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
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.
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:
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.