8 maps showing American lands are changing

“Maps are great tool for locating wildlands and wilderness areas we might want to visit, but they can also tell us much more. Maps can shed light on much larger stories about our changing country and our disappearing wilderness.

“In the past century, American has undergone rapid change – from technology to population growth to energy development- and these changes of modernity are also transforming American lands. Some of these changes become quite visible when a map is the storytelling device. We’ve worked to bring some of those to light in this collection of maps that demonstrate how truly fragile our wildlands are.”

The first map shows how much pavement we’ve placed over once living soils.

  1. Proliferating pavement

“It’s hard to imagine America without its gorgeous mountains and graceful rivers but that’s exactly what is shown in this map of only roads created by Boston-based design firm Fathom. The four million miles of roads (shown in black) that cover the U.S. have a powerful impact on us, from pollution runoff to floods to heat islands. When near wildlands, they also create barriers for migrating wildlife and interrupt other ecological processes. That’s why we support conserving roadless areas.”  Source: wilderness.org

GR:  These maps illustrate some of the consequences of all the things our presence does to our environment.  For many, the changes are unimportant, but for others the changes are a gut-wrenching ruin of so many of our favorite places.  Take a look.

How ignorance and indifference are contributing to climate change

Uganda:  In the current decade, features such as Namanve Forest have simply disappeared under unclear circumstances and turned into industrial parks and slums…

Photo caption:  A thick layer of algae paints Lake Victoria around Port Bell landing site in Luzira, Kampala (PHOTO/Maria Wamala).

Source: www.monitor.co.ug

GR:  Similar stories of human ignorance and developer disdain for nature are repeated for rivers, lakes, valleys, villages, cities, and nations around the world.

Increased farming intensity prompts nutrient spillover

FARMERS lose more nutrients into adjacent land as they increase farming intensity, research has found. A study measuring the spillover effects of farm…

Source: www.sciencewa.net.au

GR: There is probably an increase in pesticide runoff as well.

UN sends team to clean up Sunderbans oil spill in Bangladesh

Thick tar clogging 350 sq km of delicate mangrove forest and river delta, home to endangered Bengal tigers and rare dolphins The United Nations said on Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world’s…

Source: www.theguardian.com

GR:  In many instances, we can’t rely on local governments to clean up environmental impacts.  Perhaps the UN could play a larger role, become more of an emergency environmental disaster relief organization.

NASA: October 2014 Tied For Hottest on Record

At the same time we have developers wiping out habitat, we have the progress machine spewing out smoke and toxic waste. It’s as if we humans have made a careful analysis and found every possible move we can make to damage our environment.


October 2014 Hottest on Record

(October was again a global temperature record setter. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monthly global temperature analysis is in and the results are once again record-making. For according to NASA’s global monitor, world temperatures were 0.76 degrees Celsius above the Earth average for the mid 20th Century.

This high temperature departure ties 2005 for hottest in NASA’s 136 year record. A temperature level that global ice core data points toward being hotter than at any time in the past 400,000 years. A record hot month in a string of record hot months for 2014. A resurgence to record high marks amidst an unprecedented spate of rising temperatures that has lasted now for more than a century running.

Global land ocean temperature index

(Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree C above their low mark at the start of the 20th Century. It is a human-driven pace of warming 15-20 times faster than at…

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Ninety Companies Produced Two-Thirds of Global Warming Emissions

Oil, coal and gas companies are contributing to most carbon emissions, causing climate change and some are also funding denial campaigns. Photograph: David Gray/Reuter.

Suzanne Goldenberg: “Chevron, Exxon and BP among companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, figures show

“The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

“The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.

“The analysis, which was welcomed by the former vice-president Al Gore as a “crucial step forward” found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas or coal, found the analysis, which has been published in the journal Climatic Change.”

Source: www.theguardian.com

GR:  They’re not going to stop are they?

Lockheed Aims for Commercial, Compact Fusion Reactor Within Ten Years

Technology Saves the Earth?

oil on beachGR:  I once thought abundant, non-polluting energy could be the solution to all our problems. Having looked closely at the ways that we humans use and change our environment, I am no longer sure there is a solution. I proposed Immediacy, the philosophy of consequences. However, the proposal explicitly recognizes that humans aren’t smart enough to adopt such an ethos.

The Center for Biological Diversity is handing out condoms. There is no money for “no-breeding-checks” (Vardarac in the comments on this article). Is it nonsense to hope we might ever achieve wise landuse and control over our desire for reproduction? I’m beginning to suspect that new technological innovations will only add to our ability to destroy Earth’s biosphere.

Thanks to Robert Scribbler for this article and to his readers for their comments.


Ever since major industrialized nations learned how to fuse atoms in megabombs able to blast scores of square miles to smithereens, the quest has been on to harness the vast potential energy store that is nuclear fusion as a viable means to peacefully fuel modern civilization.

Unlike fission, which involves the splitting of atomic nuclei, fusion both produces more energy while generating no radio-active waste. The fuels — hydrogen and helium — are abundant and non-radioactive. Because conventional fusion reactors involve containment fields that force these non-radioactive elements together, they do not operate under dangerous conditions similar to nuclear fission reactors. The fusion reaction bi-products are also common, non-polluting elements together with a heat source used for mechanical work.

Fusion reactors aren’t vulnerable to the same kinds of terrible melt-downs seen at Fukushima and Chernobyl. And the energy density of the fusion reaction itself is extraordinary, producing a potential for…

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After 90 Percent Decline, Federal Protection Sought for Monarch Butterfly

Joint Press Release Regarding Monarch Butterfly Protection

by Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Xerces Society.  See it here.
Monarch (Danaus Plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus Plexippus)

 Genetically Engineered (GMO) Crops Are Major Cause of Monarch Butterfly Population Crash

“The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners joined by the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies, which have declined by more than 90 percent in under 20 years. During the same period it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.

“To read the full petition, go HERE.  For FAQ’s on the petition, go HERE.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.

“We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of American,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”

“The butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in midwestern corn and soybean fields.

“The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst. “Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply.”

Monarch butterflies are known for their spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. Found throughout the United States during summer months, in winter most monarchs from east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees. Most monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to trees along the California coast to overwinter.

“The population has declined from a recorded high of approximately 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 90 percent over 20 years. In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl, and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to changing temperatures and increased risk of drought, heat waves and severe storms.

“Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 14 times the size of the entire current population.

“We need to take immediate action to protect the monarch so that it doesn’t become another tragic example of a widespread species being erased because we falsely assumed it was too common to become extinct,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director at the Xerces Society. “2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which was once so numerous no one would ever have believed it was at risk of extinction. History demonstrates that we cannot afford to be complacent about saving the monarch.”

“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species like the monarch, and protect them, now, before it’s too late,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “We’ve provided FWS a legal and scientific blueprint of the urgently needed action here.”

“The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,” said Brower, who has published hundreds of scientific studies on monarchs.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service must now issue a “90-day finding” on whether the petition warrants further review.”

GR:  This will be a major battle.  The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not want to ruffle any industry feathers, and might place politics before protection.  We can force them and our politicians to do the right thing, but everyone must help!  Stay tuned.

Limits to Growth was right. Research shows pending collapse as human population rises and resources decline

Four decades after publication, Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.by Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander, The Guardian, September 2, 2014

Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alamy
Critics called the 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, a doomsday fantasy. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history.”
It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.
A think tank called the Club of Rome commissioned the Limits to Growth. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.
The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modeled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.
The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.
So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.
The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios.
These graphs show real-world data (first from the MIT work, then from our research), plotted in a solid line. The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts.
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, and research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
As the MIT researchers explained in 1972, under the scenario, growing population and demands for material wealth would lead to more industrial output and pollution. The graphs show this is indeed happening. Resources are declining at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.
So far, Limits to Growth checks out with reality. So what happens next?
According to the book, to feed the continued growth in industrial output there must be ever-increasing use of resources. But resources become more expensive to obtain as they are used up. As more and more capital goes towards resource extraction, industrial output per capita starts to fall – in the book, from about 2015.
As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.
It’s essentially resource constraints that bring about global collapse in the book. However, Limits to Growth does factor in the fallout from increasing pollution, including climate change. The book warned carbon dioxide emissions would have a “climatological effect” via “warming the atmosphere.”
As the graphs show, the University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010 (although growth has already stalled in some areas). But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030.
The first stages of decline may already have started. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults – and the GFC.
The issue of peak oil is critical. Many independent researchers conclude that “easy” conventional oil production has already peaked. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil.
Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Some see new fossil fuel sources like shale oil, tar sands and coal seam gas as saviours, but the issue is how fast these resources can be extracted, for how long, and at what cost. If they soak up too much capital to extract the fallout would be widespread.
Our research does not indicate that collapse of the world economy, environment and population is a certainty. Nor do we claim the future will unfold exactly as the MIT researchers predicted back in 1972. Wars could break out; so could genuine global environmental leadership. Either could dramatically affect the trajectory.
But our findings should sound an alarm bell. It seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth can continue unchecked to 2100 without causing serious negative effects – and those effects might come sooner than we think.
It may be too late to convince the world’s politicians and wealthy elites to chart a different course. So to the rest of us, maybe it’s time to think about how we protect ourselves as we head into an uncertain future.
As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972:
If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.
So far, there’s little to indicate they got that wrong.

What to do about human population and resource decline?

Help with the endangered species condom program. The massive human population and its resource use are responsible in our time for a great extinction of plants and animals. In all our endeavors for wildlife protection, we must never forget that the problems we see are often just symptoms of human overpopulation.
Sign the Animal Bill of Rights. The ABR is a good first step on the way to essential respect for nature. We must not treat soils, vegetation, wildlife, air, and water carelessly if our planetary system is to fulfill its potential. The stars beckon, but first we must achieve sapience; we have to adopt something like Immediacy, the fictional philosophy of consequences.
Follow environmental issues.  There are many conservation and news organizations.  The NatCon News is an online source for current headlines and articles.

EPA staff recommends significantly lower ozone standard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff said Friday that the nation should tighten smog rules significantly, a step that would improve air quality in California but force costly new requirements on government and industry.

Source: www.latimes.com

GR:  This story is typical of the lag of requirements behind reality.  Extinctions and permanent reductions in habitat quality are the costs we face.  In a global state of emergency, it is prudent to call on government and industry to contribute.  Enforceable requirements are only necessary if they refuse.