Category Archives: Resources

Drought-spawned violence plagues India


The Indian state of Madya Pradesh, located in the north-central heart of the subcontinent, is running dry, with most of the region’s reservoirs at a tenth or less of capacity and 16 percent are bone dry.

Most villages are only allotted meager water rations one or two days a week, and use of water for irrigation has been largely banned.

Violence has become endemic.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

After almost 10 years of below-average rainfall and several consecutive years of drought, the region’s rivers, lakes, reservoirs and wells are drying up.

Disputes are a common problem in many places in India that face water shortages. But Indian police report that the fighting is getting more frequent and bloody. In many parts of the country, neighbours, friends and family are turning on each other, desperate to protect what little water they have left, police records suggest.

Last month, in the tribal-dominated Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh, 13-year-old Surmada, her brother and her uncle used a neighbour’s hand-pump, without permission, to get water for the family’s houseguests.

According to police, the owner of the pump and his son attacked the group with arrows. One pierced Surmada’s eye, killing her.

And in the village of Kanker, in Shivpuri district, a large-scale argument broke out after two motorcyclists got into an accident, causing one to spill the 15-litre (4 gallon) container of water he was carrying.

“The two later called their family members and friends and attacked each other with spears, axes and sticks,” said investigating officer Jaisingh Yadav of Sathanwada police station. Fifteen people were injured, five of them women, he said.

And it’s not just Madhya Pradesh suffering from the ongoing drought, as Governance Now reports:

Currently, 11 states are in the grip of drought which has affected 33 million people – close to a third of the population.

There are media reports of mass migration in north Karnataka. In Telangana, cases have been cited from Mahbubnagar district. Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region has seen mass exodus to Mumbai and Surat. From Jharkhand, people are heading to Kerala.

The severely affected villages in Bundelkhand, a central region divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is mostly left with women, children and aged men, said Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav, who completed his 11-day-long padyatra through Marathwada and Bundelkhand on May 30.

“In villages, if you ask for an able-bodied man, 60 to 80 percent of them have migrated to urban areas to earn their livelihood. They are migrating to Delhi, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Indore and Surat. You meet elderly, children and women, but you don’t meet able-bodied men in the village. It’s an entirely migrant-dependent economy right now,” Yadav told Governance Now.

The acute distress due to crop failure in the last three years in Bundelkhand and Marathwada has either led to mass exodus or suicides. At least 216 farmers have committed suicides in Maharashtra alone.

Relief is in sight, according to government forecasters, with a heavy monsoon season forecast in the wake of the devastating El Niño-spawned drought.

But the rains may prove partly ineffective in relieving financial stresses on debt-plagued farmers, who have suffered from low harvests. The reason: Their innate conservatism is causing them to sow less ground.

From The Gulf Today:

From Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan and Gujarat, farmers ruined by a devastating drought are still edgy about sowing, despite resounding forecasts of a surplus monsoon.

Planting of major crops is 24 per cent lower than what was sown by this time last year.

Even state governments are treading cautiously.

Maharashtra, for instance, had asked farmers to hold back sowing till June 18.

Till now, the monsoon has been 16 per cent deficient, which means it has to cover a lot of ground in July.

Reservoir levels are still barely 15 per cent of their storage capacity.

Headline of the day: Drinking them dry


From the Guardian:

Americans’ taste for Mexican beer sucking up water supply, mayor says

Municipality near the US border says brewery that makes Corona, Modelo and other beers is using so much water from wells that region is becoming bone dry

North American climate change impacts fish


“Scientific studies between 1985 and 2015 that document climate change on North American inland fish.  The color of the dots represents the fish response to climate change in each study.”

Scientific studies between 1985 and 2015 that document climate change on North American inland fish. The color of the dots represents the fish response to climate change in each study.

While most reports on the impact of climate changes on fish populations have focused on the globe’s warming and acidifying oceans, changes are also being found in North America’s freshwater streams, lakes, and rivers.

From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Climate change is already affecting inland fish across North America — including some fish that are popular with anglers. Scientists are seeing a variety of changes in how inland fish reproduce, grow and where they can live, according to four new studies published today in a special issue of Fisheries magazine.

Fish that have the most documented risk include those living in arid environments and coldwater species such as sockeye salmon, lake trout, walleye, and prey fish that larger species depend on for food. Climate change can cause suboptimal habitat for some fish; warmer water, for example, can stress coldwater fish. When stressed, fish tend to eat less and grow less. For other fish, climate change is creating more suitable habitat; smallmouth bass populations, for example, are expanding.

These changes will have direct implications – some good, some bad – for recreational fishers, who, in the United States alone, contributed nearly $700 million in revenue to state agencies through license, tag, stamp, and permit purchases in 2015. Annually, anglers spend about $25 billion on trips, gear, and equipment related to recreational fishing in U.S. freshwaters.

“The U.S. Geological Survey and partners are working to provide a fuller and more comprehensive picture of climate change impacts on North American fish for managers, scientists, and the public alike,” said Abigail Lynch, a lead author and fisheries biologist with the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.

The authors reviewed 31 studies across North America and Canada (see map) that document fish responses to climate change. The manuscripts describe the impacts of climate change to individual fish, populations, recreational fishers, and fisheries managers. One of the takeaway messages is that climate change effects on fish are rarely straightforward, and they affect warmwater and coldwater fish differently.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

California burning, images captured from space


While Donald Trump insists that California’s near-epochal drought is but a myth, it ain’t necessarily so.

Indeed, the state is tinder dry.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Cal fire

More form NASA:

A wildfire burning northeast of Bakersfield, California, is the state’s largest so far in 2016, according to news reports. It has also been called the season’s a most destructive fire. As of June 27, the Erskine fire had scorched 18,368 hectares (45,388 acres), destroyed at least 250 structures, and was responsible for at least two deaths.

The top image shows the region at 3:34 a.m. Pacific Time on June 26, 2016. It was acquired with the day-night band (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The DNB can detect relatively dim signals such as city lights and reflected moonlight. In this case it also shows the glow of wildfire.

The second image shows the fire later that same day. This natural-color image was acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected warm surface temperatures associated with fires. Winds carried smoke from the fire northward.

The fire first ignited on June 23 due to a yet-unknown cause. On the date these images were acquired, the fire had burned 17,588 hectares (43,460 acres). As of June 27, the fire was 40 percent contained and continued to pose a threat to structures.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, above normal fire potential is expected to expand into the Sierras and central coast region of California as summer progresses. According to the outlook: “The highest potential may be over the Sierra Foothills where a severe, multiyear drought has exacted a toll on the vegetation of the area.”

And there will be more to come, thanks to a massive die-off of California’s pine, fir, and cedar forests.

From United Press International:

California’s climate has always been hospitable to fire – it comes with the territory. But add five years of drought, a bark beetle blight killing trees by the millions and rising temperatures, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We are seeing the compounded effects of climate change that includes five consecutive years of drought and rising mean temperatures across the West – last year was the hottest year on record,” said Janet Upton, deputy director of communications at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “All that is trending to a more flammable California.”

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 26 million trees had died in six counties in the southern Sierra Nevada since October. Adding in an estimated 40 million dead trees counted since October 2010, it brings the statewide tree mortality to at least 66 million in less than six years.

High rates of tree mortality are being driven by bark beetles in combination with the state’s drought. Like fire, bark beetles are a natural part of the state’s ecology and a way for nature to weed out the weak and keep forests healthy. But when the trees suffer from drought, they no longer have their natural defense mechanism to fight off bark beetles. “Trees draw up moisture and push the beetle out,” said Upton. “With the drought, they couldn’t draw the moisture needed to do that.” And that has led to a bark beetle explosion – to epidemic levels.

Hardest hit so far has been the southern Sierra. “We identified six high-hazard counties and now we’ve added four more,” said Upton. The bark beetle blight is marching to the north.

El Niño threatens millions of African children


While folks in esnl’s own state of California think of El Niño as a bearer of exceptional rains, we often forget that the same Pacific Ocean currents that inundate the Golden State exert a contrary effect on Southern Asia and Africa.

So the same global weather pattern that brought drought relief to a parched California threatens millions of African children with the threat of starvation, chronic hunger, and all the ill effects wrought by malnutrition.

From the United Nations News Center:

One of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded has placed the lives of 26.5 million children at risk of malnutrition, water shortages and disease in ten countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported.

“Children face protection risks as families and communities move in search of work, food, water and grazing land for animals. Children are also finding it difficult to stay in school, due to hunger and/or lack of water,” UNICEF noted in a study on the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

UNICEF added that it found that more than one million children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Moreover, water shortages remain a key concern, with many health facilities and schools in critical need of improved water supplies and sanitation facilities to enable the continuity of services.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

In Southern Africa in particular, drought is making life even more precarious for children affected by HIV, according to the UNICEF study.

The UN children’s agency found that governments and partners have been responding since 2015, but the scale of the crisis has outstripped the coping capacities of communities and the resources of the governments in the region, putting decades of development gains at risk.

Urgent investment is still required because the crisis is likely to continue well into 2017, UNICEF said. It could also be further compounded by the coming La Niña, which would bring more erratic weather conditions.

In the first months of 2016, UNICEF said it has reached 155,000 children with treatment for severe acute malnutrition; 2.69 million people with clean water; 82,000 children with protection services; and 100,000 people with HIV education and services.

To provide a comprehensive emergency response, however, UNICEF still needs $127 million of its $226 million goal.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 60 million people are expected to be impacted by El Niño’s extreme weather. The humanitarian fallout in certain areas will include increased food insecurity due to low crop yields and rising prices; higher malnutrition rates; devastated livelihoods; and forced displacement.

Quote of the day II: Google, the imperial censor


From Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California, writing in U.S. News & World Report:

Google, Inc., isn’t just the world’s biggest purveyor of information; it is also the world’s biggest censor.

The company maintains at least nine different blacklists that impact our lives, generally without input or authority from any outside advisory group, industry association or government agency. Google is not the only company suppressing content on the internet. Reddit has frequently been accused of banning postings on specific topics, and a recent report suggests that Facebook has been deleting conservative news stories from its newsfeed, a practice that might have a significant effect on public opinion – even on voting. Google, though, is currently the biggest bully on the block.

When Google’s employees or algorithms decide to block our access to information about a news item, political candidate or business, opinions and votes can shift, reputations can be ruined and businesses can crash and burn. Because online censorship is entirely unregulated at the moment, victims have little or no recourse when they have been harmed. Eventually, authorities will almost certainly have to step in, just as they did when credit bureaus were regulated in 1970. The alternative would be to allow a large corporation to wield an especially destructive kind of power that should be exercised with great restraint and should belong only to the public: the power to shame or exclude.

If Google were just another mom-and-pop shop with a sign saying “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” that would be one thing. But as the golden gateway to all knowledge, Google has rapidly become an essential in people’s lives – nearly as essential as air or water. We don’t let public utilities make arbitrary and secretive decisions about denying people services; we shouldn’t let Google do so either.

The Brexit Boogie: A vote that shook the world


Is the world headed into another Great Recession even before that shockwaves of the last one have settled down?

When one of the world’s two major financial centers pulls out of its continental base, there’s good cause for concern.

But that’s just one of the issues raised by Thursday’s vote.

Here’s a roundup of rumbles. . .

British buyers remorse?

Even before the dust settled, Brits were flocking online to sign a petition for a do-over.

From Agence France-Presse:

More than two million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum, after a shock vote to pull Britain out of the EU, an official website showed Saturday.

The website of the parliamentary petition at one point crashed due to the surge of people adding their names to the call for another nationwide poll following Thursday’s historic vote.

“We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 percent based (on) a turnout less than 75 percent there should be another referendum,” says the petition.

The blame game begins

Guess who’s catching the heat?

Hint: He’s already resigned his job in disgrace.

From euronews:

Blame for the failure to convince British voters to remain in the European Union lies at the door of David Cameron, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Euronews.

The Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society told Euronews that the decision by the Prime Minister to “order” the Commission to stay “out of the game” was a mistake.

Asked whether Cameron was to blame, Oettinger responded: “ I think so, yes. What he did is not acceptable.”

The Commissioner insisted that Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both voted overwhelmingly for ‘remain’, could only rejoin the European Union as independent nations. He predicted that Scotland would “probably” split from the rest of the United Kingdom.

And fear runs rampant

Shrinks call it Separation Anxiety Disorder, and it’s an ailment running rampant these days, especially in Berlin.

From Sky News:

Germany fears France, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Hungary may follow the UK and leave the EU, a government paper says.

The finance ministry strategy paper expresses concern that the UK’s historic vote may trigger a Brexit domino effect across Europe, according to the German newspaper Die Welt.

It recommends that the EU enters into negotiations aimed at making the UK an “associated partner country” for the remaining 27 nations.

As it stands, the UK’s exit may cause Germany’s contribution to the EU’s budget to rise by 3bn euros (£2.44bn) a year, the paper adds.

And there’s good cause to worry, reports Reuters:

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union fired up populist eurosceptic parties across the continent on Friday, giving fresh voice to their calls to leave the bloc or its euro currency.

Right-wing and anti-immigrant parties in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and France demanded referendums on membership of the union, while Italy’s 5-Star movement said it would pursue its own proposal for a vote on the euro.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch anti-immigrant PVV party, said he would make a Dutch referendum on EU membership a central theme of his campaign to become prime minister in next year’s parliamentary election.

“I congratulate the British people for beating the political elite in both London and Brussels and I think we can do the same,” Wilders told Reuters. “We should have a referendum about a ‘Nexit’ as soon as possible.”

After the jump, Boldness in Bratislava, a British downgrade, trillions in losses, the pain in Spain, grief in Greece, troubles in Tokyo, and a Schadenfreude alert. . . Continue reading