Archive | Environment

How Electric Light Changed the Night



–And How It Changes Us




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Before the dawn of electric light in the early 20th century, humans mostly took cues from the Sun to determine when to sleep and when to stay awake.

Now, however, our exposure to artificial light sources is nearly constant.  City-dwellers are barraged with all sorts of lights at all hours of the night, and anyone with a laptop, an e-reader or even just a working lightbulb can choose to stay in light long after the Sun goes down.

Electricity gave us dominion over the night, but is the light now controlling us?  While these extra hours spent in light are widely viewed as more time to pursue work or leisure, studies show they might also be playing tricks on our body and cutting across the grain of our biological rhythms.

Artificial light makes the modern world possible.  But not all kinds of light are good for us.  Electric light has fundamentally altered our lives, our bodies and the very nature of our sleep.  How Electric Light Changed the Night combines a brief history of artificial light and sleeping patterns with a scientific exploration of the surprising ways artificial light affects us.

What we take away is what the film doesn’t explicitly tell us:  daylight is good.  Daylight is necessary for our pleasure, activity and replenishment.  Daylight reveals the full spectrum of life’s colors, while artificial light drains it away.  Shorter daylight hours affects our sleep, productivity and state of mind. 

The film was produced in collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences and PBS Digital Studios as part of KQED San Francisco’s short science documentary series, Deep Look.



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Planting One Million Trees


From Roots to Shoots:

Creating Change in a Tough Environment




Jonah Kessel


In a country full of rumors, scandals and negative news, it’s nice to see something positive for once.

In my time in China, I’ve watched many NGOs attempt to make change in their communities.  While some are successful, many more seem to fall to the great challenges any organization faces: attempting to make social reforms in an authoritarian state.  

However, this week a project came across my desk that overcame these challenges that I thought worthy to mention.

In 2007 a bright-eyed bunch of volunteers in a nascent NGO called Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a big dream to help fight desertification in China.  Their dream:  to plant one million trees on the edge of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert in China.

China’s deserts have been growing for many years, and in response, the government’s Great Green Wall Program planted trees across China.  However, it was often done in places where tree planting wasn’t appropriate due to environmental conditions and a lack of available ground water.  Many of these trees simply weren’t taken care of because a lack of financial incentives led farmers to simply drop them in the sand and leave.

Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a different plan.

Not only was it to plant more trees but to successfully take care of them, and educating the communities around the desert to their potential benefits. Experts helped the NGO identify areas where ground water was available, giving the trees their best chance of survival.

This was the The Million Tree Project.

The aim was to raise community awareness of the Earth’s precious environment, focusing on steps individuals can take to lessen their negative impact on the natural world.  

The project gave individuals and organizations an opportunity for fighting global warming by planting oxygen-producing trees. It also encompassed the local population becoming involved in planting, maintaining, and monitoring the trees. 

The Million Tree Project was designed to both improve the ecological and humanitarian conditions of lnner Mongolia.  It was a big idea, a big goal, and a tremendous undertaking in the Gobi desert.

They chose this site because the area suffers severely from desertification and sandstorms; at the same time, they also have available ground water.  Sandstorms strike Inner Mongolia and its surrounding areas each spring, destroying local homes and forcing many people to flee their native land.

The NGO cooperated with the national and regional governments as well as local communities to help secure and rebuild the land.  Since 2007, thousands of students, individuals, and corporate sponsors– with the help of Dr. Jane Goodall– donated their time and muscle buying and planting trees.

This summer, the NGO reached their goal.  They planted their one millionth tree.

I had been shooting this project since 2009 when they called and asked me to make a quick video that they could share with their volunteers and tree donors.  While the video is intended for their audience, I believe their project is a good example of showing actual results from an NGO working in a difficult political and social environment. 

And it’s worth sharing with a greater audience.  Looking into the future, the NGO is now pledging to plant one million more trees.

The first million, well… it looks like that was just the beginning.

To Shanghai Roots & Shoots: Congratulations on this massive accomplishment.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jonah Kessel is a freelance cinematographer, filmmaker, and visual journalist based in Beijing working with the New York Times.  He is the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Justice and Human Rights and the Edwin Hood Diplomatic Award for Broadcast, as well as a contributor to a winning Pultizer Prize series. 

You can see more of his work at his web siteblog or follow him on Twitter.

~Via Jonah Kessel, Sharon Lovell, Shanghai Roots and Shoots, Shanghai Talk Magazine,, and Vimeo.  Posted by Skippy Massey.



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California’s Water Wars



Record Drought Reshaping State’s Future


Award-Winning New Yorker **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



California has been suffering through a historically severe drought.

For farmers of the Central Valley, the providers of the nation’s fruit basket, salad bowl, and dairy bottle, the future seems especially bleak.  Wells have gone dry, orchards have been left to perish, and those who came to California to work the fields stand idle.

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions to the south of Humboldt County.

In Humboldt County, we’re between good and flush in regards to water.  Our creeks and rivers are full, our reservoir has a three year supply of water, and we’re just 3 inches below our normally copious year-to-date rainfall.  For those of us who live here, we have it good.  We just had a good soaking of several inches in as many days, too.

Nonetheless, while we have two-thirds of all the water in California, the Central Valley produces two-thirds of all the food for the nation.  Farmers are now selling water instead of crops, Sacramento is already at water odds with the Nestle Corporation, golf courses are using 525 gallons of water for each square yard of turf per week, the state bureaucrats are resorting to silly water antics, and farther away, an Ohio town is being sued for not providing their public water to an oil and gas fracking company.

The water wars are shaping up.

The following post by water scientist Jay Famiglietti underscores our waking up to the seriousness and policy measures of what we’re facing.


January was the driest month in California since record-keeping began in 1895. 

Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows.  The state has one year of water stored in its reservoirs. 

We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California; we’re losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014.  That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011.  Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley.

Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%.  But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. 

Wells are running dry.  In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought.  NASA data reveals that the total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.  

California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one, let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought, except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Several steps need be taken right now.  

First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve.  

There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate.  The public is ready.  A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third sup-
port mandatory rationing.

Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated.  The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017.  Then, each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that.  At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working.  By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain.

Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies.  

Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

Our state’s water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future.  It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon.  Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.

Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue.  This crisis belongs to all of us– not just to a handful of decision-makers.  Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions.

This process works just fine when water is in abundance.  In times of crisis, however, we must demand that planning for California’s water security be an honest, transparent and progressive process.  Most important, we must make sure that there is, in fact, a plan.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to live in a state that has a paddle so that it might also still have a creek.


* * * * * * * * * * *

Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.

~Via Jay Famiglietti, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, California Water Blog, and Vimeo



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Youth Take Climate Change Fight to the Courts



Teens Sue Government for Failing to Protect Environment




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change.   It’s being termed the Children’s Climate Crusade.

High-school student Alec Loorz is one of them.  He’s suing the federal government for breach of the public trust.  In all 50 states.

The Public Trust Doctrine had never been used to protect something as intangible as the air we breathe and the atmosphere we live in– and never by a plaintiff who was too young to vote.  With his activism seeded when he saw An Inconvenient Truth, Loorz started speaking out about climate change at the tender age of 13, writing a Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuel.

As a founder of the iMatter March and Kids vs. Global Warming, Loorz has spoken to nearly 200,000 people in over 200 presentations, keynotes and panels.  He believes that the revolution to protect the planet and work toward a sustainable and just world needs to be led by youth:  “It’s our future we are fighting for,” Loorz advocates.

A young climate activist, Loorz says we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.”   With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz told Outside Magazine.  “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005.  We care more about money and power than we do about future generations.  The judicial system is the only branch of government left not bought out by corporate interests.”

What exactly are these young people asking for?

“Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the federal government asks for the same relief,” Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, says.  “And that is for the government… to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The young plaintiffs simply want the courts to require “the legislatures and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions,” says Wood.

Do these litigants have any legal grounds to stand on, though?

Turns out that yes, they do.  “You find it in case law going back to the beginning years of this country,” says Wood.  “The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the Public Trust Doctrine in multiple cases over the years and it’s in every state jurisprudence as well.”

The Public Trust Doctrine says “the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival,” according to Woods.  The doctrine “requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.”  Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have filed cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations—Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians—partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit.  Their petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow “to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.”

Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

At the state level, there are cases pending in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado.  Courts in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Pennsylvania have issued “developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based.”


(An excerpt, you can read the full article in EcoWatch, here)


TRUST 350 from Our Children’s Trust on Vimeo.

~Via Undernews, EcoWatch, iMatter Youth,
Our Children’s Trust, YouTube and Vimeo



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Pioneering Philanthropists Launch Clean Energy Initiative



Limiting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants–
While Spurring Clean Energy Investments




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Move over, climate change deniers.  More change is coming your way.

Just days after Time’s Editor-in-Chief declared climate change deniers were having a bad day following study after study pointing out that it’s a very real and happening problem, the smart money is now moving to the other side of the aisle— finding solutions to fix the problem.

Two charitable groups will spend $48 million over the next three years to help states figure out how to reduce emissions from electricity production, an effort to seize the possibilities that are opening up as the cost of clean power falls.

It’s a relatively small amount of money for an enormous problem at hand.  But it has the potential of leveraging large-scale planning towards cleaner energy, stabilizing power delivery, and reducing greenhouse emissions.  The goal is for planning a regional energy infrastructure that is clean, affordable, and reliable.

The Clean Energy Initiative plan was announced this morning in New York.  Half the money will come from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization set up by Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. 

The other half will come from Mark Heising and Elizabeth Simons, a California couple who have taken a strong interest in reducing the risks of climate change.  The couple advances sustainable solutions in the environment, education of children, and supports groundbreaking research in science and mathematics.

“Advances in new energy technologies make it possible to achieve all three goals at once.  A stronger, cleaner energy system will also pave the way for improved air quality and help fight the damaging health and economic impacts of climate change,” Michael Bloomberg said.


The Energy Plan

The Clean Energy Initiative will include analysis to determine grid optimization for different power types, potential for enhanced efficiency, and methods to make the grid more robust.  

It will identify the biggest opportunities for new technologies and support regulatory strategies for reliable and affordable energy, focusing on collaborative, state-based approaches and encouraging utilities to adopt new technologies.  

A key feature of the plan is it will allow states to choose the best combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and improvements in current power plants.

Since 2010, solar energy prices have plummeted by 80 percent, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and the cost of LED lighting has fallen by 80 percent.  American consumers stand to benefit from these developments if state policymakers can work with utilities to accelerate their adoption, and the Clean Energy Initiative hopes to provide the technical assistance for the impending transition. 

More than half of the grant funding will go to support more than two dozen state and local partners, including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association.  Additional funds will provide support to national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Obama administration is expected this summer to make final its emissions-cutting targets for the power industry.  If that plan survives expected political and legal challenges, it may require extensive revamping of electricity markets that are largely regulated by the states. 

The low cost of natural gas, the falling cost of renewable energy and the rise of technologies that can shave electrical demand are all putting pressure on electric utilities, especially those dependent on coal.  Even without the impetus of President Obama’s plan, those factors would require adjustments in the electricity markets, energy analysts have concluded.

That’s where the smart money comes in for planning and tapping into alternative energy solutions.


Heising’s Goal:  Cleaning Up the Grid and Stabilizing Power

In an interview, Mr. Heising said that state governments need to seize the moment and take full advantage of the coming possibilities for “cleaning up the grid”– and, at the same time, avoid undermining the economics of the utilities that Americans depend on for a reliable supply of electricity.

“The utility businesses are being heavily disrupted,” Mark Heising said. “That’s creating some real stress for the utilities and their revenue model.  It needs to be addressed in a fair and comprehensive way.”

Heising feels climate change is the most important issue facing the world today– an impact that, if not corrected, will have devastating results for both the environment and the economy.  He intends to help fix the problem.  He also expects exponential results.

“This initiative is designed to accelerate solutions,” Heising said.  “The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature—and that early action is required to avoid these threats.  New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective.”

The disruption is most evident in Europe, where utilities were slow to embrace renewable power.  Ordinary citizens, responding to government incentives and falling costs, did so in droves.  The stock market valuation of Germany’s big utilities fell drastically, and they’re scrambling to catch up to the changes on the grid.

American states are generally behind Europe in the rollout of renewable power.  Experts say that gives them time — a few years, at most — to get ahead of the coming changes.  In several states, utility companies have begun to sense the oncoming ‘green’ threat and are trying to roll back state rules favoring solar and wind power.  Environmentalists are fighting back, and in the process, the utilities have had their share of disruptions, turmoil, and failed investments.


Dovetailing with the President’s Idea

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, will most likely require most states to discourage coal-burning while encouraging the greater use of natural gas, renewable power, and efficient buildings and appliances.  

States will have some leeway to design their own strategies, but any state government that fails to do so will run the risk of having a strategy imposed on it by the federal government.

Thus, even some of the states that intend to challenge Obama’s plan in court are expected to hedge their bets by coming up with a backup strategy.  Currently, power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.  Carbon pollution is already causing long-term impacts on the economy, including increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather patterns.  Climate change also exacerbates health risks due to worsening smog, causing a range of respiratory illnesses.

The $48 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family will not go directly to state governments:  instead, the money will fund groups that can help the states with their planning.  Their aim is to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels.  This approach will also have public health benefits, including reducing smog pollution by an estimated 25 percent and avoiding up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year.

The pioneering philanthropists know there is a potential to increase renewable energy production three- to four-fold by 2025, an amount of growth that could power 28 to 41 million homes a year.  

Depending on state policy choices, existing efficiency programs and wise investments also have the potential to grow dramatically, with energy savings equivalent to the annual output of 35 to 60 coal-fired plants.


Heavyweights on Board and the Same Page

Two national environmental groups with technical expertise in the electricity markets, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are expected to be among the grantees.  

But the bulk of the money will go to groups with a state or regional focus.

Among the likely grantees, for example, is the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, run by a former Democratic governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, who signed dozens of clean-energy laws during his term.

In an interview, Ritter said his group was working with both Republican- and Democratic-led states to scrutinize the Obama administration’s plans, as well as to weigh the broader issues.  A crucial priority for the states will be keeping electricity costs reasonable, Ritter said.

“I think it’s fair to argue that there’s economic benefit to states that make the transition to a clean-energy economy,” Ritter said.  “How do you do it so it’s not on the back of middle- and lower-income ratepayers?”

Others have also weighed in on the beneficial direction the plan takes.

“The Clean Energy Initiative taps into the spirit of entrepreneurialism unleashed by new opportunities such as distributed generation, demand response and energy efficiency programs,” said Dan Scripps, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation in Michigan.  ”As states implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan over the coming years, they will be able to tap into tremendous opportunities to save consumers money while cutting carbon.”

Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had her take.  

“Climate change is here and now,” she said pointedly.  “Tackling this central environmental threat of our time is an enormous task, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity.  The Clean Energy Initiative will help America reinvigorate our economy and protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.”

“I’m grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons Foundation for their show of support,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.  ”The Clean Energy Initiative will propel smart, cost-effective reduction of carbon pollution from the biggest source:  power plant smokestacks.  We know how to make affordable clean energy.  This initiative will speed the day when turning on a light doesn’t mean dirtier air or a legacy of dangerous climate change for our children.”

Joel Africk, President and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago, offered an additional perspective.  “The Clean Energy Initiative is a big step forward for public health,” said.  ”Not only will the initiative help cut carbon and curb climate change, it will also result in fewer asthma exacerbations, heart attacks and strokes throughout the US.”

More surprising was Jim Rogers, Former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, also came on board.  “The power sector is in an exciting period of transformation as we build out the 21st century energy grid– a time of opportunity as states and utilities write the roadmap for a smarter power system that cuts carbon pollution while providing affordable and reliable energy,” said Rogers.  “The Clean Energy Initiative will help power companies get this right– and ultimately that’s good for the consumer.”

“With the price of clean power falling, and the potential costs of inaction on climate change steadily rising, the work of modernizing America’s power grid is both more feasible and urgent than ever,” Michael Bloomberg insisted. 

“Pollution from power plants takes a terrible toll on public health, and it’s the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint.  But smart investments can reduce it while also strengthening local economies,” said Bloomberg.  “These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”

Climate change deniers, please move towards the exits. 
Your day has come and gone.

~Via Bloomberg, NYT, National Sierra Club, YouTube



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What a Wonderful World


Sir David Attenborough




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you”.

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.




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Study: Ocean Life Faces Extinction


Multiple Pressures on a Fragile Environment




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found.  Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

“We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report.  “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Scientific assessments of the oceans’ health are dogged by uncertainty:  It’s much harder for researchers to judge the well-being of a species living underwater, over thousands of miles, than to track the health of a species on land.  And changes that scientists observe in specific ocean ecosystems may not reflect trends across the planet.

Dr. Pinsky, Dr. McCauley and their colleagues sought a clearer picture of the oceans’ health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining.  While many of the findings already existed, they had never been juxtaposed in such a way.

A number of experts said the result was a remarkable synthesis, along with a nuanced and encouraging prognosis.

“I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea,” said Loren McClenachan of Colby College, who was not involved in the study.

There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found.  Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.

Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.

Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already.  Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey.  Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges.  At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic.

“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said.  “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years.  Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble.  Whales may no longer be widely hunted, the analysis noted, but they are now colliding more often as the number of container ships rises.

Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean.  Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000.  Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea.

The oceans are so vast that their ecosystems may seem impervious to change.  But Dr. McClenachan warned that the fossil record shows that global disasters have wrecked the seas before.  “Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” she said.

Until now, the seas largely have been spared the carnage visited on terrestrial species, the new analysis also found.

Humans began to alter the habitat that wildlife depended on, wiping out forests for timber, plowing under prairie for farmland, and laying down roads and railroads across continents.

Species began going extinct at a much faster pace.  Over the past five centuries, researchers have recorded 514 animal extinctions on land.  But the authors of the new study found that documented extinctions are far rarer in the ocean.

Before 1500, a few species of seabirds are known to have vanished.  Since then, scientists have documented only 15 ocean extinctions, including animals such as the Caribbean monk seal and the Steller’s sea cow.

While these figures are likely underestimates, Dr. McCauley said that the difference was nonetheless revealing.

“Fundamentally, we’re a terrestrial predator,” he said.  “It’s hard for an ape to drive something in the ocean extinct.”

Many marine species that have become extinct or are endangered depend on land — seabirds that nest on cliffs, for example, or sea turtles that lay eggs on beaches.

Still, there is time for humans to halt the damage, Dr. McCauley said, with effective programs limiting the exploitation of the oceans.  The tiger may not be salvageable in the wild — but the tiger shark may well be, he said.

“There are a lot of tools we can use,” he said.  “We better pick them up and use them seriously.”

Dr. McCauley and his colleagues argue that limiting the industrialization of the oceans to some regions could allow threatened species to recover in other ones.  “I fervently believe that our best partner in saving the ocean is the ocean itself,” said Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University, an author of the new study.

The scientists also argued that these reserves had to be designed with climate change in mind, so that species escaping high temperatures or low pH would be able to find refuge.

 “It’s creating a hopscotch pattern up and down the coasts to help these species adapt,” Dr. Pinsky said.

Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them.

“If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” he said.

“But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can.  We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it.”

~Via MSN News, NYT, Rafa Massieu, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

The climate change deniers are having a bad day.



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Growing is Forever


A Redwood’s Muse:

Trinidad and Patrick’s Point Park

Humboldt County, Northern California


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“A very long time ago, there were no groves– because everywhere was a grove with no roads to bisect and no people to erect stones and fences and bridges.

The trees were very, very young and had much living ahead of them.  The enormity of their lifespan loomed in wooly mists around them, so they stretched out their root fingers and wrapped them around each others’, intertwining and holding very tight.

The ferns found pockets of root fingers where they could nestle in and the moss stretched itself out over the soil and everything became very soft.  The trees grew and made patterns of light and dark on the ground and the vines swirled in to trace the patterns.

Spotted spiders moved back and forth and up and down, making nets to catch the mist, and the mist would linger on the nets in drops that cupped the light.

It was very quiet all the time because the trees needed to focus on their lives. It is not easy to grow so much, for so long.  Some trees became tired and lay down on the soft ground; others leaned and rested their tops on another.

And when one tree had to stop, another would grow out of it and reach very high into the grey and gold sky.

Growing is forever, they whispered.

* * * * * * * *

~Via Jesse Rosten, Kallie Markle, and Vimeo



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The Island of Dharma


Sri Lanka


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The explorer Marco Polo wrote in the 12th century that Sri Lanka
is the finest island in the whole world.

Sri Lanka is nature’s treasure hunt.  For centuries it has seduced travelers with its magnificent beauty, stunning Hindu and Buddhist temples, lush green gardens, beautifully surreal beaches, and warm and gracious people.  

Ruins of ancient kingdoms and archeological discoveries abound, providing fascinating insights into a sophisticated ancient society which possessed an advanced knowledge of science and technology, planned infrastructure, and an aesthetic beauty towards the arts.  It’s a serene place, although it hasn’t always been so in the past.  The sun sets on the crimson and gold horizon with a peaceful
regularity now.

This small island off the southern tip of India is called by different names – Serendib, Ceylon, the Teardrop of India, the Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, and the Pearl of the Orient—all of which reveals the richness and beauty, and the intensity of affection, that the people living on the island have.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, a reflection of the island’s history of hosting immigrants from all walks of life over centuries of time.  As a rule, the people of Sri Lanka possess a warm and friendly nature seen in their persistent smiling faces, having an eagerness to help those unfamiliar with aspects of local life. 

Should you have the opportunity to visit, you’ll find Sri Lankans are very hospitable and take pride in inviting people to their homes, however modest they may be.

So don’t be surprised if a driver or guide or the new friend you meet– or indeed virtually anyone you might encounter– requests the pleasure of your company.  Sri Lankan hospitality is taken very seriously– reflecting the human spirit of how living, life, and community should be.



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The Vanishing Monarch Butterfly


90% of the Population has Disappeared


Award-Winning **VIDEO**



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



They are the butterflies we remember fondly from our childhood. 
And they are disappearing in large numbers.

Monarch butterflies may warrant U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because of farm-related habitat loss blamed for sharp declines in cross-country migrations of the orange-and-black insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday.

An estimated 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico in 1996 compared with just 35 million last year, according to Marcus Kronforst, a University of Chicago ecologist who has studied monarchs.

Monarch populations are estimated to have fallen by as much as 90 percent during the past two decades because of destruction of milkweed plants they depend on to lay their eggs and nourish hatching larvae, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The loss of the plant is tied to factors such as increased cultivation of crops genetically engineered to withstand herbicides that kill native vegetation, including milkweed, the conservation group says.  Some believe poisonous GMO corn pollen has significantly contributed to the loss of monarchs.

Monarchs, unique among butterflies for the regularity and breadth of their annual migration, are also threatened by widespread pesticide use and logging of mountain forests in central Mexico and coastal California where some of them winter, said biologist Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday a petition requesting federal protections for monarchs – filed by the Xerces Society and others – “presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted.”

The agency’s initial review will take about a year to complete.

The butterflies, revered for their delicate beauty after emerging from a jade green chrysalis ornamented by gold stitching, are roughly divided into two populations in the United States according to their fall migration patterns.

Monarchs from east of the Continental Divide wing across 3,000 miles to Mexico, while those from west of the Divide in Rocky Mountain states like Idaho make a relatively shorter journey to California.

Monarch populations are tracked by an extensive network of professional and citizen scientists who make up part of the butterfly’s vast and loyal following.

“Almost every person I’ve talked to about monarchs has expressed a deep love and admiration for them that was often formed in childhood,” said Beth Waterbury, regional wildlife biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The monarchs’ navigation remains mysterious.  While they are known to orient themselves by the sun’s position and by the Earth’s magnetic field on cloudy days, it is unclear how new generations find their way to wintering sites they have never seen, Oberhauser said.

~Via Yahoo News, Reuters, DisneyNature, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

People should make a point of planting some milkweed on their property, even in flower gardens. 
It’s a pleasant looking plant, easy to grow, and it’s good having the monarchs around.



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MIT Scientist: Increased Autism in Children Due to GMOs



‘Half of All Kids Will Be Autistic in Ten Years’




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has been an MIT researcher in the fields of biology and technology.  She has published over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles over the years.

In recent years Dr. Seneff has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

At a conference last week, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, the MIT Senior Research Scientist took the audience by surprise when she declared:


At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.”


Seneff noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops– and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds– with rising rates of autism.  

Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and cp are fed GMO corn or soy.

Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity.  The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect– especially with as much processed food as Americans eat– could be devastating.

A recent study shows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.

…A brief excerpt here, you can read the full article at the Alliance for Natural Health.


* * * * * * * * *

Dr. Seneff’s report caught us by surprise. 

She knows her stuff; she’s earned her credentials.  She has researched compelling and detailed evidence of the correlation between glyphosate and a number of health conditions, including autism, that’s she’s brought to the table. 

But if you remember your lessons learned from basic science class, correlation does not equal causation— at least not quite yet.  It’s just the first step towards a possible conclusion.

Yet this is another reason why consumers should have the benefit of GMO food labeling so we can make the most informed choices concerning our health, what we eat, and the agricultural practices we support.

On the 1st day of the California 2015 Legislature, Monday, January 5, there will be a rally from 9:30 until noon in support of GMO food labeling at the California State Capitol South steps located at 11th and N Streets in Sacramento. 

Supported by the California State Grange which has taken a policy stance against GMO production, you can contact Jessica at (916) 715-2731 or for more information about the GMO labeling rally.

The more we learn about GMOs and its related herbicide and pesticide use from reliable and unquestionable sources, the more we abhor it. 



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Follow The Rules For Growing Weed, Or Else…



District Attorney Relies on a Different Tactic: Civil Lawsuits




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Do greedy growers who flaunt the law get what they deserve– and does crime really pay?

Humboldt County is at the forefront of an almost-legal, agribusiness weed-growing industry.  It’s an economic staple, an ever-prevasive and copiously prevalent culture with the District Attorney giving it the wink and a nod of an almost-legal permissiveness. 

However, cannabis farmers aren’t completely immune.  They need to follow the rules.  Even the small players.

One pot farmer found the regulations a real bummer– and found out the hard way that he may have to pay up.

A Humboldt County marijuana farmer found with 99 lbs. of buds and 1,039 plants has been civilly sued by the DA– for breaking environmental, fish and game and zoning regulations.

Courtney Fleming has been sued by the Humboldt County District Attorney for unfair competition and violations of numerous regulations. 

Fleming, according to District Attorney Paul Gallegos, allegedly cleared timberland, built greenhouses, filled in streams, dug a large hole in the ground for a toilet, and stored diesel fuel and motor oil, all without the proper permits.  He also failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees.

While law enforcement typically issues criminal complaints bringing the matter before the courts, the Humboldt County District Attorney has relied on something altogether different.  They sued Courtney Fleming on Dec. 9, alleging unfair competition and violations of health, labor and environmental laws on his 1.25-acre marijuana farm.

It’s not the marijuana he grew outside of compliance of Proposition 215–  it’s the way he did it.

The unfair competition charge stems from Fleming’s alleged failure to seek permits.

First, Fleming cleared about 1.25 acres of timberland without a Timberland Conversion Permit or a license to engage in timber operations, according to the complaint in Humboldt County Superior Court.

He then built 15 greenhouses and other structures, including drying sheds and residential structures.  He set up two 1,028-gallon fuel containers to power a 45 KW generator, a 5-gallon tank for waste oil, 1,700 gallons of liquid fertilizer and four 2,400-gallon water tanks with an electric system to mix in the water with
the fertilizer, the DA says.

Then, allegedly without permits again, Fleming pumped water out of the Mad River to water his crops, endangering fish and other living things, and he built a toilet by digging a large hole in the ground, according to the complaint.

Fleming filled a seasonal creek with soil and cut vegetation and pushed materials cleared off the property, into creeks, without following waste discharge requirements.  He had no hazardous materials business plan, nor a permit for the use of red dye diesel and liquid fertilizer, nor a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan for its fuel tanks, according to the complaint.

Fleming also failed to get a permit and an Environmental Protection Agency identification number for storing used motor oil, the DA prosecutor says.

None of his employees were covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and no waste permit was pulled for the portable toilets, according to the complaint.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office seeks a permanent injunction, and a civil penalty of $2,500 for the many violations.

It’s been big money for the growers who have cashed in on the new Green Rush.  Marijuana is an economic staple, particularly in Humboldt. 

Jennifer Budwig, a banking and economic  analyst, estimated that marijuana infused more than $415 million into the county’s annual economic activity in 2012, one-quarter of the total amount.  Others believe it is a much larger figure now— perhaps a billion dollar industry.

In Humboldt, epicenter of the Emerald Triangle trade, the booming business of marijuana has threatened the vibrant ecosystems of the area, critics insist.

Environmentalists have awakened to the fact that hilltops have been leveled to make room for the crop.  Bulldozers start landslides on erosion-prone mountainsides.  Road and dam construction clog some streams with dislodged soil; others are bled dry by diversions.  Little water is left for salmon whose populations have been decimated by logging.  Pesticides and rodenticides have been killing off the
local wildlife.

The environmental damage may not be as extensive as that caused by the 19th-century diking of Humboldt Bay or the advent of 20th-century clear-cut logging practices, but the romantic outlaw culture has become a destructive juggernaut thrashing the environment, many believe.

And local and state jurisdictions’ ability to deal with the problem has been hobbled by, among other things, the drug’s murky legal status.  Some growers ethically operate within state medicinal marijuana guidelines; others clandestinely operate totally outside the law without regard.

A local group, the Emerald Growers Association, recently produced a handbook on sustainable practices.

“There is an identity crisis going on right now,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata.

“The people who are really involved with this industry are trying to understand what their responsibilities are,” Hughes said.

~Via Courthouse News, Times-Standard, Kym Kemp,
  NYT, CBS-San Francisco



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Eaten Alive by a Giant Anaconda



Reality TV Stunt Brings Attention and Criticism To the Plight of the Amazon




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



We all have goals.

When Paul Rosolie wanted to focus attention on the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, he decided he needed a stunt guaranteed to get people looking.  For the past two years, the naturalist and author had a goal that no man in the history of the world has ever had:  to be eaten alive by a giant green anaconda.

So the staunch environmentalist offered himself as dinner to the monster snake — and was swallowed alive, filming every moment.

Anacondas, the largest snakes in the world, typically suffocate their prey before ingesting it, making Rosolie’s attempt the first of its kind and very dangerous.

Rosolie survived, and people all around the world got to see the harrowing journey on Sunday night into the belly of the beast.  The two-hour special, Eaten Alive, aired on the Discovery Channel and was widely criticized by animal activists.  Rosolie, author of the widely praised eco-adventure book Mother of God, was slammed as a snake-torturing opportunist.

The idea came to him after a decade spent working in, and working to save, the rainforest habitat, Rosolie said.

“Everybody on Earth knows that the rainforests are disappearing and most people can tell you how important they are, but still, not enough people are paying attention, not enough people realize this is such a problem.”

The American activist said he was proud to take on the adventure, even though the prospect of dying was hard to swallow.

To avoid suffocating, his team of experts crafted Rosolie a specially designed carbon fiber suit, equipped with a breathing system — as well as with cameras and a system to communicate.

“We didn’t know if this was going to work, if I was going to be eaten, but we made sure that if I did make it inside the snake, I wouldn’t suffocate,” Rosolie explained after the ordeal.

The next challenge was trying to find a snake in the Peruvian Amazon jungle. 

Rosolie and a camera crew spent eight weeks in the Amazon seeking a hungry anaconda and along the way encountered piranhas, electric eels, giant crocodiles and other deadly creatures.

“We spent 60 days out in the jungle, camping, hiking, looking through swamps every night,” Rosolie said.  “During our expedition in the Amazon, several times we encountered this anaconda with the girth of an oil drum.  The problem was we couldn’t restrain it.  There was no way to capture this snake.  We had a 10-person team and they couldn’t hold onto it.  That started spooking us — it was 26 feet and 400 lbs.  We decided to test the suit on a more normal-sized snake.”

 Eventually, they found a female snake, which at 20 feet long, fit the bill.

“When I went up to the snake, it didn’t try to eat me right away,” Rosolie recounted.  “It tried to escape.  And when I provoked it a little bit, and acted a little more like a predator, that’s when it turned around and defended itself.”

The explorer was swallowed head first and spent more than an hour inside the giant snake, adding that he kept in touch with his team the whole time.  He said he was scared that something would go wrong, but at the same time, “I was very excited to do it.”

“You are going up against one of the greatest predators of the planet and doing something that no one has ever done before,” he said.  “Everybody says an anaconda can’t eat a human, that it’s physically impossible.  I’ve seen an anaconda break a wild boar in half.  I’ve seen an anaconda constrict a black caiman, which is a crocodile that grows up to 15 feet.  Anacondas eat animals much bigger than humans.  Once you crush a human ribcage — squeezing before they eat — we’re much smaller than some of the animals they’re eating, Rosolie said.

“And I know of people who have been eaten.  The cook who tours with us in the Amazon — his father was eaten by an anaconda.  So it’s not a myth.  When you’re in these small villages and your mom gets eaten by an anaconda, they’re not running to get a camera.”

He did not give details on how he was freed from the snake, but insisted his team was careful not to harm it and that he was the only one in danger.

“We didn’t force the snake to do anything, we didn’t ask from the snake anything out of the ordinary,” Rosolie said, explaining that “snakes very often regurgitate if they’re eating something and a predator comes by, they have to give up their meal so they can escape.”

The anaconda is now doing well, he said.  But Rosolie faced fierce criticism from animal rights groups, including from PETA, who said “the snake was tormented and suffered for the sake of ratings.”

Rosolie said he even received death threats.  But he wasn’t fazed, saying the shock value is important to increase attention to his cause of the Amazon’s plight.  As he explained it:

“I’ve worked in the Amazon for 10 years, as well as India and Indonesia and other places, and it all goes back to the loss of biodiversity, plants and animals.  

I’m seeing the Amazon disappear.  I’ve seen entire 1,000-mile stretches of rainforest burnt to the ground where every single plant and animal is destroyed — and no one pays attention to that.  I’ve seen scientists spend their entire lives trying to rally public opinion and support, and people just don’t care.

Anacondas, as an apex predator, are a part of that.  I said, ‘I want to do something completely crazy.’  I’ve studied anacondas for years.  They’re a misunderstood species.  People hunt them and kill them.  And I said I wanted to do something that’s going to grab people by the eyeballs. 

So I wanted to do something that would sort of shock people and force a dialogue about what’s going on here — and it’s working.  People all over the world have been calling me saying they hope I get Ebola, that they hope I die, that they think I’m heinous and inhuman and horrible, and that I’m “the Hitler of animals.”

People care about animals.  They don’t make the jump to caring about the habitat the animals live in. 

What’s interesting is that PETA has something like 40,000 signatures protesting Discovery’s special from people who care about a snake — which is awesome.

But those people don’t realize this is one snake– when there are millions of snakes and other animals that are being incinerated right now.

Yet a petition to protect the standing Amazon rainforest has — wait for this — 159 signatures.”


A fund linked to the show was set up to raise awareness and money to protect the Amazon and allow for more research of anacondas in their habitat.  After the US showing, Eaten Alive will air around the world.

The Discovery Channel said it expected at least three million viewers in the United States and a million more from around the world.  They got the views alright, except the stunt didn’t go as planned and viewers and critics alike were disappointed Roaslie didn’t get eaten alive after all.

~Via Paul Rosolie, Discovery Channel, EW, YouTube, and Times of India



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Wandering Nature




**Award-Winning Film**


Doug Urquhart
Upthink Lab



Wanderment is the result of a 12-month collection of 4K time-lapse
sequences captured while backpacking.

From meandering streams and forest-dwelling organisms to the grandeur of high mountains above tree-line, this short film wanders through the contrasting wilderness of Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and California.

Countless miles of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains and adventurous backpacking in California and Alaska provided no shortage of opportunity to capture the planet’s poetry in motion.  Further juxtaposing these contrasting landscapes is the use of both color and black and white techniques throughout the film.  

Each time-lapse sequence, comprised of hundreds of still images, represents a chance to share these reflective moments far away from our urban epicenters.  It offers a simple reminder to step outside with your friends and family to experience and respect nature first-hand.

This film is best viewed in Full Screen with scaling turned off.  A majority of this film was shot using a 3D printed motion control dolly.  For more info about printing your own version of this dolly, check out:

The various technical equipment and software I used were:  a Canon 6D, Canon 5D3, Canon T3i running Magic Lantern (3+ month SolarCam, underwater control), Samyang Cine Primes (14,24,35,85), Canon 70-200, eMotimo TB3, Dynamic Perception Stage Zero & One, Custom 3D printed motion control gear powered by eMotimo code to reduce weight for backpacking, custom focus stacking technique via Dragon Frame (we hope to see this as a real feature in a future release), Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, LRTimelapse, and some quality outdoor gear from Western Mountaineering, REI, The North Face and Outdoor Research.

And a High-Five to all my friends who shared the path less traveled and hauled extra equipment along the way:  Upthink Lab, Karen Urquhart, Guy Thorsby, Chris McClure, and Greg Gunter.

Thanks for watching!



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Remember the Future: Chernobyl Revisited



Radiation Never Really Dies




Danny Cooke and Bob Simon
CBS News



Some tragedies never end.  Just bury the horror and move on.

Ask people to name a nuclear disaster and most will probably point to Fukushima in Japan three years ago.

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine was 30 years ago, but the crisis is still with us today.  That’s because radiation virtually never dies.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Chernobyl while working for CBS News on a ’60 Minutes’ episode which aired on Nov. 23, 2014.  Bob Simon was the correspondent and his video can be seen below.

Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been.  The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had an effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy.  The nuclear dust clouds swept westward towards us.  The Italian police went round and threw away all the local produce and my mother rushed out to purchase as much tinned milk as possible to feed me, her infant son.

It caused so much distress hundreds of miles away.  I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who were forced to evacuate.

During my stay, I met so many amazing people, one of whom was my guide Yevgen, also known as a ‘Stalker’.  We spent the week together exploring Chernobyl and the nearby abandoned city of Pripyat. There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place.  Time has stood still and there are memories of the past floating around us.

Armed with a camera and a dosimeter Geiger counter I explored the ruins and made the above film.

After the explosion in 1986, the Soviets built a primitive sarcophagus, a tomb to cover the stricken reactor.  But it wasn’t meant to last very long and it hasn’t.  Engineers say there is still enough radioactive material in there to cause widespread contamination.

For the last five years a massive project has been underway to seal the reactor permanently.  But the undertaking is three quarters of a billion dollars short and the completion date has been delayed repeatedly. Thirty years later, Chernobyl’s crippled reactor still has the power to kill.

It’s called the Zone and getting into it is crossing a border into one of the most contaminated places on Earth. The 20-mile no man’s land was evacuated nearly 30 years ago.  

Drive to the center of the Zone today and you’ll see a massive structure that appears to rise out of nowhere. It’s an engineering effort the likes of which the world has never seen. 

And it’s a race against time.

With funds from over 40 different countries, 1,400 workers are building a giant arch to cover the damaged reactor like a casserole.  It will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and wider than Yankee Stadium — the largest movable structure on Earth.

The radiation won’t die or go away.  It will just be encapsulated, a sealed tomb inside a steel skeleton, a buried edifice of horrors to remember the future by.


~Via Danny Cooke/Bob Simon and CBS News



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Clean Water for All



Sumba Sammy’s Story




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



There is a big world out there to explore and Sammy from Sumba is keen to see it all.

Why is that awesome?  Because it’s entirely possible now. You see, water is the basic building block for communities to prosper and grow well.  Without it they suffer.  There was a time when a lack of clean drinking water meant Sammy, his family, and the local community, were prone to disease and illness.

This all changed after Sammy discovered the Ocean People (well, a bunch of surfers) representing Hurley H2O and SurfAid Sumba.

They worked with local communities for three years to build wells providing clean and safe drinking water for over 7,000 people.

Sammy is just one of many whose life has changed as a result, and now his sights are set on the world.

One in six people don’t have access to clean water.  Five in six can help.  For more information on Hurley’s efforts and to see what they’ve done, visit or visit Waves for



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The Black Sea Devil



Rare Sea Monster Caught on Film
for the First Time




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




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’




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




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, 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




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




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




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:



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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?



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



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,, Engadget, 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:

You can watch the short trailer of Sunset Over Selungo here:



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



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



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/ Telegraph

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For GOP, “Conservative” Means Serving Corporate Power


Koch-Heads Tax Oklahoma’s Homegrown Energy Producers



Jim Hightower


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,”, 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



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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Posted in Environment, History1 Comment

The Amazing New Humboldt Bay Eagle Cam


They’re Back

And So is a New Higher-Def Camera



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 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!

Posted in Environment, Local0 Comments

Into Thin Air


13 Sherpas Dead as Avalanche Sweeps Mount Everest



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



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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