Month: May 2009

Tuesdays with Turtles – Leatherbacks in Gabon

Scientists find world’s largest leatherback sea turtle population in Gabon

Some good news, there are more leatherbacks in the world than we thought there were. Sea turtles are one of the sex symbols of the wildlife world, majestic accessible and gentle creatures that have attracted many people (including myself) to a career in the environmental sciences. It is interesting, given the amount of money and attention given to sea turtle research, that a huge population has hitherto slipped by unnoticed. But, like most divas, they surprise us.

The ocean is a large place and given that leatherbacks travel from South America to Morocco, and can dive deep, it is not surprising that they can hide.

One can only hope that this nesting site is now protected from poaching and all the other depredations that sea turtles face. It appears that close to 80% of this population nests in protected beaches, so even better.

Climate Deniers Get Top Science Posts

Seriously, I’ve had enough of Bush North up here in Canada, he has to go and luckily, he’s only running a minority government, so it’s not 4 more years… Global warming critics appointed to science boards

Top Canadian scientists are accusing the Harper government of politicizing science funding and jeopardizing climate research by naming global warming critics to key boards that fund science.

The government’s actions are “dreadful,” said Garry Clarke, a leading international glaciologist at the University of British Columbia, and undercut public pledges to tackle climate change.

“Their mouths are doing one thing and their hands are doing something different,” Prof. Clarke said.

Already alarmed over funding cuts to basic research, scientists say two appointments in particular are worrisome. Mark Mullins, the executive director of the conservative-leaning Fraser Institute – and a former adviser to the Canadian Alliance Party – was recently appointed to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which funds university research projects that have included studies on climate change.

Desmogblog has more, including choice quotes from the economists and oil geologists that run this country’s science.

Mullins: “It strikes me that the science is not settled,” he said in a 2007
interview posted at BCbusinessonline. “‘Put caps on global emitters’ is
not the natural conclusion I would come to.”

Weissenberger: “To those who doubt the scientific basis of global warming theory, we
say: Don’t let a cabal of government-funded scientists, environmental
activists and journalists convince us they’re the mainstream.” — April
28, 2006″

These are the people who will be deciding who gets science money in Canada.

This has probably been the most unscientific administrations in Canada’s recent history.

I think it is time to throw the bums out, it’s time for another election!

Smoking ban for N.C. Bars and Restaurants

The bill approved Wednesday falls short of how it began: a total and sweeping ban on smoking in all public places. But the House's original bill left a wide loophole for bars, an exemption that worried restaurant owners who feared bars would steal late-night customers.

via House approves smoking ban for N.C. – Politics – News & Observer.

The bill (soon to become law) still contains the giant “private club” loophole I had mentioned earlier, so, 1.5 cheers. And strange exemption for cigar bars (where smoke is emitted), but not for hookah bars (where water filters quite a bit of the smoke).

Critically, as Laura Leslie pointed out, the law will allow local health officials to go above and beyond state law. So, a floor was established, not a ceiling, which is good. They were previously forbidden to enact any smoking bans. Now Chapel Hill/Carrboro can do what it has been wanting to do for years and finally kill smoking in all public places.

BC's Election

Is over and the centre-right Liberals won. Many in the traditional environmental movement are trumpeting it as a referendum on the BC Carbon Tax. I am not so sure. The so called people who were supposed to vote for the opposition left leaning NDP, but did not because of their (admittedly stupid) opposition to the “gas tax” also gave the Green Party their lowest share of the vote in the last few years. I am finding it hard to imagine a left leaning voter voting for the Liberals instead of the NDP, rather than throwing her vote on the Green Party.

The truth is probably a lot simpler. Carole James of the NDP did not resonate with voters as an alternative for many reasons, poor campaign positioning, lack of vision, poor media coverage, etc. and in tough economic times, BC just made what it considered a safe choice.

Of course, BC also made a “safe” choice and rejected a proportional representation system for the province. More will be known once any exit poll data is released, but a proposal which came within a couple of percentage points of passing in the last election failed roundly this time. There is early speculation that it was how the question was asked. I would have preferred a multi-party proportional system to reduce the stranglehold of the two major parties and get some Green Party representation in the legislature.

Anyway, full speed ahead for BC’s puny Carbon Tax, which will go all the way to $30 a ton in a couple of years, let’s see what that does to compensate for The Liberal’s penchant for massive road building, offshore drilling ideas and “business friendly” privatization of the commons approach to governance.

NC Smoking ban now inevitable?

Well, it has taken less than a decade (I am a pessimist), but looks like smoking in bars and restaurants may finally be over and done with in my old home state of NC.

Note that there is currently a HUGE loophole in the senate version of the bill, it permits smoking in “private clubs”. Many bars in NC designate themselves as “private clubs” to circumvent prohibition era (or thereabouts) laws that mandate liquor serving establishments to get a certain percentage of their revenue from food. So, my favourite Chapel Hill drinking establishment, The Dead Mule (no website, sorry!) is supposedly a “private club” – You supposedly pay a one time membership fee (usually less than 5 bucks), and are supposed to “sign in” any members and guests. This was all a farce anyway, and the Mule got extremely smoky, it was quite disgusting after a while.

One hopes that the final bill will make the ban universal. Bans like this work best when they don’t favour one group of establishments over the other for no real reason. The people who work at the Dead Mule are equally entitled to clean air.

1.5 cautious cheers, let’s see what happens in the end…

The state Senate voted Thursday to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in North Carolina. It set the stage for what would be a historic prohibition of a product that created thousands of jobs, built Duke and Wake Forest universities and has long been an integral part of the culture in the nation's top tobacco-producing state.

House members passed a tougher version last month, meaning that lawmakers will still have to work out a compromise, assuming the Senate passes the measure in a second vote on Monday. The bill passed Thursday by an eight-vote margin, 26-18, so that seems likely.

via State Senate OKs smoking ban – Politics – News & Observer.

Clubbing baby seals

Regarding the recent brouhaha that started with the EU banning Canada’s seal products, I confess to being in two minds about Canada’s sealing practices. Of course, clubbing baby seals to death seems barbaric, but so is confining pigs (intelligent and cute in the right circumstances!) to pens where they can barely move and slaughtering them, so is de-beaking chickens and cooping them up in ultra small cages, so is fattening cows with growth hormones, then slaughtering them. If you have any questions, I give you

and this:

and this too:

Okay, now that you have become part of the meatrix, why is industrial animal farming, which is way more destructive on the planet, the people involved and the animals completely and utterly acceptable while the (admittedly barbaric) “culling” of a small proportion of a wild population of seals is banned?

Yes, seals are cute, but so are chickens, baby pigs, calves, you name it, I even think most snakes are cute, it’s all optics anyway.

If you’re against the seal clubbing, you need to be against all current animal farming practiced in all of the Americas, and yes, Europe as well.

FAQs: The Atlantic seal hunt

Few facts in this debate go unchallenged. All sides agree on where and when. But the answers to how, why, and even how many aren’t as clear. 

Even the language is chosen carefully. Hunt or slaughter. Sea mammals or baby seals. Cherished tradition or economic disaster. Cod-eating nuisance or adorable innocent.

The images of the hunt are even more powerful, and seal hunt opponents know it. Most people find the pictures difficult to watch, but supporters say the same kind of thing happens in slaughterhouses — places where cameras aren’t allowed