Environment

George Monbiot wrote in his Guardian column a couple of weeks ago:

 "For years we’ve been told that people cannot afford to care about the natural world until they become rich; that only economic growth can save the biosphere, that civilisation marches towards enlightenment about our impacts on the living planet. The results suggest the opposite." [2]

Who has been telling us this “for years” ? Monbiot neglects to tell us- perhaps it is just made up. I assumed however that he was referring to Goklany’s Environmental Transition:[3] 

A 21-year study of over 2,300 rivers in Britain measured the presence of clean-river invertebrates - a yardstick for river health –   and found they are the cleanest they've been in over two decades. During the days of heavy industry and poor sewage treatment,
clean-river invertebrates
had declined considerably, but now appear to be making a comeback, say scholars
from Cardiff University 

Dr. Ian Vaughan and Professor Steve Ormerod from the University's School of Biosciences analyzed changes in the occurrence and spread of insects, snails and other mini-beasts from major rivers between 1991 and 2011. The researchers then asked whether water quality, temperature or river flow best explained the biological changes they observed.


While western nations have dropped emissions on schedule, led by the United States, which has pushed its greenhouse gas emissions from energy back to early 1990s levels and coal back to early 1980s levels, the increasingly modern developing world have continued to produce more emissions, causing worldwide levels to rise.

There is no short cut. Emissions need to be reduced. So forget about positioning giant mirrors in space to reduce the amount of sunlight being trapped in the earth's atmosphere or seeding clouds to reduce the amount of light entering earth's atmosphere - if we can't figure out why emissions have risen but temperatures have not, tinkering with clouds is a very bad idea.


When it comes to ecology and zoology, policy actions tend to ignore the system and focus on turning one knob. Then, when the ripple effect is felt throughout the ecosystem, a new knob is turned.

Sometimes the problem with that approach becomes obviously early on, especially in California, where various federal and state bodies are always in court with each other trying to fulfill their legal mandates while species suffer. And what happens when the eradication of an invasive species threatens an endangered species? 


Are you worried that genetically modified corn will imperil the earth and ruin your organic sticker status if the air blows toward your fields?

Horticulturalists have a solution; let science grow transgenic crops that can feed billions and create high-value medicinal antibodies. Organic believes can put their corn in caves. 


The most important fertilizer for producing food is nitrogen.

But, as is obvious with any fertilizer or pesticide or anything else, the dose makes the poison. DDT became a problem when it was used improperly, by people who assumed more would work better, and the same thing happens with people who use too much fertilizer, including the organic kind.

Chemical compounds containing reactive nitrogen are major drivers of air and water pollution worldwide, and hence of diseases like asthma or cancer. If overused, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20 percent by 2050, according to a paper by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Mitigation efforts could decrease the pollution by 50 percent without sacrificing yield, they write.


Pollution is bad, right? To some animals, it's home.

Thousands of shipping containers are lost from cargo vessels each year and many of them sink, never to be found again. 

In February 2004, the cargo vessel Med Taipei was traveling southward along the California coast when severe winds and seas dislodged 24 shipping containers, 15 of which were lost within the boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Four months later, during a routine research dive using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Ventana, MBARI scientists discovered one of these containers on the seafloor 4,200 feet below the surface.


The Kelp Watch 2014 collaboration has some good news - the West Coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean-borne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

Kelp Watch 2014 uses coastal kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima via the North Pacific Current. The new results are from samples primarily collected from Feb. 24 through March 14. During the first phase of the project, samples were taken from 38 of the 44 sites originally identified, and the data being presented comes from an analysis of 28 of the 38 sample sites represented.
A paper by The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), Center for Effective Government (CEG) and Coming Clean, links higher poverty to many Black and Latino communities living within chemical disaster "vulnerability zones" and say the risk of danger is much greater for those communities than for the U.S. as a whole - the very definition of disproportionate danger. 

Corn yields in the central United States have increased dramatically in the last few decades - but they have also become more sensitive to drought conditions.