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).

Prescott, Arizona History: Prescott Used to Have Countless Prairie Dogs

GR: People have eradicated inconvenient social groups and wildlife many times; it’s what we do. We haven’t prevented the growth of our own population, but we have a firm grip on the Earth’s wildlife. About half of all animals are gone, replaced by  people.

The Prairie Dog was present around Prescott, AZ for thousands of years before the city appeared. Apparently, nature got along just fine with Prairie Dogs and without us. Today, the Prairie Dogs are over most of Arizona, but they still survive in spots in the region. A few people work to help them continue surviving.

Eradicating the Prairie Dog

“For a rodent, they are undeniably cute. But to farmers and ranchers they’re a horrible pest. Where there are prairie dogs, agricultural output decreases 25-85%. (*1)

Humane Society Prairie Dog Coalition

“Yavapai County once had 1.5 million acres “infested” with prairie dogs. (2) When Prescott’s airport was first being laid-out, workers “went up and down both runways with shovels leveling the mounds and filling up the holes made by the hundreds of prairie dogs that infested the field.”(3)

“So, what happened to them?

“Mass rodenticide!

“It must be remembered,” the newspaper wrote, “that these rodents destroy a vast amount of forage, which, if saved, could be used for the production of beef and mutton. In many cases, the prairie dogs permanently injure the range by eating the roots of plants which bind the soil and prevent erosion. In many localities, the destruction of plant life has been caused by extensive washing away of the soil after the summer rains.” (*4) –Drew Desmond (Prescott, Arizona History: Prescott Used to Have Countless Prairie Dogs).

A Survey of the “War on Wildlife”: How Conflict Affects Conservation

GR: Conflicts should perhaps be included in the list of the top nature destroying human activities. This gives us construction and farming, global warming, invasive species, pesticides and toxic wastes, soil erosion, resource harvesting (deforestation, fishing, and hunting), and conflict. As global warming advances, conflict will probably move up in the list.

“Over the last 60 years, more than two-thirds of the world’s remaining biodiversity hotspots have experienced armed conflict. The effects have been myriad, from destruction as a result of military tactics to indirect socioeconomic and political changes, like human migration and displacement. This so-called “war on wildlife” has important implications for conservation and peacebuilding efforts, according to a recent literature review published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.“

“Through armed conflict, global socioeconomic and political dynamics can ultimately threaten local animal populations and the vulnerable human communities that rely on their services,” said Kaitlyn Gaynor, lead author of the study, via email.

“The paper, a collaboration between natural and social scientists at the University of California-Berkeley, categorizes 144 case studies around the world that illustrate direct or indirect links between armed conflict and critical wildlife populations, from African elephants in Angola to mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

“The results of the literature review show a clear trend towards “non-tactical” pathways of conflict affecting wildlife more than tactical. Non-tactical pathways include changing institutional dynamics (83 cases), movements of people (81 cases), and altered economies (84 cases).” –Bethany N. Bella (Continue: A Survey of the “War on Wildlife”: How Conflict Affects Conservation.)

Politics, Nature-Conservation, and Pipelines

Abandoning Fossil Fuels for Nature Conservation

GR: Fossil fuels are harmful during their extraction, delivery, refinement, and use. Alternative energy sources are available that are safer and offer tangible benefits for people. More employment opportunity is an example. It is imperative for the survival of nature, wildlife, and humanity that we close the door on the fossil-fuel industry and its disastrous impact. The first step is replacing all the kleptocrats who serve in our governments with progressive politicians able to resist the financial incentives for destroying the Earth. To do this with a balanced integration of human and nature concerns, we must form an alliance of progressive political parties and nature-conservation organizations.

Though the political alliance is the primary strategy, we can have some influence over our kleptocrats by showing them the strength of our numbers. Here’s a petition to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau that focuses on the delivery part of the fossil-fuel cycle.

Politics and Nature-Conservation Resources

“A ‘simple’ oil spill that released an estimated 550 litres of fuel off the northern coast of Vancouver Island has been deemed impossible to clean up. Neither skimmer vessels or sorbent materials can risk touching the environmentally rich affected area that a local First Nation relies on for food and income.

“The fact that there is no current technology that can recover the remaining oil is unacceptable and goes to show that even relatively small spills can be complicated and do great damage to environments and local economies. In this case, while some of the pollutants will evaporate others will remain in the area for much longer, continuing to degrade the the ecosystem and putting the First Nation’s livelihood and health at risk for years to come.

“We have been told that the government and petroleum companies know what they are doing and that they have the knowhow and technology to quickly and responsibly clean up any spills that may occur. Yet, time and time again when an accident happens we learn that they are utterly unprepared to deal with these disasters.” –Andrew (Continue: petition: Stop the Approval of Canadian Pipelines).

Bat-killing fungus spreads to Texas – Summit County Citizens Voice

GR: This is sad news for our flying furry friends. The lethal fungus is spreading west across North America. It hasn’t been found in Arizona yet, but we have some of the susceptible species.

“A fungal pathogen that has wiped out bat populations across the eastern third of the U.S. has now been found in Texas, according to state wildlife officials, who documented the fungus for the first time on two new bat species: the cave myotis and a western subspecies of Townsend’s big-eared bat.

“White-nose fungus first emerged in 2006 in New York and his since spread into 30 states and killed at least 5.5 million bats. Wildlife conservation advocates said the recent announcement from is a biological disaster, considering the potential risks to huge, world-famous bat colonies that thrive in unique cave ecosystems in the state.” –Summit County Citizens Voice (Continue reading: Bat-killing fungus spreads to Texas – Summit County Citizens Voice.)

On Nature Conservation

Defining Nature Conservation

Wild animals live in constant peril from weather, predators, and competitors. Their plight evokes sympathy and is the most common spur that goads me into action.  I agree with Aldo Leopold who concluded that survival of life on earth requires that humans accept that they are no more important than any other species.

Sand_county_almanac cover[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”  Aldo Leopold, 1949.

Not bad.  “Earth ethic” would indicate the shared importance of life in the oceans and on land. This ethic should encompass air, animals, plants, rivers, rocks, and sea.  It seems to me that, at the time of his death, Leopold hadn’t yet fleshed out his ethics ideas. He hadn’t seen human impacts reach the catastrophic level we see today.  Were he living now, Leopold would most likely be a leading conservation activist.

Few people accept Leopold’s conclusion.  Most of our conservation ideas and practices developed while the needs and impacts of the human population were small compared to the extent and productivity of natural ecosystems. Climate change and other human impacts show that nature is limited.  However, it is difficult for most people to shift their view to include equality for other species. Few can give up the comfort and convenience that often comes at the expense of other species whose lives we take in order to benefit our own.

But look what’s happening. The past decade’s droughts, storms, and spreading deserts show that humanity is changing the Earth. Research coming from many sources shows that worldwide animal extinctions are occurring 100 times faster than in Earth’s previous mass-extinction events recorded in the fossil record.

Extinction isn’t the only concern. Total loss of a species results after years of decline. In 2014, the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, and other organizations carried out an extensive analysis of more than 10,000 wildlife studies. The analysis reached a stunning conclusion: The total number of animals on Earth has declined by more than 50% since 1970.

animal-declinesThis figure illustrates the findings of the World Wildlife Fund (2014) that, from 1970 to 2010, we lost 52% of all animals on Earth. The 2016 WWF report showed that in 2012, the decline reached 57%. Biologists predict it will reach 67% by 2020. The cause? Massive overpopulation by humans and their unsustainable overuse of space and resources.

A look at two sympathetic attitudes toward animals might help understand the different views of nature conservation.  Leopold’s approach aligns with the Rights Position, and traditional conservation aligns with the Welfare Position.

f0268080-8c59-44bc-95ba-3dca72f8c60c.jpgFuture of Nature Conservation

Having followed the news and events of the past decade, I have adopted a cautiously pessimistic attitude toward nature conservation. Nature conservation was humanity’s

polluted-water

Lake Karachay, Russia, has been used by the Soviet Union to dump nuclear waste for years now. The lake has several times the allowed pollutant, and 1 hour of exposure is said to be fatal to everyone (photo from lolwot.com).

great challenge for the Twentieth Century. Nineteenth Century naturalists warned about the environmental damage humans were doing (Andrea Wulff–The Invention of Nature). At the start of the Twentieth Century conservationists like U. S. President Teddy Roosevelt began setting up protective government agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, and others. The Dust Bowl raised awareness of the need for conservation among farmers and schoolchildren everywhere. However, in spite of public concern, we were never able to control the ‘progress’ that inch by inch was converting nature into profits. Farmers, grazers, and loggers eroded the soils, consumed the grasslands, and cut the forests. As these enterprises grew, most of us moved to the cities and abandoned nature to for-profit businesses. Nature conservation faded from common knowledge. We are on our way to destroying most if not all of life on Earth.

With no effective controls over our population and resource use, I believe human extinction is a real possibility. A major war or disease might slow our devastation of the planet, but the only effective inhibitors of our steady destruction of nature are themselves global killers. The most likely are a great solar flare, a massive meteor, and of course, human-caused climate change. The last one, climate change, is a sure bet unless we treat it like the emergency it is and combat it with all of our resources. Our surrender to progress and profit has locked us into a global-warming cycle that will extinguish us and most other species unless we get busy and solve the problem. If we don’t, our grandchildren will inherit an impoverished world on its way toward a complete loss of human civilization.

One ray of hope comes from the predicted intensification of weather extremes. Growing storms, floods, and fires may soon force our leaders to get serious about stopping climate change. Let’s hope, and while we’re hoping, let’s work to limit progress and profit however we can.

Garry Rogers Nature Conservation Articles

United Nations Tackles Ocean Plastic Pollution

GR:  There is growing realization that waste plastics including everything from packaging to the microfiber fabrics used in clothing, are harming wild plants and animals. An earlier petition campaign and many other reports have finally been heard. It’s good to see the UN tackling the problem.

un-env-leader-erik-solheim

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment

“BALI, Indonesia, February 26, 2017 (ENS) – An unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter within five years was launched this week by UN Environment, the United Nations agency formerly known as UNEP. The campaign is targeting microplastics in cosmetics and single-use plastics such as straws, bags and packaging materials.

SolheimUN Environment chief Erik Solheim of Norway (Photo courtesy World Bank)

“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans, said Erik Solheim of Norway, the former Norwegian environment and development minister who now heads UN Environment. “Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”

“Introduced at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the UN’s new #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to adopt plastic reduction policies.

“Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide.

“Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 percent by 2025.

“Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica will take measures to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

“The campaign is targeting industry with the message that it’s important to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products, and is calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to the oceans.

This Laysan albatross died from dehydration or starvation after swallowing plastics at sea. Laysan is one of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. On nearby Midway Atoll, some 200,000 albatross chicks die each year from consuming plastics that block or perforate the stomach, esophagus or gizzard. (Photo by Duncan)

“Each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Up to 80 percent of all litter in the oceans is made of plastic – items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups.” –Environmental News Service (Continue reading:  – UN Campaigns to ‘Turn the Tide’ on Ocean Plastics | ENS.)

Bed of Dan River is Poisoned by Coal Ash for 70 Miles: Turtles Emerging & Dying

GR:  Trump has removed protection from streams. He is probably unaware that the problem below is typical of many situations where mine wastes threaten or actually poison our streams. However, ignorance is not a satisfactory excuse. Can Trump believers continue to support actions that carelessly threaten people and wildlife across the country? Trump promised to remove regulations that restrict business and reduce employment. But did anyone expect he would do so blindly without regard for the long-term consequences? Poisoning people so mining companies can continue profitable operations is not the right way to go.

It’s worth noting that the Environmental Protection Agency forced Duke Energy to assess the coal ash problem. Without the EPA, the company would have simply ignored the problem and moved on. If it’s jobs you want, why not ask the EPA to force Duke Energy and other stream polluters to clean up their wastes? That would create many many jobs. So many.

Ongoing problem: Hibernating turtles are crawling out of the poisoned bed of the Dan River and Dying on the river banks in 2014 (Photo by Greenpiece).

“The bed of the Dan River is covered with toxic coal ash for 70 miles, killing hibernating turtles. The scale of this horrific, preventable catastrophe is now becoming evident.

“As arsenic laced coal ash continues to pour into the Dan River from the Duke Energy waste dump, turtles are crawling out of the poisoned river bed and dying on the banks. Duke Energy has been ordered to stop polluting the Dan River but a second pipe continues to discharge suffocating coal ash into the water following the massive failure of the first pipe under the waste pond. The river bottom is poisoned by toxic ash all the way from the waste dump in Eden to Kerr Lake 70 miles downstream. Federal officials say that the coal ash is suffocating animals that live in the riverbed.

Duke Energy's eroding ash deposits on the Dan River.

Duke Energy’s eroding ash deposits on the Dan River.

“Water treatment authorities say that they have successfully treated and filtered the river water to remove toxins and that Danville’s water is safe to drink. However, arsenic levels in the river continue to exceed federal safe limits. Heavy rains will wash the toxic waste further down the river over the coming weeks spreading the contamination over an increasingly large area.

“Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan River near the site of the Feb. 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5 inches deep to less than 1 inch coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir. …

dan-river“The Dan River system in North Carolina and Virginia is home to two federally listed endangered species, the Roanoke logperch fish and the James spinymussel. The river also has another freshwater mussel, the green floater, which is currently being evaluated for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

“Officials said the coal ash is burying aquatic animals and their food. The ash, generated when coal is burned to generate electricity, could also clog gill tissues in fish and mussels.

“A second pipe under the huge waste pit has large gaps between sections where the toxic ash continues to drain into the Dan River. All of this mess could have been avoided had Duke Energy responded to environmental organizations’ lawsuits by properly disposal of the waste in dry, lined waste disposal facilities with impervious covers. Instead, Duke stonewalled and gave large sums of money to the Republican Party in North Carolina to get preferential treatment.” –FishOutofWater (Continue reading:  Bed of Dan River is Poisoned by Coal Ash for 70 Miles: Turtles Emerging & Dying.)