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Tag: "environment"

Environmental Linkage

[ 13 ] September 26, 2013 |

1. More on climate change destroying the ocean ecosystem and the rise of jellyfish as our new overlords.

2. Support for fracking declines in the United States. This is useful given our embrace of the technology without anything close to the proper research as to how it will affect water supplies, not to mention create earthquakes. But where there’s profit to be found, you can forget about caution.

3. The Louisiana sinkhole caused by mining corporations using the state as a dumping zone has gotten worse and has no signs of stopping.

Water in the West

[ 56 ] September 23, 2013 |

How bad is the long-term drought in the West? The enormous rains of last week in Colorado helped a lot locally, barely put a dent in the larger indicators.

If you don’t believe the drought monitor, take a look at Lake Powell, a good barometer of water conditions in much of the West. By early September, the lake’s surface elevation was a whopping 33 feet below last year’s level on that date, and 65 feet below 2011′s September level. The rains helped, barely: The water level rose about two feet before leveling off. It would take dozens of this summer’s biggest deluges to bring the lake back up anywhere near where it should be at this time of year.

Dozens of floods are necessary. Of course nobody wants dozens of floods. What we really want is long-term rainfall. But the reality of climate change in the West means that long-term drought is the new normal.

Say Hello to Our New Oceanic Overlords

[ 47 ] September 15, 2013 |

Jellyfish are taking over the world. And they love the conditions of the ocean created by climate change. Not only are the oceans likely to become jellyfish deserts that also make swimming in many areas increasingly dangerous, but they also wreak tremendous havoc on economic activity along the coasts, not to mention shipping.

Forgot our robot overlords. It’s jellyfish overlords that we actually have to worry about.

The linked article is terrifying.

Conservative Climate Change Predictions

[ 10 ] September 10, 2013 |

The UN consistently chooses the most conservative predictions about the effects of climate change in order to try and mollify climate change deniers. This has the effect of muting the shouting from the mountaintops we need to get a handle on an issue that will destroy the way of life we today know. Not a good idea, especially since those deniers are never going to listen since they have an economic stake in the present system.

Copper Mines Seeking to Pollute New Mexico Groundwater

[ 9 ] August 27, 2013 |

The mining industry, conducting its usual anti-social, anti-environmental, and exploitative behavior, is pushing for new rules in New Mexico to escape having to go through a variance process to pollute the groundwater below its mining sites, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican The law could allow more industries to do the same, including the state’s two national laboratories. Mining has dominated the economy of southwestern New Mexico for more than a century and with a Republican governor in office, the industry is seeking to capitalize. There’s no good reason to allow high-polluting industries to get around water quality regulations. None at all.

Keystone XL Pipe Quality

[ 14 ] August 22, 2013 |

Doesn’t this just make you feel confident that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t lead to horrible oil spills?

Of course, it’s not like the pipeline will run through any land endangered species rely upon or anything like that.

Lead and Fracking

[ 20 ] August 20, 2013 |

Industry fought against all evidence that lead exposure hurt people since at least 1767. Robin Russell-Jones rightfully compares that to the battle against fracking today, with industry saying that there are no major environmental problems at all with the process, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The lesson is to never trust industry positions on the environmental or health effects of their products. In fact, we’d be better off assuming they are lying and forcing corporations to convince us they are not.

Labor and Nature in the Fields

[ 28 ] August 18, 2013 |

Mark Bittman is making sense:

Oddly, affordability is not the problem; in fact, the tomatoes are too cheap. If they cost more, farmers like Rominger would be more inclined to grow tomatoes organically; to pay his workers better or offer benefits to more of them; to make a better living himself.

But the processed tomato market is international, with increasing pressure from Italy, China and Mexico. California has advantages, but it still must compete on price. Producers also compete with one another, making it tough for even the most principled ones to increase worker pay. To see change, then, all workers, globally, must be paid better, so that the price of tomatoes goes up across the board.

How does this happen? Unionization, or an increase in the minimum wage, or both. No one would argue that canned tomatoes should be too expensive for poor people, but by increasing minimum wage in the fields and elsewhere, we raise standards of living and increase purchasing power.

The issue is paying enough for food so that everything involved in producing it — land, water, energy and labor — is treated well. And since sustainability is a journey, progress is essential. It would be foolish to assert that we’re anywhere near the destination, but there is progress — even in those areas appropriately called “industrial.”

I agree with everything in this article. I suppose he could have talked to a worker or two to investigate the conditions a bit more, but the overall point about making the food system more fair to the land and to people is excellent.

State Change

[ 64 ] August 13, 2013 |

The Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico (and presumably Chihuahua as well, but the Mexican side of the drought is completely ignored by most environmental journalists) is undergoing what ecologists call “state change,” where the grasslands are declining into a permanent scrub desert that radically transforms the ecosystem. This has resulted from a combination of climate change and overgrazing. The overgrazing create enormous ecological degradation, but that could be restored at least to some extent under the old ecological conditions. Now, it seems highly unlikely.

The future of human habitation in the American southwest is quite unclear with a non-zero possibility that cities from Denver to Las Vegas to Phoenix to El Paso could be more or less abandoned over the next century because the environment (specifically water supplies) simply won’t be able to carry this many people in those places. This would be catastrophic to the economy, although perhaps not more so than the near certainty that Miami is doomed and probably New Orleans as well.

John Graves, RIP

[ 2 ] August 2, 2013 |

The great Texas writer John Graves has passed. Goodbye to a River, about a float trip down the Brazos before it was dammed, is a truly wonderful book.

Legalize and Regulate for the Sake of the Ecosystem

[ 34 ] August 2, 2013 |

Once again, we see illegal marijuana farmers in California causing a huge toll on the local ecology, including the death of threatened species. The only way to deal with this is to legalize marijuana production, submit it to a strong regulatory system that includes forfeiture for using pesticides that kill important mammals, and move law enforcement toward that regulatory system. Otherwise, more rare animals will die.

Legacy Pollution

[ 44 ] July 31, 2013 |

In Carson, California, Shell Oil used to have an oil tank farm. Then, thanks to America’s lax environmental regulatory state, a housing development was built on top of it when Shell no longer needed it. Shell claims the land is safe and they have no responsibility for it. Residents say their soil is poisonous. Soil tests taken five years ago show elevated levels of benzene and petroleum. Residents claim an array of health problems The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board has ordered Shell to clean up the soil, but there is significant debate over whether to clean it up right now as an emergency or do the necessary testing that would delay the cleanup for a year. Shell is unhappy.

A dark side of southern California’s landscape is the legacy of nearly a century of oil production. You don’t always see that legacy, but it’s there. It became famous during the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that spawned an array of environmental legislation, but the roots go back to the early 20th century, as does local resistance to it. Too often, corporations get away with improper cleanup, leaving a legacy of pollution for residents, often the poor who can afford to buy houses in a ecologically degraded neighborhood.

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