Environmental

 

Thawing permafrost may have led to extreme global warming events

 

by Staff Writers
Sheffield UK (SPX)

 


File image: thawing permafrost.

Scientists analysing prehistoric global warming say thawing permafrost released massive amounts of carbon stored in frozen soil of Polar Regions exacerbating climate change through increasing global temperatures and ocean acidification.

Although the amounts of carbon involved in the ancient soil-thaw scenarios was likely much greater than today, the implications of this ground-breaking study are that the long-term future of carbon deposits locked into frozen permafrost of Polar Regions are vulnerable to climate warming caused as humans emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels for energy generation.

Researchers in centres across America, Italy and the University of Sheffield, analyzed a series of sudden, and extreme, global warming events – called hyper thermals – that occurred about 55 million years ago, linked to rising greenhouse gas concentrations and changes in Earth’s orbit, which led to a massive release of carbon into the atmosphere, ocean acidification, and a five degrees Celsius rise in global temperature within just a few thousand years.

It was previously thought that the source of carbon was in the ocean, in the form of frozen methane gas in ocean-floor sediments but now the experts believe the carbon released into the atmosphere millions of years ago came from the Polar Regions.

Professor David Beerling, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: “For the first time, we have linked these past global warming events with a climatically sensitive terrestrial carbon reservoir rather than a marine one. It shows that global warming can be amplified by carbon release from thawing permafrost.”

“The research suggests that carbon stored in permafrost stocks today in the Arctic region is vulnerable to warming. Warming causes permafrost thaw and decomposition of organic matter releasing more greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere.

“This feedback loop could accelerate future warming. It means we must arrest carbon dioxide emissions released by the combustion of fossil fuels if humanity wishes to avoid triggering these sorts of feedbacks in our modern world.”

The breakthrough was made through cross-disciplinary collaborations with climate and vegetation modellers, isotope geochemists and permafrost experts led by Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, Yale, the University of Colorado, Penn State, and the University of Urbino, Italy.

Rob DeConto added: “Similar dynamics are at play today. Global warming is degrading permafrost in the north Polar Regions, unlocking once-frozen carbon and methane and releasing it into the atmosphere. This will only exacerbate future warming in a positive feedback loop.”

The temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is a result of energy input from the sun minus what escapes back into space. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbs and traps heat that would otherwise return to space.

The global warming events were accompanied by a massive input of carbon to the atmosphere plus ocean acidification, and were characterized by a global temperature rise of about five degrees Celsius within a few thousand years.

Until now, scientists have been unable to account for the massive amounts of carbon required to cause such dramatic global warming events and Antarctica, which on today’s Earth is covered by kilometres of ice, has not been appreciated as an important player in such global carbon dynamics.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

 

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Cyber Space

 

Internet can help, not start, democracy

 

by Staff Writers
Columbus, Ohio (UPI)

 


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The use of the Internet to promote democracy is most effective in countries already enacting reforms to move in that direction, U.S. researchers say.

The common assumption that the Internet played a major role leading to democratic revolutions in the Arab world and elsewhere is likely an exaggeration, they said.

“Instead of the Internet promoting fundamental political change, it seems to reinforce political change in countries that already have at least some level of democratic freedoms,” researcher Erik Nisbet, a professor of communication at Ohio State University, said.

“Internet use is a less effective means to mobilize citizens for democracy in extremely authoritarian countries,” he said in an OSU release Wednesday.

Demand for democracy is highest in countries where more people are connected to the Internet, the researches said, and in countries where Internet users spend more time on the Web.

“Internet penetration in a country matters in terms of how much people want democratic reforms, but it is even more important that people are spending greater amounts of time on the Internet and that they are connected to other people in their community,” study co-author Elizabeth Stoycheff said.

The researchers analyzed data on 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia that evaluated how much the citizens in each country demanded democracy and their frequency of Internet use.

Some countries have the right political and technological mix for the Internet to play a role in social and political change, the researchers said, but countries with highly authoritarian regimes are not likely to see democracy flourishing anytime soon regardless of use of the Internet.

“Our results suggest that the Internet can’t plant the seed of democracy in a country,” Nisbet said. “However, the Internet may help democracy flourish if it has already started to grow.”

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Survival / Sustainability

 

Useful lessons learned from the Great Depression

 

by M.D. Creekmore


This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by MtWoman

(Note: the numbers in certain places are references to the links and info provided at the end.)

Recently, there was a discussion here on the SBlog (as I like to call it) about what knowledge and wisdom our parents and grandparents may have to share with us from their experiences during the depression. I decided to “interview” my father on the subject, using the specific questions that Hunker-Down and Bam-Bam proposed, and expanding from there using my own questions.

It was a very good experience for me. My father is a tough German man, and is seldom open to such things, especially because having to ‘think back’ reveals to him how his memory is failing. But I was gentle and patient and this time he opened up quite a bit. I learned a lot about him, other members of our family, and myself. Discussing my family of origin, and what their lives were like has given me a better understanding of how I am, and what life was like ‘back then’…and what I can do to ‘prep’ for my own future. I’ll share with you here what I found out.

First a little history:

It seems that my father, who was born in 1925, making him 4 years old when the market crashed at the start of the Depression, didn’t have a very hard time of it, really.

His parents were German immigrants, who had been “sponsored” (1) by some other family members to come to the US. In those days, immigrants had to be “sponsored” for a year, which meant someone vouched that you would not become a “burden to society” and they would cover your financial needs until a job was found. There were other requirements, like taking the “umlaut” (those two little dots over some letters) off your name if you had one, which my grandparents had to do. My grandfather came over first (1922), and my grandmother came a year later. They were married here in the US in 1924.

When my father was born and through his childhood, my grandfather worked, and my grandmother was a housewife. They had a small house in Minnesota (one of my most favorite places to go in the summer as a kid). It had a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, a ‘sitting’ room, and – my favorite – a screened in front porch where I would sleep on a cot sometimes in the Summer, and watch the train go by on the tracks just across the street.

There was electricity in the house and running water and ‘flush’ toilets. They had an apple tree, a good garden, and a ‘cellar’…a space under the house with a hardened dirt floor. I remember there being bushel baskets of root vegetables down there and some jars on shelves. My grandfather had some barrels at the corners of the eaves of the garage which gathered rain water. Their house was 1-2 miles from downtown…..

 

Read The  Full Article Here

 

 

How much water is enough?

 

by M.D. Creekmore


This is a guest post by Tom Sciacca of CampingSurvival.com Yes .

If you like food as much as I do, it’s hard to imagine that our body can actually go weeks without food. It wouldn’t be fun, of course, but it can be done. But without water, our bodies can get into serious trouble quickly – just a matter of days before dehydration can set in. So why is it that many people keep lots of extra food stored in their houses, but neglect to store any water?

This subject came to mind recently when my cousin told me about having to endure a power outage with no drinkable water. Since power outages often impact water treatment facilities, tap water can be unsafe for drinking. The situation was made worse by the fact that her child had vomiting and diarrhea, which meant that there was an even greater need for drinking water, as well as water for cleaning, sanitation and hand washing.

For instance, a mixture of water and chlorine bleach would have greatly assisted in sanitizing around her child, helping to ensure that others didn’t also get sick. And obviously, you wouldn’t want to clean up after such a mess without being able to thoroughly wash your hands. (As a dad, I know that’s NOT fun!) Finally, water for food preparation is a supply you’ll need over and above what you plan to drink.

Now if you look at the conventional wisdom out on the internet, you’ll find guidelines such as the following:….

 

Read Full Article Here

 

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Activism

 

The Wonderful, Unpredictable Life of the Occupy Movement

 

By Arun Gupta, Truthout

Occupy Wall StreetOccupy Wall Street demonstration on March 15, 2012. (Photo: Sunset Parkerpix)

I met Nomi on a bus in Baltimore. She was from Wisconsin and had been involved with Occupy Wall Street. She was part of Occupy Judaism and fondly recalled the Yom Kippur services she attended at the Wall Street occupation with hundreds of other people. Nomi said that, for the first time, she and her friends felt like they could combine the religious and radical dimensions of Judaism. The conversation fell silent as the bus rolled along. Suddenly she turned to me and excitedly announced that she met her girlfriend at Liberty Plaza. I smiled and responded, “That’s why Occupy Wall Street matters.”

By enabling people to find fulfillment in all parts of their lives, whether romantic, spiritual, political or cultural, the Occupy movement is more than a movement. It is life-changing. People experience themselves as complete social beings, not just as angry, alienated protesters. Nomi said she was no longer involved in the movement, which I thought was more evidence of why the actual occupations were so important.

The emergence of every mass movement makes sense in hindsight, but no one could have predicted hundreds of occupations and thousands of groups would pop up across the United States just weeks after a ragged encampment secured a tenuous foothold on Wall Street last September. Sure, anger was boiling over prior to the takeover of Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, but the occupation crystallized who is to blame for the economic crisis and who are the legitimate people. Anyone could walk into the public space, share their stories, find people with similar grievances and help build micro-societies. Occupy wasn’t just a rejection of Washington and Wall Street. It revealed the failings of liberals, unions and the left. New activists didn’t first have to master volumes of social and cultural theory, attend grueling anti-oppression workshops and learn how to pepper their comments with academic jargon before joining. Nor did the movement require consultants, focus groups or polling to occupy the center of American politics with a radical left message. And the form was not the same old rallies with canned chants, pre-printed protest signs and preaching to the choir.

It’s worth considering why Occupy Wall Street was such a smashing success last fall, as well as where it is headed. While the media lens has shifted away, Occupy has spawned a menagerie of energized movements and ambitious plans. Veteran organizer David Solnit, who is involved with Bay Area Occupy movements, sums up the current state: “The numbers showing up at GAs have dropped. Any movement has its mass mobilization and its in-between times. The organizing a lot of people are doing around housing and education are less visible but go much deeper. We need a better measuring tape than numbers and public space and whether it’s amplified through media owned by the 1 percent.”

Like plants that lay dormant for the winter conserving energy, many occupations are blossoming anew with ambitious plans now that it’s spring. Solnit says in San Francisco the movement is defending a dozen families in foreclosure, and is working toward a citywide moratorium on bank foreclosures and evictions. In Los Angeles, organizers say May Day plans include large-scale marches by immigrants and unions, rolling street blockades and even an attempt to disrupt the main airport. In New York and around the country, a campaign has been launched called “F the Banks” to force the government to dismantle Bank of America, which is still receiving taxpayer subsidies. In Chicago, after the G8 summit set for May was moved to Camp David because of fear of large-scale protests, activists are moving forward with large-scale demonstrations to coincidence with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting the same month.

Challenging the status quo comes with costs. As the Occupy movement struggles to effect radical social change, it faces persistent police attacks and co-optation by Democratic Party forces from the outside and divisions over identity politics, militancy, localism and diffusion from the inside.

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Writer fled China to ‘publish book’ on dissident

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) April 6, 2012

 

A Chinese dissident who wrote a book critical of the country’s leadership has said he fled into exile after being warned against publishing a biography of a jailed Nobel laureate.

Yu Jie, a writer who in 2010 published “Wen Jiabao: China’s Best Actor” despite threats of jail time, fled to Washington with his family in January after he was “subjected to torture” and faced restrictions on publishing.

In an interview aired Friday on Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK, Yu said that his decision to flee Beijing was also prompted by his urge to pursue a book project on fellow dissident Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

“The secret police told me I will be jailed if the book is published,” he said.

“(I fled)… to make sure the biography can be published overseas,” the 38-year-old told RTHK without saying when the book will be released.

He described the decision to flee as “painful” and said he believed he would not be able to return to Beijing within the next five years.

The writer said he had been warned against criticising the Communist Party or speaking out against China abroad.

Yu has previously said he came under tighter surveillance after Liu won the Nobel Prize.

He has also complained that he was forbidden from publishing or practicing his religion. He is a member of a Protestant church which is not authorised by the Chinese government.

Liu, 56, is the only Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison. He wrote a bold manifesto for democracy called Charter 08 and was jailed for 11 years for subversion on Christmas Day 2009.

Human rights groups frequently voice concern about Chinese dissidents who remain in the country including prominent rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Gao, who has defended some of China’s most vulnerable people including Christians and coal miners, was detained in February 2009 and had been held largely incommunicado by authorities except for a brief release in March 2010.

Gao’s brother said last week that was allowed to meet with him in a remote jail for the first time in nearly two years, allaying fears for his well-being.

China rights couple hear trial verdict on Tuesday
Beijing (AFP) April 7, 2012 – The verdict in the trial of rights activists Ni Yulan and her husband will be announced on Tuesday, a year after the couple were detained amid growing unrest in China, their daughter said Saturday.

Ni and Dong Jiqin, who have long helped victims of government-backed land grabs, were detained in April last year as authorities rounded up scores of activists amid online calls for protests similar to those in the Arab world.

In a brief December trial they were charged with “picking quarrels, provoking trouble and willfully destroying private and public property” — charges lawyers and supporters say were trumped up to silence them.

“Our lawyer told me the verdict will be read by the Beijing Western District court on Tuesday morning,” daughter Dong Xuan, 27, told AFP.

“They are not guilty and should be released, but I fear that my mother will be sentenced to at least three years as a repeat offender. I am hoping that my father will be released for time served.”

The couple’s lawyer last visited them in February, she said. Ni, 51, remains ill and is suffering from fever, a swollen neck and has trouble speaking.

Ni spent much of the trial lying on a bed in the courtroom due to her poor health and needed a respirator to breathe.

The couple have provided legal assistance to numerous families around China who have been forcibly evicted from their homes in government-backed land requisitions, a major cause of unrest in China.

Their battle to oppose the land grabs began in 2001 after their courtyard home in central Beijing was requisitioned and marked for demolition.

Trained as a lawyer, Ni was sentenced to a year in jail in 2002 for “obstructing official business,” and for two years in 2008 for “harming public property” — charges brought against her as she tried to protect her home.

She was also disbarred in 2002.

In January, Dong Xuan was barred by police from leaving China to collect a 100,000-euro (131,000) human rights award for her mother in the Netherlands.

She says she remains under police surveillance.

Ni’s case has been championed by numerous Western governments, including the United States and the European Union, which sent representatives to meet with her during her brief period of freedom in 2010.

Related Links
China News from SinoDaily.com

 

 

Day 207: Live Coverage of the Occupy Movement

Josh Harkinson, Special Coverage:

As we enter Day 207 of the Occupy movements the protests have spread not only across the country but all over the globe. Thousands of activists have descended on Wall Street these past weeks as part of the #OccupyWallStreet protest organized by several action groups. What follows is a live video stream and live Twitter feed of this event….

Read Full Article Here

 

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Articles of Interest

 

Bald eagle in crosshairs of US fight over lead bullets

by Staff Writers
Boyce, Virginia (AFP) April 7, 2012

 

The bald eagle that came into wildlife rehabilitator Belinda Burwell’s care last month, just as the hunting season was coming to a close in North America, was a shadow of its former self.

The stiff and wobbly bird clung to life but showed distinct signs of lead poisoning, likely from scavenging the remains of big game left by hunters who killed their prey with lead bullets.

“She couldn’t walk, couldn’t fly,” said Burwell. “If she tried to move, she would fall over, she would stumble.”

Environmental groups say 20 million birds die worldwide each year from eating bits of lead in animal carcasses, because many US hunters use lead ammunition which leaves 3,000 tons of toxic fragments in gut piles and unclaimed kills.

The dangers of lead have been well known for decades, and steps have been taken to prevent human consumption by removing it from paint, gasoline, pipes, children’s jewelry and more.

A ban on hunters’ use of lead shot for killing waterfowl was passed in the United States in the early 1990s because birds were being poisoned by ingesting the pieces that fell into waterways and ponds.

But the question of whether to do the same for hunters on land has thrust the eagle, the national symbol of America, into a fresh political battle over gun rights and environmental protection.

On one side is the powerful US gun lobby, which disputes science on lead poisoning and insists that any measures to regulate lead ammunition would spell a ban on hunting in all its forms, infringe on gun rights and raise costs.

On the other is a dogged but weary wildlife protection movement that is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to take steps to regulate the use of lead ammunition in order to protect birds and humans against lead poisoning.

Both have adopted the bald eagle as a symbol of their efforts, with the bird featuring on the cover of the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to the EPA as well as on the web page of the National Rifle Association.

“This is the last unregulated, widespread distribution of toxic lead into the environment,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity, which is seeking US federal rules to require non-toxic bullets in hunting and shooting sports.

— Gun-grabbers disguised as nature lovers —

“We know it is getting into the food chain. We also know that humans are eating it and there is no safe level of lead in the human body so it is most certainly a human health issue too.”

Miller said 150 groups in 40 states now support the petition, including hunters, scientists, American Indians, conservationists and veterinarians.

The EPA turned down a similar request for a ban on lead bullets in 2010, saying it did not have the authority to regulate ammunition. However, environmental advocates say the EPA does have the right to regulate components of ammunition.

More than a dozen countries in Europe have banned lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl and Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden are among a handful of countries that have totally banned lead bullets.

Germany, Japan and Belgium have passed limited restrictions on their use.

The Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit group in Idaho, has posted online a host of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of lead on wildlife, with some figures showing as many as 10-15 percent of young eagles die each year from lead poisoning.

While the bald eagle is no longer a threatened population in the United States, it and other birds that scavenge like the endangered California Condors, vultures, herons and golden eagles, are among the species most at risk.

One study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources showed how a lead ballistic tip bullet could fragment into an average of 141 pieces per carcass, reaching as far as 14 inches from the wound (35 cm), indicating a danger for humans who eat meat killed with lead bullets, too.

Pro-gun groups like the National Shooting and Sports Foundation say there is no “sound science” to support a ban.

“If wildlife management decisions become about preventing harm to individuals within a species and not about managing a species itself, then you have essentially made the argument to ban hunting,” said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the NSSF.

The NRA has urged Congress to “step in and ensure this restriction never happens,” asserting that the effort is being headed by “gun-grabbers… disguised as nature lovers.”

A House subcommittee in late February approved a bill that would prevent the EPA from taking action on the CBD’s petition, and some senators with ties to sportsmen’s groups are considering the same.

Rick Watson of the Peregrine Fund said switching to copper bullets costs the same as buying a box of premium lead ammunition, about $45 a box, while the cheapest lead ammo can be had for $15.

“Hunters historically and traditionally have been some of the best conservationists this country has had. And given accurate facts we believe the vast majority will choose to use lead-free ammunition because it protects the wildlife they so enjoy,” he said.

Matt Miller, an outdoor writer and hunter, said he switched to copper bullets years ago after learning of the dangers of lead, and is pleased with the results.

“It has not increased the cost of my hunting. The bottom line is if you know your rifle and you shoot it well, a big game hunting trip costs you one bullet.”

Burwell, who has been treating her eagle for three weeks and is ready to release her into the wild on Saturday, said she is not optimistic that the EPA will act.

“With the NRA pushing to prevent any type of regulation, the word on the wildlife side is it will never happen,” she said.

“It depends on who has the most money. Doesn’t it seem sometimes that that is who wins these things?”

Related Links
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com

 

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