Archive | Environment

The Black Sea Devil

 

 

Rare Sea Monster Caught on Film
for the First Time

 

**VIDEO** 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s a rare and unusual creature, lurking deep in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

A research team conducting a dive in Monterey Bay off the coast of California have captured first-ever video of a rarely-seen denizen of the deep called the Black Sea Devil.

The creature was spotted this week in the dark, deep waters 1,900 feet below the surface by researchers with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute using their  Remote Operated Vehicle, Doc Ricketts

It is the first video footage ever made of this species alive and at this depth.

Deep-sea anglerfish are strange and elusive creatures that are very rarely observed in their natural habitat.  This little angler, above, is named Melanocetus.

“We’ve been diving out here in the Monterey Canyon regularly for 25 years, and we’ve seen three,” MBARI Senior Scientist Bruce Robinson told the San Jose Mercury News on Friday.

Robinson said a luminescent “fishing pole” projecting from the anglerfish’s head is a glowing lure to attract prey.  He told the paper they captured the fish to study, but don’t know how long it will survive.

The institute’s two-minute-long video was posted on YouTube, while pointing out that although the black sea devil seems menacing as its swims towards the camera, it is only about 3.5 inches long.

Little is known about the fish. 

Their jaws consist of such powerful teeth and a greatly extendable stomach that they can inhale prey that is larger than them.  Living in dark depths of the ocean where life is dark, dangerous and threatening, it hunts in open water rather than on the sea bed, lurking with a huge gaping open mouth.  

Females are rounded with an enormous head and lethal sharp-fang like teeth.  The lure extracted from her dorsal fin sits profoundly on her head, where symbiotic bacterial bioluminescence lives, shining and attracting prey from the waters.  

The male lacks this lure and is less than one fifth of the size of his ferocious mate.  Male black sea devils have a much shorter life span than females and are much tinier in comparison.  His sole purpose is to attach himself to her with his jaws during breeding, living as a parasite, and then swim away after she has spawned.

“If they don’t find a female, they drown,” University of Washington professor and deep-sea anglerfish expert Ted Pietsche told the Mercury News.  “They’re not even properly equipped to eat.”

 

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The Story of Place

 

 

The Greater Canyonlands

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“What is this place worth in oil?  Where do we want to steer our civilization?  What do we want left when we’re done?

~Craig Childs, The Story of Place

 

Canyonlands National Park, and the lands that border it, are part of a larger story.

It’s a complex tale of our natural environment, ancient mankind, current political horse-trading, increased pressure for resource and oil extraction, and a place of recreational and spiritual consideration.

The 1.8 million acres of public lands surrounding Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah is one of the largest remaining wild roadless areas in the lower 48 states.  

Its breathtaking beauty, spectacular geology and 12,000 year record of human history are both globally significant and irreplaceable.  These lands are under threat from oil and gas development, potash, uranium and tar sands mining, and irresponsible off-road vehicle use.

The land is the true Wild West.  It is a rugged and vastly untouched landscape, a geological wonderland of surprises found around every turn; a place of countless canyons, sandstone formations, rainwater pools, archeological ruins, mesas and buttes formed millenias ago. 

It is a place where we can find our true human spirit.

The Story of Place is a short film that takes us deep into the unprotected territory of the Greater Canyonlands region of Southern Utah and New Mexico, alongside Craig Childs, Ace Kvale and Jim Enote, who narrate the story of this grand landscape, how it has shaped each and every one of us.

This region is a veritable wellspring of human spirit, solitude, wonder and history.

“This place and its story are irreplaceable,” Childs notes.

“This land,” he concludes, “is worth protecting.”

 

 

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Way Too Many

 

 

Recycle Your Electronics the Right Way:

Here’s How

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Agbogbloshie, Ghana, is the location of one of the worst E-waste dumpsites in the world.

An electronic recycling company named Gizmogul has built their business model centered on recycling these E-wastes responsibly and easily.

Gizmogul was started in 2013 by three brothers from Boston, Mass. (Cory, 23, Barry, 29, Stephen, 32).  They wanted to create a niche electronic recycling business that spoke to their generation.  Gizmogul is a “cool” recycling company with a philanthropic attitude.  They pay people fairly for their material while making a positive impact on the community.

Gizmogul has teamed up with African Outreach to help fund a primary school in Agbogbloshie, Ghana, and provide the school with educational tools and programming, economic support for the teachers, and building a library and computer lab there.

All donated electronics will be recycled responsibly by Gizmogul.  Devices that can be refurbished will be reintroduced into the secondary market; electronics that are damaged beyond repair will be properly recycled through a certified R2 program. 

So far, they’ve properly recycled 134,200 electronic components to date, but there’s still a long way to go.

The brothers says they pay more than 2-3 times (200-300%) for recyclable consumer electronics than any of their competitors.  That is because their business has grown organically without having to spend millions of dollars in marketing and branding, allowing them to pass along savings directly to the consumer.

Electronic waste MUST be recycled, otherwise it ends up in the trash and the hazardous materials inside different components end up in the environment.  And if it is recycled, it should be done so with the utmost care and concern.

The amazing thing is, everything has value.  And Gizmogul collects it all. They not only purchase cellular phones, but computers, computer components, tablets, cables, televisions, LCD’s, gaming devices, and most everything electronic you can think of.

If you’d like to donate your electronics and ensure they are recycled properly– and not shipped overseas to a hazardous dumpsite– fill out the Gizmogul form for a free FedEx shipping label to send them your devices.

You don’t even have to leave the house:

Fill out the easy form.
Receive your free FedEx shipping label.
Drop off your package at any FedEx location.

And it’s done.

 

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Fracking Banned in Mendocino County

 

 

Voters Deliver Historic Mandate–

‘Changing the Law by Challenging the Law’

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The little Mendo-mouse roared, poking Big Oil in the eye on Tuesday.

Mendocino County voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative banning fracking in the county, joining San Benito County in saying no to the controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep rock formations.

Preliminary results yesterday showed 67 percent of Mendocino voters favored the ban, known as Measure S.

San Benito’s similar measure passed with 57 percent of the vote.  A third anti-fracking measure on the California ballot was defeated in Santa Barbara County by 63 percent of the vote.

“I’m happy, but cautious, too,” said Jamie Lee, a Measure S proponent and former Wall Street trader turned organic farmer.  He noted that the oil industry pumped about $7 million into defeating the other proposed California fracking bans, and that state and federal agencies may not care for the local-governance aims included in the measure.

“We’re poking a bear in the eye,” he said.

Measure S faced no formal opposition, Lee said.  While oil extraction has been occurring in Santa Barbara and San Benito counties for decades, producers have largely bypassed Mendocino County which has no commercial oil or gas wells.

Efforts to ban fracking have been growing nationwide, with more than 100 counties and cities in the United States taking a stance by banning the practice in recent years.

Fracking — short for hydraulic fracturing — involves forcing water, chemicals and other materials into rock formations to expand cracks and allow oil and gas to flow more freely.

Santa Cruz has a ban on all oil and gas extractions; Beverly Hills passed a fracking ban earlier this year; and there are proposals in the works for fracking bans in Los Angeles and Butte County, according to Hollin Kretzmann of the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.  Voters on Tuesday also passed anti-fracking ordinances in Denton, Texas, and Athens, Ohio.  

Opponents say fracking poses serious contamination risks for groundwater and a range of other environmental and public health concerns. Some also feel the process leads to an increased level of earthquakes.  But proponents of the decades-old practice say it’s safe and can make low-producing oil fields more productive and financially viable, increasing the country’s oil resources.

Citing the lack of local oil development, some Mendocino County residents publicly questioned why a ban was needed in the first place.  They raised their objections in letters to local newspapers.

Lee said the measure is preventive, and banning fracking is only part of what it aims to accomplish.

Unlike the other anti-fracking measures, Measure S went beyond what would be a simple fracking ban.  It included language asserting that the community has a right to self-governance superseding state and federal law, Lee said.

“We are declaring, through this ordinance, that we are the stewards of the land and we have these rights that are inherent,” he said.

But the battle is far from over if Big Oil’s ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ advocates wish to get their way for tapping Mendocino’s vast underground oil and gas deposits.  The assertion of local lawmaking authority, along with several other sections of the ballot measure, may not be legally defensible, according to a legal opinion by interim Mendocino County Counsel Doug Losak.

Questionable provisions include the harsh penalties for “toxic trespass,” including a year in county jail and $10,000 fine for each violation of the fracking ordinance.  For example, each stroke of a fracking pump is considered a separate violation– potentially racking up life sentences for violators.

The measure also prohibits anyone from parking fracking-related equipment in Mendocino County, a move that could limit offshore and neighboring development.

“It is likely that a court would find at least some of the sections of the initiative in violation of state and/or federal laws or constitutions,” Losak wrote.

Measure S proponents simultaenously agree– and disagree– with Losak’s opinion.

“Mr. Losak is correct about one thing: the law is not currently on your side,” states a letter to Measure S proponents from Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange, the international human rights group, and attorney Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

“Your right to govern your own county has been canceled out by the ‘rights’ of corporations and the authority of the state to pre-empt your lawmaking.  Measure S is about changing that.  It is about changing the law by challenging the law,” they wrote.

On their website, Global Exchange said Mendocino County made history:

“With the passage of Measure S, residents in Mendocino County made history as the first California community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights, placing their rights above corporate interests.  

Residents see enactment of this ordinance as the first step in asserting their right to local self-government, and a rejection of the idea that their community will be a sacrifice zone for corporate profits.

This is a huge milestone for the community rights movement in California—joining 180 communities across the country that have also changed the structure of law by passing rights-based  legislation.”

“Measure S is an important challenge to corporate constitutional rights and the oil and gas industry.  Democracy won here today,” resident Kelly Larson declared.

Jamie Lee echoed the same sentiment.  “This is only the beginning of local self-governance for us up here in Mendocino, the first step of many toward changing the rules about ‘who decides’ what happens here.  WE do,” Lee said.

The ordinance is expected to take effect after the votes are certified by the Mendocino County elections office.

 

~Via Press-Democrat, Mendocino Today,
Global Exchange, Measure S

 

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Watch Comet ‘Siding Spring’ Bolt Towards Mars– Now

 

Seeing a Once-in a-Million Year Opportunity

 

**VIDEO**

 

Live Online Video Links Below

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s here.  At 11:15 am on the West Coast.

 

Mountain-sized comet Siding Spring has spent its entire life in the outer reaches of our solar system, but today, Sunday Oct. 19, it will enter the inner solar system for the first time, heading toward the red planet, Mars — incredibly close at 87,000 miles to the planet’s surface. 

It’s going to be so close to the planet at 11:15 am PDT, NASA had to take precautions by moving its Martian satellites behind the planet, protecting them from the comet’s path, which will be the closest comet flyby Mars has ever seen in recorded history.

The comet won’t hit the planet itself, but may spray it with
meteors and dust.

It’s a once-in-a-million years event, according to astronomers. 
And you can see it.

 

Where to watch Comet Siding Spring online:

The Slooh Community Observatory will have live stream coverage beginning on Sunday.  You can watch Slooh’s live stream here »

According to Space.com, Slooh will begin a second live stream webcast of Siding Spring beginning at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

The Virtual Telescope Project also promises live coverage of the comet’s Mars fly-by here »

 

 

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Digital Wasteland

 

E-Waste Central

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Agbogbloshie, Ghana, was once a fertile wetland.

It is now the largest electronic waste dumpsite in the world.  Children as young as seven salvage what they can from unwanted technology dumped from China, Japan and the West.

TVs, PCs and refrigerators are burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.  

The majority of people who burn in Agbogbloshie are young boys.  They often cut themselves, are restless, and can’t concentrate for any length of time.  Almost everyone there is suffering from insomnia and heavy headaches.

The health risk is so chronic that many of the workers die from cancer in their 20s.  Cancer, lung problems and brain damage are just a few of the well-known problems.

The inhabitants have nicknamed the place “Sodom and Gomorrah“, a metaphor for what Agbogbloshie looks like and has become: a destroyed city, a war zone, a place covered in ash, waste and fire, and where workers ply the scrap metal trade earning much needed money.

Director Sam Goldwater’s aim for the film Regolith was to determine whether that was true using only his camera and as little intervention as possible.  He captures the area and its workers:  harshly beautiful and stark photography set amidst an extreme and surreal industrial digital wasteland.

~Film by Sam Goldwater; photos Kevin McElvaney

 

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Into The Streets

 

The Historic March Against Climate Change

 

**Meerkat Media VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There’s strength in numbers.  400,000 to be exact.

Over 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to demonstrate a unified front against climate justice inaction.

Different walks of life and diverse perspectives converged together as the popular– and surprising– movement unfolded on September 21 and 22.

From Manhattan to Melbourne, people took to the streets in a move to demand ambitious commitments and change from world leaders for tackling the climate crisis.

By the end-of-day estimates, the flagship march in NYC drew approximately 400,000 people–more than quadrupling the pre-march estimates of 100,000– just two days before world leaders converged for an emergency UN Climate Summit.

By midafternoon march organizers released an initial count of 310,000 people based on the crowd density along the march route.  But as the day continued, reports came in of tens of thousands more marching outside the official route, streaming down avenues in midtown Manhattan towards Wall Street.

At 5:00pm, march organizers had to send out a text asking marchers to disperse from the march route because the crowds had swelled beyond the route’s capacity.

“We said it would take everyone to change everything– and everyone showed up,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

The New York march was led by different frontline communities who came from across the globe to highlight the disproportionate impact of climate change:  from communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, to people living in the shadow of coal-fired power plants and oil refineries, to those living in island nations already faced with evacuating their homes.

Once seen as an issue seen dividing environmentalists and labor, the march was also notable for the number of unions that joined the climate fight.  Nearly every single labor union in New
York helped organize turnout for the march, including the SEIU,
the largest union in the city and the second largest in the country.

“The frontlines of the climate crisis are low-income people, communities of color and indigenous communities here in the US and around the globe,” said Cindy Wiesner of The Climate Justice Alliance.    “We are the hardest hit by both climate disruption– the storms, floods and droughts– as well as by the polluting and wasteful industries causing global warming.  We are also at the forefront of innovative community-led solutions for a just transition off fossil fuels and an economy good for both people and the planet,” Wiesner said.

“Our members are marching because climate change affects all of us,” added Héctor Figueroa.  

“We live in the communities that get destroyed by storms like Sandy.  We work in the buildings that get flooded.  We get hit by health epidemics like asthma that are rampant in our communities.  And we care about the world that we will leave for our children and grandchildren,” Figueroa said.

Others, however, like the financial powerhouse Forbes magazine, believe the march was blown out of proportion for all the wrong reasons, calling it simply, Jumping the Shark.

Meerkat Media’s extraordinary video, Into the Streets, offers a glimpse of what the march was all about and the importance of everyone being on the same page for changing what we can– before it’s too late to do anything at all.

 

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Does the Hydra Live Forever?

 

As Close to a Miracle As Life Gets

 

**VIDEO**

 

Robert Krulwich and Adam Cole
NPR/ Krulwich Wonders

 

 

A puzzlement.

A simple gastrotrich hatches.  

Three days later, it’s all grown up, with a fully adult body complete with a mouth, a gut, sensory organs and a brain, says science writer Carl Zimmer.

In 72 hours it’s ready to make babies, and as soon as it does, it begins to shrivel, crumple… and usually within a week, it’s gone.  Dead of old age.

Sad, no?  A seven-day life.  But now comes the weird part.  

There’s another very small animal that also lives in freshwater ponds and lakes, also matures very quickly, also reproduces within three or four days.  But, oh, my God, this one has a totally different life span– and when I say totally, I mean it’s radically, wildly, unfathomably different– from a gastrotrich.

It’s a hydra.  And what it does — or rather, what it doesn’t do — is worthy of a motion picture.

So we made one.  Well, a little one.

With my NPR colleague, science reporter Adam Cole, we’re going to show you what science has learned about the hydra.  Adam drew it, animated it, scored it, edited it.  My only contribution was writing it with him, but what you are about to see is about as close as science gets to a miracle.

Why the hydra?  It does not die from old age like the rest of us and every other living thing on the planet.

If nonsenescence, or biological immortality, is an option in nature, how come this particular mini-bit of pond scum got the big prize?

Why not– excuse me for asking– … us?

Evolution is such a random, casino-like affair; it’s startling to learn that longevity varies without regard to size.  I know Daniel Martinez’s hydras were cleaned, fed, protected.  They didn’t live in the wild.  But still, they have lasted and lasted and lasted.

I expect sequoias, redwoods and whales to last longer than mayflies, daisies and clover.  Big things go on, but when a little freshwater animal has such a drastically different life expectancy, all I can think is … Whoa!

Life is a puzzlement.

 

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Ebola Cases May Rise to 1.4 Million in 3 Months

 

Researchers Offer Stark and Differing Forecasts

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Cover your mouth, wash those hands, and be careful where you go and what you touch like Mom said. 
It’s looking worse by the moment.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report today predicting as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, by the end of January.

The CDC calculations are based, in part, on assumptions that cases have been dramatically underreported.  Other projections haven’t made the same kind of attempt that may have been missed in official counts.

CDC scientists conclude there may be as many as 21,000 reported and unreported cases in just those two countries as soon as the end of this month.

“The model shows — and I don’t think this has been shown by other modeling tools out there — that a surge now can break the back of the epidemic.  It also shows that there are severe costs of delay,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a press conference.

The agency’s numbers seem “somewhat pessimistic” and do not account for infection control efforts already underway, said Dr. Richard Wenzel, a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Separately, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a new report that the number of people infected with the Ebola virus could reach 20,000 in six weeks if efforts to contain the outbreak are not accelerated.

The outbreak has killed around 2,800 people in five West African countries this year.  An estimated 5,800 people have been infected with the hemorrhagic virus, which has no known cure.

Doctors Without Borders said the way the virus has spread is unlike any previous Ebola outbreaks, raising alarm among health workers. 

“Ebola is usually a localized, rural disease, but this outbreak has a broad geographic spread and is reaching cities,” a Doctors Without Borders spokesman said.

The WHO has repeatedly said that the actual number of infections and deaths is almost certainly higher than the official figures.

The report, published six months after the first cases were reported, is far more pessimistic than an earlier survey published last month, in which the WHO suggested that the number of cases could reach 20,000 by the middle of next year.  According to The New York Times, the report also raises the possibility that the outbreak will cause Ebola to become endemic in West Africa.

The WHO said the Ebola outbreak was “pretty much contained” in Nigeria and Senegal.  However, the death rate among infected is currently at around 70 percent in the other three countries touched by the infection:  Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.  Of those three, Liberia has reported the most Ebola cases, at just over 3,000.

The epidemic has overwhelmed the healthcare systems of all three countries, which rank among the world’s poorest. There aren’t enough hospital beds, health workers, or even basic necessities such as soap and water.

Last week, the US announced it would build more than a dozen medical centers in Liberia and send 3,000 troops to help.  Britain and France have also pledged to build treatment centers in Sierra Leone and Guinea and the World Bank and UNICEF have sent more than $1 million worth of supplies to the region.

~Via Google News, LA Times, YouTube

 

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Tens of Thousands to March in NYC Today

 

 

Massive Protest Forges Ahead of 
U.N. Climate Change Summit

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Big Apple is hosting a people’s march demanding
environmental change.

Celebrities, activists and political leaders are expected to join more than 100,000 people in New York City today for what organizers say will be the largest climate-change march in history (UPDATEOfficial count is in excess of 300,000 at 3 pm)

The “People’s Climate March” has been endorsed by more than 1,400 organizations, including environment, faith and justice groups, as well as labor unions.  

Students have also mobilized marchers at more than 300 college campuses for the event, which calls on world leaders to do more to confront the threat of climate change and comes ahead of a United Nations climate summit.

“People from all walks of life, all over the world, care deeply about climate change and are extremely worried and scared.  This march shows the huge variety of people and the huge variety of reasons that people are invested in this issue,” march organizer Rachel Schragis said.

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are expected to participate in Sunday’s march– which will wind its way through Midtown Manhattan on a two-mile route starting at 11:30 a.m.

After a moment of silence at 1 p.m., participants will be encouraged to use instruments, alarms and whistles to make as much noise as possible sending out an SOS, helped by marching bands and the tolling of church bells.

Around the world, more than 2,700 climate events in 158 countries are planned to coincide with the New York march, including rallies in New Delhi, Jakarta, London, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro.

Sunday’s march will come ahead of a meeting of over 120 world leaders at the U.N. next week, who will convene for a one-day climate summit on Tuesday.  The hope is to recapture the momentum lost after the disappointing 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.

U. N. Secretary Ban and other U.N. officials hope the summit will energize negotiations on reaching a deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and set the stage for a crucial conference in Paris in December 2015 aimed at finalizing an agreement.

President Barack Obama will attend the summit and is expected to highlight strides the U.S. has made on climate change, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The U.S. heads into the summit in the strongest position it has been in years.  It has cut emissions by 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than any other country.  Officials say about half of that reduction is due to the economic recession, but it puts the U.S. well on its way toward meeting its goal to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

But whatever emerges from the one-day summit Tuesday is unlikely to bring the world closer to a goal set back in 2009:  Preventing Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Fahrenheit from where it is now.

Rather than firm commitments from closed-door negotiations, the summit is expected to jumpstart a series of much-publicized initiatives and partnerships.  The heads of state for both India and China, two of the world’s largest carbon polluters, are not expected to attend the summit, further dimming hopes of meaningful action. 

There have also been concerns about funding for poorer countries on the frontlines of the fight against climate change and their ability to move away from fossil fuels and protect their citizens.  While richer countries made a commitment in 2009 to raise $100 billion by 2020 for less-affluent countries, so far only Germany has made a significant pledge to the fund, the Guardian reported.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, the World Meteorological Organization said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, increased more in 2012 and 2013 than in any year since 1984. 

The months of May, June and August were the warmest of any on record in the United States.  A study issued earlier this year said the West Antarctic ice sheet was starting to collapse and was unstoppable.

“We hear these warnings from scientists.  They’re becoming increasingly panicked and our politicians sort of pay lip service to how concerned they are about climate change on the one hand.  But on the other hand, it’s basically ‘Drill Baby Drill,’” activist Naomi Klein said. 

“They’re opening up all kinds of new frontiers for fracking, for tar sands, for coal and so people in the streets are going to be expressing their sense of urgency.”

The Koch Brothers– and climate change deniers everywhere– are not amused over this turn of events.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tune in this Sunday, September 21 for the special Democracy Now! live broadcast from the People’s Climate March in New York City, part of a global mobilization in advance of the U.N. special session on climate change convening on Tuesday.

Livestream from 10:30am to 1:30pm ET:  http://democracynow.org

 

 

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We Are Dead Stars

 

Looking at the Cosmos and Ourselves
In a Different Light

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We always thought life was a miracle.

Living shoulder-to-shoulder on a small blue planet zooming through an ever-expanding universe, it’s easy to feel very, very small.  But what we are is actually pretty incredible:  every cell in your body Is infused with the collapse of a star.

“We are dead stars looking back up at the sky,” Dr. Michelle Thaller, astronomer and science communicator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, says in the above video posted by The Atlantic.

Every single cell in our bodies contains elements created in the burning center of a collapsing star — from the iron in our blood to every bit of calcium in our bones and keratin in our hair.  That’s because in the very early days of the universe that followed the Big Bang, only the simplest elements existed, like hydrogen.

“The only thing in the universe that can make a bigger atom is a star,” Thaller says.

“The entire periodic table, every element you’ve ever heard of, was processed inside the body of a star.  And that star then unraveled or exploded, and here we are.”

It’s like what celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, echoing Carl Sagan:  if you feel insignificant given the immensity of the cosmos, you’re not looking at it in the right way. We are not just figuratively– but literally– made of stardust.”

And that is no small thing.

~Via The Atlantic, HuffPo, TRBQ, and Vimeo

 

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Bringing Water and Life to Others

 

 

World Vision’s Zambia Water Project

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Greed is not good. 

Humanity, distribution, and the delivering of resources are good.

More children die from diseases caused by unsafe water than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.  1,600 children die every day from diarrhea because they lack something as simple as clean water.

Scarce, dirty water locks people into poverty.  Clean water not only gives life, it makes it possible for kids to attend school, for families to provide adequate nutrition, and for communities to prosper outside of poverty.

The current World Vision Water Project in Zambia  hopes to dramatically change life in four communities in desperate need.  The project is part of their overall goal to provide clean, safe water to one million new people this year.

50 percent of rural Zambians lack access to clean water, and 1 out of every 12 children die before the age of 5.

The World Vision project includes 133 new and rehabilitated water points, 1600 sanitation facilities, and 117 communities and schools trained in hygiene.  With the formation of 117 local water committees, Zambia will be equipped to maintain the water points and pay for its own repairs, helping to ensure clean water lasts for generations to come.

Clean water transforms entire communities for generations.  Without clean water, all else fails.  It’s a given necessity for progress and humanity.

We can solve the global water crisis within our lifetime.  For the first time in history, we have the technology, resources, and the distribution to bring clean water to every child on the planet.

The World Vision Organization is reaching more people with clean drinking water than any other non-governmental agency– an amazing one person every 30 seconds.  They believe they can provide clean water to an additional 5 million people in the next 3 years.

That may sound impossible– yet it’s already here, it’s happening, and the mission is entirely possible.

And yes, you can help.

 

~Via World Vision, Keith Rivers, Vimeo, and YouTube

 

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It’s a Plastic World

 

In its Varied Forms

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Andreas Tanner
Andix Productions

 

It’s everywhere.

We need and we want it.  We find it in places we wouldn’t expect.

A world without plastic is inconceivable.  But do we know the consequences of our self-indulgent plastic consumption?

With two excellent speakers and nice music by Alexander Rösch, I’m very proud to present It’s a Plastic World, my film showing the various problems associated with plastic and the possible solutions.

In my holidays I saw a secluded beach that was littered with plastic waste.  I asked myself how this could be possible.  Back home, I began to fathom the causes.

The problem is that the ocean is completely polluted with plastic.  A lot of plastic is washed up on beaches worldwide.  This and many other bad facts led me to make my movie about plastic material and its far-reaching consequences.

It took weeks of collecting facts, writing a story, and drawing the storyboard for the movie.  After four more months of computer and production time, it was finally finished.

Many NGO’s like Greenpeace, WWF and PlasticOceans helped endorse and spread the movie.  I’d be very glad if everyone  shared and spread it.

If you would like to know more about making this movie, please watch the short Making-Of trailer, seen below.

Thank you,
Andreas Tanner

 

 

 

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Flowering Beauty

 

 

Stunning Time Lapse Photography

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“Earth laughs in flowers.”
     Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

From earliest times, flowers have held a special place in people’s lives.

Observed in art, jewelry, stories and paintings, a rich love has grown up around flowers throughout the centuries.  We admire their beauty;  their varied aromas, colors, forms, and textures. 

We use flowers and plants because of their age old symbolism. They are dear to our hearts.  We use them to represent love and desire, celebrations, events, birthdays and feasts of all kinds.

Flowers continue to be used as love tokens because they remind us to open our hearts to life and love.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.

The beauty of a simple flower can move us profoundly on a very subtle level that we don’t always consciously recognize or understand.  They seem to rise up magically out of the bare earth or, more often, appear to emerge out of formless masses of stems and leaves.

We enjoy gazing at them.  We’re reminded of their humble beginnings eons ago and what is truly the crowning creation of Nature’s evolutionary glory. 

We’re also reminded of the fleeting nature of life– and how transient everything unfortunately is.

A blooming flower highlights the profound beauty that exists for only brief single moment.

The gloom of death and its decaying flowers will once again be with us– yet for now we are left with a positive feeling that, whenever the flower blooms, life goes on, springing hope eternal.

 

 

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The World of Free Energy

 

 

Tesla’s Invention Rebirthed?

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

One of the greatest visionaries of the early 20th century
was genius electrical inventor Nikola Tesla.

His work to help develop the AC power system we all use to this day was crucial, but his personal goal was to develop a way to wirelessly transmit electrical power. 

Tesla got as far as building a huge tower for transatlantic wireless power demonstrations, but the system was never completed.

Now a group of Russian engineers want to complete Tesla’s work, and have launched a funding campaign to build a working prototype of Tesla’s wireless power system.

Leonid and Sergey Plekhanov are both graduates of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), and they’ve spent years studying Tesla’s original work and patents, while conducting proof of concept experiments.  They are now convinced that Tesla was onto something, and that his unfinished project to complete a long distance wireless power transfer can really work.

The first job is to build a modern version of Tesla’s 187-ft tall Wardencliffe transmission tower, and they’re seeking funds on Indiegogo to get the effort going.

Currently, they’re off to a pretty slow start towards their $800,000 goal with over a month left.  

The Plekhanov’s say that just 39,000 square miles of solar panels could provide enough electricity to meet the entire global electrical demand.  

That may seem like a tall order, but consider it’s actually a square solar panel farm of only 200 miles on each side to power the entire world.  The problem is getting that power from the sunny places where it can be generated to the rest of the world where it is needed.

The Russian team feels that the Tesla transmission system could provide the answer.  And, as Tesla envisioned, it would be instant, wireless, worldwide, cheap and abundant.

To note, Nikola Tesla, at the press conference honoring his 77th birthday in 1933, said electrical power is present everywhere in unlimited quantities “and could drive the world’s machinery without the need of coal, oil, gas, or any other fuels”.

A reporter asked him if the sudden introduction of his system would upset the present economic system.

Tesla replied, “It is badly upset already.”

Tesla dreamed of a world free from poverty, hunger, famine and drought.  He also dreamed of making practical and unlimited power available, believing that energy and electricity were the keys to improving the quality of life for the billions of people on the planet.

Understanding that energy and electricity exist freely in nature, he invented a wireless magnifying transmitter using the earth’s geomagnetic pulse to supply wireless electricity to homes and businesses. 

He died before seeing his invention come to fruition.

Check out the video above to get a preview of the project,
stay tuned, and don’t change that dial, Sparky.

~Via Google, Activist Post, Impact Lab, YouTube

 

 

 

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Send Your Selfies to Mars for Only 99 Cents!

 

 

Students Aiming Time Capsule to Mars

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Move over Dollar Stores.  There’s a bigger bang for the
buck happening in the solar system.

Most people will bury a time capsule, but a group of brilliant young minds will surely find something more exciting to do with it– like sending it off to Mars.

A team of students at MIT, Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Connecticut are working on creating a time capsule which will be sent to Mars and will contain millions of messages, pictures, audio and video files from people all over the world.

The Time Capsule for Mars is the first student interplanetary mission that likely to become a pioneering achievement in the field of space exploration, as it is expected to be the first private Mars mission and possibly the greatest crowd-funded project in history.

Of course, the project has broader goals than just sending messages to Mars.

The initial idea was to celebrate the idea of humanity for space exploration at a moment when the prospect of colonizing new planets becomes more and more real. The main goal is to inspire young people from all over the world by giving them the opportunity to send their selfies (or other files and messages) to outer space.

The messages will be transmitted in the form of text, images, audio and video, and the “time capsule” is going to remain on the Red Planet to be found by colonists in the future.

The capsule will be transported to the Red Planet with three small satellites called Cubesats.  Students will work with NASA, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the capsule and satellites, aimed to develop newly advanced ion propulsion systems and simultaneously low-cost technologies for the field of space exploration.

It is expected the mission to Mars will take about four months.  The spacecraft would burn up in the Martian atmosphere except for a section carrying the media that is designed to survive to the Martian surface.

“We’ve got a lot of firsts, and it’s very exciting,” said Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University who is project director for Time Capsule to Mars, in announcing the mission on June 23.

Besides being the first student-built interplanetary mission, she said, the project hopes to fly the first cubesat mission beyond Earth’s orbit, as well as be the first interplanetary mission to use a new type of electric propulsion, called called ion electrospray thrusters and built by micro-machining techniques, under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Student groups from the participating universities are supported by a global network of space exploration fans, including former astronauts, aerospace companies and volunteers.

The mission, which is estimated to cost about $25 million, will be funded through crowd-funding and by charging each participant $ 0.99 for uploading a file (sized up to 10MB).

The satellites that will deliver the time capsules are expected to be launched in 2017. 

Those wishing to send to Mars their messages, pictures, selfies, works of art, the entire works of Shakespeare, or whatever else floats your boat for saving and preserving humanity can actually do it today. 

Check out the details, fill out the form, send in your 99 cents and support the first student-led space mission at the official website of the Time Capsule to Mars project.

Wait ’til the Men in Black and little green men find out about this one. 
They’ll be beating a path to your doorstep in no time.

 

Via Anna LeMind, MindUnleashed.com, Engadget, Space.com and YouTube

 

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The Last Poison Blowpipe Maker

 

Life Deep in the Forest

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

In the damp, lush and humid rainforest of northern Sarawak, on Borneo, the indigenous Penan tribe have lived
on the island for centuries.

The Penan have lived in the Selungo valley for just as long.  Having lizard for breakfast and church every Sunday, there is a peaceful rhythm to their curious way of life, almost completely isolated from the outside world.

Living off the land and in tune with their natural environment, 12,000 of the hunter-gatherer Penan remain– most living nomadically and relying on the forest for their existence.

Only a few elders of Borneo’s Penan tribe still know how to make their unique hunting tool, the blowpipe.

Balan is the last person in his village who practices the dying craft.

* * * * * * * * *

This short film is an extract from the 30 minute documentary Sunset Over Selungo, to be released online later this year.

Please like the Facebook page to be notified of the release:  facebook.com/SelungoFilm

You can watch the short trailer of Sunset Over Selungo here: vimeo.com/95975471

Twitter: twitter.com/SelungoFilm

Music: soimanislander.bandcamp.com

100% of Tip Jar donations will go to Balan’s village cooperative.  The co-op works to benefit and strengthen the local community and preserve their ancestral home, the surrounding rainforest.

 

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Stunning & Striking National Geographic Photography

 

Capturing the Human Condition in Pictures

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It’s a stunning photo essay.

A Tribute to Discomfort brings the viewer through National Geographic creative photographer and North Face athlete Cory Richards’ work, his unique sense of humor, and his quest to create photographs that relate to a common humanity.

It will hit you hard.  It’s made to. 

We’ve often heard how going beyond our comfort zones can be so rewarding, yet not many of us are ready and willing to do it.  We’d rather be in our cozy beds, safe and sound.

Richards is one of those brave few who constantly undertakes discomfort and misery to take awe-inspiring photographs and communicate the human condition for the rest of the world.

You could easily tell how passionate Cory Richards is about his craft in this four-minute-long video.  Fueled by his love for adventure and communicating by means of photography, Richards has been to all seven continents and rewarded by rare sights that only those willing to leave their comfort zones could ever see.

He definitely has gone a long way, both literally and figuratively, from being a homeless high school dropout at 14 years old to taking some of the most beautiful photographs on the planet.

Richards’ piece demonstrates the scope of his work, the passion, and the extreme athleticism that accompanies him in the field getting the shot.

Why do we push ourselves to extremes?  Why do we go on trips that can have so much suffering and pain?

Richards tell us, in a visual and visceral sense, with his own nuggets of wisdom as to the reason why.

 

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What ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local’ Got Wrong

 

Why Farm-to-Table Food is Missing the Boat

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Above videoMeet Kelly Geary, founder of Sweet Deliverance.

A Blue Hill trained chef with a soft spot for small organic farms,
she’s on a mission helping New Yorkers take advantage of the
farm-fresh produce in their area, but just don’t have the time
to cook.

 

Excerpt: ‘What Farm to Table Got Wrong’
By Dan Barber

Pocantico Hills, N.Y. — It’s spring again.

Hip deep in asparagus — and, soon enough, tomatoes and zucchini — farm-to-table advocates finally have something from the farm to put on the table.

The crowds clamoring for just-dug produce at the farmers’ market and the local food co-op suggest that this movement is no longer just a foodie fad.  Today, almost 80 percent of Americans say sustainability is a priority when purchasing food.  The promise of this kind of majority is that eating local can reshape landscapes and drive lasting change.

Except it hasn’t.

More than a decade into the movement, the promise has fallen short.  For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised.

Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller.  In the last five years, we’ve lost nearly 100,000 farms (mostly midsize ones).  Today, 1.1 percent of farms in the United States account for nearly 45 percent of farm revenues.  Despite being farm-to-table’s favorite targets, corn and soy account for more than 50 percent of our harvested acres for the first time ever.

Between 2006 and 2011, over a million acres of native prairie were plowed up in the so-called Western Corn Belt to make way for these two crops, the most rapid loss of grasslands since we started using tractors to bust sod on the Great Plains in the 1920s.

How do we make sense of this odd duality: a food revolution on one hand, an entrenched status quo on the other?

I got a hint of the answer a few years ago, while standing in a field
in upstate New York.

 

Visiting the Klaas Farm

I was there because, many years before, I’d decided I wanted local flour for my restaurants.  I chose Lakeview Organic, a grain farm operated by Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens.

Klaas was growing a rare variety of emmer wheat (also known as farro), nearly extinct but for the efforts of a few farmers.

Milled and baked into whole wheat bread, the emmer was a revelation — intensely sweet and nutty.  I spoke routinely about the importance of local grain and the resurrection of lost flavors.  I was waving the farm-to-table flag and feeling pretty good about it, too.

Visiting Klaas those years later, hoping to learn what made the emmer so delicious, I realized I was missing the point entirely.  The secret to great-tasting wheat, Klaas told me, is that it’s not about the wheat.  It’s about the soil.

In fact, on a tour of his farm, there was surprisingly little wheat to see.  Instead, Klaas showed me fields of less-coveted grains and legumes like millet, barley and kidney beans, as well as cover crops like mustard and clover, all of which he plants in meticulously planned rotations.  

The rotations dictate the quality of the soil, which means they dictate the flavor of the harvests as well.  They are the recipe for his delicious emmer.

Each planting in the sequence has a specific function.  Klaas likes his field rotations to begin with a cover crop like the mustard plant.  Cover crops are often grown to restore nutrients depleted from a previous harvest. Plowed into the soil after maturity, mustard offers the added benefit of reducing pest and disease problems for subsequent crops.

Next Klaas will plant a legume, which does the neat trick of fixing nitrogen: grabbing it from the atmosphere and storing it in the plant’s roots.  Soybeans are a good choice; or kidney beans, if the local processor is paying enough to make it worth his while; or cowpeas, which he harvests for animal feed.

If there’s a dry spell, he’ll forgo beans altogether and pop in some hardy millet.  Oats or rye is next; rye builds soil structure and suppresses weeds.  Only then is Klaas’s soil locked and loaded with the requisite fertility needed for his wheat.

As much as I cling to tried and true recipes, Klaas doesn’t.  

Depending on what the soil is telling him, he may roll out an entirely different rotation.  If there’s a buildup of fungal disease in the field, the next season he’ll plant a brassica like cabbage or broccoli, followed by buckwheat, and then barley.  Barley is among Klaas’s favorite crops.  In addition to cleansing the soil of pathogens, it can be planted along with a nitrogen fixer like clover, further benefiting the soil.  Once again, the soil is ready for wheat.

 

Cherry-Picking Consumers

Standing in Klaas’s fields, I saw how single-minded I had been. Yes, I was creating a market for local emmer wheat, but I wasn’t doing anything to support the recipe behind it.  Championing Klaas’s wheat and only his wheat was tantamount to treating his farm like a grocery store.  I was cherry-picking what I most wanted for my menu without supporting the whole farm.

I am not the only one. In celebrating the All-Stars of the farmers’ market — asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, emmer wheat — farm-to-table advocates are often guilty of ignoring a whole class of humbler crops that are required to produce the most delicious food.

With limited American demand for local millet, rye and barley, 70 percent of Klaas’s harvest was going into livestock feed for chickens, pigs and dairy cattle.  In general, Klaas earned pennies on the dollar compared with what he’d make selling his crops for human consumption.

And we were missing out as well, on nutritious foods that are staples of the best cuisines in the world.

Investing in the right infrastructure means the difference between a farmers’s growing crops for cows or for cafeterias. It will take the shape of more local mills (for grains), canneries (for beans) and processors (for greens).

As heretical as this may sound, farm-to-table needs to embrace a few more middlemen…

 

Only an excerpt, you can read Mr. Barber’s full article here.

* * * * * * * * * *

We are still firm believers in the Humboldt farm-to-table movement.

As a trip to the local farmers market shows, our Humboldt community of local farms does an outstanding job of providing for us.

We’re believers for innumerable reasons:  the quality of our food, buying and having our money stay local, supporting local farms and families, the low environmental impact, and the responsibility of knowing how our food is grown and taking care of the land on a more sustainable basis.

Nonetheless, reading Mr. Barber’s full article was intriguing; providing insightful food for thought of what’s happening– or should be happening– to local agriculture  and farms everywhere.

 

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Record High Radiation in Seawater off Fukushima Plant

 

California Coastal Commission:
Radiation Plume to Hit Coast in Year

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

In the above video, Naoto Matsumara is the only resident
living a lonely existence in the exclusion zone around Japan’s
Fukushima nuclear power plant.

When the massive earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown in 2011, high levels of radiation forced all 16,000 residents to be evacuated.

Refusing the government’s plea to leave his hometown of Tomioka, Naoto vowed to take care of the animals that were left behind. 

Two years later, he still stays on– while little progress has been made cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters ever to occur.

 

Radiation has spiked to all-time highs at five monitoring points in waters adjacent to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday.

The measurements follow similar highs detected in groundwater at the plant.  Officials of Tepco said the cause of the seawater spike is unknown.

Three of the monitoring sites are inside the wrecked plant’s adjacent port.

At one sampling point in the port, between the water intakes for the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, 1,900 becquerels per liter of tritium was detected Monday, up from a previous high of 1,400 becquerels measured on April 14, Tepco said.

And at a point between the water intakes, seawater sampled Thursday was found to contain high levels of strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, and other beta ray-emitting isotopes.

Tepco is struggling to reduce contamination at the poorly protected plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  

Measures include plans to build a gigantic underground ice wall around the plant to keep the daily flow of groundwater from entering the cracked reactor buildings and mingling with the highly radioactive cooling water in their basements.

The ice wall project is expected to cost $300 million and will put a massive burden on the power grid when completed:  It will need about 45.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate, equal to annual power consumption of 13,000 average households.

The project involves freezing the soil into barricades 30 meters deep and 2 meters thick for a distance of 1,500 meters around the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.  The soil will be frozen by sinking pipes into the ground and running liquids through them at a temperature of minus 30 degrees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and contractor Kajima Corp. demonstrated a miniature ice wall to reporters at the site.  “We can confirm the frozen soil’s effect in blocking water,” a ministry official said afterwards. 

The department aims to begin construction next month.  But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not approved the plan saying its backers have so far provided insufficient reassurances about public safety.

International nuclear experts have also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the plan.  Germany has pledged to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 following the Fukushima diasaster.

Meanwhile, the California Coastal Commission downplayed fears about Fukushima-derived ocean radiation today.

The Commission issued a report stating that waterborne radiation levels off its coast are “far below that of naturally-occurring radioactive elements in the ocean.”

“Over the last three years, the radioactive ocean plume has been carried eastward by ocean currents, becoming increasingly diluted as it spreads over an ever-larger area and mixes to greater depths,” the report states. 

“The leading edge of the plume appears to have reached North America off of Vancouver Island, and could possibly reach California within the next year… Radioactive cesium derived from Fukushima has been detected at low levels in the tissues of highly-migratory fish species such as Pacific Bluefin tuna, which appear to have accumulated the cesium in their juvenile rearing grounds in the western Pacific,” the report adds.

The report advised that “the long-term effects of low-level radiation in the environment remain incompletely understood, and that this understanding would benefit from increased governmental support for the monitoring of radioactivity in seawater and marine life and the study of health outcomes linked to radiation exposure.”

 

Via Japan Times/Daily UK/Straight.com/Vimeo/UK Telegraph

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For GOP, “Conservative” Means Serving Corporate Power

 

Koch-Heads Tax Oklahoma’s Homegrown Energy Producers

VIDEO

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

Oklahomans have been socked with a surprise from their
own, supposedly “conservative” state officials.

It seems that thousands of Sooners have been putting solar panels on their homes to save on energy costs and reduce fossil-fuel pollution. Switching to solar even allows them to generate excess electricity, which they can transmit back to the grid and earn a credit on their monthly bills.

To reward such common sense and socially-beneficial energy innovation, the state’s Republican-controlled government slapped a new “fee” – actually, a tax – on the bills of those who convert from grid takers to grid producers in the future.

This crude slap in the face came with no advance notice, no public hearings, and no legislative debate.

“It just appeared out of nowhere,” said one local solar business owner.

But this was not from “nowhere.” It came from a secretive corporate front group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In exchange for getting millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, utilities, and other dirty-energy interests, ALEC is peddling a cookie-cutter bill from state-to-state that stops homeowners from switching to solar by taxing the energy they produce.  ALEC even adds insult to the injury its Koch-headed backers are doing by calling such homeowners “freeriders on the system.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who was in on this despicable sneak attack from the start, had her ego stroked by the Koch-financed front group last year.  ALEC presented its “Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award” to Fallin for her “record of advancing … free markets… and individual liberty.”

Now we know what the Koch-ALEC complex means by “free markets” and “liberty.”  They mean that corporate energy interests should be free to stifle our individual liberty.  

Thomas Jefferson would be ashamed to have his name attached to anything that this cabal of corporate and governmental Kleptocrats come up with.

Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels,”
www.thinkprogress.org, April 16, 2014.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

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28 Feet

 

Life on a Little Wooden Boat

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

~Mark Twain

 

 Take a break for a moment.

There’s news, and then there’s life.  Right now we’re choosing life.  This very moment about life.

Twenty Eight Feet: Life on a Little Wooden Boat is an 8-minute documentary about David Welsford, who surrendered up the luxuries of living on land for his search of happiness and adventure on his 50 year old wooden boat, the Lizzy Belle.

About sailing and beginning a new life of meaning aboard the Lizzy Belle, Welsford had this to say:

“Sailing dates back to 1300 BC and could possibly be our least environmentally damaging form of short and long term transportation.  To sail a boat on the open ocean requires a high level of respect and care for our natural world.

It’s hard believe where Lizzy Belle has taken us over the past 5 years. 

In 2009 I came across the 28-foot dry docked sailboat.  This long forgotten wooden boat—the Lizzy Belle– had been built in Chester, Nova Scotia, in 1968.

I’ll always remember in 2010 a small group of friends rallied around a small, beaten down, have rotten, little wooden boat on a wharf in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia to paint her hull.  Without any engine or masts, her future was bleak.  She was a scrap heap.

The next 5 months were spent examining and restoring every detail of her hull, decks and quarters.  Cracks were filled in her hull, dry rot replaced in her bow, a used engine installed.  Sanding, painting and and caulking seemed endless.  Main and mizzen masts were purchased.

The Lizzy Belle was revived.  She had a second chance at life.  Little did I know, she gave me one in return.

Owning and maintaining a traditional wooden sailboat requires continuous loving care.  In return, I receive what she provides me– the thrill of the open ocean sail, the challenge of seemingly endless creative problem solving, and the enjoyment of preserving an important part of Nova Scotian Heritage. 

She has given us opportunities and experiences far beyond one could ever imagine.  One thing seems to be constant though… nonstop support and love from friends and family. 

I learn, discover, explore and share with those following me.   There is an entire planet out there of people who live, think and live life differently.  We are bound for their shores.

We learn by putting ourselves out there.  We can only imagine what the challenges are until we are confronted with them.  And when we are, we will overcome them.”

 

Twenty Eight Feet: Life on a Little Wooden Boat has been shown around the world in over 22 film festivals. 

Receiving rave reviews and awards, Welsford is still pursuing the dream of sailing.  Finding a new lease on life, he continues tenderly loving his beautiful little 28-foot wooden boat, the Lizzy Belle, and his sailing companion, Sarah, on their voyages throughout the open seas.

 

I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea.

And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea– whether it is to sail or to watch it–we are going back from whence we came.

~John F. Kennedy

 

 

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From Billions to None

 

The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The passenger pigeon disappeared in a geologic heartbeat.  Because of us.

Imagine that tomorrow morning you woke up and discovered that the familiar rock pigeon—scientifically known as Columba livia, popularly known as the rat with wings—had disappeared.

It was gone not simply from your window ledge but from Piazza San Marco, Trafalgar Square, the Gateway of India arch, and every park, sidewalk, telephone wire, and rooftop in between.  

Would you grieve for the loss of a familiar creature, or rip out the spikes on your air-conditioner and celebrate?  Perhaps your reaction would depend on the cause of the extinction.  If the birds had been carried off in a mass avian rapture, or a pigeon-specific flu, you might let them pass without guilt, but if they had been hunted to death by humans you might feel honor-bound to bring them back to life.

In “A Feathered River Across the Sky:  The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,” Joel Greenberg’s studies a bird that really did vanish after near-ubiquity.

The passenger pigeon—sometimes called “the blue pigeon” for its color though the blue was blended with gray, red, copper, and brown– should not be confused with its distant cousin, the message-bearing carrier pigeon, which is really just a domesticated rock pigeon in military dress.

Unlike the rock pigeon– domesticated six thousand years ago, now feral, and brought to these shores by Europeans in the early seventeenth century– the passenger pigeon was native to North America, where it roved over a billion acres of the continent searching for bumper crops of tree nuts.

It was here, like the American bison, when Europeans arrived, and it was here when the peoples we consider indigenous migrated across their land bridge thousands of years before that.  It evolved on the unspoiled continent and was allied with the big trees that once covered much of the Northeast and the Midwest.

 

Most Numerous of Birds

The passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species in North America, and possibly the world, dominating the eastern half of the continent in numbers that stagger the imagination.

In 1813, John James Audubon saw a flock– if that is what you call an agglomeration of birds moving at sixty miles an hour and obliterating the noonday sun– that was merely the advance guard of a multitude that took three days to pass.

Alexander Wilson, the other great bird observer of the time, reckoned that the flock he saw contained 2,230,272,000 individuals.  

To get your head around that number and just how many passenger pigeons that would mean, consider that there are only about two hundred and sixty million rock pigeons in the world today.  You would have to imagine more than eight times the total world population of rock pigeons, all flying at the same time in one connected mass.

No wonder witnesses frequently described the birds in quasi-Biblical, if not apocalyptic, language.  A flight over Columbus, Ohio, in 1855 elicited the following eye-witness account:

“As the watchers stared, the hum increased to a mighty throbbing. Now everyone was out of the houses and stores, looking apprehensively at the growing cloud, which was blotting out the rays of the sun.

Children screamed and ran for home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted.

A few people mumbled frightened words about the approach of the millennium, and several dropped on their knees and prayed.”

 

On the ground, the birds were equally prodigious.  A joint at the corners of the lower bill enabled their mouths to more than double in size.  Their crops could hold “up to a quarter of a pint of foodstuffs,” and they could vomit at will if they saw a food that they liked better.

Thoreau, a keen watcher of the birds, marveled that they could swallow acorns whole.  A Detroit newspaper in the late nineteenth century described the squabs as having “the digestive capacity of half a dozen 14-year-old boys.”

In their wake, passenger pigeons left behind denuded fields and ravaged woods; descriptions conjure up those First World War photographs of amputated trees in no man’s land.  

“They would roost in one place until they broke all the limbs off the trees,” one old-timer recalled, “then they would move to adjoining timber & treat it likewise, then fire would break out in the old roost and destroy the remainder of the timber.”  Their droppings, which coated branches and lay a foot thick on the ground, like snow, proved toxic to the understory and fatal to the trees.

One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to a swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen; he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids
of birds many bodies deep. 

As late as 1871, a single nesting ground in Sparta, Wisconsin, covered eight hundred and fifty square miles, hosting more than a hundred million birds.

But the profusion was misleading.

 

The End of the Line

Twenty-nine years later, a boy in Ohio shot a passenger pigeon out of a tree with a twelve-gauge shotgun, killing what was identified as the last wild member of the species.

A small captive population remained at the Cincinnati Zoo, including a pair patriotically named George and Martha, but there would be no new feathered nation.  By 1910, Martha was the sole survivor. 

Martha spent four years as a melancholy zoo attraction.  Visitors tossed sand to get her to move.  Officials offered a thousand-dollar reward for a mate, but on September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon in the world died.

Newspapers described how Martha was frozen in a three-hundred-pound block of ice and sent by train from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C.  There she was skinned, stuffed, and put on display at the Smithsonian for a nation guiltily waking up to its role in the destruction of the bird and its habitat.

How could a bird could go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years? 

The short answer is that it tasted good.

 

Easy Pickings  

The bird was easy to kill and so abundant that it often seemed, in the days before refrigeration, like the quail that fell on the Israelites in Exodus.  In 1781, after a crop failure, a flock of pigeons saved a large swath of New Hampshire from starvation.  Despite the occasional apocalyptic shiver, most Americans looked up and decided that it was cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

The birds were such tempting targets that, in the early eighteenth century, cities had to ban hunting in town, because, in the words of one ordinance, from 1727, “everyone takes the liberty of shooting thoughtlessly from his windows, the threshold of his door, the middle of the streets.”

You did not even need a gun: you could poke them from their nests with poles or beat them out of the air with clubs– the weapon of choice Mark Twain recalled from his boyhood, in Hannibal, Missouri.  Squabs were fattened on “pigeon milk”– the sloughed-off lining of the birds’ crop that parents regurgitated for their young– and got so plump, Greenberg reports, that they would fall to earth with a “splat.”

The birds even killed themselves.  Greenberg conjures up a vision of pigeons crammed into their huge roosts, and then asks the reader to “imagine the destruction that would ensue when tree limbs, or at times entire trees, snapped and plummeted to the ground, crushing hundreds if not thousands of birds.  When flocks descended to drink, at times the birds that landed first would drown under the weight of newcomers.”  

No wonder Martha lived so long in her lonely cage.

For both Native Americans and European settlers, the appearance of passenger pigeons or the discovery of one of their giant roosting grounds became a festive occasion where every member of the family had a role: shooting the birds, knocking squabs out of nests, chasing the unfledged runaways, and collecting the dead for pickling, salting, baking, or boiling.

Boys stuck long hickory poles into the ground, pulled on ropes tied to the tips of the poles, and knocked birds down simply by making the poles quiver. Nets were stretched between trees. A roosting ground in Tennessee was set on fire and “scorched corpses were then collected the next day for personal use or sale” from two-foot-high piles of the dead.

More elaborate methods were used, of course—like luring the birds into nets with a live pigeon, which is the origin of the term “stool pigeon.”  A demand for stool pigeons opened up a trade in live birds, and so did the later development of “trap shooting,” in which live birds were mechanically launched into the air for sportsmen.

So many birds died in transport to the shoots that huge numbers were needed.  The “clay pigeon” was devised by passenger-pigeon hunters to replicate the experience after the actual birds grew scarce.

As long as America was rural and untraversed by railroads, the killing did not seem to do much more than dent the vast pigeon population.  After the Civil War, however, things began to change rapidly.

You could find out by telegraph where pigeons were nesting, get there quickly by train, and sell what you killed to a city hundreds of miles away.  Soon market hunters began operating on an enormous scale, cramming tens of thousands of birds into boxcars—especially after Gustavus Swift introduced the refrigerator car, in 1878.

This meant that rural migrants to growing cities could still get wild game, and the well-heeled could eat Ballotine of Squab à la Madison, served by a new class of restaurant, like Delmonico’s, in New York, where fine dining was becoming a feature of urban life.  All this coincided with an explosion in logging, which began destroying the habitat of pigeons just as hunters were destroying the pigeons themselves.

We did hunt the passenger pigeon to death, even if we didn’t quite understand at the time what we were doing.  

We also might have saved it, at least in token form, if only our technological genius and our conservation consciousness– two things that set us apart from other animals– had come together sooner.

Human beings live in their historical and cultural contexts as much as passenger pigeons lived in fields, trees, and sky; it is important to remember, for example, that rural people hunted for food in the days before factory farming and supermarkets.  The chicken industry in this country alone kills more than seven billion birds a year– far more than the total number of passenger pigeons at their peak.

Nobody in the nineteenth century had figured out how to make the slaughter of the birds sustainable, but it is worth wondering what we would think of the passenger pigeon, and ourselves, if they had.

Thoreau, in a mysteriously beautiful passage in his 1862 essay “Walking,” likens the diminishing numbers of passenger pigeons in New England to the dwindling number of thoughts in a man’s head, “for the grove in our minds is laid waste.”

Thinking of the birds as missing thoughts is a good way to honor them.  Martha and her billions were undone by the complicated, pitiless tangle of our modern industrialized world, but Thoreau’s nineteenth-century protest—“Simplify, simplify”—will not help us in the twenty-first.

Indeed, when it comes to our relationship to nature, the wish for simplicity may be the most destructive thing in the world.

~Via Joel Greenberg/Jon Rosen/Anthony Kendall/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Our best wishes and heartfelt appreciation goes out to the
Yurok Tribe for their efforts in restoring the Condor

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The Amazing New Humboldt Bay Eagle Cam

 

They’re Back

And So is a New Higher-Def Camera

VIDEO CAMERA LINK

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

They’re back.  And they’re beautiful.

We’re excited our namesake mascots are back.  We watched these eagles all last summer and were kind of sad when they all left.  Talk about having an ‘empty nest syndrome’.

Welcome to the nesting pair of bald eagles in Humboldt Bay, Arcata.

Constructed on top of a Douglas fir tree near Bayside, this famous and rare nest has a well recorded breeding history going back to 2006.

In the 2013 breeding season two nest cameras were installed by the Institute for Wildlife Studies who monitor a number of active nests in the area.  The Humboldt Bay Eagles nest is quite different from other nests because the nest is monitored by multiple tilt-zoom cameras and can relay information from different angles.

Bald eagles breed once a year and remain with one mate as long as they are alive and successful at breeding.  The nest has created quite the buzz and offspring in Humboldt and the newly installed higher-definition camera seen at the top, above, has been a hit for viewing better quality images of the breeding pair. 

Just press the blue  ’Play’ button above and give the site a few seconds to upload itself.  You can also watch both camera views at www.iws.org/hbe.html and see reports of nesting activities at the Humboldt Bay Eagles Forum.

Shhh.  The exact location of the nest, however, is a closely guarded secret.

To note, this nest is also unique because it harbors activity of other animals besides the eagles.  It turns out the nest is very actively used by Northern Pacific Chorus frogs living in the tree.  The frogs generally come out when the evening weather warms above a certain temperature.

During the camera installation, the person in charge left the camera lying in the
nest.  When he returned the next day to finish, there was a frog hiding in the mounting housing.  As a canopy ecologist, he knew right away that this was significant– it’s the second highest known location for a Pacific Chorus Frog.

With infrared lighting, observers are able to see the frogs at night and knowing there is no data about chorus frog behaviors at this “elevation” in trees, a citizen science project was started.

But the raptors are the fascinating star of the show.  Come back to this site again and again– day or night– to see what our eagles have been up to during different times of the day and season. 

A word to the wise:  the family is growing– and the hatching is happening.

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Thank you for being beautiful birds too: 
JEH, Humboldt Bay Birds,
and Lithuanian Princess!

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Into Thin Air

 

13 Sherpas Dead as Avalanche Sweeps Mount Everest

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Kathmandu, NepalIt was the single deadliest accident on
Mount Everest, officials said.

A high altitude avalanche swept down a slope of Mount Everest on Friday along a route used to ascend the world’s highest peak, killing at least 13 people in the mountain’s deadliest disaster.  All the dead were Sherpa guides.

Three of the unnamed guides were seriously wounded.  Four others are missing, said Nepal’s Tourism Ministry, adding that six other people were injured in total.

A group of about 50 people, mostly Nepali Sherpas, were hit by the avalanche at more than 20,000 feet, said Tilak Ram Pandey of the ministry’s mountaineering department.  Ethnic Sherpas acts as guides for the mostly foreign and wealthy clients scaling the largest mountain on the planet.

The avalanche took place just above base camp in the Khumbu Ice Fall.  The guides had gone early in the morning to fix the ropes for hundreds of climbers when the avalanche hit them just below Camp 2 around 6:30 a.m. local time.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support guides had gathered at the base camp, gearing up for their final attempt to scale the 29,035-foot peak early next month when weather conditions get favorable.  They have been setting up their camps at higher altitudes and guides fixing routes and ropes on the slopes ahead of the final ascend to the summit in May.

As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.  A helicopter was also sent.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said that the area where the avalanche occurred is nicknamed the “popcorn field,” and
is just below Camp 2 at 21,000 feet.

The climbers were accounted for, Tshering said. “Rescue teams have gone… to look for the missing Sherpas.”

Before Friday, the deadliest single-day toll was from an accident in May 1996, when eight climbers disappeared when a huge storm hit.  Their tragic story was chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book “Into Thin Air.”

Climbers and guides had been setting the ropes for the route, acclimating to the climate and preparing the camps along the route when the avalanche hit Friday, said Gordon Janow with Alpine Ascents International in Seattle.

The spring climbing season is the busiest of the year.

Climbers arrive in April to acclimate to the altitude before heading toward the summit of the world’s highest mountain.  Between May 15 and 30 is usually the best window for reaching the 29,028-foot peak.

About 334 foreign climbers have been given permission to climb Everest over the next couple of months, with an estimated 400 Sherpas helping them, mountaineering officials said.

Until the late 1970s, only a handful of climbers reached the top each year.  The number topped 100 for the first time in 1993.  By 2004, it was more than 300.  In 2012, the number was more than 500.

The deadliest year on Everest was 1996, when 15 people died.  Another 12 climbers were killed in 2006.  What often isn’t reported is that 1,215 Everest Sherpas have lost their lives from 2000 to 2010 hoisting gear and supplies on the world’s most dangerous mountain.

 

~Via Himalayan and Pakistan Times, CNN, NBC, Outside magazine and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

On Mount Everest, it’s the Sherpa guides who bear the brunt of danger for their rich paying clients.

They are famous for guiding mountain climbers up some of the world’s highest peaks.  And while Sherpa guides earn relatively good pay for their work, they and their families pay a steep price in death and injury.

Their death rate is 1.2 percent per climb.  After so many laps up the mountain, the odds are stacked against them.

According to Grayson Schaffer, a senior editor and writer for Outside magazine, a Sherpa working above Everest’s base camp is nearly 10 times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman, yet they have little financial protection by the companies who charge Western climbers thousands of dollars for a trip up the mountain.

It’s all about mitigating the risk:  the avalanches, crevasses, falls, and breathing only 1/3 of the normal oxygen levels found above sea level.

One of the dirtiest secrets for mitigating risk on a mountain like Everest is paying somebody else to carry your tent, your stove, oxygen tanks, and all of your equipment up the mountain– so you can enjoy the glory of ‘conquest’ safely.

 

Summits of My Life – Trailer from sebastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.

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The Problem With Plastic

 

Garbage in the Gyre

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Disposable plastics are a problem.

We’ve been sold on the wonder of plastic.  It’s ubiquitous  in
our lives and everpresent in our environment.

It comes in any color of the rainbow, it can be made into any shape you want, and unlike wood or glass, it doesn’t break.  The problem is, we use it in so many “disposable” products that the plastic will long outlive us.

In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments– like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles– are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world.  This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.

Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.  46 percent of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.

44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.  One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

Consider this:

Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).   Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.  50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.  The vast majority is not recycled or recovered.

What more do we need to see?

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four timesWe currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.

The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.  Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate and it takes 500-1,000 years for most plastic to degrade.

Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.  Annually, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide– with more than one million bags used every minute.

* * * * * * * * *

Via Ecowatch, 5 Gyres, Chris Jordan’s Midway, and Vimeo

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Little Shop of Horrors

 

Carnivorous Monsters on the Loose

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, cobras and corkscrews all have something
in common:  they’re unique, beautiful, and in the carnivorous
sense, hungry for prey.

There are virtually no nutrients available in their normal planting media, so carnivorous plants– predatory and flowering– are evolved to catch prey, supplementing for the nutrients lacking in their soil. 

Carnivorous plants eat things like insects, spiders, crustaceans and other small soil and water-living invertebrates, as well as lizards, mice, and rats on occasion.  They pull off this trick using specialized leaves that act as traps.  Many traps lure prey with bright colors, extra floral nectaries, guide hairs, or leaf extensions.

Once caught and killed, the prey is digested by the plant and partner organisms.  It then absorbs the nutrients made available to them from the corpse, like the African sundew, at right.

Specializing in savage gardens and carnivorous plant species since 1989, California Carnivores in Sebastopol is the largest shop of its kind in the world.

Peter D’Amato has been growing carnivorous plants for nearly 40 years.  Co-founder of the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society, D’Amato is considered the nation’s foremost expert on the subject, having written and lectured on the subject for many magazines and various gatherings over the years. 

Appearing on many television shows, including several Home and Garden Network programs, Martha Stewart Living, and various travel and garden shows from CNN to local California news programs, D’Amato lives and breathes predatory plants.

In 1997 Peter was approached by an editor of Ten Speed Press, after the editor heard people at a party speaking of his strange nursery and visiting the real-life Little Shop of Horrors.  The result was the book The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants, written in long-hand in ten months and published with the help of many friends and customers.  The book has won rave reviews and received two Book Awards.  It is now in its eighth printing.

D’Amato’s shop offers many rare plants that are otherwise very hard to come by, constantly importing plants from all over the world and making divisons and cuttings in his nursery for enthusiasts worldwide.

“Even after all these years I’m am still in awe at the beauty and sinister mystery of carnivorous plants, just as much as the day I first lay eyes on them, D’Amato said. 

“Nothing is more gratifying than to hear of people who have had just as much fun
growing these monstrous marvels of nature as I have.”

* * * * * * * * *

Carry on and watch those fingers.

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Rainy Day Stomp

 

Don’t Let It Get Away

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“The richness of the rain makes me feel safe and protected.

I have always considered the rain to be healing—a blanket—the comfort of a friend.  Without at least some rain on any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and I yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.”

~Douglas Coupland, Life After God

 

Looks like rain. 

Lots of it.  Days of it.  Inches of it. 

Let it rain and shower down. 

Stay inside and work.  Go outside and play.

Whatever you do, don’t let the day and the rain get away.

 

 

Rainy day in Tahoe from Brad Kremer on Vimeo.

 

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The Everlasting Redwood

 

Majestic Cathedrals of Beauty and Grace

VIDEO by Finley-Holiday Films

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

They’re rare and they’re beautiful.

Coast redwoods grow only one place on Earth—right here on the Pacific Coast, from Big Sur to southern Oregon.  Earlier in the Earth’s history, redwoods had a much wider habitat, including western North America and along the coasts of Europe and Asia.  

The earliest redwoods showed up on Earth shortly after the dinosaurs– and before flowers, birds, spiders, and, of course, humans.  Redwoods have been around for about 240 million years, compared to about 200,000 years for “modern” humans.

Officially, the oldest living coast redwood is at least 2,200 years old but foresters believe some of our coast redwoods may be much older.  It can grow to 300 feet or more—making it the tallest tree on Earth.  

Right now, there are about 50 redwood trees taller than 360 feet living along the Pacific Coast.  Yet their root system is only 6 to 12 feet deep: redwoods create the strength to withstand powerful winds and floods by extending their roots more than 50 feet from the trunk and living in groves where their roots can
intertwine.  

While we have 2,000-year-old redwoods in our neighborhood, most of the redwoods we see are much, much younger– about 50-150 years old.  Since California’s Gold Rush in 1848, about 95% of the redwood forest– which once stretched across northern California– was logged.

The trees are crucial to maintaining a stable, human-friendly climate.  Studies show coast redwoods capture more carbon dioxide (CO2) from our cars, trucks and power plants than any other tree on Earth.  Keep in mind that as the climate changes, the redwood forests are one of the very few areas that can provide a refuge for plants and animals to survive, because the area has many microclimates, is cooled by coastal summertime fog, and is still largely unpaved.

Wild, endangered creatures like mountain lions, coho salmon and marbled murrelet rely on the local redwood forests.  They need large, contiguous areas of diverse habitat to survive, especially as the climate changes and needing to adapt quickly if necessary.  Mountain lions often travel hundreds of miles in a week; Coho salmon depend on unblocked, free-flowing streams to spawn; and the endangered marble murrelet, a sea bird, only nests in the tallest old-growth redwoods and old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Redwoods live so long and are treasured by humans for building because they are extremely resistant to insects, fire and rot.  At one time, San Francisco’s building codes required redwood lumber to be used in the foundations of new structures.  A redwood tree’s bark can be 1 foot thick, and containing tannin, protects the tree from fire, insects, fungus and diseases.

There is no known insect that can destroy a redwood tree.  Fire isn’t a big threat because the trunk is thick, there’s lots of water inside the tree, and the bark doesn’t have flammable resin like a pine tree does.

The familiar local redwood trees we see are officially called sequoia sempervirens, meaning “always green.”  There are two other types of sequoia trees still living and both are close relatives of our local coast redwood.

The “Giant Sequoia” (officially sequoiadendron giganteum) grows only in California’s Sierra Nevada range and is actually shorter but heftier than our coast redwood.  You can see them in places like Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.  The “Dawn Redwood” (officially metasequoia glyptostroboides) grows only in a remote area of central China and is about one-third the height of our coast redwood.

So, when you take a stroll through the redwoods of Humboldt, remember these majestic cathedrals of nature. 

You are in a nursery of relatively young redwoods that will grow for 2,000 years, outliving you and your children, and hopefully seen by the generations of grandchildren to come.

* * * * * * * * *

Film credit:  ’National Ranger Talk’ by Finley-Holiday Films,
                           William Helmuth, and Susanna Ausema

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Massive Scallop Die-Off Raises Red Flags

 

Shellfish Succumbing to Rising Ocean Acidity

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

If we don’t pay attention, shellfish hunting may be a thing
of the past.

A rise of carbon in the atmosphere is raising acidity in oceans and causing ‘cascading effect’ at all levels of the food chain with declines of shellfish populations being seen across the West Coast, a new report says.

An increase of acidity in the Pacific Ocean is quickly killing off one of the world’s most beloved shellfish, the scallop, according to the report by the British Columbia Shellfish Grower’s Association.

“By June of 2013, we lost almost 95 per cent of our crops,” Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops in B.C. told Canada’s CTV News.

The cause of this increase in acidity, scientists say, is the exponential burning of fossil fuels for energy and its subsequent pollution.

Oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, which causes acidity to rise.  An overdose of carbon in the atmosphere subsequently causes too much acidity in the world’s oceans, Chris Harley, a marine ecologist from the University of British Columbia, said.

Overly acidic water is bad for shellfish, as it impairs them from developing rigid shells.  Oyster hatcheries along the West Coast are also experiencing a steep decline.

“This is a bit of a red flag,” said Harley.

And this red flag has a much bigger impact than one might imagine. 

Oysters, too, are extremely vulnerable to the acidity, preventing sea creatures from
growing skeletons and shells making them more vulnerable to bacterial infections
and predators.

Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington started seeing problems in 2005, with massive die offs by 2009.  Seedling oysters would sometimes disappear from tanks overnight.

“The oysters are still laying down shell – it’s just that it is dissolving from the outside faster than they can grow it.  Eventually, they lose that race and they die,” Bill Dewey, communications director for Taylor Shellfish said.

Taylor Shellfish is the nation’s largest producer with 11,000 acres in production and 500 employees.  The company is moving more of its operations to warmer waters in Hawaii to dodge the corrosive acid-ocean bullet.

“I think we will survive and figure out a way through this.  I don’t think it bodes well for other species in the ocean and fishing interests that rely totally on natural production, salmon that rely on pteropods, and so on.  It’s going to be a different game out there,” Dewey said.

“Whenever we see an impact at some level of the food chain, there is
a cascading effect at other levels of the food chain,” said Peter Ross,
an expert in ocean pollution science.

Another recent study also warned that ocean acidification is accelerating at a rate unparalleled in the life of the oceans—perhaps the fastest rate in the planet’s existence—which is degrading marine ecosystems on a mass scale.

“The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history,” said German marine biologist Hans Poertner upon the release of a study published in the journal Nature.

Ocean acidification has been referred to as the “evil twin” of climate change.

Poertner says that if humanity’s industrial carbon emissions continue with a “business as usual” attitude, levels of acidity in the world’s oceans will be catastrophic.

Until changes are made, it’s a matter of preparing for the worst.

“For at least a year, probably even a little bit longer, we have not been able to obtain shellfish, so we’ve been carrying the east coast ones,” said Catherine Yamamoto from Wheelhouse Seafoods in Vancouver.

 “I do worry that it’s a sign of things coming,” said Yamamoto.

 

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Fukushima Radiation Data Wildly Wrong

 

The Management Sincerely Apologizes for Your Inconvenience–

–What’s In Your Pacific Ocean?

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

From The Times of India:

NEW DELHI:  Tepco, the utility company that is managing the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan said that there were mistakes in the radiation levels they recorded last year.

According to Japanese media, Tepco announced last week that what was recorded as 900,000 becquerels per liter of deadly beta radiation from a test-well last July was wrong– and the actual level should read 5 million becquerels per liter.

That’s five times more than what they announced previously, and nearly 170,000 times more than the permissible level leaked into the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said on February 7 that it will review a “massive” amount of radiation data it has collected at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant because readings may be lower than actual figures due to improper measurement.

“We are very sorry, but we found cases in which beta radiation readings turned out to be wrong when the radioactivity concentration of a sample was high,” TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono told a press conference, according to Kyodo News.

Beta rays are high speed electrons that penetrate living matter with ease and can cause several types of cancer and death.  These lethal rays are emitted from various radioactive materials, but mainly from Strontium-90, which is a by-product of reactions occurring in nuclear power plant reactors.

It is likely that the total radioactivity of water samples is 10 million becquerels/liter if all beta ray sources are counted, according to Asahi Shimbun.

Tepco has not yet revealed results of 140 samples taken between June and November last year, fearing similar under-estimates.  The company said that “malfunctions of analytical equipment” caused these errors, Asahi Shimbun said.

Strontium-90 has a half life of 28.8 years; that is, any amount of the radioactive substance will decay to half the starting amount in 28.8 years.  It can thus get absorbed and continue to damage living tissue of plants as well as animals including fish.

The well from which this sample was taken is near the embankment between the damaged reactors and the sea.

Meanwhile the company also revealed that on February 6,600 liters of contaminated water, containing 2,800 becquerels of beta-ray sources per liter, leaked from piping leading to a tank at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged during the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan’s eastern coast in March 2011.  The utility company Tepco has struggled to control the situation with at least one nuclear reactor in a stare of meltdown.

Over 360,000 tons of contaminated water has accumulated at the site after being poured over the simmering reactors.

* * * * * * * *

A ticking time bomb, Fukushima continues to fester in secretPay attentionPay very close attention.

 

Via Undernews/The Times of India/RT and YouTube 
Appreciation goes to Tom Sebourn

Posted in Environment, Media, National1 Comment

Algae to Crude Oil in an Hour

 

Milestone Step Achieved:

Million Year Natural Process Takes Minutes in the Lab

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Engineers have created a milestone chemical process that produces useful crude oil just minutes after engineers pour in harvested algae — a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.

A research team combined several chemical steps into one continuous process that starts with an algae slurry that contains as much as 80 to 90 percent water.  Most current processes require the algae to be dried — an expensive process that takes a lot of energy. 

The current innovation is an important step of many towards producing cost-effective green fuel energy in the near future.

 

An innovative process that starts with an algae slurry efficiently produces crude oil in less than an hour, researchers say.  

The biocrude oil can then be refined conventionally into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory engineers say their method is a continuous process that beats previous attempts to harness algae as fuel.

They say their work has led to a cheaper and less energy intensive technique.  It also results in a wastewater stream from which flammable gas can be recovered and nutrients that can grow more algae.

“Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel,” said lead researcher Douglas Elliott in a statement.  “We believe that the process we’ve created will help make algae biofuels much more economical.”

The largest problem they solved was to get the system to start with wet algae instead of dry, a previous requirement to create crude oil that meant significant energy inputs.  Instead, they can convert slurries that are up to 90 percent water into black crude.

“Not having to dry the algae is a big win in this process; that cuts the cost a great deal,” said Elliott.  ”Then there are bonuses, like being able to extract usable gas from the water and then recycle the remaining water and nutrients to help grow more algae, which further reduces costs.”

Their research-sized reactor can process 1.6 quarts of algae per hour, a major improvement over previous batch-by-batch processing that opens the door to scaling production up to industrial levels.  

To convert the wet soup of simple organisms into crude, the system subjects them to water heated to 662 degrees Fahrenheit and pressure of around 3,000 pounds per square inch.  These extreme conditions trigger hydrothermal liquefaction and catalytic hydrothermal gasification, which are the same processes that organic matter undergoes in the natural conversion to crude oil underground.

“It’s a formidable challenge to make a biofuel that is cost-competitive with established petroleum-based fuels,” James Oyler,
president of Genifuel, a biofuel company that is licensing the PNNL
technology and building a pilot plant to try it out.  

The milestone step significantly cuts short the 10-year expected research and development wait developing  algae-based biofuels.  “This is a huge step in the right direction,” Oyler noted.

 

From their bio:  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory addresses issues in energy and the environment through advances in basic and applied science.  Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million.  It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy.

* * * * * * * * * *

 

(Via Tom Rickey/PNNL and YouTube)

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Posted in Energy, Environment0 Comments

Swimming in the Rain

 

The Golden Days of Aquafornia

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Golden State hasn’t been so golden lately. 

It’s been more of a bone-dry brown color, and if it keeps up there
will be more wildfire days than swimming ones come summer.

The rain currently falling is a welcome respite.  Over the past few days most of California has experienced an atmospheric phenomenon not experienced in quite some time: measurable rain and snow has fallen across much of the state for the first time since early December.

Two systems have moved through the state.  The first dropped significant precipitation primarily in the Sierra foothills, and the second (and ongoing) system is currently bringing cold showers to California’s coastal regions.

Between these two systems, the incredible zero-rain spell across nearly the entire state has finally been broken.  

While runoff into rivers and streams from these two events has been virtually nonexistent, the observed rainfall has drastically lowered the risk of wildfire (and Central Valley dust storms) for the short term.   In a rather dramatic contrast to the all-time record warmth measured several weeks ago, accumulating snowfall has been reported today in parts of Northern California.

January 2014 will probably go down in the record books as the warmest and driest in California history.  This is certainly the case for most of California’s major cities while many other places also exceeded their previous all-time record for consecutive dry days during the so-called “rainy season.”  Our all-too-familiar Ridiculously Resilient Ridge—an unprecedented offshore high-pressure barrier stretching 4 miles high and nearly 2,000 miles long– dominated the weather throughout January, pushing moisture away to the south and north of us in California.

The incredibly dry conditions brought about by the RRR mean that much of the San Francisco Bay Area has been drier than Death Valley over the past six months or so– and perhaps even drier than parts of the northern Sahara Desert.

At a recent press conference detailing the unprecedented measures currently being undertaken in response to California’s exceptional drought, a Department of Water Resources official claimed that California would need to receive heavy precipitation every other day between now and the beginning of May to eliminate the existing precipitation deficit.

That’s not likely to happen.  It is becoming increasingly clear that at least some towns and cities in California do not have enough drinking water to make it through summer, and emergency contingency plans are being put into place in anticipation of even more water districts running dry as the drought continues.

For the first time in history, State Water Project  deliveries will not occur south of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta this year.  The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.

The 29 agencies that draw from the state’s water-delivery system have other sources, although those also have been hard-hit by the drought.  State officials say 17 rural communities—including Willits– are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months.  Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities.  Others have long-running problems that predate the drought.

It’s hard to say exactly how much rainfall we would need to stave off the worst effects of the drought. 

2/3 of the rainy season has already passed and it will be hard to reach even a modest level of water security without much-above-normal precipitation for the rest of the traditional wet season.  Right now, that scenario just doesn’t appear to be in the cards even as the 2014 political water wars heat up

Conserve.  Do the rain dance.  Pray.  Swimming in the Golden State of Aquafornia may soon become a distant memory of our youth if the weather holds out.

* * * * * * * *

“I Go Swimming” performed by Peter Gabriel. 

Our appreciation goes out to Doug Curran and family for sharing his vacation video with us here.

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Native Americans: ‘No Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cross Our Lands’

 

Native Groups Vow Resistance Against ‘Black Snake’ Pipeline

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Sarah Lazare
Common Dreams

 

It could get loud.

Native American communities are promising fierce resistance to stop TransCanada from building, and President Barack Obama from permitting, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“No Keystone XL pipeline will cross Lakota lands,” declares a joint statement from Honor the Earth, the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred.  “We stand with the Lakota Nation, we stand on the side of protecting sacred water, we stand for Indigenous land-based lifeways which will NOT be corrupted by a hazardous, toxic pipeline.”

Members of seven Lakota nation tribes, as well as indigenous communities in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, are preparing to take action to stop Keystone XL.

“It will band all Lakota to live together and you can’t cross a living area if it’s occupied,” said Greg Grey Cloud, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, in an interview with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.  “If it does get approved we aim to stop it.”

The indigenous-led ‘Moccasins on the Ground’ program has been laying the groundwork for this resistance for over two years by giving nonviolent direct action trainings to front-line communities.

“We go up to wherever we’ve been invited, usually along pipeline routes,” said Kent Lebsock, director of the Owe Aku International Justice Project, in an interview with Common Dreams.  “We have three-day trainings on nonviolent direct action.  This includes blockade tactics, and discipline is a big part of the training as well.  We did nine of them last summer and fall, all the way from Montana to South Dakota, as well as teach-ins in Colorado and a training camp in Oklahoma.”

“We are working with nations from Canada and British Columbia, as well as with the people where tar sands are located,” Lebsock added.

“As an example of this nonviolent direct action,” explains Lebsock, in March 2012 people at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota held a blockade to stop trucks from transporting parts of the Keystone XL pipeline through the reservation.

In August 2013, members of the Nez Perce tribe blockaded megaloads traveling Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Descendants of the Ponca Tribe and non-native allies held a Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp in Nebraska in November to prevent the construction of the pipeline.

More spiritual camps along the proposed route of the pipeline are promised, although their date and location are not yet being publicly shared.

The promises of joint action follow the U.S. State Department’s public release on Friday of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). This report has been widely criticized as tainted by
the close ties between Transcanada and the Environmental Resource
Management contractor hired to do the report.

While the oil industry is largely spinning the report as a green-light for the pipeline, green groups emphasize that it contains stern warnings over the massive carbon pollution that would result if the pipeline is built, including the admission that tar sands oil produces approximately 17 percent more carbon than traditional crude.

The release of the FEIS kicked off a 90-day inter-agency review and 30-day public comment period. 

The pipeline’s opponents say now is a critical time to prevent Obama from approving the pipeline, which is proposed to stretch 1,179 miles from Alberta, Canada, across the border to Montana, and down to Cushing, Oklahoma where it would link with other pipelines, as part of a plan to drastically increase Canada’s tar sands production.

The southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline — which begins in Cushing, passes through communities in Oklahoma and East Texas, and arrives at coastal refineries and shipping ports — began operations last month after facing fierce opposition and protest from people in its path.

“Let’s honor the trail blazers from the Keystone XL south fight,” said Idle No More campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller. “Time for some action, and yes, some of us may get arrested!”

 

~Via UnderNews /Common Dreams, Indian Country News, Censored News, Honor the Earth and Winona LaDuke/YouTube

* * * * * * *

Click here to look for an event near you, and sign up to host if there isn’t one near you.

Click here to sign a petition to urge Obama to stop the Keystone XL.

Support Moccasins on the Ground to organize further grassroots resistance.

 

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Posted in Environment, Features, National3 Comments

Biotech Giants Sue Kauai for Restricting GMOs and Pesticides

 

Bullying the Hawaiian Islands into Sickness and Submission

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The “big dogs” in chemical agriculture are on a witch hunt to reverse a bill passed by the Kauai County Council in November to set reasonable restrictions on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the Hawaiian island.

According to the Huffington Post, an unholy trinity represented by DuPont, Syngenta and Agrigenetics Inc. (an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences) have filed a federal lawsuit arguing against Measure 2491, which is intended to set buffer zones between schools and fields sprayed with pesticide.  It also requires companies to disclose when and where they are spraying their poisonous concoctions as well as report genetically modified crops.

As it currently stands in Kauai, chemical companies have very few restrictions on where they are allowed to plant GM crops and how often they are allowed to spray undisclosed chemicals on fields.

Because of this, many areas of the island have become toxic hotbeds with local residents reporting allergies, neurological damage and other major afflictions stemming from exposure to GMOs and crop chemicals, issues addressed by Measure 2491.

The biotechnology industry is fighting tooth and nail to destroy Measure 2491, which would expose the massive environmental damage being caused by the industry’s activities on the otherwise
pristine island.

According to reports, the chemical industry is claiming Measure 2491 is unconstitutional because it interferes with state and federal laws governing GMO cultivation, a desperate attempt by Big Biotech to thwart public transparency of its operations.  The chemical companies don’t want the public to know what chemicals they’re spraying.

“They chose to use their money and legal power to bully us in court,” stated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill.  ”These companies do not want our county to set a democratic precedent that other communities are going to follow.”

The irony of the industry claiming that its rights are somehow being violated by Measure 2491, set to take effect in August, is that these same chemical companies have never had to prove the safety of their chemical solutions to regulators.  Instead, they have repeatedly been allowed to violate the rights of the very public they are now suing by their indiscriminate use of proprietary and undisclosed chemicals.

“We do not know and cannot properly research and evaluate these impacts because the companies will not tell us what chemicals they are using,” added Hooser.  “Instead, they choose to ignore the decision of our local community and take us to court.”

Since its announcement, the lawsuit has generated a groundswell of support from outside organizations in support of Kauai and Measure 2491.  Over 4000 nurses in Hawaii supported passage of the bill, as well as most of the doctors and nurses on Kauai    Multiple law firms and various environmental lawyers have already offered to fight the triple lawsuit pro bono– or free of charge.

“You’ve got three very big corporations all ganging up to bring this lawsuit,” noted Paul Achitoff, an attorney at Earthjustice, an organization supportive of Measure 2491.  ”If it costs them a little more money to beef up their security rather than using secrecy, that’s what they need to do.”

If successful in their endeavor, DuPont, Syngenta and Agrigenetics Inc. will have Measure 2491 declared invalid under the constitutions of both the U.S. and Hawaii, as well as have their legal fees for filing the lawsuit reimbursed by the small Hawaiian county.

A scheduling conference for the lawsuit is set for April 14 in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu, according to the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

http://online.wsj.com

http://www.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

 

(Via Natural News, Huffington Post, YouTube, and Roseanne Barr)

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Posted in Environment, National1 Comment

California Drought in Pictures

 

Statewide Rain Average:  4 Inches of Rain in Last 13 Months

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

California has seen its share of droughts, but — at least in recent years — it hasn’t seen something like this.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week, shortly after it was revealed that 2013 was the state’s driest year in recorded history.  San Francisco saw a low record-shattering 5.59 inches of rain– compared to the previous low record of 9 inches– while dry Los Angeles saw just 3.6 inches of precipitation in all of 2013.

To make matters worse, there isn’t a drop of rain in sight.  Right now, with snow and freezing temperatures battering the rest of the country, the forecast was a sunny 77 degrees in Los Angeles.

While those bundled and shivering on the East Coast might have little sympathy for the Golden State’s January summer-like beach weather, take a look at what the drought has done to the water supply across our state:

 

A bathtub ring around the San Gabriel Reservoir in the Angeles National Forest reveals the low water level

 

Girls walk on rocks that normally make up the water’s edge at Folsom Lake

 

Forestry experts feared the drought would prime the Sierra Nevada mountain range for a major fire, a prediction that sadly came to fruition during the devastating Rim Fire that burned through hundreds of acres of Yosemite National Park

 

This month’s Colby Fire, which destroyed several Southern California homes, was also worsened by the drought.  Drought conditions and an early season is a predictor of the worst forest and wildland fires expected on state record.

 

Signs opposing California lawmakers — seen by some as responsible for worsening drought conditions with legislation — are common in the inland Central Valley and display the increasing tension over water rights in the state

 

A fish washed ashore on the banks of Folsom Lake

 

Governor Jerry Brown compares satellite photos of the Sierra Nevada snow pack from 2013 and 2014 at a press conference to declare the state in a drought emergency

 

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources look over a meadow that is usually covered in snow during the final survey of the 2012/2013 season in May

 

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources measure snow levels near Echo Summit in January, 2014. The readings showed the water content in the snowpack was at 20 percent of average for this time of year

 

The drought isn’t limited to California: the low water level can be seen at Hoover Dam in Nevada, as well

 

Conditions are expected to worsen further as officials apprehensively monitor the state’s water resources

 

 

It’s not looking pretty anywhere. 

* * * * * * * *

Who says climate change isn’t happening?

(Via Huffington Post/Discover/Yahoo News)

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Posted in Environment, State1 Comment

Texas Tea and Wildcat Oil

 

Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale Play Making Crude Millionaires Overnight

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

THREE RIVERS, Texas– Not long ago, Richard Dockery was a real estate and insurance broker in this town of 1,800 residents, putting together small land deals and cobbling together a nest egg for retirement.

Today, Dockery, 47, lives in a new, 2,400-square-foot home that he bought with cash and will have his 23-year-old daughter’s medical school bills covered before she steps into her first classroom.

Once a month, a six-figure check in his name arrives in his mailbox from an energy company — royalties earned by leasing his property to oil companies and co-owning wells.  It’s one of several that appear in his box each month that, added up, equal roughly the annual salary of a midlevel NBA player.

“It’s crazy,” Dockery says.  ”And I’m small fry. There are literally thousands of people out here who are millionaires, and some who are going to be billionaires.  It’s the wild, wild West.”

Dockery and this small city, 75 miles south of San Antonio, are at the epicenter of one of the biggest oil booms ever to hit Texas — and possibly the USA.  A vast oil and gas reservoir in South Texas known as the Eagle Ford Shale, along with another in West Texas known as the Permian Basin, is driving the boom and could make Texas one of the leading oil producers on the planet.

Advanced drilling technology, such as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling are unlocking huge reservoirs of oil previously deemed impossible to reach, doubling the state’s crude oil production the past two years.

This year, Texas is projected to produce more than 3 million barrels a day — moving it ahead of Kuwait, Mexico and Iraq to become the eighth-largest oil producer in the world.

The U.S. still imports far more oil than it exports, due in part to a law restricting crude oil exports.  Last year, the U.S. imported about 7.5 million barrels a day, while exporting only about 100,000 barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  The exports ban, dating to the Arab oil embargo of 1973, is now being challenged by lobbyists and lawmakers because of the huge amounts of oil being produced, primarily in Texas and North Dakota.

Energy companies are likely to invest more than $100 billion in Texas in the next few years to extract oil from the shales.  In 2011 alone, the boom created more than 38,000 jobs in South Texas and poured more than $500 million into local and state coffers.

It’s not just oil companies and counties profiting.  Ranch owners who previously had only scrub bush and white-tailed deer on their property are leasing their land for millions of dollars a month.  Schoolteachers lucky enough to have oil beneath their yards have left their jobs to travel the world or open boutiques.  Small-town real estate brokers, like Dockery, have become overnight millionaires by selling plots of land that once sold for $2,000 an acre for 100 times that much.

This is the latest in a string of Texas oil booms — and perhaps one of the biggest — since Anthony Lucas punched a hole in Spindletop Hill near Beaumont in 1901, thrusting the country into the modern petroleum era.  The Spindletop discovery and another one in East Texas in the 1930s at the time made Texas the largest producer of oil in the world. This one is far bigger.

“It’s as significant as the discovery of oil itself,” says David Arrington, a Midland, Texas, oil executive who made nearly $900 million plumbing for natural gas in North Texas eight years ago.  Today, he’s investing “every penny of it” in the Permian Basin.

 

Boom Brings Headaches

But for every story of overnight riches, there are tales of the boom’s potentially negative impact:  overpowering chemical smells near wells;  residents waking up in the middle of the night with headaches or nosebleeds;  threats to drinking aquifers;  roads banged up by oil trucks and spikes in traffic fatalities;  soaring rents; and even earthquakes.

“It’s brought money to people overnight,” Three Rivers Mayor Sam Garcia says of the boom.  ”But it has its own set of challenges.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” where water, sand and other materials are injected into underground rock formations at high speeds to free pockets of fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling have been used for years, mostly to harvest natural gas.  But oil’s high price, hovering at around $100 a barrel, has given energy companies unprecedented financial resources to put the technology to work for crude.

Today, more than 7,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled or are scheduled to be drilled along the Eagle Ford Shale, a crescent-shaped formation 4,000 feet underground that stretches 400 miles along the Texas-Mexico border.  The technology used in South Texas could soon migrate to similar shales around the world, unlocking billions of gallons of more crude and buying valuable time to develop alternative energy sources, Tinker says.

Just how much crude is down there? That’s been a point of hot debate in the industry.

Given the current rate of extraction and number of wells, the shale could produce for another five to 10 years, then become mostly dry, says Arthur Berman, a Sugarland-based petroleum engineer and shale skeptic.  The technology that reached the tucked-away crude is also sucking it out at record speeds, he says.

“We’ve been given a gift, a reprieve, from where we thought we were a few years ago,” Berman says. “But that reprieve is a short one.”

 

Dancing Sugar Plum Fairies and Dollar Signs

In the meantime, wildcatters, residents and ranchers of South Texas are cashing in.

When the oilmen came calling, David Martin Phillip, a former mining executive and cattle rancher in Karnes City, refused to let them drill on his ranch.  Instead, he leased them his mineral rights that allowed them to drill on neighboring ranches and reach the oil beneath his property horizontally, he says.

Using royalties from that transaction, Phillip, 64, recently bought a restaurant and two local radio stations, which he plans to use to broadcast oil news.

Down the road in Three Rivers, 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers rumble through town, hauling sand or enormous engine parts to drilling pads.  West of town, Texas Highway 72, once lined with acre after acre of scrub bush, today is populated with oil supply companies, RV parks and “man-camps” housing oilmen, and drilling wells alighted with gas flares stretching to the horizon.

Dockery, the real estate broker, says he sniffed out the rush in 2009 when out-of-town researchers began showing up in the local courthouse, looking up property titles.  He quickly started buying land he thought would be useful to oil companies.  Developers built two man-camps on one of his lots and an oil company drilled a water well for a fracking pond on another of his properties, for which he gets monthly royalties.  Dockery used money from those ventures to buy a stake in four wells.

The monthly royalties — “mailbox money,” he calls it — started pouring in.

“I was this sleepy broker in this small town,” Dockery says.  ”Then, all of a sudden, the world drops a bomb on us, and we explode.”

Tax revenues from the oilfields have built Three Rivers a new high school and state-of-the-art football field.  Four new hotels sprouted up in town and four more are in the works.

But the army of workers and supply trucks are also taking a toll on the small town, Mayor Garcia says.  Traffic accidents are now a daily occurrence.

The city’s 10-man police force is struggling to keep up with traffic calls, break-ins and an influx of prostitutes from San Antonio looking to strike up business with the new residents, he says.  Another concern:  oil companies tapping out the city’s water supply.  “Water’s a big issue right now,” Garcia says.  ”It’s as valuable as the oil.”

Water is a top concern amid all the drilling of the Eagle Ford Shale, especially in a state still weathering a historic drought, says Scott Anderson, an Austin-based senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Each well uses between 3 million and 7 million gallons of water, and then workers dispose of the wastewater — known as “flowback” — in disposal wells, he says.  There is a risk of contaminating drinking aquifers if the disposal wells are not made or maintained properly, Anderson says.

 

The Highs and Lows of Drilling

The oil wells also burn off natural gas that bubbles up during the drilling, he says.  That flaring and other venting at the wells release harmful chemicals into the air, including carbon dioxide, methane and ozone.  

San Antonio, located on the northern ridge of the shale, has recorded higher-than-normal ozone levels in its air since the start of the drilling, Anderson says.

“Anytime you have large amounts of flaring, it’s a good bet there’s a large amount of venting going on, too,” he says.  ”Then you’re releasing methane and other potent greenhouse gasses.”

Cynthia Dupnik, 55, lives in a double-wide mobile home on 25 acres of land in Karnes County, in the heart of the drilling.  Often, she and her daughter, Michelle, 34, wake up in the middle of the night with headaches, body aches and nosebleeds, she says.  Since the oil companies began drilling less than a mile from her home, she says, there have also been overpowering rotten egg and chemical smells, especially at night.

She has tried to bring up the issues with the energy companies involved in the drilling, but to no avail, she says.  She’s not against the drilling; she just wants the smells and headaches to stop, she says.  ”There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything they’re doing out here,” Dupnik says.  ”This is not the right way.”

Already, state lawmakers have tightened rules surrounding the drilling, including more disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking and extensive new rules on well-making, says Bill Stevens, a spokesman
with the Texas Energy Alliance. 

“Is it perfect?  No,” Stevens says. “But the industry is doing a lot.”

The bigger question is what to do when the oil stops flowing.  Once the shale is tapped, there won’t be other reservoirs to siphon — the end of the line for fossil fuels in Texas, says Berman, the geologist and shale skeptic.  ”We’re drilling shale not because it’s a good idea but because we’ve exhausted all other good opportunities,” he says.

“It’s all we got left.  When this is done, we’re done,” Berman added.

Unlike some of his fellow residents, Dockery says he realizes this boom will end someday and South Texas will return to the quiet life of ranching and hunting.  Accordingly, he’s investing much of his money in long-term projects that will generate revenue beyond oilfields, he says, such as developing a software program that allows online property title searches.

“People are fooling themselves that this will last forever.  Nothing lasts forever,” he says.

“But in the interim, it’s pretty damn good.”

* * * * * * * * *

 

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(Via Google News/CBS News/YouTube)

Posted in Environment, Features, National0 Comments

Here Comes The Flood

 

We’ll Say Goodbye to Flesh and Blood

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.

A melancholy song by Peter Gabriel, Here Comes the Flood originally appeared on his first solo album in 1977.   

Somewhat unhappy with it and feeling it was ‘over produced,’ Gabriel wrote this sparser and simpler version for Robert Fripp’s Exposure album two years later.

Gabriel contends that the song is about a time where people can read each other’s minds;  the flood is the ensuing rush of thoughts from every other person to another.  It carries the age-old theme of disaster, redemption, and survival– but with an echo of hope resonating above and beyond the somber melody and words.

The flood comes and it cannot be stopped; we survive, we endure.  For those whose spirit is parched and dry from wandering the wasteland, drink up.  Rain is here in Humboldt today, but we are running dry indeed.

 

When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings

Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There’s no point in direction
we cannot even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters

On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters

The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nails sunk in the cloud,
the rain was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood

If again the seas are silent
in any still alive

It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls

In the thunder crash
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash

Don’t be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there’s only you and me

And if we break before the dawn,
they’ll use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive

It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.

Posted in Environment, Media0 Comments

There’s A Hippo In My Bed!

 

Jessica, the World-Famous Pet Hippopotamus

(Video)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Meet Jessica.

She’s a very special creature.  A very special hippo, that is.

Jessica is a 10-year-old female hippopotamus who lives near Hoedspruit in South Africa.  What makes her so special and unique is the fact that she’s a wild animal yet interacts with humans in a rather different way than nature has intended.

Jessica doesn’t know she is Africa’s most dangerous animal.  It’s well known that hippos are some of the most dangerous and fearsome creatures in Africa.  There are scores of accounts of hippos attacking and killing people who invade their space or disrupt their normal everyday routines.

Not Jessica.  She’s a different sort of bird altogether. 

Separated from her mother at and rescued as an orphan from a rising flood, Jessica was adopted by game warden Tonie Joubert 12 years ago.  He noticed something uniquely different about her.

She loves interaction with humans.  She loves her treats.  She opens doors and likes to nap with people.  She loves her bull terrier companions, her massages, and her special pink blankie.

In the wild, a lone premature calf won’t survive for long, but Tonie and his wife Shirley nursed Jessica to health with baby formula after she was found.  

 Jessica is the world’s most famous hippo and perhaps the only one who seems to have forgotten how aggressive and scary she really is supposed to be.  The Jouberts have never seen her display the slightest amount of aggression.

Jessica the Hippo has made herself at home as a member of this South African family.   Since she already broke a couch and a bed, she now is restricted to the kitchen only.  She weighs nearly 2,200 pounds and sleeps on their veranda in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

Joubert has put more than 1,000 hippos to death in his lifetime, but Jessica found a special place in his heart.

So special, in fact, that he spends nearly $2,000 a month to keep her alive.  He buys corn and sweet potato for her to eat – hippos are vegetarians – and replaces her mattress every two weeks.  She also has a tea fetish and greedily slurps away at decaffeinated rooibos tea fed to her from a 2 liter coke bottle.

Although she regularly frolics with wild hippos in the Blyde river and is free to do as she likes, Jessica returns to the Joubert’s home every night. But now that she is beginning to reach a weight that primes her for bearing her own calf, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next.

In fact, Jessica shows some mind-boggling characteristics that questions our attitude towards wild animals.  When considering the natural behavior of the species, it is hard to determine whether Jessica considers herself as human– or us humans as fellow hippos.

Make room for baby.  Due to her behavior, Jessica has become somewhat of a lovable worldwide phenomenon. 

Featured in over 60 documentaries, Jessica now has a large following of supporters, her own website, and of course, an international fan-club of admirers.

Above is Part I of Jessica’s story.  Part II is seen below; and for you hippo lovers out there, Part III can be found here.

 

 

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Posted in Environment, Features, Scene3 Comments

Global Warming? It’s Freezing Outside!

 

Climate Change Is Very Real

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Record-breaking cold winter temperatures today means global warming must be a farce, right?

Wrong.  That’s why they’re calling it climate change instead
of global warming.  Here’s why:

What’s most important to remember is that weather isn’t climate.  A single storm isn’t evidence for or against global warming.

“It is important to understand that weather is like one play in a football game.  Climate is the history of the NFL,” Mike Nelson, chief meteorologist for KMGH in Denver, said.

 Despite the frigid cold gripping the country right now, over the past few decades, winter temperatures have gotten warmer, on average, according to records from the National Weather Service, which has tracked U.S. weather since the mid-1800s.

For example, lakes in the Midwest freeze later and have thinner ice now than they used to, making ice fishing more dangerous.  Spring arrives 10 to 14 days earlier across the United States than 20 years ago.  Trees and plants bloom sooner and insects and birds emerge earlier.

“On a given day, week or season, cold or wintry weather signifies nothing about the background climate changing,” Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, noted.

There’s also evidence that global warming is changing weather patterns in the Arctic and elsewhere, which could be responsible for some of the intense winter storms that have hit the United States in recent years.

Rising polar temperatures are shrinking the Arctic ice cap, making it smaller and thinner.  Less ice means more of the sun’s summer heat is stored in the ocean instead of being reflected back into the atmosphere.

One way the shrinking ice changes weather is by pushing winter air south.  When the stored ocean heat gradually escapes in autumn, it changes the pattern of an atmospheric wind called the polar vortex, streaming frigid Arctic air into North America and Europe, scientists think.  This week’s wintry freeze caused by the polar vortex is veering as far south as Atlanta, according to forecasters.

This polar vortex swirling its way across the United States is breaking new records, leaving travelers stranded on trains and in airports, and forcing the Coast Guard to cut through ice.

New York City saw a record low for the date Tuesday. It was just four degrees in Central Park, breaking a record of six set in 1896.

That’s not quite as bad as the all-time low of 15 below zero in 1934.  But with the wind chill, temperatures still felt well below zero Tuesday — a 69-degree drop from Monday, when the weather was a relatively sultry 50 degrees with wind chill.  Hard freeze warnings were in effect from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle.

Temperatures plummeted below freezing somewhere in all 50 states Tuesday morning — most, but not all, due to the arctic blast covering the area like an ice chest, according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.

Authorities have blamed at least 15 deaths on the cold so far in the US, including 11 from traffic accidents and two involving hypothermia.

Finally, it’s only winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Just days into the New Year, Australia is setting heat records again. (2013 was the country’s hottest year on record.)  Temperatures soared as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit last week, and severe fire warnings were issued for Queensland and Western Australia.

But what about that research ship trapped in the Antarctic ice at Christmas — the one encircled by pack ice blown in by a powerful cyclone?  Doesn’t that disprove global warming, too?

Turns out, hotter air holds more moisture, which leads to more snowfall and more sea ice, scientists think.  Changing storm conditions around the icy continent are also favoring more sea ice.  But ice on the Antarctic continent is still shrinking, according to the most recent surveys.

Global warming—or climate change, if you will—is happening.  Whether it’s a natural occurring phenomenon or a man made one is open for conjecture.  It is, nonetheless, a very real thing.

(Via CNN/Becky Oskin/Live Science)

* * * * * * *

And in Humboldt we’ve had the driest year in decades and with some of the coldest temperatures on record.  Cuddle up, folks.  It’s gonna be a long thaw.  Hopefully we may see some rain at the end of this week.  Maybe.

Posted in Environment0 Comments

The Surprising Healing Qualities… of Dirt

 

Exposure to Healthy Farm Soil Holds Keys to Healthy Bodies

 

Dr. Daphne Miller

 

Recently I’ve been enjoying dirty thoughts.

I spend my days in a sterile 8×10 room practicing family
medicine– and yet my mind is in the soil.  

This is because I’m discovering just how much this rich, dark substance influences the day-to-day health of my patients.  I’m even beginning to wonder whether Hippocrates was wrong, or at least somewhat misguided, when he proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine.”

Don’t get me wrong—food is important to our health.  But it might be the soil where our food is grown, rather than the food itself, that offers us the real medicine.

You would find little to support these assertions within the medical literature. Enter the terms “soil” and “health” and the top search results portray soil as a risky substance, filled with pathogenic yeast, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, radon, heavy metals, and pesticides.  But move past these grim reports, and you will uncover a small, but growing, collection of research that paints soil in a very different light:  these studies suggest that soil, or at least some types of soil, can be beneficial to our health.

The scientists investigating this soil-health connection are a varied bunch– botanists, agronomists, ecologists, geneticists, immunologists, microbiologists– and collectively they are giving us new reasons to care about the places where our food is grown.

Lively Soil, Better Food

For example, using DNA sequencing technology, agronomists at Washington State University have recently established that soil teeming with a wide diversity of life (especially bacteria, fungi, and nematodes) is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food.  Of course, this makes sense when you understand that it is the cooperation between bacteria, fungi, and plants’ roots that is responsible for transferring carbon and nutrients from the soil to the plant– and eventually to our plates.

Given this nutrient flow from soil microbes to us, how can we boost and diversify life in the soil?  

Studies consistently show that ecological farming consistently produces a greater microbial biomass and diversity than conventional farming.  Ecological farming (or eco-farming, as my farmer friends call it) includes many systems that share core holistic tenets:  protecting topsoil with cover crops and minimal plowing, rotating crops, conserving water, limiting the use of chemicals (synthetic or natural), and recycling all animal and vegetable waste back into the land.  Much of this research supports what traditional farmers around the world have long known to be true:  the more ecologically we farm, the more nutrients we harvest.

Allergy-Fighting Microbes

While soil scientists are busy documenting these soil-to-food links, immunologists and allergists in Europe are working above ground to uncover another intriguing soil-health connection, the so-called “farm effect.”

Why is it that children raised on ecologically managed farms in Central Europe have much lower rates of allergy and asthma than urban children or those raised on industrialized farms?  

Once again, almost everything points to microbes—in manure, in unpasteurized milk, in stable dust, on unwashed food and, yes, in the soil.  In one study, researchers cultured farm children’s mattresses and found a potpourri of bacteria—most of which are typically found in soil.

How soil microbes and other farm microbes protect against allergic diseases is still a matter of debate, but research is increasingly pointing to a new idea which, for lack of a better term, I will call the “microbiome exchange hypothesis.”

The standard explanation for the “farm effect” is the hygiene hypothesis, which contends that early life (including in utero) exposure to a variety of microbes dampens the allergic response of our adaptive immune system.  The problem with this theory is that our immune system is surprisingly simplistic and seems to react similarly whether it is encountering the diverse portfolio of microbes on an ecological farm or the relatively homogeneous collection of microbes typically found in an urban apartment or a conventional farm.

But what if our own immune cells are simply a backup mechanism to a more sophisticated first line of defense—our resident microbes?

And what if a healthy and diverse soil microbiome can foster a more diverse and protective human microbiome?  In fact, newer research suggests that this is the case and that an ongoing soil-to-gut microbial exchange might offer the real “farm effect.”

Gut-Level Gene Swapping

Of course this is all very new—and for me, as a physician, somewhat disorienting.

In medical school I was taught that our internal bacteria belong to a private club and that they have nothing to do with the microbes in our external environment.  Pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli might pass through, as happens when we suffer from food poisoning or other infections, but their influence was considered to be transient—albeit occasionally devastating.  

But now that we can sequence the DNA of an entire microbiome, using a technique called metagenomics, we’re beginning to connect the dots. We’re discovering that genetic swaps can take place between our microbiome and the outside world—particularly the places where our food is grown.

A group of French microbiologists were among the first to document this game of pass-the-gene when they identified the exact same sequence of DNA in two different Bacteroidetes bacteria species, one living on seaweed and the other in the intestines of Japanese people.

They concluded that the marine bacteria had hitchhiked their way into the human gut via sushi and other seaweed dishes and passed their seaweed-digesting DNA on to resident microbes of the human host.  The end result of this exchange is that many Japanese—and possibly people from other seaweed-eating cultures—have acquired a greater ability than the rest of us to extract valuable nutrients from their nori.

Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford who studies how our environment influences our microbiome, told me that the findings from this nori study are, most likely, just the tip of the iceberg.  He believes that we’ll continue to discover ways that the microbes in soil and oceans are interacting with our microbiome and playing a huge role in our health.

Rx: Dirt!

Impressed by the growing evidence that our health depends on healthy soil, my “dirty thoughts” have turned to action.

I now tell my patients that food grown in well-treated soil might offer distinct advantages when it comes to scoring the best nutrients and building a healthy immune system.  Of course, identifying this food can be tricky since USDA Organic certification, while certainly a helpful guide, does not always lead us to the healthiest farms.

Many certified organic farms do qualify as ecological, but some large-scale farms with this certification still till deeply and use approved pesticides– both practices that damage soil and the microbes in it.  

On the other hand, there are farmers who can’t afford organic certification who are implementing the practices of eco-farming, practices that have been shown to produce a rich soil and a thriving microbial population.  Since there is no “healthy soil/healthy microbe” label that can steer us toward these farms, my suggestion is to ask this simple question:

“Does the Farmer Live on the Farm?”

Farmers who live on their land and feed their family from it tend to care for their soil as if it were another family member.  Going to farmers markets and joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture) are reliable ways to get this type of produce, and supermarkets are also beginning to support local farmers.  Remember, the more we demand it, the more they will carry it.

Of course, another option is to grow our own food.  

Eating fresh-grown food from healthy soil is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and even a daily handful of herbs from a container garden can have a positive impact on our health.

Whether it is homegrown or from a local farm, I do mention to my patients that they should think twice before peeling or scrubbing their farm bounty.  After all, who knows what beneficial bacteria might be coming along for the ride?  By the way, eating fermented farm-fresh vegetables is a great way to get a mega-dose of soil bacteria.

I also tell patients about other (non-edible) health advantages to connecting with healthy farms.  For example, although the data is far from conclusive, spending time on a local farm might offer a relatively safe, low-tech prevention strategy for families predisposed to allergies.  “Farm time” looks especially attractive if it obviates the need for allergy shots or rounds of antihistamine.  Emerging research says time spent working the soil is a means to build community, improve strength and fitness, slow dementia in seniors, and improve school performance in teens.

It would be simplistic to promote a connection to healthy farms as a panacea for all that ails us, but it has become an important part of my medical toolkit.

Caring For Our Dirt

Finally, I have come to see my patients as an integral part of a farm eco-cycle where the flow of health is bidirectional.  In other words, our choices directly influence the farm’s health, which, in turn, impacts our health.

For this reason, composting is a way to nourish local farms and ultimately fortify ourselves.  I encourage patients to protect the soil like they protect their bodies.

While many of us are aware that chemicals used in the soil might be harmful to us, we rarely consider how products that we use on ourselves or in our homes—such as triclosans, VOCs, parabens, PBAs, PVCs, and lye—might affect the health of the soil and its microbes.  (By the way, rosemary or basil extracts make excellent antiseptics, vinegar is the best cleaner, shea or cocoa butter are perfect moisturizers, and diluted baking soda is an excellent shampoo.)

Similarly, while I’ve long recognized how antibiotics, steroids, and other bactericidal drugs might cause unintended side effects in my patients, I now understand how these drugs can impact the microbial life underfoot and ultimately our own cells.

Certainly, any chemical that decreases microbial diversity will, in turn, decrease the nutritional value of our food.  But there is another concern.

Microbiologists at Washington University in St. Louis have recently noted that soil bacteria exposed to antibiotics and other chemicals can develop antibiotic resistant genes which, similar to the nori-digesting enzyme, can be transferred to our microbiome, turning otherwise benign resident bacteria into “superbugs.”

Thinking of a healthy body as an extension of a healthy farm, and vice versa, is a paradigm shift for many of us.  But when we consider that all of our cells get their building blocks from plants and
soil then, suddenly, it all makes sense.

In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say this:  We are soil.

* * * * * * * * * *

Daphne Miller, M.D., wrote this article for How to Eat Like Our Lives Depend on It, in the Winter 2014 issue of YES! Magazine.

She is a family physician, writer, and associate professor at U.C. San Francisco.  Her latest book is Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing (William Morrow, 2013).

Posted in Environment, Scene1 Comment

Disturbing Levels of Drugs Found in Drinking Water

 

Long Term Health Effects Grow, EPA Study Says

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Traces of prescription drugs have been found in far greater quantities in US drinking water supplies than
previously thought, an EPA study has claimed.

A report on drinking water carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency has found samples of at least 25 different drugs, including medication to treat heart conditions, in supplies coming out of wastewater treatment plants.

Medication to treat high blood pressure was not only the most commonly traced drug, but also found in the highest quantities.

Health officials say that the traces of the drugs, which include over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, pose a low risk to humans.

But they have also said that there is no credible research to predict the effect that the cocktail of drugs could have on humans or wildlife.

Environmental lawyers are now calling for more tests to be carried out on the water supply to find out what the long term effects of drinking it could be.

Nick Schroeck, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit, Michigan, told The New Republic: “All of these drugs out there on the market are going to be discharged into the environment and we don’t know what the effects are because there’s no requirement to do an assessment on the front end.”

“We’re not trying to scare anyone, but we need to know what these chemical compounds will do to the environment and what are the long term effects for humans.”

The study will be published in the Environmental Pollution Journal in January, 2014.

Scientists examined samples from 50 large wastewater plants testing for 56 drugs.  Though the EPA was surprised by the results according the The New Republic, one of the reasons for the high numbers is that better technology is available to trace the tiniest quantities of drugs.

But it could also be down to the fact that we are taking more medication than ever.

A Mayo Clinic Study from earlier this year found that 70 per cent of Americans now take prescription drugs compared to 48 per cent five years ago.  The drugs find their way into the water system when our bodies release them when we urinate or if old drugs are flushed down the toilet.

Another reason for an increased amount of pharmaceutical drugs in waste water treatment plants is if the producers of such drugs are possibly dumping them into the public waste water system.

It remains to be seen whether these discoveries are uniform in all municipal water systems and if they are the detected chemicals of the entire pharmaceutical product or are only component ingredients passed on through human consumption.

The EPA study is significant because further research and detection could determine whether pharmaceutical companies have been spiking municipal water supplies by simply flushing excess or defective chemical products into public water systems.

* * * * * * * *

 

(Via Yahoo News and Discovery.com)

Posted in Environment0 Comments

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