Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Wildfire: Let It Burn

August 11, 2017

Wildfire: Let It Burn

“Scientists at the cutting edge of ecological research … argue that the century-old American practice of suppressing wildfires has been nothing less than a calamity. They are calling for a new approach that basically involves letting backcountry fires burn across millions of acres.

In principle, the federal government accepted a version of this argument years ago, but in practice, fires are still routinely stamped out across much of the country. To the biologists, that has imperiled the plants and animals — hundreds of them, it turns out — that prefer to live in recently burned forests.”

“Scientists are still trying to figure out how regularly forests burned in what is now the United States in the centuries before European settlement, but reams of evidence suggest the acreage that burned was more than is allowed to burn today — possibly 20 million or 30 million acres in a typical year. Today, closer to four million or five million acres burn every year.

‘From an ecological standpoint, everything I’ve learned teaches me this is a good idea: Stop putting out fires,’ said Jennifer R. Marlon, a geographer at Yale who was among the first to use the term “fire deficit” to describe the situation. ‘These forests are made to have fire.’

Human lives are at stake, too. Firefighters die, more than a dozen in some years, putting out fires that many scientists think should be allowed to burn.”

— Let Forest Fires Burn? What the Black-Backed Woodpecker Knows,” Justin Gillis, New York Times

More:

“The Future of Fighting Wildfires in the Era of Climate Change,” Bob Berwyn, Pacific Standard

“Benefits of Fire,” SmokeyBear.com

“Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes,” Tania Schoennagela, Jennifer K. Balcha, Hannah Brenkert-Smith et al., PNAS

“Fire Ecology,” Pacific Biodiversity Institute

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Top image (“Smokey Says ‘Let It Burn'”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Forage Fish

August 9, 2017

Herring, menhaden, anchovies, sprats, silversides, smelt, sardines. These fish play a massive role in the ocean’s ecosystem. Jim Toomey illustrates why they’re important. Produced by the Pew Trusts.

More about forage fish here.

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Wildfire Strategy: Let It Burn

July 14, 2017

Wildfire Strategy

Every year since the dawn of time, the Santa Ana winds lash Southern California’s dry autumn brushlands into explosive, blazing infernos. Every year since the dawn of the last century, Southern Californians express surprise as they are engulfed in a sea of flame. With climate change, things won’t get better.

“We will never be able to control wildfire,” explains Tania Schoennagel of the Institute for Alpine and Arctic Research, “We have to learn to live with it and adapt, just like we do with droughts and flooding. Our current wildfire policies can’t protect people and homes.”

More:

“The Future of Fighting Wildfires in the Era of Climate Change,” Bob Berwyn, Pacific Standard

“Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes,” Tania Schoennagela, Jennifer K. Balcha, Hannah Brenkert-Smith et al., PNAS

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Ain’t No Fish

March 6, 2017

“Some Days There Just Ain’t No Fish.” Produced and directed by Miki Cash and Tom Gasek of Wonky Films. Song written by Carl Sigman and Bob Russell; sung by Hoagy Carmichael.

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Judge Orders Bottled Water Delivery To Flint Residents

November 11, 2016

Judge Orders Bottled Water Delivery To Flint Residents

Federal Court Judge David M. Lawson has ordered Michigan state and local governments to provide home delivery of at least four cases of water a week to each resident of Flint, unless officials verify that the household has a properly installed and maintained water filter. Deliveries must continue until the city’s water lead hazard ends.

Bottled water had previously been available for pick-up at various locations throughout the city, but restrictive access hours and limits per family placed the burden on residents, 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Many do not own cars, and had to walk to and from the water supply centers.

As Judge Lawson observed:

“In modern society, when we turn on a faucet, we expect safe drinking water to flow out. As the evidence shows, this is no longer the case in Flint. The Flint water crisis has in effect turned back the clock to a time when people traveled to central water sources to fill their buckets and carry the water home.”

The water became tainted with lead in 2014 when the Republican state government privatized Flint’s water utility, which then instituted cost-cutting measure while charging residents some of the highest rates in the nation.

More:

“Federal judge orders delivery of bottled water in Flint,” Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

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Less-Gassy Grass Cuts Cow Burps, Eases Global Warming

October 17, 2016

Less-Gassy Grass Cuts Cow Burps, Eases Global Warming
Scientists at Denmark’s Aarhus University and the DLF seed corporation are using DNA technology to develop a type of grass that is easier for cows to digest, meaning less gas builds up in bossy’s belly. Bovine burps are a major source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that promotes climate change.

The project, funded by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food, uses genomic selection to determine promising grass strains for breeding. The project is expected to take about 5 or 6 years, so you’ll have to excuse bovine belching until then. Environmentally-anxious cowboys and cowgirls can follow the project here.

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Road to Hell

October 16, 2016

“Road to Hell (Part 2),” written and performed by Chris Rea. 1989. Said to have been inspired by the frustrations of rush-hour traffic on the M25 motorway. Or maybe it was the A19 near Middlesbrough. Whatever.

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BP’s Bill for the World’s Largest Oil spill: $61.6 billion

July 14, 2016

BP’s Bill for the World’s Largest Oil spill: $61.6 billion

On April 20, 2010, a well blowout a mile under the Deepwater Horizon exploration ship sent a surge of oil and gas up to the rig, setting it on fire and killing 11 crew members. The well leaked for 87 days, and 3.19 million barrels of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico. BP just totaled up the amount of legal bills, damage settlements, restoration costs, and fines it has paid to hundreds of lawyers, 400 local governments, thousands of claimants and the federal government, and the tab comes to $61.6 billion.

More:

“BP’s big bill for the world’s largest oil spill reaches $61.6 billion,” Steven Mufson, Washington Post

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Flint: Fear the Water

March 18, 2016

A New Yorker video, produced by Zackary Canepari and Jessica Dimmock.

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Flint, Michigan

February 24, 2016

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan residents, 40 percent of whom have incomes under the poverty level, have been paying the highest water bills in the nation for the lead-tainted water that has endangered their children’s health. Those rates were set by the state-appointed emergency managers who switched the system from Detroit water to chemical-laden Flint River water. Thank you, Governor Rick Snyder.

More:

“While Lead Flowed Through the Pipes, Flint Residents Paid America’s Most Expensive Water Bills,” Julia Lurie, Mother Jones

“Flint Is What Happens When a Small-Government, Anti-Spending Philosophy Rules the Day,” Jeff Turrentine , Pacific Standard

“Lessons from Flint and the Price of Water Privatization,”  Mary Grant and Jo Miles, Food & Water Watch

“By the numbers: Flint’s water emergency,” Associated Press

Related:

“How the Flint River got so toxic,” Tim Carmody, The Verge

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