, Dr. Kezimbira Miyingo, issued a directive that all houses in wetlands be demolished. However, owners opposed the directive, claiming they did not know they were building on wetlands.
The problem of flooding is so severe in the Kampala suburbs of Kalerwe, Kisenyi and Bwaise that tenants shift to other areas to escape the floods. Latrines are built above water streams.
During rainy seasons, the area residents often open a hole to release faeces from the latrines. The rain then washes the faeces into streams, from where they fetch water. Many people have no toilets and incidents of people using polythene papers as toilets is common.
In May this year, KCC received money from the World Bank to boost the fight against flooding in Kampala suburbs. The money was for reconstruction and rehabilitation of high risk areas, starting with a 3.6km drainage channel in Bwaise. Part of the channel was constructed, but it has not been helpful in controlling floods.
According to the 2002 population census, 12% of Uganda's population lived in the urban areas. The United Nations indicated that by 2007, 3.7 million Ugandans lived in urban areas.
According to Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, Kampala's population in 2010 is about 1.6 million people.
It is possible for sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated as such areas may have a meagre or non-existent capability to sustain human life. Already this is beginning to show in Uganda. Although access to water has improved, (67% of the population has access to an improved water source), it takes an average Ugandan over 30 minutes to collect water.
Rural households are also increasingly spending more time looking for firewood. Overpopulated places compete for the basic life-sustaining resources, hence a diminished quality of life. Increase in time for collecting water or fuel impacts on women more. Girls cannot complete their education, thus early marriage and childbearing which starts a cycle of poverty.
Despite the increase in population density in world cities, the UN Habitat says in its report that urbanisation may be the best solution to managing the rising global population.
Cities concentrate human activity within specified areas, limiting the extent of environmental damage. But this mitigating influence can only be achieved if urban planning is significantly improved.
Regional planners, under the direction of their political overlords---the proxies of developers - are trying to shove tens of thousands more people into the North Vancouver Island region. And they don't want people to grasp the full implications of their devious plans. What is transpiring here is transpiring across Canada and the continent of North America--and elsewhere. New subdivisions are sprouting up all over the map in place of greenbelts, woodlands and marshes and the people have little say in the matter.
The most frustrating thing is that fake environmentalists are able to pose as resisting this imposition. But their issue is not with population growth, but with "sprawl"---even though at least half of sprawl is driven by population growth and not by poor land-use planning. They want to 'manage' growth and steer it away from farmland, while packing the unending stream of newcomers into tighter and denser lots alongside existing residents, who are encouraged to surrender their living space in the interests of food security and the environment.
Thus people are presented with a false antithesis. Either accept growth with sprawl or so-called 'smart' growth without it. The local NDP (New Democratic Party), Greens and environmentalists tell people that population growth is something not in their jurisdiction, that immigration (or child benefits) policy is a federal matter and that nothing can prevent inter-provincial migration as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, growth out of their hands.
Yet which political parties receive top marks from the Sierra Club? The federal Greens and the federal NDP. And what is their immigration policy? To increase the absurdly high immigration intake quota of the Harper Government by 25%, while matching or besting its pro-natalist programs.
This is the pretend-game that environmental NGOs play. Either population growth is not controllable, or even if it is, they have nothing to do with it--- and in any case, it has little bearing on environmental degradation, whether farmland or species loss, or GHG emissions. "It's not whether we grow", they argue, "but how we grow". Just squeeze tighter in the sardine can so that incoming migrants can snuggle up to you. And above all, feel guilty about having extra space in the backyard for your son to play in or a nature trail at the end of your block to take your dog. If it is nature that you want, well, you can get that on the Outdoor Living Channel, can't you?
Let me confess that, whether it is the white-flight "Freedom 55s" from Alberta or California, or people from across the world, I've never felt lonely enough to want them living under my nose, and neither do most of us who chose our 'low-density" lifestyle. Some may call that selfish, I call it a human right. Is it my demand for space that is unreasonable, or the demand that I accept as reasonable a human population level that is 250% higher now than when I was born? Why are we being forced to accept population growth? Because population growth is thought to be a necessary agent of economic growth, our Great God.
The myth that continued economic growth is necessary, desirable, inevitable or even possible remains our major stumbling block, the first domino of misconceptions that must fall before we can reclaim any semblance of the quality of life that we once enjoyed. We are in a foot race with Mother Nature. If we don't stop growth, she will stop us. Time is almost up. Don't let the Pied Pipers of Fake Environmentalism lead you down a futile path. Fight growth, not the symptoms of growth.
When people run out of room to build on the more sensible flat areas, they build on the hillsides, putting themselves more at risk from earthquakes, erosion and landslides from floods.
This year, the Sunshine Coast Daily, Seven Local News, Thedaily.com.au and the University of the Sunshine Coast joined forces to present a survey to guage what matters to you on the eve of a new era for our region.
The Your Coast Your Say Survey attracted 1582 entries and three clear messages emerged.
* We do not want high rises.
* We do not want to be another Gold Coast.
* We don't want our environment and lifestyle ruined by overpopulation.
The biggest the question was whether population growth was a concern, to which 77% said yes and only 13% answered no.
The Sunshine Coast's influential players met to discuss the formation of a committee for the Sunshine Coast.
The bipartisan committee consisting of members from community groups, business and development sectors and environmental agencies, would develop innovative and practical ideas. The state predicts an extra 180,000 people will move here in the next 20 years. The South-East Queensland Plan has allocated $13.2 billion to Sunshine Coast projects.
The plan includes 11 new schools for $437 million, the Kawana hospital at $940 million, the $1.7 billion Traveston Crossing Dam and $564 million Northern Pipeline Interconnector.
The government is planning a multi-modal transport corridor to cope with growth. Each council has drafted a Strategy to cater for proposed growth, but have not been signed off at a state level.
Caloundra's LGMS predicts the population will grow by another 70,000 people in the next 20 years. Maroochy's LGMS projects 53,000 new homes.
Only one in five think these plans will contribute to a better Sunshine Coast by 2020.
Look at the Gold Coast and you look at the Sunshine Coast and we're 10 years behind. To stop that from happening, maybe the new regional council might be able to have a whole of region approach, where some of the good things that have happened up in Noosa can be applied around the region.
Dr White believes public transport will be the major issue in the near future.
Public transport needs to be improved dramatically, and certainly that is on the cards, but we're spending huge amounts of money to make it easier for people to drive cars. It would be good to see light rail across the Coast, tram systems and buses that run on gas rather than diesel.
Only 20% chose public transport as their preferred mode of transport for the future. Recycled water is the most preferred option to address the coming water crisis, whereas, the Traveston Dam has lost support since last year's survey from 12% approval to 8%.
In last year's survey, the biggest crime concern was drink-driving. This year, 67% were listed street violence as the most significant problem. Daylight saving gained more support with 61% for it, compared to less than half last year.
Since the 1950s, Donner Summit has been the site of roughly 800 homes. In 1971, John Slouber began purchasing land for the largest cross-country ski resort in the country, Royal Gorge. Slouber eventually owned 4,000 acres of land and leased an additional 5,000 acres of Forest Service land to operate his resort.
Slouber sold the property to Foster and Kirk Syme, in 2005. The companies proposed to build 950 housing units, a hotel, commercial spaces, and ski lifts. They have pledged to preserve 70% of their property as open space. All the property owners at Serene Lakes are against the plan.
They believe they have a responsibility to take into account the unique state of the summit, and they don't want development to destroy it.
Everybody's got to deal with development of some kind; California is growing.
Counties want new development to boost their revenues from more property tax from new homes and commercial properties.
Counties believe development will increase the tax base, but it's better to get more out of the tax base you have. "We've got a nice quiet community; putting in a hotel and timeshares, changes the nature of the community."
Some believe the project has many flaws. "We should be looking at restoring the environment and using development as a positive impact. This would include affordable housing, jobs, access to recreation, an increased tax base, and things like better water quality through upgrades. How much of the community do we give up so they can make a profit?"
"One element of a conservation community is preservation of open space, and that is an important part of our plan," Livak says. "We see nature as an amenity of this development. Without new development, the Royal Gorge ski area will lose too much money to be a viable business. Who will manage the open space? Concerns are our sewer and water, traffic, density of development, and time shares, which will change the character of the community. The quality of their water supply concerns many residents. Runoff from roads, contaminated melt water from plowed snow, and nutrients from lawns are all concerns. Many worry that traffic will become dangerous, especially on crowded winter ski days. "Condo owners won't buy into the community. They come up on one weekend and won't come back."
How to mitigate the impacts of the development will be addressed by California's extensive environmental review policy, codified as CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). A positive impact would include affordable housing, jobs, access to recreation, an increased tax base, better water quality.
Royal Gorge is the classic land use story what will the impacts of development be on the local community versus what is a reasonable return of investment for the developer?
Long Islanders may be spending more time in their cars and trains by 2030.
By 2030, every major infrastructure system in our city will be more than a century old, and pushed to its limits, The city could expect to gain about a million more residents by that time, He also predicted 750,000 new jobs and Long Islanders may be commuting in record numbers.
The infrastructure's components must work seamlessly for all of us to survive.
The Long Island Railroad began along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1832.
As our population grows and our infrastructure ages, our environment will be pushed to new and possibly precarious limits. Unfortunately for Long Islanders who commute to the city daily, there will be nothing to combat the frustration of a daily commute to a city bursting at the seams.
This week San Diego officials roped off a prime stretch of the La Jolla shoreline to keep people from disturbing the harbor seals who have taken up residence.
Any move can spook the animals to flee into the ocean and abandon their newborn babies, violating federal marine mammal protection laws.
Seals need adequate sun and sand time in order to maintain good health. The city was urged to act after receiving an increase in complaints that angry residents were harassing the marine mammals.The council voted to erect the barrier each year from January 1 through May 1. Federal officials have installed 24-hour surveillance cameras to watch for people deliberately swimming, kayaking or sunbathing in the area.
Many residents said they were undeterred as it's the only place around with a lifeguard station and bathrooms. A steady stream of tourists and environmental activists clusters around the roped area, unfazed by the stench. The cove has been a popular La Jolla spot since the early 1930s. Nobody knows why the animals began flocking to the shore in the late 1990s but about 200 seals live there. The rope barrier is also meant as a warning to stay away from seal fecal matter and birth byproducts.
A California judge ordered the city to dredge and clean up the beach but the decision has been tied up in litigation and a foul fishy stench remains.
San Diego Council president Scott Peters said he did not feel there was evidence of seal harassment. "The issue isn't so much that people can't get along with seals, it's that people can't get along with people," Peters said.
End of "Overcrowding" section pg ... Go to page 1234
The explosive growth of the human population—from 2.5 billion to 6 billion since the second half of the 20th century—may have already started changing how infectious diseases emerge
November 26, 2013,
By: Bahar Gholipour
In mid-April 2009, two samples arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta for investigation. The particular flu strains that these two children possessed did not seem normal. Flu surveillance staff has noticed that this particular strand has a unique genetic makeup, different from any other known human flu virus. Sadly this began the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic of 2009.
Vaccines were developed in a matter of months. The virus quickly spread worldwide and infected millions and killed thousands before the pandemic came to an end in August 2010.
With the latest population projections from the United Nations, estimating world's population will reach 9.6 billion people by mid-century, and 11 billion by 2100. This sheer amount of people, their interactions with animals and ecosystems, and the increase in international trade and travel are all factors that will likely change the way humanity deals with preventing and treating epidemics, experts say.
"There's a strong correlation between the risk of pandemic and human population density. We've done the math and we've proved it," said Dr. Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and the president of Eco Health Alliance, who examined the link in a 2008 study published in the journal Nature.
Health authorities are calling for strengthening of public health organizations, and giving more resources to systems that would protect people, studying ways to identify viruses faster, and trying to understand the complicated interactions between humans and the surrounding ecosystem.
The more the population in the city of Nairobi and elsewhere in East Africa grows, the more the solid waste management burden grows. The problem is worsened by poor funding for urban sanitation departments and a lack of enforcement of sanitation regulations.
Nearly 100 million people in East Africa lack access to improved sanitation, says the UN.
In Nairobi, the city council's solid waste department, like those in Kampala and Dar es Salaam, is not well equipped, with transport vehicles few and often poorly serviced, despite increasing waste quantities due to rapid urbanization.
Solid waste is often dumped in abandoned quarries or similar sites In the Mathare slum area, residents live close to one such dumpsite, which exposes them to environmental and disease risks.
"Burning plastic produces very toxic fumes .. which are very harmful to human beings and the environment. Most of the uncontrolled dumpsites are some of the major sources of greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change," said Andre Dzikus, coordinator of the urban basic services section of the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT).
More often than not, the urban poor have to make do with living amid waste despite the health risks; child mortality in the slums is 2.5 times higher than in other areas of Nairobi, according to WHO.
In the Mathare slums, for example, the sight of children playing among plastic bags full of human excrement, referred to as "flying toilets", is common. "We use plastic bags to relieve ourselves because the few toilets that are there are too expensive," one resident said.
"If I have to choose between paying for the toilet and buying food, the choice is easily made."
"I have built toilets and bathrooms several times, but every time it rains, or there is a conflict, they are destroyed. Because of the instability, I take my time before I build a new one," said a slum property owner. "Every time some of us try to keep clean, someone defecates in front of your door."
According to WHO, open defecation was the only sanitation practice available to 33% of the population in East Africa in 2006. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children in developing countries, according to UNICEF.
Many slum dwellers in East African cities pay five to seven times more per litre of water than the average North American, notes WHO.
"One of the health risks women have is reproductive health because they use public toilets that are not properly maintained. Some of them have suffered from urinary infections," Edith Kalela, a communication officer at Akiba Mashinani Trust said.
Slum residents often do not own the land they live on, risking eviction.
In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles or 1.2 million square kilometers. $25 - $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide, $100 billion a year in China alone.
75% of the urban expansion is predicted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55% of the regional total.
Africa's urban land cover will grow the fastest, at 590% above the 2000 level: concentrating along the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In North America, where 78% of the total population lives in urban areas, urban land cover will nearly double by 2030.
"We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations."
Teams of veterinarians and conservation biologists are in the midst of a global effort with medical doctors and epidemiologists to understand the "ecology of disease." It is part of a project called Predict, which is financed by USAID
"When we do things in an ecosystem that erode biodiversity - we chop forests into bits or replace habitat with agricultural fields - we tend to get rid of species that serve a protective role," Dr. Ostfeld said.
60% of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife. More than two million people a year are killed by diseases that spread to humans from wild and domestic animals, according to the International Livestock Research Institute.
The World Bank has estimated that a severe influenza pandemic, for example, could cost the world economy $3 trillion.
An example is that of fruit bats, which carry the Nipah virus in South Asia, and the closely related Hendra virus in Australia. In 1999 in rural Malaysia the disease spread from the bats to pigs which were being cared for in a forest. The pigs amplified the disease and then it jumped to humans. Out of 276 people infected in Malaysia, 106 died, and many others suffered permanent and crippling neurological disorders. There is no cure or vaccine.
In Australia, suburbanization lured infected bats that were once forest-dwellers into backyards and pastures. If a henipah virus evolves to be transmitted readily through casual contact, it could leave the jungle and spread throughout Asia or the world. "It's a matter of time that the right strain will come along and efficiently spread among people," says Jonathan Epstein, a veterinarian with EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based organization that studies the ecological causes of disease.
"Any emerging disease in the last 30 or 40 years has come about as a result of encroachment into wild lands and changes in demography," says Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and the president of EcoHealth.
AIDS, for example, crossed into humans from chimpanzees in the 1920s when bush-meat hunters in Africa killed and butchered them.
Emerging diseases have quadrupled in the last half-century, experts say, largely because of increasing human encroachment into habitat, especially in tropical regions. And with modern air travel and a robust market in wildlife trafficking, the potential for a serious outbreak in large population centers is enormous.
In the Amazon, for example, one study showed an increase in deforestation by 4% increased the incidence of malaria by nearly 50%, because mosquitoes, which transmit the disease, thrive in the right mix of sunlight and water in recently deforested areas.
Australia is planning to spend multimillions of dollars to understand the ecology of the Hendra virus and bats.
The West Nile virus came to the United States from Africa but spread here because one of its favored hosts is the American robin, which thrives in a world of lawns and agricultural fields. And mosquitoes, which spread the disease, find robins especially appealing.
Lyme disease, the East Coast scourge, is a result of the reduction and fragmentation of large contiguous forests which chased off predators -- wolves, foxes, owls and hawks, resulting in a fivefold increase in white-footed mice, which are great "reservoirs" for the Lyme bacteria. Babesiosis and anaplasmosi are two emerging diseases from ticks that that affect humans in the ticks he studies, and he has raised the alarm about the possibility of their spread.
Simon Anthony, a molecular virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health said its about "learning how to do things sustainably. If you can get a handle on what it is that drives the emergence of a disease, then you can learn to modify environments sustainably."
"By mapping encroachment into the forest you can predict where the next disease could emerge," Dr. Daszak, EcoHealth's president, says. "So we're going to the edge of villages, we're going to places where mines have just opened up, areas where new roads are being built. We are going to talk to people who live within these zones and saying, 'what you are doing is potentially a risk.' "
When a region's population density is growing, water-associated infectious disease outbreaks are more likely to occur, according to a new global analysis by Ohio State University scientists of economic and environmental conditions that influence the risk for these outbreaks.
About 1,428 water-associated disease outbreaks reported between 1991 and 2008 around the world were analyzed. By combining outbreak records with data on a variety of socio-environmental factors known about the affected regions, the researchers developed a model that can be used to predict risks for water-associated disease outbreaks anywhere in the world.
Of the five different categories of water-associated diseases (category depending on the disease transmission process), population density was a risk factor for all. Prolonged and excessive heat was shown to be a driver of water-related diseases that are transmitted to people by insect bites.
Western Europe, Central Africa, Northern India, Southeast Asia, Latin America and eastern Brazil were targeted as potential "hot spots" at highest risk for future water-associated disease outbreaks ranging from E. coli-related diarrhea to dengue fever.
4% of deaths worldwide - almost 2 million annually - and 5.7% of illnesses around the world are caused by infectious diseases related to unsafe water and sanitation and hygiene problems.
Understanding the socio-environmental factors that affect the risks for water-associated disease outbreaks will help guide policymakers as they prioritize the distribution of health resources around the world, the researchers say.
The model shows how global environmental changes affect outbreak risks, providing early warning and informed policy decisions which are needed because resources are limited.
Among the information included in the Ohio State database were disease-causing agents, such as bacteria or viruses, and their biological characteristics; water's role in disease transmission; disease transmission routes; and details about whether the recorded outbreak represented an emergence or re-emergence of a water-associated disease for a given region. These details were crossed with a socio-environmental database that contained data on population density, global average accumulated temperature, surface area of water bodies, average annual rainfall and per-capita gross domestic product.
Each disease tracked in the database was classified into one of five categories:
* water-borne (such as typhoid and cholera): 70.9%, caused by microorganisms that enter water through fecal contamination and cause infection when humans consume contaminated water.
* water-based (such as schistosomiasis): 2.9%, caused by parasites that spend part of their life in water
* water-related (such as malaria and trypanosomiasis): 12.2%, which need water for breeding of insects that act as vectors in transmitting disease to humans
* water-washed: 6.8%, caused by poor personal or domestic hygiene because no clean water is available; and * water-dispersed (such as Legionella): 7.3%, caused by infectious agents that thrive in water and enter the body through the respiratory tract.
Fewer water-washed diseases occurred in places with larger bodies of surface water, and areas with higher average annual rainfall had fewer outbreaks of water-borne and water-related diseases.
Economic status did not appear to influence risk for water-associated disease outbreaks, at least on a global scale.
The research appears in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a journal published by the Public Library of Science.
The major deadly infectious diseases of humanity through history - smallpox, flu, tuberculosis, malaria, plague, measles, and cholera - evolved from animals. Such diseases need a numerous and densely packed human population to sustain themselves lest they wane from lack of new nearby victims who have not had time to develop resistence.
Growing by 82 million a year, and on our way to 9 billion by 2050, and with jet travel, how can we be surprised that infectious diseases easily sweep across the planet with fearful speed?
Most scientists and ecologists say that Earth is over-populated by billions and that the carrying capacity of the United States will support far less than our current 306 million.
Looming catastrophes of climate instability, ecological impoverishment and resource shortages like oil, food, and fresh water are happening on that same population battle ground as Swine Flu.
If we don't get a handle on our population, death and disease will become more the norm than the exception.
At the foot of Leslie St., a spit of land fans out into Lake Ontario. The peninsula, built with rubble from Toronto construction sites, has grown into a home to butterflies, birds, rabbits and coyote.
The park is popular with migratory birds many coming from as far away as South America.
But among these birds and animals are ticks that can carry Lyme disease.
Every morning the co-ordinator of the Bird Research Station in Tommy Thompson Park organizes a group of volunteers who track the birds. It is part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network sites across southern Canada and the northern United States that monitor the population trends of northern breeding birds.
From March to June, volunteers plucked ticks from migrating birds and mailed them to scientists who are trying to gain a better understanding of how birds and climate change might increase the spread of Lyme disease through Canada.
Since the 1970s, parts of the US have suffered an epidemic of Lyme disease, mostly within the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central states.
In the US, approximately 20,000 new cases are reported each year. The disease is rarely reported in Canada, but ranks among the top bug-borne diseases in the United States.
Ten years ago, eastern Canada had only two known populations of blacklegged tick. Today, there are 13 or 14. They tend to settle in migratory bird landfalls. Leslie St. Spit, the Toronto Islands and the Toronto lakeshore are popular resting spots for migrants.
Toronto has always been on the migration highways, there are lots of green spaces where the birds can drop in and rest. The birds may be bringing ticks into Canada after passing through the northeastern and north-central states, where they're abundant.
All the stations from western Ontario to Nova Scotia captured migratory birds with ticks on them.
Canada's cooler climate offered protection from the diseases of warmer regions. But as climate change brings milder winters, scientists worry that the ticks may move farther north.
The warmer air temperature can make it easier for the insect to survive the Canadian winter. Should greenhouse gas emissions remain high, average summer temperatures in southern Ontario are expected to be 4 to 5C warmer and average winter temperatures about 6C warmer before the end of the century.
End of "Health and Disease" section pg ... Go to page 12345678910
The "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf of Mexico this summer could be one of the largest on record. In the dead zone seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters. Dead zones are caused by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water.
Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Jersey.
This hypoxic, or low-to-no oxygen area, is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries by destroying critical habitat.
"The high water volume flows coupled with nearly triple the nitrogen concentrations in these rivers over the past 50 years from human activities has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone," said Gene Turner, Ph.D., a lead forecast modeler from Louisiana State University.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants the voluntary effort to clean up the bay replaced by a governing body to create and enforce laws and levy taxes in six states and the District to pay for cleanup. They concluded that the regional Chesapeake Executive Council, formed to oversee the reduction of bay pollutants, had failed because the scientific data suggests the bay is not improving. This was a misstatement, claimed the executive director of the Council that adopted a plan for improving the water quality by 2010, when the Council hopes the bay will be removed from the list of threatened waterways. The most ambitious goal was to take voluntary steps to reduce runoff from animal manure and wastewater plants by one-third. 40% of the bay is starved of oxygen and fish and plant life have difficulty surviving. The regional council has been making progress and less nitrogen is flowing into the bay than in the mid-1980s. Underwater bay grasses, an indicator of a healthy waterway, have increased since 1984, but must more than double in the next seven years. It will involve farmers and require homeowners to upgrade septic tanks and better storm water management. The bay's watershed includes 16 million people in parts of New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and the District. Any new oversight body would need to levy taxes to raise part of the $12 billion that is needed to reduce pollutants. The governors on the council said they are willing to consider reinvigorating restoration efforts.
Six states that feed water to the Mississippi agreed to experiment to reduce nutrients that cause a "dead zone" that can be 10 to 120 feet deep along the coast of Louisiana and Texas and is bigger than the state of Massachusetts. This occurs when nutrient-rich freshwater forms a layer over saltier Gulf of Mexico water in the spring and summer, causing huge blooms of algae that use up oxygen as they decompose. Shrimp, crabs and fish avoid the low-oxygen water, and bottom-dwelling organisms are killed. Oxygen returns after tropical storms or frontal systems mix the layers. The nutrients are fertilizer and sewage from the 42 states and parts of Canada that drain into the Mississippi. 7% come from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, the states represented at the first meeting, in New Orleans, of the Committee on Hypoxia. An official said a federal-state plan to reduce nutrients is 18 months behind schedule. A plan adopted in 2000 called for reducing the dead zone to 2,000 square miles by 2015 by cutting nitrogen entering the river by 30%. Researchers have focused on determining the areas responsible, and how to reduce them. The projects would be similar to one in Louisiana in which farmers are told how best to manage nitrogen use, and provided with detailed instruction.
Tests Find Nitrogen is Choking Earth
February 21, 2000,
Plant species replaced, 'dead zones' in water more prevalent. - If farmers continue to depend heavily on nitrogen fertilizer, the agricultural landscape could turn ugly within 50 years, says a University of Minnesota ecologist. David Tilman found, in a two decade study, that, as the amount of nitrogen doubles, species diversity declines by 25%. And as nitrogen levels continue to increase, species are lost at a greater, though less dramatic, rate, leveling off at declines of 40% to 70%. The species that do survive are usually less-desirable, non-native ones such as quack grass, which needs high doses of nitrogen to thrive. Oxygen-starved "dead zones," such as the one now in the Gulf of Mexico, will become increasingly prevalent and many plants will die off, while fewer - and less desirable ones - will take over, he said. To get world food production to double over the past 35 years, farmers have had to use seven times as much nitrogen as they used to, effectively doubling the amount that already comes in from the atmosphere. By 2050, the use of nitrogen may quadruple with the projected increase in the world population by almost 50%, and if it becomes increasingly affluent with a buying power 2.4 times that of today's population and producing a demand for twice as much food. Tilman recommends timing applications of fertilizer better and doing a better job of removing it from sewage.
Fertilizer Levels Safe for Humans, Deadly to Frogs
January 10, 2000,
An Oregon State University study says that fertilizer levels the EPA says are safe for human drinking water can kill some species of frogs and toads. With even low nitrate levels in fertilizer runoffs, the amphibians ate less, developed physical abnormalities, suffered paralysis and eventually died. Also, the nitrates encouraged the growth of algae that feeds tiny parasitic flatworms called trematodes which cause deformities. Other explanations for the decline in amphibian population include water pollution and increased ultraviolet radiation from the sun because of a thinning ozone layer around the Earth.
by Bill McKibben Natural cycles of nitrogen production (through algae, soil bacteria and lighting) produce "90-150 million metric tons of nitrogen a year. Now human activity adds 130-150 million more tons...As a result, coastal waters and estuaries bloom with toxic algae while oxygen concentrations dwindle, killing fish; as a result, nitrous oxide traps solar heat, and it stays there for a century or more."
August 3, 1999,
Humans have more than doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the environment because of excess fertiliser use and burning of fossil fuel. There are now also 50 "dead zones" containing little or no oxygen in coastal waters. The largest one in the Western Hemisphere is in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus flowing down the Mississippi river.
End of "Nitrogen Levels" section pg ... Go to page 123
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