India’s Air Pollution Rivals China’s as World’s Deadliest

GR: The smoke from burning coal, oil, diesel, and gasoline causes many health problems and deaths worldwide. According to the New York Times, the problem is so bad in India, that the country is going to make electric vehicles mandatory by 2030. The country is also switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The article doesn’t mention the great loss of wildlife that is also occurring because of human burning of fossil fuels. The danger to humans and every other species from declining biodiversity and ecosystem disruption is immense. Follow this link to get an idea of  the broader context for the problem with air pollution and health.

Smog blanketed New Delhi in 2016. About 1.1 million people die prematurely in India every year from the effects of air pollution. Credit Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“NEW DELHI — India’s rapidly worsening air pollution is causing about 1.1 million people to die prematurely each year and is now surpassing China’s as the deadliest in the world, a new study of global air pollution shows.

“The number of premature deaths in China caused by dangerous air particles, known as PM2.5, has stabilized globally in recent years but has risen sharply in India, according to the report, issued jointly on Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute, a Boston research institute focused on the health impacts of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, a population health research center in Seattle.

“India has registered an alarming increase of nearly 50 percent in premature deaths from particulate matter between 1990 and 2015, the report says.

“You can almost think of this as the perfect storm for India,” said Michael Brauer, a professor of environment and health relationships at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study, in a telephone interview. He cited the confluence of rapid industrialization, population growth and an aging populace in India that is more susceptible to air pollution.

An Indian farmer walked through his field after burning his crops. A court has ruled that farmers can no longer burn their crops near New Delhi, but many still do. Credit Saurabh Das/Associated Press

“Pollution levels are worsening in India as it tries to industrialize, but “the idea that policy making should be led by government is lacking,” Bhargav Krishna, manager for environmental health at the Public Health Foundation of India, a health policy research center in New Delhi, said in an interview.

“As air pollution worsened in parts of the world, including South Asia, it improved in the United States and Europe, the report said, crediting policies to curb emissions, among other things. The report’s website that provides country-by-country data on pollution levels and the health and mortality effects.

“Environmental regulations in the United States and actions by the European Commission have led to substantial progress in reducing fine particulate pollution since 1990, the report said. The United States has experienced a reduction of about 27 percent in the average annual exposure to fine particulate matter, with smaller declines in Europe. Yet, some 88,000 Americans and 258,000 Europeans still face increased risks of premature death because of particulate levels today, the report said.

“A fraction of the width of a human hair, these particles can be released from vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, and by industry, as well as from natural sources like dust. They enter the bloodstream through the lungs, worsening cardiac disease and increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure, in addition to causing severe respiratory problems, like asthma and pneumonia.” –Geeta Anand, New York Times (Continue reading.)

Villagers near a newly built state-owned coal fired power plant in southern China. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The Eiffel Tower seen through a haze of air pollution in Paris last month. The United States and Europe have made good progress in cutting fine particulate air pollution since 1990. Credit Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Feds Halt New Drilling on Rover Pipeline After Massive Spills Destroy Ohio Wetlands

GR: Hmm, Energy Transfer Partners–why is that name familiar?

“The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) halted new drilling Wednesday on the Rover Pipeline until it addresses its 2 million gallon spill of drilling fluids into Ohio wetlands.

“The decision was made just days after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slapped parent company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) with a $431,000 fine over numerous water and air pollution violations along the route of the $4.2 billion project. ETP is the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which also happened to leak 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota early last month.

“Terry Turpin, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, said in a Wednesday letter to the developer that FERC staff has “serious concerns” about the sizable spill, its environmental impacts and the “lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems.”

“The two spills of betonite mud were discovered April 13 and 14 in Stark and Richland County wetlands and was caused by pressure during drilling that allowed mud to rise to the surface, the Ohio EPA said.” –Lorraine Chow (Continue reading: Feds Halt New Drilling on Rover Pipeline After Massive Spills Destroy Ohio Wetlands.)

The Human Ecological Predicament: Wages of Self-Delusion | MAHB

GR: Here’s a thoughtful article about the absolute necessity to reject the global “growth at all costs” philosophy that dominates our businesses, governments, and churches. Because we have failed to choose our actions objectively, we are approaching major “tipping points” where choices will slip away. We might still avoid the crash by learning to use basic reasoning. Our children (and adults) should learn to recognize the many forms of faulty reasoning, the fallacies, that obscure truth. We must all learn the value of skepticism and we must learn to ask how (will we get Mexico to pay for the wall) and why (do we need a wall), and we must learn to insist on verifiable facts offered as proof.

The coming crash. (photographer unknown)

“Techno-industrial society is in dangerous ecological overshoot—the human ecological footprint is at least 60% larger than the planet can support sustainably (Wackernagel et al. 2002; Rees 2013; WWF 2016). The global economy is using even renewable and replenishable resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate and filling waste sinks beyond nature’s capacity to assimilate (Steffen et al. 2007; Rockström et al. 2009; Barnosky et al. 2012). (Even climate change is a waste management problem—carbon dioxide is the single greatest waste by weight of industrial economies.) Despite the accumulating evidence of impending crisis, the world community seems incapable of responding effectively. This situation is clearly unsustainable and, if present trends continue, will likely lead in this century to runaway climate change, the collapse of major biophysical systems, global strife and therefore diminished prospects for continued civilized existence (Tainter 1987; Diamond 2005; Turner 2014; Motesharrei et al. 2014).

“The proximate drivers are excess economic production/consumption and over-population—human impact on the ecosphere is a product of population multiplied by average per capita consumption—exacerbated by an increasingly global compound myth of perpetual economic growth propelled by continuous technological progress (Victor 2008; Rees 2013). While there is evidence of some ‘decoupling’ of economic production from nature, this is often an artifact of faulty accounting and trade (e.g., wealthy countries are ‘off-shoring’ their ecological impacts onto poorer countries). Overall, economic throughput (energy and material consumption and waste production) is increasing with population and GDP growth (Wiedmann et al 2013; Giljum et al. 2014). Consequently, carbon dioxide is accumulating at an accelerating rate in the atmosphere (NOAA 2017) and the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 sequentially shared the distinction of being the warmest years in the instrumental record (Hansen et al. 2017).

“There is widespread general support for the notion of ‘clean production and consumption’ but in present circumstances, this must soon translate into less production and consumption by fewer people (Rees 2014). It complicates matters that modern society remains highly dependent on abundant cheap energy still mostly supplied by carbon-based fuels. Despite rapid technological advances and falling costs, it is still not clear that renewable energy alternatives, including wind and photovoltaic electricity, can replace fossil fuels in such major uses as transportation and space/water heating in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, in the absence of effective carbon sequestration technologies, reducing fossil fuel use remains essential to avoiding catastrophic climate change. Resolving this energy-climate conundrum will require major conservation efforts, the prioritizing of essential non-substitutable uses of fossil fuels and the banning of frivolous ones.

Source: The Human Ecological Predicament: Wages of Self-Delusion | MAHB

Anthropogenic noise pollution is threatening wild spaces

GR: Earth’s wildlife decline is caused by construction, invasive species, climate change, and many other human impacts. For instance, scientists have shown that the sounds coming from our industry, airplanes, cars, and even our voices are harmful. The story below reports the results of a new study of the effects of sound on wildlife.

“Wild spaces are important for many reasons. For us humans, they give us peace and energy, provide places for recreation and connection with nature, and teach us about the life around us. But wild places are not only necessary for humans – for flora and fauna and the land itself, protected areas are reserves where nature can run its course without as much interference from humans. They provide critical places for the earth to heal itself and resume its organic processes; they also give homes to many endangered species. Yet unfortunately, protected areas may not actually be as protected as their names make them sound. A new study from Buxton et al. looked at the degree to which noise pollution has infiltrated protected areas in the United States, finding that anthropogenic noise doubled background noise levels in a majority of protected areas. Scientists and nature-lovers alike fear that this is affecting habitats that many ecosystems rely on.

“Protected areas include, but are not limited to National Parks. Get a glimpse of the 59 US National Parks in the slide show below.

“Protected areas in the United States cover 14% of the country’s land mass. To determine how noise pollution is affecting these areas, scientists from Colorado State University and the U.S. National Park Service collaborated to measure human-caused sounds from aircraft, highways, industrial, and residential sources. The team listened to countless hours of sound measurements from 492 sites around the country.

Protected areas include marine reserves, such as the Hōlei Sea Arch. Photo Credit: S. Geiger, NPS

“They found that the most noise came from roads, aircraft, human development, and resource extraction. In 63% of U.S. protected areas, anthropogenic noise doubled background sound levels. In 21% there was an even greater impact, causing a 10-fold or more increase in normal background noise. To break that down in more understandable terms, human-caused noise has reduced the area in which natural sounds can be heard by 50-90%. This means that what could be heard at 100 feet away can now only be heard from a distance of 10 to 50 feet.” –Kathryn DeMuth Sullivan (Continue reading: Anthropogenic noise pollution is threatening wild spaces).