Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Wangari Maathai

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Editor, Vanguard, vanguardngr.com

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ON Sunday, September 25, 2011, one of the most famous African women in modern times took her exit from the planet earth which she served with distinction.

Her name was Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (April 1, 1940 to September 25, 2011). She succumbed to the scourge of cancer in a Nairobi hospital.

Since her transition was announced by her family, tributes have poured from various quarters, high and low from around the world. From President Barack Obama of the USA to the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon; from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former US Vice-President, Al Gore all the way down to many non-governmental interest groups devoted to earth conservation, such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, The National Geographic organisations and the so many websites and blogsites committed to conservation, the world has been unsparing in its tributes to the first female Nobel Laureate from Africa.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, “Wangeri Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short-term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilise communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

Wangari was an extraordinary woman, who ensured that her high quality education was not just for her own benefit but for the rural communities in her native Kenya and the world at large. She was an evangelist for the preservation of the environment. As far back as the early 1970s when she was but a young woman, she founded the Green Belt Movement, with which she mobilised thousands of women to plant trees and raise environmental consciousness. The Movement enlisted over 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and over the years planted about 45 million trees.

She was also a women rights activist. As the first East African woman to be awarded the Ph.D. when she graduated from the University College of Nairobi in the field of Anatomy, she was a female pioneer in most of the posts she worked. While she taught in the university, she fought for equal status for both male and female staff of the university and would have formed the first academic staff union (similar to our own Academic Union of Universities, ASUU) in the institution had the courts not turned the effort down.

She was a fierce force against the long dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, who made sure she never emerged as the President of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) until one of her opponents favoured by Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, suddenly withdrew for her to emerge unopposed. She went on to join partisan politics and win a seat as a member of her country’s parliament. Her Right Livelihood Award of 1984 served as an appetiser for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.

Unfortunately, Prof. Wangari Maathai fell victim to cancer, one of the major consequences of pollution and deforestation, which she fought against in over 40 years of her lifetime.

The life lived by this amazing woman is worthy of emulation, especially by other African women. In spite of her divorce a few years into her marriage, she devoted the rest of her life to battles to save the earth, banish autocracy from her country and advance the cause of women.

Africa will honour her memory adequately if African countries take seriously the challenge of continuing the struggle to save the environment, especially in the face of rapid advance of the Sahara Desert, intensification of coastal erosion and gradual disappearance of fresh water resources around the continent and the globe at large. Africa must join hands to make the continent “the last man in defence” against deforestation by massive planting of trees, especially economic trees.

It is heroes and heroines of Africa like Prof. Maathai Wangari that we want our leaders to honour (not sit-tight dictators) as we celebrate a life of uncommon achievements.

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari Maathai. Rest in peace.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/adieu-earth-mother-wangari/

Swedish Oil Spill a Preview of the Alaskan Arctic?

Swedish Oil Spill a Preview of the Alaskan Arctic?

Shell secures permits to drill for oil in America’s Arctic waters in 2012.

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Posted20 September 2011, by David Lawlor, unEARTHED (Earthjustice), earthjustice.org/blog/

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A massive oil spill announced this week off the coast of western Sweden feels like an ominous harbinger for America’s Arctic Ocean.

Just days following the spill near the Swedish island of Tjörn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued air permits for Shell Oil’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. EPA issued the permits despite the fact that Shell’s oil spill response plan for the region’s icy, remote waters is totally inadequate.

Sweden’s disaster serves as a cautionary tale for America’s Arctic Ocean.

The spill near Tjörn—a small island renowned for its natural beauty—is killing birds, polluting the shoreline and may not be cleaned up until next summer, threatening the area’s tourist industry. Bad weather is complicating spill response efforts (hmm, I wonder if they ever get bad weather in the Alaskan Arctic?), and locals who want to help have been turned away as the spill’s toxic nature is a serious threat to human health.

Shell’s Arctic drilling would involve many large ships, and the EPA’s permits are for air pollution coming from the stacks of the drill ship Discoverer and associated drilling fleet in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. This is Shell’s second go-round on obtaining the air permits after the EPA’s reviewing court, the Environmental Appeals Board, determined the original permits did not meet Clean Air Act requirements.

We are disappointed the EPA decided to issue permits that are less protective than they could and should be. Green lighting Shell’s plans for 2012 is another step toward Arctic Ocean oil drilling by the Obama administration without first ensuring that an oil spill could be cleaned up in the region. Earthjustice attorneys are reviewing the air permits and will make decisions about the next steps based on that review.

 

Related Blog Entries

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by Trip Van Noppen:

One year ago, the BP oil spill had just started turning the Gulf of Mexico’s blue waters to the color of rust. Triggered on April 20, 2010 by a well-r…

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http://earthjustice.org/blog/2011-september/swedish-oil-spill-a-preview-of-the-alaskan-arctic

Dene Nation will be at Ottawa Protest against Keystone XL Pipeline

Dene Nation will be at Ottawa Protest against Keystone XL Pipeline

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

 

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Press statement
Posted at Censored News

YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories — The Dene Nation is supporting a day of civil disobedience and protests in Ottawa next week as part of its ongoing opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus will be there to participate in the protests and to make sure the views of Dene are represented.

On Monday, hundreds of people will flood Parliament Hill to demand a future free of the destructive Alberta tar sands. Many of them will enter the Parliament building and risk arrest by staging a sit-in in protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that, if built, will carry tar sands crude to refineries in the southern United States.

Chief Bill Erasmus at White House rally to halt tarsands in Sept. 2011 Photo Josh Lopez

“This is part of ongoing activity that is directly related to opposition of the tar sands,” Erasmus said. “From northern Alberta to the Arctic Ocean, our communities are directly downstream from tar sands developments. Water pollution and climate changing greenhouse gases from the tar sands are impacting our rights – protected under Treaty 8 and Treaty 11 – to hunt, trap, and fish as we always have on our land. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion would facilitate a huge increase in tar sands expansion, and this pipeline must be stopped.”

Canada’s federal government has approved the pipeline, and the final decision now lies with U.S. President Barrack Obama. Erasmus was recently in Washington, D.C. for massive protests against the pipeline in which many participants, including several renowned Canadians, were arrested.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport 1 million barrels of synthetic crude oil each day from Alberta’s tar sands to US refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Construction of the 2,700 km pipeline would facilitate a massive expansion of Alberta’s tar sands, along with increased pollution, stress on water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions. Dene communities are downstream from the tar sands, and are threatened by the impacts of upstream water usage and pollution, and the impacts of climate change and
global warming.

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For more information please contact: Barret Lenoir or Daniel T’seleie, at the Dene National Office (867) 873-4081.

 

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/dene-nation-will-be-at-ottawa-protest.html

BP oil is not degrading on floor of Gulf of Mexico, study says

 

BP oil is not degrading on floor of Gulf of Mexico, study says

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Posted 22 September 2011, by Jay Reeves (Associated Press), New Orleans Net (NOLA), nola.com

 

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Tar balls washed onto Gulf of Mexico beaches by Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month show that oil left over from last year’s BP spill isn’t breaking down as quickly as some scientists thought it would, university researchers said Tuesday. Auburn University experts who studied tar samples at the request of coastal leaders said the latest wave of gooey orbs and chunks appeared relatively fresh, smelled strongly and were hardly changed chemically from the weathered oil that collected on Gulf beaches during the spill.

Melissa R. Nelson, The Associated Press archive. Tar balls are seen among the seashells at Gulf Islands National Sea Shore near Pensacola Beach, Fla., on Sept. 14.

The study concluded that mats of oil — not weathered tar, which is harder and contains fewer hydrocarbons — are still submerged on the seabed and could pose a long-term risk to coastal ecosystems.

BP didn’t immediately comment on the study, but the company added cleanup crews and extended their hours after large patches of tar balls polluted the white sand at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach starting around Sept. 6. Tar balls also washed ashore in Pensacola, Fla., which is to the east and was farther from the storm’s path.

Marine scientist George Crozier said the findings make sense because submerged oil degrades slowly due to the relatively low amount of oxygen in the Gulf’s sandy bottom.

“It weathered to some extent after it moved from southern Louisiana to Alabama … but not much has happened to it since then,” said Crozier, longtime director of the state sea laboratory at Dauphin Island.

Crozier said remnants of the spill are “economically toxic” for tourism, but he doubts there is much of an environmental threat. The oil lingering on the seabed is of a consistency and chemical composition somewhere between crude oil and tar, he said.

The company refused a request by the city of Gulf Shores to expand the latest cleanup efforts to include heavy machinery.

Auburn analyzed tar balls dredged up by Lee at the request of the city of Orange Beach with outside funding from the city, the National Science Foundation and the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium. The study wasn’t reviewed by outside scientists before its release.

Jay Reeves of The Associated Press wrote this report.

 

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http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/09/bp_oil_is_not_degrading_on_flo.html

Rare whales surface in Robson Bight

 Threatened fin whales showing up near Island in increasing numbers

One of the two fin whales that paid a rare visit to Robson Bight this week. Fin whales, the second biggest species, are listed as threatened and are more usually seen in the open ocean. Photograph by: JARED TOWERS, DFO

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Posted 20 September 2011, by Judtih Lavoie, The Victoria Times Colonist, timescolonist.com

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The sound of lengthy whale blows echoing through the fog in Robson Bight caught whale researcher Marie Fournier’s attention Monday as she kept watch at an OrcaLab outpost.

Then, out of the fog, swam two massive fin whales — something never previously documented in Robson Bight, located off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

Fin whales, the second largest animal after blue whales, are starting to return to B.C. waters after being almost wiped out by decades of whaling, but they usually prefer the open ocean. Recent sightings have been several kilometres offshore.

“I was completely surprised. I had to do three or four double takes to make sure what I was seeing,” Fournier said.

The identity giveaway was the size of the animals, estimated at about 22 metres, and their huge blows, reaching five metres into the air, said Fournier, who called Jared Towers, a Fisheries and Oceans research technician.

When Towers arrived to take identification photographs, he discovered that he photographed one of the whales in Hecate Strait last summer.

“Just by luck it turned out to be the same animal,” Towers said.

It is hoped that the growing catalogue of photos will give some idea of the size of the fin whale population off Canada’s west coast, he said.

Fin whales are listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act.

John Ford, a marine mammal specialist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station who is conducting fin whale research, said the animals have previously been seen about 10 kilometres away around Malcolm Island, but not around Robson Bight.

“Something like this is very unusual. It’s the first time,” he said.

This year, about 50 fin whales were seen around Langara Island. In previous years, it was considered unusual to see five or 10, so it appears the population is probably increasing, although there is not yet a good estimate of the abundance, Ford said.

“Thousands of them were killed off before the last coastal whaling station closed down in 1967,” he said.

“They have likely been recovering over the last 45 years, and we may now be seeing a steep curve of population growth.”

Scientists in areas such as Alaska have also reported a return of fins, Ford said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
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Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

 

Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

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Posted 21 September 2011, by Staff, CO2 Science (Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change), co2science.org

 

Reference
McInerney, F.A. and Wing, S.L. 2011. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 39: 489-516.

Background
During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, of some 56 million years ago, it is believed that large amounts of carbon were released to the ocean-atmosphere system and that global temperatures may have risen by 5-8°C. Thus, the authors write that study of the PETM may provide “valuable insights into the carbon cycle, climate system and biotic responses to environmental change that are relevant to long-term future global changes.”

What was done
McInerney and Wing reviewed much of the scientific literature pertaining to the insights being sought by biologists concerned about potential species extinctions due to CO2-induced global warming; and they give their assessment of the current status of the grand enterprise in which many scientists have been involved since the early 1990s, when the PETM and its significance first began to be recognized (Kennett and Stott, 1991; Koch et al., 1992).

What was learned
In summarizing their findings, the two researchers write that although there was a major extinction of benthic foraminifera in the world’s oceans, “most groups of organisms did not suffer mass extinction.” In fact, they say “it is surprising that cool-adapted species already living at higher latitudes before the onset of the PETM are not known to have experienced major extinctions,” and they remark that “this absence of significant extinction in most groups is particularly interesting in light of the predictions of substantial future extinction with anthropogenic global warming.” In addition, they note that “low levels of extinction in the face of rapid environmental change during the Quaternary pose a similar challenge to modeled extinctions under future greenhouse warming,” citing Botkin et al. (2007). And, last of all, they indicate that “rapid morphological change occurred in both marine and terrestrial lineages, suggesting that organisms adjusted to climate change through evolution as well as dispersal.”

What it means
McInerney and Wing wrap up their review by noting that “research on the PETM and other intervals of rapid global change has been driven by the idea that they provide geological parallels to future anthropogenic warming.” And in this regard, the many research results they review seem to suggest that earth’s plants and animals, both on land and in the sea, may be much better equipped to deal with the environmental changes that climate alarmists claim are occurring in response to anthropogenic CO2 emissions than what many students of the subject have long believed to be possible.

References
Botkin, D.B., Saxe, H., Araujo, M.B., Betts, R, Bradshaw, R.H.W., Cedhagen, T., Chesson, P., Dawson, T.P., Etterson, J.R., Faith, D.P., Ferrier, S., Guisan, A., Skjoldborg-Hansen, A., Hilbert, D.W., Loehle, C., Margules, C., New, M., Sobel, M.J. and Stockwell, D.R.B. 2007. Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity. BioScience 57: 227-236.

Kennett, J.P. and Stott, L.D. 1991. Abrupt deep-sea warming, palaeoceanographic changes and benthic extinctions at the end of the Palaeocene. Nature 353: 225-229.

Koch, P.L., Zachos, J.C. and Gingerich, P.D. 1992. Correlation between isotope records in marine and continental carbon reservoirs near the Paleocene/Eocene boundary. Nature 358: 319-322.

 

 

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http://www.co2science.org/articles/V14/N38/B3.php

Why I’m Donating My Heinz Award Money to the Fight Against Fracking

Sandra Steingraber beautifully shares why the fight against fracking is so important.

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Posted 15 September 2011, by Sandra Steingraber, AlterNet, alternet.org

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Photo Credit: todbaker

I’m thrilled to receive a Heinz Award in recognition of my research and writing on environmental health. This is work made possible by my residency as a scholar within the Department of Environmental Studies at Ithaca College. Many past and present Heinz Award winners are personal heroes of mine–and Teresa Heinz herself is a champion of women’s environmental health–so this recognition carries special meaning for me. And it comes with a $100,000 unrestricted cash prize. Which is stunning.

As a bladder cancer survivor of 32 years, I’m intimately familiar with two kinds of uncertainty: the kind that comes while waiting for results from the pathology and radiology labs and the kind that is created by the medical insurance industry who decides whether or not to pay the pathology and radiology bills. Over the years, I’ve learned to analyze data and raise children while surrounded by medical and financial insecurities. It’s a high-wire act.

But as an ecologist, I’m aware of a much larger insecurity: the one created by our nation’s ruinous dependency on fossil fuels in all their forms. When we light them on fire, we fill the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases that are destablizing the climate and acidifying the oceans (whose plankton stocks provide us half of the oxygen we breathe). When we use fossil fuels as feedstocks to make materials such as pesticides and solvents, we create toxic substances that trespass into our children’s bodies (where they raises risks for cancer, asthma, infertility, and learning disorders).

Emancipation from our terrible enslavement to fossil fuels is possible. The best science shows us that the United States could, within two decades, entirely run on green, renewable energy if we chose to dedicate ourselves to that course. But, right now, that is not the trail we are blazing.  Instead, evermore extreme and toxic methods are being deployed to blast fossilized carbon from the earth. We are blowing up mountains to get at coal, felling boreal forests to get at tar, and siphoning oil from the ocean deep.

Most ominously, through the process called fracking, we are shattering the very bedrock of our nation to get at the petrified bubbles of methane trapped inside. Fracking turns fresh water into poison. It fills our air with smog, our roadways with 18-wheelers hauling hazardous materials, and our fields and pastures with pipelines and toxic pits.

I am therefore announcing my intent to devote my Heinz Award to the fight against hydrofracking in upstate New York, where I live with my husband and our two children. Some might look at my small house (with its mismatched furniture) or my small bank accounts (with their absence of a college fund or a retirement plan) and question my priorities. But the bodies of my children are the rearranged molecules of the air, water, and food streaming through them.

As their mother, there is no more important investment that I could make right now than to support the fight for the integrity of the ecological system that makes their lives possible. As legal scholar Joseph Guth reminds us, a functioning biosphere is worth everything we have. This summer I traveled through the western United States and saw firsthand the devastation that fracking creates. In drought-crippled Texas where crops withered in the fields, I read a hand-lettered sign in a front yard that said, “I NEED WATER. U HAUL. I PAY. “

And still the fracking trucks rolled on, carrying water to the gas wells. This is the logic of drug addicts, not science.  I also stood on the courthouse steps in Salt Lake City while climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for an act of civil disobedience that halted the leasing of public land for gas and oil drilling near Arches National Park. Before he was hauled away by federal marshals, Tim said, “This is what love looks like.”

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http://www.alternet.org/water/152427/