Month: February 2007

Sea Turtle News o' the day – Global warming edition

ScienceDaily: Scientists Warn Of Climate Change Risk To Marine Turtles

North American marine turtles are at risk if global warming occurs at predicted levels, according to scientists from the University of Exeter. An increase in temperatures of just one degree Celsius could completely eliminate the birth of male turtles from some beaches. A rise of three degrees Celsius would lead to extreme levels of infant mortality and declines in nesting beaches across the USA.

Here’s the paper.

Like a lot of other reptiles, the sex of the hatchling is dependent on nest temperature. Warmer temperatures make female turtles (my mnemonic was hot females!), and even warmer temperatures just kill the eggs. But, I wonder if the turtles would adapt by nesting a little earlier. I don’t think it is yet clear when turtles decide to nest. If it is based on sea temperature, then they would eventually figure it out. This paper from 2004 appears to conclude that loggerheads in Florida do nest earlier than before, so there is hope.

John F. Weishampel, Dean A. Bagley, Llewellyn M. Ehrhart (2004) Earlier nesting by loggerhead sea turtles following sea surface warming Global Change Biology 10 (8), 1424–1427

The onset of spring, noted by the timing of wildlife migratory and breeding behaviors, has been occurring earlier over the past few decades. Here, we examine 15 years of loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, nesting patterns along a 40.5 km beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast. This small section of beach is considered to be the most important nesting area for this threatened species in the western hemisphere. From 1989 to 2003, the annual number of nests fluctuated between 13 000 and 25 000 without a conspicuous trend; however, based on a regression analysis, the median nesting date became earlier by roughly 10 days. The Julian day of median nesting was significantly correlated with near-shore, May sea surface temperatures that warmed an average of 0.8°C over this period. This marine example from warm temperate/subtropical waters represents another response of nature to recent climate trends.

So the truth lies somewhere between easy adaptation and giant swarms of frustrated female turtles!

Environmental Racism at work

Could not get any clearer than this.

ScienceDaily: Study Verifies More Hazardous Waste Facilities Located In Minority Areas

The other side of that argument is that the hazardous waste facilities came first, which causes the neighborhood demographics to change. As that argument goes, the more affluent white people move out, and poorer minority people are forced to stay or move in, said Paul Mohai, a professor in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. However, done in collaboration with Robin Saha, a former U-M PhD student and post-doctoral scholar, now an assistant professor at University of Montana, shows that minorities were living in the areas where hazardous waste facilities decided to locate before the facilities arrived. Their study also shows that the demographics in the neighborhoods were already changing and that white residents had already started to move out when the facility was sited. “What we discovered is that there are demographic changes after the siting but they started before the siting,” Mohai said. “Our argument is that what’s likely happening is the area is going through a demographic shift, and it lowers the social capital and political clout of the neighborhood so it becomes the path of least resistance.”

This is not just about the money. Over and above social capital and political clout, it seems that race trumps all.

Using the new method, researchers have found that racial disparities in the location of hazardous waste facilities are much greater than previous studies have shown. Furthermore, the disparities persist even when controlling for economic and sociopolitical variables, suggesting that racial targeting, housing discrimination and other factors uniquely associated with race influence the location of the nations’ hazardous waste facilities.

Depressing.

More terrorism in India

Homemade Bombs Kill 65 on Indian Train – New York Times

DIWANA, India, Feb. 19 — On an Indian train bound for Pakistan, two homemade bombs exploded at midnight yesterday, trapping slumbering passengers in the flames and killing at least 65 people. The office of the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today called the attack “an act of terror” and promised to apprehend those responsible. Pakistan swiftly condemned it. The incident comes on the eve of the visit of Pakistani foreign minister, Khursheed Kasuri, to the Indian capital, and two weeks before officials from both countries are to meet for the first time to share information on terror-related activities.

Horrible. The motive is clear, to keep tensions between India and Pakistan high, but it appears that for the first time that I can remember, the Indian government is not taking the bait.

“This is an act of sabotage,” the Indian Railway Minister Laloo Prasad told reporters in the eastern city of Patna, according to wire service reports. “This is an attempt to derail the improving relationship between India and Pakistan.”

Laloo is a notorious politician, but he got this statement exactly right, I remain hopeful that the resolution of the Kashmir issue is only a matter of time.

There had been no security searches before passengers boarded the train. Nodding towards the row of police officers frisking people at the entrance to the station, opening suitcases and checking hand bags, Aslam said: “None of that was there yesterday.”

Boy, that’s not very smart, is it?

Nepotism, Environmental Edition – High alert

In the fast emerging banana republic that is the US of A, apparently, and this was news to me, the vice president’s son-in-law wields a lot of power! I am laughing very hard at the cronyism while I remain concerned about the effects. But, remember Americans, democracy begins at home! While you’re busy lecturing, and invading other countries to “spread democracy”, your vice president’s family acts as if their “descended from god” line to the throne gives them divine right to rule by fiat.

Dick Cheney’s Dangerous Son-In-Law – Art Levine

To understand the workings of Philip Perry is to get a sense of the true lines of power in the executive branch. “Perry is an éminence grise,” says one congressional staffer. “He’s been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he’s the one directing it. He is very good at the stealth move.” And, as it turns out, Perry’s stealth moves have often benefited opponents of chemical regulation. One of his final pieces of handiwork included coming up with what critics have called an “industry wish list” on chemical security that ultimately became law last fall. “Every time the industry has gotten in trouble,” says the staffer, “they’ve gone running to Phil Perry.” The result has been that our chemical sites remain, even five years after 9/11, stubbornly vulnerable to attack. Philip Perry has hardly been alone in tolerating this. Others in the White House and Congress have been equally solicitous toward the chemical industry. But as part of a network of Cheney loyalists in the executive branch, Perry has been a key player in the struggle to prevent the federal government from assuming any serious regulatory role in business, no matter what the cost. And a successful attack on a chemical facility could make such a cost high indeed. A flippant critic might say the father-in-law has been prosecuting a war that creates more terrorists abroad, while the son-in-law has been working to ensure they’ll have easy targets at home. But it’s more precise to say that White House officials really, really don’t want to alienate the chemical industry, and Perry has been really, really willing to help them not do it.

Nice work. The alternative that the EPA wants to pursue is called inherently safer technologies, or IST. Read the whole article to follow all the behind the scene machinations. Next time a pesticide plant blows up in N.J releasing tons of chlorine, you can bet that none of the people involved in these maneuvers will be anywhere near the fallout!

Lobbyist, Fed Lawyer Share Vacation Home

Plutocrat, meet protectionist!
Lobbyist, Fed Lawyer Share Vacation Home | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

Nine months before agreeing to let ConocoPhillips delay a half-billion-dollar pollution cleanup, the government’s top environmental prosecutor bought a $1 million vacation home with the company’s top lobbyist.

Also in on the Kiawah Island, S.C., house deal was former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the highest-ranking Bush administration official targeted for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.

Just before resigning last month, Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge signed two proposed consent decrees with ConocoPhillips: one giving the company as much as two to three more years to install $525 million in pollution controls at nine refineries and the other dealing with a Superfund toxic waste cleanup.

I am slowly coming to the realization that the words democracy and accountability have no meaning whatsoever in the good ol’ US of A. Remember this the next time you hear a lecture from your usual American diplomat/administration lackey about democracy and corruption in other countries.

UN Committee to probe Indian caste based hate crimes and apartheid

UN committee to review India’s compliance in preventing atrocities on Dalits

A special committee of United Nations working for elimination of all forms of racial discrimination will be reviewing India’s compliance of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in the light of recent incidents of atrocities on Dalits, as highlighted in the Khairlanji killings.

This is sure to elicit howls of “colonialism”, “interference in internal affairs”, and “everybody does it” kind of protests. I am sure that some effigies will be burned. But the caste/class based oppression of disadvantaged communities is still very prevalent in large parts of rural India. Will some international light on this problem fix this? Probably not. But it may force the government to appoint yet another “commission” to study the problem, I guess.

How the other half lives has a good compilation of links on this issue.

GE – weakening air pollution standards

GE – we bring good things to life (and kill them with Diesel exhaust).

Clean Air Watch – Blog for Clean Air

General Electric Co., which is running a marketing campaign promoting itself as environmentally friendly, has pushed to weaken smog controls for railroad locomotives in rules about to be proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules, which could take effect between 2011 and 2017, are designed to cut smog and soot levels and would replace standards adopted in 1997. Since the rules would apply to new locomotives and could require changes on older ones, they would have a big effect on GE, which dominates the nearly $2 billion-a-year North American locomotive market. While the nation’s other locomotive maker and diesel-engine makers say they are prepared to meet the proposed new standard, GE argues it is “unlikely to be achieved” and has proposed a weaker one.

I have nothing to say, just another example of the plutocracy-protectionary principle, nothing new, same old Modus Operandi.

Please stop drinking bottled water

This blog(ger) is not prone to order people around, but it is going to now. STOP DRINKING BOTTLED WATER. If you live in a reasonably well taxed/well run town in the first world, just drink from the tap. If your town’s drinking water sucks, get a water filter/purifier, use a refillable drinking water system, and lobby your town council hard to improve their drinking water infrastructure so you can drink from the tap.
Pablo Calculates the True Cost of Bottled Water TreeHugger

In summary, the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons) .849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or .26 gal) and emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds).

Yes, he corrected his calculations down to 6.7 gallons, but that is an awful lot of wastage, criminal wastage in fact.

Half of India's children are malnourished – Yahoo! News

Half of India’s children are malnourished – Yahoo! News

With about 46 percent of children underweight — a negligible improvement over the last survey, conducted in 1998-99 — India is in the same league as nations like Burkina Faso and Cambodia. In China, Asia’s other rising economic power and the country India so often compares itself with, only 8 percent of children are underweight.

The improved infant mortality rate — down to 57 per 100,000 births from 68 in 1998-99 — remains dramatically higher than that seen in Western nations, such the Netherlands, where it is 4.

In every category where a comparison between the health of people in the countryside and cities was offered, those in rural areas lagged far behind. The rural infant mortality rate, for example, was 62 per 100,000, compared to 42 the in urban areas.

Such statistics show India “should be worried,” said Werner Schultink of UNICEF. “It’s going to be difficult for India if wants to use its human resources to develop the nation but does not make improvements.”

I don’t really know what to say, it is depressing, and points to the enormous amount of basic nuts and bolts infrastructure work that needs to be done in India. Back to themes from yesterday’s sewer post, it is basic government work, not sexy, not exciting, not flashy, just plodding mundane get it right kind of infrastructure building. It HAS to be done, there’s no sense in pointing to fancy malls in Bangalore or a super wonderful space program. One day, when I have time, I will convert all these percentages to numbers, percentages are good for comparing data, but to get a true sense of the magnitude, I think numbers are necessary. Quick calculation,the 2001 Indian Census says there were 350 million children (15 years old or less) in 2001, well, that makes 170 million starving (okay, “underweight”) children, it’s a happy place, ain’t it?

Gaping Reminders of Aging and Crumbling Pipes – New York Times

Gaping Reminders of Aging and Crumbling Pipes – New York Times

Local and state officials across the country say thousands of miles of century-old underground water and sewer lines are springing leaks, eroding and — in extreme cases — causing the ground above them to collapse. Though there is no master tally of sinkholes, there is consensus among civil engineers and water experts that things are getting worse.

The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that unless cities invest more to repair and replace their water and sewer systems, nearly half of the water system pipes in the United States will be in poor, very poor or “life elapsed” status by 2020.

Yes, sewers are unsexy, there’s no new fancy science involved. But water and sewer systems are the very basis of public health, and the biggest reason why Americans don’t die of sleeping sickness and dengue fever (or their subtropical equivalents) in large numbers evey year. People who want to cut taxes and limit government need to keep this in mind. There’s no money to be made out of building and maintaining sewers, it’s a dirty job and government has to do it, or else nobody will, and money is required. We produce the waste, we need to be taxed appropriately for it. It’s that simple.