Category Archives: Nature

EnviroWatch: Flu, climate, fuels, & species


And a rare day with no new news from Fukushima and the nuclear power front. . .

From Deutsche Welle, flu news:

Dutch authorities confirm second case of bird flu

Officials have detected the second case of bird flu in a week in the Netherlands. All 43,000 chickens at the affected farm are to be slaughtered and a nationwide ban on poultry transport has been imposed.

Dutch officials on Thursday confirmed the detection of another case of bird flu at a chicken farm, the second time this week that the disease has been found in the Netherlands.

The Dutch food and safety watchdog NVWA said the latest outbreak was detected at a farm in the village of Ter Aar in South Holland, 25 kilometers (15 miles) from a farm where an infection was found last week. All the 43,000 chickens at the farm were being destroyed and the farm disinfected, the NVWA said.

Officials say tests are being conducted to establish what strain of bird flu is involved. The earlier case in the Netherlands was confirmed as H5N8, which is considered as posing a low health risk to humans, but is highly contagious among poultry.

From Grist, temperatures rising:

No surprise, October was the hottest one ever

It’s cold outside, which means it’ll soon be time for the annual rousing chorus of climate change denial from people who think snow means global warming is fake.

Good thing NOAA is here to help. Today the agency released two new maps illustrating that even if you’re cold right now, the planet is still getting hotter. In fact, 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

And it’s not just October that was remarkably warm. The entire year so far, since January, has also been the warmest on record – a good 1.22 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. If the trend persists, 2014 will beat out 2010 as the hottest year on record:

BBC News ups the ante:

Climate fund receives $9.3bn pledge

Thirty nations meeting in Berlin have pledged $9.3bn (£6bn) for a fund to help developing countries cut emissions and prepare for climate change.

The Green Climate Fund was to have held at least $10bn by the end of 2014, so the pledge is just shy of the target.

The South Korea-based fund aims to help nations invest in clean energy and green technology.

It is also designed to help them build up defences against rising seas and worsening storms, floods and droughts.

The Guardian covers a preview of a coming attraction:

Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial

  • Robert Kenner’s forthcoming documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change

Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? Merchants of Doubt, a new documentary film released in US cinemas this week, reminds us that in June 2001 Bush and the Republican party were 100% committed to curbing carbon emissions causing global warming.

Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.

With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.

By equating the findings of climate scientists as an attack on personal freedoms, they cleverly shifted the focus away from science to political opinion. “Creating a focus point away from what is actually going on is how magicians pull off their tricks,” said Kenner who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc.

From Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist David Horsey, a look at a favorite project of the climate denial funding Koch Brothers:

BLOG Keystoned

Fueling health problems, via Environmental Health News:

Coal’s black wind: Pregnant women in parts of India advised to stay away

In some regions of India, a married woman will return to her mother’s house for the last trimester of pregnancy and the birth of her child. But in Mettur, pregnant women are advised by their doctors to stay away.

“Black wind” from a coal yard wafts constantly across poor neighborhoods, settling on rooftops, walking paths and even indoor furniture. People complain of asthma, wheezing and frequent colds.

In its bid to industrialize, India relies heavily on energy from coal. Accounting for 71 percent of India’s electricity, coal will remain a key player over the next decade, with 455 new plants proposed, according to energy experts.

A cutback ordered, from Environment News Service:

EU Court Rules British Government Must Limit Diesel Exhaust

The United Kingdom must clean up illegal levels of air pollution “as soon as possible,” the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday, in its first decision on the European Union’s 2008 air quality law.

The case was originally brought in the British courts by ClientEarth, a London-based environmental group concerned about the 29,000 people who die early in the UK each year as a result of air pollution.

ClientEarth asked the British courts to require the UK Government to revise its plans to meet the statutory limits for nitrogen dioxide under the Air Quality Directive as soon as possible, and by January 1, 2015 at the latest.

EcoWatch covers a reduction proposal:

How Oil and Gas Industry Could Cut Methane Pollution in Half

Leading environmental groups—Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and Clean Air Task Force—released a summary report today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laying out how the agency can cut methane pollution in half with low-cost technologies and practices. The report, Waste Not: Common Sense Measures to Reduce Methane Emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, shows how the U.S. EPA must meet its obligations under the Clean Air Act by requiring the oil and gas industries to halt methane emissions. The full report will be available later this fall.

One of the simple solutions highlighted in the report shows that “most of the industry’s methane pollution comes from leaks and intentional venting that can be identified and curbed with existing, low-cost technology and better maintenance practices.” Mark Brownstein, associate vice president for U.S. Climate and Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, agrees. “Methane leaks are simply a waste of a valuable national energy resource. The good news is that there are simple technologies and practices that the oil industry can use to substantially reduce this waste, creating new opportunities for American companies and new jobs for American workers.”

The big takeaway from this report is that these standards would cut up to 10 times more methane and up to four times more smog-forming pollutants than other proposals because these standards would apply to oil and gas infrastructure across the country, not just to equipment located in certain areas.

And from the Guardian, fracking funded:

Chemicals giant Ineos to announce £640m UK fracking investment

  • Operator of refinery at Grangemouth recently acquired 729 sq miles of fracking exploration licences in central Scotland

The chemicals giant Ineos is to announce a plan to invest up to £640m in shale gas exploration in the UK. The company, which runs a huge refinery and petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth, on the Firth of Forth, recently acquired 729 sq miles of fracking exploration licences in central Scotland.

The move would make Ineos one of the largest shale gas players in the UK and will be welcomed by government ministers who are seeking to speed up exploration. Ministers see fracking as an opportunity to develop a new domestic energy source as fields in the North Sea decline. Shale gas and oil have transformed the US energy market, although experts say the idea that it will lower energy prices in the UK is “baseless economics”.

Chief executive of Ineos Upstream, Gary Haywood, said: “I want Ineos to be the biggest player in the UK shale gas industry. I believe shale gas could revolutionise UK manufacturing and I know Ineos has the resources to make it happen.”

On to the threatened, first from StarAfrica:

Over 1,000 rhinos poached in S/Africa so far in 2014 – Official

South Africa has lost over 1,000 rhino to poachers so far this year, an official from the country’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs announced on Thursday.

According to the official, some 1,020 rhino have been poached for their horn since January this year, exceeding the 1,004 rhino that were poached in 2013.

The largest number of rhino poached has been in the world famous Kruger National Park in the north of the country, where 672 rhino have been poached this year.

The official said addressing the scourge was not simple, and that the ongoing killing of the rhino for its horns is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade.

And other critters on the brinks from Agence France-Presse:

Great apes facing ‘direct threat’ from palm oil farming

The destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa to make way for palm oil cultivation is a “direct threat” to the survival of great apes such as the orangutan, environmentalists warned Thursday.

They said tropical forests were tumbling at a rapid rate, with palm plantations a key driver, despite efforts by the industry’s Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to encourage sustainable cultivation.

The concerns were voiced at the sidelines of the annual RSPO meeting, held this year in Malaysia and which concluded Thursday.

“Orangutan and ape habitats are being destroyed,” said Doug Cress, from the UN Environment Programme’s great ape protection campaign. “The destruction of rainforest in Southeast Asia and increasingly now in Africa is a direct threat to the great apes.”

Finally, via the Guardian, yet another corporocrat spared:

Italian supreme court’s asbestos ruling could have major implications for Brazil

  • Court’s cancellation of Swiss asbestos polluter’s jail sentence dismays activists in Brazil, where substance is widely used

The Italian supreme court ruling on a case brought against Eternit, a Swiss-based building firm, could have major implications for the continued use of asbestos across the world.

On Wednesday, the court in Rome cancelled an 18-year jail sentence on the firm’s former owner Stephan Schmidheiny, who was facing charges of environmental disaster, having been found guilty of failing to comply with safety rules in two previous rulings.

The basis of the court’s ruling was that the statute of limitations had passed – Eternit left Italy 25 years ago – but the local trade unions and the Italian asbestos victims’ association, Afeva, who brought the case jointly, now intend to take it to Strasbourg.

Victims’ families shouted: “Shame on you!” as the verdict was pronounced. The group consisted of about 200 people, most of them from Casale Monferrato, a north-west Italian city where victims of asbestos-related diseases have been numbered in the thousands. Others came from countries including Switzerland, the UK, the US, Argentina, Belgium and Brazil.

The latest drought map: Once again, no change


Though with the rains yesterday and today [not including in this week’s map], there may be some very modest relief shown in next week’s map. From the United States Drought Monitor:

BLOG Drought

Another Bay Area earthquake strikes


Well, just south of the San Francisco Bay area.

There were two shakers, with the much stronger striking a half hour ago whilst we were compiling items.

Here’s a screencap [click to enlarge] of the U.S. Geological Survey incident web page for the temblor, where all the links do work:

BLOG Quake

EnviroWatch: Politics, fuels, species, & nukes


From the Washington Post, a momentary win:

Democrats block Keystone pipeline, but GOP vows new fight when it takes over

Senate Democrats blocked a move Tuesday to compel construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a sharp loss to one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who had pinned her chances for reelection on approval of the measure.

The vote was a victory for environmental activists who have turned defeat of the pipeline into one of the central symbolic causes of their movement. But Republicans, who will take majority control of the Senate in the next Congress, vowed to return to the fight next year.

On a 59 to 41 roll call, Landrieu’s campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

The only person who really needed the Keystone victory in November was Landrieu, who is trying to hold off Representative Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s run-off election on December 6. Democrats allowed Landrieu her vote on the bill, but the cold calculation that most of them made is that with the limited polling out of Louisiana showing her losing by double digits, passage of the bill—which also had Cassidy’s name on it—wouldn’t be enough to save her.

From Reuters, a video of the decisive moment:

U.S. Senate fails to pass Keystone XL pipeline bill

Program notes:

U.S. Senate votes 59-41 in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline bill, narrowly lacking the 60 votes needed to pass the measure.

From the Express Tribune, an ongoing struggle:

Crippling disease: Seven new cases as N Waziristan polio drive restarts

As seven fresh polio cases surfaced in different parts of the country on Tuesday, an initiative was renewed to drive out the contagious disease from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) – which has been off limits to vaccinators for the last 30 months.

According to officials, a formal polio vaccination drive was started in four different villages of the North Waziristan’s Razmak tehsil on Tuesday and 1,349 children were vaccinated on the first day of the drive.

Meanwhile, seven new polio cases surfaced across the country on Tuesday, taking the national count for 2014 to 255. The National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed the emergence of seven new cases in a single day.

From the New York Times, Mine Kampf:

Clean Mining a Deception in Kentucky, Groups Say

In a state where coal-country creeks run red with iron, Frasure Creek Mining has been unusually clean of late: Amid tens of thousands of measurements that it submitted to Kentucky regulators in 2013 and early 2014, fewer than 400 exceeded the state’s limits for water pollution from coal-mine runoff.

Now environmental activists say they know why. In a letter released on Monday, four environmental groups said many of the monthly measurement reports that Frasure sent the state contained virtually identical data — line-for-line repeats of clean pollution reports submitted the month before.

The letter to Frasure and state and federal officials vowed to sue the company for what activists called tens of thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act unless Kentucky regulators act first. The act allows citizens to enforce

More New York Times coal coverage:

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change

“If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”

India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. While the United States and China announced a landmark agreement that includes new targets for carbon emissions, and Europe has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has shown no appetite for such a pledge.

“India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future,” India’s power minister, Piyush Goyal, said at a recent conference in New Delhi in response to a question. “The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”

Mr. Goyal has promised to double India’s use of domestic coal from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019, and he is trying to sell coal-mining licenses as swiftly as possible after years of delay. The government has signaled that it may denationalize commercial coal mining to accelerate extraction.

And from RT, frack off!:

No fracking, we’re German! Berlin reiterates moratorium on drilling

Germany says it is not going to loosen restrictions concerning its moratorium on fracking. A report in Der Spiegel had said the government was considering making it easier to extract shale gas and allow test drilling.

The government said on Monday it has no plans to lift the ban on fracking, Reuters reported.

Currently there are only plans to allow fracking at a depth below 3,000 meters to ensure that the water supply does not become contaminated. The effective ban is popular with Germans as the process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals through drill holes at a high pressure to try and open rocks that may contain gas.

Getting the tubes tied off, via the Guardian [and, yes, we know they ain’t got tubes any more]:

Brussels targets super-sized TVs in drive for energy efficiency

  • Mega-TV screens will be forced to reduce energy use under new proposals that set the scene for ‘ecodesign’ battles to come over kettles, toasters, and hairdryers

The amount of energy that big screen TVs can use will be capped under an EU energy efficiency drive which the European commission expects will cut consumers’ energy bills by around €8bn a year.

After similar energy-saving rules for vacuum cleaners provoked a storm of criticism from UK newspapers last autumn, the planned TV rules may be a test case for new ‘ecodesign’ formulas for kettles, toasters and hairdryers, due to be announced next year.

The new TV standards, which could come into effect as early as June 2016, would set more challenging energy use requirements for larger TV screens, which currently benefit from a ranking methodology that only measures internal components for energy efficiency.

Coming clean with the Associated Press:

Dry Central California town gets portable showers

Hundreds of people living in a drought-stricken California farm town could soon be taking their first hot shower in months after county officials set up portable facilities in a church parking lot.

Residents of East Porterville in the agricultural Central Valley must bring their own towel and soap, but the hot shower is free. Until now, many have been forced to bathe from buckets and drink bottled water.

Andrew Lockman, manager of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Service, said Tuesday that officials were worried about residents taking sponge baths during the colder weather.

“The poor certainly get poorer,” he said. “We’re trying to provide a safety net, a basic quality of life as people struggle through this disaster.”

Ceaseless cetacean slaughter reduced, via the Guardian:

Japan cuts Antarctic whale quota after UN court ruling

Japan has reduced quota by two-thirds after UN court called the controversial ‘research whaling’ programme a commercial hunt masquerading as science

Japan has unveiled a plan to kill 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean next year as part of its push to resume whaling following a legal setback instigated by Australia.

The plan, released by the Japanese government on Tuesday, sets out a 12-year program that would result in the slaughter of a total of 3,996 whales. The whales will be hunted in a vast sweep of Antarctic waters, including ocean claimed by Australia.

The 333 annual figure is a sharp reduction in the previous quota Japan awarded itself last year, when it aimed to take 855 minke whales, 50 humpback whales and 10 fin whales. Japan ended up harpooning far fewer than this amount, however, due to the disruptive tactics of anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd.

Japan state broadcaster NHK WORLD put a different spin on the story:

Japan to resume Antarctic research whaling

Japan aims to resume its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean late next year by drastically downsizing the program.

Fisheries minister Koya Nishikawa announced a revised plan for the program on Tuesday.

Under the plan, a fleet will hunt only minke whales and the catch limit will be cut to 333. That’s about one-third of the number in the past.

Researchers will also conduct visual studies that do not involve killing whales.

Another slaughter, equally tragic, from the Guardian:

Elephants are being wiped out, but not enough people seem to care

  • Progress on wildlife poaching is slow because there is little public pressure. Let’s hope Interpol’s ‘most wanted’ eco criminals list will help

I asked a senior environmental journalist the other week what he thought was the single most under-reported environmental issue. He replied, unhesitatingly, wildlife poaching. “It’s as if the wildlife is just being hoovered out of Africa,” he said. “In the 1960s people campaigned around whales and wildlife. The Daily Mail actually put rhino poaching on their front page. But now there just doesn’t seem to be the same level of interest.” Dr Paula Kahumbu, a wildlife campaigner based in Kenya, echoes his sentiment, but adds that the UK public is still more active than most areas of the world. “Not a single African leader has spoken out on this,” says Kahumbu. “The silence is deafening.”

The scale of the “hoovering” is hard to comprehend. Take elephants, for example. In Africa, where some but not all of the poaching is concentrated, elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of 20,000-25,000 a year, from a population of just 420,000-650,000. The forest elephant population has dropped by 62% since 2002. There is a word for the killing of elephants (elephanticide) and a word for destruction of the natural world (ecocide) but oddly enough – given our magnificent form in this area – there doesn’t seem to be a word for killing off a whole species. We probably need one.

And then there are the other species we “hoover” up, from illegal logging and the dumping of hazardous waste. Taken altogether, a UN report earlier this year estimated that the cost of these crimes is $70-213bn annually. So these are not small operations, not a few farmers sneakily chopping down a few trees to augment their subsistence income, or the odd fisherman going over his quota. These are international cartels systematically and illegally stripping our natural resources and selling them on for profit. Some of them are running parallel drug and human trafficking operations. There is even evidence that some of this income is supporting terrorism.

From CCTV America, another fuel, other consequences:

US wood pellet industry stirs environmental controversy

Program notes:

Europe’s search for biofuels has led them to Americas’ southern forests and wetlands, such as the Nottoway River in Virginia. Many of the trees are logged for the sole purpose of grinding them up to later be converted into wood pellets. A clear cutting site in Waverly, Virginia was logged by the U.S. company Enviva, according to the non-profit organization, Dogwood Alliance. CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad Perez reported this story.

More fuel from Kyodo News:

Tokyo to set up 80 hydrogen stations by 2025

The Tokyo metropolitan government Tuesday announced a plan to increase the number of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles in Tokyo to 35 by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and to 80 by 2025.

“We would like to make a (hydrogen utilization) model first in Tokyo in the run-up to nationwide diffusion,” Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said at a meeting of the metropolitan government.

The metropolitan and central governments will provide subsidies covering 400 million yen of some 500 million yen required for building each hydrogen station.

On to Fukushimapoocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Radioactive water leak found at Ikata plant

Workers at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan have found a radioactive water leak from the facility’s wastewater disposal system.

Officials of the plant’s host Ehime Prefecture said none of the water leaked outside the site, and that no worker was exposed to it. The plant operated by Shikoku Electric Power Company is offline.

They say workers found traces of leaked water on piping insulation in a building adjacent to the plant’s Number 2 reactor on Tuesday.

The piping is part of the disposal system for solidifying concentrated low-level radioactive wastewater by mixing it with asphalt.

German decommission deconstruction from TheLocal.de:

Government doubles nuclear waste count

Germany will have to dispose of twice as much radioactive waste as previously expected as it continues to shut down its nuclear power plants, according to parts of the government’s disposal plan that were leaked on Tuesday.

Some 600,000 cubic metres of waste will have to be placed in permanent underground storage instead of the anticipated 298,000 cubic metres, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.

The newspaper was citing figures from a copy it obtained of the draft “National Disposal Plan” the government is currently negotiating with individual federal states.

The new projection is significantly higher because of the inclusion for the first time of 13,000 tons of waste from uranium enrichment, equivalent to around 100,000 cubic metres.

Decommission deconstruction closer to Casa esnl from the New York Times:

Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules are not geared for supervising the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the task that will occupy much of its time in the coming years, the head of the agency, Allison M. Macfarlane, said Monday.

Speaking at the National Press Club in a wide-ranging look at her agency and the industry before she leaves the job at the end of the year, Dr. Macfarlane said the industry had instead set itself up about 15 years ago to oversee more reactor construction, a revival that did not occur. “The industry was really expecting to expand,” she said. “The agency’s not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned.”

Instead, a plunging price of natural gas and slack demand for electricity have made some existing plants uncompetitive, and the pace of retirements has been high. But the commission’s rules on areas like security and emergency planning are geared to operating plants, she said. So shut-down plants are applying for exemptions to the rules that no longer seem to fit the risk that the reactors pose when decommissioned.

And to close, hints of our past? From BBC News:

Comet landing: Organic molecules detected by Philae

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history. The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

Other analyses suggest the comet’s surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.

Chart of the day: Tracking carbon dioxide


Well, not exactly a chart, but a computer animation of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a year, released today by NASA Goddard:

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

Program notes:

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.

EnviroWatch: Bird flu, toxins, climate, & nukes


We begin with a series of reports on the global spread of avian flu outbreak, first with BBC News:

Bird flu: Egyptian woman dies of H5N1 virus

An Egyptian woman has died after coming into contact with birds infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The 19-year-old woman died in hospital in the region of Assiut in the south of the country.

It was the second death in Egypt this year out of a total of seven confirmed cases, said Egyptian health officials.

It comes after several cases of birds infected with different types of the virus were discovered in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

And from Europe, via the London Telegraph:

Emergency measures announced to contain bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands

  • The European Commission announces measures including culling and banning sales of poultry products from affected areas

Emergency measures to contain outbreaks of bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands have been announced by the European Commission.

It comes after Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that a virus found at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire was the ‘’highly pathogenic’‘ H5 strain of avian flu.

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned after an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu strain was confirmed at a chicken farm in the central province of Utrecht.

Neither outbreak involved the H5N1 version of the virus which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

More from BBC News:

Bird flu: ‘Robust action’ on Yorkshire duck farm case

“Immediate and robust action” is being taken to stamp out bird flu following a confirmed case at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, the environment secretary has told the Commons.

Tests are yet to establish the strain, but the H5N1 form, deadly to humans, has been ruled out, Liz Truss said.

About 6,000 birds will be culled from Tuesday as a precaution and a 10km (6 mile) exclusion zone is in place.

Ms Truss repeated reassurances that there was no food safety risk.

And still more from DutchNews.nl:

Migrating birds blamed for spreading bird flu, two other Dutch farms declared healthy

Poultry experts from the European Commission believe the three cases of bird flu at farms in the Netherlands, Germany and Britain are due to migrating birds, news agency ANP says on Monday.

This infectious form of bird flu is more common in Japan and Korea and has probably been spread by infected birds, the experts say. There is no connection between the three farms where bird flu has been identified. In addition, two farms close to the Dutch farm where the disease was found at the weekend have been given a clean bill of health.

The movement of poultry, eggs and bird manure has been halted throughout the Netherlands for 72 hours following the discovery of a highly infectious variant of bird flu at a chicken farm in Hekendorp, south of Utrecht.

And a Japanese case from Jiji Press:

Suspected Bird Flu Case Reported in Tokyo

An avian influenza virus has been detected in a genetic test on the body of a common pochard collected in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Environment Ministry said Monday.

A further test will be carried out to examine whether the migratory bird was infected with a highly pathogenic bird flu virus. This would be the first bird flu case in Tokyo.

The ministry has designated a 10-kilometer radius of where the bird body was found as a priority monitoring zone. “There is little likelihood that humans get infected with bird flu in ordinary life,” a ministry official said.

Another critter, another ailment, via CBC News:

Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus

  • Researchers don’t know what triggered recent deadly outbreak

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs and eventually disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones.

A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of wasting syndrome among sea stars, also known as starfish. Varieties of densovirus are used as a biological control on cockroaches, and include the parvovirus that infects dogs.

Cornell University marine microbiologist Ian Hewson says they found larger amounts of the virus in sick sea stars than healthy ones, and the amount of virus increased as the disease progressed. Also, injecting material from sick sea stars that was filtered to concentrate virus-sized organisms caused healthy sea stars to get the disease.

From the Independent, a soap toxin:

Triclosan: Soap ingredient can trigger liver cancer in mice, warn scientists

A chemical ingredient of cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos and toothpaste has been found to trigger liver cancer in laboratory mice, raising concerns about how safe it is for humans, scientists said.

Triclosan, a commonly used anti-bacterial agent added to bathroom and kitchen products, promotes the growth of liver tumours in mice fed relatively large quantities of the substance, a study has found.

The research is the latest to link triclosan with cancer and liver disease, but other scientists have urged caution over the findings suggesting that they do not prove a direct causal link between the chemical and the ill health of people exposed to it.

Monitoring the threatened, via the Guardian:

More than 22,000 species feature in conservationists’ ‘under threat’ list

  • Japanese yen for Pacific bluefin tuna, climate change and demand for minerals from animals’ habitats put species at risk

A fluorescent pink slug and one of the world’s most expensive fish are among the species included in an update to the list of the world’s most threatened animals.

Mankind’s demand for the wood, stone and oil where the species live, as well as using them for food, is blamed for pushing many towards the brink of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in its authoritative Red List update.

The Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), a meaty fish prized in Japan that was previously listed as a species of least concern, has seen numbers decline by up to a third over the past two decades leading it to be reclassified as vulnerable. The main threat to the species is its value as sashimi – one fish can fetch more than $100,000 (£64,000).

The appetite for sashimi is also blamed for the decline of the Chinese pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis), one of the world’s most toxic fish. It is now classified as critically endangered, the Red List’s most severe listing and the final step before extinction.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, water woes:

EPA administrator: Surprise at focus of backlash to clean-water rule

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.

In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “ Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

The rule came about because the 1972 Clean Water Act pretty clearly cover rivers, lakes and year-round wetlands – but other waters aren’t so obvious, such as wetlands that dry up some months of the year.

U.S. farm interests reacted strongly to the proposal, saying it would vastly increase the EPA’s authority – something the agency disputes. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups were part of a deluge of nearly 500,000 comments that came in on the rule, as of last count; the EPA and Army Corps hope to finalize the rule next year.

From the Guardian, pipeline resistance:

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval ‘act of war’

  • Pipeline’s prospective route runs through Rosebud reservation
  • Tribe president: ‘I pledge my life to stop these people harming our children’

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has called a congressional vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war” and vowed to close the reservation’s borders if the US government tries to install a pipeline there.

The prospective route for the pipeline, which would connect Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf coast, runs through the 922,759-acre (1,442 sq mi) Rosebud Sioux reservation in south-central South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 252-161 on Friday to approve the pipeline.

“I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and our grandchildren and our way of life and our culture and our religion here,” the tribe president, Cyril Scott, said on Monday. He represents one of nine tribal governments in the state.

Scott said he will close the reservation’s borders if the government goes through with the deal, which is scheduled to come up for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

A video report from Democracy Now!:

Naomi Klein: Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, We Need Radical Change to Prevent Catastrophic Warming

Program notes:

House lawmakers passed legislation Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. The Senate is expected to vote this week on a similar pro-Keystone bill backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu is facing a tough battle to keep her seat in a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who also happens to be the sponsor of the pro-Keystone bill in the House. Landrieu spoke last week about her support for Keystone. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

From the Guardian, greasing the skids:

Carmichael mine: environmental impact will be unknown for years

  • Government backdown means Indian owners won’t be required to replace razed critically endangered habitat until two years into the project

Construction of Australia’s largest ever mine will be well underway before its impact upon the environment is known, with a requirement to replace critically endangered habitat razed by the project pushed back by two full years after a backdown by the federal government.

Documents seen by Guardian Australia show that the government scaled back its initial environmental conditions for the Carmichael mine in central Queensland following a request by Adani, the proponent.

The changes effectively mean the $16.5bn mine’s impact on crucial groundwater supplies, beyond the 297bn litres it will extract from aquifers, will be largely unknown until the project is at an advanced stage.

After the jump, Peru’s bloody forest wars, more African tribes displaced ads their lands are seized, a calamitous polar bear population decline as attacks on humans rise, a presidential confrontation over Aussie climate reticence, the long trail of safety violations before a deadly Tex pesticide plant leak, a most-wanted list for environmental criminals, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with those with endlessly leaking tunnels and gubernatorial pleas for waste disposal consultations and for closure or yet another plant. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Health, pollution, nukes, & more


We begin with sins of the past, via the Guardian:

Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice

  • Newly exposed files show how victims were betrayed by political interference in trial – and how the pill has remained on sale

What should have happened for justice to prevail was for the government to support the families while the criminal court tracked liability for an enormous crime. That was demanded by the West German Social Democratic party in opposition in 1962, but they forgot about it in government.

Instead, while the witnesses testified and endured cross-examination in noisy, angry scenes in the courthouse, the real action was elsewhere. The large number of private documents newly discovered in German state archives by the researcher for the UK Thalidomide Trust speak to government interference in the judicial proceedings.

On July 21, 1969, the documents show, Grünenthal directors and their lawyers met in secret with the federal health ministry. The principal defendant in the criminal trial had been excused attendance in court for health reasons, but he was there at this and other meetings: Grünenthal’s founder, Hermann Wirtz, a 71-year-old father of five, a member of a devout Catholic family socially prominent as philanthropists in Aachen. No victims or their representatives were present, nor were they advised of the meeting.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, barfing aboard:

Norovirus sickens 172 on Pacific cruise ship

More than 170 passengers and crew on a US cruise ship in the Pacific have contracted Norovirus, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sunday (Nov 16).

The highly-contagious stomach virus infected 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crewmembers, the CDC said in an investigation report.

This is the second time Princess Cruises “Crown Princess” has had an outbreak of Norovirus this year. More than 150 passengers caught the virus during a cruise in April.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak of a drug-resistant menace:

Second Danish death attributed to MRSA

A second person has died in Denmark from swine MRSA, the latest report from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) has revealed.

According to SSI’s third quarter report, a patient was hospitalised with a hardening of the arteries and underwent several procedures before dying within 30 days of being infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans.

“There were three new incidences [of MRSA] in the third quarter, one of which ended in death. Throughout all of 2014 there have been six cases of toxaemia in total, two of which ended in death with 30 days,” SSI spokesman Robert Skov told DR.

Two leading experts said in August that between 6,000 and 12,000 people are currently infected with MRSA CC398 in Denmark. It has also been found that at least 13 babies whose parents work in the swine industry have been infected with MRSA.

From the New York Times, a dangerous complication:

Rare Vaccine-Derived Polio Discovered in 2 Countries

Cases of paralysis caused by mutating polio vaccine have been found in South Sudan and Madagascar, the World Health Organization said Friday. New rounds of vaccination will be conducted in December in both areas. The two paralysis cases in South Sudan were in a displaced-persons camp where revaccination is relatively easy, the W.H.O. said, while testing suggests that the one case in Madagascar did not spread far. “Vaccine-derived polio paralysis” is a rare but small risk inherent in oral vaccine, so the polio eradication campaign is trying to introduce injectable vaccine wherever it is safe and practical. The injectable vaccine contains a “killed” virus that cannot mutate. But it provides less protection than the live, weakened virus in oral vaccine, is more expensive and is much harder to give. Only 279 cases of polio have been detected in the world this year, almost all of them in Pakistan or in Pakistani families in Afghanistan.

And the Los Angeles Times ponders another public health woe:

As Ebola scare dies down in U.S., infectious disease preparations wane

Hospitals seek a balance between preparation and overreaction when planning for the possibility of an outbreak of a deadly virus like Ebola, the spread of a pandemic flu or the emergence of another little-known infectious disease, according to hospital and healthcare officials.

In an era of high costs, constrained budgets and tight profit margins, many hospitals struggle to determine what resources they can spare to prepare for an epidemic that may never come.

“You have to walk that fine line between an event happening and not saying the sky is falling all the time,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, head of infection prevention at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her hospital helped isolate and test one of the first suspected Ebola cases in the country in July.

From Reuters, another outbreak:

EU Commission to adopt urgent measures to contain Dutch bird flu outbreak

The European Commission will on Monday likely adopt urgent interim protective measures to contain an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu in the Netherlands, it said on Sunday.

“The Commission is expected to adopt tomorrow, Monday 17 November, a decision with urgent interim protective measures in relation to this outbreak,” said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesman for the Commission.

The decision will describe the zones established by the Dutch authorities around the infected poultry farm where it will be forbidden to sell live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and other poultry products to other European Union member states and third countries.

Modern Farmer covers consequences of killing insects with neurotoxins:

Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer. We called up Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, to find out what the team learned and what it all means. Spoiler: nothing good.

“There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression,” says Kamel. “We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either; one, called malathion, was used by 67% of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, for what that’s worth.

A more lethal encounter with pesticide chemicals in La Porte, Texas, from KHOU-TV in Houston:

4 workers killed in DuPont chemical leak

  • Company officials said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide

Four DuPont workers are dead and another is in the hospital following a chemical leak at its facility here Saturday morning.

DuPont company spokesman Aaron Woods said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide, around 4 a.m. Officials are still investigating why the valve failed.

Workers were able to get it under control by around 6 a.m. At that point, five workers had already been exposed to the gas, four of whom died inside the unit. The fifth was transported and is recovering in an area hospital.

Complications from another Big Ag chemical addiction from PBS NewsHour:

Increased immunity in weeds may threaten U.S. crops

Program notes:

On Saturday, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Iowa to explore the widespread issue of herbicide-resistant and hard-to-control weeds.

Millions of acres of farmland have been affected, rendering some fields unable to be farmed.The EPA recently approved a new Dow herbicide that the industry says could help the problem. Opponents have sued claiming it could possibly harm the environment and human health.

From StarAfrica, a report of a growing number accounting for 3.4 percent of the population in a country with a total population of 174 million:

Six million Nigerians living with diabetes – official

No fewer than six million Nigerians are living with diabetes and the number could increase because of predisposing factors in the country, Mr Peter Ujomu, Executive Director, Health Matters Inc, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.Ujomu’s statement issued on the sidelines of activities to mark the 2014 World Diabetes Day (WDD), said, “Like every other statistics in Nigeria, there is always controversy about the number but right now, we believe about six million people are living with diabetes in this country.”

Some of the factors are the kind of foods consumed, culture, lifestyle and other things, he added.

“These are all signposts of an imminent danger in the increase of the number of people living with diabetes” Ujoma pointed out.

And an unusual tale from the Guardian:

The new strain of cannabis that could help treat psychosis

Although widely seen as a potential trigger for schizophrenia, marijuana also contains an ingredient that appears to have antipsychotic effects. Tom Ireland visits the UK’s only licensed cannabis farm and meets the man responsible for breeding a plant that might be of benefit to millions

In high doses, THC can induce temporary schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, anxiety and hallucinations. Yet cannabis also contains a cannabinoid known as CBD (or cannabidiol), which appears to have almost the exact opposite effect.

Purified CBD has been shown to have antipsychotic and anti-anxiety effects, and can lessen the psychotic symptoms normally experienced by people given high doses of THC. Research by University College London also suggests that people who smoke cannabis rich in CBD are less likely to experience “schizophrenia-like symptoms” than those who smoke cannabis containing only THC.

Unfortunately for the mental health of many young cannabis users, the chemical profile of the drug has changed drastically over the past three decades. Not only does modern cannabis contain more than twice as much THC as it did in the 1960s, it also now contains hardly any of the “neuroprotective” cannabinoid CBD.

A global-warming-enabled aquatic pest proliferation from the Daily Climate:

‘Explosion’ of gill lice besets Wisconsin’s beloved fish

  • As streams warm, a gruesome parasite is gaining the upper hand against Wisconsin’s iconic brook trout – and anglers bemoan the loss

Creepy critters are leaching onto the gills of Wisconsin’s brook trout and choking off their oxygen, stoking fears in anglers that the iconic fish may be on the outs in many streams.

Biologists fear warming waters may be behind the parasites’ recent surge, further hampering a cold-water fish already beset by a host of environmental changes.

“I would say it looks like little minute rice attached to their gills,” said Len Harris, a law enforcement retiree and outdoor writer who has been fishing Wisconsin streams for about 50 years. “

Gill lice aren’t aquatic versions of head lice, the bane of any elementary school teacher. They’re tiny crustaceans that attach to trout and char gills. They make breathing difficult, impede development and can slow sexual maturation – none of which is good news for fish. Worse, warmer water appears to give gill lice a boost. For the state’s only native trout, the brook trout, evidence points to yet another climate change concern.

The Contra Costa Times covers an amphibian action:

Oakland Zoo joins mission to raise and save endangered frog

In a quest to save an endangered California mountain frog from extinction, the Oakland Zoo is seeking to build a tougher tadpole.

Zoo staffers, borrowing a strategy that worked with the California condor, are caring for 26 adult Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and 18 tadpoles captured in Alpine lakes and streams where fungus and planted fish have devastated the frog population.

The goal: to rear tougher tadpoles with stronger immunities so they can return to their home waters.

After the jump, a fish in decline to feed a Japanese hunger, Spanish boats ram Greenpeace activists, global-warming-enabled terrestrial gas-passing, an Aussie climate change retreat, Japan ups its climate fund ante, an ancient African tribe’s lands sold out from under them for a oil sheikhdom’s private royal hunting preserve, testing for a China Syndrome event in Japan?, the high costs of global decommissioning, and those 80 million bacteria swapped in the tongue tango. . . Continue reading