While BP’s All But Done With It, Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling
Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters. BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading →
Gold Threatens Slice of Amazon & Crowdfunding Saves Another
A gold rush in Peru is the latest threat to the Amazon Rainforest, as record prices attract speculators. But in Ecuador a $116 million trust fund has preserved hundreds of square miles from oil exploration.
The most entertaining news about the forest, though, is the discovery that, not unlike most theaters and arenas in the world, it too has vantage observation points.
So step right in for the show is about to begin. Between ground floor and the nose-bleed section, here are… THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE Between its high treetops and the 20-inch decaying-matter thick floor, the rainforest has a previously overlooked layer: call it a luscious mezzanine.
While the majority of the canopy leaves falls to the forest’s floor, a great many get trapped mid-air by the almost-invisible filaments of the fungus Marasmius, which provides room and board to insects, Continue reading →
Five months after the brutal assassination of yet another defender of the Amazon forest, Brazil still struggles to control its destruction.
Last week, the country’s Environmental Ministry actually revised upwards the area lost to illegal burning and logging: 2,703 square miles were destroyed between August 2009 and July 2010.
In yet another piece of bad news, researchers of the Prodes Project, Continue reading →
Art Traps, Laser Beams & DNA in the War Against Mosquitoes
Except for a few days, winter has been mild in the Eastern Seaboard so far. That’s no excuse not to envy those living in warmer weather. Which brings us to today’s subject: mosquitoes. Aha! Feel the sting? That’s what you get for daring to wear shorts in November. We all know the multitude of miserable infectious diseases they can carry, but instead of dwelling on demonizing them, let’s just skip to the very new ways being devised to annihilate them, shall we?
It turns out that this is prime season both for those mosquito-infested regions of the globe, and the business of trying to trap and eliminate them for good.
Laser barriers, mutant armies, genetically-altered species, the brave Continue reading →
Tiny Monkey, An Under River & the 121-Year Young Woman
Pardon the cliché, but the Amazon never ceases to amaze us.
Be it because of the river that names the region, one of the world’s biggest basin systems. Or the variety of new species that turn out regularly, to speechless researchers.
The fact is, despite all threats to its survival, the Amazon and its indigenous peoples are very much alive and vibrant, including the world’s likely oldest person who still thrives, along with everything else around her.
No wonder Google is trying to get in the action there too, as it slowly maps the Rainforest for its StreetView (sic) service. A RIVER RUNS UNDER IT
Let’s start by the river system, which irrigates a seven million square area and annually rises high enough to flood the forest.
But guess what? That’s, at the most, just half the story. Continue reading →
At an average of almost three billion tons discarded every year, it’s about time we find alternatives for recycling plastic bottles.
You already know that the business of recycling is big worldwide, and finding other uses for discarded plastic can actually boost the bottom line of many a corporation.
Take energy concern Vadxx, for example, which found a way of reverting non-recyclable plastics back to a low-sulfur content crude oil.
Scraps, non-metal parts of cars and even your copious e-waste, are all prime materials for Vadxx’s reactors. It may sound like another oil producer’s gimmick, but anything that has the Continue reading →
Amazon Tribes: Still Uncontacted and Already Facing Mortal Danger
The latest wave of heavily armed criminal groups operating in the Amazon may eliminate your chance to get to know some of the tribes that dwell in the region.
In 2008, aerial photographs showed a group of a previously unknown indigenous community pointing arrows and bows at the aircraft. Now, disturbing reports about the sight of armed gangs nearby their dwellings may represent the biggest threat yet to the survival of some of those recluse native Brazilians.
For the record, the threat affects all indians living in the area, not just those who were photographed for the first time Continue reading →
Against Heatwave, Common Sense Beats Talking About It
You may complain about the scorching weather until cows can’t come home, because they all died of sunstroke. Or you may do something about it. As we speak, at least two initiatives are ready to start making a difference for thousands of Americans.
This summer, as U.S. cities bake under record temperatures, many of them seem to be getting on board for a simple and cheap idea: paint the rooftops white.
It’s a proposal that has been percolating for years, but its time Continue reading →
Who said that we never talk about flowers? When the earthquake and following tsunami hit Japan, in March, we all feared for the worst. The cores of the aging nuclear plants near the city of Fukushima all but melted completely down, and a still unknown amount of radioactivity was released into the surrounding air and sea water.
In fact, no one knows for sure the extent of the disaster and the impact it will still cause going forward. Plant officials have been notoriously reticent about the damage, which doesn’t mean that the good people of Japan won’t overcome yet another man-made tragedy.
In the meantime, studies have been measuring radiation levels Continue reading →
For once, they’re are not indigenous people. Or a still uncontacted tribe. And if you’re wondering, they do know all about 21th century living. They’re just no longer interested in it.
Meet “Las Gaivotas,” (The Seagulls, even though they’re miles from the sea), a self-sustained community founded in the Continue reading →
Dams, Killing of Activists Undermine Brazil’s Vow to Protect Amazon Forest
The approval, by the Brazilian Congress’ lower house, of a bill to change the country’s 1965 Forest Code, has caused a public outcry within and outside the borders of South America’s largest economy.
Seen as a victory for powerful agribusiness interests, the bill that now heads to the Senate may undermine decades-long efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest, according to environment organizations, ecology activists and community leaders.
One of the changes proposed to the code would be to allow farmers and ranchers to clear vast swaths of the rainforest to Continue reading →
When the old-fashioned filament light bulbs were officially retired from widespread use, after about 100 years, they were also vilified for a plethora of dangers to our health and the environment.
Among some of their short-comings, experts pointed to their light, deemed too yellowish; their excessive energy consumption, and the high flammability of their design, Continue reading →
This is a story that won’t get much mileage for a while, but it’s already covering a lot of road, nevertheless. As car designers try to find more sustainable and less costly ways to outfit their models, they’re looking into some forms of food to replace Continue reading →
Smuggling is one of the oldest forms of illegal trading. Since immemorial times people have been risking their lives and fortunes to transport from one place to another, precious stones, valuable metals, exotic animals, even humans.
As with any other market, demand is what drives traffic and it’s virtually impossible to list all categories of goods that have ever been apprehended by the customs agencies and border patrols of the world.
One thing remains constant, though: the market thrives Continue reading →
For centuries, babies have been breast fed by their mammal mothers as a normal part of their upbringing, and that includes both humans and animals. It’s considered the best food an infant can have and most scientific studies have confirmed the fact.
Except when they don’t, as was the case of the online version of the British Medical Journal, which questioned last week the benefits of the practice on a recent study. Or when, openly or not, the baby food industry Continue reading →
Over 500 people got killed in the past few days, as intense rains caused floods and mudslides in five towns around Rio de Janeiro. The death toll is expected to rise as more rain is forecast and an unknown number of victims remains buried under land and debris from collapsed buildings. Here’s a report from a resident of Nova Friburgo, one of the most affected cities.
Things here are really horrible. The rain inundated my mom’s house, she lost almost everything, many barriers broke down, there are many deaths, relatives of Fabio (my husband) lost everything and were left only with the clothes they’re wearing. We had to leave home because things were getting pretty bad, without running water, power and risking getting sick, for the mud was already at the fourth step leading to my apartment. But thank god, we’re fine now. We went back today. We now have power but there’s still no water and worse, we can’t find bottled water in the city. There are still a lot of people buried all over. Here in downtown, two or three buildings have collapsed, we still don’t know how many died in them. There’s a street that was Continue reading →
———————— The Earth Shook & Burn But The World Only Moved Sideways ————————
A year of extremes but no breakthroughs. Records of the wrong kind (U.S.’s longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and worst environmental disaster ever, highest temperature indexes in several regions of the world, increased infection diseases mortality rates in the Caribbean and Africa, and staggering drug trafficking casualties in Latin America) plagued the world, with the additional bonus of a certified freak: a snowstorm in the middle of the Australian summer.
But there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; no curbs on Iranian and North Korean authoritarian antics or scary nuclear ambitions; no meaningful proposals to solve political impasses in the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Disturbing tactics did get deployed, though, by the world’s superpowers but with the only intention of curbing whistle blowers and freedom of information acts such as WikiLeaks. It gave civil rights activists of every stripe a chilling pause to see Continue reading →
and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.
THE TOPS 1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading →
You’ve read here about a summit of 13 nations in Russia last month to discuss their commitment and strategies to protect the wild tiger, said to be facing a serious threat of extinction. Vietnam is among those nations.
But old, misguided cultural habits die much harder than these magnificent animals, it seems. Word just came out that Vietnamese authorities are planning a public auction of approximately six pounds of tiger paste – ground bones and Continue reading →
Now, that’s what we call dancing to save the earth. In London, Bar Surya has outfitted its dance floor with a fancy system of crystals and ceramics that, when pressured by revelers, generates electricity to fuel its lights and the air conditioner. In other words, you dance, the lights go on and if they flicker, it’s Ok too; a wind turbine and some solar panels will keep things moving. And don’t worry: there’s no risk of electrocution. A similar sweaty idea is in place in Copenhagen. Bicycles connected to an electric generator at Crown Plaza Hotel offer customers the chance to earn their next meal. All you need to do is to pedal long enough to produce 10 watts of charge. In exchange, you get a $30 voucher to use toward a hearty meal. Have the soufflé.
But it’s Maison d’Envie, a brothel in Berlin, that takes er the cake. There, as long as you arrive on a bike or by public transportation, you’re entitled to a $7 discount for a $90, 45-minute visit. A great value, recession and all things considered. Just one caveat: management can refuse admission if you’re too disgustingly sweaty. But there’re showers available, so it’s all good.
There you have it. Who says your noble concerns about the environment won’t get you anywhere? Now you can enjoy being green even if you’re no Travolta, are famished and in dire need to get laid. So go ahead and break a sweat.
New Measures May Be Needed
to Save Whales From Extinction
Lobbying to lift the whale hunting ban was defeated.
So why whales and dolphins continue to be slaughtered
and what else can be done to stop the killings? (*)
Despite a decision by the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting, which ended Friday in Agadir, Morocco, not to lift the 24-year hunting ban on whales, as global commercial fisheries and dubious scientific concerns were lobbying for, in reality, not much has been accomplished to protect these majestic creatures. On the contrary, a lot still remain in place that is further depleting their worldwide populations.
Beyond the barbaric resolution allowing Greenland’s indigenous Continue reading →
It’s not on any map or chart yet. It has no name. At high tide, it’s about the size of two and a half football fields, but it’s at least 10 times larger when the tide is low. And it’s 20 minutes off the French coast, near the mouth of the Gironde estuary. That’s pretty much all everybody can agree about it.
To some, “L’île Mystérieuse” is not even an island, but a sandbank. There are those who believe it’s only 18 months old, while others swear they’ve been going there for 15 years. Environmentalists, geologists and naturalists say the island is likely to expand, rather than disappear, and therefore, should be protected from the human presence.
Partygoers and regular visitors wish such buzzkillers would just go away and let them do as they please on the new land. They even congregate under the “île Mystérieuse Liberation Front.” For them, it should be declared a semi-independent territory of the people, and all this talk about regulation is just too much.
Oh, but there’s something else everyone seems to agree about the Mysterious Island: it’s very, very beautiful. And it’s French, of course.
Water Supplies and Access
To Define Mankind Survival
Human Rights Now Include Access to Clean Water ____________________
The U.N. General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right last month, in a Bolivia-drafted resolution approved by 124 nations. The vote was considered unanimous, even though 41 countries, including Canada, abstained from voting. The fact that there even were abstentions at all is nothing short of surprising. For within or very near the Canadian borders, for example, sit some of the world’s greatest glaciers, but never mind about that for now. It is an unrestricted victory for an increasing number of scientists who for years have been calling attention to the serious issue water, or its lack thereof, may represent to the future of this planet. In fact, it’s one of those threats that’s grave enough to end civilization, and it’s safe to say, it’s way more likely to happen than the catastrophic collision with an asteroid we all rightfully fear. According to the UN, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation. Every eight seconds a child dies of a waterborne disease, in every case preventable if their parents had money to pay for water. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war. And a World Bank report says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by more than 40%.
But let’s not get too wrapped up Continue reading →