Proposed Seismic Blasting Would Devastate Ocean’s Most Vital Organisms

GR: Creatures of the oceans are no threat to us, but we readily injure and kill them in our search for a chance to acquire material wealth. We behave as if the Earth has infinite capacity to produce and support life. Of course, we know it does not. (Trump’s position on seismic airgun blasting.)

Krill represent a vital food source for many marine predators, including large whales. In the study, seismic blasts completely wiped out krill larvae. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Seismic airguns exploding in the ocean in search for oil and gas have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are critical food sources for marine mammals, according to a new study in Nature. The blasting decimates one of the ocean’s most vital groups of organisms over huge areas and may disrupt entire ecosystems.

“And this devastating news comes on the heels of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposal to authorize more than 90,000 miles of active seismic blasting. Based on the results of this study, the affected area would be approximately 135,000 square miles.

“In the study, scientists found that the blasts from a single seismic airgun caused a statistically significant decrease in zooplankton 24 hours after exposure. Abundance fell by at least 50 percent in more than half (58 percent) of the species observed. The scientists also found two to three times more dead zooplankton following airgun exposure compared to controls and, shockingly, krill larvae were completely wiped out.

“Listen to the sound of a seismic airgun blast: seismic_blast.mp4

Audiogram of a single seismic airgun. Seismic vessels in the Atlantic will tow up to 40 airguns at a time, which will all blast simultaneously every 10 seconds for months on end.

NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory VENTS Program

The scientists used sonar backscatter, a method that reveals where animals are in the water column using sound, to detect zooplankton. They describe witnessing a large “hole” opening up in the backscatter as zooplankton were killed. Food chains are surprisingly simple in the ocean and zooplankton help form the basis of them, underpinning the ocean’s productivity. Significant damage to zooplankton will have cascading effects on animals higher up. That includes fish and marine predators such as sharks, marine mammals and even seabirds. Adult krill provide an important food source for our largest marine animals: the great whales.

“These devastating impacts on zooplankton occurred up to three quarters of a mile from the airgun. This is more than two orders of magnitude higher than the expected range of impact based on the results of previous studies; laboratory experiments and modeling techniques have estimated that impacts would only occur up to 33 feet from the airgun. This new study demonstrates the importance of validating scientific findings in the field.

“However, these findings are based on the results from a single airgun with a volume of 150 cubic inches. The companies proposing to conduct blasting in the Atlantic will use vessels that will each tow an airgun ‘array’ comprising between 24-40 airguns, with a combined value of 4808-6420 cubic inches. The guns will all blast simultaneously, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for months at a time. This means the proposed surveys could affect zooplankton over much larger areas.” –Francine Kershaw (Seismic Blasting Devastates Ocean’s Most Vital Organisms)

This Summer’s Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut

GR:  Farms are a far greater source of toxic wastes than urban areas. Farming does it all. First, it obliterates natural habitats, second, it increases soil erosion, and third, it invites pesticide poisons that kill insects and the wildlife that depend on them. Join the Union of Concerned Scientists’ call on Congress to reject the Trump administration’s unacceptable budget cuts at the USDA, and instead vote to fully fund proven programs that keep our water clean, improve farmers’ livelihoods and help hungry families.

“Summer is almost here, and you know what that means. Sun, sand and … a watery wasteland devoid of all life? Yep, this is the time each year when a team of federal and university scientists predicts the size of the so-called dead zone that will develop in the Gulf of Mexico later in the summer. We’re waiting for that official prediction, but based on federal nitrate flux data and Midwest weather patterns this spring, it seems likely that it will be bigger than usual.

“That means a swath of marine habitat considerably larger than the state of Connecticut could be lifeless by summer’s end—a haunting prospect for coastal ecosystems, fisheries, and the men and women who earn their livelihoods from them. And the Trump administration’s budget proposal and general antagonism toward science and environmental protection are likely to make the problem worse in the future.

“Marine and coastal dead zones are the result of a phenomenon called hypoxia—a state of low dissolved oxygen that occurs when excess pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, accumulate in bodies of water. These nutrients feed blooms of algae that, when they die and decompose, deplete the oxygen in the surrounding water. Hypoxia is a silent killer, suffocating organisms that can’t escape the low-oxygen zone quickly enough, and causing others to flee.

“As we wrote a year ago when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an “average” (roughly Connecticut-sized) Gulf dead zone, even average is not the same as normal. Nitrogen and phosphorus can come from many sources, but the largest are due to human activity, including sewage discharges and fertilizers from farm fields running off into rivers and streams.

“In 2010, researchers at the University of Illinois showed that the problem of runoff from industrialized, corn-and-soybean intensive agriculture, with its system of underground drainage channels, dwarfs the impact of cities and other nutrient sources in the Midwest. Essentially, each year the Mississippi River and its many tributaries meandering through the Corn Belt quietly funnel a vast amount of agricultural pollution into the Gulf.” –Karen Perry Stillerman (More: This Summer’s Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut.)

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

GR:  Here’s an article that I hope at least my friends and family read. If it doesn’t worry and motivate you, then you are a victim of “willful blindness” a cognitive condition that can be either conscious or subconscious. You can recover from the subconscious condition, but it’s usually after you’ve fallen in a hole and wonder “why didn’t I see this coming.” However, you can make a conscious effort to reassess your beliefs and act to avoid the hole. And I assume that this is what’s going to happen as demonstrations like the massive climate march that just filled Pennsylvania Avenue continue to grow.

Credit: Getty/Everlite/Leon Neal/Photo Montage by Salon

“While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.

“Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.

“There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic. For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998 [hottest on record to that point]), and with 2016 being the hottest ever. Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change. As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it [PDF paper published in Nature, Climate Change]:

The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far. Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.

“Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch. This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

“Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth. This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. Other studies have found that, for example, the global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. The biosphere is wilting in real time, and our own foolish actions are to blame.” –Phil Torres (Continue: It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon – Salon.com.)

Ocean Farmers Make “Climate March by Sea”

GR:  The premise of the article below is that warming oceans are destroying marine ecosystems and eliminating fish-harvesting jobs. It’s about jobs, and ultimately about the U. S. national economy. It argues that fighting climate change will keep, not cut jobs. It points out that Trump uses “jobs” to hide the fact that his policies enable greater profits by major corporations. Who knew?

The fact is, “jobs” are a false goal. Losing fishing jobs to climate change isn’t what’s important. Preserving marine ecosystems is what’s important. We should march in opposition to fossil-fuel production of climate-changing CO2 because it is harming marine ecosystems.

We should also be marching for population control. As the global human population grows, the market for seafood grows and this has led to ecosystem devastation from overfishing. Harvesting the seas is not the only excess destroying ecosystems. Expanding farms and pasturelands, expanding cities, and growing waste pollution are doing their share as well. Most definitely yes, we need the new bill proposed in the U. S. Congress “100 by 50” that would eliminate 100% of fossil-fuel use by 2050. But we also need to control and reverse our population–most definitely.

This Sierra article has interesting points on the faulty reasoning behind Trump’s trickery.

Sierra Magazine:

“On President Trump’s first Earth Day in the White House, he declared on Twitter that “we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes, and lands”—an amiable if blasé arm-punch to the planet from the leader of the free world.

“Until a few hours later that is, when the president resorted to his usual right cross.

“I am committed to keeping our air and water clean,” he tweeted, “but always remember that economic growth enhances environmental protection. Jobs matter!”

“Rarely does President Trump or his surrogates miss an opportunity to propound that “jobs matter” when it comes to the nation’s environmental policies—especially where climate change is concerned. This binary logic—environmental protection equals job killer—is deeply woven into their world view. Trump has repeatedly called Obama-era initiatives like the Clean Power Plan “job killers” and vowed to “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions, including the Climate Action Plan.”

“The delegation of fishermen that set sail this morning from a marina in Solomons, Maryland, would beg to differ. The only “job destroyer” for them is climate change.

“Concerned about the threat global warming poses to their livelihoods, a crew of sustainable ocean farmers began a three-day journey today they’re calling the “Climate March by Sea.” At the tiller of the small commercial fishing boat is Bren Smith, owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm and the executive director of GreenWave. They’re heading south down the Chesapeake before they plan to turn north up the Potomac on their way to Washington, D.C.

“Their final destination: the Peoples Climate March, when thousands of people, including indigenous, civic, social justice, business, and environmental advocacy groups are set to take to the streets of the nation’s capital to demand action on climate, jobs, and justice. “Climate change was supposed to be a slow lobster boil,” Smith said in an interview before casting off. “For me, it arrived 100 years earlier than expected. We fishermen are the citizen scientists reporting that water temperatures are going up, species are moving north, the weather is becoming more extreme. We can see it with our own eyes. We’re way beyond the idea of climate denial.”

TAKE ACTION: Click here for more information about how to participate in the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., or another city near you.

“When it comes to environmental policy, the “job killer” argument is a red herring. According to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project, “two-tenths of one percent of layoffs are caused by government regulations of any kind, including environmental regulations. Layoffs are caused far more often by corporate buyouts, technological advances, and lower overseas labor costs.” –Jonathan Hahn (Continue: Ocean Farmers Take “Climate March by Sea” to Nation’s Capital | Sierra Club.)