Tag Archives | Environment

300,000 West Virginians Left Without Clean Water Following Chemical Spill

freedom industries

For the past five days authorities have been scrambling to provide emergency water rations to West Virginians who have been ordered not to drink or even touch the tap water in their region, thanks to one “Freedom Industries.” Via MSNBC:

Roughly 300,000 residents have been left without usable water after chemicals spilled into a West Virginia river Thursday. The West Virginia American Water Company has advised residents of nine state counties not to drink or bathe in their running water. Local stores have been flooded with customers looking for bottled drinking water.

The spill originated at a chemical storage facility run by the Charleston-based company Freedom Industries, when a 48,000 gallon tank dumped an indeterminate amount of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Elk River. The chemical, also known as MCHM, is used by coal companies to wash and prepare their product. People who are exposed to it may experience vomiting, skin blistering and shortness of breath.

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Conservatives Plan 2014 Assault on Education, Healthcare, Workers’ Comp and Environment

474px-human-brain_257Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

According to internal documents obtained by the British newspaper and published online Thursday, the Guardian reports that more than forty state-level conservative groups are planning a “US-wide assault” on “education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment.”

If you want to know how the right-wing State Policy Network—in concert with a network of other national and state-level conservative policy groups—has been able to overrun state legislatures with “model legislation” that carries the interest of the nation’s wealthiest corporations and individuals while undermining workers and communities, the ream of grant proposals obtained by the newspaper tell the tale.

For the second time this week, the Guardian has published internal documents from an influential U.S. conservative organizing group that reveals rare insight into how they operate and the way smaller, local groups vie for portions of the large amount of money made available by people like the Kochs brothers and other funders of the conservative, Tea Party cabal.

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Examining Natural Disasters

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 7th, currently stands at 5,500 people.  Haiyan was the fourth strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded and is the deadliest in Philippine history (the second-deadliest was Tropical Storm Thelma, which killed around 5,080 people in 1991).  To compare, here are some mortality figures from other large-scale natural disasters that have taken place in recent history.

Typhoon Bopha, Philippines, December 2012 – 1,146 dead
Hurricane Sandy, U.S Eastern Seaboard, October 2012 – 286 dead
Earthquake and Tsunami in East Japan, March 2011 – 15,800 dead
Earthquake in Haiti, January 2010 – 159,000 dead
Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast, August 2008 – 1,833 dead
Earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan and India, October 2005 – 100,000 dead
Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, December 2004 – 250,000 dead

In addition to the number of victims, there are certainly many other factors to consider when assessing the impact that natural disasters have on humanity.  The magnitude of a disaster can be measured in absolute terms, such as the aforementioned mortality rate, as well as the physical extent of the area affected, the volume of infrastructure destroyed, and the financial cost of reconstruction.

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On the Slow Kill of the World’s Oceans

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

It is probable that every major ecological pillar however tenuously stabilizing the structure of the oceans is crumbling.  Although some endangered fish populations and coral reef systems are being protected and restored, the seas overall are in deep shit.  Overfishing and pollution are reducing biodiversity by killing-off larges swaths of ocean life.  The destruction of vast marine habitats will have catastrophic repercussions for humanity.  [According to some earth scientists, oceanic ecocide poses a greater threat to the existence of humanity than climate change.  Higher global temperature averages which melt icecaps and glaciers will lead to higher sea levels and the inundation of a plethora of coastal industries, cities, and urban centers that are responsible for contributing to environmental destruction and the mass production of excessive, heat-trapping, carbon-dioxide emissions. As in times of major economic depressions or financial stagnation, the inundation of coastal megalopolises will result in a decrease of industrial activity which may subsequently benefit nature as a whole (until industrial activity is resumed), but would have horrible consequences for humanity, especially for those hundreds of millions of impoverished coastal inhabitants who already live in deprivation, and who would become environmental refugees in the event of a significant increase in sea levels.  (Click here to view an interactive map from National Geographic which depicts how coastlines would change if all glaciers and icecaps on Earth were to melt.)]

Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but human beings have caused a lot of trouble for life in the world’s oceans.  The process in which the destruction of sea life occurs is largely two-fold.  Large-scale destructive events like oil spills (Deepwater Horizon) and nuclear power plant disasters (Fukushima) can cause serious damage to the affected aquatic areas.  Damage from such disasters is often immediately evident, such as the deformed and eyeless fish and shrimp that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or the dying sea lions pups and seals with bleeding lesions that have washed up on beaches in California and Alaska the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Yet as grave and harmful as they are, explosive, headline-making disasters are less deleterious to life in the seas than the cumulative, synergistic effects of routine human activities such as oceanic commerce, commercial fishing, and pollution.  For example, a 2002 study by the National Academy of the Sciences found that the 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of marine oil pollution originating from North America derives from runoff from cars and oil-based machines and accessories (like lawnmowers and household robots) – and the sum of these tiny releases of oil, carried into the ocean by streams and storm drains, is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez oil spill every eight months.  [As additional food for thought: there are apparently 90,000 cargo ships in the world.

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The Ocean Is Broken

Pacific-garbage-patch-map 2010 noaamdpAustralia’s Newcastle Herald describes the sorry tale of Ivan Macfadyen’s adventures in the polluted Pacific Ocean. Here’s a particularly depressing excerpt:

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea.

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World Heath Organization Says Air Pollution Is Leading Cause Of Cancer

LandscapeDon’t breathe, it will kill you. Via the South China Morning Post:

The World Health Organization has classified outdoor air pollution as a leading cause of cancer.

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances. We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen, more so than passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, head of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The agency evaluates cancer-causing substances. This is the first time it has classified air pollution in its entirety as causing cancer.

The most recent data, from 2010, showed that 223,000 lung cancer deaths worldwide were the result of air pollution. The expert panel’s classification was made after scientists analysed more than 1,000 studies worldwide and concluded there was enough evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer.

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How Monsanto Is Planning To Profit From Climate Change

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Not everyone is either worried or skeptical regarding man-made global warming. Mother Jones on how Monsanto is eagerly banking on it:

Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to “help…manage and adapt to climate change.” Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market.

Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside. Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans.

Drought-resistant corn. Monsanto lists the effects of climate change-related precipitation changes and droughts as a potential “opportunity.” This year, Monsanto started rolling out a new line of patented, first-of-its-kind genetically engineered corn seeds that are resistant to drought.

Cotton that needs less water to grow. The company is piloting genetically modified cotton that that can grow while using less water and survive drought.

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Ecofascism: A Left Biocentric Analysis

creepshowDavid Orton, writing in Green Web Bulletin #68:

Fascism comes in many forms. Contemporary fascist-type movements (often an alliance of conservative and fascist forces), like the National Front (France), the Republicans (Germany), the Freedom Movement (Austria), the Flemish Block (Belgium), etc., may have ecological concerns, but these are not at the center of the various philosophies and are but one of a number of issues used to mobilize support – for example crime-fighting, globalization and economic competition, alleged loss of cultural identity because of large scale immigration, etc. For any organization which seeks some kind of popular support, even a fascist organization, it would be hard to ignore the environment. But these would be considered “shallow” not defining or “deep” concerns for deep ecology supporters. None of these or similar organizations call themselves ecofascists. (One time German Green Party member, ecologist Herbert Gruhl, who went on to form other political organizations, and to write the popular 1975 book A Planet Is Plundered: The Balance of Terror of Our Politics, did develop what seems to be an intermeshing of ecological and fascist ideas.) While for fascists, the term “fascist” will have positive connotations (of course not for the rest of us), “ecofascist” as used around the environmental and green movements, has no recognizable past or present political embodiment, and has only negative connotations.

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DisinfoCast: 75: Brian Wood

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Picture: Brian Wood (C)

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Brian Wood is the author of some of the present era’s smartest comic books, including “DMZ”, “The Massive”, “Channel Zero”, and “Northlanders”. Wood’s original works explore current events through characters trying to survive and even make a difference in the midst of political, social and environmental change. In addition to his all-original stories, Wood is well known for his work with popular franchises like Star Wars, Conan and the X-Men.

In this episode of the DisinfoCast, Wood and I talk about his work, the media, politics, the future and the difficulties an artist faces dealing with the expectations of his fans.

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MIT Study Claims Air Pollution Kills 200,000 Americans Each Year

200,000I believe this is the ultimate example of what is known as “cost externalizing.” Via the MIT News Office:

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have come out with some sobering new data on air pollution’s impact on Americans’ health.

The group tracked ground-level emissions from sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States, and found that such air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.

In 5,695 U.S. cities, the researchers [found] the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Barrett says that a person who dies from an air pollution-related cause typically dies about a decade earlier than he or she otherwise might have.

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