Today’s compendium of headlines from the intersection of people and planet begins with more of the most compelling story of the moment, via Sky News:
Liberia Closes Schools To Halt Ebola Spread
- Security forces are ordered to enforce new anti-ebola rules as government workers are made to take compulsory leave.
Liberia has closed all schools and quarantined several communities as it attempts to stop the spread of the deadly ebola virus.
All non-essential government workers were also put on 30 days compulsory leave as the country announced its anti-ebola action plan.
Security forces across the country have been ordered to enforce the new rules.
Liberia had recorded 129 of the 672 deaths blamed on ebola as of July 23, according to the World Health Organisation.
Al Jazeera America covers the later on another subject of ongoing and considerable interest:
Report: World faces water crises by 2040
Wind, solar power increase needed to avoid global drought
The world will face “insurmountable” water crises in less than three decades, researchers said Tuesday, if it does not move away from water-intensive power production.
A clash of competing necessities — drinking water and energy demand — will cause widespread drought unless action is taken soon, researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and the U.S.-funded Center for Naval Analyses Corporation said in the reports.
“There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today,” researcher Benjamin Sovacool, director of the Center for Energy Technology at Aarhus University said in a press release on two new reports released Tuesday.
Globally, there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption, the report said. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030.
Another water story, this time from MercoPress:
Sao Paulo faces water rationing; in 100 days the system could run dry
- Federal prosecutors have asked the government of Sao Paulo to present water rationing plans for Brazil’s most populous state to prevent the collapse of its main reservoir. If such plans are not presented in 10 days, the prosecutor’s office said on its website it may ask courts to force rationing.
- Sao Paulo is facing the worst drought in more than 80 years. The key Cantareira water system, which provides water to some 9 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo city, is at less than 16% of its capacity of 1 trillion liters.
Citing a study prepared by the state university of Campinas, the prosecutor’s office said that the Cantareira system could run dry in 100 days unless rationing is implemented.
The Sao Paulo state government’s water utility said in an emailed statement that it disagrees with the “imposition of water rationing, for it would penalize the population.”
From Public Radio International, a Brazilian environmental body count:
Activists in Brazil are fighting to protect the environment — and their lives
908. That’s the number of environmental and land-reform activists assassinated worldwide between 2003 and 2013, according to a study by the NGO Global Witness. The number might shock you, but perhaps even more shocking is that nearly half of those murders — 448 — took place in one country: Brazil.
What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist?
You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their ski
Chinese Researchers Stop Wheat Disease with Gene Editing
- Researchers have created wheat that is resistant to a common disease, using advanced gene editing methods.
Advanced genome-editing techniques have been used to create a strain of wheat resistant to a destructive fungal pathogen—called powdery mildew—that is a major bane to the world’s top food source, according to scientists at one of China’s leading centers for agricultural research.
To stop the mildew, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences deleted genes that encode proteins that repress defenses against the mildew. The work promises to someday make wheat more resistant to the disease, which is typically controlled through the heavy use of fungicides. It also represents an important achievement in using genome editing tools to engineer food crops without inserting foreign genes—a flashpoint for opposition to genetically modified crops.
The gene-deletion trick is particularly tough to do in wheat because the plant has a hexaploid genome—that is, it has three similar copies of most of its genes. That means multiple genes must be disabled or the trait will not be changed. Using gene-editing tools known as TALENs and CRISPR, the researchers were able to do that without changing anything else or adding genes from other organisms.
On to the latest Fukushimaposcalypse Now!, starting with a chilly item from NHK WORLD:
Ice put into utility tunnels at Fukushima plant
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun putting ice into underground utility tunnels to help freeze radiation-contaminated wastewater.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company began work in April to create a wall of ice between the basement of the No. 2 reactor building and its utility tunnel.
TEPCO initially planned to freeze radioactive wastewater that’s been flowing into underground utility tunnels at the plant. It hoped the measure would prevent the wastewater from mixing with groundwater and flowing out to sea.
Followed by a hotter reception from NHK WORLD:
Emergency radiation exposure limit may be raised
Japan’s nuclear watchdog is considering raising the radiation exposure maximum limit for nuclear plant workers for serious accidents.
Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told at the body’s regular meeting on Wednesday that the possibility of a nuclear accident, where workers could be exposed to radiation beyond the current legal accumulative limit of 100 millisieverts, cannot be denied. His proposal to study raising the limit was approved at the meeting.
The authority will decide on the level by referring to overseas standards. It will also confer on how to get prior consent from workers and train them for such cases. If a legal amendment is necessary, it plans to send its findings to a relevant government panel for deliberations.
Jiji Press disposes, unhappiness ensues:
Shioya Picked as Candidate Site for Designated Waste Disposal
Japan’s Environment Ministry said Wednesday it has picked state-owned land in the town of Shioya in Tochigi Prefecture as a candidate site for building a final disposal facility for designated waste contaminated by radioactive substances from the March 2011 nuclear accident.
Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited Shioya Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to explain the ministry’s decision and to seek the eastern Japan town’s understanding for the conducting of a detailed field investigation.
“I can’t help but feel regret,” Mikata said, expressing the town’s opposition to construction of the facility.
From the Guardian, a fractious fracking flap:
EC serves notice to Poland over shale gas defiance
- Warsaw accused of breaching EU law on assessing environmental impact of fracking, reports EurActiv
The European commission has begun legal proceedings against Poland for amending its national laws to allow shale drills at depths of up to 5,000 metres without first having assessed the potential environmental impacts, EurActiv has learned.
In June, Brussels sent Poland formal notice that it was opening a case against it for infringing the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive.
If Warsaw does not now satisfy the commission’s concerns by the end of August, the case could reach the European court of justice (ECJ).
Truthout ponders a rising crisis alert:
Does NASA’s Data Show Doomsday for New York City?
If we don’t do something quick to stop global warming, some of the biggest cities in America could go the way of Atlantis in just a matter of decades.
Sam Carana over at Arctic News has taken the time to analyze the latest data from NASA, and what’s he’s projecting from that data is startling.
Sam suggests that global sea levels may rise rapidly over the next few decades; so rapidly, in fact, that we could see more than 2.5 meters of seal level rise by 2040, which is just 26 years from now.
And because, as Sam Carana points out, sea levels now look like they’re going rise exponentially – on a curve – as opposed to on a straight line, they will continue to rise even faster after 2040.
And for our final item, from CNBC, an alert from left field:
Paul Singer: This threat is ‘head-and-shoulders’ above all others
Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer has issued an unusual warning for investors, calling the threat of a widespread blackout from an electromagnetic surge the “most significant danger” in the world.
Called an “electromagnetic pulse” or EMP, the events can occur naturally from solar storms or artificially from a high-altitude explosion of nuclear weapons.
“While these pages are typically chock full of scary or depressing scenarios, there is one risk that is head-and-shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence,” Singer wrote to clients of his $24.8 billion Elliott Management on Monday in a standard investment update letter. “Even horrendous nuclear war, except in its most extreme form, can [be] a relatively localized issue, and the threat from asteroids can (possibly) be mitigated.”