Thursday, July 28, 2011
The following article was written (at the end of the 20th century) by ED AYRES, editorial director of the Worldwatch Institute and author of "God's Last Offer: Negotiating For A Sustainable Future".
VISIONS OF THE 21ST CENTURY : Will We Still Eat Meat
"Maybe not, if we wake up to what the mass production of animal flesh is doing to our health-- and the planet's." - Ed Ayres
When Julius Caesar made his triumphal entrance into Rome in 45 B.C., he celebrated by giving a feast at which thousands of guests gourged on poultry, seafood and game. Similar celebrations featuring exorbitant consumption of animal flesh have marked human victories - in war, sport, politics and commerce - since our species learned to control fire. Throughout the developing world today, one of the first things people do as they climb out of poverty is to shift from their peasant diet of mainly grains and beans to one that is rich in pork or beef. Since 1950, per capita consumption of meat around the globe has more than doubled.
Meat, it seems, is not just food but reward as well. But in the coming century, that will change. Much as we have awakened to the full economic and social costs of cigarettes, we will find we can no longer subsidize or ignore the costs of mass-producing cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep and fish to feed our growing population. These costs include hugely inefficient use of freshwater and land, heavy pollution from livestock feces, rising rates of heart disease and other degenerative illnesses, and spreading destruction of the forests on which much of our planet's life depends.
First, consider the impact on supplies of freshwater. To produce 1 lb of feedlot beef requires 7 lbs of grain, which takes 7,000 lbs of water to grow. Pass up one hamburger, and you'll save as much water as you save by taking 40 showers with a low-flow nozzle. Yet in the U.S., 70% of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding herds of livestock. around the world, as more water is diverted to raising pigs and chickens instead of producing crops for direct consumption, millions of wells are going dry. India, China, North Africa and the U.S. are all running freshwater deficits, pumping more from their aquifers than rain can replenish. As populations in water-scarce regions continue to expand, governments will inevitably act to cut these deficits by shifting water to grown food, not feed. The new policies will raise the price of meat to levels unaffordable for any but the rich.
That prospect will doubtless provoke protests that direct consumption of grain can't provide the same protein that meat provides. Indeed, it can't. But nutritionists will attest that most people in the richest countries don't need as much protein as we're currently getting from meat, and here are plenty of vegetable sources - including the grains now squandered on feed - that can provide the protein we need.
Unfortunately, this isn't just a matter of productive capacity. Mass production of meat has also become a staggering source of pollution. Maybe cow pies were once a pastoral joke, but in recent years, livestock waste has been implicated in massive fish kills and outbreaks of such diseases as pfiesteria, which causes memory loss, confusion and acute skin burning in people exposed to contaminated water. In the U.S.' livestock now produce 130 times as much waste as people do. Just one hog farm in Utah, for example, produces more sewage than the city of Los Angeles. These megafarms are proliferating, and in populous areas their wastes is tainting drinking water. In more pristine regions, from Indonesia to the Amazon, tropical rainforest is being burned down to make room for more and more cattle. Agriculture is the world's biggest cause of deforestation, and increasing demand for meat is the biggest force in the expansion of agriculture.
What has proved an unsustainable burden to the life of the planet is also proving unsustainable for the planet's dominant species. In China, a recent shift to meat-heavy diets has been linked to increases in obesity, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. U.S. and World Health Organization researchers have announced similar findings for other parts of the world. And then there are the growing concerns about what happens to people who eat the flesh of animals that have been pumped full of genetically modified organisms, hormones and antibiotics.
These concerns may seem counterintuitive. We evolved as hunter-gatherers and ate meat for a hundred millenniums before modern times. It's natural for us to eat meat, one might say. But today's factory-raised, transgenic, chemical-laden livestock are a far cry from the wild animals our ancestors hunted. When we cleverly shifted from wildland hunting and gathering to systematic herding and farming, we changed the natural balances irrevocably. The shift enabled us to produce food surpluses, but the surpluses also allowed us to reproduce prodigiously. when we did, it became only a matter of time before we could no longer have the large area of wildland, per individual, that is necessary to sustain a top-predator species.
By covering more and more of the planet with our cities, farms and waste, we have jeopardized other top predators that need space as well. Tigers and panthers are being squeezed out and may not last the coming century. We, at least, have the flexibility - the omnivorous stomach and creative brain - to adapt. We can do it by moving down the food chain: eating foods that use less water and land, and that pollute far less, than cows and pigs do. In the long run, we can lose our memory of eating animals, and we will discover the intrinsic satisfactions of a diverse plant-based diet, as millions of people already have.
I'm not predicting the end of all meat eating. Decades from now, cattle will still be raied, perhaps in patches of natural rangeland, for people inclined to eat and able to afford a poterhouse, while others will make exceptions in ceremonial meals on special days like Thanksgiving, which link us ritually to our evolutionary and cultural past. But the era of mass-produced animal flesh, and its unsustainable costs to human and environmental health, should be over before the next century is out.
For more reading on the author and his book :
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Posted By : Jake Richardson on www.care2.com, 25 July, 2011
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a reported titled A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health: What You Eat Matters. Their main point is that the production of meat for mass consumption contributes very much to climate change. It also creates large amounts of pollution and consumes vast stretches of land that used to be part of the wild, but were converted to factory farming. Beef, cheese, lamb, pork and farmed salmon generate the most greenhouse gases, according to EWG. They also have the largest environmental impact, other than farmed salmon.
“Producing tremendous quantities of meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. It also generates greenhouse gases and massive amounts of toxic manure and wastewater that pollute groundwater, rivers, streams and, ultimately, the ocean.” (Source: EWG)
The amount of feces and urine generated by factory farms is huge. As it was reported on this site recently, they generate 100 times the waste of human sewage plants. Excess manure generates methane, a greenhouse gas, and factory farming is the fastest growing source of it, according to Mercy for Animals. Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico where there is no, or virtually no, marine life are created by excess fertilizer on crop fields that are grown to feed factory farm animals. The runoff of animal feces and urine also
contributes to these dead zones. One hundred and fifty million acres of land in the U.S. is used just to grow food for farm animals.
In a sense, the connection between meat and dairy consumption and climate change has already been covered by a United Nations report from several years back. The UN report stated agriculture contributes more to climate change than all transportation combined. (One might have assumed emissions from cars, trucks, buses, trains and planes, etc. were the greater contributor to climate change.)
The EWG report contains some shocking statistics, such as this one: “From 1971 to 2010, worldwide production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds while global population grew by just 81 percent (US Census Bureau, International Data Base).” (Source: EWG) They also say by 2050 if the rate of production remains the same, the total globally could be 1.2 trillion pounds per year.
Each one of the above factors should be a compelling enough reason to reduce meat intake or stop altogether, but there is still another major issue with mass meat production. Most antibiotics in the U.S. are used on factory farms, and they wind up in the environment where they could create resistance in bacteria that eventually could make people sick.
The global human population is also steadily increasing, a trend that will undoubtedly make climate change worse. Our food choices on an individual level do make a big difference collectively.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This is the final instalment.
WAYS TO PROTECT OUR AIR
1. Ask your employer to consider flexible work schedules or telecommuting.
2.Recycle printer cartridges.
3. Shut off electrical equipment in the evening when you leave work.
4. Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency.
5. Don't use your wood stove or fireplace when air quality is poor.
6. Avoid slow-burning, smoldering fires. They produce the largest amount of pollution.
7. Burn seasoned wood - it burns cleaner than green wood.
8. Use solar power for home and water heating.
9. Use low-VOC or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers.
10. Purchase radial tires and keep them properly inflated for your vehicle.
11. Paint with brushes or rollers instead of using spray paints to minimize harmful emissions.
12. Ignite charcoal barbecues with an electric probe or other alternative to lighter fluid.
13. If you use a wood stove, use one sold after 1990. They are required to meet federal emissions standards and are more efficient and cleaner burning.
14. Walk or ride your bike instead of driving, whenever possible.
15. Join a carpool or vanpool to get to work.
WAYS TO USE LESS WATER
1. Check and fix any water leaks.
2. Install water-saving devices on your faucets and toilets.
3. Don't wash dishes with the water running continuously.
4. Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes.
5. Follow your community's water use restrictions or guidelines.
6. Install a low-flow shower head.
7. Replace old toilets with new ones that use a lot less water.
8. Turn off washing machine's water supply to prevent leaks.
WAYS TO PROTECT OUR WATER
1. Revegetate or mulch disturbed soil as soon as possible.
2. Never dump anything down a storm drain.
3. Have your septic tank pumped and system inspected regularly.
4. Check your car for oil or other leaks, and recycle motor oil.
5. Take your car to a car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
Learn about your watershed.
FOR MORE reading on the sustainable way of living:
This is the 2nd part instalment.
IN YOUR HOME - REDUCE TOXITY
1. Eliminate mercury from your home by purchasing items without mercury, and dispose of items containing mercury at an appropriate drop-off facility when necessary (e.g. old thermometers, batteries).
2. Learn about alternatives to household cleaning items that do not use hazardous chemicals.
3. Buy the right amount of paint for the job.
4. Review labels of household cleaners you use. Consider alternatives like baking soda, scouring pads, water or a little more elbow grease.
5. When no good alternatives exist to a toxic item, find the least amount required for an effective, sanitary result.
6. If you have an older home, have paint in your home tested for lead. If you have lead-based paint, cover it with wall paper or other material instead of sanding it or burning it off.
7. Use traps instead of rat and mouse poisons and insect killers.
8. Have your home tested for radon.
9. Use cedar chips or aromatic herbs instead of mothballs.
IN YOUR YARD
1. Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment.
2. Use an electric lawn- mower instead of a gas-powered one.
3. Leave grass clippings on the yard-they decompose and return nutrients to the soil.
4. Use recycled wood chips as mulch to keep weeds down, retain moisture and prevent erosion.
5. Use only the required amount of fertilizer.
6. Minimize pesticide use.
7. Create a wildlife habitat in your yard.
8. Water grass early in the morning.
9. Rent or borrow items like ladders, chain saws, party decorations and others that are seldom used.
10. Take actions that use non hazardous components (e.g., to ward off pests, plant marigolds in a garden instead of using pesticide).
11. Put leaves in a compost heap instead of burning them or throwing them away. Yard debris too large for your compost bin should be taken to a yard-debris recycler.
IN YOUR OFFICE
1. Copy and print on both sides of paper.
2. Reuse items like envelopes, folders and paper clips.
3. Use mailer sheets for interoffice mail instead of an envelope.
4. Set up a bulletin board for memos instead of sending a copy to each employee.
5. Use e-mail instead of paper correspondence.
6. Use recycled paper.
7. Use discarded paper for scrap paper.
8. Encourage your school and/or company to print documents with soy-based inks, which are less toxic.
9. Use a ceramic coffee mug instead of a disposable cup.
CREATE LESS TRASH
1. Buy items in bulk from loose bins when possible to reduce the packaging wasted.
2. Avoid products with several layers of packaging when only one is sufficient.
About 33 of what we throw away is packaging.
3. Buy products that you can reuse.
4. Maintain and repair durable products instead of buying new ones.
5. Check reports for products that are easily repaired and have low breakdown rates.
6. Reuse items like bags and containers when possible.
7. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
8. Use reusable plates and utensils instead of disposable ones.
9.Use reusable containers to store food instead of aluminum foil and cling wrap.
10. Shop with a canvas bag instead of using paper and plastic bags.
11. Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently.
12. Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials. Old newspapers make great packaging material.
13. Compost your vegetable scraps.
14. Buy used furniture - there is a surplus of it, and it is much cheaper than new furniture.
For more : http://seql.org/100ways.cfm
This is the 1st instalment of the many ways we can help save our Environment. Small contributions from an individual may seem small and insignificant BUT always remember that a little goes a long, long way.
IN YOU HOME - CONSERVE ENERGY
1. Clean or replace air filters on your air conditioning unit at least once a month.
2. If you have central air conditioning, do not close vents in unused rooms.
3. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120.
4. Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket.
5. Turn down or shut off your water heater when you will be away for extended periods.
6. Turn off unneeded lights even when leaving a room for a short time.
7. Set your refrigerator temperature at 36 to 38 and your freezer at 0 to 5 .
8. When using an oven, minimize door opening while it is in use; it reduces oven temperature by 25 to 30 every time you open the door.
9. Clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load so that it uses less energy.
10. Unplug seldom used appliances.
11. Use a microwave when- ever you can instead of a conventional oven or stove.
12. Wash clothes with warm or cold water instead of hot.
13. Reverse your indoor ceiling fans for summer and winter operations as recommended.
14. Turn off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use.
15. Purchase appliances and office equipment with the Energy Star Label; old refridgerators, for example, use up to 50 more electricity than newer models.
16. Only use electric appliances when you need them.
17. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save money and energy.
18. Keep your thermostat at 68 in winter and 78 in summer.
19. Keep your thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter when you are away.
20. Insulate your home as best as you can.
21. Install weather stripping around all doors and windows.
22. Shut off electrical equipment in the evening when you leave work.
23. Plant trees to shade your home.
24. Shade outside air conditioning units by trees or other means.
25. Replace old windows with energy efficient ones.
26. Use cold water instead of warm or hot water when possible.
27. Connect your outdoor lights to a timer.
28. Buy green electricity - electricity produced by low - or even zero-pollution facilities.
For more :
When the Environmental Working Group this week released its Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health, much was made of the heavy-emissions end of the spectrum, where beef and cheese land, owing to the greenhouse emissions from cows (starting with the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow their feed, and ending with their gassy stomachs). But on the lighter side of the spectrum, you'll find the humble lentil.
Sure, chicken may be the best meat, but no protein-rich food is as light on the environment as lentils, according to the Environmental Work Group's analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from food production and distribution.
Lentils are a superfoods, not only high in protein but also fiber and a variety of other nutrients; it's one of the top 10 sources of iron. And they're virtually fat-free.
Even know lentils are among the oldest cultivated crops in the world, they may take a little getting-to-know. Typically sold dry (canned lentils may have BPA, like any other canned food), the most common types of lentils are green or brown, but they come in a rainbow of colors, from yellow, orange and red to black. The most common types tend to retain their shape after cooking, while those
colorful varieties are more likely to turn to a mush reminiscent of a zesty Indian dal.
Fortunately, among legumes, lentils are among the most versatile and easy to work with. Unlike other beans that need to be soaked overnight, lentils can be prepared in as little as 20 minutes. Boil three cups of water per cup of lentils while you separate and rinse the dry beans. Add the lentils to the boiling water and allow the pot to return to a simmer before covering and letting cook for 20-30 minutes, until they're tender.
Try out this great yummy recipe:
INDIAN LENTIL VEGETABLE STEW
SERVINGS : 6
1 1/2 cups brown Basmati rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (or 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder plus 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 cups water
2 cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 to 14 1/2 ounces) vegetable broth (1 3/4 cups)
1 bag (9 ounces) fresh spinach or 1 package (10 ounces) frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1. Prepare Basmati rice as label directs.
2. Meanwhile, in 6-quart saucepot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Stir in ginger, garam masala, and garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add water, lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; heat to boiling over high heat.
3. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until lentils and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; heat through. Serve stew with rice.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (based on individual servings)
Total Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 675 mg
Carbohydrates: 97 g
Fiber: 17 g
Protein: 25 g
Read more for more recipes :
When carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are released into the air they blanket the Earth, trapping heat inside the atmosphere. This is known as the greenhouse effect, and it keeps our planet at a temperature at which life can thrive. The problem is the massive increase in the output of these and other greenhouse gases since industrialisation has caused the effect to intensify.
How your diet can help
Meat eating is responsible for at least a third of all biological methane emissions.24 Methane is produced by bacteria in the stomachs of sheep, cattle and goats and is released through the animals’ bodily functions.
Molecule for molecule, methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.25
They said it...
“The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.” (Transport causes 13.5%) - The United Nations FAO26
Factory farming uses massive inputs of fossil fuels. The vast majority of this energy is used in producing, transporting and processing feed.27
A vegan diet uses substantially less energy than a diet based on animal products and therefore contributes much less to air pollution, acidification, oil spills, habitat destruction and global warming.
A University of Chicago study comparing a typical US meat-based diet with a vegan diet found that the ‘typical’ US diet generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet. The authors of the study concluded that it would be more environmentally effective to go vegan than to switch to a petrol electric hybrid car.28
The felling of forests to grow food for the exploding population of cattle, pigs and chickens, results in fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to global warming.
It is widely agreed that agriculture is one of the most environmentally damaging activities that man undertakes. As consumers, we can make a difference by choosing food that is produced in an environmentally sustainable way. As has been shown, livestock consume more protein and calories than they produce. This alone makes animal farming an unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources.
On top of this, the consumption of animal products contributes to global warming, pollution, water scarcity, land degradation, deforestation and loss of biodiversity – in other words, all the major environmental problems.
We should all be aware of the impact that our lifestyles have on the world around us: switching to a vegan diet will significantly limit your individual impact on our increasingly threatened environment.
Discover for yourself what a difference a vegan diet can make by visiting: http://www.myfootprint.org/en/ These sites will help you to calculate your ecological foot print. First put in omnivore, then change it to vegan and see the difference this makes!
Environmentally conscious consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of buying locally produced food to cut down on ‘food miles’ (the distance travelled by lorry, ship or aeroplane by our food before it reaches our plates).
The livestock connection:
When considering food miles, many people think only of the miles travelled by the ‘end product.’ They think that British chicken, pork or beef is an environmentally friendly option because the animals have not arrived from overseas, building up air miles.
However, British animals increasingly eat feeds such as soya, manioc and tapioca that have been imported from abroad, consequently the environmental footprint left by eating British meat can be just as great as eating imported animal products.
Vegan foods are better for the environment because eating vegetable protein direct, rather than through the intermediary of an animal, uses far less land. Eating locally grown vegetables is better still.
Monday, July 18, 2011
The following news report was published in The Epoch Times on 01/25/2011.
Written by : Jack Phillips
The Greenland Ice Sheet melted at a record rate last year, according to a report published in the Environmental Research Letters.
The report found that large areas in the south part of the island underwent melting as many as 50 days longer compared to the 1979-2009 average.
Melting started "exceptionally early at the end of April and [ended] quite late in mid September," the report said.
June and July saw a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F), and August and September saw an average increase of 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F), which greatly triggered more ice melt.
“This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” stated study leader Dr. Marco Tedesco, the head of the Cryospheric Processes laboratory at the City College of New York.
Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, had the warmest spring in 2010 since records began in 1873.
Overall, bare ice was exposed earlier to the Sun and longer than in previous years.
“Bare ice is much darker than snow and absorbs more solar radiation,” said Professor 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.”
Scientists have noted in the past that ice melting in Greenland could contribute to the rise in ocean water levels around the world.
If Greenland's ice were to melt entirely, researchers speculate that it would prompt ocean levels to rise by more than 20 feet, easily flooding and destroying a multitude of cities. However, that scenario does not appear to be plausible soon.
WWF climate specialist Dr. Martin Sommerkorn told ScienceDaily that “sea level rise is expected to top 1 [meter] by 2100, largely due to melting from ice sheets."
He added that "it will not stop there—the longer we take to limit greenhouse gas production, the more melting and water level rise will continue.”
Tedesco told the Washington Post that the runoff last year was at 530 gigatons, almost double the 1958-2009 average of 274 gigatons.
Read more at:
SEA ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years.
The area of the Arctic ocean at least 15 per cent covered in ice is this week about 8.5 million square kilometres - lower than the previous record low set in 2007 - according to satellite monitoring by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.
As well, data from the University of Washington Polar Science Centre shows that the thickness of Arctic ice this year is also the lowest on record. In the past 10 days, the Arctic ocean has been losing as much as 150,000 square kilometres of sea ice a day, NSIDC director Mark Serreze said.
''The extent [of the ice cover] is going down, but it is also thinning. So a weather pattern that formerly would melt some ice, now gets rid of much more.
''There will be ups and downs, but we are on track to see an ice-free summer by 2030. It is an overall downward spiral.''
Global warming has been melting Arctic sea ice for the past 30 years at a rate of about 3 per cent a decade on average. But the two new data sets suggest that, if these trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in summer months is likely within 30 years.
That is up to 40 years earlier than was anticipated in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report.
Sea ice, which is at its maximum extent in March and its lowest in September each year, is widely considered to be one of the ''canaries in the mine'' for climate change, because the poles are heating up faster than anywhere else on Earth.
According to the NSIDC, air temperatures for June 2011 were between 1 degree and 4 degrees warmer than average over most of the Arctic ocean.
The findings support a recent study in the journal Science that suggested water flowing from the Atlantic into the Arctic ocean is warmer today than at any time in the past 2000 years and could be one of the explanations for the rapid sea-ice melt now being observed.
Computer simulations performed by NASA suggest that the retreat of Arctic sea ice will not continue at a constant rate.
Instead, the simulations show a series of abrupt decreases such as the one that occurred in 2007, when a ''perfect storm'' of weather conditions coincided and more ice was lost in one year than in the previous 28 years combined. Compared with the 1950s, over half of the Arctic sea ice had disappeared.
What concerns polar scientists is that thicker ice which does not melt in the summer is not being formed as fast as the ice is melting. On average each year about half of the first year ice, formed between September and March, melts during the following summer.
This year, the founder of the Weather Underground climate monitoring website, Jeff Masters, said a high pressure system centred north of Alaska had brought clear skies and plenty of ice-melting sunshine to the Arctic.
Sea ice has an important effect on the heat balance of the polar oceans, since it insulates the relatively warm ocean from the much colder air above, thus reducing heat loss from the oceans.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/record-melt-will-see-arctic-icefree-in-summer-by-2030-20110712-1hcah.html#ixzz1SQeAECnn
Source : Nunatsiaq News - July 11 2011
Link : http://www.canada.com/technology/Arctic+headed+another+record+melt+Scientists/5085212/story.html
Last month saw the second lowest Arctic ice cover since 1979, continuing the downward trend of summer ice cover, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.
Ice extent shrank in June at an average rate of 80,800 square kilometres per day, about 50 per cent faster than the average drop recorded from June 1979 to 2000.
At this rate, the Arctic Ocean may be ice free in summer by 2030, said Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC, calling the decline of the extent of the sea ice and its loss of thickness "an overall downward spiral."
The average ice extent for June fell below that for June 2007, which, until now, had the lowest minimum ice extent at the end of summer.
June ice extent was lower than normal in much of the Arctic, but Siberia's Kara Sea region had particularly low ice.
Ice has also started to break up off the coast of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea. These open water areas absorb the sun's energy, which will help to further ice melt through the summer, scientists say.
Arctic sea ice has entered "a critical period of the melt season," they say.That's because the weather over the next few weeks will determine whether the Arctic sea ice cover will again approach record low reached in 2007.
Air temperatures for this past June were 1 C to 4 C warmer than average over most of the Arctic Ocean, except in the Beaufort and Greenland seas, where temperatures were near normal or slightly below normal, the NSIDC said.
As well, water temperatures may be warming, according to an article published recently in the journal Science, which showed that the flow of ocean heat into the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic is now higher than at any time in the past 2,000 years.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Here's an interesting bit of news for the environment.... looks like we have to rely on nature to undo the damages of man-made disasters. Let's protect and preserve Earth's beautiful and natural resources.... love the planet, save it from further destructions.
The following article by Matthew Battles was featured @fastcompanyon 1st July, 2011
A young Japanese entrepreneur is trying to convince people to sow sunflower seeds in Fukushima Prefecture, intending the plants to cleanse the soil of radioactive contamination. Project leader Shinji Handa has sold some 10,000 packets of sunflower seeds at 500 yen ($6) to people throughout Japan, ostensibly to produce seeds that will be sent to Fukushima to create a sunflower maze.
Given the scope of the Fukushima disaster, planting sunflowers may seem quixotic at best, but the principle behind it is sound. Many plants have evolved mechanisms to adapt to high levels of toxins and even radiation, taking up heavy metals and radioactive isotopes and sequestering them in disposable parts like stems and leaves. Scientists last year reported on several varieties of domestic plants, including sunflowers, that are thriving around Chernobyl, gradually reducing contamination levels in the soil.
Green plants evolved in periods of Earth’s history when radiation levels were higher than they are in our own era. And plants, of course, can’t simply move to get away from toxic environments--thus, adaptations for taking up and getting rid of poisonous and even radioactive substances are fairly widespread throughout the plant kingdom. In recent years a variety of domestic crops such as amaranth, pennycress, and wheat have been used to remove toxic and radioactive chemicals from soils around the world at a fraction of the cost of physical removal, a process called phytoremediation.
But the Fukushima sunflower project glosses over the complexity of the process: Those plants are still heavily radioactive. The contaminated plant matter must be harvested, reduced, and disposed of carefully to prevent further contamination, which makes it an unlikely component of any crowdsourced approach to radiation cleanup--rendering Handa’s notion of sunflower mazes fanciful if not downright dangerous.
Given the scope of contamination at Fukushima, however, more formal and systematic phytoremediation projects could play a major role in making the region safe again. And Handa’s intuition about about the symbolic power of sunflowers feels right; few sights inspire a sense of confidence and renewal like fields of bright blooms nodding in the sun.
For more follow-ups on the project:
Friday, July 8, 2011
Human population is set to increase in the years to come. So it is with the consumption of meat and its related products. Will there be enough meat to meet this increasing demand? The shortage of food and climate changes due to the raising of livestock for food are prompting scientists to experiment with 'man-made meats' to cope with the problem.
Perhaps, it's time we take an alternative choice and seriously consider a plant-based diet to offset the impending crisis we will have to confront in the very near future. BE VEGAN - for our health and wellness, peace of mind and the planet!
Take a read and don't be too surprised if the burger you are munching could very well be 'grown' in a lab...
By Lacy J. Hansen for DietsInReview.com
It’s entirely possible that we’re less than a year away from reading the food review of the world’s first in vitro hamburger. Yes, you read that correctly.
In response to the world’s growing population and increasing meat consumption, scientists in the Netherlands are nearly ready to debut meat grown from stem cells of healthy cows. The scientists have been working to develop muscle tissue from a small number of stem cells extracted from the cows.
As awkward as this all sounds, the scientists believe the result will be of benefit to the world. Trends lead us to believe that the world’s meat consumption could grow by 50 percent by the year 2050, and this man-made meat will remove the need for livestock.
It’s anticipated that this “test-tube” meat will to be more affordable and help sustain the demands of our growing population. In vitro meat production could lead to a 35 to 60 percent reduction in energy consumption. Land requirements for farming would decrease by 89 percent and the production of greenhouse gasses would decrease due to unconventional farming.
This product is not alone in its unique nature. In 2009, strips of pork were grown using a similar stem cell method and fish fillets have been grown in a lab from the muscle tissue of goldfish.
Think it’s too difficult to farm these days? Well, maybe growing burgers in a lab is the answer. Maybe? These practices are still in the very early stages and it’s unclear when or if these products will be available to the public.
For some, curiosity will linger as to how it will actually taste. For others, their internal argument over becoming a vegetarian might finally be justified.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The link between climate change and biodiversity has long been established. Although throughout Earth’s history the climate has always changed with ecosystems and species coming and going, rapid climate change affects ecosystems and species ability to adapt and so biodiversity loss increases.
Biodiversity and Climate Change, Convention on Biological Diversity, December, 2009
From a human perspective, the rapid climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss risks human security (e.g. a major change in the food chain upon which we depend, water sources may change, recede or disappear, medicines and other resources we rely on may be harder to obtain as the plants and forna they are derived from may reduce or disappear, etc.).
The UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, in May 2010, summarized some concerns that climate change will have on ecosystems:
Climate change is already having an impact on biodiversity, and is projected to become a progressively more significant threat in the coming decades. Loss of Arctic sea ice threatens biodiversity across an entire biome and beyond. The related pressure of ocean acidification, resulting from higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is also already being observed.
Ecosystems are already showing negative impacts under current levels of climate change … which is modest compared to future projected changes…. In addition to warming temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events and changing patterns of rainfall and drought can be expected to have significant impacts on biodiversity.—
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010), Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May, 2010, p.56
Some species may benefit from climate change (including, from a human perspective, an increases in diseases and pests) but the rapid nature of the change suggests that most species will not find it as beneficial as most will not be able to adapt.
Climate change impacts on biodiversity in the Arctic
The Arctic, Antarctic and high latitudes have had the highest rates of warming, and this trend is projected to continue, as the above-mentioned Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 notes (p. 56).
In the Arctic, it is not just a reduction in the extent of sea ice, but its thickness and age. Less ice means less reflective surface meaning more rapid melting. The rapid reduction exceeds even scientific forecasts and is discussed further on this site’s climate change introduction.
In terms of biodiversity, “the prospect of ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean implies the loss of an entire biome”, the Global Biodiversity Outlook notes (p. 57).
In addition, “Whole species assemblages are adapted to life on top of or under ice — from the algae that grow on the underside of multi-year ice, forming up to 25% of the Arctic Ocean’s primary production, to the invertebrates, birds, fish and marine mammals further up the food chain.” The iconic polar bear at the top of that food chain is therefore not the only species at risk even though it may get more media attention.
Note, the ice in the Arctic does thaw and refreeze each year, but it is that pattern which has changed a lot in recent years.
The extent of floating sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, as measured at its annual minimum in September, showed a steady decline between 1980 and 2009.
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center, graph compiled by Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May 2010.
It is also important to note that loss of sea ice has implications on biodiversity beyond the Arctic, as the Global Biodiversity Outlook report also summarizes:
•Bright white ice reflects sunlight.
•When it is replaced by darker water, the ocean and the air heat much faster, a feedback that accelerates ice melt and heating of surface air inland, with resultant loss of tundra.
•Less sea ice leads to changes in seawater temperature and salinity, leading to changes in primary productivity and species composition of plankton and fish, as well as large-scale changes in ocean circulation, affecting biodiversity well beyond the Arctic.—
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010), Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May, 2010, p.57
FOR MORE LINKS TO THIS ISSUE:
ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) —
Ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that harms humans and plants. Both climate and weather play a major role in ozone damage to plants. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now shown that climate change has the potential to significantly increase the risk of ozone damage to plants in northern and central Europe by the end of this century.
"The increased risk of ozone damage to vegetation is mainly due to rising ozone concentrations and higher temperatures in the future," says Jenny Klingberg at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. "The most important effect on agricultural crops is premature aging, which result in smaller harvests with lower quality."
Ozone is an atmospheric gas that is found at a height of 10-40 kilometres above Earth's surface. Here the ozone layer protects against the sun's ultraviolet rays and is vital for life on Earth. Ozone is also formed at ground level when car exhaust fumes react in the presence of sunlight. This ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that is toxic to humans. Plants are more sensitive than humans and ground-level ozone generates large costs in the form of reduced crop yields in agriculture and reduced forest growth.
Researchers have traditionally estimated the risk of ozone damage to plants based on the concentration of ozone in the ambient air. The negative effects of ozone on vegetation are more closely related to the uptake of ozone through the stomatal openings on the plant leaves. The study carried out by Klingberg is one of the first to use this method to estimate the risk of ozone damage to vegetation in the climate of the future.
Risk of ozone damage greatest in central Europe
"The results show that the risk of ozone damage to plants is greatest in central Europe where ozone concentrations are high and climatic conditions promote uptake of ozone through the stomata. Weather and climate affect both the concentration of ground-level ozone in the ambient air and to what degree the stomata are open."
However, the risk of ozone damage is also affected by the carbon dioxide concentration in the air. Research indicates that the plants' stomata are less open when the concentration of carbon dioxide increases.
"The models show that higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air could mean that the risk of ozone damage to crops and deciduous trees will not increase," says Klingberg. "But the magnitude of this effect is uncertain, especially for trees. If the effect of carbon dioxide on the stomata will turn out to be small, future climate change has the potential to significantly increase the risk of ozone damage to vegetation in northern and central Europe."
The calculations in the study were performed for two future climate change scenarios.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Gothenburg, via AlphaGalileo.
1.J. Klingberg, M. Engardt, J. Uddling, P.e. Karlsson, H. Pleijel. Ozone risk for vegetation in the future climate of Europe based on stomatal ozone uptake calculations. Tellus A, 2011; 63 (1): 174 DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0870.2010.00465.x
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APA University of Gothenburg (2011, June 30). Climate change increases the risk of ozone damage to plants, Swedish research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/06/110630111528.htm
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Friday, February 6, 2009
6 Major Environmental Problems of Asia
Throughout the Asia-Pacific region, rapid economic and population growth creates serious social consequences from environmental problems of urban excess, deforestation, overfishing, global warming, air pollution, and limited safe water supplies. The Asian economic crisis has aggravated this trend. Economic policies have encouraged growth in some sectors while ignoring damage to others. Further, little regard is given to sustainability of the exploited resources. The social costs in terms of health, economic efficiency, and cultural dislocation are immediate, while the long-term costs of environmental rehabilitation are humbling. Left unbridled, environmental damage can lead to economic decline.
Environmental problems arise from the urban by-products of transport, industrial activities, and the overcrowding of human habitation. Economic policies have encouraged mass migration of labor to urban industries. The shift from rural to urban Asia will accelerate in the coming century, aggravating urban crowding and increasing the risk of social and political conflict. Asia’s urban profile increased from 27% (0.7B people) in 1980 to 38% (1.4B) in 2000 and will rise to 50% (2.3B) in 2020.
To date, governments have stimulated urban migration by maintaining low food costs, which reduce rural incomes and increase the flight to the cities. About a third of the people in the Third World’s cities live in desperately overcrowded slums and squatter settlements, with many people unemployed, uneducated, undernourished and chronically ill. Conditions will worsen as their numbers swell and transport, communication, health and sanitation systems break down. One solution to urban excesses is to divert industry and its induced labor migration away from the mega cities towards surrounding areas. This requires significant infrastructure investment, however, and establishes competing centers of political power.
Asian food security is threatened by deforestation and desertification. More than a third of the arable land in Asia is at risk. Nearly 75% of Southeast Asia’s original forest cover has been destroyed at an annual loss rate that is the size of Switzerland.
The loss of forests and agricultural land is due to both the exploitation for profit and the ignorance of good practices. Isolated, rogue regimes such as Burma exploit timber, oil, and mineral resources to support their governments. Poor farmers across Asia use improper irrigation and fertilization practices, resulting in increased salinity and toxic soils.
Regardless of motive and method, the loss of workable land hurts not only the harvester, but also has broad consequences for his neighbors in terms of erosion, downstream flooding, and pollution.
Indonesia’s provinces refuse to properly manage the annual smog threatening the health and productivity of its own people as well as in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. These failings point to an obvious need to invest in improved oversight, management, monitoring, methods, and conservation.
Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance After years of conflict, large quantities of mines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) litter the landscape, killing and maiming thousands of innocent victims annually. The problem is most acute in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.
In Cambodia, one out of every 245 individuals is an amputee. Landmines and/or UXO maim or kill 100 people per month in Cambodia. Death or injury remove many victims from the work force during their productive years, further debilitating economically disadvantaged families.
Landmines and UXO create vast numbers of internally displaced people, remove valuable real estate from productive use, serve as physical barriers to the movement of people, goods and services, and dramatically increase the mortality rate of both people and livestock.
Cambodia’s 4 to 6 million landmines are scatter over 1,800 square kilometers, or roughly 1% of the country. Estimates are that 200,000 tons of UXO affect up to 50% of the Laotian landmass.
Major projects have been delayed, and, before activities proceed, accountants must set aside up to 10% of project costs for mine clearance. Large-scale development is difficult or impossible because of landmines.
Agricultural production could increase by 135% in Cambodia without the impediments of mines and UXO. The United States has provided millions of dollars in monetary aid and has carried out or proposed a number of projects to help these countries deal with this problem. Progress toward removing all mines and UXO is slow, and may be impossible due to technical difficulties in identifying mines and UXO in the field.
Areas of greatest economic value should receive highest priority for clearance, barriers need to be constructed for those areas that cannot be cleared at this time, and educational programs should be initiated. The U.S. military’s unique technical knowledge helps these clearing efforts, but domestic programs need sound funding and implementation.
As the demand for water grows with population and the economy, water supplies will be increasingly polluted from untreated sewage, from industrial discharges, and from salt-water intrusion of overexploited water tables.
In Jakarta, it costs $20M to $30M annually to boil water for home use. In Manila Bay, heavily polluted by sewage, fish catches have dropped 40% in the last decade. Fish catches near cities in India and China also have experienced major declines. Of Taiwan's 20 million people, less than 1 million are served by sewers. Each day in Hong Kong, about 1 million tons of sewage and industrial effluent pour untreated into the sea - a volume to fill 500 Olympic swimming pools, according to Hong Kong officials. Projecting to 2025, water shortages will affect India, China, North and South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Water disputes have affected international relations for years. Although an agreement was reached in 1996, India and Bangladesh have disagreed on the sharing of the waters of the Ganges for more than 20 years. Greater numbers of international disputes will arise and be more difficult to resolve as populations increase and economies grow, thereby placing a greater demand on scarce resources.
A domestic resource allocation problem that is common to the Pacific Islands soon will prevail over Asia: high-use agriculture will compete with populations for scarce water supplies. While more than 80% of the water consumed in Asia is used for agricultural purposes, 60 to 75% is lost to evaporation before reaching the crops. A technological solution may be to encourage the use of water-efficient drip irrigation techniques, which are employed in less than 1% of all irrigated areas.
Fish are a key source of food for virtually all Asian states, providing one of the largest sources of animal protein to the world's fastest growing commodity market. The world’s largest tuna fishery crosses the jurisdiction of at least 21 countries—as well as extensive high-seas areas of the Pacific Ocean—and involves harvesting by fishing vessels from 26 different nations.
Across the Pacific and in many coastal and riparian parts of Asia, fishing is a significant part of the economic base, providing food, employment, revenue, and foreign exchange earnings. World fisheries are being overfished as marine catches increased from 17 million metric tons (MMT) in 1950 to a peak of 87.1 MMT in 1996. As a result, there has been a steady increase in the frequency of clashes and incidents at sea caused by foreign fishing trawlers illegally encroaching into Exclusive Economic Zones and territorial seas.
Aquaculture production is a growing part of the fisheries sector. In 1996, 20% of all global fisheries production was from aquaculture. Asia dominates world aquaculture for fish, shrimp and shellfish, with China producing 68% of the global total. If done in an environmentally friendly manner, aquaculture can be a positive contributor to the world food supply.
For example, giant tiger prawn production in Thailand has exploded from 900 to 277,000 tons in the last decade. However, reckless pumping of seawater into shrimp ponds can damage neighboring fields and hurt coastal marine life.
To protect fisheries and insure sustainability, cooperative resource management schemes such as fishing quotas need to be established and enforced. Militaries, coast guards, law enforcement, and courts should cooperate to reduce the possibility of disputes, collisions, and pollution, such as negligent oil spills.
Carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methane, and nitrous oxide act like a glass in a greenhouse, letting the sun’s rays in but trapping heat that would otherwise be released back into space. Carbon dioxide accounts for more than half of the warming affect, while CFCs contribute about a quarter and methane and nitrous oxide cause the remainder. Temperatures have increased .3 to .6 degrees C over the last century, consistent with the rise in greenhouse gases as predicted in recently developed computer models. Climate models predict that temperatures will be 1 to 3 degrees C higher in 2100.
Rising ocean temperatures and melting polar caps will elevate sea levels by 15 to 95 cm in the next century. Bangladesh could lose 17% of its land area to rising seas, while several island nations, such as the Maldives and Tuvalu will become uninhabitable or disappear. Parts of Northern Europe and Canada will benefit from better harvests, but crop yields in India could decline by 30% by 2050.
The controversial solution of the Kyoto Protocol of December 1997 places legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol aims to reduce emissions from developing countries to approximately 95% of their 1990 levels by the 2008 to 2012 timeframe.
Air pollution from vehicles, power plants, incinerators and industry is a major problem in Asia. Outdated pollution control technology and the use of high polluting fuels compound this problem.
Nine of the fifteen cities with the highest particulate levels in the world and six out of the fifteen cities worst affected by sulfur dioxide are in East Asia. Air pollution in China caused more that 175,000 premature deaths in 1995 and nearly 2 million cases of chronic bronchitis. Damage to health and buildings cost Bangkok $1B annually, while air pollution in Delhi decreased crop yields by 30%.
Air pollution, in the form of acid rain, can be transported hundreds of miles by wind before being deposited through fog, rain or snow. The acidic deposition damages buildings, degrades the environment and reduces crop yields. In India, wheat growing near a power plant suffered a 49% reduction in yield compared with that grown 22 kilometers away.
South Korea and Japan are concerned about economic and health effects of airborne pollutants and acid rain from coal burning power plants in nearby China. China's heavy use of air-polluting coal blurs the distinction between domestic economics and transnational threats.
The developed countries have dramatically reduced the amount of pollutant emissions in the last 20 years through the implementation of new technologies. Widespread use of these proven technologies in developing and advanced Asian economies, coupled with cleaner burning fuels such as unleaded gasoline, natural gas and low sulfur coal can reduce total emissions regardless of rising energy consumption. Implications for Cooperation Since trade has a significant effect on environmental conditions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is making efforts to address these problems in a multilateral forum. Also, the APEC forum is discussing environmental policy, technologies, sustainability, and education and information.
Countries are increasingly participating in global and regional conventions on atmosphere and oceans, protection of wildlife and habitat, and the handling of hazardous substances. The United Nations and the World Bank are providing aid through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for countries suffering from spillover pollution of neighboring countries.
•Fledgling regional organizations are develop a dialog for resolving contentious issues by discussing environmental management; nature conservation; industrial, marine, and urban settings; and education, training, and information.
•Among these organizations are ASEAN, the South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP), the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Lower Mekong Basin Development Environment Program (LMBDEP). The latter organization links economic cooperation and development in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, addresses food and power production, flood control, and navigation in the lower Mekong River basin.
Environmental issues are an underlying—and often neglected—cause for conflicts, disasters, or dislocations. Militaries in the region may be called upon not only to resolve conflicts, but—like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—to use their organizational skills and resources to address both crisis relief and long-term issues of security and infrastructure. Further—at the micro-economic level—each country's military faces a broad array of environmental challenges from the impact of their infrastructure and operations. The U.S. military is highly skilled in confronting these challenges. By sharing these environmental security practices with other countries, the U.S. military promotes good governance and sets an example for reducing environmental threats.