First up, another outbreak from Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Deal Seals In Germany May Have Had Virus, Hunters Called In To Kill Sick
Since early October, at least 180 dead seals have been found along the North Sea coast of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Dead fish and sea creatures often wash up onto beaches along the North and Baltic seas, but experts now say that these seals may have died of a virus that risks spreading further.
The situation is particularly worrisome because 200 of the 1500 seals living on the Danish Baltic Sea island of Anholt have died since August. “A flu virus was found in the cadavers,” says Hendrik Brunckhorst, spokesman for the state government-owned Company for Coastal Protection, National Parks and Ocean Protection in Schleswig-Holstein.
To stem further deaths, seal hunters have been called to kill sick seals on the beaches of Helgoland, Amrum, Föhr and Sylt islands. “Ninety-five percent of the seals found on the beaches are already dead,” says Sylt-based hunter Thomas Diedrichsen.
The Independent covers coming crisis:
Britain facing ‘agricultural crisis’ as scientists warn there are only 100 harvests left in our farm soil
Intense over-farming means there are only 100 harvests left in the soil of the UK’s countryside, a study has found.
With a growing population and the declining standard of British farmland, scientists warned that we are on course for an “agricultural crisis” unless dramatic action is taken.
Despite the traditional perception that there is a green and pleasant land outside the grey, barren landscape of our cities, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that on average urban plots of soil were richer in nutrients than many farms.
Sampling local parks, allotments and gardens in urban areas, Dr Jill Edmondson showed that the ground was significantly healthier than that of arable fields. Allotment soil had 32% more organic carbon, 36% higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25% higher nitrogen and was significantly less compacted.
Cooking with the Guardian:
2014 on track to be hottest year on record, says US science agency
- Global average temperatures in September were highest ever, following warmest year to date since 1998
The world is on course for this to be the hottest year ever, with global land and sea temperatures for September the highest ever recorded for the month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday.
The findings, which confirm September as the warmest such month on record, continue a string of record-beating months for global temperature.
The year to date for 2014 is already tied with 1998 as the warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, Noaa scientists said.
On a parallel note, via BBC News:
Europe emission targets ‘will fail to protect climate’
Europe’s leaders are about to consign the Earth to the risk of dangerous climate change, a UN expert says.
Prof Jim Skea, a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the EU’s plan to cut CO2 emissions 40% by 2030 is too weak.
He says it will commit future governments to “extraordinary and unprecedented” emissions cuts.
The Commission rejected the claim, saying the 40% target puts Europe on track for long-term climate goals.
From TakePart, chemical killing:
The U.S Approves a Powerful New Pesticide Deadly to Monarch Butterflies
The dominance of genetically modified crops requires ever-more-toxic pesticides that are wiping out the iconic insect’s sole source of food.
Is the monarch butterfly the new polar bear?
The iconic insect, whose numbers have plummeted from 1 billion to 35 million over the past two decades, is emerging as the latest symbol of environmental catastrophe: In this case, the impact of industrial agriculture, genetically modified crops, and skyrocketing pesticide use on wildlife.
The latest fight over the future of the monarch broke out on Wednesday, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a powerful—and highly toxic—new weed killer called Enlist Duo. Made by Dow AgroSciences and designed to be sprayed on genetically modified corn and soybean crops, Enlist Duo combines glyphosate and 2,4-D in a formula that’s supposed to kill weeds that have developed a resistance to each of those individual pesticides.
One wild plant that has not developed defenses against growing pesticide use is milkweed, which is essential to the monarch’s survival.
And from Al Jazeera America, an American tragedy:
UN officials ‘shocked’ by Detroit’s mass water shutoffs
- Two UN rapporteurs recommended Detroit immediately resume water service for residents unable to pay their bills
Surrounded by a frenzy of cameras, Detroit resident Rochelle McCaskill explained her predicament to a team of United Nations officials on Sunday: The numbers simply didn’t add up.
Out of her $672 monthly disability check, McCaskill spends $600 rent, she said, leaving her unable to pay the city’s water bills, which have skyrocketed to more than twice the national average.
“They need a category for those of us who cannot pay,” said McCaskill, whose water was shut off this summer as part of a wave of disconnections that, block by block, have left thousands of city residents without running water.
The city turned off McCaskill’s water despite the fact that she had been paying down her $540.10 water bill in increments and that she suffers from MRSA, a contagious infection that the NIH considers a “serious public health concern” and requires frequent bathing.
Spare the air with the Guardian:
India’s air quality figures can’t be trusted
- Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, but it may actually be worse as faulty instruments, data fudging and lack of regulation allow industries to pollute with impunity
India is changing the way it maps pollution, with an update to its air quality index.. In its initial phase, eight pollutants will be tracked in 46 cities with populations exceeding a million people. After five years, the rest of the country will slowly be brought into the system.
At the launch, the minister for environment and forests, Prakash Javadekar, said it wouldn’t be “business as usual” anymore.
The move couldn’t have come a moment sooner.
Five months ago, World Health Organisation declared Delhi to be the worst polluted city on earth. In a study spanning 1,600 cities across 91 countries, the organisation used India’s own officially released data to show the city had the world’s highest annual average concentration of microscopic airborne particles known as PM2.5.
These extremely fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter are linked with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease as they penetrate deep into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. Delhi’s annual PM2.5 reading was 153 compared to London’s 16. Indian officials contested the study’s finding but agreed Delhi was as bad as Beijing, although the latter’s PM2.5 reading was only 56.
On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:
ASAHI POLL: 27% of Fukushima voters want immediate end to nuclear power
Twenty-seven percent of voters in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, want Japan to immediately abolish nuclear energy, around double the national average, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.
About 55 percent of voters in the prefecture support a break away from nuclear power in the near future, according to the telephone survey conducted on Oct. 18-19.
The survey results showed anti-nuclear sentiment is higher in Fukushima Prefecture than in the rest of the country.
Hot to trot with JapanToday:
Obuchi’s departure won’t affect nuclear reactor restarts
The Japanese government’s plan to restart nuclear reactors shut down after the Fukushima disaster will not be affected by Monday’s resignation of the industry minister, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is losing a convincing advocate of a step most view with suspicion.
The resignation of Yuko Obuchi, 40, from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, six weeks after she was appointed, is the latest hitch in a process bogged down by documentation over safety standards, concerns about natural disasters and local opposition.
“Obviously as a young mother, the youngest cabinet minister, she was a reassuring figure (who showed) that restarting the reactor wouldn’t be as threatening as people feared,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus.
“Now that she’s gone, Abe has lost that reassuring presence and it’s unlikely that he’s going to be able to find anyone as convincing as her,” Kingston said.
NHK WORLD covers an okay:
City assembly approves Sendai plant restart
A special panel at a city assembly in southern Japan has approved a petition to allow a local nuclear power plant to resume operations.
The panel at the Satsuma Sendai city assembly in Kagoshima Prefecture discussed petitions both for and against the restart of the Sendai plant on Monday.
The plant is operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company. Last month it became the first to pass new regulations for nuclear plants introduced after the 2011 Fukushima accident.
But the meeting at which the decision was made was marked by controversy, as second NHK WORLD report notes:
Opponents scuffle with officials
People opposed to the restart of the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan scuffled with city officials when they tried to enter a room where the city assembly’s special panel was meeting.
After the panel adopted a petition calling for the restart of the plant, people gathered in front of the Satsumasendai city hall to protest the decision.
And plans for the restart of another nuclear complex are moving forward as well, NHK WORLD reports:
KEPCO to submit revised Takahama safety plan
The operator of a power plant on the Sea of Japan coast says it will submit revised safety measures to the country’s nuclear regulator as early as next week.
Officials of Kansai Electric Power Company say they have completed recalculations of the potential maximum height of a tsunami that could hit the Takahama plant.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, or NRA, had pointed out to the utility that it underestimated the height in its first assessment. The company was obliged to conduct tsunami simulations for 2 reactors at the plant.
Finally, from the New York Times, what could possibly go wrong?:
Power Plants Seek to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactors for Decades
The prospects for building new nuclear reactors may be sharply limited, but the owners of seven old ones, in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, are preparing to ask for permission to run them until they are 80 years old.
Nuclear proponents say that extending plants’ lifetimes is more economical — and a better way to hold down carbon dioxide emissions — than building new plants, although it will require extensive monitoring of steel, concrete, cable insulation and other components. But the idea is striking even to some members of the nuclear establishment.
At a meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May, George Apostolakis, a risk expert who was then one of the five commissioners, pointed out that if operation were allowed until age 80, some reactors would be using designs substantially older than that.
“I don’t know how we would explain to the public that these designs, 90-year-old designs, 100-year-old designs, are still safe to operate,” he said. “Don’t we need more convincing arguments than just ‘We’re managing aging effects’?”