In wake of the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans are examining their dependence on fossil fuels. It is good that individual citizens do what they can to conserve; however, the US military is the "world's single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth's climate". Truthout reports:
Such "greenwashing" helps to mask the fact that the Pentagon devours about 330,000 barrels of oil per day (a barrel has 42 gallons), more than the vast majority of the world's countries. If the U.S. military were a nation-state, it would be ranked number 37 in terms of oil consumption - ahead of the likes of the Philippines, Portugal, and Nigeria - according to the CIA Factbook.
And although much of the military's technology has become far more fuel-efficient over the last few decades, the amount of oil consumed per soldier per day in wartime has increased by 175 percent since Vietnam, given the Pentagon's increasing use and number of motorized vehicles.
Given that 2008 was a cool year, the number of global warming skeptics has actually increased, according to a Stanford University poll. Unlike Gallop polls that focus on people's reactions to media reports on global warming, the Stanford survey asked for independent opinions. SF Gate reports:
Although the vast majority of Americans believe the Earth is gradually warming because of greenhouse gases and want the government to regulate them, a small but growing number of people doubt that global warming is real, according to a new poll.
The Stanford University survey, released on Wednesday, found that 74 percent of those polled believe the world's temperature has been gradually rising over the past century, compared with 85 percent who believed it in 2006.
Jon Krosnick, a Stanford professor of political science, notes that the cooling trend in 2008 was just a "one-year drop in a 100-year warming trend".
All sperm whales are considered endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. But the Gulf of Mexico population is thought to be especially vulnerable due to its relatively small size.
The whales are now at risk from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill, because they are likely to ingest or inhale toxic crude and noxious oil fumes. (See pictures of the oil seeping into Louisiana marshes.)
"We know there's going to be some [oil] exposure, and we know there's an endangered species. If you put those two thing together, there is reason for concern," said Celine Godard-Codding, an environmental toxicologist at Texas Tech University.
Seven US states district attorneys are investigating the evil Monsanto for abusing "its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices on seed". According to the Organic Consumers Association:
The states are probing whether Monsanto violated laws by offering rebates to seed distributors for excluding rival seeds, imposing limits on combining the product with other genetic modifications, or offering cash incentives to switch farmers to more expensive generation of seed varieties.
The state investigations add to pressure on Monsanto. The US Justice Department is investigating the company's marketing practices, and DuPont Company has accused Monsanto of anti-competitive practices in licensing litigation.
Maybe anti-trust laws will finally bring this agricultural giant down!
Animal Factory is a thoroughly-researched piece of investigative journalism, in which Kirby sets out to approach factory farms differently from 'Fast Food Nation' or 'Eating Animals'. As his powerful and provocative books shows, the supermarket price of milk, pork, steak and chicken do not reflect the actual costs of mass-producing meat and dairy, which are passed on the to surrounding communities, including:
Airborne feces sprayed by farms, covering neighboring homes, fields, and towns
Recalls of dangerous meats, fruits, and vegetables caused by farm pathogens
Increasing public health crises, including asthma and MRSA infection, and possibly swine flu and leukemia and other cancers in communities adjacent to these farms
High levels of feces and nitrates in public water supplies near these farms. The New York Times recently reported that "19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses." (9/15/09)
Massive fish kills in local waters from pig and cow manure lagoon spills
Immense costs to clean up hazardous farms, absorbed by taxpayers or individual farmers, rather than by the corporations that profit from such practices
Dead zones spreading miles out to sea, where marine life is suffocated by algae growth stimulated in part by factory farm pollution
In Animal Factory, Kirby follows three American families in different regions of the US, whose lives have been utterly changed by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. Weaving complex science, politics, business, and the lives of everyday people, Kirby documents a crisis that has reached a critical juncture in the history of human health and our larger global environment.
I like how Kirby tracks factory farms affect on families, as it gives a human touch to a story that is truly overwhelming to contemplate.
As a vegetarian, my life is still affected by factory animal farms. No one is immune. We must support local, traditional farms as consumers to really bring about change, as well as make sure our politicians are aware of the consequences of factory farming. Anyone that has visited or driven by a large factory farm, like Harris Ranch on I-5 in California, knows, the situation is not good for animals or humans.
Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No
prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or
Electronic waste (e-waste) is on the rise, as consumers discard older technology for the latest models. Much of this e-waste ends up in Third World countries. No matter where it ends up, the United Nations (UN) predicts e-waste to increase by 500% in the next decade and "poses a serious threat to health and the environment." The Guardian reports:
Despite a number of conventions aimed at preventing the indiscriminate dumping of e-waste, the problem is snowballing, with billions of people now regularly using advanced electronics.
The problem is particularly acute in parts of west Africa, where ship-loads of e-waste are dumped on a daily basis and scavenged by children who break down the electronics to recover valuable metals that they can sell.
New USGS data has discovered the southern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula is "retreating". Science Daily reports:
Research by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first to document that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990. The USGS previously documented that the majority of ice fronts on the entire Peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.
This area is "rapidly changing". It is farthest from the South Pole; however, the southern portion has the coolest temperatures and "may be a forecast of changes in other parts of Antarctica and the world if warming continues".
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific methodology that objectively analyses the environmental impacts of an activity or process, taking in the full cycle, from extraction of raw materials right through to management of the waste generated at the end of this material's useful life...
By simultaneously using the LCA and a Geographic Information System (GIS), the researchers have shown that eight of these 15 areas can be classified as at risk of desertification, representing 38% of the land surface of the world.
The eight natural areas at risk are coastal areas, the Prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate Steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical Steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.
"The greatest risk of desertification (7.6 out of 10 on a scale produced using various desertification indicators) is in the subtropical desert regions - North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Australia, South West China and the western edge of South America", the scientist explains.
Researchers hope the new information will make it possible to accurately evaluate "particular" human activities impact on desertification in different regions.