Category Archives: Nature

Drought reduction: Lookin’ better in California


From the U.S. Drought Monitor, two weeks of rain from the “storm of the decade” wrought a major pluvial relief for California, leaving less than a third of the state in the worst “Exceptional Drought” category, down from more than half just a week ago.

That state, the whole state remains under drought conditions to one degree or another, so there’s a long way to go.

Click on the mage to enlarge:

BLOG Drought

Major eruption engulfs Cape Verde villages


The story captured in this raw footage from Agence France-Presse — with the most sunning images of fast-flowing lava swallowing buildings you’re ever likely:

And the story, from Sky News:

Volcano Erupts Destroying Cape Verde Villages

Hundreds of residents lose their homes as the eruption of Pico do Fogo destroys two villages

The eruption of the volcano Pico do Fogo has destroyed two villages and threatens a forest reserve.

Around 1,500 people fled their homes before the lava flow reached the villages of Portela and Bangeira on Fogo Island, Cape Verde, fire brigade chief Arlindo Lima said.

“The lava front, (which was) more than 500 metres north of outlying houses in Bangeira a week ago, has swept over much of the village and continues to move forward,” Mr Lima added.

Both villages have now been largely destroyed according to officials.

EnviroWatch: Species, air, water, bugs, & fuels


We begin with the first major downer of the day, via the Independent:

Earth could face sixth mass extinction within 100 years

The earth could face a mass extinction by the next century if species continue to disappear at the current rate, according to a report by the scientific journal Nature.

Despite conservation attempts by governments across the world to save endangered species, thousands of animal types continue to face extinction every year.

Nature found that 41 per cent of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, the highest at risk group. A more modest, but still alarming, 26 per cent of mammal species and 13 per cent of bird species are also threatened.

And from the New York Times, the first of three headlines abut the same event:

Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions

Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement early Sunday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.

The agreement reached by delegates from 196 countries establishes a framework for a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday nights to early Sunday.

The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.

That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations’ 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters.

Next, via, a less affirmative headline from CBC News:

UN climate negotiators pass watered-down deal in Lima

  • Wide range of options on the table for global deal at 2015 conference in Paris

Negotiators have reached a watered-down deal at U.N. talks in Peru that sets the stage for a global climate pact in Paris next year.

The Lima agreement was reached early Sunday after late-night wrangling between rich and poor countries.

About 190 nations agreed on the building blocks of a deal to combat climate change in 2015 amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, the downer, via the Observer:

World set for climate disaster, say activists, as Lima talks falter

  • Proposals too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels

Frustrated climate campaigners have claimed that the world was on course for an unsustainable four-degree rise in temperatures, as two weeks of negotiations for a climate change agreement headed for an unsatisfying conclusion.

The proposals, still under discussion on Saturday, a day after the talks were scheduled to end, were too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above preindustrial levels, setting the world on course to a climate disaster, according to developing countries at the summit.

“We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome,” said Tasneem Essop, international climate strategist for WWF.

She said the final draft text, a five-page document put forward for approval on Saturday, offered little assurance of cutting emissions fast enough and deeply enough to curb warming. “We are really unhappy about the weakening of the text. This gives us no level of comfort that we will be able to close the emissions gap to get emissions to peak before 2020,” she said. Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, put it even more succinctly: “It sucks. It is taking us backwards.”

CBC News looks ahead:

Rising sea levels could make Florida residents ‘climate refugees’

  • 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state every year

Florida’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change doesn’t seem at first blush to be a Canadian issue.

But every year, some 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state. What’s more, about half a million Canadians own property in Florida, much of it at risk from rising sea levels.

A lot of that property, particularly if it’s situated along one of the coveted stretches of Miami’s fabled beaches, could well be worthless and literally underwater in a few decades, says Harold Wanless, the chair of the department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami.

His word for the future of Miami and much south Florida? Doomed.

The “monster” in climate change, as Wanless sees it, is a warming ocean. Sea levels will rise because water expands as it gets warmer, and oceans are taking up vast amounts of heat produced by global warming.

And the Observer looks at one dry spell not attributed to climate change [or some day]:

American drought: California’s crisis

A storm has hit California, but that’s not going to end the ‘worst drought in a generation’ that is turning much of the centre of the state into a dust bowl. Chris McGreal reports on the drought bringing one of the richest states in America to its knees

Esidronio Arreola never gave much thought to the well that so reliably pumped water to his traditional clapboard house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. But one day in March, he opened the tap and all he got was air.

Through the searing summer heat, the Mexican immigrant to California’s Central Valley and his family endured a daily routine of collecting water in his pickup truck from an emergency communal tank, washing from buckets and struggling to keep their withering orchard alive while they waited for snow to return to the mountains and begin the cycle of replenishing the aquifer that provides water to almost all the homes in the region.

But as more of Arreola’s neighbours in East Porterville, a ramshackle, low-income town in sprawling Tulare County, reported their wells running dry, and state officials warned that the most severe drought in living memory may well extend into 2015 and beyond, he realised he might not have water for years to come.

So Arreola, who makes his living dealing in old fridges and washing machines from his garage, bit the bullet and borrowed the lion’s share of the $11,000 it cost to drill a new well four times as deep as his old one. In mid-November, seven months after the pipes went dry, water began flowing to his taps again. Arreola just doesn’t know for how long.

Another water problem, via Want China Times:

Yangtze water not a cure-all for Beijing’s thirst

Beijing is looking to water from the Yangtze river to ease its drought, but experts say the ambitious south-to-north water diversion project is not a cure-all for the capital’s thirst.

With Yangtze water piped in, Beijing will have 150 cubic meters per person, an increase of 50%, according to figures provided by the Beijing water authority.

It said the Chinese capital’s per capita water volume is currently 100 cubic meters, only 1.25% of the world’s average level.

Beijing needs at least 3.6 billion cubic meters of water a year to supply its 20 million residents and to keep local businesses running, but its own water supply was only 2.1 billion cubic meters annually in the past decade.

“The city is facing a severe water crisis,” said Xu Xinyi, a water conservancy specialist with Beijing Normal University. “It’s like five people stuffed into a room designed for two.”

Protest over anticipated water problems to come, via TheLocal.es:

Protesters strip off to oppose Repsol plans

Protesters plunged half-naked into the icy sea and unfurled banners Saturday to try to stop oil prospecting near Spain’s Canary Islands, a major tourist destination.

Ten boats from the archipelago took protesters eight nautical miles from where Spanish firm Repsol is exploring with a view to possibly drilling off the islands in the Atlantic ocean.

Protesters warn the oil and gas project is a threat to the environment and the tourist industry on which the Canary Islands rely.

They say drilling would raise the risk of an oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon disaster that struck at a BP oil prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in
2010.

And from Want China Times, another water protest:

Thousands take to street in Nicaragua to protest China canal deal

A massive demonstration rocked Nicaragua’s capital of Managua as protestors opposed to the construction of a US$50 billion Nicaragua Canal took to the streets on Wednesday. Protesters said the construction will damage local freshwater sources and the environment, reports Shanghai-based newspaper the Paper.

Some protesters held banners reading “Chinese gets out!” and “No canal.” The project, which is to begin construction on Dec. 22 and scheduled to be completed in 2019, will dwarf the neighboring Panama Canal. It will be 278 kilometers in length and pass through Central America’s largest lake.

Chinese-funded Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment won the bid for the project and the right to operate the canal and its facilities for 100 years. One protester said he does not want to see the lake being cut in half and the fact that a foreign company will operate the canal for a century means that not even his children will see benefits from the project.

From Want China Times yet again, China’s killer air:

Air pollution cause of high lung cancer rate in China: experts

China’s chronic air pollution is being named the key culprit behind the prevalence of lung cancer, with cases predicted to top 1 million by 2025, the highest worldwide, according to Chinese-language Economic Information.

Lung cancer has topped the list of cancers in China, passing liver cancer as the number of lung-cancer patients has doubled every 10-15 years in the past decades, according to statistics of the National Cancer Registration Center.

China now has 3.12 million new cancer cases a year and over 2 million Chinese people die of cancer annually. The number of lung-cancer patients has been increasing at an annual clip of 26.9% in recent years, with the disease’s mortality rate surging 465% over the past 30 years, which makes it the most lethal cancer, according to NCRC data.

From VOA Video, another report about the intersection of things inhaled and lung health:

Gold Miners Join Class Action Suit in South Africa Over Lung Disease

Program notes:

Five of South Africa’s largest gold mining companies recently announced they will create a working group to deal with the issue of occupational lung disease. This move comes as the sector faces what could be South Africa’s biggest-ever class action lawsuit. More than 25,000 miners are seeking compensation from gold mining companies, saying they failed to protect them from Silicosis, a debilitating and incurable lung disease. Emilie IOB reports from South Africa and neighboring Lesotho.

From JapanToday, amazing if confirmed:

Tohoku University team discovers blue light is effective at killing insects

And now in a report published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tohoku University have found a new use for blue LED. When used in the right frequency it can be an effective, safe, clean, and cheap way to kill insects. For the first time, they showed that visible light around the blue part of the spectrum is lethal to insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

In the experiment, the team of Masatoshi Hori, Kazuki Shibuya, Mitsunari Sato, and Yoshino Sato gathered samples of three species of insects; fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), London Underground mosquito (Culex pipiens f. molestus), and confused flour beetles (Tribolium confusum). The names of these bugs are probably worthy of their own article, but we can’t get sidetracked now.

The team then hit these insects with different intensities of colored lights at different stages of their development from egg to adult. Interestingly, they found that wavelengths of light from ultraviolet (378 nanometers) to visible blue-green (508nm) killed off the bugs, whereas wavelengths of light in red and yellow had essentially no effect.

Even more interestingly, the wavelength of light did not directly correspond to its lethalness. For example, fruit flies dropped dead with under a 467nm far more efficiently than with any other longer or shorter wavelengths. Mosquitoes on the other hand were weaker to a more lavender 417nm wavelength light. When swapped, only a few fruit flies went down under 417nm, whereas mosquitoes barely flinched at the 467nm light.

And from CBC News, another grab for Arctic oil, gas, and minerals:

Denmark says Greenland subsea ridge gives it a claim to North Pole

  • Denmark says scientific data shows Greenland’s continental shelf is connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean, giving Danes a claim to the North Pole and any potential energy resources beneath it.

Denmark will deliver a claim on Monday to a United Nations panel in New York that will eventually decide control of the area, which Russia and Canada are also coveting, Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said.

Lidegaard told the Associated Press he hopes the other nations that also have made claims in the Arctic will continue to keep to “the rules of the game.”

The United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark all have areas surrounding the North Pole, but only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim.

And now for something completely different. . .


From NASA Earth Observatory, a spectacular shot of Italy at night from the International Space Station, the country’s shape dramatically outlined by the lights of cities clinging to the coasts of The Boot and Sicily:

BLOG Italia

EnviroWatch: Climate, fracking, water, Fukushima


And much more. . .

We begin with an impasse from the Guardian:

Lima climate summit extended as early optimism is overtaken by discord

  • Talks stumble amid rising frustration over ‘ridiculously low’ cash commitments for emissions cuts from rich nations

Climate talks in Lima ran into extra time amid rising frustration from developing countries at the “ridiculously low” commitments from rich countries to help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The talks – originally scheduled to wrap up at 12pm after 10 days – are now expected to run well intoSaturday , as negotiators huddle over a new draft text many glimpsed for the first time only morning.

The Lima negotiations began on a buoyant note after the US, China and the EU came forward with new commitments to cut carbon pollution. But they were soon brought back down to earth over the perennial divide between rich and poor countries in the negotiations: how should countries share the burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and who should pay?

Good news from StarAfrica:

Gambia malaria infection on the wane – Report

The infection level of malaria in The Gambia is gradually declining according to a report resulting from the latest medical research on its prevention in the country. According to the report, published in The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal and seen by APA on Friday the research was carried out in 96 Gambian villages targeting 8,000 children who were tested for malaria this year.

It attributed the drop in infection to the massive distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets across the country.

The report also pointed out that using treated bed nets is more effective than spraying insecticide chemicals in homes. “High bed net coverage is sufficient to protect people against malaria in areas of low or moderate transmission” it added.

The Lancet said the study is deemed significant as it was conducted in areas with differing transmission rates of malaria to further assess the effectiveness of combining insecticide sprays with treated bed nets.

Jiji Press sounds an alarm:

Japan on High Alert for Bird Flu

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is on high alert for bird flu, faced with outbreaks around the world.

This year, 245 avian influenza cases have been confirmed in South Korea, and the same bird flu virus strain spread in Europe, leading an official of the ministry to be concerned about “worldwide simultaneous, multiple outbreaks.”

In Japan, bird flu viruses have been found in the droppings of wild birds one after another. Almost throughout the year, South Korea has seen outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 subtype bird flu virus.

Water woes lead to a food crisis, via the Guardian:

UN: drought in Central America has pushed 2.5m people into food insecurity

  • Subsistence farmers, farm labourers and low-income families especially at risk as UN warns of ‘creeping humanitarian crisis’

A drawn-out drought in Central America has pushed 2.5 million people in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador into food insecurity, the UN warned Friday.

The drought in the three countries is “turning into a creeping humanitarian crisis”, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian agency, told reporters in Geneva.

Subsistence farmers, farm labourers and low-income families were especially at risk, with young children and pregnant women considered the most vulnerable, he said.

A full 80% of farmers in the worst-hit areas of El Salvador had reported losing all of their crops, while 75% of maize and bean crops in Honduras and Guatemala had failed. The lack of rain has also resulted in the death of thousands of cattle.

Water woes farther South, from the Los Angeles Times:

Sao Paulo, Brazil, officials downplay water crisis as residents suffer

The water crisis is so bad in South America’s largest city that when rain began to dribble from the sky recently, workers in a downtown office high-rise stood up and cheered, running to the windows to celebrate each drop.

A majority of city residents recently surveyed said their water has stopped flowing at some point, usually at night. In some neighborhoods, people say their homes have no water service at all. Although scientists say that the drought has its roots in such changes as deforestation, analysts say poor planning and political manipulation by local authorities have exacerbated the crisis.

Authorities insist that they have not shut off the supply to any neighborhoods and that problems caused by a loss of water pressure may affect 1% to 2% of homes. They recommend that residents use home water tanks. But they acknowledge that without huge amounts of rain over the next months — “floods,” said National Water Agency President Vicente Andreu — the crisis will intensify.

From CBC’s News’s The National, a Canadian import:

Toxic waste from Love Canal coming to Canada

Program notes:

Up to 100 truckloads of toxic material that traces back to Love Canal are being sent to Canada.

Euopean neoliberal deregulation advances in Europe, via EurActiv:

Commission plans to ditch circular economy and air pollution rules

The European Commission plans to scrap its flagship Circular Economy package and anti-air pollution rules next week.

The executive will ditch the rules from its 2015 work programme, sources told EurActiv. That is set to be announced on Wednesday (17 December).

The Circular Economy package is designed to increase resource efficiency and recycling, and the Clean Air Package imposes rules that set member states’ air quality targets.

Sources told EurActiv that Commissioners were handed a secret document yesterday (10 December) at their weekly meeting. The document, outlining a list of bills to be killed off by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, was taken back from the Commissioners, after it was read and discussed.

Getting slick with United Press International:

Oil slick threatens N.J.’s Sandy Hook Bay

An oil slick discovered in Sandy Hook Bay off the coast of New Jersey could threaten marine life and a federal park, officials said.

The 1-mile-long, 50-yard-wide slick was discovered Thursday about 1.5 miles west of the U.S. Coast Guard station at the northern tip of Sandy Hook. When it was first discovered, the slick had measured 2 miles long and 400 miles wide, but had shrunk as of Friday.

Coast Guard crews installed a boom off Horseshoe cove to protect an environmentally sensitive area from the oil spill.

“We’re concerned. We’re very concerned about this,” said Pete McCarthy, unit coordinator of Sandy Hook for the National Park Service. “We’re worried about what it’s going to do to the shoreline, obviously, (and) what it’s going to do to wildlife.”

Degreening, via the Independent:

New era of cheap oil ‘will destroy green revolution’

The collapsing oil price that is reshaping the global economy could derail the green energy revolution by making renewable power sources prohibitively bad value, experts have warned.

Oil tumbled below $60 a barrel for the first time in more than five years yesterday – a fall of 44 per cent since June. It is forecast to fall further.

“Renewable energy subsidies have been mostly sold to the public on the basis of the economic benefits,” said Peter Atherton, an energy analyst with Liberum Capital. “But the economic arguments hinged on the idea that fossil fuel prices would get more expensive, while expensive renewable subsidies would be able to come down over time. That’s looking doubtful now.”

Anne Robinson, director of consumer policy at the uSwitch price comparison website, said: “More subsidies are likely to be needed [for green power] as the gap between the cost of fossil fuel power and renewable power gets bigger.” The extra subsidies would be borne by households in the form of higher energy bills.

After the jump, more studies reveal fracking health risks as Spain’s neoliberal regime makes a fracking push, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a deal struck to an interim nuclear waste storage site, a regulators decree that a cement fix will plug underground hot water leaks, nuclear watchdog calls for a massive radioactive water release into the Pacific, South Koreans book a visit, while a volcanic eruption warning sounds for a volcano in the same province, a reactor startup nears in another province, and reactor restarts figure in regional politics as protests continue, While Germans remain nuclear power consumers thanks to a Swiss connection. . . Continue reading

A spectacular shower now underway, not rainy


While for those of us who live in California, the only thing falling from the skies these days has been rain, and lots of it. But for those who live is less watery parts, something else is falling, and it’s really spectacular.

From ScienceAtNASA:

ScienceCasts: Embers from a Rock Comet: The 2014 Geminid Meteor Shower

Program notes:

Earth is passing through a stream of debris from “rock comet” 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Forecasters expect as many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13-14.

And by way of irony, we pass along this somewhat song [there is that drought thing, after all] for our fellow Golden State afflictees, recorded in 1972 by Albert Hammond:

EnviroWatch: Health, land, water, nukes, more


We begin with the fruits of over-prescribed antibiotics, poorly compliant patients, and endless dosing of livestock crammed together in factory farms, via BBC News:

Superbugs to kill ‘more than cancer’ by 2050

Drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by 2050 unless action is taken, a study says.

They are currently implicated in 700,000 deaths each year.

The analysis, presented by the economist Jim O’Neill, said the costs would spiral to $100tn (£63tn). He was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron in July to head a review of antimicrobial resistance.

Mr O’Neill told the BBC: “To put that in context, the annual GDP [gross domestic product] of the UK is about $3tn, so this would be the equivalent of around 35 years without the UK contribution to the global economy.”

Médecins Sans Frontières battles another lethal epidemic in the Ebola hot zone:

Sierra Leone: 1.5 million people in a country affected by Ebola receive drugs to prevent malaria

As part of its ongoing emergency response to Ebola in West Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has carried out the largest-ever distribution of antimalarials in Sierra Leone, alongside the Ministry of Health. Teams distributed 1.5 million antimalarial treatments to residents of Freetown and five districts in the surrounding Western Area over four days, with the aim of protecting people from malaria during the disease’s peak season.

“In the context of Ebola, malaria is a major concern, because people who are sick with malaria have the same symptoms as people sick with Ebola,” said Patrick Robataille, MSF field coordinator in Freetown. “As a result, most people turn up at Ebola treatment centres thinking that they have Ebola, when actually they have malaria. It’s a huge load on the system, as well as being a huge stress on patients and their families.”

Sierra Leone has the fifth highest prevalence of malaria globally, and the disease is the biggest killer of children under five in the country. Malaria symptoms include high fever, dizziness, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue, many of which are similar to the symptoms of early stage Ebola.

The United News Press Center covers food worries:

UN agency reports record cereal crop as Ebola, conflict threaten food security

Despite world cereal production likely to reach an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tonnes in 2014, a total of 38 countries are at risk of food insecurity, including 29 in Africa, with food insecurity worsening in several countries due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola outbreak, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released today.

The latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report shows that while bumper crops in Europe and a record maize output in the United States of America pushed cereal output 0.3 per cent higher than last year, agriculture and food sectors in many countries were hit by significant, damaging shocks.

In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak, which began when crops were being planted and gathered pace during the farming cycle, led to a reduced harvest. Rice and cassava prices showed “notable increases” in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, and other cities in September. Harvests were also reduced by bad weather in the Sahel region, with agricultural output in Senegal expected to be 38 per cent below average.

Conflict was responsible for serious impacts on food insecurity in several countries, including Syria, where a weak harvest, due to abandoned land, scarce labour, and damaged infrastructure, was exacerbating the effects of worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million Syrians – some refugees in neighbouring countries – faced severe food insecurity, with the situation in Iraq, where 2.8 million people were displaced, also acutely serious.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), increased violence, coupled with crop production 58 per cent below average, put one third of the population in need of urgent food assistance. Prices of agricultural commodities have shot up by as much as 70 per cent this year and one in four households has resorted to negative coping strategies, including selling productive assets and slaughtering livestock.

Pressure on food supplies also came from refugee movements, the report said, especially from Sudan’s Darfur region, northern Nigeria, the CAR and Mali. More than 6.5 million people need food and livelihood assistance in Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.

From the Guardian, eugenic medicine in Old Blighty:

Devon drops plan to ban smokers and the obese from routine operations

  • Health bosses previously said that due cuts patients would need body mass index below 35, while smokers would have to quit

Health bosses in Devon have abandoned plans to ban smokers or the morbidly obese from undergoing routine operations until they quit the habit or lose weight.

The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon clinical commissioning group had previously said that due to temporary cost-cutting measures, patients would be expected to have a body mass index below 35, while smokers would have to quit eight weeks before surgery.

The proposals announced last week made national headlines and even led to one Labour MP claiming in the House of Commons that the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and communities secretary, Eric Pickles, would be refused operations on smoking and weight grounds respectively.

The land game goes on, via the Los Angeles Times:

Massive bill would protect some wilderness, open other public land

A massive military policy bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, now awaiting approval by the Senate, contains something you might not expect: dozens of public-land measures that would redefine the use of hundreds of thousands of acres of wildland across America.

The bill, scheduled for a key procedural vote in the Senate on Thursday, designates nearly 250,000 acres of new wilderness in several Western states and places hundreds of thousands of additional acreage off-limits to drilling and mining. It also opens up more than 110,000 acres of wildlands as far away as Alaska for logging, oil and gas development, mining and infrastructure improvements.

It’s the biggest wilderness-lands bill since 2009, the product of a rough compromise that manages to protect such treasures as the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana while opening up majestic stands of old-growth timber in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to the chain saw. All of this is under the umbrella of a bill to authorize $585 billion needed to keep the U.S. military in business — who wants to vote no?

A grim statistic from BuzzFeed News:

There Are 48 Times More Pieces Of Plastic In The Ocean Than There Have Been Humans Ever

There are “at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles” in the world’s oceans, a new study found.

The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, points out that “plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment.” To study the problem, scientists consequently embarked on a series of 24 expeditions to look at and haul up plastic. The researchers ultimately visited 1,571 locations around the world.

The researchers also estimated that all the plastic in the ocean weighs 268,940 tons. And that’s “highly conservative,” they wrote, because even more plastic may be lying around on beaches, inside animals, on the seabed, or hidden elsewhere in the water.

Of course, a lot of those pieces are very, very small. The study found that 92.4% of the particles were “microplastics” that are 4.75 millimeters or less thick. Still, most of those particles came from larger pieces breaking up. And larger “macroplastics” — things like fishing gear, old buoys, and bottles — actually contributed the most to the overall weight of the the oceans’ plastic content.

The energy flows, via the Guardian:

Tony Abbott says Australia may send uranium and coal to Ukraine

  • Prime minister tells Ukraine’s president exports from Australia could help secure Ukraine’s energy source

Australia is considering exporting coal and uranium to Ukraine it was announced, as the leaders of the two countries met for a historic state visit.

President Petro Poroshenko became the first Ukrainian leader to visit Australia, after accepting an invitation from the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, to discuss security issues in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July.

“The MH17 atrocity has brought our countries together in a remarkable way,” Abbott told reporters on Thursday.

“I want to say thank you to you, Petro, for the help and assistance that Ukraine and your government gave to Australia and our citizens in the aftermath of that terrible atrocity. And coming from this tragedy, I believe will be a strong and lasting friendship between the Australian people and the Ukrainian people,” Abbott said.

After the jump, rhino horn trade explodes, government officials are suspected, and an ivory smuggling suspect is busted, Fukushima-pocalypse Now! ain’t goin’ green, and anti-nuclear activists target California’s last working nuclear power plant. . . Continue reading