Category Archives: Agriculture

EnviroWatch: Critters, coast, water, nukes


First, StarAfrica reminds us that other diseases like visceral leishmaniasis [Kala-azar] remain endemic problems:

Cases of Kala-azar infections increase in South Sudan – UN

United Nations has revealed that the number of Kala-azar disease cases in South Sudan have been risen to 4,624 after nine months of war in the new born country.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the weekly situation update that 260 new cases have been recorded since September, bringing the 2014 total to 4,624; up from 1,614 cumulative cases up to the same week in 2013.

“A full response to Kala-azar requires additional health and nutrition partners to support treatment facilities,” the OCHA report said. “In addition, more health partners need training on diagnosis and case management.”

Kala-azar is transmitted by the bite of the sand fly and can be fatal within weeks if not treated.

BBC News covers the surface:

Different depths reveal ocean warming trends

The deeper half of the ocean did not get measurably warmer in the last decade, but surface layers have been warming faster than we thought since the 1970s, two new studies suggest.

Because the sea absorbs 90% of the heat caused by human activity, its warmth is a central concern in climate science. The new work suggests that shallow layers bear the brunt of ocean warming.

Scientists compared temperature data, satellite measurements of sea level, and results from climate models.

From the Los Angeles Times, another consequence of California’s dramatic drought:

In wake of drought and fires, turtle habitat becomes death trap

Biologists strode along the cracked, dry mud surrounding this evaporating north Los Angeles County lake last week, pausing periodically to pick up an emaciated turtle and wash alkaline dust off its head and carapace.

“A lot of these animals are severely ill and starving,” said Tim Hovey, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, as he gestured toward a group of turtles bobbing in the murky water offshore.

After three years of drought, this natural 2-mile-long lake, about 15 miles west of Lancaster, has become a smelly, alkaline death trap for one of the largest populations of state-protected Western pond turtles in Southern California.

CNBC covers potential consequences:

If California doesn’t get rain this winter …

Each year from October to the following September, California measures its rainfall and snow accumulation.

This past season didn’t take much figuring. It turned out to be the fourth driest year ever for the state, as it only got around 60 percent of the average precipitation.

As California starts a new water measurement cycle—and faces a fourth year of severe drought—another dry winter could be a tipping point for the country’s top agricultural producer.

“This year is crucial,” said Michael Hanemann, professor and environmental economist at the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“A third winter of low rain would be extremely painful,” he said. “If we have one or two dry winters we can get through that. But the lack of water this winter would have a significant economic impact on agriculture that hasn’t been felt before.”

A plea for piscine rectification from Al Jazeera America:

Salmon people pray for sacred fish to return to historic home

  • Northwest tribes urge US and Canada to revise Columbia River Treaty to allow safe passage for salmon crossing dams

The Columbia River Treaty, which was negotiated in the 1950s and signed in 1964, aimed to generate hydropower and protect cities like Portland, Oregon, from flooding by building five high-head hydropower dams. But they didn’t provide for fish passage, and small bands of Native people in the U.S. and Canada weren’t consulted, though they stood to lose a fishery central to their nutrition, economy, religion and culture. Some 2,300 settlers as well as Indians were flooded out of fertile valleys in Canada that now fill and empty like bathtubs by dams built to regulate downstream river flow and light distant cities.

The salmon have been absent here for 72 years — for roughly three human and 15 salmon generations. Is that long enough to seem unchangeable?

“While we’ve protected Portland from flooding, people forget we’ve permanently flooded upriver,” said D.R. Michel, executive director of the Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT), a coalition of Northwest tribes. Michel said the reservoirs, which can fluctuate up to 40 feet at a time, have permanently displaced thousands of people,

“We’ve swung so far to the other side, where everything is about bottom lines and profit. It’s just a short-sighted way of looking at things,” he added.

A court of coastal consequences from the New York Times:

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

  • A quixotic historian tries to hold oil and gas companies responsible for Louisiana’s disappearing coast.

Beneath the surface, the oil and gas industry has carved more than 50,000 wells since the 1920s, creating pockets of air in the marsh that accelerate the land’s subsidence. The industry has also incised 10,000 linear miles of pipelines, which connect the wells to processing facilities; and canals, which allow ships to enter the marsh from the sea. Over time, as seawater eats away at the roots of the adjacent marsh, the canals expand. By its own estimate, the oil and gas industry concedes that it has caused 36 percent of all wetlands loss in southeastern Louisiana. (The Interior Department has placed the industry’s liability as low as 15 percent and as high as 59 percent.) A better analogy than disappearing football fields has been proposed by the historian John M. Barry, who has lived in the French Quarter on and off since 1972. Barry likens the marsh to a block of ice. The reduction of sediment in the Mississippi, the construction of levees and the oil and gas wells “created a situation akin to taking the block of ice out of the freezer, so it begins to melt.” Dredging canals and pipelines “is akin to stabbing that block of ice with an ice pick.”

The oil and gas industry has extracted about $470 billion in natural resources from the state in the last two decades, with the tacit blessing of the federal and state governments and without significant opposition from environmental groups. Oil and gas is, after all, Louisiana’s leading industry, responsible for around a billion dollars in annual tax revenue. Last year, industry executives had reason to be surprised, then, when they were asked to pay damages. The request came in the form of the most ambitious, wide-ranging environmental lawsuit in the history of the United States. And it was served by the most unlikely of antagonists, a former college-football coach, competitive weight lifter and author of dense, intellectually robust 500-page books of American history: John M. Barry.

Pro-pachydermal protests from the Guardian:

Elephant poaching: thousands march worldwide for wildlife protection

  • Demonstrators in 136 cities and towns across six continents joined the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Thousands marched in Africa and around the world Saturday to pressure governments to do more to stop the poaching industry that many fear is driving rhinos and elephants to the brink of extinction.

The protests, dubbed the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, took place in 136 cities and towns across six continents, from Soweto to Nairobi, and Paris to New York and Tokyo.

In South Africa, which is struggling to stem a rhino poaching crisis, demonstrators gathered across 17 cities.

Agence France-Presse covers one of the events:

Kenya joins global march to highlight animal slaughter

Program notes:

Kenyans join with people in over 120 cities across the globe to raise awareness of the costs of poaching, and to ask the world to shun ivory and rhino horn products in what is set to be the largest demonstration of its kind.

The Observer plays god:

In the Age of Extinction, which species can we least afford to lose?

  • Climate change and human intervention are accelerating the planet’s loss of biodiversity. So should we try to preserve ‘useful’ bees before ‘cuddly’ tigers?

The threatened extinction of the tiger in India, the perilous existence of the orangutan in Indonesia, the plight of the panda: these are wildlife emergencies with which we have become familiar. They are well-loved animals that no one wants to see disappear. But now scientists fear the real impact of declining wildlife could be closer to home, with the threat to creatures such as ladybirds posing the harshest danger to biodiversity.

Climate change, declining numbers of animals, rising numbers of humans and the rapid rate of species extinction mean a growing number of scientists now declare us to be in the Anthropocene – the geological age of extinction when humans finally dominate the ecosystems.

Last week a report from WWF, the Living Planet Index 2014, seemed to confirm that grim picture with statistics on the world’s wildlife population which showed a dramatic reduction in numbers across countless species. The LPI showed the number of vertebrates had declined by 52% over four decades. Biodiversity loss has now reached “critical levels”. Some populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have suffered even bigger losses, with freshwater species declining by 76% over the same period. But it’s the creatures that provide the most “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” that are getting many scientists really worried. Three quarters of the world’s food production is thought to depend on bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies. Never mind how cute a panda is or how stunning a tiger, it’s worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, bats that are catching mosquitoes and keeping malaria rates down. A study in North America has valued the loss of pest control from ongoing bat declines at more than $22bn in lost agricultural productivity.

From BBC News, wasn’t this in Old Testament?:

Hungry US bullfrog invasion spreads

Scientists are reporting an invasion of hungry American bullfrogs along the Yellowstone River in the US state of Montana. The bullfrogs are said to eat nearly anything, including other bullfrogs, and pose a threat to native species.

The number of the animal’s breeding sites has nearly quadrupled since 2010. Efforts by state and federal agencies to contain the spread of the animals has so far failed, after their numbers proved too great to control

“They are going to eat anything they can fit into their mounts. It doesn’t matter if it’s another frog or a bird or a mosquito,” US Geological Survey biologist Adam Sepulveda told the Associated Press news agency.

Hmmmm. . .reminds us of a movie we saw, way back in 1972:

MercoPress amalgamates:

Huge gathering or Pacific walruses in Alaska beach because of climate change

Scientists have photographed the largest gathering of Pacific walruses ever recorded, on a beach in northern Alaska, blaming climate change for the estimated 35,000 females and calves huddled beside the Chukchi Sea

NOAA photographed the gathering, known as a haul-out, north of the village of Point Lay over the weekend. NOAA photographed the gathering, known as a haul-out, north of the village of Point Lay over the weekend.

It’s hardly the first big walrus gathering to be documented, a fact noted by climate change skeptics. But scientists say the size of the gatherings are growing as climate change melts Arctic sea ice, depriving walruses of their sunning platforms of choice.

“The walruses are hauling out on land in a spectacle that has become all too common in six of the last eight years as a consequence of climate-induced warming,” the US Geological Survey wrote on their website.

Salon covers corporate capture of the commons:

Water is the new oil: How corporations took over a basic human right

  • Water has become a commodity, Karen Piper tells Salon, and the world’s poor are paying the price

When you talk about human rights, not to mention human necessities, there’s not much more fundamental than water. The United Nations has even put it in writing: it formally “recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

That’s the theory, at least. In practice? Well, on Monday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes arrived at a different conclusion from that of the U.N., in a ruling on Detroit’s hotly contested practice of cutting off water access to tens of thousands of residents who can’t pay their bills. “It cannot be doubted that water is a necessary ingredient to sustaining life,” Rhodes conceded. Yet there is not, he continued, “an enforceable right to free and affordable water.” Water, in the eyes of the court, is apparently a luxury.

While it’s shocking to watch a city deny the rights of its own citizens, that’s nothing compared to what could happen if private water companies are allowed to take over. In “The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos,” Karen Piper details the litany of examples worldwide of this very thing happening. In a classic example of the shock doctrine, Piper argues, water shortages are being seen as a business opportunity for multinational corporations. Their mantra: “No money, no water.” By 2025, it’s predicted they’ll be serving 21 percent of the world’s population.

From the Asahi Shimbun volcanic nuclear anxieties:

Difficulties remain in protecting nuclear plants from volcanic eruptions

The deadly eruption of Mount Ontakesan in central Japan has rekindled concerns about whether Japan’s nuclear power plants, such as the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, have adequate safeguards for dealing with such a disaster.

Government officials insist that the size and nature of the Sept. 27 eruption that killed at least 51 people in the deadliest volcanic upheaval in the postwar era differ from possible eruptions at mountains located near nuclear plants.

“Safety will be secured because strict screenings have been conducted based on conditions of much larger eruptions than the recent one at Mount Ontakesan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an Oct. 2 Upper House plenary session, offering assurances of the Sendai plant’s safety.

And for our final item, the bottom line for an earthshaking project [literally] from TheLocal.es:

Spain pays €1.35 bn for aborted gas project

Spain’s government said Friday it will pay €1.35 billion ($1.7 billion) in compensation to a Spanish firm which was forced to stopped work on a vast underwater gas-storage project that was suspected of causing minor quakes.

Known as Project Castor, the scheme aimed to store gas in a depleted oil reservoir 1.7 kilometres (1.05 miles) under the Mediterranean Sea in the Gulf of Valencia and send it via a pipeline to Spain’s national grid.

The government halted operations at the facility in September 2013 after more than 200 minor earthquakes were detected in the area which geologists and environmentalists blamed on gas injections.

The company which owns and operated the facility, Escal UGS, in June 2014 said it was giving up its concession for the gas storage project, which was financed by the European Investment Bank.

Chart of the day: Depleted California reservoirs


From CNBC:

BLOG Drought

EnviroWatch: Fire fears, critters, chemicals


Another short compendium today, though not for lack of searching. We begin with this from the Ecologist:

California burning points to more intense wildfires

As the forest fires burn on in the western US, writes Kieran Cooke, a new report predicts that climate-led temperature rise will lead to millions more acres across the world being burned to the ground, especially in southern Europe and Australia.

Smoke from fires burning at present in northern California has been detected as far north as Canada.

Thousands of firefighters are battling to contain blazes that together cover nearly 300,000 acres of forest and shrub wood. And it looks like things are going to get worse.

And now a new report by the US-based Cost of Carbon Pollution project forecasts that such fires are going to become ever more intense in the years ahead – not just in the western US, but elsewhere round the world, and particularly in areas of southern Europe and in Australia.

Next, an overdose from the Atlantic Monthly:

The FDA Says Farmers Are Giving Animals Too Many Antibiotics

Overuse of the drugs has increased over the past few years. That’s not good for human health.

A piece of bad news from the Food and Drug Administration: In the war against antibiotic overuse, the antibiotics are winning.

The amount of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States increased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012, the agency announced in a new report, and nearly 70 percent of those used are considered “medically important” for humans. That’s trouble for us as much as it is for our four-legged friends, who consume the majority of antibiotics in the U.S.—as much as 80 percent are given to the chickens, pigs, and cows bound for our grocery-store shelves, both to spur more rapid growth and to proactively protect them from disease.

Such widespread use of antibiotics has led to bugs that are getting tougher and tougher to treat. Worldwide, strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea are on the rise. In the U.S., antibiotic resistance caused more than two million illnesses in 2013, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an estimated 23,000 deaths, adding up to more than $20 million in healthcare costs.

From the Guardian, beguiled by the long green?:

WWF International accused of ‘selling its soul’ to corporations

  • Pandaleaks writer says conservation group has forged links with business which is using it to ‘greenwash’ their operations

WWF International, the world’s largest conservation group, has been accused of “selling its soul” by forging alliances with powerful businesses which destroy nature and use the WWF brand to “greenwash” their operations.

The allegations are made in an explosive book previously barred from Britain. The Silence of the Pandas became a German bestseller in 2012 but, following a series of injunctions and court cases, it has not been published until now in English. Revised and renamed Pandaleaks, it will be out next week.

Its author, Wilfried Huismann, says the Geneva-based WWF International has received millions of dollars from its links with governments and business. Global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa and Marine Harvest have all benefited from the group’s green image only to carry on their businesses as usual.

The Independent sounds a death knell:

Elephants and rhinos ‘could be extinct within two decades’ because of ivory poaching

Elephants and rhinos could be extinct within the next two decades, conservation campaigners are warning.

Wildlife campaigners say an estimated 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos are killed each year as demand for ivory and rhino horn drives increasing poaching rates.

This demand means both species could potentially be wiped out within the next 20 years.

From the Jakarta Globe, capital critter conservation:

US Reduces Indonesian Debt in Exchange for Wildlife Protection

The United States has struck a deal to reduce Indonesia’s debts in exchange for Jakarta pledging about $12 million for programs to protect endangered species and their habitats on Sumatra island, conservationists said Friday.

The move adds to a similar agreement in 2009, under which the Indonesian government pledged $30 million for increased protection of Sumatra’s forests, said NGO Conservation International, which helped broker the deal.

The agreement, which was inked this week, will provide additional funds for environmental groups to improve programmes aimed at protecting the Sumatran low-land rainforests as well as efforts to increase populations of threatened animals.

The New York Times looks at the C-word in Brazil:

Clashing Visions of Conservation Shake Brazil’s Presidential Vote

From the podium at the United Nations to declarations on the campaign trail, President Dilma Rousseff is celebrating Brazil’s protection of the Amazon. But satellite data released last month shows that Brazil’s annual deforestation rate in the Amazon has climbed again after years of declines, rising 29 percent, leaving her vulnerable to attacks in this nation’s acrimonious presidential race. The vote is on Sunday.

“The mantra in Brasília is that they have deforestation under control, but the evidence on the ground shows this is not true,” said Philip M. Fearnside, a prominent researcher at the National Institute for Amazon Research in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city.

Beyond alarming scientists, who note the importance of the vast rain forest to the world’s climate and biodiversity, the sparring over the Amazon symbolizes clashing visions of Brazil’s future. Both Ms. Rousseff and her top rival, Marina Silva, an environmental leader, say they want forest conservation, but the president’s model seeks economic growth by tapping into the Amazon’s natural resources, including huge mining projects and dams.

And our final item, via the Mainichi, mutating munchies:

Food safety commission recognizes snack food compound can cause gene mutations

The Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission called acrylamides, a chemical compound found in snack foods like potato chips, a carcinogen that can cause gene mutations, in a draft it released on Oct. 3.

The draft marks the first official evaluation of acrylamides’ alleged carcinogenic properties by Japanese authorities. In other countries, these properties have been recognized since the early 2000s based on various research studies, and those countries have been warning consumers about them. The Japanese food safety commission team has been independently looking into the substance’s properties since December 2011.

Based on animal experiments in Japan and in other countries, the team determined that acrylamides are carcinogens that can mutate genes and chromosomes and therefore even have effects on the subsequent generation.

EnviroWatch: Drought, illness, nature, nukes


First up, dry in the Golden State from the New York Times:

Thirst Turns to Desperation in Rural California

Now in its third year, the state’s record-breaking drought is being felt in many ways: vanishing lakes and rivers, lost agricultural jobs, fallowed farmland, rising water bills, suburban yards gone brown. But nowhere is the situation as dire as in East Porterville, a small rural community in Tulare County where life’s daily routines have been completely upended by the drying of wells and, in turn, the disappearance of tap water.

“Everything has changed,” said Yolanda Serrato, 54, who has spent most of her life here. Until this summer, the lawn in front of her immaculate three-bedroom home was a lush green, with plants dotting the perimeter. As her neighbors’ wells began running dry, Ms. Serrato warned her three children that they should cut down on hourlong showers, but they mostly rebuffed her. “They kept saying, ‘No, no, Mama, you’re just too negative,’  “ she said.

Then the sink started to sputter. These days, the family of five relies on a water tank in front of their home that they received through a local charity. The sole neighbor with a working well allows them to hook up to his water at night, saving them from having to use buckets to flush toilets in the middle of the night. On a recent morning, there was still a bit of the neighbor’s well water left, trickling out the kitchen faucet, taking over 10 minutes to fill two three-quart pots.

“You don’t think of water as privilege until you don’t have it anymore,” said Ms. Serrato, whose husband works in the nearby fields. “We were very proud of making a life here for ourselves, for raising children here. We never ever expected to live this way.”

United Press International covers some good news in parched California:

California’s huge King Fire now 94 percent contained

“Although fire crews have nearly contained the King Fire, it is still active, and there are a lot of firefighting resources still in the area,” Laurance Crabtree, the El Dorado Forest supervisor, said in a statement

California’s huge King Fire was 94 percent contained Wednesday morning, and efforts are beginning to shift to prevent erosion and flooding, officials said.

The fire has burned more than 97,000 acres or 100 square miles in and around El Dorado National Forest northeast of Sacramento, destroying 12 homes and 68 other buildings. Officials said the blaze, which began Sept. 13, is expected to be fully contained Sunday.

While firefighters continue to combat the blaze in some areas, other units are focusing on protecting natural resources and roads and on tasks like removing the 950 miles of hose.

On to the illness front, first with a national-scale story from BuzzFeed:

Mysterious Respiratory Virus Spreading Across U.S. Linked To Four Deaths

  • Enterovirus 68 is suspected of sickening children in more than 40 states, and has now been linked to four deaths, though its exact role still remains unknown

A mysterious respiratory illness has been spreading across the U.S. for months. Now, doctors have found the virus in four people who died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in four people, including 10-year-old Emily Otrando of Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island State Health Department, Otrando died from a staph infection “associated with enteroviral infection.”

Beyond that, there are a lot of unanswered questions. The other people who died and then tested positive for EV-D68 have not been publicly identified. And in every case, it’s unclear what role EV-D68 actually played in their deaths, the CDC reported. At this point, medical investigators are still scrambling to understand what is happening.

While the Oakland Tribune bring it to esnl’s home turf:

Health officials confirm 2 cases of enterovirus D-68 in Alameda County

The Alameda County Public Health Department on Thursday said at least two local people have tested positive for enterovirus D-68, which has sickened hundreds in the United States this year.

Health officials would not say where the diagnosed people live in Alameda County or when the cases were confirmed. The number of cases is expected to increase, said Sherri Willis, spokeswomand for the county health department.

“We suspect that these numbers will be shifting daily,” Willis said. “We suspect they’ll go up.”

The Independent covers origins of another malevolent microbe:

HIV was created by ‘perfect storm’ of factors that led to pandemic, study reveals

A “perfect storm” of factors that came together in colonial Africa early last century led to the spread of Aids in the human population and eventually a full-blown pandemic infecting more than 75 million people worldwide, a study has found.

A genetic analysis of thousands of individual viruses has confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that HIV first emerged in Kinshasa, the capital of the Belgian Congo, in about 1920 from where it spread via the colonial railway network to other parts of central Africa.

Scientists believe the findings have finally nailed the origin of the Aids pandemic to a single source, a colonial-era city then called Leopoldville which had become the biggest urban centre in Central Africa and a bustling focus for trade, including a market in wild “bush meat” captured from the nearby forests.

The study, based on analysing the subtle genetic differences between various subtypes of HIV, found the human virus had evolved from a simian virus infecting chimps which were hunted for food by people who had probably carried HIV with them into Kinshasa.

And the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, covers a painful preventative:

Four million men to be circumcised

More than four million men are expected to undergo Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) countrywide within a period of five years as one of the strategies to prevent HIV infections, the Ministry of Health has said.

Dr Michael Muyonga from the AIDS Control Programme in the ministry, said the country records 140,000 new HIV/Aids infections annually a figure that must be dealt with.

“Although the government launched the SMC in 2010, we have been registering a low number of men turning up for circumcision country wide and we intend to intensify the exercise,” Dr Muyonga said.

Another continent, another outbreak from Want China Times:

Guangdong dengue outbreak rages on with nearly 13,500 cases

The number of dengue fever cases in Guangdong has increased to 13,449 as of Sept. 30, a figure 19.38 times higher than the same period last year. Even one of the province’s vice governors has contracted the virus, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.

The outbreak this year was caused by rising temperature and intermittent rains which provided the warmth and humidity ideal for a mosquito population explosion. Standing pools of water left after rain are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and has given their population density a fivefold boost over past figures in many areas in Guangdong province.

The majority, or 84%, of dengue fever cases were in Guangzhou, followed by 1,389 cases in Foshan, 226 cases in Zhongshan and 187 cases in Jiangmen. One of cases is reportedly one of the province’s eight vice governors but the provincial government has yet to confirm the claim.

MercoPress covers Latin American contagion:

Mysterious outbreak of hemorrhagic fever syndrome in Venezuela kills ten

  • An outbreak of a mysterious hemorrhagic fever syndrome in the Venezuelan state of Aragua and the country’s capital Caracas has left ten people dead in the last three weeks. Reports indicate that nine people have so far succumbed to the disease in the northern state and a tenth person has died in the capital.

The Venezuelan Medical Federation urged president Nicolas Maduro to stop government policy from meddling with the health policy. The Venezuelan Medical Federation urged president Nicolas Maduro to stop government policy from meddling with the health policy.

It is unclear whether the cause of the syndrome is viral or bacterial – a distinction with implications for treatment – although autopsies have indicated that those who died were suffering from other complications, such as Chikungunya.

Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever (VHF) is endemic in the two states of Portuguesa and Barinas, but transmission from person-to-person is uncommon. While samples have been sent to the Venezuelan National Institute of Health, the results have not yet been released publically and there is no suggestion from health officials that VHF is behind this particular outbreak.

And the Express Tribune covers a Pakistani outbreak:

Future in peril: With 7 more cases, 194 children now infected with polio

Poliovirus continued to run wild in the country as by Thursday, seven more children had been diagnosed with the preventable disease which has infected at least 194 children in the country so far this year.

Till Thursday afternoon, the National Institute of Health, Islamabad had confirmed the presence of the virus in four-month-old Zubaid, son of Zafar, a resident of Jehangirabad village in Sheikhan union council, Peshawar.

According to an official of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa health department, the child had not received a single dose of the oral polio vaccine. He added Sheikhan UC is located along the border with Khyber Agency and a majority of the area’s children could not be vaccinated in the government’s much vaunted Sehat ka Insaf drive.

From DutchNews.nl, military malevolence:

Defence officials knew about carcinogenic paint issue in 1987: Nos

The Dutch defence ministry has known since 1987 that soldiers were being exposed to highly carcinogenic paints, documents in the hands of broadcaster Nos show.

Letters from health and safety inspectors and minutes of meeting show the defence ministry was aware of the problem but did not take steps to protect staff until 11 years later, the broadcaster says.

One of the documents in the hands of the Nos includes an army commandor stating in 1995 that ‘the number of workers exposed to carcenogenic compounds should not be more than strictly necessary’.

From The Hill, security versus environmental protection:

Issa: EPA still blocking watchdog investigations

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, claiming it had failed to take steps to allow a federal watchdog to conduct investigations.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins and his staff have testified three times before Congress since May that the EPA’s homeland security office blocked access to information, impeding probes into employee misconduct.

“Unfortunately, it appears that EPA has not resolved these issues, and thus the work of the OIG continues to be compromised,” Issa wrote in a Thursday letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy.

Saving awesome landscape, from the Guardian:

Ban on uranium mining at Grand Canyon upheld by Arizona court

  • Ruling protects national treasure against the possibility of opening it to 26 new mines and 700 exploration projects

A coalition of conservation groups are hailing an Arizona judge’s decision this week to uphold the Obama administration’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon.

In January 2012, then-US interior secretary Ken Salazar issued the ban that prohibits new mining claims and mine development on existing claims without valid permits. A subsequent mining industry lawsuit asserted that the interior department’s 700-page study of environmental impacts was inadequate and the ban was unconstitutional.

A coalition of groups including native American tribes and the Sierra Club intervened in that lawsuit, and on Tuesday the court ruled in their favour.

After the jump, sacrificing the world’s beaches for concrete construction, anti-GMO African action, consumers shun food from Fukushima, dismissing volcanic concerns to a Japanese nuclear restart, and a cloud on California fracking transparency. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, water, nukes, losses


We begin with images, closed circuit footage of a spectacular eruption from Agence France-Presse:

CCTV footage shows Japan volcano eruption

Note:

CCTV footage captured the whole eruption of Mount Otake last Saturday, which left at least 36 people lifeless.

From the Associated Press, cannabis vs Cohoe:

Biologists identify pot gardens as salmon threat

Water use and other actions by the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California and Southern Oregon are threatening salmon already in danger of extinction, federal biologists said Tuesday.

Concerns about the impact of pot farming were raised by the NOAA Fisheries Service in its final recovery plan for coho salmon in the region. The full plan was to be posted on the agency’s website.

A copy obtained in advance calls for determining then decreasing the amount of water that pot growers illegally withdraw from creeks where young fish struggle to survive.

From Want China Times, a land grab in the North:

Norway up in arms over Chinese tycoon’s Arctic ambitions

A Chinese billionaire entrepreneur who once worked for the Communist Party’s propaganda department has sparked controversy in Norway after being named as a potential buyer for a large tract of Arctic land near Longyearbyen, the capital of Norway’s northernmost territory.

Based to a report from the New York Times, Huang Nubo, a property developer and entrepreneur who heads the Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group, could end up being the new owner of the uninhabited land unless the Norwegian government can scrap together a competing bid in time to ensure that the property does not fall into foreign hands, as it had promised to do in May amid a public outcry over the mere mention of Huang’s name given a fiasco over a previous attempt to buy land to develop a resort in Iceland and knowledge of Beijing’s ambitions in the Arctic region.

Huang, 58, is currently ranked the 90th richest person in China with estimated assets of US$2.3 billion according to the Hurun Report, the “China rich list” published by Rupert Hoogewerf. He is believed to have strong ties to the Communist Party after having worked in its publicity department from 1981 to 1990.

On to the illness beat, starting with a Chinese outbreak from Global Times:

South China province sees 1, 152 new dengue fever cases

South China’s Guangdong Province reported 1,152 new cases of Dengue on Sunday, boding ill for the week-long National Day holiday that begins on Oct. 1, local health authorities announced on Monday.

The number continues rising with the total number of cases reaching 11,867, according to the provincial health and family planning commission.

A fatality was reported on Sunday in the provincial capital Guangzhou, bringing the death toll to four in the province, three in Guangzhou where 9,987 cases have been reported. The other was in adjacent Foshan city, where 1,254 cases were confirmed, according to the commission.

BBC News covers causation:

Antibiotics ‘linked to childhood obesity’

Young children who are given repeated courses of antibiotics are at greater risk than those who use fewer drugs of becoming obese, US researchers say.

The JAMA Pediatrics report found children who had had four or more courses by the age of two were at a 10% higher risk of being obese.

But scientists warn this does not show antibiotics cause obesity directly and recommend children continue using them. Many more studies are needed to explain the reasons behind the link, they say.

From TheLocal.ch, taxing all for corporate contamination:

National tax planned to cut water micropollutants

Starting in 2016, an annual tax of up to nine francs ($9.43) per resident will help finance equipment in around 100 sewage treatment plants across Switzerland to remove microscopic pollutants from lakes and rivers, the federal government announced on Tuesday.

Revenues from the tax will finance 75 percent of the cost of the measures called for in new national legislation to protect water from pollution, the government said.

The new facilities will be installed at existing purification plants to remove micropollutants originating from products such as drugs, hormones, cosmetics or insecticides that even in small quantities can have an adverse impact on fish and other aquatic life.

Existing plants are unable to screen out the microscopic pollutants.

Another contaminant, another affliction form Environmental Health News:

Water contaminant linked to children’s low IQs

Babies born to mothers with high levels of perchlorate during their first trimester are more likely to have lower IQs later in life, according to a new study.

The research is the first to link pregnant women’s perchlorate levels to their babies’ brain development. It adds to evidence that the drinking water contaminant may disrupt thyroid hormones, which are crucial for proper brain growth.

Perchlorate, which is both naturally occurring and manmade, is used in rocket fuel, fireworks and fertilizers. It has been found in 4 percent of U.S. public water systems serving an estimated 5 to 17 million people, largely near military bases and defense contractors in the U.S. West, particularly around Las Vegas and in Southern California.

On to the endangered Latin American environment, first with the Guardian:

Nicaragua canal will wreak havoc on forests and displace people, NGO warns

  • Forests of the World says shipping firms must pressure Nicaragua and Chinese backer to limit canal’s impact

Shipping firms should pressure the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese backer of a proposed canal to ensure that the project does not force indigenous people off their land and inflict massive environmental damage on the country’s ecosystem, an environmental advocacy group has urged.

The proposed 178-mile waterway seeks to rival the Panama canal by offering an alternative Atlantic-Pacific passage which cuts voyage times. Construction is scheduled to begin in December with $50bn (£31bn) funding from the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND), which is owned by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing.

But Danish NGO Forests of the World has accused the Nicaraguan government and HKND of failing to involve indigenous people in the planning process, saying the canal will wreak havoc on forests and force people to move.

“The canal is to be built straight through the Rama and Kriol territory, fragmenting it into two parts,” said Claus Kjaerby, Central America representative at Forests of the World. “It’s just like if someone wanted to build a bicycle trail through your garden and they do not consult with you.”

And the second, from Al Jazeera America:

Oil in the Amazon: Who stands to win and lose?

  • In eastern Ecuador, unemployment is high despite the area’s oil boom, which could also endanger rainforest biodiversity

Yasuni National Park is unique. It’s regarded as one of the world’s most biodiverse places. A refuge to more than 20 types of endangered mammals, just 2 ½ acres of its Amazonian forest contains more than 100,000 species of insects, and is home to nearly as many kinds of trees and shrubs as there are in the United States and Canada, combined.

In 2007, Ecuador’s government announced it wouldn’t drill for oil in an untouched section of Yasuni, what’s known as the ITT block. In exchange for leaving the oil in the ground, President Rafael Correa demanded $3.6 billion from developed countries. But Ecuador received just $13 million. Last year, Correa announced oil extraction would go ahead.

Since then, oil companies have been busy surveying Yasuni’s ITT block, with plans to start drilling in 2016. Correa says the project will help alleviate poverty, but members of the Waorani tribe, which has lived in the Amazon for centuries, say the drilling will disrupt their way of life. Scientists, meanwhile, say they’re concerned about the park’s fragile ecosystem.

The Independent covers another water tragedy, a sea starved for decades by irrigation for a Soviet-era industrial cotton scheme:

The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry

It was once the fourth largest lake in the world, but what used to be an expanse of water in the basin of the Kyzylkum Desert now lies almost completely dry.

The Aral Sea has been retreating over the last half-century since a massive Soviet irrigation project diverted water from the rivers that fed it into farmland.

Images taken from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on Nasa’s Terra satellite have now depicted how since the turn of the century the lake has increasingly shrunk until this year saw its eastern lobe dry up completely.

After the jump, the vanishing Mexican maize gene pool, a Chinese pro-GMO propaganda push, preparing Los Angeles for the Big One, Fukushimapocalypse Now! — first with exclusion reduced, hot waste plans revealed and other plans delayed, volcanic nuclear anxiety, a longer wait for a long-awaited restart, Anglo/Japanese decommissioning alliance, firing up alternatives, and payment for a bitter Navajo uranium mining legacy. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Illness, climate, nukes, & fuels


And so much more.

We begin with a mysterious outbreak here in the U.S. via the Washington Post:

CDC probing reports of paralysis in 9 Colorado children, including some with Enterovirus 68

Several children in Colorado, including some that have tested positive for the Enterovirus 68 respiratory illness, also reported neurological symptoms including muscle weakness and paralysis.

Colorado health officials say nine children were identified between Aug. 8 and Sept. 17 after they developed neurological symptoms that are not commonly associated with Enterovirus 68, which causes severe breathing problems particularly in children with pre-existing asthma or respiratory problems.

That virus has been confirmed in the District of Columbia and all but 10 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it has sickened more than 277 people, mostly children.

A video report from WTHR television:

Mystery illness gives Colorado kids polio-like symptoms

The Japan Times covers the ongoing outbreak in Japan:

Another type of dengue virus found in Japan

The government said Monday that a man in Shizuoka Prefecture is infected with a dengue virus that has a different genetic sequence than the virus first detected in Japan in August.

The finding indicates that the new-type virus arrived in Japan via someone other than the person carrying the virus that infected several people through mosquitoes, mainly at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo.

The man in his 20s was identified Sept. 18 as having developed a dengue symptom on Sept. 10. But the site of his infection has not been fixed as he said he visited Tokyo in early September and was bitten by a mosquito Sept. 9 or 10 in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a lethal outbreak on another island:

Chikungunya Kills 3 in Puerto Rico

Three people in Puerto Rico have died after being infected with the Chikungunya virus, Health Department chief epidemiologist Brenda Rivera Garcia said.

Two of the dead were residents of greater San Juan, while the third lived in the northeastern coastal town of Fajardo. Health authorities are investigating two other fatalities to determine if the Chikungunya virus was the cause.

There have been more than 2,000 confirmed cases of Chikungunya in Puerto Rico, though health officials suspect the actual number is higher, pointing out that the symptoms are similar to those of dengue fever.

From the Express Tribune, rising numbers in a Pakistani outbreak:

10 more cases of polio reported as national total rises to 184

Even as vaccination drives kicked off in various parts of the country on Monday, a government official confirmed that ten more polio cases have been reported from different parts of the country.

An official from the health ministry said the polio cases were tested at the polio virology laboratory at National Institute of Health (NIH) and then confirmed.

The official added with these 10 cases, the year’s total has risen to 184. Of these, 127 cases were reported from Fata, 33 from K-P, 17 from Sindh, two from Punjab and five from Balochistan.

And the threat of contagion in Uganda from the Daily Monitor in Kampala:

Government has only 3,000 TB vaccines

Children in Uganda are likely to miss the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine which protects them against TB – at least until the production issues at the global level are sorted.

According to the Uganda National Expanded Programme for Immunisation (UNEPI) manager, Dr Robert Mayanja, the country has been experiencing a shortage since the beginning of 2014.

But the shortage is expected to escalate in the coming months after receiving only 300,000 out of 1.8 million doses of the vaccine they had ordered for the last quarter of 2014.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak concealed:

Officials kept yet another food scandal secret

Up to 130 people, including a three-year-old boy, may have gotten ill from salmonella in ground beef in an outbreak that was kept hidden from the public until now.

Metroxpress obtained access to documents that reveal that ground beef infected with multi resistant salmonella was sold by the Vejen-based food company Skare in June.

Skare delivered the beef to stores on June 13th but did not recall it as required by law when an analysis the following day found the presence of salmonella.

The latest numbers from another disaster in Japan via the Associated Press:

5 more bodies found at Japan volcano; toll now 36

Toxic gases and ash from still-erupting Mount Ontake forced Japanese rescue workers to call off the search for more victims Monday as dozens of relatives awaited news of their family members.

Rescuers found five more bodies near the summit of the volcano, bringing the death toll to 36. They have managed to airlift only 12 bodies off the mountain since the start of the eruption on Saturday because of dangerous conditions.

How the victims died remains unclear, though experts say it was probably from suffocating ash, falling rocks, toxic gases or some combination of them. Some of the bodies had severe contusions.

More from the Asahi Shimbun:

Experts warn of second eruption on Mt. Ontakesan

Volcanologists warned that Mount Ontakesan could erupt again, based on the continuing fumes rising from the crater and the volcanic earthquakes that keep jolting the area.

The Japan Meteorological Agency’s committee of volcanologists said Sept. 28 that the eruption the previous day was a phreatic one that released a column of smoke as high as 7,000 meters from the 3,067-meter peak and sent a pyroclastic flow of relatively low temperature down the mountain slope. At least four climbers were killed on the mountain, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

The Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruption said an eruption of a similar scale could take place on Mount Ontakesan, although it would probably not be a major magmatic eruption, which releases magma from the mountain surface. The committee said there are no signs of crustal deformities caused by magma rising through a volcanic vent.

From the Associated Press, climate change symptoms:

Global warming linked to several extreme weather events

  • Better computer models help determine odds of events increasing because of climate change

Scientists looking at 16 cases of wild weather around the world last year see the fingerprints of man-made global warming on more than half of them.

Researchers found that climate change increased the odds of nine extremes: Heat waves in Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, intense rain in parts of the United States and India, and severe droughts in California and New Zealand. The California drought, though, comes with an asterisk.

Organized by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers on Monday published 22 studies on 2013 climate extremes in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

More from the Oakland Tribune:

Drought linked to greenhouse gases, climate change

Stanford study concludes California’s extraordinary drought is linked to the abundance of greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels. It is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the connection between climate change and California’s ongoing drought.

California’s extraordinary drought is linked to the abundance of greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests, according to a major new paper Stanford scientists released Monday morning.

The new study used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that the high pressure system parked over the Pacific Ocean — diverting storms away from California — is much more likely to form in the presence of concentrations of greenhouse gases.

“Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region — which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California — is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s,” said Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford, in a prepared statement.

The Sacramento Bee covers one consequence:

California harvest much smaller than normal across crops

It’s harvest time in much of California, and the signs of drought are almost as abundant as the fruits and nuts and vegetables.

One commodity after another is feeling the impact of the state’s epic water shortage. The great Sacramento Valley rice crop, served in sushi restaurants nationwide and exported to Asia, will be smaller than usual. Fewer grapes will be available to produce California’s world-class wines, and the citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley are producing fewer oranges. There is less hay and corn for the state’s dairy cows, and the pistachio harvest is expected to shrink.

Even the state’s mighty almond business, which has become a powerhouse in recent years, is coming in smaller than expected. That’s particularly troubling to the thousands of farmers who sacrificed other crops in order to keep their almond orchards watered.

Global Times covers other water woes:

Police investigate into polluters in East China

Three chemical factories found illegally dumping wastewater into city sewage systems and the sea have had their cases turned over to police.

After being investigated and fined by the local environment authorities,the three factories in Lianyungang city in East China’s Jiangsu Province will now be probed for possible criminal charges. In one case, a company built its own pipelines to dump toxic wastewater into the sea.

The three cases are very serious and have left a large environmental impact, said a statement by the Ministry of Environmental Protection released in Beijing on Monday.

While the Guardian has some rare good news on the endangered species front:

‘Extinct’ cat-sized chinchilla found alive in shadows of Machu Picchu

  • Living arboreal chinchilla rat thought to have been extinct is tracked down in Peruvian cloud forests, reports Mongabay

Below one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a living, cat-sized mammal that until now was only known from fossils.

The Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys oblativa) was first described from two enigmatic skulls discovered in Incan pottery sculpted 400 years ago.

Dug up by Hiram Bingham in 1912, the skulls were believed to belong to a species that went extinct even before Francisco Pizarro showed up in Peru with his motley army. Then in 2009, park ranger Roberto Quispe found what was believed to be a living Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat near the original archaeological site.

But BBC News immediately dampens any exuberance:

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years – report

The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

More endangerment from the New York Times:

UN Experts Say World’s Mangrove Forests at Risk

U.N. experts are warning that the world’s mangrove forests are being destroyed at a more rapid rate than other forest ecosystems because of land conversion, development and pollution.

A U.N. Environment Program report presented Monday said mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than other forests. It said by 2050, southeast Asia could potentially lose 35 percent of the mangroves it had in 2000.

Described in the report as one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, mangrove forests mitigate global warming by trapping vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

Still more grim news from the Guardian:

World Bank accuses itself of failing to protect Kenya forest dwellers

  • Leaked document says World Bank violated its own safeguards in dealings with Sengwer people evicted from their lands

A leaked copy of a World Bank investigation seen by the Guardian has accused the bank of failing to protect the rights of one of Kenya’s last groups of forest people, who are being evicted from their ancestral lands in the name of climate change and conservation.

Thousands of homes belonging to hunter-gatherer Sengwer people living in the Embobut forest in the Cherangani hills were burned down earlier this year by Kenya forest service guards who had been ordered to clear the forest as part of a carbon offset project that aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation.

The result has been that more than 1,000 people living near the town of Eldoret have been classed as squatters and forced to flee what they say has been government harassment, intimidation and arrest.

CIP Americas Program covers another grab of the commons:

Yaqui Tribal Authority’s Jailing in Water Conflict Signals Need to Implement Environmental Justice

Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico — The Sept. 11 jailing of Yoeme (Yaqui) Traditional Tribal Secretary Mario Luna Romero was a wake-up call for environmental and human rights defenders globally.

Symptomatic of escalating repression against indigenous community members who refuse to conform with free trade’s increasing demand for resources, Luna’s arrest on allegedly false charges sparked widespread grassroots response and highlighted the imperative of forging a united front against further abuses of environmental activists.

The most visible leader of the Yoeme resistance to Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés Elías illegal aqueduct construction project to divert Yaqui River water from its rightfully entitled users in the tribe’s eight villages, Luna immediately declared himself a political prisoner.

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including another breakdown of water containment systems, enduring radiation hazards, a major increase of laborers on the scene, a major anti-nuclear protest coupled by a major push to reopen other nuclear plants, a fuel recycling plant closure to come, a drive for nuclear power in emerging economies, another fuel, another problem in North Dakota, tar sands pipeline pushback in Nebraska, looming disappointment for Chinese fracking, and predictions of a solar boom. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Global crop conditions


From the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s Agricultural Market Information System’s Market Monitor:

BLOG Crops