East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Greenland’s black snow ominous sign of climate disruptions


B. McPherson


Most of think of Greenland when we think of it at all, is of an almost continent covered in miles of ice. Times are changing and changing fast. For the past couple of decades environmental scientists have been warning of increased melting of the ice. This year, the melting was the greatest recorded.

Scientist Jason Box, working for the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, came back from his summer survey of the ice-cap with stunning photographs that bode ill for the rest of the world. The pristine white snow is black. Not just sprinkled with bits of dark pollution, black. You may find the photos he brought back at the Slate site.

Dark surfaces absorb more heat from the sun than light. The changing surface of Greenland has speeded up the melting of this Arctic refrigerator.

Sources of the dark matter on the Arctic ice can come from many areas. This summer there have been fewer snowstorms to cover dark material, winds circulate air from industrialized countries and deposit bits of pollution on the ice surfaces, wind blown dust finds its way to the Arctic regions and forest fire soot are all factors. This summer saw the largest and most numerous forest fires in the Arctic and boreal areas since records have been kept. Now microbes are adding to the mix, feeding off the particles being swept onto the ice.

How does the dirty ice in Greenland affect us in the lower latitudes? A higher melt rate of the ice leads to more water in the oceans. The ocean levels will rise correspondingly. Also an influx of cold water into the Atlantic Ocean may disrupt ocean currents. Europe and the East Coast of N. America enjoy moderate weather partly because of the warm current known as the Gulf Stream which shuttles warm water north. As ocean currents change so does the biology leading to changes in fishing activities. Our white polar regions act to moderate rising temperatures by reflecting heat from the sun.
For first hand, detailed accounts by the scientists camping on the ice-fields check out Dark Snow Project.

It is ironic that many people are meeting in New York this week to discuss climate change. There are some notable absences. Canada’s PM Stephen Harper has chosen to skip the conference and has sent the M. of the Environment who refrained from discussing the Oil Sands during her speech. China and India were cited for their heavy pollution loads they contribute. Canada’s PM did find time to attend an exclusive New York dinner later.
Sources:                                             
Slate          

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Microbeads from cosmetics are clogging fish guts


B. McPherson


The cosmetic industry is taking a quick turn in their product offerings. The recent phenomenon in the beauty world of offering microbeads in everything from tooth paste to body scrubs is being phased out. By 2018 in the USA most states will have banned their use and the cosmetic companies are listening.

Perhaps in the past you have purchased Crest toothpaste with neat little glitter bits in it. It’s supposed to encourage children to brush their teeth, but adults can use it too. I’ve used it. It’s kind of fun. Turns out the glitter bits are small pieces of coloured plastic. They are not poisonous, but polypropylene is not high of children’s meal menus. Many cosmetics contain tiny plastic beads as well. They have been touted as a way to achieve smooth skin. The organization Beat the Microbead has an extensive list of products that contain these tiny pieces of plastic.

Those tiny pieces of plastic make their way down the drains of the cities and from there to the water treatment plants. Like many of our modern constructs, our sewage treatment plants cannot deal with them and they pass through to eventually land in the ocean or the lakes.

Fish and invertebrates are increasingly showing up with microbeads in their guts. Biologists are starting to wonder how these plastic balls are affecting the health of the animals. There is the potential that fish ingesting enough microballs of plastic may plug their digestive system. Poisoning may result if the plastic contains or has absorbed toxic substances.

Rubbing plastic which is basically another form of petroleum, on your body doesn’t sound nearly as glamourous as microbeads. Try to do what you can to educate yourself about this previously unseen form of pollution and eliminate it from your grooming routine. There are many more nature friendly ways to exfoliate and polish. Sugar scrubs, sea salt rubs, jojoba beads, ground apricot pits all offer a plastic free way to maintain smooth skin.

Sources:

Metro      
5Gyres                  .org5gyres/posts/2014/06/19/breaking_news_federal_legislation_to_ban_plastic_microbeads_in_cosmetics_introduced/   

Saturday, 13 September 2014

GM eggplant released without independent testing


B. McPherson

The development of genetically modified field crops is a lucrative business. Monsanto corporation is often cited as the entity responsible for the proliferation of GM field crops. It is a leader in this industry, but there are many others eager to cash in on the bonanza.

Sometimes that eagerness combined with crop losses in normal plants pushes GM seed release before it has been independently tested for health and environmental risks. Information is now available that puts a shadow on the Bangladeshi government’s approval of four varieties of GM eggplant(brinjal) seeds.

That eagerness to release Bt brinjal(eggplant) to farmers may come with health impacts. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute(BARI) has admitted that there were no independent health/toxicity tests done before the release of the seed. The reason, or excuse, given was that there were no suitable labs available. Instead, BARI relied on information released by the corporation that had patented the genetically engineered seeds. In this case, Monsanto owns the patents.

The admission that no independent toxicity testing was performed comes after widespread release of information to the public that such independent testing was performed.

 New Zealand epidemiologistLou Gallagher also criticised the feeding trials saying that the raw data indicated toxic effects were associated with the rats fed Bt Brinjal.[20] Concerns have also been raised about a possible conflict of interest, with some of the scientists appointed to the GEAC being involved in developing their own GM products, Wikipedia

The four Bt brinjal varieties were banned in India in 2010 due to concerns about toxic effects.
While brinjal(eggplant, aubergine) production in N. America is not a major crop, it is in Bangladesh. The vegetable is also exported to other Asian countries. Farmers have been coping with a grub that attacks the plants and reduces their yield. The GM plants come with a built in insecticide. There are some concerns that Bt plants also give a dose of insecticide to those who may eat part or all of the plant.
                    
Sources:
GM Watch         
Wikipedia          
Dhaka Tribune        l

 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Pakistan: hundreds dead in monsoon flooding


B. McPherson
People fleeing rising flood waters in Pakistan
Residents of Pakistan and India are struggling with the worst flooding in decades as heavy rains from the monsoon caused rapid rises in river levels. There are hundreds confirmed dead with little word from villages hit with floods and mudslides.

The city of Lahore is flooded. Photographs displayed by Indian newspapers show chest deep water running in the cities of Kashmir and Pakistan. Buildings in the cities tend to be built of fired brick, but many in the countryside are made of mud brick which dissolved in the water’s onslaught.

Srinagar in Kashmir has been hard hit with flooded streets and interrupted communications. Rescue efforts have been slowed by lack of boats. Thousands of people have been displaced after losing all their belongings to the fast flowing Jhelum River.

Every year during the monsoon, flooding occurs in India and Pakistan but this year’s flooding is now classed as the worst in decades.

When watching TV news of the flooding or photographs of the disaster notice the brown flood waters contain pollution from farm animals, sewage, industry and so on. As the waters recede, they will leave  unsafe and unpleasant reminders to add to the misery.

Sources:
BBC News      
India Times        

Al Jazeera                

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Drought in Central America spectre of hunger looms


B. McPherson

Drought and disease have conspired to throw farmers in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras into poverty. The coffee bean rust has ruined coffee trees and continuing drought has meant lost crops for about 40 000 families in Guatemala. Fishing has also been poor, blamed on El Nino.

The government of Guatemala has declared the situation an emergency. The UN World Food Programme is assisting the Central American countries. 170 000 households in Guatemala are receiving food aid. Honduras is receiving aid for 76 000 families. Due to the dire conditions red beans have soared in price since January.

Guatemala faced a severe drought only five years ago. It was another El Nino year and at that time an estimated 2.5 million people were severely malnourished.

Guatemala was one of those “Banana Republics”. Their democratic government was overthrown in the ‘50s when it is alleged that the CIA worked to protect the properties of the United Fruit Growers(Chiquita Brands) which stood to lose much land due to reforms. It has suffered under a series of brutal dictators. They lost many people during the conflicts.

Drought stalks many other countries around the world. It has recently been announced that Somalia has yet another disastrous drought that threatens thousands with starvation. Looking at the US Drought Monitor map, it is easy to see that even the Golden State of California is coping with an exceptional drought over much of its state. While most in that state do not face the scale of starvation faced in many other parts of the world, lack of water has mandated drastically reduced agricultural production.

People in the past were able to migrate from areas where they could not survive, but modern borders and restrictions prevent the easy passage for people. It raises ethical questions about how the “have” nations should behave toward those that do not have.

There currently is an interactive map available to show drought conditions throughout the world. Just as one swallow does not a summer make, one drought does not mean climate change. How shall we view recurring droughts that become more intense each year?

No water, no life
  
Sources:
Latino Fox News        
Reuters     
Wikipedia     
Noaa    

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mussels Close German Power Plant


B. McPherson
Small but a big problem -- zebra mussels
Warmer ocean temperatures are blamed for the shutdown of a major electrical producer in Germany. The EON SE plant at Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea was forced to shut operations because of marine mussel infestation. 
The power plant normally produces enough electricity to light 1.5 million homes.

“We usually scrape tons of mussels out of the area where the cooling water flows during the plant’s usual revisions, but this time there were so many that we couldn’t wait for the next inspection,” Markus Nitschke, a spokesman for EON, said by phone from Dusseldorf today. “The warmer temperatures have caused this infestation.” Bloomberg News

Invasive mussels are causing additional expense and operating hazards around the world. Some species may be native to an area, but slight changes in their environment like temperature change may favour more rapid reproduction. Other species are introduced to an area where there are no natural checks on their growth. Sometimes, advanced technology can be used to discourage the mollusk growth.

The EON power plant in Oresundsverket, Sweden, employs shots of hypochlorite(a fancy name for bleach) to fight the pesky critters.

Zebra and Quagga mussels are causing fouling problems in many areas of N. America, leading to reduced efficiency in operating power plants as well as water intake pipes for industry and drinking water. The Zebra mussels, native to Turkey, have now spread around most of the world causing billions of dollars in damage and lost production.

Suggested methods to control infestation:
·         Chlorine
·         Drain area during cold weather
·         Sulfuric acid
·         Silicon coating of pipes
·         predators
Sources:
Bloomberg News       
EON      

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Frackers in Pennsylvania used illegal additives


Barbara McPherson
When fracking approaches an old vertical well, blowouts can happen
An environmental watchdog group, Environmental Integrity Project(EIP), has blown the whistle on frackers in Pennsylvania who have been pumping kerosene into their wells.  Much of the fracking liquid used in the petrochemical industry’s rock fracturing operations is unregulated in the USA. The Energy Policy Act 2005 makes most of the additives exempt from regulation except for diesel. Diesel and its products can be used if a permit is granted.

EIP’s report Fracking Beyond the Law, alleges that using the companies’ own self-reported date that kerosene, derived from diesel, has been used in Pennsylvania operations. There have been no permits issued for its use. They go on to state that diesel has been used widely throughout the states to extract oil and gas.

"Injecting diesel fuel into the ground to fracture shale and extract gas or oil is a potential threat to drinking water supplies and public health because diesel contains toxic chemicals, such as benzene, that cause cancer or other serious health problems, even at low doses. EIP"

The exemptions to the US Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act afforded to the petroleum industry are smirkingly referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole”. Halliburton is the company involved with the giant Gulf of Mexico well blowout. Dick Cheney former US vice-president has served as a top level executive for the drilling company.

Some drilling companies in the US have maintained that they are not using diesel in their fracking liquid. In 2014 the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) released an updated guide to clarify which substances contain diesel. Included in the list is kerosene. It is important to note that the drilling companies wishing to use these substances containing benzene, xylene, toluene are not prohibited from doing so. They must get a permit to do so.

Adding to the controversy over rock fracturing to gain petroleum products is the huge amount of water that each well consumes. The water becomes toxic waste when the unknown chemicals are added to it. Often the fracking is using the precious resource in areas of severe drought.

One of the arguments for fracking in the USA is so that that nation can achieve energy independence. Unfortunately much of the natural gas presently extracted is processed and shipped overseas.

No Water No Life
Sources:
Environmental Protection Agency