Whilst we continue our focus on Ebola, we begin with an important dose of reality from Pacific Standard:
Faith in Scientific Progress Decreases Eco-Friendly Behavior
A new study finds affirming belief in scientific progress appears to reduce the likelihood of acting in environmentally responsible ways.
Advocates for environmental action also tend to be strong believers in science. Could this explain why they’ve had so little success in persuading people to change their behaviors?
That provocative question is raised by a newly published paper, which suggests faith in science takes some of the pressure off of us to behave responsibly.
“When media outlets paint a picture of omniscient science and unconditional and ongoing progress, one consequence may be that people become passive and less motivated to behave in environmentally friendly ways,” University of Amsterdam researchers Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens write in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
And on to Ebola, first with an interesting headline from SINA English:
No Ebola cases spotted in China: official
The Chinese health authority has confirmed no Ebola cases have been reported in China so far.
Song Shuli, spokeswoman of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), made the remarks at a press conference held Thursday, adding a series of preventative measures have been taken to stop the virus from entering China.
Song said NHFPC has strengthened its communication with World Health Organization (WHO) to better monitor and predict the spread of the Ebola virus and has ordered border control authorities to intensify their checks of inbound travellers from related countries.
Next, concerns in the country next door via India Today:
EXCLUSIVE: Ebola virus could enter India through Delhi and Mumbai
Officials at the IGI International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are a worried lot these days. Immigration and Custom officials are on their toes. There are strict instructions to keep a hawk eye on all the passengers coming from Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways and Emirates. The fear is passengers with Ebola virus could enter India through the Indira Gandhi International Airport or the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
Alert notification has been issued for airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi as well. Alert has also been sounded for various airports under Airport Authority of India. The government has also roped in Indian Medical Association to coordinate the efforts and be ready for any eventuality. This after the government learnt that 50 to 60 Indians in Liberia were in the process of returning to India.
Indian Medical Association spokesperson Dr. Rajinder Saini said, “We are coordinating with the government. The situation isn’t bad but then we have a huge population and resources could be limited.” Dr Saini added that people from African nations come to India not just for travel purpose but to get medical treatment as well and hence it was all the more important for the various airport authorities and hospitals in various metros to be careful of the situation and also be equipped to tackle the situation.
Homeland Security News Wire covers high anxiety:
Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts
Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.
Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to develop a treatment for Ebola.
While GlobalPost sounds concerns:
How the Ebola outbreak turned into a racism and responsibility debate
- Should the experimental drugs that have been given to two Americans be sent to Liberia?
Should untested, experimental drugs to combat Ebola be made widely available? This potentially life-and-death debate is raging as the disease continues to claim lives in West Africa, where the death toll has now reached 932, according to the World Health Organization.
Two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia have shown a marked improvement in the past week after being given an experimental drug called ZMapp that had up until then only been tested on monkeys.
This past weekend, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were flown to the United States where they are receiving medical care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity they were working with, said the two “had received a dose of experimental serum while still in Liberia.”
The news has sparked an ethical debate over equality of access to medical care and racism as two white Americans were given potentially life-saving treatment denied to hundreds of Africans.
More on that concern from Techdirt:
Ebola Cure Not Fully Developed Because Big Pharma Not Interested In Saving Lives Of Poor People In Africa
- from the back-burner dept
As you may have heard, there’s been a somewhat scary Ebola outbreak in western Africa. You may have also heard about what some are calling a “secret miracle serum” that effectively stops the impact of the virus for those who catch it. It’s an experimental drug that hasn’t undergone human clinical trials yet, but it was apparently given to a couple of Americans and appears to be working. There’s some indication that it would take a couple months to produce a larger number of doses — though, again, the lack of testing here means that people really aren’t sure if it will work (or if there are serious side effects).
That said, as one article notes, a big reason that there hasn’t been much testing on this is because treating poor people in Africa just isn’t very profitable for the drug companies:
“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” said Daniel Bausch, a medical researcher in the US who works on Ebola and other infectious diseases.
“So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”
And still more from International Business Times:
US Cuts Resources For Project Involved In Ebola Battle In Sierra Leone
The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus.
The National Institutes of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans-based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million.
NIH declined to comment on the decision, citing “federal government procurement integrity rules.”
While Raw Story brings us the despicable:
Conservatives rip Ann Coulter for blaming Ebola doc’s illness on ‘Christian narcissism’
Conservative gadfly Ann Coulter drew widespread condemnation for attacking a Christian missionary who contracted the Ebola virus while serving in Africa.
Coulter suggested in her column Wednesday that Dr. Kent Brantly chose to help the poor in Liberia instead of the United States because “serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’”
“American Christians go on ‘mission trips’ to disease-ridden cesspools [because] they’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists, and bigots,” Coulter wrote. “So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”
The Washington Post covers a poignant aspect of the crisis:
People are struggling to bury the Ebola dead.
Those treating Ebola victims are especially at risk of infection: When a Liberian-American government official named Patrick Sawyer managed to fly to Nigeria with the disease, which is spread only by direct contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic victim, several health workers in Lagos fell ill after treating him. Both Sawyer and one of his nurses have since died of the disease and the Nigerian government has declared a health emergency.
But there is a second group of people especially at risk for infection: those who treat and bury the bodies of the dead, which are even more contagious than living Ebola patients.
And a combination of inadequate infrastructure, logistical issues, conflicts with Western health care workers and burial traditions has contributed to widespread difficulties in containing the spread of the disease among mourners and those caring for the dead.
And on the the latest on the Gold State’s drought the latest and grim report from the United States Dought Monitor, which reveals no improvement despite the recent showers in parts of the state. Click on the image to enlarge:
One of the consequences [call it “Form pee to thee”], via the Guardian
Get used to toilet-to-tap water, Californians told
- Drought-hit state plans $140m expansion at world’s biggest treatment facility to recycle more waste water
The golden state’s historic drought is forcing once-squeamish Californians to take a new look at “toilet-to-tap” water re-use. Or as they prefer to call it in Fountain Valley, “showers to flowers”.
The town in conservative Orange County is home to the largest water recycling plant in the world and an example during this epic drought of the life-altering changes California will have to make to avoid running out of water.
The first would be to get over the idea that water is an infinite resource, or that it pours out of the tap straight from a pristine, underground spring.
The San Francisco Chronicle keeps it dry:
Drought-busting El Niño looking less likely
Hope of an El Niño rescuing California from its devastating drought this year appears to be just about gone.
Not only have climate scientists downgraded the strength of a potential El Niño, but a report released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center indicates that the odds of an El Niño happening at all have decreased.
El Niño is a warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to influence worldwide weather. Strong El Niños have often been associated with wet winters in Northern California, something the state could use after three straight years of below-average rainfall.
Meanwhile, the Guardian covers another water problem:
Pollution triples mercury levels in ocean surface waters, study finds
- Toxic metal threatens marine life as it accumulates faster in shallow layers than in deep sea due to human activity
The amount of mercury near the surface of many of the world’s oceans has tripled as the result of our polluting activities, a new study has found, with potentially damaging implications for marine life as the result of the accumulation of the toxic metal.
Mercury is accumulating in the surface layers of the seas faster than in the deep ocean, as we pour the element into the atmosphere and seas from a variety of sources, including mines, coal-fired power plants and sewage. Mercury is toxic to humans and marine life, and accumulates in our bodies over time as we are exposed to sources of it.
Since the industrial revolution, we have tripled the mercury content of shallow ocean layers, according to the letter published in the peer-review journal Nature on Thursday. Mercury can be widely dispersed across the globe when it is deposited in water and the air, the authors said, so even parts of the globe remote from industrial sources can quickly suffer elevated levels of the toxic material.
And Arctic News has a really, really alarming water problem:
Warm waters threaten to trigger huge methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor
The evidence of abrupt high methane releases in the Arctic Ocean is accumulating. The graph below shows in situ methane measurements taken at the Barrow Observatory, including recent levels as high as close to 2200 parts per billion (ppb).
Satellite data picture a similarly dire situation. Global mean methane levels as high as 1831 ppb were recorded on the morning of July 30, 2014, while peak methane levels as high as 2330 ppb were recorded that morning. More recently, peak methane levels as high as 2522 ppb were recorded (on August 2, 2014).
IPCC/NOAA figures suggest that methane levels were rising by some 5 to 6 ppb annually, reaching 1814 ppb in 2013. While methane levels at lower altitudes have indeed shown little rise, much larger rises have been recorded at higher altitudes, as illustrated by the image below.
And just how alarming? From Motherboard:
If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked’: Climatologist
This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.
But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development, I stumbled upon his tweet, which, coming from a scientist, was downright chilling:
Jason Box @climate_ice
If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.
8:43 AM – 29 Jul 2014 Copenhagen, Danmark
Box, who is currently a professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the Arctic for decades. His accolade-packed Wikipedia page notes that he’s made some 20 expeditions to the Arctic since 1994, and served as the lead author on the Greenland section of NOAA’s State of the Climate report from 2008-2012. He also runs the Dark Snow project and writes about the latest findings in the field at his blog, Meltfactor.
More water problems from MintPress News:
Lake Erie Isn’t The Only One In Trouble
Climate change and an unwillingness to regulate have led to a vicious algae bloom that could spread to other Great Lakes and threaten the nation’s major drinking water supply.
The Great Lakes hold 84 percent of the nation’s fresh water and one-fifth of the world’s drinking water supply. With inland lakes from Minnesota to California being polluted with toxic algae, and with an oxygen-free zone the size of New Jersey being discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the issue of industrial phosphorous runoff has grown to be an issue that can no longer be ignored or left to voluntary actions.
“We’ve worked with farmers, and we know it works,” Jordan Lubetkin, a Great Lakes spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, told The New York Times regarding voluntary measures imposed to control oxygen-destroying runoffs. “Voluntary programs will take you so far. But at the end of the day, you need numeric standards. You’ve got to limit the amount of phosphorus coming into the lake. That’s why you see what we’re seeing in Toledo.”
From the New York Times, when opportunity knocks, run like hell:
A Texas County Sees Opportunity in Toxic Waste
Loving County is big, dry and stretches for miles, and is the perfect place, local officials say, to store high-level radioactive waste.
Officials here hope to entice the federal government — with $28 billion to spend on the disposal of high-level radioactive waste — into considering the possibility.
“With the money that this would generate for the county, we might even be able to pay the taxpayers back,” said the county judge, Skeet Jones. “We could build some roads. We could bring in some more water. We could have a town that’s incorporated, have a city council, maybe even start a school.” Loving County had a school, but it has been boarded up for years, and students are bused to neighboring Winkler County.
“Maybe even have a Walmart,” Mr. Jones mused.
And for our first Fukushimapocalypse Now! Item, this from the Japan Times:
Tepco to collect toxic groundwater at Fukushima, dump in ocean after treatment
Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to pump contaminated groundwater from drainage wells at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing almost all radioactive materials, company officials said Thursday.
The plan is aimed at reducing the amount of toxic water building up at the complex, a problem that has been plaguing Tepco since it started trying to clean up the stricken power plant in 2011.
An estimated 400 tons of untainted groundwater is seeping into the shattered reactor buildings and mixing with toxic water generated in the process of cooling the reactors.
While the Mainichi looks ahead:
Accident at Tokai nuke plant could force 520,000 to evacuate outside Ibaraki Pref.
A serious nuclear accident at the Tokai No. 2 Power Station in Ibaraki Prefecture could result in about 520,000 people living within 30 kilometers of the plant taking shelter in other prefectures, according to a prefectural evacuation draft.
Some 960,000 people live within the urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) within a 30 kilometer radius of the plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Of these, some 520,000 would likely take shelter in five neighboring prefectures, while the remaining 440,000 would evacuate to other areas within Ibaraki Prefecture, according to the draft released on June 6 by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government.
Cities, towns and villages are expected to devise concrete evacuation plans to respond to a serious nuclear accident, but the large number of evacuees is expected to make it difficult to formulate plans securing places for them to stay while avoiding confusion.
Another fuel, another problem, via the Guardian:
Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in north-west China
- Coalfield 14 times the size of the City of London turns alpine meadows into craters in Qinghai, Greenpeace investigation reveals
A Chinese coal company has been operating illegal open-pit mines in alpine meadows on the far-western Qinghai plateau, potentially endangering one of the country’s largest rivers, a new investigation has found.
Four opencast mines on the Muli coalfield, operated by the private corporation Kingho Group, could seriously endanger a fragile ecosystem high on China’s far north-western Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, according to an investigation by Greenpeace East Asia released on Thursday. The coalfield is 14 times larger than the City of London, Greenpeace said. Two of its mines overlap with a protected nature zone, making them illegal, and another two are preparing to expand into the zone.
“China’s natural reserve law says you shouldn’t be doing any large-scale operations within national parks,” said Li Shuo, the organisation’s climate and energy campaigner. “This is a clear violation.”
And from the Guardian, our final item, hardly a surprise:
The corporatisation of US green energy: a double-edged sword worth billions
- As tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, corporations are entering the green energy landscape
There’s a popular meme that surfaces on green energy blogs, forums, and Facebook pages. The gist is that large corporations love oil and gas because they can own and control it. They’re against renewable energy because no-one can own the sun or wind.
The problem for anti-corporate green-energy campaigners is, increasingly: the meme isn’t true.
As the materials for producing wind and solar energy become cheaper, tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, and the prospect of finding more oil and gas becomes weaker, corporations are entering the green energy landscape to the tune of billions of dollars.