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The world has gone crazy about electric cars these days, it seems. At least the wealthier part of the world. They promise to provide a more technologically advanced future, and they're widely perceived to be much more eco-friendly than any other means of transportation.

Of course, electric cars do have some issues of their own, too. These are several. The biggest one is the long time it takes to re-charge the batteries, given the current level of technologies. Then, the relatively short distance a car could run with one charging. This would eventually be solved by improving the capacity of the batteries. But, because producing the batteries takes energy, it's important to do it in an energy-efficient way, and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels in the process. Because it's not like producing batteries for electric cars does not leave a significant carbon imprint.

This is where the above study comes, which attempts to give a broader and more detailed picture of the whole process. It was done by IVL, a Swedish institute of ecology research, by the behest of the Swedish transportation administration.

Read more... )
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This coupled with the stupidity of some of the world leaders that refuse to understand climate change is a real and rather immediate threat, means we're pretty screwed. Like Carlin used to say, the planet is gonna be just fine, but we, the humans, are screwed.

The Great Barrier Reef Can No Longer Be Saved by Current Efforts, Scientists Warn

Earth is like a dog who's having a particularly severe infestation of fleas. He'll shake us off eventually, and move on.

And no, this has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism or any other such petty bullshit.
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A little worm could put the entire modern human civilisation in peril, they say. Because we live in a world dominated by synthetics and plastics. We use it everywhere: in furniture, in electronics, for making cars, for packaging. Plastic packages make global food trade possible. Plastic is even inside us: little synthetic particles fall off manufactured products and mix with the air we breathe, entering our lungs. Others get into our food from the above-mentioned plastic packages.

Humankind produces about 300 trillion tons of plastic every year. Nearly 10% of this amount is desposited into the world ocean. There is a huge pile of garbage swirling in the middle of every major ocean, much of it consisting of plastic. The ocean waves constantly decomposing it into ever smaller bits. This way the plastic gets into the fish, into the global water cycle, and then through rain into the food, and into our blood system. Even into our cells.

It is estimated that microplastic makes up about 1% of the plastic waste, i.e. between 93 thousand and 236 thousand tons annually, World Economic Forum data shows. Still, we keep using synthetics in most industries, and these deposits are constantly growing. The reason is that plastic is biologically indestructible. There isn't an animal or microorganism in nature capable of eating this sort of synthetic material. Metals can be oxidised and rust, but plastic is eternal. Or at least that is what we thought.

But now this is about to change )
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Those are two major traits of the last half a century that have become a central feature in a recent conclusion of a groups of scientists, which basically argues that a new epoch in Earth's development, called Anthropocene, should now be formulated separately from the Holocene:

Earth Enters Anthropocene Epoch, Thanks to Humans

This international team of researchers say the worldwide spread of plastics, concrete, and even chickens combined with man-made climate change has caused the Earth to enter its first new epoch in more than 11,500 years.

I'd say this comes a little late in recognising what has been obvious to many for more years than I can count. I would query only the name chosen - the Anthropocene assumes that there will be a future for humanity, which will look back with disgust, indulgence or incredulity on our 70-80 years of pure self-indulgence. Perhaps The Apocalene would be a better fit? Could we say the era that follows this one would be one of cockroaches, rats and things that crawl in the little remaining earth?
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This is the difference between humans and dolphins. When a human is drowning at sea, chances are that a flock of dolphins would come to the rescue. But when a dolphin is in distress at the shore, the "smart" humans would torture him to death with their idiocy. Fuck us. We're the most disgusting animals on the planet Earth.
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New infrared video reveals growing environmental disaster in L.A. gas leak

"Scientists and environmental experts say the Aliso Canyon leak instantly became the biggest single source of methane emissions in all of California when it began two months ago. The impact of greenhouse gases released since then, measured over a 20-year time frame, is the equivalent of emissions from six coal-fired power plants or 7 million automobiles, environmentalists say."

An unprecedented outpouring of methane in Los Angeles has been spewing out noxious fumes for two months already. The leak is erupting from the SoCal Gas energy facility at Aliso Canyon. Residents report that they've fallen ill from fumes released by the methane gas. New footage has been shown of a geyser of methane gas coming out from the surface, and aerial images were shown recently for the first time, revealing the damage at the well site:

Read more... )
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The temperatures are reaching 45 Celsius in New Delhi, and the record heat is claiming thousands of lives in India and Pakistan. The drought in Phnom Penh is destroying the crops of the world's poorest farmers, and in Thailand and California there is water rationing. What these events have in common, according to the climatologists, is that they are now being caused by the cyclical occurrence of the El Nino.

The effects of climate change on human life and the economy has occupied the minds of both scientists and economists, but little research has been done on this particular cyclical phenomenon. El Nino is an overal lchange of the temperature o the surface waters in the equatorial and tropical areas of the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean well over the usual levels. This happens for a few months roughly once in five years, in the general case the average temperature rising by more than a few tenths of a degree.

Read more... )
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The words "trash" and "mafia" are often heard today being used in the same sentence with "politicians", "business", and "justice" - especially in South and East Europe. The only difference in the case of Napoli is that when the people of Campania use these words, they whisper them and then look around with fright, as if they're being listened. In South Italy, these words are not just part of a political metaphor or some populist rhetoric, it's a murderous reality.

There were mass protests on the Neapolitan streets last year, and the one issue that sticks out was the continuous dumping of dangerous, deadly waste that's being practiced by the Camorra, and has been poisoning the local communities for decades, and is now even taking human lives. NGOs, magistrates, national and local authorities, the police, even the Church are now recognizing the grave threat on people's health and the country's economy that's coming from the criminal disposal of toxic trash, now affecting not just the Italian South but the entire country. Heads are being raised, voices are getting louder, and serious counter-action is being taken.

Read more )
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Last February, NPR's Planet Money examined a unique strategy by Ecuador's government to preserve its Yasuni National Park, an isolated and wild place reached best by hours in a canoe. This is one of those places with amazing biodiversity, with more tree species in a hectare than most more northern countries have within their borders.

The problem threatening the Yasuni? It has oil, and President Correa, seeing the destruction other Latin American countries have suffered for oil exploration/extraction, wanted to avoid a similar fate for his most wild of national places. His solution: ask for money to preserve the park as is.

Seriously. Planet Money interviews those seeking to preserve the park by asking for money:

As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.

So, how'd that all work out? )
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I haven't been following the news lately, but last I checked our atmosphere hit a milestone in human history by finally reaching the 400 parts per million concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In doing some preliminary research for this entry, I find that the number has since been revised downward . . . to 399.89 ppm.

Well, excuse us. That's entirely different, but still, as the article fairly explains, it's not the number captured in amber and preserved for all time that matters most, but rather "the rate of rise that is most important." That, sadly has not really slowed.

Ah, but I'm not here to boom all gloom and doom on y'all. I'm here now to crow about what is talked about, but not enough, and what should be heralded across the intertubes as more important than an arbitrary odometer moment: There is good news to be had.

You see, a rich guy has offered a prize for a viable process to remove CO2 from our atmosphere. $25 million will be granted in the Virgin Earth Challenge to the most viable candidate. So far, there are eleven finalists. First, lets winnow out the least likely challengers, and point out why they fail. )

Next, let us inject some much needed optimism. )
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Bee losses will be devastating this year, reaching up to 50 and 60 percent according to some preliminary beekeeper reports in the New York Times. While a mystery ailment called “colony collapse disorder,” is unclear, beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.1 The EPA has agreed to investigate at the request of bee keepers and farmers. The dearth of bees to pollinate forces the keepers to charge more, and those costs will no doubt be passed along by farmers to consumers. Honey bees are responsible for over a third of crops, and add over 14 billion dollars per year to the United States economy.

Almonds are a bellwether. Eighty percent of the nation’s almonds grow here, and 80 percent of those are exported, a multibillion-dollar crop crucial to California agriculture. Pollinating up to 800,000 acres, with at least two hives per acre, takes as many as two-thirds of all commercial hives.

Our food supply is being put at serious risk due to falling populations of key fisheries around the world (cf. tuna, cod, etc). For people who hate fish, that's no loss, although the fundamental issues causing that will eventually affect us in farming too. World wide, bee populations are being devastated as well. To see a larger copy of the info-graphic, click here. And to see a news feature by NBC News Ann Thompson, click here.

1. Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms. By Michael Wines, published March 27, 2013.

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"The most comprehensive assessment of lion (Panthera leo) numbers to date determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are undergoing massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from hundreds of thousands estimated just 50 years ago."

Those are the results of an extensive research by the Duke University. At this stage of population decline, once the mighty symbol of power in the animal kingdom could well get into the list of endangered species within the next decade, or sooner. The reason for the catastrophic situation is the rapid decline of lion populaces in the wild, on one side... and the systematic destruction of their natural habitat, on the other. And also the hunting for trophies, which is an illustrious business, along with the trade of lion organs throughout the continent.

Read more... )
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This has been the end of two years of a whole bunch of other human beings and I ( not "activists, not "liberals-because anti-fracking goes across party lines) have been fighting the gas/oil companies and the state to ban it. There is so much science out there and so much of the process of fracking that is questionable as to it's safety , that right now, the process by which it is done, is dangerous to our health, our water and our air, not to mention people's lively hoods and property. It is my hope for 2013 that our governor in NY do the right thing and call for a ban on all Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing.
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So, Romney approves of a particular politician's ideas who it's never a good idea to agree with no matter where the idea in question comes from:

You know, first of all, liquefied coal was a horrible idea the first time. It was very ecologically ruinous and the way we'd go about making it makes a deep sea oil platform a much, much safer option.

Second of all, solving ecological issues is not something with a single, simple panacea. To really do this would require a sustained, GLOBAL process that's clearly not about a way to maintain the status quo at the expense of the people on the low end of today's totem pole. There is no silver bullet that can with one stroke actually solve these issues, there is only a complicated process where multiple, integrated, interrelated issues have to be resolved in tandem. As such any quest for anyone variety of new energy of necessity must fail on a global level because different areas of the planet, simply put, aren't like other areas.
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Come November, the same old same old will repeat once again. Several thousand environmentally concerned dudes and dudettes will convene on a summit to bicker on a possible agreement on the issue of global climate. From time to time, the occasional politician will give a nice speech. The end result? Zero. Nada.

This time the saviors of Earth will meet in Qatar. Shrug. I can tell you from now that no decisions will be taken about countering climate change. Why? Because the main players will never come to a common ground. Still, various populist politicians and pundits will score a few cheap points from the whole thing, while exercising their verbal acrobatics in front of eager ears. Some of us will rant a bit that those fuckers are totally inept, while others will remain content that nothing has changed and no one will be coming to seize their property and freedoms (read: taxes) in the following year. At least not for pouring it into some bottomless bucket that is the issue of climate change. If it ever existed. I mean... if it were ever caused by humans. Sun spots, I mean. Um, just God probably, maybe. The tides - we've never been able to explain them. Whatever.

Yeah, really, whatever. )
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These Olympic games were supposed to be the "greenest" so far. At least that is what the organisers promised...

"Participation is what matters!" The father of the Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin may have never said those words exactly, but they are considered one of the core Olympic principles today. "Sustainable development has always been at the core of the entire preparation of these Olympic games" - that was what the organisation committee of the London Olympics assured the public. But it turns out not exactly true.

Of course it is true that the Olympics turned the East End of London from a uncomely industrial area into a green Olympic park. 2 thousand trees and 300 thousand bushes were planted in the place of the old and abandoned factory buildings, 2 million tons of dead soil was processed and cleaned... The use of the sports facilities is guaranteed for years ahead, the organisers claim. And this prompted the chairman of the special Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, Shaun McCarthy to boast that "These Olympic games are undoubtedly the most sustainable in history". The claim is that the London Olympics are "greener" than Sydney, and much more "sustainable" than Barcelona. The latter becoming the most worn-out and misused term of the decade, I would say.

Except for some minor details )
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A couple years ago, during his historic visit to the Indian parliament, president Obama did not spare his words of praise for the "I" of the BRICS:

"...In Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged.

"My confidence in our shared future is grounded in my respect for India's treasured past - a civilization that has been shaping the world for thousands of years.

"India not only opened our minds, she expanded our moral imagination. With religious texts that still summon the faithful to lives of dignity and discipline. With poets who imagined a future "where the mind is without fear and the head is held high". And with a man whose message of love and justice endures - the Father of your Nation, Mahatma Gandhi".

That wasn't just a gesture of courtesy. It was a promise for a mutually beneficial future cooperation. "India will thus become the new China of the past two decades", the experts are predicting. In any case, they are right that India has vast human resources at its disposal. Currently the population is 1.2 billion, almost half of it under 25 years of age. UN estimations point at India possibly surpassing China's population by 2025. China has 1.34 billion now, with a tendency towards decline. By 2100 the Indians could reach 1.5 billion, while the Chinese would have "shrunken" to 0.94 billion.

Read more )
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On topic:

The expectations for this event were big. 20 years have passed since the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 where some historic decisions regarding the greenhouse emissions were taken. Now the hopes were that the new Rio+20 conference would outline the new plan for sustainable development and reducing poverty within the next 20 years.

But was it worth the waiting? Ban Ki Moon declared this forum "a once in a lifetime opportunity to make real progress toward a sustainable economy for the future". Delegates from more than 190 countries took part in the 3 day long forum that finished last weekend. And also many NGOs and private entrepreneurs. The leaders of the biggest developing economies were also there - China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa too. But Obama, Cameron and Merkel only sent their envoys to represent them, confirming the concerns that the ecologic meeting would be overshadowed by the crisis in the Euro zone, the US presidential election and the Arab spring.

Actually if we look at the larger picture, Rio+20 may not look like such a complicated goal. Sustainable development means using natural resources in a way that would not exceed nature's capabilities to cope with their recovery. If the world economy is adjusted to this goal, what remains is to put the necessary measures into an official document and subscribe to it. Sounds easy... but it isn't. There are all sorts of obstacles at every step along that road.

Things have changed somewhat since the 90s when everyone used to talk about ecology. Now it is more about sustainable development. The term gradually became mainstream exactly after the 1992 summit in Rio. And simply put, it means achieving a balance between environment, economy and social development. But did Rio+20 meet the big expectations? Or were the predictions that this conference would only name the global ecological problems without finding solutions for them, proven true?

Read more )
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Lots of delicious meat, vegetables and sea food. The sight may look nice, but only a small part of the world's population could afford such abundance. In order to guarantee enough food for an ever growing population, we may soon come to a point where we will have to change our ways of making food, preparing food, and eating food. Sooner than we might be hoping for.

Fortunately, science is not sleeping, and it is working hard to devise new sources of food and new ways of food production. From sausages made inside bio-reactors, to insect salads, to fish farming products, to food skyscrapers, to genetically modified rice. Shall we plunge into the dinner of the future? =)

Right. Let us plunge. )
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WWF Living Planet Report Warns That By 2030 Two Earths Will Be Needed To Sustain Our Lifestyles
Humans have radically altered ecosystems in the past 50 years Changes have brought many gains but at high ecosystem cost Further unsustainable practices will threaten development goals

In its report "Living Planet 2012", the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warns that if a sufficient number of people around the world do not change their lifestyle in the next decade, we might be in need of a second Earth very soon - by 2030 actually. And we still do not have another planet. Does this assessment mean to say that we will have wasted all our resources until that "deadline"? Not exactly. But it means that by that time, our way of life would have become irreversibly unsustainable. And that can mean only one thing: societal collapse.

Read more )

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A place to discuss politics without egomaniacal mods


Divisive Rhetoric


"Favoring multiculturalism is something Westerners give a lot of lovely lip service to until they have to actually do it."

September 2017

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