There’s a glimmer of hope for this planet’s oceans, as the UN seems to be drawing near to an agreement to help regulate what needs to be kept in the seas, instead of focusing just on how much is taken out. It’s a promising step, but c’mon, if the global community were good at enforcing stuff like this, then why are the Sea Shepherds being kept so busy in the southern ocean this year going after illegal fishing operations? Well, I guess it’s a step in the right direciton.
The Sea Shepherd group has just received the money they need (from the Dutch Postcode Lottery), over eight million Euros, to pay for the design and construction of their ‘dream ship’ to patrol the Southern Ocean in an attempt to curtail illegal fishing. Very cool! Note the image here is just conceptual though. If you’ve ever watched Whale Wars, especially the latest Season 6, you’d know that they’re pushing some heavily-used second-hand equipment to, and past, the limit, in their efforts to stop Japan’s illegal whale hunt, and also illegal fishing of toothfish. Being able to build a ship that is purpose-designed for the harsh Southern Ocean conditions, and tailored towards their specific needs (launching RHIBs and helicopters in rough seas), is a huge boon to that organization. Congratulations, Sea Shepherds…and keep up the good work!
With a surface area of around 360 million square kilometers and a volume of around 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water, the ocean on Earth is truly massive. This short video below has a bunch of great stats like that, check it out!
So, a pipeline broke in Arkansas, spilling about 12,000 barrels of a form of heavy crude oil being piped in from Canada. I’m learning a bit about this industry by following the spill. For example, I’ve learned that there’s something called the ‘Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund‘ that was established to ensure that if there’s an accident like this, the money will be available to pay for the cleanup. The bulk of the money for this comes from a per-barrel tax that the oil industry pays on oil produced in, or imported to, the US. It seems like a nice program. One would think.
So, this pipeline spill. Turns out that what it was carrying either was from tar sands, or is very similar to that (bitumen, to be exact). Point being, despite the environmental damage being similar to crude oil (or perhaps even worse, depends on who you ask), this form of crude oil is exempt from the barrel tax designed to pay for cleanups such as the one this same oil is currently responsible for! Amazing. The Keystone XL pipeline would also fall under this exemption, despite posing no small environmental risk.
Scientists have discovered a new possible side effect of global climate change, and while it’s too early to draw any conclusions, this is a significant element that needs to be monitored closely. They discovered that water vapor, when injected into the stratosphere by large thunderstorms, can change stable forms of bromine and chlorine into free radicals that then convert ozone (O3) into normal oxygen gas (O2). Keep in mind that it’s the ozone layer that helps block harmful UV radiation (which causes skin cancer and could also damage the DNA of plants and animals). Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in storm intensity, which is what makes this relevant here. As with anything having to do with this planet’s climate, it’s a complicated issue and needs further study, but I find it interesting as it’s an angle I hadn’t considered before.
Here’s a nice reminder of how our actions influence the environment around us. Researchers at Portland State University found high caffeine levels in the ocean off the Oregon coast, which is attributed to human activity. Remember, this ecosystem we live in is complex and connected…our actions can have far reaching impact.
You can read more about this study over at phys.org.
According to this article in the New York Times, the future does not bode well for our planet. By 2050, the global economy is expected to be about four times its current size, and fossil fuels will be supplying around 85% of energy at that time. Not only does that mean increased air pollution (and the health effects caused by that, such as millions of deaths per year due to air pollution), but an increase in global average temperatures of 3-6C, well above the 2C limit internationally agreed upon. With increasing population will also come increasing demand for water, something that is already in scarce supply in much of the world. As climate patterns change due to global warming, we can expect those water supplies to be further strained as historical norms make way for the new (look at Texas’ drought as one example).
So, what can we do? Let’s face it, not much. In the US, we have a major political party that’s still in denial, so we could start there perhaps. Realistically though, Bill Gates got it right in this TED talk where he says that what we need is a ZERO CO2 energy economy. We’re so far away from that, that if we don’t take action and get serious about this soon, it’s going to be a really rough transition to adapt to a dramatically warmer Earth. It’s a good talk, watch it:
Mazda, you should be ashamed of yourself. To take the timeless Seuss classic ‘The Lorax’ and pervert it to suit your marketing neeeds…this sets a new low. The Lorax speaks for the trees and against mass consumption and consumerism. Early reviews of the movie are equally depressing, with the original environmental message mostly missing. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it yet…with what I’ve heard so far, I’m reluctant to spend the money to see it in a theater and will wait for it to be available in iTunes instead.
One encouraging sign though, is that on YouTube, Mazda’s commercial has an overwhelming negative review so far (90% negative votes!). This is corporate green-washing at its worst. Don’t fall for it. These 4th graders can see the truth, can you?