Archive | Environment

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

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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.

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

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Little Shop of Horrors


Carnivorous Monsters on the Loose



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carry on and watch those fingers.

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Rainy Day Stomp


Don’t Let It Get Away



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



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

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

~Douglas Coupland, Life After God


Looks like rain. 

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

Let it rain and shower down. 

Stay inside and work.  Go outside and play.

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



Rainy day in Tahoe from Brad Kremer on Vimeo.


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The Everlasting Redwood


Majestic Cathedrals of Beauty and Grace

VIDEO by Finley-Holiday Films


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


They’re rare and they’re beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Massive Scallop Die-Off Raises Red Flags


Shellfish Succumbing to Rising Ocean Acidity



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Fukushima Radiation Data Wildly Wrong


The Management Sincerely Apologizes for Your Inconvenience–

–What’s In Your Pacific Ocean?



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


From The Times of India:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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


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

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Algae to Crude Oil in an Hour


Milestone Step Achieved:

Million Year Natural Process Takes Minutes in the Lab



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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(Via Tom Rickey/PNNL and YouTube)

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Swimming in the Rain


The Golden Days of Aquafornia



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The Golden State hasn’t been so golden lately. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I Go Swimming” performed by Peter Gabriel. 

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

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


Native Groups Vow Resistance Against ‘Black Snake’ Pipeline



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Sarah Lazare
Common Dreams


It could get loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

* * * * * * *

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

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

Support Moccasins on the Ground to organize further grassroots resistance.


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Posted in Environment, Features, National2 Comments

Biotech Giants Sue Kauai for Restricting GMOs and Pesticides


Bullying the Hawaiian Islands into Sickness and Submission



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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California Drought in Pictures


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


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


A fish washed ashore on the banks of Folsom Lake


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


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


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


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


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



It’s not looking pretty anywhere. 

* * * * * * * *

Who says climate change isn’t happening?

(Via Huffington Post/Discover/Yahoo News)

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Posted in Environment, State1 Comment

Texas Tea and Wildcat Oil


Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale Play Making Crude Millionaires Overnight



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Boom Brings Headaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dancing Sugar Plum Fairies and Dollar Signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Highs and Lows of Drilling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * *


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Here Comes The Flood


We’ll Say Goodbye to Flesh and Blood



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

If again the seas are silent
in any still alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There’s A Hippo In My Bed!


Jessica, the World-Famous Pet Hippopotamus



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Meet Jessica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Posted in Environment, Features, Scene3 Comments

Global Warming? It’s Freezing Outside!


Climate Change Is Very Real


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Via CNN/Becky Oskin/Live Science)

* * * * * * *

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

Posted in Environment0 Comments

The Surprising Healing Qualities… of Dirt


Exposure to Healthy Farm Soil Holds Keys to Healthy Bodies


Dr. Daphne Miller


Recently I’ve been enjoying dirty thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

Lively Soil, Better Food

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

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

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

Allergy-Fighting Microbes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gut-Level Gene Swapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rx: Dirt!

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

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

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

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

“Does the Farmer Live on the Farm?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caring For Our Dirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Environment, Scene1 Comment

Disturbing Levels of Drugs Found in Drinking Water


Long Term Health Effects Grow, EPA Study Says


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *


(Via Yahoo News and

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News of the Redwoods


New Study Reveals Redwoods Contain Climate Data Over the Ages


Sonoma County Slowly Destroying Forests for Wineries


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Seeing the forests for the trees depends upon how you view the whole situation.  Take these two articles making the rounds in the news today, for example:


SEATTLE, WA– Many people use tree ring records to see into the past.  But redwoods – the iconic trees that are the world’s tallest living things – have so far proven too erratic in their growth patterns to help with reconstructing historic climate.

A University of Washington researcher has developed a way to use the trees as a window into coastal conditions, using oxygen and carbon atoms in the wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons.

“This is really the first time that climate reconstruction has ever been done with redwoods,” said Jim Johnstone,  He is corresponding author of a study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

While coastal redwoods are not the longest-lived trees on the West Coast, they do contain unique information about their foggy surroundings.  Coastal redwoods in Northern California use fog as a water source, incorporating the molecules in their trunks, Johnstone found.

“Redwoods are restricted to a very narrow strip along the coastline,” Johnstone said.  “They’re tied to the coastline, and they’re sensitive to marine conditions, so they actually may tell you more about what’s happening over the ocean than they do about what’s happening over land.”

The new study used cores from Northern California coastal redwoods to trace climate back 50 years. Weather records from that period prove the method is accurate, suggesting it could be used to track conditions through the thousand or more years of the redwoods’ lifetime.

Tree-ring research, or dendrochronology, typically involves a detailed look at a cross-section of a tree trunk.  But the rings of a redwood are uneven and don’t always fully encircle the tree, making it a poor candidate for anything except detecting historic fires.

The new paper uses a painstaking approach that’s more like processing ice cores.  It uses the molecules captured in the wood to sample the atmosphere of the past.

Most oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere has an atomic mass of 16, making it O-16, but a small percentage of oxygen is the heavier O-18 isotope.  When seawater evaporates off the ocean to form clouds, some drops fall as rain over the ocean, and more of the heavier O-18 molecules rain out.  The remaining drops that fall on land thus have a higher proportion of the lighter O-16 molecules.

Fog, on the other hand, forms near shore and blows on land where it drips down through the branches until the trees use it like rainwater.

By looking at the proportion of O-16 and O-18 in the wood from each season, the team was able to measure the contribution of fog and rain.

“We actually have two indicators that we can use in combination to determine if a particular summer was foggy with a little rain, foggy with a lot of rain, and various combinations of the two,” Johnstone said.

Related research by Johnstone shows that the amount of West Coast fog is closely tied to the surface temperature of the ocean, so redwoods may be able to tell us something about the long-term patterns of ocean change, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  Understanding the cycles could better distinguish natural and human-caused climate change.

“It’s possible that the redwoods could give us direct indication of how that’s worked over longer periods,” Johnstone said.  “This is just a piece that contributes to that understanding in a pretty unique place.”

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 SONOMA COUNTY, CA– Would you like a little whine to go along with that cheese?

A coalition of environmental groups in California is fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from chopping down 154 acres of redwood trees and Douglas firs to make room for yet more grapevines, NPR reports.

The fight, according to the report, is a global one, with a 2013 study finding climate change would profoundly impact ecosystems, with wine grape production being “a good test case for measuring indirect impacts by changes in agriculture.”

In the California case, the groups, which filed suit in 2012, are charging that state officials violated California’s environmental protection laws when they approved the plan to clear the area, which is in the wine mecca of Sonoma County.

According to the NPR report, Artesa Vineyards and Winery, owned by the Spanish Codomiu Group, will spare two old-growth redwoods on the property.  According to a company spokesman, most of the trees at the site are less than 100 feet tall.  ”There are no forests on this site,” spokesman Sam Singer told the station.

Redwoods are among the biggest trees on Earth, and can stand more than 350 feet high.  Some are more than 2,000 years old.

The redwoods at the center of the controversy are not the old-growth trees.  Thousands of trees slated for removal are between 50 and 80 feet high, according to Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  He says the trees provide important habitat to local wildlife and guard the soil against erosion, which has been a significant challenge for streams in the area that once harbored salmon as well as steelhead trout.

Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department’s approval of Artesa’s project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment.

Still, Poehlmann feels CalFire has been too lenient on proposals by developers to level trees.  ”They are acting as if they are actually the ‘department of deforestation,’ ” he told the station.

“But at least we’ll have plenty of wine to drink,” he quipped, “while we bemoan the fact that our forests are all used up.”

Friends of the Gualala River and the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, another plaintiff in the current Artesa lawsuit, have tried several times over the past 10 years to successfully stop ‘timberland conversion’ projects.  Those projects, proposed by winery groups, were approved by the state.

But from 1979 to 2006, 25 conversions occurred in Sonoma County at an average rate of 21 acres per year– for a total loss of 560 acres of forest– according to county officials, NPR reported.



Articles via University of Washington, NPR News, and
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Rare Sea Serpent Found Off Catalina


18-Foot Oarfish Monster Brought to California Shore



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It was a monster of a find.

The 18-foot oarfish found dead off Catalina Island over the weekend was rare not only because they live nowhere near coastlines, but also because it was among the biggest reported in nearly 20 years.

26-year-old science instructor Jasmine Santana brought the oarfish to shore at the Catalina Island Marine Institute.  The long, snake-like fish usually resides in deep oceans, but Santana happened upon it in less than 15 feet of water at Toyon Bay, about 2 miles west of the island’s main town of Avalon.

“I was out snorkeling, and I saw it just west of the pier on the sea floor,” Santana said.  “I didn’t have a camera, and I thought to myself, if I just tell everyone I saw this huge thing, they probably won’t believe me.”

So, she dove down to inspect the creature and, after making sure it was dead– and checking to make sure nothing else even bigger was around that might have killed it– Santana began pulling the fish by its tail to shore.

“It was so heavy, there was no way I was lifting that thing out of the water,” she said.  “It felt like I was in life-saving training for lifeguards.”

Once she got the oarfish to shallow water, other instructors ran toward the find in disbelief, helping her pull in the estimated 200-pound creature.  Fellow instructor Michelle Sakai-Hart was offloading gear from the Institute’s tallship Tole Mour at the pier when she saw Santana in the water, struggling with the oarfish.

“I had heard of an oarfish, and had seen footage of a baby one, but nothing like this,” Sakai-Hart said.  In total, it took 15 adults to get the silvery, slimy fish onto shore.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Jeff Chace, program director at Catalina Island Marine Institute, said.

Rick Feeney, ichthyology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said giant oarfish only “wash up occasionally” because they’re typically found deep in open ocean.  When oarfish come closer to shore, they could be starving, disoriented or landed in shallower water because of a storm. 

“It may be a sign of distress.  They’re usually in the deep ocean, away from land,” Feeney said.  Giant oarfish get up to maximum length of about 27 feet, he said, adding that stories of them reaching 50 or more feet haven’t been verified. 

One of the museum’s existing specimens, a 14-foot oarfish recovered from Catalina Island in 2006, is well-known to visitors.  It is suspended in alcohol in a giant case in the grand foyer.  “Not a whole lot is known about them, because they are sort of secretive,” Feeney said.  “We’re slowly finding out more about them.”

The Catalina Island Marine Institute is awaiting results of several samples sent out to researchers of its 18-foot specimen.  Until then, staff members say they lack the capacity to keep it refrigerated.  In the absence of preserving the carcass, the institute may go with one option on the table:  Bury the dead fish in 3 feet of sand and let it decompose over a couple of months.  After that, the skeleton could be exhumed and mounted.

Oarfish live most of their lives at depths between 700 and 3,000 feet.  While thought to be capable of growing to 50 feet in length, little is known of the fish’s behavior and sightings of the animal alive are rare.  Oarfish are thought to be the basis of sea serpent legends accounted for by ancient sailors.

A 12-foot oarfish washed ashore in Malibu in 2010, but it was a much smaller — and thinner — variety with its silvery scales and a scarlet red dorsal fin.  But not since a group of Navy SEALS found a 23-foot-long oarfish off Coronado in 1996 has such a large oarfish
been reported as this one.

In recent years, researchers have captured video of an oarfish swimming deep underwater in the Gulf of Mexico and spotted one swimming not far from the shore in Baja California.  

Recent video of the creature alive and well was published in the Journal of Fish Biology this summer, as remotely operated vehicles surveying oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico incidentally captured video of the fish swimming in its natural state.

“By sheer luck, we encountered five oarfish while conducting surveys down there,” said Mark Benfield, professor at Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences.  What caught Benfield’s eye was the animal’s movement in water. 

“Normally, they just move by this curious undulation of the dorsal fin, but when it wants to pick up the pace, it can serpentine quickly through the water,” Benfield said.

* * * * * * * * *


Via Google/Discovery News
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Oregon Passes ‘Monsanto Protection Act’


Law Passes Blocking Local Communities from Setting Food and Ag Policies


–Humboldt’s March Against Monsanto This Saturday–



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Despite Storyleak’s video seen above and released today,
the fight against Monsanto isn’t over and there is no victory. 

Far from it.  It’s simply moved from the national arena to the states.  Just ask Oregon.

This Saturday, October 12, there will be marches against Monsanto all over ther world. 

Locally, Tom Sebourn reports people will gather in Eureka at 11 am at 2nd and I streets and march to the Humboldt County Court House on Saturday where speakers will discuss what people can do about the hijacking of their local food production and other GMO big business activities.

For more information, go to March-against-Monsanto.comLocally, you can go to March against Monsanto Eureka

Below is what’s happening in Oregon, courtesy of Steve Holt and


State-Level ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Passes in Oregon

By Steve Holt

Oregon food activists at first rejoiced upon the demise of a bill that would have blocked localities from making their own policies about genetically engineered seeds and other agricultural policies this July.  

But the bill, with the backing of agri-business giants like Monsanto and Syngenta, has resurfaced.

The measure was passed Wednesday after being re-introduced as part of a bipartisan-backed package of bills, SB 863, which was intended to address state spending, taxes and education on its face.  But it would also give the state the sole authority to regulate seeds and was debated in a special session last week.

Critics say Democrats compromised on their principles by voting for the bill, using the measure as a bargaining chip to bring Republicans to the table on tax and public pension reform.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Oregon Legislature has voted today to take away the rights of Oregonians to establish local food and agriculture ordinances intended to protect the viability of local farms, food and agriculture,” the group Friends of Family Farmers wrote in a statement Wednesday.

The group called the legislation a clear giveaway to Monsanto, Syngenta and others, because it does nothing to protect Oregon farmers from the increasing risks of cross-contamination with genetically engineered material.

Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, says he is assembling a task force to address genetically modified and non-genetically modified crops at the state level, and plans to introduce a bill in 2015 specifically addressing genetically modified crop issues.

That’s small consolation to Friends of Family Farmers, who say time will tell whether the Governor will be able to stand up to “the powerful interests responsible for inserting SB 863 in the so-called ‘grand bargain.”  The group expects agribusiness to obstruct, delay and oppose any changes that will keep their products away from farmers and consumers.

Residents of Jackson County, Ore., had been trying to force a vote on a bill designed to ban the planting of genetically engineered crops in the district—a law that could have served as a precedent for other counties throughout the state.  

“We believe this is an anti-democratic piece of legislation because it takes away the rights of people in Jackson County to vote on these issues, and takes away the rights of other local jurisdictions to make decisions about their own future as it relates to local agriculture and food,” Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers, said in April.

But while Wednesday’s ruling was a loss for those working to ban GMOs at the county level in Oregon, activists say they will work to regulate transgene crops at the state level.

“We’ll definitely be exploring statewide options,” Scott Bates of GMO-Free Oregon told Oregon Public Broadcasting this week.  “It’s a little harder because you have to get the whole state on board as opposed to dealing with matters of county concern, but we’ll be chasing that for sure.”

But considering lawmakers were apparently influenced heavily by the lobbyist group Oregonians for Food and Shelter– which has been called a front for the GMO, pesticide and aerial spray industries,” with board members from Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta– non-GMO activists may have an uphill battle in convincing them to regulate or ban GE crops.


* * * * * * * *


Via Takepart and Steve Holt 
Video by Gucciardi
Our appreciation to Tom Sebourn who has more on the matter 

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New Bird Flu Virus Could Be Deadlier Killer Than 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It’s not the big scary monsters that may kill you. 
It’s the little microscopic ones you can’t see with the naked eye. 

Fall is flu season and this year, as usual, federal health officials are asking the public to get their annual flu vaccine shot.

But scientists say there are much more deadly bugs lurking out there that could someday make the jump from local outbreak to a worldwide super pandemic that could wipe out people across the globe.

All it takes is a few biological tricks for a microscopic virus to turn into a raging killer like the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 to 100 million people, or the SARS virus that started in China in 2003 and spread to 37 countries in just a few weeks.  It eventually killed fewer than 800 people.

This year, two contagions that are scaring epidemiologists the most are another Asian virus called H7N9, and MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.  Both first appeared in 2012.

What does it take to make the jump?  Medical researchers say nightmare bugs are quick to evolve, resistant to treatment, have lethal power and the ability to spread from person to person, usually through the air.

To fight these viruses, scientists are deploying new tools of genetic screening to identify the evil-doers, as well as old-fashioned public health measures to quickly isolate patients and stop an epidemic’s spread.

“The two most critical things are virulence and transmissibility,” said Scott Dowell, director of global disease detection and emergency response for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Dowell was part of the CDC team in Bangkok, Thailand, that responded to early reports of the SARS outbreak in 2003.  Even though that epidemic eventually did not kill as many people as expected, he said the outbreak scared medical experts because of its incredibly fast spread.

“In the thick of it, it wasn’t clear what direction things were going to go,” Dowell said.  ”It was an impressive and frightening time.”

SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — is a member of the corona-virus family of microbes which are the same as the common cold.  It originated in the farms of China’s southern Guangdong Province where it made the leap from farm animals– typically poultry or pigs–  to humans in November 2002.  It did that by reassembling its genetic material to take over host cells and replicate.

By April 2003, it had spread throughout Asia and was killing one out of every 10 infected patients.  Dowell said the only things that stopped its spread were international cooperation and the ability to quarantine people who got infected.  By summer of 2003, the outbreak was contained after infecting more than 9,000 people.

Today, fears are rising about a new virus, H7N9, that started in poultry in China and infected 130 people in April 2013, killing 44. 

International travel, enclosed spaces on buses and planes, and transport of exported foods all contribute to spreading a potential global pandemic.  Scientists believe it’s not a question of if a pandemic will occur, but when.

Fortunately there hasn’t been any evidence of sustained human-to-human spread yet– but researchers at the National Institutes of Health have just begun the first vaccine clinical trial for H7N9 at nine hospitals across the United States in case this one makes the lethal jump.


(Via Discovery News, YouTube, TruthTube451, and Dr. Lee Norman/University of Kansas Hospital)

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The Most Amazing Thing About Trees


Trees Supersuck!



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Try looking at redwood trees differently, and with a whole new level of appreciation for what they can do. 

Why?  Because of something they achieve that’s very unique:  they can grab water from their roots and transport it to their tip tops over 100 meters high.

Why is that so special?  Well, you see, water doesn’t travel easily after a certain distance.  It stumbles and stops after hitting a natural vacuum 10.3 meters high. 

Try it for yourself and see.  Simply suck water upwards using a mere 10-meter length of tube of water– call it a straw if you like– and you’ll find you just can’t do it.  Trust us, it’s a futile attempt and your jaws will hurt and ache.  Really, really bad.

OK, now try doing the same thing using a really powerful pump.  You’ll find the water will indeed exit out of the vacuum at 10.3 meters high– but vaporizing at scaldingly high temperatures in a process called cavitation.

So how can redwoods and other trees send water over 100 meters high– and do so without boiling themselves and vaporizing their fragile little green tippy tops away?

As Veritasium explains, trees create immense negative pressures of 10′s of atmospheres by evaporating water from nanoscale pores, and they can suck large amounts of water up 100 meters in a state to where it should be boiling. 

But that doesn’t happen for a complicatingly simple and scientific reason:  because the tree’s perfect xylem tubes contain no air bubbles, and it just so happens so that most of the water can evaporate in the process– while absorbing a couple few molecules of carbon dioxide along the way.

In short, trees supersuck.  They keep the atmosphere alive and well and healthy for all of us.  They do something you simply can’t do.

Now that’s amazing.

* * * * * * * *

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Pomo Archaeological Site Destroyed by Willits Bypass Construction


Federal Agency Slams Caltrans for Failing to Protect Historic Properties


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


By Jennifer Poole
Willits Weekly

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians (SVR) got a notice from Caltrans on Friday, September 13 that an archaeological site with Pomo cultural resources known to Caltrans in the Little Lake Valley has “been destroyed by construction activities,” said SVR Tribal Chair Mike Fitzgerral in a statement given to the Willits Weekly.

As per the September 13 notice from Caltrans: “Caltrans has discovered that one of the sites” – CA-MEN-3571 – “is actually located within the area of direct impact” of the Little Lake Valley project.  “As you know,” the notice continues, “wick drains have been installed in that area and 3 feet of fill has been placed.”

The exact location of CA-MEN-3571 and specific descriptions of cultural resources found there and at other known archaeological sites – discovered before and after construction started in the bypass area – is not public information.  Federal and state law keeps this information confidential due to the potential for theft or vandalism.

According to the tribe’s statement, CA-MEN-3571 was identified by Caltrans in 2011, during archaeological investigations of the area, as part of the bypass footprint’s “area of potential effects,” but: “later, in 2012, Caltrans claimed that changes for the project (i.e., changes to the bypass route) resulted in the site no longer being located in
the project footprint.”

“However,” the statement from the tribe continues: “Caltrans has just confirmed that the site does indeed exist within the project and has, over the last four months, been severely impacted by the removal of topsoil and the installation of 1400-1500 wick drains.  What little, if anything, remains of CA-MEN-3571 is now inundated with 3 feet of fill.”

A September 18 letter to Caltrans from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency in Washington, D.C., characterizes this destruction of CA-MEN-3571 as a “major breach of the protection of a historic property that Caltrans committed to protect as part of its determination of ‘No Adverse Effect’ in the project’s environmental impact statement.”

The Advisory Council is charged with administering the National Historic Preservation Act’s review process for agency projects, which includes identification and analysis of historic properties, analysis of the proposed project’s effects, and exploration of ways to avoid or mitigate those effects.

In the environmental impact statement for the bypass project, Caltrans states: “If buried cultural materials are encountered during construction, it is Caltrans’ policy that all work in that area must halt until a qualified archaeologist can evaluate the nature and significance of the

The Willits Weekly asked tribal chair Fitzgerral and consultant Lee Rains, who’s been working with the tribe since May on bypass issues, why the Caltrans notice about CA-MEN-3571 came so long after topsoil was removed, with wick drains already installed and the fill process well underway.

“That’s the $20 million question,” said Rains, who consults on historic preservation law and regulatory compliance.  “What actions took place, or didn’t take place as far as what Caltrans is calling ‘an error,’ we don’t know,” chairman Fitzgerral said.

The tribe hopes to get “a thorough accounting” in an upcoming meeting scheduled with Caltrans staff.  But, the tribal council has been “frustrated” by previous meetings with Caltrans, Fitzgerall said, “where a lot of words were said,” but nothing seemed to change as far as consultation with the tribe or actions on the ground.

The tribe has asked Caltrans repeatedly since May to “plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans so as to avoid damaging the resources” and to ensure “responsible in-field monitoring of these locations.”

The tribe has also requested that Caltrans place protective barriers around seven known archeological sites, including CA-MEN-3571.  These requests have been “summarily dismissed” by Caltrans, the statement says.  Requests for explanation have gone “unanswered.”

The Caltrans draft environmental impact report for the Willits bypass project reads “Once a preferred alternative is selected, and if that alternative is one of the ‘build’ alternatives, Caltrans will conduct a detailed examination of archaeological properties.  The Final EIR/EIS will report the findings of this examination and determine the level of impact and if further mitigation is required.”

But in the final environmental impact statement, that paragraph is struck out, with this sentence added under it: “Mitigation Measure is no longer required.  This has already been accomplished.”

The letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also reports three and potentially four “post-review” discoveries of “NR eligible” historic properties that have occurred during construction of the bypass project.  “NR eligible” means the sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The undertaking is being carried out in a way in which historic properties that were supposed to be avoided are now substantially affected,” the letter states, “and the undertaking activities are affecting NR eligible historic properties” within the bypass area.

The Advisory Council is recommending that Caltrans “re-open the consultation” and work with the Sherwood tribe, the California State Historic Preservation Officer and “other …consulting parties” on “appropriate steps to resolve the adverse effects of the undertaking on historic properties and to resolve concerns.”

Re-opening the historic consultation process, the letter states, could result “in an outcome that would sufficiently address all of the historic property concerns with this project to avoid further delays.”

Tribal council members believe “the unnecessary destruction of
CA-MEN-3571 serves as a powerful illustration of what non-
compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act can reap,”
the statement reports.

“SVR can only hope that this stark realization will now compel Caltrans to heed the tribe’s long-voiced call for the agency to re-open consultation under the national Historic Preservation Act, review their previous identification efforts, revise their Finding of Effect, and create a Memorandum of Agreement for this project that would, from this point forward, ensure that injuries like that experienced by CA-MEN-3571 are not repeated,” the statement said, “and that the history and the homeland of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Little Lake Valley are treated with all due respect and protection.”

(Via Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly Facebook page, and slightly abridged)


Cropped map image courtesy Chris Hardaker.  This image shows detail of a map of Little Lake Valley Pomo village sites and dialectic subdivisions, from the 1908 book by S.A. Barrett, “The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo Indians” from UC Berkeley’s collection.

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McKay Tract Community Forest on Board of Supervisors Agenda Tuesday


Open Space for Eureka Moves Closer with Proposed Property Acquisition


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The McKay Tract Community Forest in Eureka is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Catherine Wong of the Times-Standard reports the Board of Supervisors will be voting tomorrow, Tuesday, September 24, on whether to put the money down to acquire the property with other stake holders.

Ms. Wong reports:

According to a county report, County Department of Public Works Director Thomas Mattson is requesting authorization from the board to apply for land acquisition grant funds to purchase the first 1,006 acres of Green Diamond Resource Co. land — known as the McKay Tract — for the project.

The funding is expected to be available through the California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Natural Resource Agency and California Coastal Conservancy by November.

It also states that once funding is secured for the first phase, the board will still make the final decision on whether to accept and manage the land.  If everything goes on schedule, the report predicts that the board will make that decision in December.


The community forest is being planned for timberland located southeast of Eureka near Myrtletown, Cutten, and Ridgewood Heights.

State and federal funds are being pursued by The Trust for Public Land to acquire a portion of the McKay Tract owned by the Green Diamond Resource Company.  The Trust for Public Land proposes to convey the property acquired for the community forest to Humboldt County– who would become owner and manager of the forest.

Humboldt County, in coordination with the City of Eureka and other stakeholders, has started the process of developing a management plan to provide the framework for an economically self-sustaining community forest that meets the community’s desires and interests.  Community forests, like the Arcata Community Forest, are typically managed for multiple objectives including public access and recreation, watershed and resource protection, and sustainable timber harvest.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will make the ultimate decision whether to accept and manage the land for a community forest.

If brought to fruition, the proposed community forest would be managed by the Humboldt County Public Works Department in conjunction with County Parks and Trails.

A total of $2 million in federal and state funds have been secured for land acquisition, and an additional $4.5 million is expected to be secured by the end of 2013.

The first phase of land acquisition is projected to be 1,006 acres. Additional land acquisition of up to 866 acres (Phase 2) is possible in 2014 or 2015 and is contingent upon available funding.

Planning and evaluation for the proposed community forest are currently in progress.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will make their decision whether or not to accept the property by and the forest could be accessible to the public by early 2014.  Trail development and other improvements would follow over time.

If you go, the Board of Supervisors meeting is at: 9 am, Tuesday, September 24 in the Supervisors’ Chambers, on the first floor of the Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth Street in Eureka.

The link to the agenda item, #C-10, can be viewed here: .

The bridge that’s familiar to many on the right is NOT what’s in the proposed plan, so  here’s a PDF map of the proposed community forest boundaries for your understanding.

To get on the Humboldt County e-mail list for periodic McKay Tract updates, shoot an e-mail to:

For further information please contact:

Hank Seemann
Deputy-Director, Environmental Services
Humboldt County Public Works
(707) 445-7741

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(Video via Access Humboldt and Andrew McFarland/YouTube)

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Extreme Highlining and Insane Heights


Why?  Because It’s There



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It’s time to conquer your fear of heights. 

Love a good tightrope?  How about one that takes you across an extreme
400-foot stone canyon?  Just take it slowly.  Very, very slowly.  One step at
a time and remember to breathe.  Or heave.

Why do it?  Because it’s there.

Camping out in the gorgeous rocky landscape of Moab, Utah for a couple of days before setting up the wild and crazy adrenaline-spiking feat, YouTube phenomenon and camera aficionado Devin Graham, aka Devinsupertramp, was busy putting together this insane video while most of us are perfectly happy to take in the stunt from the safety of our sofas.

Making the whole production look easy, these guys go highlining over a massive crevasse while using some way cool toys like pickups and quadcopters and glidecams to get it done and get the film in the can.

What’s highlining?  Devin describes it as tightroping—but without the pole.  OK, it sounds mighty dangerous, but his team swears the setup is totally safe.  Sure it isThat’s what they always say

Devin explains it all in the behind-the-scenes video below.

Hmm … we think we’ll stay on solid ground, securely situated in front of our screens land eaving it to other insane daredevils to scale the high heights while shamelessly pimping Ford Explorers.


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So, Who Owns the Moon?


–As Explained by Vsauce

(Viral Video)


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Space ownership?

Since the 1967 Outer Space Treaty says that everything in space
is the “common heritage of mankind,” it makes it kind of difficult
to define to whom the moon belongs to.  But as things change,
so do the rules.

In the video garnering over one million hits since its posting yesterday, Vsauce explains the numerous scenarios, treaties, and technical information regarding ownership of the moon, and if it really belongs to anyone in particular.

It’s also a pretty cool subject to bring up with friends, if being a lunar land baron and the ownership of celestial real estate is your cup of tea.

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1 in 4 Men Surveyed in Asia and Pacific Have Raped


Author of UN Study Explains Why Rape is so Prevalent


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


By Rachel Shea
National Geographic

One in four men surveyed for a United Nations study in Asia
and the Pacific admitted raping at least one woman.

The UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific surveyed over 10,000 men at nine sites in six countries: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka.

At the survey site in China, 23 percent of men admitted to at least one rape.  In Papua New Guinea, that figure was 61 percent.

To understand what’s behind such startling figures, National Geographic spoke with Rachel Jewkes, the lead technical adviser for the study.


You’ve studied rape extensively in South Africa and now across Asia and the Pacific.  How did you get involved in this kind of research?

I moved out to South Africa from England in 1994.  I had a job to set up the women’s health research unit in the South African Medical Research Council.  

I was told that the key issues in women’s health were things like teenage pregnancy, so I said, “Okay, I’m willing to do research on teenage pregnancy, but as part of this work I want to talk to teenagers about how they got pregnant.”

We interviewed 24 pregnant teenagers.  Twenty-three out of the 24 told us stories about being raped.  I had absolutely no idea that sexual violence was a phenomenon that could have this sort of prevalence.


What have you learned about why men rape?

Sexual entitlement is the most common motivation across all of these countries.  I think that very, very strongly points to the root of rape in gender relations, and the fact that rape is really legitimized in so many of these countries.  Sexual entitlement means feeling that you ought to be able to have sex with a woman—essentially, if you want it, you can have it.

The flip side of that is the idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to make sure that she doesn’t have sex when she doesn’t want it.  If a woman is raped, she would be blamed for putting herself at risk for being raped.


How did you select the countries that you studied?

It certainly wasn’t because we knew that rape or violence against women was more common in those countries.  We wanted to get a range of different parts of Asia, so we wanted south Asia, southeast Asia, and east Asia as well as the Pacific.  

Then we wanted countries where we had a UN partner that would fund the study and was committed to using the results for developing prevention programming.


Why is the incidence of rape so high in Papua New Guinea?

I think it’s the confluence of a culture that is extremely patriarchal and a culture that is extremely accepting of the use of violence in a whole range of different circumstances.  

It’s not just gender-based violence, but also a very severe and frequent use of violence in childrearing, and a lot of fighting in the community between men.


Why is rape comparatively less common in other countries that you studied?

I think that they may be slightly more peaceable countries.  The two countries that really spring to mind are Bangladesh and most of Indonesia.  Alcohol use is much lower in Bangladesh and in Indonesia, too.  They are both Muslim countries, they both have relatively strict social mores around sex, and one way or another child abuse is less common in those countries.

Child abuse really is strongly associated with rape and violence later on.


Nearly 4 percent of the men surveyed said they had participated in gang rape.  Are there differences between perpetrators of single rapes and gang rapes?

Gang rape is associated more with poverty.

There’s been quite interesting research to argue that men come together in gangs and then get involved in a whole range of violence and antisocial activities as a way of trying to assert their masculinity, to make themselves feel like strong and powerful men.

The conditions of poverty that they live in prevent them from having access to more traditional manifestations of manhood, such as being a provider.

Their energies get directed rather into demonstrating sexual success with women, demonstrating dominance and control over women, and fighting with other men…

This is a partial excerpt of the National Geographic article.  To continue reading the full article by Rachel Shea, please click here.

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Huge Water Aquifers Found in Drought-Stricken Kenya


Unesco’s Scientific Discovery Means Relief for Millions in African Nation



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


NAIROBI, KenyaThere’s’ water.  Lots of it.

United Nations and Kenyan officials on Wednesday announced the discovery of a potentially enormous underground supply of water, a find they said could improve the lives of generations of people in impoverished northern Kenya, if not the entire nation.

With water security a growing concern around the world, the discovery of five aquifers in drought-plagued Turkana County could help secure Kenya’s access to the most critical of natural resources, particularly in the hot and arid north.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Out of a population of roughly 41 million people, 17 million Kenyans lack sufficient access to safe drinking water and 28 million are without adequate sanitation, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as Unesco.

“This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole,” Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s secretary for the environment, water and natural resources, said in a Unesco statement on Wednesday.

Wakhungu intends to make the precious find last
as long as possible. 

“We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations,” she said.

In addition to potentially providing drinking water, the vast underground supplies could be used as a source of irrigation for crops or to water livestock.  Malnutrition has been a growing problem among the Turkana people, and a new supply of water could help head off conflicts over scarce resources in the region, where deadly cattle raids are common.

The finds were a product of cooperation between the Kenyan government and Unesco, with the financial support of Japan.  According to Unesco, further study is needed to determine exactly how much water there is and its quality.  It also remains to be seen how easy and expensive tapping the new supply will be.  Optimistic estimates are that it will start flowing to the surface within a month.

The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer — which by one estimate is roughly the size of Rhode Island — and the smaller Lodwar Basin Aquifer were discovered using advanced satellite technology and confirmed with drilling.  The technology is typically used to discover oil. 

The other three aquifers still need to be confirmed through drilling, Unesco said.  NPR reports that scientists described the aquifers’ orientation as like a small stack of “interconnected pancakes.”

Gretchen Kalonji, Unesco’s assistant director general for natural sciences, said in the statement that the find “clearly demonstrates how science and technology can contribute to industrialization and economic growth, and to resolving real societal issues like access to water.”

Radar Technologies International, the natural resources exploration firm that discovered the aquifers, said that they contained “a minimum reserve of 250 billion cubic meters of water,” or about 66 trillion gallons, and that rainfall in Kenya and Uganda refilled them with about 898 billion gallons annually. 

The newly found wealth of water may fulfill the country’s needs for the next 70 years, the Kenyan government said, and represents 900% of Kenya’s current water reserves.

Unesco described the find as a scientific triumph and one that it hoped to replicate elsewhere.

“We will continue to support Africa to unlock the full potential of its invisible water wealth,” Ms. Kalonji said.

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Via Yahoo News

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Vanishing Of The Bees


Why Bees Are Going Extinct



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The little bees are a big story.

Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the
planet, literally vanishing from their hives. 

In the last year alone we’ve lost 43% of our beehives, an absolutely staggering and mind-boggling number.

It’s reaching a breaking point:  commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.

Neonicitinoid pesticides, a loss of food habitat, and the Varroa mite are all partially responsible for a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables.

What can we do and how can Humboldt help?

Plant a Garden

Growing a garden is easy – you can do it!  In addition to being a healthy nurturing pastime, gardening is a fantastic way to help honeybees and your neighborhood thrive.

Growing your own vegetables and fruits helps bees, the environment and puts yummy healthy food on your table.  Planting a fruit tree suited to your climate can yield delicious apples, pears, oranges and other fruits year after year and for free and it helps the bees.

Decorative flowers help bees, too, and brighten up your doorstep.  Plant wildflower seeds in your garden, patio pots or window boxes and you will get some friendly fuzzy beautiful bees visiting them.  Flowers provide essential nutrition for bees and add the beauty of the bloom to your world.

Community gardens provide a great way for folks to have a patch of their own to grow on, and lots of wonderful people with friendly advice.

Buy Organic

By far the most powerful way we can help the honeybee is by voting with our forks.

The decisions we make about what to eat and what not to eat can shape modern agriculture and bring us back into harmony with the natural systems of life.  Buying organic fruits and vegetables brings health and vitality and bees back to the dinner tables.

Organic Pest Control

Spraying our lawns and gardens with toxic chemicals simply isn’t necessary and we’re finding it may be killing our bee populations.

On top of fundamental gardening practices that reduce pests, there are natural repellants that keep unwanted insects and critters out of the home and garden.  And beneficial insects like ladybugs can also help a garden flourish. These holistic methods often work better than conventional pesticides and are almost always less expensive.

Organic pest controls better the health of our home and community and work to preserve the health of bees.

Get a Beehive

One amazing way to help bees is to become an amateur beekeeper.

It’s easy to have a hive in your garden and the bees will help your local environment flourish.  Bees are wonderful to watch and you can get your own honey.  To get started you need to get a little equipment, which you can buy or build yourself.

Beekeeping practices vary– but it generally takes about an hour a week through the spring, summer and fall– and then almost nothing over the winter months.  From one hive you can get between 10 to 30 pounds of honey, depending on the weather.  

Having your very own honey to share with friends and family is an amazing treat.  When you have a beehive – life is sweet!!

We recommend using organic, biodynamic and holistic beekeeping practices.  If you’re starting out, our advice is don’t use pesticides or antibiotics on your bees even though some may recommend it.

Our Bees are Important

One Cornell University study estimated that honeybees annually pollinate $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S.  Essentially, if honeybees disappear, they could take most of our insect pollinated plants with them, potentially reducing mankind to little more than a water diet.

We need to do something.  We– you– can help.


For more information, contact your nearest Beekeeping Association or follow these links:


BEEKEEPING NATURALLY – Fantastic advice from Organic Beekeeper Michael Bush

ORGANIC BEEKEEPING GROUP – You can start discussions and search archived posts to answer all your questions


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Save the bees!

Via Vanishing of the Bees, Ellen Page, Time magazine, and Youtube

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Stay Away From the Lower Mad River


Toxic Blue-Green Algae Present; Dog Sickened


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Officials with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are urging users of the Mad River to avoid contact with algae in the lower Mad River in the area above the Blue Lake Bridge and below the Mad River Hatchery.

This week, a dog wading in this area suffered symptoms consistent with those of ingestion of toxic blue-green algae.  The dog survived and is recovering. 


Kevin Metcalfe, Consumer Protection Unit supervisor of the DHHS Division of Environmental Health advised:

“A blue-green algae bloom presents a health hazard to those swimming or playing in the river, especially children and pets.  

We recommend that people stay out of the water where significant algae are present, and keep their dogs out of this part of the river at this time.  Other areas that are warm, slow, stagnant and muddy are to be avoided, especially those areas with floating algal mats.”

DHHS is aware of 11 dog deaths which may have been caused by blue-green algae poisoning since 2001. The dogs died shortly after swimming in Big Lagoon, the South Fork Eel River and the Van Duzen River.

A nerve toxin associated with blue-green algae was found in the stomachs of the dogs that died on the South Fork Eel River in 2002.  

The same toxin was found in water samples from the South Fork Eel and Van Duzen rivers in 2009 just after two dogs died.  This poison is the most likely cause of the dog deaths on these rivers.  

Dogs are more vulnerable than people because they may swallow the toxin when they lick their fur.  The onset of symptoms can be rapid; dogs have died within 30 minutes to one hour after leaving the water.

Blue-green algae can be present in any freshwater body.  It looks like green, blue-green, white or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water.  

Usually, it doesn’t affect animals or people.  However, warm water and abundant nutrients can cause blue-green algae to grow more rapidly than usual.

These floating algal masses or “blooms” can produce natural toxins that are very potent.  Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods.

People can experience eye irritation, skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea and cold or flu-like symptoms.

Potential symptoms in dogs following exposure to blue-green algae toxins can include:

    • Lethargy
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Salivation
    • Vomiting
    • Urination, diarrhea or convulsions

This summer, increased algae in the Mad River may be due to warmer coastal temperatures, low flows, added nutrients and warmer water temperatures.

DHHS officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of all freshwater areas in Humboldt County:

    • Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scum or mats.
    • Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms.  Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.
    • If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.
    • Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.
    • Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.
    • Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.  Be sure to tell the doctor about possible contact with blue-green algae.

Human activities can have a big effect on nutrient and water flows in rivers, streams or lakes.  Phosphorous and nitrogen found in (marijuana and farm) fertilizers, animal waste and human waste can stimulate blooms.  Excessive water diversions can increase water temperatures and reduce flows.

People can take the following measures to prevent algal blooms in our waters:

  • Be very conservative with the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, garden or agricultural operation.
  • Recycle any “spent” soil that has been used for intensive growing by tilling it back into gardens or protect it from rainfall to avoid nutrient runoff.
  • Plant or maintain native plants around banks.  These plants help filter water and don’t require fertilizers.
  • Pump and maintain your septic system every three to four years.
  • Prevent surface water runoff from agricultural and livestock areas.
  • Prevent erosion around construction and logging operations.

The danger of blue-green algae sickening and killing your pets is a very real and significant threat in Humboldt County and most other states.  It can also hurt YOU.

If you don’t think so, take a gander at what happened to these folks in Ohio.

Contact the DHHS Division of Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241 for more information.

People may report unusual blooms or conditions, including pictures, to Environmental Health by emailing

The California Department of Public Health website also has more details:

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Measles May Be Killing Dolphins


Cetacean Morbillivirus Most Likely Cause for Die-Off



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Bottlenose dolphin mortality along the east coast of the
United States is ten times higher than average and– according to NOAA
may be attributed to the same disease that sends people to the hospital
every year:  measles.

From North Carolina to New York City, nearly 500 dolphins have been found stranded on beaches this year when normally that number hovers around 150.  Many of the dolphins found had lesions on their bodies, an indicator for cetacean morbillivirus, as dolphin measles is known.

Cetacean morbillivirus is a virus in the same family as the human measles virus and was first found in dolphins in the late 1980s.  Since then, there has been one other definitively large dolphin die-off, in 1987, when over 700 dolphins died from the virus. 

Dolphin measles spreads much like human measles, including through direct contact and inhalation of respiratory particles.  However, unlike human measles, there is no vaccine for the dolphin disease.

Experts have evaluated about 27 dolphins and every one tested positive for the virus, which has resulted in the morbillivirus tentatively being blamed for the die-off, but scientists continue to investigate.

If measles are to blame, researchers will also look for the cause of the outbreak, which could range from environmental factors – like the algae bloom of 1987, which may have contributed to that outbreak – or natural waves of immunity among dolphin populations.

There has also been an unusual mortality die-off on the West Coast. 

In May, Peru’s government declared a health alert on its northern coast after hundreds of pelicans and dolphins inexplicably washed ashore dead.  The advisory urging people not to visit several beaches spread out across hundreds of kilometers comes while investigators tried to determine the cause of their deaths.  Over 800 dolphins were found dead, joining the 1200 pelicans also found deceased along the country’s coast.  Officials now believe the dolphin deaths in Peru are likely attributed to the measles-like virus.

Areas in which the dead Peruvian dolphins have been found are near some of the most abundant fisheries in South America.  Pollutants are one possibility behind the demise and a worry for Peru’s fishermen.  The consumption of dolphin meat is illegal in Peru but they are commonly caught.  One study has found that fishermen who eat dolphin meat have high levels of diabetes, which could be linked to the ingestion of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as the chemical PCP.

Chiclayo (Peru’s fourth largest city) has witnessed hundreds of dolphin deaths, and it is also host to a large open-pit phosphate mine, the effluent of which could contribute to these animals’ demise. 

The warming of ocean waters, El Nino-like events, and a scarcity of available food has also been attributed to the dolphin die-off and is thought to be a compounding vector for the transmission of cetaceanous measles.





(Via Huffington Post, Reuters, YouTube/Fox News and

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The Ticking Time Bomb Called Fukushima


Future of Nuclear Power in Question


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It’s become a ticking time bomb.  A very costly one.

The long, dark shadow cast by the meltdown at Japan’s
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station grew longer and
darker yesterday as the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco, admitted that 300 tons of highly toxic radioactive water had leaked from purpose-built storage tanks.  Tons more are leaking daily.

In fact, water is leaking out from all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

The disaster, caused when the tsunami that followed the devastating earthquake in 2011 knocked out backup generators pumping water to cool the fuel rods, has cost more than $200 billion and is now expected to cost billions of dollars more.

A Nuclear Crisis Moment

The human cost, so slow is the impact of radiation, won’t be measurable for a generation.  It has profoundly shaken confidence in the future of nuclear power.

The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.  This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.

But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.  They are worried about the enormous quantities of water, used to cool the reactor cores, being stored on site.

Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water.  But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tons of water are being added.

“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organizations and countries on nuclear issues.

“What is worse is the water leakage everywhere else– and not just from the tanks.  It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks, it is leaking all over the place.  Nobody can measure that. It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse,” said Mr. Schneider, who is lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports.

At a news conference, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority Shunichi Tanaka appeared to give credence to Mr. Schneider’s concerns, saying that he feared there would be further leaks.

“We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more.  We are in a situation where there is no time to waste,” he told reporters.

The lack of clarity about the water situation and the continued attempts by Tepco to deny that water was leaking into the sea has irritated many researchers.

Dr. Ken Buesseler is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has examined the waters around Fukushima.

“It is not over yet by a long shot.  Chernobyl was in many ways a one week fire-explosive event but nothing compared to the potential of this disaster right on the ocean.”

“We’ve been saying since 2011 that the reactor site is still leaking– whether that’s the buildings and the ground water, or these new tank releases.  There’s no way to really contain all of this radioactive water on site.”

“Once it gets into the ground water, it’s like a river flowing into the sea; you can’t really stop a ground water flow. You can pump out water, but how many tanks can you keep putting on site?” Buesseler said.

Several scientists also raised concerns about the vulnerability of the
huge amount of stored water on site withstanding yet another earthquake.

New Health Concerns

The storage problems are compounded by the inflow of ground water, running down from the surrounding hills.  It mixes with radioactive water leaking out of the reactor’s basements and leaches into the sea, despite the best efforts of Tepco to stem the flow.

Some of the radioactive elements like Cesium contained in the water can be filtered by the earth.  But other elements are managing to get through– and this worries watching nuclear experts.

“Our biggest concern right now is if some of the other more mobile isotopes such as Strontium 90 get through these sediments in the ground water.  They are entering the oceans at levels that then will accumulate in seafood and will cause new health concerns,” Dr. Buesseler noted.

There are also worries about the spent nuclear fuel rods that are being cooled and stored in water pools on site.  Mycle Schneider says these contain far more radioactive Cesium than was emitted during the explosion at Chernobyl.

“There is absolutely no guarantee that there isn’t a crack in the walls of the spent fuel pools.  If salt water gets in, the steel bars would be corroded.  It would basically explode the walls.  You cannot see that and you can’t get close enough to the pools,” he said.

The disaster in 2011 has profoundly shaken confidence in the future of nuclear power – a situation exacerbated by rising costs.  Until Fukushima, the risk of catastrophic meltdown that occurred at Chernobyl was supposed to be one in 100,000.

But Fukushima occurred almost exactly 25 years after Chernobyl and that slashes the estimate to one in 5,000.  In addition, the kind of cascade of devastating events that hit Fukushima hadn’t previously been factored into risk probability assessments.

Now regulatory authorities all over the world have been forced to consider whether, however unlikely, more than one accident could happen in quick succession, and what the consequences would be.  The whole risk and safety assessment framework of nuclear power plants—and their disaster costs– have been called into question.

In a letter to the UN secretary general, Mitsuhei Murata says the official radiation figures published by Tepco cannot be trusted.  He says he is extremely worried about the lack of a sense of crisis in Japan and abroad.

This view is shared by Mycle Schneider, who is calling for an international taskforce for Fukushima.

“The Japanese have a problem asking for help.  It is a big mistake and they badly need it.”

Fukushima’s problems are far from over.  Just hope the latest nuclear fallout from this disaster doesnt’ reach the
shores of Humboldt anytime soon.


(Via the BBC and The Guardian News)

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Posted in Environment1 Comment

Adorable New Species of Mammal Discovered


Meet the Olinguito:  Newest Animal Discovered in 35 Years



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


(Yahoo News/YouTube)–  It’s so cute it’s hard to resist, let
alone overlook.  But somehow science did overlook it — until now.

Researchers announced today a rare discovery of a new species of mammal called the olinguito.  The reddish-brown animal is about 2 feet long with a long tail and weighs about 2 pounds.  Imagine a mini-raccoon with a teddy bear face and you get the picture.

It belongs to a grouping of large creatures that include dogs, cats and bears.

The critter leaps through the trees of mountainous forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night, according to a Smithsonian researcher who has spent the past decade tracking them.  The discovery is described in a study in the journal ZooKey.

But the adorable olinguito shouldn’t have been too hard to find.  One of them once lived in the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington for a year in a case of mistaken identity.

“It’s been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time” despite its extraordinary beauty, said Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian’s curator of mammals.

The little zoo critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Before she died in 1976, Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo in Louisville, Ky., Tucson, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Washington and New York City to try to get it to breed with other olingos.

Except she wouldn’t and never did.  “It turns out she wasn’t fussy,” Helgen said.  ”She just wasn’t the right species.”

Helgen first figured olinguitos were different from olingos when he was looking at pelts and skeletons in a museum.  He later led a team to South America in 2006.

“When we went to the field we found it the very first night,” said study co-author Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.  ”It was almost like it was waiting for us.”

It’s hard to figure how olingos and onlinguitos were confused for each other.  “How is it different? In almost every way that you can look at it,” Helgen said.

Olinguitos are smaller, have shorter tails, a rounder face, tinier ears and darker bushier fur, he said.  “It looks kind of like a fuzzball … kind of like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat,” Helgen said.

It eats fruit and has one baby at a time.  Helgen figures there are thousands of olinguitos in the mountainous forest, traveling through the trees at night which makes them hard to see.

While new species are found regularly, usually they are tiny things like insects and not mammals, the warm-blooded advanced class of animals that have hair, live births and mammary glands in females.

Outside experts said this discovery not merely renaming something, but a genuine new species — with three new subspecies — and a significant find, the type that hasn’t happened for about 35 years.

“Most people believe there are no new species to discover, particularly of relatively large charismatic animals,” said Case Western Reserve University anatomy professor Darin Croft.  ”This study demonstrates that this is clearly not the case.”

The olinguito is the smallest member of the raccoon family of mammals.

The researchers only saw olinguitos in Ecuador and Colombia, but they said they could also be living in parts of Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Guyana, based on their cloud forest habitat.  The olingo is also native to Central and South America.

The North Carolina museum is already selling olinguito stuffed animals for about $15.  Proceeds will benefit habitat preservation for the creatures.

Perhaps there’s hope finding another elusive species evading science:  Bigfoot.

* * * * * * * *

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The Man Who Planted Trees


Single-Handedly Planting a 1,360 Acre Forest


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Deforestation and desertification are critical problems in India that have led to barren land, increased soil erosion, decreased agricultural production, and devastated
local wildlife.  

However one Indian man has made a stand – by single-handedly
planting and cultivating a 1,360 acre forest that is home to a complex,
thriving ecosystem.

Jadav “Molai” Payeng started his project 30 years ago when he was still a teenager.  Then, in 1979, flood waters washed a large number of snakes ashore on the local sandbar in Jorhat, some 350 km from Guwahati.  When the waters receded, Payneg– who was 16 at the time– noticed the reptiles had died due to a lack of forestry.

“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover.  I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms.  It was carnage.  I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there.  They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo.  It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me.  Nobody was
interested,” said Payeng, who is now 47.

Payeng chose to live on the sandbar, starting a life of isolation as he began work to create a new forest.  Planting the seeds by hand, watering the plants in the morning and evening, and pruning them when required, he cultivated a huge natural reserve.

After a few years, the sandbar was transformed into a bamboo thicket.

“I then decided to grow proper trees.  I collected and planted them.  I also transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times.  Red ants change the soil’s properties. That was an experience,” Payeng recalled.

Over the years, the reserve has seen a huge variety of flora and fauna blossom on the sandbar, including endangered animals like the one-horned rhino and Royal Bengal tiger.

“After 12 years, we’ve seen vultures.  Migratory birds, too, have started flocking here.  Deer and cattle have attracted predators,” claims Payeng. 

Unfortunately, locals reportedly killed a rhino which was seen in his forest, something that Payeng clearly disapproves of.  

”Nature has made a food chain; why can’t we stick to it?  Who
would protect these animals if we, as superior beings, start
hunting them?” Payeng said.

Amazingly, the Assam state forest department only learned about Payeng’s forest  in 2008 when a herd of some 100 wild elephants strayed into it after marauding through villages nearby.  It was then that assistant conservator of forests Gunin Saikia met Payeng for the first time.

“We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar.  Locals, whose homes had been destroyed by the pachyderms, wanted to cut down the forest, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead.  
He treats the trees and animals like his own children.  
Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in,” says Saikia.

“We’re amazed at Payeng. He has been at it for 30 years.  Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.”

(Via The Times of India)



Decades later, the lush ecosystem he created is now a safe haven for a variety of large and small species that include birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants impacted by extensive habitat loss.

Payeng makes a living in the forest he planted, rearing cows and selling milk in the nearest town with his wife and three children.

The extraordinary, yet humble, eco-conscious farmer stands as a shining example of what one person can accomplish to make the world a better place.  Now he is planning on devoting his next 30 years to planting another forest.

He says, “I feel sad when I see people felling trees.  We have to save the nature, or else we all will perish.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Our appreciation goes to Onahunttoday who sent this article along to us, and author Timon Singh of

We feel everyone can and should make a difference in the world, making it a better place for future generations.  We like stories of those bringing about positive change, leading by example with ethical values and a strong moral will, and who often are the inspiring underdog bringing better things about for all through their sheer determination.

You can do it too.  In your own way, in your own community, with your own ideas and imagination.  Be inspired.  Plant a seed.  Grow a tree.  Like Payeng walking in his forest below, you, too, can make the magic happen.

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Posted in Environment, Features, Media1 Comment

Marijuana Growers Lay Waste to Eastern Humboldt


A Dead Fisher, Loads of Poison, a Ton of Fertilizer, and Thousands of Plants Destroying Environment


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



A dead fisher, enough poison to kill thousands of animals, and 16,000 marijuana plants were discovered in the wake of three recent marijuana growing operations found in Eastern Humboldt, the HCSO said yesterday.

Here’s a summary of the four day effort and what the Sheriff’s officers found:

On July 29 the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, United States Forest Service (USFS) Agents , Hoopa Valley Tribal Police ( HVTP) Officers and the Cannabis Eradication and Reclamation Team (CERT) conducted an investigation and eradication of a large marijuana cultivation site below the Brushy Mountain Lookout on Friday Ridge near Willow Creek.

Three civilian scientific researchers with a background in wildlife, toxicology and ecology were with the officers when they entered the marijuana site.  The officers eradicated 7,521 growing marijuana plants ranging in size from 4 feet to 6 feet tall.  All the marijuana was being cultivated on United States Forest Service Land.

While conducting the investigation the researchers and deputies found the following:

•  1,230 lbs. dry fertilizer (that’s over half a ton)
•  28 lbs. liquid concentrated fertilizer
14 lbs. 2nd generation anticoagulant rodenticide bait (enough to kill
2,246 woodrats or gray squirrels, 12 fishers, or at least 4 spotted owls)
•  32 oz. Carbaryl insecticide
•  32 oz. Carbofuran (a banned chemical in United States due to its toxicity to people
and wildlife– a 1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon of the stuff is enough to kill a 300-400 black bear.

Deputies also located fresh hot dogs strung from a tree on treble fish hooks as bait, along with two dead deer carcasses and a Hermit thrush bird.  Officers also witnessed environmental damage to the watershed.

Two days later on July 31, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies, USFS Agents, HVTP Officers and CERT Officers conducted a marijuana investigation and eradication at another cultivation site located in the Supply Creek Watershed of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.

The three researchers again accompanied the officers.

Agents found the recently deceased Fisher in the garden site pictured here and above, as well as 8,473 growing marijuana plants ranging in size from 3’ to 6’ tall.  The officers and researchers again found environmental damage to the area.

Fishers are currently under review by the State and Federal Government to be listed as an endangered species.  The researchers took custody of the deceased Fisher and intend to conduct a necropsy on it to determine the exact cause of death.  There was no obvious sign as to what killed it.

The day after the dead fisher discovery, the same team listed above with the researchers went to a third marijuana cultivation site located at Le-Terron Flat, Orleans , which is USFS property. There, the officers located and eradicated an additional 376 growing marijuana plants ranging in size from 3’ to 4’ tall.

Lt. Steve Knight of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said the grow sites had been tended to recently but there are no suspects in custody.  He also added officers saw environmental damage at all the sites including clear cutting of trees, damming of creeks, and multiple truckloads of plastic piping in the ground.  Enough fertilizer was found to cover 25 football fields.

“Some of the banned chemicals are highly poisonous,” Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey told the Times-Standard news.  “People who aren’t residents of the county don’t really care.  They come in, take what they’ve grown and their profits and leave.”

A total of 1,942 lbs of dry fertilizer, 58 lbs of liquid concentrate fertilizer, 17 pounds of second generation anticoagulant rodenticide bait were removed altogether from the three sites.  The rodenticide by itself had the potential to kill 2,753 wood rats, 14 fishers and 5 spotted owls the researchers said.  Many of these toxicants were near creeks.

“What they’re finding is pretty astounding,” Sheriff Mike Downey said.  “Growers are using vastly more than what would be needed.  It’s enough to kill armies of rodents.”

The investigation into those responsible for the marijuana grows is continuing.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

* * * * * * * *

The Times-Standard news has more here.

Posted in Crime, Environment, Local0 Comments

Marijuana and Farm Poisons Contaminating California’s National Parks


New Study Indicates Problem Worse Than Originally Thought


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


CALIFORNIA (Live Science/Yahoo News)– Pesticides from California’s valley farms are collecting in the tissues
of a singing treefrog that lives in pristine national parks,
including Yosemite and Giant Sequoia, a new study finds.

The chemicals include two fungicides never before found in wild frogs, said Kelly Smalling, lead study author and a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research hydrologist.  The study was published today (July 26) in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

“Fungicides have been registered for use for many years, but for some reason, they haven’t really been on anybody’s radar screen until recently,” said Smalling, who is based at the USGS California Water Sciences Center in Sacramento.

California’s Central Valley is one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions; crops include stellar wine grapes, nuts and kiwis.

Agricultural pesticides and fungicides have been detected more than 100 miles to the east, in the rural Sierra Nevada’s snow, water, air and amphibians.  

But valley farmers aren’t the only source of agricultural chemicals: Illegal marijuana gardens hacked into public lands also expose wildlife to fertilizers and toxic rat poison.  Rare predator species, such as spotted owls and fishers, eat the poisoned mice and die.

“The marijuana cultivators make trail systems to go in, and put toxicants at every clearing,” said Mourad Gabriel, a University of California, Davis, wildlife disease ecologist who studies the effects of rodenticides on rare species.  “A lot of predators will use any type of trail system, so you can imagine the potential risk to multiple different species.”

Scientists first noticed sharply declining frog populations in the Sierra Nevada starting in the 1980s.  The problem, however, is a global one– amphibians everywhere are suffering steep population losses and strange deformities.  Earlier studies by the USGS researchers found toxic pesticide concentrations in several frog species living in the national parks.  In 2009 and 2010, the scientists resurveyed many of the same sites, Smalling said.

Researchers collected Pacific chorus frogs on a north-south transect across Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument.  They tested frog tissue, water and sediment samples for more than 90 different pesticides and fungicides.

Complex Causes

The most common chemicals in the frogs were the agricultural fungicides pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole and the herbicide simazine.  DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, was also frequently found.

“This hammers home the point that even if you’re in an area that looks wild and natural, it can have very serious impacts from human activities 100 miles, or even more, away,” said Brad Shaffer, director of UCLA’s La Kretz Center
for California Conservation Science.

The chemical concentrations were often higher in frog tissues than in the environment.  ”The contaminants in the water and sediments were ridiculously low,” Smalling said.  The frogs may store up small exposures over time, or there simply wasn’t any pesticide when the water and sediment samples were taken, the researchers suggest.

While scientists agree that pesticides likely contribute to the dramatic decline in amphibians, there are many reasons that frogs are disappearing.  The heavyweight is habitat destruction and degradation.  Climate change is another factor.

Toxic Pot Gardens

Most pesticides in the Sierras come from the Central Valley.  The pesticides travel to the mountains as aerosols, tiny particles that waft into the atmosphere on warm, rising air currents.  Winds coming off the Pacific Ocean blow the aerosols west to the mountains, where they fall out of the atmosphere in rain and snow.

However, a boom in illegal pot farms in the past five years has brought a new chemical source into the parks. 

The cannabis cultivators spray pesticides and fertilizers and spread rat poison.   Rodents that eat the poison live for two to seven days before keeling over, giving predators plenty of time to capture their dazed prey.

UC Davis’ Gabriel and his colleagues are seeing the effects of these chemicals on the fishers, a carnivore being considered for Endangered Species Act listing.  

Fisher cats nibble on everything from acorns to deer carcasses.  The scientists found rat poison in 85 percent of fisher cat carcasses collected on public and tribal lands, according to a study published in June.

The animals are also passing the poison on to their kits when the babies nurse, Gabriel said.

The UC Davis group is now testing barn owls, which rely more heavily on rodents for food than fisher cats do.  Spotted owls have tested positive for rodenticides in Oregon, and Gabriel said preliminary data indicates barn owls are also
snaring poison-laced mice.

* * * * * * * *

To note, amphibians such as frogs are considered the bellweather of an ecosystem’s health– the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. 

If the Pacific tree frog is being affected by agricultural pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticide blowoff and fallout as studies suggest, you can bet other species are being affected too, such as insects (think bees), fish, larger predators– and yes, even you.

Posted in Environment, State0 Comments

‘The Australian Town That Will Bankrupt Saudi Arabia’


The Bizarre Town of Coober Pedy– Sitting Atop Billions of Barrels of Oil



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



That’s what the headline said last week in the Australian Advertiser,
a dubiously and quirky enough title catching our eye and piquing our

We’ve heard of the place.  If you haven’t, you soon will.  Coober Pedy is on the verge of an oil boom, an enormous one, sitting atop one the planet’s largest shale oil reserves ever discovered.

Situated in the middle of a god-forsaken nowhere, Coober Pedy is a South Australian Outback hamlet straddling the Stuart Highway, roughly 300 miles from Alice Springs in one direction and 500 miles from Adelaide in the other, and without much of anything in between.  It lays claim to being the largest opal mining area in the world, with over 70 opal fields supplying most of the world’s gem-quality opal.

It’s also an inhospitable place:  an uninhabitable desert, a dry, stark and sterile environment, a grassless and forbidding not-very-pretty hinterland place.  The area resembles a lunar landscape, abounding with jutting mineralized mounds of rock and hardscrabble as far as the eye can see. 

There’s no substantial vegetation nor a single tree to be found unless you count the metal sculpture one welded from scrap iron. 

It’s also unbearably hot.  During the summer months temperatures soar to 113+ degrees for weeks on end, with 20% humidity.  Water is in short supply.

“Living here is like living inside a dog’s mouth,” one resident complained, swatting away the enormous population of black flies and camouflaged grasshoppers lighting everywhere from the ever-pervasive orange dust.

Nonetheless, locals and oil promoters alike are hoping to strike it rich.

The astounding get-rich-quick scheme we saw last week read like this:

SOUTH Australia is sitting on oil worth more than $20 trillion, enough for Australia to become a self-sufficient fuel producer.

Brisbane company Linc Energy yesterday released two reports based on their drilling and seismic exploration.

They estimate the amount of oil in the as yet untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to 233 billion barrels of oil.

At the higher end, this would be “several times bigger than all of the oil in Australia,” Linc managing director Peter Bond said.

Shale oil extraction involves using new technologies to drill vertically and then horizontally for distances of more than one kilometer through shale rocks that contain oil.  The process was once prohibitively expensive but advances have created a new oil boom in the US.

This has the potential to turn Australia from an oil importer to an oil exporter.

“If the Arckaringa plays out the way we hope it will, and the way our independent reports have shown, it’s one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment.”

Mr. Bond said each well could flow at 1,000 – 2,000 barrels per day.

“You put in 50 of them and that’s a lot of oil,” he said.  “We have a very good idea that this will be an oil-producing asset.”

“If it comes in the way the reports are suggesting, it could well and truly bring Australia back to (oil) self-sufficiency,” Mr. Bond said.

“If you look at the upper target, which is 103 – 233 billion barrels of oil, that’s massive, and the opportunity of turning this
into the next shale boom is very real…”


Some oil industry experts are skeptical that much oil remains to be found in and around Coober Pedy.  Others say the find will potentially shift the strategic balance of power away from the Middle East.

To put the above figures into some context, Saudi Arabia has an estimated remaining reserve of 263 billion barrels.  Other oil producing countries such as Iraq and Iran are sitting on reserves of 115 and 137 billion barrels respectively; Canada and Venezuela are at 175 and 211 billion barrels.

The oil industry is rife with such optimistic speculation and hype whenever it comes to attracting potential investors.  Coober Pedy may very well fall in that category.  Or, if some industry reports and the Australian government are to be believed, Coober Pedy is destined to become very, very rich soon. 

Australian State Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis believes the recent discovery will be a key part to securing Australia’s energy security now and into the future.  “We have seen the hugely positive impact shale projects like Bakken and Eagle Ford have had on the US economy.  There is still a long way to go, but investment in oil projects in South Australia will accelerate as more and more companies prove up the resources,” Koutsantonis said.

Waiting for the expected gold rush succeeding the opal boom to happen, Coober Pedy’s population has risen from 1,700 in 2011 to almost 4,000 today, comprising between 45-48 different nationalities depending upon whom you speak to.  Residents are building new homes, amenities, and businesses for the coming oil boom.  Real estate prices have already risen 300%.  A hotel room will set you back about $200 a night but even that’s open to question for the near future.

But Coober Pedy is also unique in another way aside from opal and oil:  the name comes from the Aboriginal words kupa piti, which loosely translates as “White man in a hole.”  Or a burrow.

To escape the oppressive heat of summer, the freezing cold of winter, and the occasional dust storms, residents live underground in “dugout” homes, a Down Under concept that’s turned worked-out mines into practical shelters. 

A standard three-bedroom cave home with a lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to building a house on the surface. However, these dugouts remain at a constant temperature of 70 degrees, while surface buildings need air-conditioning.

While the structures may be located underground, they are surprisingly modern.  The underground interiors take full advantage of the beautiful red rock sandstone hues and feature modern amenities like tiled floors, bathrooms, walk-in closets, modern kitchens and televisions.  As the years have gone by, the homes have become bigger and more sophisticated.  Finding opal during the excavation of homes has helped spur and pay the way for their expansion.  One hotel reported finding $360,000 in opal digging out two additional rooms.  Another resident found over $1.2 million of the precious gems carving out stairs for their visiting Mum.

There are several above and below-ground hotels and inns in Coober Pedy accommodating tourists and oil seekers flocking in from all over the world to see this unusual town.  Coober Pedy has more than a few underground restaurants and bars, gift shops selling precious gold and opal jewelry, a spa, several museums, two churches, and of course, mine tours.

The food isn’t bad in this ethnically diverse melting pot of a town, either.  One can dine on Italian falafels, Greek pizzas, Chinese hamburgers, outback beef, fried lizard and kangaroo, washed down with copious quantities of fresh Australian beer and wine. 

After that, you can head up above ground where there’s a small colorful pool housed inside a large industrial water tank, kept cool and sheltered from the scorching sun.  You can also gaze at the lonely 1,800 kilometer long ‘dog fence’ designed to keep wild dingoes away from the interior’s sheep herds.  Just don’t fall into the estimated one million holes of mining shafts and air vents dotting the surface.

Not to be outdone, the town also offers a golf course, one of the few signs of civilization found above ground.  No ordinary course, this one is devoid of grass and trees, comprising a huge sand trap and nine holes dug in mounds of sand, diesel, and oil.

Golfers tee off by using a small piece of turf that they drag around with them.  On the many days when it’s too hot, avid golfers play at night– using ‘glow in the dark’ golf balls. 

In a show of either sympathy or support, the Coober Pedy Golf Club is the only one in the world to enjoy reciprocal rights at the Royal Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland.

“It’s a very strange and whacky place, full of beautiful people and beautiful landscapes,” resident Anthony Russell said in a thick Aussie drawl. 

“Oh, we’re a bit batty, eccentric characters if you will, but when I walk up the street I say hello to a hundred people and they’ll all wave and say hello back to me.  It’s a friendly place and not a day goes by where you don’t have a good belly laugh and a beer with someone.”

We thought Humboldt had its quirky points but it’s nothing compared to Coober Pedy; a strange and friendly and bizarre place where residents are waiting to strike it rich, waiting for their boat to come in, dreams awash in rich, rich oil amidst the precious opal, orange sandstone dust, and the searing heat of South Australia’s outback.


Posted in Environment, Features, Media, Scene0 Comments

The Badass Honey Badger



Honey Badger Don’t Care!



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Nature certainly has a wicked sense of humor.

Yesterday we profiled the sweet, cute, cuddly and adorable sloth.  That was nice.

Now for something completely different.  No better time than to highlight one of the most vicious, brutal, and throat-crushingly hardcore little mofo mammals ever to punch a lion unconscious or swing a couple of King Cobras around like a pair of Bruce Lee nunchucks: Yes, we’re talking the African Honey Badger.

At three and a half feet long and weighing in at thirty pounds, he kind of looks like a cracked-out skunk on PCP.  He’s so fearless that he just doesn’t give a crap.   He doesn’t need to.  Honey Badger is one of the most hardcore serial killers pillaging the earth today.

Take a look at the above video that’s spawned over 61 million views with its delightful commentary.  In the span of three minutes, this ferocious little psycho climbs up a tree to battle a six-foot cobra thirteen feet above the ground, chases off a jackal and leopard, and rips its prey apart like unwrapping a Christmas present.

By far the most incredible aspect of this clip is when Honey Badger takes on a super-deadly African Puff Adder.  Now, the Puff Adder is one of the most murderous snakes on the planet.  One of these vipers possesses enough venom to kill 4 or 5 men, and is so violent, toxic, and aggressive that
they account for more human fatalities than any other African
snake.  But Honey Badger don’t care!

He grabs a rat out of the snake’s mouth, carries it a few feet away, and eats it right in front of the snake just to show him who’s boss.  Then, after eating the jacked-up meal, Honey Badger decides, screw it, I’m going to eat the whole damn snake, too.  This takes viciousness to another level which, you’ll admit, is something we all can appreciate.  Honey Badger kills the viper but not before being bitten in the face and getting pumped full of enough venom to kill a creature three times his size.   But hey, Honey Badger don’t care!

Succumbing to the poison and falling unconscious, he goes out like a light, but then – amazingly – comes back to life and eats the shit out of the already-half-eaten snake.  You have got to be kidding me.

He’s been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Most Fearless Creature” every year since 2002, with no end in sight.  A relative of the almost equally-wicked wolverine, the Honey Badger has no natural predators. That’s impressive, since we’re talking about a place where leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and black mambas roam freely in the land of the quick and the dead. 

It also helps that this thing doesn’t screw around when it gets totally pissed off.  It’ll go after anything, anytime, anywhere.  It’s been known to attack humans, buffalo, wildebeest, wild boars, jackals, monitor lizards, even lions and cheetahs. 

If the creature is too large for this badass badger to straight-up eviscerate with its inch-and-a-half long dagger-like claws or gleaming razor-sharp teeth, Honey Badger knows how to go for the weak spot – the balls.

That’s right, folks, this little devil-thing has been documented killing male lions by running underneath them and tearing off their King-of-the-Jungle scrotums in two shakes of a kitten’s whiskers.  Yup, this is one creature you don’t want to go all out naked and crazy on.  Even clothes and an athletic cup won’t help you unless they’re fashioned out of space-grade titanium and you can
run like hell.

Honey Badger don’t discriminate, either.  It’ll go after smaller, equally-dangerous creatures no less deadly, but far more bite-sized.  It takes a pretty whacked-out psychotically possessed animal to routinely eat poisonous snakes, spiders, and scorpions, but… yeah, you got it, Honey Badger don’t care.

He also loves honey and bee larvae (which is where he gets his name).  His method of getting at them is just as hardcore as he is – he jams his face willy-nilly into a beehive and starts eating the baby bees and honey while a bunch of crazy pissed-off bees sting him unmercifully in the face. 

Don’t matter, Honey Badger don’t show no pain, no fear, or no emotion other than straight-out anger, and he won’t notice the hundreds of stab-wounds he’s getting all over his hide.

He’s a brutal, vicious bantamweight killer who kicks ass, never backs down or registers fear, and destroys everything in its path.  He adorably trots off into the sunset,  prey in his teeth, stingers in his snout, and severed scrotums of enemies dragging from his claws– and yet he don’t care.

Posted in Environment, Media0 Comments

An Adorably Slothful Existence


Costa Rica’s Baby Sloth Sanctuary



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


What’s not to love about baby sloths?

They’re fuzzy, smile, have big adorable eyes, and move as slow and gentle as a spoonful of molasses dripping on a cool spring day.  Their squeaks and squeals are as adorable as any kitten. 

They’re also pretty damn cute.

The Aviarios Del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica is the world’s only sloth orphanage, home to over a hundred very sleepy adopted urchins whose lives have been saved by legendary sloth whisperer Judy Arroyo.

Sloths are fantastically weird animals, slow moving junkies of the jungle who seem to spend their lives either nodding off or scratching– and occasionally eating a bean or two before drifting back to a blissful daytime nap.

The sanctuary has tours, programs, and overnight accomodations available for visitors receiving rave reviews.  One visiting family wrote:

We were in Costa Rica in January and we visited the Sloth Sanctuary.  This is a low key, charitable establishment that is totally dedicated to the preservation of the native sloths.  The Center give tours of the sanctuary, a film presentation on native sloths, a talk by the staff on their work, a visit to the nursery, and a visitor encounter with the sloths.  The place is very clean and well maintained.

These animals are fascinating and very endearing!  We were introduced to some of the more sociable sloths and the staff are very caring and protective of them.   The center has a dining room with great food, a shop, a small nature walk displaying native plants and trees, and an opportunity to go on a boat ride through the mangroves.  We were lucky and saw three wild sloths in the tree canopies as we sailed along the mangroves!

My favorite was the three-toed guy named Laylo.  I carried him around for two hours.  He looked just as bummed as I was after I had to leave.

This is a great place to visit and I’m sure if you do – you too will be charmed by these strange creatures.  This was my favorite part of our trip to Costa Rica!!


If you’re one to fall in love with these animals and can stay awhile, you can also join the sanctuary’s volunteer program.  Trainee sloth wranglers feed the sloths and help exercise and potty train the babies.  

The sanctuary runs solely on donations and voluntary help– so you can do your bit helping these vulnerable creatures whose jungle homes are slowly being destroyed by pesticides, encroachment, sold off to US real estate agencies, and sliced and diced by roads and power lines.

Sloth, smile, and love on, people.


Posted in Environment, Features, Media1 Comment

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla



Thank You for Lighting Up the World
And Not Blowing Up the Planet



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Pretty much everybody even remotely associated with science has heard the name Tesla before.

He was the man who held lightening in his hand and invented the ever-zapping coils resonating the richly arcing tones of Sweet Home Alabama seen above.

Surprisingly, few people these days are familiar with the life and times of one of humankind’s most eccentric and arguably insane scientific super-geniuses.  He was to electricity as Elvis Presley was to rock ‘n roll.

First off, Nikola Tesla was brilliant.  Not only that, he was badass brilliant.

The Croatian-born engineer spoke eight languages, almost single-handedly developed technology that harnessed the power of electricity for household use, and held numerous patents in different areas.

The guy invented things like electrical generators, FM radio, remote control, robots, spark plugs, fluorescent lights, induction motors, X-Ray machines and giant-ass Tesla coils that shot enormous, brain-frying lightning bolts all over the place like crazy.

He had an unyielding, steel-trap photographic memory and an insane ability to visualize even the most complex pieces of machinery.  The guy did advanced calculus and physics equations in his damn head, memorized entire books at a time, and successfully pulled off scientific experiments that modern-day technology STILL can’t replicate.

For instance, in 2007 a group of lesser geniuses at MIT got pumped up out of their minds because they wirelessly transmitted energy a distance of seven feet through the air.

Tsk-tsk, big whoop.  Nikola Tesla once lit 200 lightbulbs from a power source 26 miles away, and he did it in 1899 with a machine he built from spare parts in the middle of the god-forsaken desert.  Tesla had gone wireless before the world even had wires.  To this day, nobody can really figure out how the hell he pulled that shit off because two-thirds of the schematics existed only in the darkest recesses of Tesla’s all-powerful brain.

Insane Brilliance

Of course, much like many other eccentric mega-geniuses and diabolical masterminds, Tesla was also completely insane.  Prone to nervous breakdowns, he claimed to receive weird visions in the middle of the night, spoke to pigeons, and occasionally thought he was receiving electromagnetic signals from extraterrestrials on Mars.

He was also obsessive-compulsive, hated human hair, jewelry, round objects, and anything not divisible by three.  He was celibate and asexual his entire life.

Basically, Nikola Tesla was the ultimate mad scientist, which is seriously awesome.

Another sweet thing about Tesla is that he conducted the sort of crazy experiments that generally would result in hordes of angry villagers breaking down your door with torches and pitchforks.

One time, while he was working on magnetic resonance, he discovered the resonant frequency of the Earth and caused an earthquake so powerful that it almost obliterated the 5th Avenue New York building that housed his Frankenstein Castle laboratory.  Stuff was flying off the walls, the drywall was breaking apart, the cops were coming after him, and Tesla had to smash his device with a sledge hammer to keep it from demolishing an entire city block.  Nothing like having a real life Lex Luthor living next to you in Gotham.

Later, he boasted that he could have built a device powerful enough to split the Earth in two.  Nobody dared him to prove it.

Another time he produced artificial lightning with discharges consisting of millions of volts at his Colorado Springs proving grounds.  Thunder from the released energy was heard 15 miles away.  People walking along the street observed sparks jumping between their feet and the ground.  Electricity sprang from water taps when turned on.  Light bulbs within 100 feet of the lab glowed even when turned off and horses in a livery stable bolted from their stalls after receiving shocks through their metal shoes.  Butterflies were electrified, swirling in circles with blue halos of St. Elmo’s fire around their wings.

Tesla also ordered the construction of the Wardenclyffe Tesla Tower, a giant building shaped like an erect penis that would have housed the largest Tesla coil ever built. 

The massive structure, ostensibly designed to wirelessly transmit power, was cited at the time as a potential cause of the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Event – a ten-megaton blast that detonated in the wastelands above central Russia, completely obliterating and deforesting
everything within a several-hundred mile radius. 

While no one has proven Tesla’s involvement in the ass-destroyingly huge explosion now ascribed to a meteorite, it’s pretty awesome that this guy potentially could have detonated a weapon 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb destroying Hiroshima, and all back before they’d even invented the submachine gun.

During his adventures blinding half of the world with science, Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of Niagara Falls into the first hydroelectric power plant, constructed a bath designed to cleanse the human body of germs using nothing but electricity, and created a 130-foot long bolt of lightning from one of his massive coils– a feat which to this day remains the world record for man-made lightning.

Thomas Edison gets all the glory for discovering the lightbulb, but it was his one-time assistant and life-long arch-nemesis, Nikola Tesla, who made the breakthroughs in alternating-current technology that allowed for people to cheaply use electricity to power appliances and lighting
in their homes. 

Today, all homes and applicances run on Tesla’s AC current.

Tesla’s Particle Beam Atomic Death Ray

But perhaps his most badass invention was his face-melting, tank-destroying, super-secret Atomic Death Ray.

In the 1920s Tesla claimed to be working on a tower that could potentially have spewed forth a gigantic beam of ionized particles capable of disintegrating aircraft 200 miles away, blinking most men out of existence like something out of a Flash Gordon comic.

His weapon, known as the “Teleforce Beam“, allegedly shot 60 million volts of ball lightning, liquefying its targets with enough power to vaporize steel.

Tesla believed wars of the future “will be waged by electrical means” and claimed his super-duper powerful raygun could shoot further than 200 miles if only its range wasn’t limited by the unfortunate curvature of the Earth.

Luckily for all humans, this crazy insanity never came to fruition.  Most of the schematics and plans existed only in Tesla’s head, and when he died of heart failure in 1943, little hard data on the project existed.  Still, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI ransacked his place and confiscated all his personal stuff and locked it away just to be on the safe side.

Despite being incredibly popular during his day, Tesla now remains largely overlooked among the lists of the greatest inventors and scientists of the modern era.

Nikola Tesla was one of those super-genius badasses whose intellect placed him dangerously on the fence between “great scientific mind” and “utter madness.” 

Wanting to provide the world with abundant,  
cheap, and clean energy free from fossil fuels by using planet Earth as its own conductor, neighbors often heard terrifying sonic booms emanating from his many mind-boggling experiments.  He held 700 patents at the time of his death, made groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of physics, robotics, steam turbine engineering, and magnetism, and once melted one of his assistants’ hands by overloading it with X-rays.  That isn’t really scientific, but it’s still pretty cool.

And honestly, if there was ever one man on the planet who was capable of single-handedly destroying the entire planet through his insane scientific discoveries, it was Tesla.  That alone should qualify him as a pretty righteous badass mother of invention.

* * * * * * * *

Happy Birthday, Nikola.  Thank you for not blowing up the planet. 

You’ve gone, but you’ve turned on the light for the future.  Scientist, engineer, and a badass mad genuis, you lit up all the cities around the world and changed the face of how we live in it.

You wanted to share your energy and ideas with everyone but your financial backers abandoned you because they didn’t want it given it away for free.  In the end, you died penniless, alone, and largely forgotten.

You’re a man out of time, Nikola. 



Nikola Tesla was born July 10, 1856, and died on January 7, 1943.  If you’re reading this now, you have him to thank.

To note, the musical Tesla coils in the above clip were constructed by electrical engineering students Steven Caton and Eric Goodchild.  A Tesla Coil is a special type of transformer invented by Nikola Tesla that generates extremely large voltages using a phenomenon known as electrical resonance.  Each coil in the video is capable of generating a 13 foot spark, equating to about 500,000 volts of electricity.  By modulating the number of sparks that emit from the coil each second, different tones are produced by the coils.

If you’d like to see a large Tesla coil in action, head on down to Shamus T Bones restaurant in Eureka and ask them to light it off for you, and their Jacob’s Ladder, too.  Just don’t lift up your fork.

For Steven at GHD and Matthew at MIT.

Posted in Energy, History, National5 Comments

Splendor of Kauai


Lost World, Lost Paradise



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Its beauty is spectacular.

Kauai, the oldest island of the Hawaiian Island chain, was born of rock and fire long, long ago.  It’s a special place having a natural beauty and unique geographical features unlike any other place on earth.

The 553-square mile island has a stunning array of rainforests, beaches, deserts, swamps, and mountains, many of which are remote and untouched, bathed in the tropical rain and sunshine.

Among its diverse landscape are sea caves, waterfalls, steep canyons, river valleys, and endangered species of plants and exotic birds, some of which are found nowhere else but on this precious isle.

God shined when he made Kauai– a heaven on earth, a scintillating pearl among pearls.

Aloha on.


(This video is best viewed at the full-screen setting)

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Posted in Environment, Features, Media6 Comments

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