environment

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Good News From Wales And For Whales

BW5Tb88IUAAh2BhSorry to Welsh readers, that’s Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia, not the country.

It’s nice to report some good news though, and I’d just like to point you to two stories you may have missed recently.

Wikipedia has recently been coming under pressure from a petition by alternative medicine groups who want to get their, some would say (including me), less than scientific version of medical put up on the site.

Jimmy Wales responded in what I believe is usually referred to as no uncertain terms.

No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

I particularly enjoyed “lunatic charlatans”, don’t know about you.

The second spot of good news is that Japan is going to have to stop whaling on account of the fact that no one seems to be sure what the hell the “scientific research” they are supposed to be doing actually is…(highlights mine)

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic.

It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.

Announcing the judgement on Monday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said that Japan had killed around 3,600 minke whales since 2005 under its Antarctic whaling programme, known as JARPA II.

While JARPA II could broadly be characterised as “scientific research”, the scientific output from the programme was limited, and Japan had not sufficiently justified the whaling quotas it had set, the ICJ said.

During the court case, Australia argued that Japan’s programme was commercial whaling in disguise, but Tokyo said the suit was an attempt to impose Australia’s cultural norms on Japan.

 

The Rubber Dodo Awards

This is the press release for this year’s Rubber Dodo Awards…
Center for Biological Diversity


Dear Michael,

Rubber Dodo Award
  Cast your vote by Oct. 30!

It’s time to pick the most outrageous eco-villain of 2013 — and we need your help. Click here to cast your vote!

The Center for Biological Diversity established the Rubber Dodo award in 2007 as a way to spotlight those who do their very best — that is, their worst — to destroy wild places and drive species to extinction. The award, named after the most famous extinct species on Earth, is given out every fall.

Previous recipients of this prestigious faux-accolade include climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (2012), BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), polar bear foe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007), who set a record low in the number of plants and animals he placed on the endangered species list.

This year has brought many threats to imperiled species and wildlands and many deserving winners to choose from. Vote now and invite your friends. Voting closes at midnight Oct. 30.

 

Click here to find out more and take action.

Here are the Center’s top four 2013 nominations:

Doc HastingsRep. Doc Hastings: Hastings is the ringleader in a group of right-wing Republicans tearing into the Endangered Species Act to erode wildlife protection. The Washington state congressman has repeatedly called the Act a failure and has organized a series of fear-mongering hearings to give industry profiteers and anti-government idealogues a forum to complain bitterly about this landmark law — despite strong factual evidence showing it has been 99 percent successful at saving plants and animals from extinction and has put hundreds of species on the road to recovery.
Koch BrothersKoch Brothers: Where to start with the super-secretive, ultra-rich Koch brothers, Charles and David? Their profligate spending on campaigns to give polluters free rein? Their bankrolling of the Tea Party and other forces flailing to block any sane approach to the climate crisis? Their footing of the bill for anti-wolf demagoguery? The ultimate goal always seems to boil down to this: The Kochs will do whatever it takes to ease the path of big corporations — including those who mine and drill our public lands relentlessly for maximum private profit — to pollute more, fatten their bank accounts, destroy wild places and put the planet’s future at risk.
Russ GirlingKeystone XL Booster/TransCanada CEO Russ Girling: No single project in the United States poses more risk to our climate, endangered wildlife and environment than TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. If it’s built, the 1,700-mile pipeline will facilitate the burning of so much fossil fuel that a leading climate researcher says it will be “game over” for avoiding climate catastrophe. The pipeline will also put more than a dozen endangered species in harm’s way, including whooping cranes and northern swift foxes, and pose a danger to hundreds of rivers and streams. The State Department estimates the pipeline could spill up to 34,000 gallons of tar sands oil each year. For TransCanada, though, Keystone’s just a pipeline for more profits.
Wayne LaPierreNational Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre: When it comes throwing a tantrum over common-sense measures to save wildlife from lead poisoning (to say nothing of stopping high-powered guns from going into the hands of maniacs), no one does it better than NRA Grand Poobah Wayne Lapierre. LaPierre and Co. pitch a fit every time a serious conversation starts about phasing toxic lead out of hunting ammunition. Millions of birds and other animals — including highly endangered condors and iconic bald eagles — are poisoned yearly after scavenging on carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments. The NRA and its cronies in Congress, though, have time and again stepped in to stop any attempt to curb these totally preventable poisoning deaths. The NRA loves scare tactics. Wildlife? Not so much.

 

The 2013 Rubber Dodo Award winner will be chosen after voting closes at midnight on Oct. 30.

Make sure to cast your vote, share this on Facebook and invite your friends to vote, too. And don’t forget: You can also write in your own choice for the winner.

If you have trouble following the link, go to http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/salsa/web/questionnaire/public/?questionnaire_KEY=1644.


Please cast your electronic ballot by October 30, 2012.

Donate now to support our work.

Photo credits:  Rep. Hastings courtesy House.gov, Koch Brothers courtesy Senate.gov, Russ Girling courtesy U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Wayne LaPierre courtesy Flickr./Gage Skidmore.

Cray (or should it be KRAY?) fish

The BBC carried this story yesterday about something not so nice to be found in the River Nith.

Investigation work is planned following reports of a potentially devastating invasive species being discovered for the first time in the River Nith.

Scottish Natural Heritage is to carry out surveys to see if North American signal crayfish are established in the south of Scotland river.

The crayfish were first found in Scottish waters in 1995.

Escapes from fish farms or illegal releases are thought to be the reason for their spread through the UK.

The waters of Loch Ken in Dumfries and Galloway are already infested with the species.

Dr Colin Bean, a freshwater adviser with SNH, said the latest incident would be examined closely.

“The prospects of removing signal crayfish from any water body – particularly one the size of the Nith – is likely to be difficult if not impossible,” he said.

Now, I am sure the scientist mentioned knows far better than me that in these circumstances the word impossible is not actually a synonym for unachievable but rather a synonym of very very expensive and time-consuming, which is not the same thing.

The article itself tells people to leave them alone completely (pending studies).

However, another scientist, in fact the very one I spoke to in a recent podcast had a view about possible future strategies…

Eradication may be possible using biocides but trials in Scotland have found this to be very difficult (you have to get them all and prevent reinfestation). Releasing large amounts of pesticides into water courses brings with it its own environmental problems. 

These fish are also pretty tasty.

Show people the difference between them and native crayfish and you might find locals are up for a little gourmet conservation.

Thing is, I don’t know if people eating them would keep their numbers at a level where they could coexist with the native ones.

They’re just too aggressive!

Anglers are a potential  source of transmission too, accidentally carrying eggs on their boots and kit or even using adult crayfish as bait. Realistically biocides are the most cost-effective way of getting rid of them but these are very harmful to other wildlife. Manually eradicating them is next to impossible.

Any eradication programme would also have to be very well co-ordinated, covering large areas. The benefit of eradicating the pest would have to be balanced with damage to fish stocks and other aquatic wildlife.

So there you have it, and as she also said… “Time to be makin’ some gumbo“.

The general point is that people in general have to be more careful about stopping these things before they start. Invasive species are responsible for many extinctions of native species around the world.

 

 

Yellow and Red Dust

In the Mediterranean there is a climatic condition whereby at certain times the clouds look like they are boiling red. As they come over the hills the air looks almost as if the oxygen in it had rusted.  This happens because the winds are blowing the desert sand over the Mediterranean from Africa. These clouds usually bring rain with them too and when the wind dies down the rain evaporates and the sky returns to normal leaving all the cars with a coating of red sand. When I saw it most clearly, with a mountainous backdrop, is the time in my life I most regretted not having a camera on me because as the clouds roll over the mountains it is a quite spectacular sight.

That said, the red dust isn’t pleasant and covers your clothes too. However, in South (and presumably North) Korea there is something called the yellow dust which is extremely nasty. I’ll get to explaining what the yellow dust is exactly in a roundabout (or should it be rounders?) sort of way.

Baseball is quite a popular sport in the USA but it is something I had never been able to like. I like to at least give things a try though and several times had tried to watch an entire match from start to finish on TV, always with the result of falling asleep.

Therefore, shortly after I arrived in Korea in March and noticed baseball was a rather popular sport there, I thought I would go along to a match and see if it was any better in the stadium . When April began it was getting warm enough that you could go out basically with just a t-shirt and jeans in the daytime so I was only wearing exactly that . I noticed also in April that people were wearing the face masks that you see so often in pictures from Japan but I didn’t bother to get one.

It must have been about 25 degrees that day, which is not hot but certainly not cold. I was just wearing a t-shirt but all the punters in the crowd were telling me to cover up. I thought they must be telling me this because they were being nice and were worried that I could get burned.  Not so.

You see, the yellow dust (or Hwang Sa as it is called in Korea) is something which  sweeps down from Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China into Korea. The sands from the deserts in those countries are blown down by seasonal winds in March, April and May, sometimes as far as Japan or further.

This is obviously something that has happened for thousands of years. It is worse now though because…

In the last decade or so, it has become a serious problem due to the increase of industrial pollutants contained in the dust and intensified desertification in China causing longer and more frequent occurrences, as well as in the last few decades when the Aral Sea of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan started drying up due to the diversion of the Amu River and Syr River following a Soviet agricultural program to irrigate Central Asian deserts, mainly for cotton plantations.

Furthermore,

For the past few years, the dust storms often carry oxides (aluminium, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and silicon) and toxic waste thus increasing the risks of respiratory and skin reactions.

So I think now that the Koreans were trying to tell me to cover up for another reason entirely and

I experienced the double whammy of watching a crap sport and getting a little bit sick for a few days on account of that.

For a few days after I didn’t feel so good but the main thing that annoyed me was that no one at my work bothered to tell me about it until after the event. I explained about my weekend and I that I wasn’t feeling so good and they told me “Oh, that would’ve been the yellow dust”. Kamsa Hamnida for that!

So if you are going there, you have been warned.