Tag Archives | Environment

The Impossibility of Growth

Battle of Actium

Battle of Actium

British political and environmental activist George Monbiot addresses the excellent question of why industrial nations all believe that economic growth is a necessity, at The Guardian:

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created.

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What if Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian?

Légumes du marché 2The answer, of course is that it would be much, much better for our PlanEat! LV Anderson poses the question at Slate:

The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, directly and indirectly producing about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and global meat consumption is on the rise. People generally like eating meat—when poor people start making more money, they almost invariably start buying more meat. As the population grows and eats more animal products, the consequences for climate change, pollution, and land use could be catastrophic.

Attempts to reduce meat consumption usually focus on baby steps—Meatless Monday and “vegan before 6,” passable fake chicken, and in vitro burgers. If the world is going to eat less meat, it’s going to have to be coaxed and cajoled into doing it, according to conventional wisdom.

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Ocean Acidity Is Dissolving Shells of Tiny Snails off U.S. West Coast

PIC: Jan Delsing (PD)

PIC: Jan Delsing (PD)

Via ScienceDaily:

A NOAA-led research team has found the first evidence that acidity of continental shelf waters off the West Coast is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming marine snails, called pteropods, which provide food for pink salmon, mackerel and herring, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Researchers estimate that the percentage of pteropods in this region with dissolving shells due to ocean acidification has doubled in the nearshore habitat since the pre-industrial era and is on track to triple by 2050 when coastal waters become 70 percent more corrosive than in the pre-industrial era due to human-caused ocean acidification.

The new research documents the movement of corrosive waters onto the continental shelf from April to September during the upwelling season, when winds bring water rich in carbon dioxide up from depths of about 400-600 feet to the surface and onto the continental shelf.

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‘Cowboy Indian Alliance’ Steps Forward in Earth’s Time of Need

PIC: Reject and Protect (C)

PIC: Reject and Protect (C)

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

In the week ahead, a coalition of tribal communities, ranchers, farmers and allies calling itself the ‘Cowboy Indian Alliance‘ plans to lead a series of protests, ceremonies, and direct actions in the heart of Washington, DC in order to drive home their united opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the destructive expansion of tar sands mining and fossil fuel dependence it represents.

Under the banner ‘Reject and Project,’ the five-day long event will kick off on this year’s Earth Day—Tuesday, April 23—and culminate on Saturday with a ceremony and procession expected to draw thousands.

“We are writing a new history by standing on common ground by preventing the black snake of Keystone XL from risking our land and water,” said Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux tribe and a spokesperson for the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.).

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Surprising Material Could Play Role in Saving Energy

PIC: JURII (CC)

PIC: JURII (CC)

Megan Fellman writes for Northwestern University:

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat.

Now Northwestern University scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity. This outstanding property could be exploited in solid-state thermoelectric devices in a variety of industries, with potentially enormous energy savings.

An interdisciplinary team led by inorganic chemist Mercouri G. Kanatzidis found the crystal form of the chemical compound tin selenide conducts heat so poorly through its lattice structure that it is the most efficient thermoelectric material known. Unlike most thermoelectric materials, tin selenide has a simple structure, much like that of an accordion, which provides the key to its exceptional properties.

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Heads-up Canada, B.C. Government Has Given Industry Access to Our Parks: A Drift Card I Found on the Beach

BC_card_thumbvia chycho

On 26 March 2014, to my disappointment and dismay, I found out that the Government of British Columbia had passed a bill that would drastically alter the management of B.C. parks (2, 3, 4).

Bill 4, the ‘Park Amendment Act’ of 2014 was introduced into the B.C. legislature on February 13 and became law on March 24:

“Bill 4 allows for industry (and others) to carry out ‘research’ in provincial parks related to pipelines, transmission lines, roads and other industrial activities that might require park land. It also reduces legal protection for smaller parks and enables film production in BC parks….

“Bill 4 seems to be premised on the idea park protection unreasonably constrains government and industry. That’s not consistent with the BC government’s claim that parks are a public trust, to be managed for the protection of BC’s natural environment, and the inspiration, use and enjoyment of [the public].

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Chinese Man Sues Government Over Smog

Benxi Steel IndustriesIs this a sign that China is becoming a nation with a legal system that can actually protect its citizens against oppressive government? Suing the Chinese government could have been a one way ticket to prison or worse in years past, but Reuters via Haaretz is reporting on a brave soul who thinks it’s time to try litigation to solve China’s smog problem:

A Chinese man in a smoggy northern city has become the first person in the country to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, has submitted his complaint to a district court, asking the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”, the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said.

He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents for the choking pollution that has engulfed Shijiazhuang, and much of northern China, this winter.

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A Critical Analysis of the State’s Definition of “Ecological Terrorism”

Pic: Will Potter (CC)

Pic: Will Potter (CC)

An incredibly lucid and thought provoking analysis by David Nickles of the DMT-Nexus, via their news site: The Nexian:

While the following article focuses on the relationship between the state, its shareholders, and ecological activists, much of the framing, narratives, and propagandizing can be easily applied to the War on [some people who use certain] Drugs. The parallel manners in which dominant narratives (and their wide-ranging repercussions) are framed by politicians and media figures in both arenas are easily observable and evidence certain functions of the state apparatus. This article is intended to serve as a crash course in some radical perspectives on ecological struggle, in order to lay the foundation for future writings on ecological resistance and entheogens. Ecological struggle is inherently tied to entheogenic rituals within many cultures around the world. The utilization of entheogens to open ourselves to these struggles, catalyze our own action with regards to them, and create rituals that can help sustain the long-term engagement necessary for such work cannot be overstated.

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There’s Tritium In Your Water; EPA To Revisit Safety Levels

Created by oo64eva (CC)

Created by oo64eva (CC)

For the first time in nearly four decades, the EPA is taking a closer look at the safety of leaked tritium in our water, reports David Biello for Scientific American, via Salon:

Add two extra neutrons to the lightest element and hydrogen becomes radioactive, earning the name tritium. Even before the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 regulators worried that this ubiquitous by-product of nuclear reactors could pose a threat to human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was only seven years old when it put the first rules on the books for tritium in 1977. But a lot has happened in the intervening decades, and it is not just a longer list of nuclear accidents.

The Chernobyl and Fukushima meltdowns let loose plenty of tritium, but so have a seemingly endless series of leaks at aging reactors in the U.S. and elsewhere. Such leaks have prompted the EPA to announce on February 4 plans to revisit standards for tritium that has found its way into water—so-called tritiated water, or HTO—along with risk limits for individual exposure to radiation and nuclear waste storage, among other issues surrounding nuclear power.

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