Sunday, January 30, 2011

GREENLAND Ice Sheet at a Record Melt

A recent study finds Greenland Ice Sheet is melting at a record rate. Experts say that : 'Area of the size of France melted in 2010 which was not melting in 1979.'

Read about it here:

The ice sheet covering Greenland melted at the fastest rate since records began in 1979, a new study shows. That’s important because the ice sheet is becoming a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.

"This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average," said study co-author Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at The City College of New York.

"Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September," he added in a statement released with the study.

"Over the past 30 years, the area subject to melting in Greenland has been increasing" at about 17,000 square kilometers a year, Tedesco stated on his research

"This is equivalent to adding a melt-region the size of Washington state every ten years," he added. "Or, in alternative, this means that an area of the size of France melted in 2010 which was not melting in 1979."

In the study published in "Environmental Research Letters," the researchers also said that Greenland's summer temperatures last year were up to 3 degrees Centigrade above the average and that the ice sheet saw reduced snowfall.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, had the warmest spring and summer since records began in 1873.

Because of the diminished snowfall, bare ice was exposed earlier than average and longer than in previous years, contributing to the extreme record.

"Bare ice is much darker than snow and absorbs more solar radiation," said Tedesco. "Other ice melting feedback loops that we are examining include the impact of lakes on the glacial surface, of dust and soot deposited over the ice sheet and how surface meltwater affects the flow of the ice toward the ocean."

The researchers analyzed satellite and land surface data.

The current contribution of Greenland ice melt to global sea level rise is about .02 inches a year, but the potential impact is enormous.

About a quarter the size of the United States, Greenland has about one-twentieth of the world's ice — the equivalent of about 21 feet of global sea rise were it to completely melt into the sea.

That process could take centuries to complete, but once started would be difficult to reverse.

Link :

On Veganism from a Medieval Arab Poet

The following was written by medieval Arab poet Abu ‘L’Ala Ahmad ibn ‘Abdallah al-Ma’arri, known as Al-Ma’arri. He was born in 973 and died in 1057. He was blind. The original text has been translated into English for easy reference...

You are diseased in understanding and religion.
Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.
Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,
And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,
Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught
for their young, not noble ladies.
And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;
for injustice is the worst of crimes.
And spare the honey which the bees get industriously
from the flowers of fragrant plants;
For they did not store it that it might belong to others,
Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.
I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I
Perceived my way before my hair went gray!


The Necessity of Theory

Posted by : Gary L Francione

Dear Colleagues:

Many animal advocates seem to think that we don’t need any theory. We just need to act “for the animals”; we can worry about theory later on.

That view is mistaken in at least two respects.

First, if we do not have a theory, how are we to choose what things we should promote? If I want to do something today to help the animals, and I do not have a theory as to the moral status of animals and what things I ought to do, how will I choose what to do?

If I want to spend this afternoon talking with a group of people about animal exploitation, and I do not have a theory, how will I choose what to talk about? How will I choose whether to argue that they ought to consume no animal products or that they ought to consume supposedly “happy” animal products?

The answer is very clear: we cannot make any intelligent or informed choice if we don’t have any theory that guides our choice. Before I talk with people; before I decide what activism to pursue, I have to be clear as to whether the correct moral position is that we ought to consume “cage-free” eggs, or whether it is that we should eat no eggs; I have to be clear as to whether the correct moral position is to eat chicken that has been gassed rather than electrocuted, or whether it is to eat no chicken.

It is interesting that most of those who claim that we don’t need a theory to act “for the animals” right now do have a theory: they embrace the theory that the issue is not that we use animals but how we use animals; that it is acceptable to use animals as long as we treat them in a “humane” manner. So these people claim that we should not bother ourselves with the abstractions of theory; we should just go out and promote “cage-free” eggs or gassed chicken or whatever.

But their position is informed by a theory.

And that brings me to my second point.

Sometimes, some ideas are so much a part of our culture that we are not even aware of the extent to which they shape our reality. One such idea is that men are, as a group, more valuable than women and that women are valued more for their appearance as providers of sexual services than for their abilities. That idea is so much a part of our culture that many of us are not even aware of it; we see as “normal” the way that women are represented culturally and we do not see that representation as reinforcing patriarchy.

Another such idea is that animals do not care about whether we use them but only about how we treat them. That is an idea that we can trace back historically and it is the very foundation of the animal welfare position that dominates our thinking about the human-nonhuman relationship just as patriarchy dominates our views about the value of women.

In the 19th century, progressive social reformers, such as Jeremy Bentham, argued that we should include animals in the moral community because, even though they were different from humans in various ways, they could, like humans, suffer and that was sufficient to ground our moral obligations to animals. According to Bentham, although a full-grown horse or dog is more rational and more able to communicate than a human infant, “the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” But this did not mean that we could not use and kill animals for human purposes as long as we treated them well. According to Bentham, animals live in the present and are not aware of what they lose when we take their lives. If we kill and eat them, “we are the better for it, and they are never the worse. They have none of those long-protracted anticipations of future misery which we have.” If, as Bentham apparently maintained, animals do not as a factual matter have an interest in continuing to live, and death is not a harm for them, then our killing of animals would not per se raise a moral problem as long as we treated and killed animals “humanely.”

And that is exactly how most of us think about the matter of animal use. Bentham’s view is explicitly promoted by Peter Singer and even rights theorist Tom Regan maintains that death is a greater harm for humans than for nonhumans because the latter have fewer opportunities for satisfaction than do the former.

I would suggest that this view-that our use of animals, if “humane,” is morally acceptable-is, in one form or another, accepted by just about everyone. That is, even those people who have never heard of Jeremy Bentham or Peter Singer buy into this theoretical view that is so pervasive that no one even recognizes how much it shapes our view of the human-animal relationship.

And, like the pervasive sexism of our culture, it is wrong.

The theoretical view that animals do not have an interest in their lives and do not care about whether we use and kill them as long as we do so “humanely” is based on the notion that to have an interest in continuing to live requires a sense of self-awareness that we associate with normal humans.

And as I discuss in my most recent book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? and in Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?, and on this website, that is a speciesist position in that it arbitrarily privileges humanlike self-awareness.

This theoretical view about the lesser value of animal life is the 800-pound theoretical gorilla in the room. Whether we like theory or not, we need to come to grips with this idea before we undertake animal advocacy. If we agree with Bentham and Singer and with the dominant theory of animal welfare, then we promote welfare reform; we promote “cage-free” eggs; we promote consuming chickens who have been gassed rather than electrocuted; we support “happy” meat/dairy labels; we promote “flexitarianism” and view veganism simply as a way of reducing suffering. If we don’t support that theoretical view, and if, instead, we regard all sentient beings as having equal moral value for the purposes of not being used as a resource, then we promote veganism as a non-negotiable moral baseline.

And we cannot claim to accept equality but support reform for the reason that people are going to continue to consume animals anyway. Putting aside that if we really believe in equality, promoting welfare reform is similar to promoting “humane” slavery or pedophilia, animal welform does not work as a practical matter. Animals are commodities; they are property. It costs money to protect their interests and the most “humane” treatment schemes will never rise above the level that would be characterized as torture were humans involved.

Try as you will, you cannot avoid theory. You can only choose a theory of equality or choose to accept the dominant theory of welfare, which assumes that animal life is of lesser moral value.

But choose you must and your activism will necessarily be informed by the choice that you make.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Why I'm still a Vegan

Posted by : Mac McDaniel @
Link :

The Guardian published an op/ed piece a week ago by a woman named Jenna Woginrich titled "Why I Stopped Being a Vegetarian", and I knew that I had to post a response of some sort.

In her piece, Ms. Woginrich exhibits levels of mental contortion and Orwellian doublethink that would be impressive if they weren't so horrifying. She describes how after ten years of vegetarianism she came to the baffling realization that vegetarianism was only avoiding the question of animal treatment instead of confronting it.

She makes the argument that if you care about animals, the only logical course of action is to eat them, with the caveat that you should only eat animals that lived a happy, respectable life. Her argument is typical of the animal welfare philosophy: that animal slaughter will continue forever no matter what and that the only change that can possibly be made is a superficial reduction in some kinds of cruelty inflicted on livestock animals.

It is easy to see the weakness in the welfare argument: first and foremost it requires cognitive gymnastics to mesh the idea that caring about animals means killing animals. This is not an easy idea to grasp so she fills her piece with a lot of nonsensical metaphors like "you can stay in the rabbit hole...but the only way out is to eat the rabbit."

The argument she makes - that refusing to consume animals doesn't make a difference - is rooted in disempowerment. By convincing people that their choices are meaningless she can paint her own ideas as pragmatic when they are anything but.

The truth is that cruelty and compassion are non-issues. The western world didn't attempt to deal with the problem of slavery by adopting legislation that gave slaves better housing, and it certainly didn't deal with the problem by telling people to only buy goods from plantations where slaves were treated "humanely". We dealt with slavery by ending the practice of humans owning other humans.

We don't embrace "humane" reforms to other problems, we don't advocate for humane murder of humans, we don't advocate for compassionate genocide or humane pedophilia. We understand that these things are wrong and as much as we begrudgingly admit that it may be nearly impossible to rid the world of them completely, that doesn't stop us from trying.

I've been vegan for over three years and every day I realize more and more why my decision is the right thing to do. Veganism isn't about trying to change the conditions in one slaughterhouse or even all slaughterhouses. It isn't about making life easier for one type of animal in one situation or saying that some kinds of torture and murder are acceptable while others are wrong.

The real question is whether or not a sentient being with a mind of its own should ever be considered the property of another being. For me that's an easy question.

Being vegan isn't about a diet, it isn't about making a list of things I do not wear or consume. Veganism is the real life extension of my belief that an animal is not an object. I can no more own an animal than I can own a person. I can't kill an animal because it's smaller, weaker, or less intelligent than I am anymore than I can kill a child for the same reasons.

This theory is the foundation of all of my actions as an activist for animals. For more on the abolitionist theory, read "The Necessity of Theory" by Gary Francione.
(Greensleeve's note: For more details on the Theory, please see next posting of same title).

I'm still vegan because I believe that my actions have meaning. I'm still vegan because I believe an animal has the right to live without being the property of another. I'm still vegan because peace, justice, and equality cannot exist in a world that slaughters billions for the trivial reason that they taste good.

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 Human Habits Harmful to Ocean Health

Posted by : Samantha (selected from Animal Planet) on care2.comNo matter where we live, even if we’re in the middle of the Mojave desert or the middle of farmland in the mid-west, our connection to the ocean is surprisingly direct. The planet’s marine systems are intricately linked with our daily activities, even when those activities seem trivial or distant. Here are five ways small choices add up to big problems for the ocean’s health.

1. Carbon Emissions and Ocean Acidification
Every time we flip on the lights, turn on the water faucet, charge a cell phone, hop a plane or in any other way create carbon emissions, we’re directly causing the acidification of the ocean and the harmful disruption of marine life that results. The ocean can absorb about two-thirds of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, but the more CO2 it tries to absorb, the more acidic it becomes. This altered pH causes everything from the softening or thickening of crustacean shells to the bleaching of corals to the overabundance of jellyfish. As we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, ocean acidification worsens and marine life is being thrown out of whack.

Decisions like skipping an unnecessary plane ride, eating less meat, and buying green power can radically reduce your carbon footprint, and help alleviate one of the biggest threats facing our oceans.

2. Packaging and the Pacific Garbage Patch
Americans generate a lot of trash. Each of us tosses about 185 pounds of plastic per year, a vast amount of it from packaging. From plastic bags, to take-out containers, to packaging used for everything from toys to food, we use up and throw out an incredible amount of something that will never, ever disappear. In fact, much of it is making re-appearances in our oceans. The Pacific Garbage Patch and four other trash vortexes illustrate the problem of plastics in our oceans. Plastics are not only killing marine life, but also entering the food chain to ultimately end up on our dinner plates through the seafood we eat.

By making purchases that take into account the packaging of the products, and choosing to a) minimize as much as possible how much packaging we consume and b) recycling as much of what we do end up consuming as possible, we can make big strides in stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean.

3. Sushi Dinner and Disappearing Seafood
Our fisheries that once seemed endless are now reaching the brink of collapse. Scientists estimate that if our current practices continue, 100 percent of global fisheries will completely collapse by 2050. That is a very short time from now. Even if you think of yourself as a sushi addict in the worst way, or can’t seem to live without salmon or shrimp a couple times a week, you can still make sustainable choices.

By cutting back where you can, keeping an eye on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Guide, and taking advantage of handy techy tools for buying fish, you can help ensure that our seas will have fish in the future.

4. Over-Consumption and Whale Deaths
Wait, ordering that toy from could cause whale deaths? The short answer is yes. While humans have been sailing the seas for millennia, the shipping industry has skyrocketed over the last few decades. Much of that is due to our rabid consumption habits. Raw materials are transported on container ships to manufacturing plants, and products are then loaded up on ships to be transported to the hands of consumers. The more stuff we consume, the more stuff needs to be shipped across oceans. But crossing paths with those container ships and carrier vessels are whales.

The loud sounds of ships — or acoustic smog — makes it hard for whales to communicate with one another, which means heightened stress levels and decreased opportunities for mating and feeding, among other consequences. Even worse, collision with ships is a major problem for whales, including threatened and endangered species.

Reducing our consumption of material goods can literally help threatened whale populations recover.

5. Driving and Deep-water Oil Wells
Unless you’ve been living far, far away from any media source, you’re probably well aware of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to Deepwater Horizon, a BP-owned offshore oil rig that has been leaking since late April. It takes just the tiniest leap of logic to connect our reliance on oil to our car-dependent culture. Currently the US uses about 19.7 million barrels of oil a day, of which 71 percent goes to transportation via cars, trucks, buses, airplanes. So, the longer we stay reliant on fossil-fuel powered vehicles to get from point A to point B, rather than bikes and public transportation, the longer we stay dependent on drilling for those rapidly diminishing fossil fuels, which means a high likelihood of risky wells placed in deep water areas of the ocean and the statistically inevitable occurrence of another disaster like the one playing out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Minimizing our reliance on oil equates to keeping our oceans safe from deadly pollution.

Read more :

The World's 6 Most Endangered Animal Habitats

Posted by Samantha (selected from ANIMAL PLANET) on, Jan 15, 2011

The reasons that animals get to be on the endangered list are many and complex, but habitat and lack of safe refuge have a lot to do with it.

The Gulf of Mexico, for example, has been too cold lately for the manatees who usually live there, and the mammals have instead been turning up in the warm waters of power plant discharge canals.

More than 300 manatees—mammals whose immune systems are weakened in the cold—swam into the discharge of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Florida last week, the BBC reports.

Central Africa
Central Africa’s mountain gorillas might win for the world’s most dangerous habitat, and between habitat destruction and ongoing conflict in the region, their population has been brought to the brink of extinction, with no place to go for refuge. Add the world’s only remaining mountain gorillas living in the mountainous region spanning Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the list of reasons to stop the conflict in that region (which means taking a little responsibility for the role our gadgets play in perpetuating it).

Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is really suffering not only because of climate change, but also because of runoff from the coast of nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides, sewage, and oil. It’s putting the delicate balance of life in the world’s largest reef system in serious jeopardy.

Gulf of Aden
The waters where Somali pirates often strike are also home to plenty of marine life, including many coral species, the Crown Butterfly fish, which is found only in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and thousands of sea turtles. Female turtles have been tagged and identified as nesting in South Yemen and then recaptured in Somalia, more than 2000 km away.

Forests of Indonesia
The orangutans in Indonesia are running out of space to go, too. Logging operations and the global demand for palm oil have nearly wiped out the territory these primates call home, and social conflicts have been on the rise, reports The Ecologist, “as people who depend on forests for their livelihoods are being forced to change their way of life."

Madagascar is not just a DreamWorks film; it’s a real-life ecological wonderland. But it’s under threat from the usual suspects: deforestation, erosion, exploitation of resources—including hunting and people collecting wild animals—and introduction of alien species.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course. Species are being pushed from their mountaintop habitats, and plant species are threatened in just about every country in the world.

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

Read more:

What's Lurking in your Natural Cosmetics

Posted by : Michelle Schoffro Cook (Jan 27, 2011) at
Link :

Most body care and cosmetics companies include highly toxic ingredients in their products. But, more and more companies are touting their products as healthy alternatives to the chemical-laden brands. I randomly selected two products from a popular natural body care and cosmetics company to determine whether there were any nasty chemicals lurking there. Here’s what I found (these toxins are common to many brands of products):

-Five different types of parabens—butyl-, ethyl-, isobutyl-, methyl-, and propyl- parabens. These commonly-used preservatives are known toxins that irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract; and have been linked to many allergic reactions. Doesn’t sound so bad? Keep reading.

-Butylene glycol—this petrochemical-derived substance penetrates the skin, where it can weaken protein and cellular structure. Outside the beauty industry, it is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats, another way in which it is used. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers it toxic enough to warrant protective clothing, goggles, and gloves when handling it for industrial uses. Yet it is used in higher concentrations in skin care products. The EPA warns against skin contact that it claims can cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

-Yellow Dye #5 and Red Dye #4—these synthetic pigments are typically derived from coal-tar and can contain heavy metals. In animal studies, they have been identified as carcinogens.

-Fragrance—This single synthetic ingredient can contain up to 500 chemicals, many of which are derived from petrochemicals. According to an article in the journal, The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, many of these ingredients are “neurotoxins, which have a causal link to central nervous system disorders, headaches, confusion, dizziness, short-term memory loss, anxiety, depression, disorientation, and mood swings.”

-Two types of benzoates—these chemicals are scientifically documented to form benzene in the presence of vitamin C. Benzene has been linked to anemia, mental confusion, fatigue, rapid heart rate, nervous system damage, immune system suppression, and cancer, particularly leukemia.

The lesson: read labels. You might be surprised to learn what’s lurking in your favorite products.

For more reference reading:
(1) Easy Greening - parabens 1o1

(2) Good scents - All about Natural Perfumes

(3) 7 Ingredients to ban from your bathroom

(4) The Toxic 12: Cosmetics Ingredients to avoid

Save the Polar Bears ....

Posted by : Beth Buczynski for Protect Wildlife & the Environment at
Link :

Polar Bear Swims For 9 Days Before Finding Ice

Climate change forced a single polar bear to swim continuously for over nine days in search of stable sea ice, a new study has revealed.

The bear's epic journey came at a great cost: scientists note that she lost her yearling cub when the small bear couldn't keep up with the long-distance swim and low temperatures. Scientists report the bear also lost 22 percent of her body fat as well.

A study recently published in Polar Biology found that melting sea ice is threatening the health and safety of future polar bear generations by requiring the bears to swim exhaustive distances in freezing cold water.

"This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C," research zoologist George M. Durner told BBC News.

We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold," Durner continued, "It is truly an amazing feat."

The scientists were able to track the movements of a single female polar bear over 2 months by fitting her with a GPS collar.

Spreads of floating sea ice provide platforms from which endangered polar bears hunt, and when these spreads shrink because of warming temperatures, it becomes harder for the bears to keep up the massive caloric intake that allows them to survive the harsh Arctic environment.

Just days ago, Care2's Nancy Roberts reported that both NASA and NOAA released data showing that 2010 tied with 2005 as the hottest year for the planet.

Harvesting Energy from the Sun

Read about Professor Richard Watt's latest adventure on how "green' energy can be harvested from the sun... ... ...

Chemists Turn Gold to Purple -- On Purpose: Color Change Confirms a New Way to Harvest Energy from Sunlight

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2011) — Professor Richard Watt and his chemistry students suspected that a common protein could potentially react with sunlight and harvest its energy -- similar to what chlorophyll does during photosynthesis.

The story of how they proved it sounds as colorful as the legend of the leprechaun who hid his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

They started with citric acid from oranges and mixed it with the protein. Next they dissolved gold powder into the solution. Then they put vials of the yellow-colored
mixture in direct sunlight and crossed their fingers in the hope that it would turn purple.

Here's the reason why: If it turned purple, that would signal that the gold atoms had received electrons and used the donated energy to bunch together as small, purple-colored nanoparticles. And that would mean that the protein used the sunlight to excite the citric acid and trigger a transfer of energy.

While direct sunlight did the trick in about 20 minutes, a high-powered tungsten mercury lamp worked much faster.

"We set the system up, turned on the light, and the solution turned purple," Watt said. "We knew that we'd proved the concept."

The beauty of this experiment lies not in its colors -- unless, of course, you're thinking of it as a potential "green" energy source that keeps the environment clean.

The BYU researchers published their experiments in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. The final step of this project will involve connecting the protein to an electrode to channel the energy into a battery or fuel cell. The BYU chemists will partner with Jae-Woo Kim of the National Institute of Aerospace for this next stage of the work.

Professor Watt's pedigree includes a post-doc at Princeton, a father who developed a fuel cell that runs on sugar and weed-killer and a more distant ancestor credited with inventing the first practical steam engine. That ancestor is also the Scottish engineer for whom the unit of power "watt" is named.

Co-authors on the new study include BYU graduate Jeremiah Keyes, grad student Robert Hilton and Jeff Farrer, who runs an electron microscope lab at BYU.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Brigham Young University