Category Archives: Resources

Massive ecosystem collapse hits San Francisco Bay

And the cause is the human hunger for water.

From an ominous report in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Evidence of what scientists are calling the planet’s Sixth Mass Extinction is appearing in San Francisco Bay and its estuary, the largest on the Pacific Coast of North and South America, according to a major new study.

So little water is flowing from the rivers that feed the estuary, which includes the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Suisun Marsh and the bay, that its ecosystem is collapsing, scientists who conducted the study say.

Human extraction of water from the rivers is not only pushing the delta smelt toward extinction, they say, but also threatening dozens more fish species and many birds and marine mammals, including orca whales, that depend on the estuary’s complex food web.

The findings by scientists at the Bay Institute, an environmental group, underline conclusions already reached by state regulators and are intended to buttress the environmental case for potentially drastic water restrictions in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area, and among farmers in the northern San Joaquin Valley.

From the report itself, a graphic revelation [the white line is a reproduction artifact — esnl]:


Key findings summarized

From the Bay Institute website, a summary of significant findings:

The report’s major findings include:

  • On average, since 1975 more than half (53%) of runoff from the Central Valley watershed has been diverted, stored, or exported before it can reach the Bay – and in many years two-thirds or more of the Bay’s inflow is captured;
  • As a result of intensive water diversions, the Bay experiences catastrophically dry years almost half the time (only one “supercritically dry” year occurred naturally between 1975-2014, but the Bay experienced nineteen supercritical years during that period);
  • Numerous unrelated fish species – from sharks to salmon, from sturgeon to smelt – show strong positive correlations with Bay Inflow; many of these species are now endangered, and even commercially viable fisheries are in decline;
  • Predators that feed on flow-dependent fish and shrimp are feeling the pinch – for example, dwindling supplies of Central Valley Chinook salmon may restrict the recovery of the local Orca whale population;
  • Blooms of toxic “algae” (cyanobacteria) are becoming more frequent, and other pollutants are becoming more concentrated, as a result of reductions in freshwater flows from the Bay’s watershed;
  • Bay Area beaches and tidal wetlands are deprived of sediment that was once transported by high river flows.

Big Pharma grabs up Peruvian native biosphere

The classic exemplar of the evils of modern capitalism is the pharmaceutical industry, extorting vast sums from the most vulnerable as they rush to create a new cartel beyond the dreams of the corporate bucaneers of yore.

Rushing drugs to market armed with tests performed by bought-and-paid-for academics isn’t enough for them.

Now they’re busily grabbing up the plants traditional cultures have relied on for their own pharmacopeia.

Consider their latest target, via teleSUR English:

The production and consumption of natural Andean and Amazonian ancestral products in Peru is threatened by the “biopiracy” of foreign companies who have filed over 11,690 patents for the domestic produce of the region, effectively poaching the natural heritage of the country. The resources are said to be rich in nutrients and vitamins and range from those with anti-aging properties to those that act as natural aphrodisiacs.

Small farmers could be among those worst affected if foreign companies obtain the patents. “Campesinos have been guardians of seeds and diversity generation after generation, from our ancestors to our fathers we have inherited the seeds,” said Director of the National Association of Ecological Products of Peru Moises Quispe.

“We campesinos are very conscious about it. These seeds are part of our lives, and if there’s a new owner who patents them for their own economic interests, it’s a very worrying situation.”

Peru has 4,400 species of native plants with various uses, including 1,200 which have medicinal properties. The products that have the highest number of patents filed are Tara with 3,989, Yacon with 3,211, Maca with 1,406, Cat’s Claw with 843, Cascarilla with 648 and Purple Corn with 294, among 23 others. The data was collected by the state-run National Commission Against Biopiracy, but they only monitor 35 of the 4,400 species facing this threat.

Chart of the day II: Greek immiseration deepens

As the financial overlords of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European mandate ever deeper cuts in payrolls, healthcare,  and pensions, Greeks are cutting back still more on all but the basic essentials of life as costs paying more than ever for housing, hospitals and drugs, and now-privatized public transit systems.

In turn, Greeks have cut back on spending for education, fuel, and home appliances.

From the Hellenic Statistical Authority:


Map of the day: Renewable energy by continent

With the sources listed being hydro, solar, wind, and agrofuels:


From Views of the World, the blog of University of Iceland researcher Benjamin Hennig:

The capacity of renewable energy produced in the world has grown by over 47 per cent in the past five years, according to statistics by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In 2015 alone the world has seen a growth of 8.3 per cent in renewable power generation, which is the highest annual growth rate ever recorded. By the end of last year, a capacity of 1,985 Gigawatts (GW) existed globally. In comparison, this is 5.3 times the amount of energy produced by all nuclear power plants.

All countries in the world have at least one abundant renewable resource, but the role of renewables in the domestic energy production varies significantly depending on the overall energy potential and demand but also depending on political and economic decisions. In the European Union, the share of renewable energy was around 15 percent in 2014, with the political target of increasing this to 20 per cent by 2020.

This map provides a global overview of the installed renewable energy capacity across main regions in 2015 as documented in IRENA data. The depiction is a circular cartogram in which the areas of each circle relates to the total power capacity in four main sources of renewable energy: Hydropower (which accounts for approximately 53 per cent of global renewable energy capacity), wind (22 per cent), solar (11 per cent), and bio (5 per cent, here including solid biomass and biogas). Not included here are geothermal and marine energy as well as liquid biofuels and pumped storage/mixed plants.

Plastic microfibers contaminate deep sea creatures

From the study: Microplastic fiber inside sea pen polyp. Photo by Michelle Taylor.

From the study: Microplastic fiber inside a sea pen polyp. Photo by Michelle Taylor.

We’re deeply concerned about the health impacts of plastics [previously], both on humans and on our fellow critters on Spaceship Earth.

And now comes word that even the bodies of animals living in the ocean’s depths have been invaded by this most ubiquitous of industrial age creations.

From the University of Bristol:

Scientists have found evidence of microfibers ingested by deep sea animals, revealing for the first time the environmental fallout of microplastic pollution.

The UK government recently announced that it is to ban plastic microbeads, commonly found in cosmetics and cleaning materials, by the end of 2017.  This followed reports by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee about the environmental damage caused microbeads. The Committee found that a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.

Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Oxford, working on the Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Cook in the mid-Atlantic and south-west Indian Ocean , have now found evidence of microbeads inside hermit crabs, squat lobsters and sea cucumbers, at depths of between 300m and 1800m.  This is the first time microplastics – which can enter the sea via the washing of clothes made from synthetic fabrics or from fishing line nets – have been shown to have been ingested by animals at such depth.

The results are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Laura Robinson, Professor of Geochemistry in Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “This result astonished me and is a real reminder that plastic pollution has truly reached the furthest ends of the Earth.”

Microplastics are generally defined as particles under 5mm in length and include the microfibres analysed in this study and the microbeads used in cosmetics that will be the subject of the forthcoming Government ban.

Among the plastics found inside deep-sea animals in this research were polyester, nylon and acrylic. Microplastics are roughly the same size as ‘marine snow’ – the shower of organic material that falls from upper waters to the deep ocean and which many deep-sea creatures feed on.

Dr Michelle Taylor of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, and lead author of the study, said: “The main purpose of this research expedition was to collect microplastics from sediments in the deep ocean – and we found lots of them. Given that animals interact with this sediment, such as living on it or eating it, we decided to look inside them to see if there was any evidence of ingestion. What’s particularly alarming is that these microplastics weren’t found in coastal areas but in the deep ocean, thousands of miles away from land-based sources of pollution.”

Continue reading

Chart of the day: Amazon oil processed in the U.S.

And California r4eaders should note that the Golden State accounts for a large share of the oil extracted at great cost to one of the world’s richest and most diverse environment.

From Well to Wheel: the Social, Environmental, and Climate Costs of Amazon Crude, a report from Amazon Watch:


Brazil’s coupsters ramp up privatization push

The key tenet of neoliberalism is really quite simple: All services provided by democratically elected governments should be privatized for the sake of corporate profits, a move enhanced by insidious campaigns to discredit their own governments.

And has been so successfully conducted in other nations, the U.S. included, Brazil’s unelected neoliberal government, put in power by a legislative coup against the elected government, continues to rush forward with measures to sell off the national commons.

teleSUR English covers the latest and most drastic move:

The interim government of Michel Temer in Brazil announced Thursday it will privatize 34 state companies in strategic areas around the country.

“We are opening 34 opportunities for licensing in the areas of ports, airports, roads, railways, energy, oil, gas,” said Temer.

“With this, we are opening and universalizing the Brazilian market, in the belief that to combat unemployment and make the country grow it’s necessary to encourage the industry, services, agricultural businesses, besides restoring confidence, because there was a time when confidence in the country was lost,” said the coup president.

The Investment Partnership Program is in charge of the privatization plan for these industries, run by Wellington Moreira Franco, a politician specialized in privatizations during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

The airports located in Florianopolis, Salvador, Fortaleza and Porto Alegre are also part of the privatization program.