East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Nanaimo Tells Wheelabrator to Go Away


B. McPherson
Disposal by dispersal is not the answer.
The power of united people was evident on Monday night. Nanaimo City Council voted to tell Wheelabrator that they weren’t welcome in the city or in the Regional District. This is the culmination of hard work and determination on the part of citizens concerned with the ramifications of building a modern garbage burner in the city.

The pressure has been steady since last July when the Board of the Regional District voted to tell Metro Vancouver that a waste to energy facility in the district was not welcome. Some on the city council kept Wheelabrator and Sea Span’s hopes alive until finally spiking it Monday with a unanimous vote.
The councillors and mayor have been inundated with thousands of letters urging them to forbid the incineration of garbage in our environs. The Friday preceding the council meeting saw a well-organized, peaceful protest march of a couple of hundred marchers. Bear in mind that Nanaimo City has a population of a little over 80 000. Over 12,000 people signed petitions against installing an incinerator. Monday saw about 700 people turn out with signs to protest, a flash mob stopped traffic for a few minutes, dancing.

The mood of the crowd was electric as people crowded into the council chambers, built for 400 and overcapacity. About 200 remained in the building watching the proceedings on TV and more stayed outside with their signs. Leading up to the meeting, chants and counterchants revved up the crowd. The mayor appealed for quiet and respect for the speakers and by a whole the crowd was.

Needless to say the people were very happy when the representative from Sea Span, John Lucas, spoke to tell them that they were withdrawing their proposal to site the garbage burner on their land. They were ecstatic when council voted unanimously to put quit to the issue.

The crown, now cheerfully piled back out on the street, big smiles all around. There certainly was no need for the RCMP to attend to maintain order. But someone had called them.

People generally are getting better informed about the negative effects of garbage burners turned out and sold to the public as Waste to Energy (WTE) facilities. Even small towns with high unemployment know that no matter if you put lipstick on it, it’s still a pig.

Friday, 11 April 2014

China Coal Plants Are Killing Quarter Million Annually

B. McPherson
Dirty coal is killing people in China
China’s great push to establish itself as the leading industrial nation has come at a heavy price. Currently there are 2 300 operating coal fired electrical plants in the country. Noxious emissions are calculated to kill about 275 000 people each year.

The figures are staggering.

WHO's Global Burden of Disease report estimated that 1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 due to air pollution. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in July found that air pollution has caused the loss of more than 2.5 billion years of life expectancy in China – shaving 5.5 years off the average life expectancy. Greenpeace

Pollution and In particular, air pollution has become a flash point in the PRC. The expanding middle class in China has been objecting to the rampant pollution which sickens their children and shortens their lives.

Coal fire emissions may send their damage down the generations. A study by Columbia University Professor Deliang Tang found that children born before a particularly bad coal fired plant was closed, had compromised brain development which affected their learning and physical abilities. Children born after the air quality improved displayed normal development.

Besides the direct damage done to a fetus, the emerging science of epigenetics is looking at the effects of pollution. Changes made to the complex proteins surrounding our DNA may cause inheritable defects which will echo down the generations.

More than dirty smuts are released when coal is burned. Fluorine, arsenic, selenium and many more harmful substances may be released when coal is burned, depending on where the plants making up coal grew. Much of western coal currently being exported to Asia contains small amounts of uranium, a radioactive substance.

Opinion Recently Europe was swathed in air pollution from industry combined with sand from the Sahara. Industries need to be made to stop disposing into the air. While production costs may increase, the cost of a mentally challenged child or years knocked off your life is a much higher cost.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

European Bumblebees Threatened With Extinction

B. McPherson
Bumblebees are part of the free services we receive from Mother Nature

Spring in Europe will see fewer bumblebees. Bumblebees are those large, wild bees that don’t look as if they could get off the ground, but they do. They are docile creatures that only ask that we leave them some forage and don’t poison them. Unfortunately about a quarter of the 68 species residing in Europe are red-listed or critically endangered. Nearly half of the species are in decline.

A study done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) has warned people that the loss of these species will be catastrophic to food producers.

The study, which contributes to the European Red List of pollinators and is part of the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project, stresses that three of the five “most important insect pollinators of European crops” are bumblebee species. RT

Bumblebees are important pollinators of many of our food crops. Some food crops like English peas are self-pollinating, others like grains are wind pollinated, but many fruits and vegetables that grace our modern tables have been aided for free by wild bees.

Three big factors that are putting pressure on the wild bee populations are climate change, habitat loss as farmers turf out hedgerows and buffer zones which provide forage and shelter, and the widespread use of insecticides. Insecticides sprayed on crops and those ‘built in’ in the GM plants poison and weaken the bees. There is also speculation by scientists that some of the diseases that hit the domestic honeybee are spreading to their wild sisters.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Hungary, Toxic Sludge Village Remakes Itself

B. McPherson
An environmental good news story

October 2010 the world watched a toxic red sludge engulf a small Hungarian town. The village of Devescer was flooded a with two metre deep wall of burning, toxic mud that escaped from a holding pond, the by product of the aluminum industry. The disaster killed 10 and seriously injured 150 more.

It looked as if the town was finished. Houses were ruined and had to be demolished. Farm land was rendered useless for food crops. But that’s not what happened. This is ultimately a good news story. Today Devescer stands an example of resilience and smart thinking.

The town has reinvented itself as an environmentally sustainable village. The site of the two metre flood has been cleared of sludge. Farmland was planted with fast growing trees and the forested land with more mature trees have been turned into parkland. The fast growing poplars are both a carbon sink while they are growing and a source of energy for heating when they are burned. Geothermal heating has been installed in some buildings.

Eighty-seven new homes have been constructed on new ground. Agricultural land is being developed and producing enough to sell to other parts of the country. Donated expertise by architect Imre Makovecz has ensured a coherent and pleasing aspect to the village. It now serves as an example of what can be done to mitigate an environmental disaster given commitment and expertise.

The transformation has been shepherded by the mayor Toldi Tamas, newly elected when the red tide inundated his town.

Al Jazeera     

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Fukushima Refugees Allowed to Return to the Hot Zone

B. McPherson
For those returning to the hot zone the prospect of radiation trumps the "cages".
A little over three years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station was wrecked, 350 people have been allowed to return to Tamura City. It lies within the 20km exclusion zone. The refugees have been assured that the area is safe for habitation.

The former residents, 80 000 of them, have been assured of many things since the explosions at the electrical facility spread radioactivity over the area.

The Japanese government has joined with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to reassure people of their quick responses to the dangers of radiation and their quick and efficient response to safety issues. However over the past three years, the facts have often been contrary to the official stories.

This excerpt from Fukushima Update says it as well as anyone can:

Because we all know TEPCO would never misreport the radiation surrounding Fukushima. Oh wait: “From April to September of 2013 TEPCO admits that levels of radiation measured from water samples around the destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactor were “significantly undercounted.” But that was all, TEPCO swears – this time will be different. And it is certainly “counting” radiation correctly now, when it has given people the all clear to go back to the disaster zone.

While some older people are venturing back into the hot zone to try to take up their former lives, cleanup crews are still scraping away contaminated topsoil and hosing down hard surfaces trying to reduce the radioactivity, many younger people are not. There is the danger of developing cancers from increased insult to their genes and elevated danger to growing children. Some cancers are slow growing and take many years to cause a problem, but many juvenile forms are quick and aggressive. Elevated incidents of thyroid cancers are being detected in children exposed to the disaster.

It looks as if those in power in Japan are continuing to embrace the friendly atom in spite of this ongoing disaster, living on an unstable ground and placing most of their nuclear power stations at or near the ocean subject to tsunamis, earthquakes and rising ocean levels.

Not everyone in Japan agrees with restarting the remaining 48 nuclear plants. A writer for the Japan Times has written a scathing article about this, likening the prospect to a cruel April Fool’s Joke.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Japan to Stop Hunting Whales in Southern Sanctuary

B. McPherson
Sea Shepherd, Australia and other conservationists cheer the court decision
Score one for the whales in the Southern Sanctuary. The UN International Court of Justice(ICJ) has ruled that Japan’s whaling fleet is not engaging in scientific research in its forays to the Southern Ocean.

Australia brought the matter of the Japanese whalers to the international court to rule whether the killing of whales – up to 1000 each season – was for scientific purposes which is allowed, or for commercial purposes which is not.

The Japanese government has maintained that they need to harpoon whales for science. The selling of whale meat in the markets there is simply a by product of the activity. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been front and centre for the past decade trying to stop the slaughter of the cetaceans. This season, the group that has been fighting, literally, the whalers have named their group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia due to legal tangles.

The Sea Shepherd activists have been relentlessly pursued by the Japanese legal system to entangle and thwart their efforts to stop the killing. Since 2005, Japan admits to killing about 3600 whales in what is supposed to be a safe area for the whales. To help justify their actions, they have resorted to painting, in English, the word “Research” on their factory ship.

While the Sea Shepherd activists have been engaged in the Antarctic, interfering with the kill, the Australian government brought suit in 2010. Australia had offered to share their scientific work with the Japanese and to also share the Australian methods of obtaining information without killing the whales. Those offers had been rejected.

Japan has agreed to abide by the ruling while expressing regret at the court’s decision.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Toxic Legacy of BP’s Gulf of Mexico blowout continues.

B. McPherson
Think BP has cleaned up the mess? Think again.
It has been nearly four years since a series of incidents led to the spilling of at least 206 million gallons of oil and methane into the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon was the drill platform which burst into flames in April 2010 taking 11 workers to their deaths. The petroleum spewing from the blown out hole killed unknown numbers of wildlife from whales to microscopic plankton. Many clean-up workers fell ill and many businesses went broke when the fishery was closed and beaches were closed.

Much of the evidence of the catastrophe has disappeared, but the damage keeps on giving.

A paper presented by the National Academy of Science deals with some of the damage caused by the sudden, massive release of hydrocarbons into the water.

Scientists exposed tuna embryos to the water contaminated by the BP blowout in the Gulf. They found that many of the fish displayed various heart abnormalities which would likely affect their ability to swim.
Following is an exerpt from Mashable:
Scientists who studied the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 learned that young fish, including embryos, are particularly vulnerable to oil exposure. "That spill taught us to pay close attention to the formation and function of the heart," said Nat Scholz, ecotoxicology program manager for NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
Tuna are made for swimming and swimming fast. They can reach speeds of 40mph while chasing prey. Their reduced fitness to swim with their schools will likely increase their mortality rates.

Representatives of BP have dismissed the findings as not proving a cause and effect. The study was conducted by a team of blue ribbon universities and NOAA scientists. Stanford U, U of Miami and U of Sunshine Coast Queensland participated.

While the yellowfin tuna is not currently on the critically endangered list, it is the most popular tuna caught for canning. It is also sold fresh in chunks and for sashimi. Due to constant fishing pressure it teeters on the edge of decline. Bluefin tuna are critically endangered. Fishing pressure for bluefins is relentless as whopping prices are brought in the sushi markets.

Tuna are top predators. If they decline or disappear, the health of the ecosystem declines as well.

Further reading: