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Record Keeping: Signs of Civilization and Its Subsequent Demise

The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901-Present

 ChartsBin.com has a great flash animation on a page titled The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901-Present.

 Check it out if ever you need to get an idea of the amount and placement of some of the largest oil-related disasters (aside from war) that the global ecology has had to endure.

These spills have an impact not only on any local environment affected but also on any systems that the pollutants pass through as they are dispersed far and wide through the ocean.

The current huge gusher in the Gulf will leave an ecological wound that will impact not only the local communities, but also other ocean-based life -- even if the oil remains relatively close in proximity. [more on affected species] And we already have plenty of indicators that "close proximity" is highly unlikely, with some predictions stating that the oil (including all the accompanying toxins and chemical dispersants) may ride the Gulf Stream for a trans-Atlantic boost to start impacting far-off places like Norway.  The more conservative estimates range from only affecting shores along the inner gulf to tainting shores along the eastern US seaboard.

It's not just oil itself that we have to worry about with regard to polluting our environment.  We have, as a species and particularly as a culture, often regard ourselves as masters of our environment, not subject to or impacted by it, the occasional wild storm tornado, earthquake, fire or flood notwithstanding.  Our habits and self-importance have led to an arrogance and disregard that is getting more difficult to ignore as our everyday overconsumption begins to stress, strain and compromise a variety of systems.  The impact of our negligence is becoming more difficult to ignore, too.  [pacific gyre, domestic drilling, mountaintop removal]

As a parting thought, here's a little something to think about: how much of an impact on our environment do we have simply in pursuit of pleasure? Here's a question and answer that may bear some further investigation, as well as some somber thinking:

 How much pollution do cruise ships dump into our oceans?

Now, I'm off to go wobble der wooblekint ("walk the dogs" in warped English-Germanesque).

Peace.

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Drawing A Line in the Black Sand

Crossposted from DailyKos. (Thanks!) Promoted. It's quite long, but well worth it. -- GH

I think it was maybe a year ago I was flicking through cable TV, and I happened across a movie called "There Will Be Blood."

There Will Be Blood is a 2007 American drama film directed, written and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! (1927). It tells the story of a silver-miner-turned-oil-man on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California's oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I'd read a few books, watched a few documentaries and done a ton of internet research not long before this and had been slowly coming to the conclusion that we genuinely had a whole bunch of powerful people who knew that emissions of C02 were endangering the ability of life to survive on our planet. The frightening thing was many of these people were working hard to make sure we kept burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates and making sure the transition to cleaner sources of energy never happened.

I didn't really understand why though until I watched this movie and a few pennies dropped.

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Open Thread: Isolated Diversity, Land of the Lost Edition

Cheesy old science fiction movies about isolated jungle volcanoes serving as the home of exotic or previously extinct species play upon the known experience of explorers: when life is encountered in hard-to-reach areas of isolation, strange creatures abound -- the flora and fauna follow their own unique evolutionary path, shaped by the special and unique circumstance of the immediate environment.


Photograph of the opening to Mageni cave, New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Photo by Jonny Keeling/BBC

Scientists entering the kilometer-deep Mount Bosavi crater found more than 40 previously unknown species, making their first discovery within 30 seconds of their arrival by helicopter and remaining in the crater for two weeks.

Check out the BBC stories here and here (they also have a few other links) for more details.

This is an Open Thread.

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Open Thread -- Climate Change Forestry Edition

In US News, per Google News, a tidbit jumped out that appears worthy of more attention. Here's the tidbits, slightly enhanced from the news blurb block:

  • West's trees dying faster as temperatures rise -- Los Angeles Times
    A study of old-growth forests predicts that if the trend continues, it could alter not just the region's woodlands, but the quality of wildlife habitat and forests' ability to store carbon.

    By Bettina Boxall, January 23, 2009

    More trees are dying in the West's forests as the region warms, a trend that could ultimately spell widespread change for mountain landscapes from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies.

    Scientists who examined decades of tree mortality data from research plots around the West found the death rate had risen as average temperatures in the region increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. [...more...]

     

  • Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths -- New York Times
    By MIREYA NAVARRO, January 22, 2009

    Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found.

    The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests. [...more...]
     

  • Drought, heat killing trees in western N.America -- Reuters
    By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trees in the western United States and Canada are dying twice as quickly as they did just 30 years ago, with rising average temperatures almost certainly to blame, researchers reported on Thursday.Drought, heat killing trees in western N.America
    Reuters, UK

    [...snip...]

    The U.S. and Canadian researchers from a variety of agencies and universities studied trees in old-growth forests for more than 50 years to document the die-off, which they say is beginning to outpace replacement by new trees. [...more...]

Gee, nobody could've foreseen that global climate changes might impact things like life on earth, which in turn could in turn affect global warming...

This is an environmentally-friendly (-ish) Open Thread. Make the jump»

In Search Of -- Environmentally Safe Search Features

Here's a distressing tidbit, via Kula of DailyKos:


...I could singlehandedly be destroying our environment:

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2. Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. "A Google search has a definite environmental impact."


Aw, maaaaaannn, do you know how many simultaneous Google searches I do during an average computing session...?

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TVA Tennessee Disaster: Much Worse than Imagined and Radioactive!

"Imagined" is apparently the key word with the TVA, btw. This does not surprise me, unfortunately. What DOES surprise me is that there has been no real media coverage on what may be the very worst man-made environmental disaster in this country, ever.

Water testing by Appalachian State University is showing 35-300 ppm more arsenic and 6-60 ppm more lead than the EPA water drinking standards. What has not been discussed is that coal ash is radioactive, and at this point I have not found any evidence that measurements of uranium or thorium are being monitored. Let's try and change that!

From Waterkeepers and Appalachian Voices take water samples at TVA spill

This is worse than the Exxon Valdez, which is still not cleaned up, and I submit this is worse than Katrina, though it doesn't look that way yet, but the health and environmental devastation that will follow from this is not even conceivable at this point. I consider Katrina a man made environmental disaster because we could have saved the levees. Katrina was horrible. But so is this.

I will get to the radioactive issue in a moment, but today a test of the water quality from the Emory River was released from the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry labs at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, by Dr. Shea Tuberty, Associate Professor of Biology, and Dr. Carol Babyak, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Make the jump»

Musical Musings: Life, Politics and the Earth

Sometimes, it behooves us to take a moment unto ourselves for quiet reflection and contemplation, where we can behold once again the beauty and wonder of a world teeming with brilliant life in the cold, empty void of space. Individually and collectively, it is easy to lose oneself in the day-to-day chaos that envelops us as social beings: the demands of one's life, complicated by the demands of living and participating in a community of social beings who each have their own individual desires and who, together, form organizational structures that run the gamut from basic family, friends and neighborhoods to cities, states and nations -- all competing for a varied, yet limited set of resources.

We develop patterns and follow them; if they were set to music, the beat and harmony would shift and change to reflect the ups and downs, ins and outs of life, and we would be the dancers -- our lives set to the music, trying to move in sync with it. Sometimes, those harmonies skip and stutter. Other times, they become harsh and repetitive, playing the tune over and over and faster and faster until the dancer, exhausted, can do nothing more than run in place or die, unable to break free. Make the jump»

Domestic Drilling Pollution Pictures

This is the same sludge pond I posted about HERE. (More pictures and back-story at that link)

It still has a strong stench of sewage from where the drilling company dumped their sewage. It also has a strong chemical and hydrocarbon smell.

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Climate of Change Over Changing Climate: Ethics and Complacency


Last Friday, on a whim, I created an open thread called Winds of Change, Comfortably Numb. Like the song from the video, the winds of change are blowing -- quite literally, too: the climate is changing, in social & political ways as well as ecological terms.1

_____

The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change

_____

New studies were published over the weekend that serve to reinforce some previous data about the issue of global climate change. In his piece Warming and Storms, Uncertainty and Ethics, Andrew C. Revkin writes about how those studies may impact our approach to human-induced global warming:

_____

Over the weekend, a pair of very different climate studies — one physical, one social — illustrated two uncomfortable, and related, realities confronting society as it grapples with possible responses to human-driven global warming.
_____

Revkin is right: both studies, particularly when combined, leave us with some disturbing things to mull over. Make the jump»

Trash and The Garbage Patch

On Monday, January 28th 2008, the History Channel premiered a show called Life After People.

It was very interesting.

The first segment of the show, titled Trash, provided some excellent food for thought regarding what we'll leave behind. One of the items mentioned is an abomination called "the Pacific Gyre" or "Garbage Patch" -- an area of plastic and man-made trash floating in the north Pacific, currently twice the size of Texas.

Below are two videos: the first is a YouTube segment of the first part of the History Channel special that addresses "Trash" after all the humans have gone. The second video is specifically about the Garbage Patch.

Watch them both, then think about what alternatives we have to address the following issues:

  1. Re-use, recycling and minimization of non-biodegradable resources, including possibilities of re-engineering some items and re-purposing others in ways that could mitigate the negative impact.
  2. Cleaning up our current mess: how?
  3. Living and working smarter: how can we better utilize our technology and our understanding of science and nature to live, grow and mature as a species?

There are options. Some involve rethinking, some involve changing habits and some involve altering expectations. One resource I've mentioned before is this one -- what have you got in mind? Make the jump»

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