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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives



Deforestation: Carving up the Amazon

A rash of road construction is causing widespread change in the world's largest tropical forest — with potentially global consequences.

Barbara Fraser

Next to a newly paved highway in the Peruvian Amazon, a discreet white-on-green sign urges travellers to protect the surrounding ecosystem. “Let's care for the environment, let's conserve the forest,” it reads. But the appeal comes too late for this spot in the region known as Madre de Dios. Before the route was paved a few years ago, tall trees lined the roadside, but the forest edge here now lies about half a kilometre away, beyond a jumble of underbrush and freshly cut trees where a cattle pasture was recently carved out of the woods.

As drivers head east and enter Brazil, the view is much the same for hundreds of kilometres. Such is the impact of the Interoceanic Highway, a route some 5,500 kilometres long that cuts clear across South America.

The highway is just one strand in a web of roads that now criss-cross the Amazon. So far, most have encroached on forest around the edges of the basin, but they are increasingly slicing through the middle. In Brazil alone, the Amazon road system grew by an average of almost 17,000 kilometres a year between 2004 and 2007 (ref. 1). Across the basin, estimates for the total length of roads vary widely from about 100,000 to 190,000 kilometres of paved and dirt roads cutting through the Amazon.

Once construction begins, road crews are quickly followed by land speculators, loggers, farmers, ranchers, gold miners and others who carve away the forest along the route. That activity leaves obvious scars on the landscape in the form of treeless expanses, but research is now showing that the building of roads also triggers a cascade of environmental changes in the remaining forest that can dry out trees, set the stage for wildfires and weaken the ecosystem.


Scott Walkers Magical Election Year Tax Cuts Are Backfiring

The Walker Administration saved up some very unpleasant economic news for release late in the day before the Memorial Day weekend. Friday news dumps have become commonplace in Wisconsin. There's usually plenty of it that's saved for late release on a Friday when few people, if any, will be paying attention. Late yesterday, the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, the State Department of Revenue, released it's own bad news it wants to hide.

The news that so bad they want to hide it by dumping it late before the Memorial Day weekend?

The state Department of Revenue released tax collections for this fiscal year through April, showing that the state has collected $10.53 billion since July 1, down 0.2% from the same period in the previous year. The state budget has built in 1% growth for this year.

It doesn't look like much, but this is BEFORE Scott Walkers Election Year Vote Grabbing Tax Cuts and shiny new budget go into effect July 1. That means that the situation is about to become worse.

Estimates for the two-year shortfall come to $642 million.

Remember, it only took a $140 million shortfall (that Walker caused himself by a tax cut to business shortly after his inauguration) to give Walker an excuse to slash and burn Wisconsin with a Budget Repair Bill. Watch him ignore this one until the election is over and then, God help us.


Michael Kinsley’s review of Glenn Greenwald’s book is the worst thing The NYT Book Review has ever r


Michael Kinsley’s review of the new Glenn Greenwald book is the worst thing The New York Times Book Review has ever run.

This makes it worth reading.

Magisterial in its intellectual dishonesty, so breathtakingly establishmentarian one wonders how this got past his own copy of Microsoft Word much less an editor, and perhaps the most egregious example of a hatchet job masquerading as a book review in recorded history, “Eyes Everywhere” inadvertently leaves the reader with an “anyone who elicits this much contempt can’t be all bad” vibe that will likely lead curious book buyers to further line Greenwald’s pockets.

Like any classic hit piece, Kinsley’s bullshit starts out reeking right out of the gate:

“My position was straightforward,” Glenn Greenwald writes. “By ordering illegal eavesdropping, the president had committed crimes and should be held accountable for them.” You break the law, you pay the price: It’s that simple.

But it’s not that simple, as Greenwald must know. There are laws against government eavesdropping on American citizens, and there are laws against leaking official government documents. You can’t just choose the laws you like and ignore the ones you don’t like. Or perhaps you can, but you can’t then claim that it’s all very straightforward.

What Kinsley is missing — here I believe he isn’t mendacious, simply stupid — is that some laws are more important than others.



SpaceX's Dispute With The Air Force Just Got Even Uglier

The Air Force plans on spending $60 million to certify SpaceX for carrying its payloads, but that apparently doesn’t mean the ongoing dispute between Elon Musk’s aerospace startup and the federal government is over. There’s still the matter of several dozen launch contracts that SpaceX believes were awarded to a competitor without a fair bidding process — possibly because of a corrupt Air Force official that Musk has now called out by name.

In April, Musk’s company sued the Air Force for allegedly granting no-bid launch contracts to United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. And last night on Twitter, Musk claimed that a specific Air Force official helped ULA obtain the contracts for 36 launches in exchange for employment at a ULA-affiliated company:

Elon Musk ✔ @elonmusk
V likely AF official Correll was told by ULA/Rocketdyne that a rich VP job was his if he gave them a sole source contract

Why air such a specific and public accusation in the midst of a lingering and still-unresolved dispute with the Air Force? It’s possible that SpaceX is just really confident that both the political winds and changes in the U.S. aerospace industry are working in its favor.



Trillions of Plastic Pieces May Be Trapped in Arctic Ice

By Eric Hand Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 5:30pm
Humans produced nearly 300 million tons of plastic in 2012, but where does it end up? A new study has found plastic debris in a surprising location: trapped in Arctic sea ice. As the ice melts, it could release a flood of floating plastic onto the world.

Scientists already knew that microplastics—polymer beads, fibers, or fragments less than 5 millimeters long—can wind up in the ocean, near coastlines, or in swirling eddies such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.

In a study published online this month in Earth’s Future, Obbard and her colleagues argue that, as Arctic ice freezes, it traps floating microplastics—resulting in abundances of hundreds of particles per cubic meter. That’s three orders of magnitude larger than some counts of plastic particles in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “It was such a surprise to me to find them in such a remote region,” she says. “These particles have come a long way.”

The potential ecological hazards of microplastics are still unknown. But the ice trap could help solve a mystery: Industrial plastic production has increased markedly in the last half-century, reaching 288 million tonnes in 2012, according to Plastics Europe, an industry association. But ecologists have not been able to account for the final disposition of much of it. The paper shows that sea ice could be an important sink—albeit one that is melting, says Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who was not part of the study. “There could be freely floating plastics, in short order.” The authors estimate that, under current melting trends, more than 1 trillion pieces of plastic could be released in the next decade.



Obama's Drone War Shows No Signs of Ending

WASHINGTON/SANAA (Reuters) - When a barrage of drone-fired missiles hit al Qaeda cells in Yemen in mid-April and killed dozens of militants, the results were strikingly different from a mistaken U.S. attack on a Yemeni wedding convoy just four months earlier.

But even though the drones apparently found their targets this time, they were still blamed for a number of civilian deaths.

It was a stark reminder that a year after Obama laid out new conditions for drone attacks around the world, U.S. forces are failing to comply fully with the rules he set for them: to strike only when there is an imminent threat to Americans and when there is virtually no danger of taking innocent lives.

Although Obama promised greater transparency in his speech at the National Defense University, U.S. lawmakers are increasingly critical of the secrecy surrounding the operations.



Climate science is a hoax: Big Oil, GOP, God say so

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, climate science is a hoax. Why? No solution. The problem is obvious. But talk’s cheap. No solution? No consensus? No political will? Too much science. No action. Nothing. America’s lost its soul. Lost the can-do spirit that made it a great nation. Inspired me as a U.S. Marine. And the clock keeps ticking ....

Thirty million Americans just don’t trust scientists warning of a “95% certainty” humans cause global warming. But they do trust Big Oil, the GOP, God. They honestly believe climate science is a dangerous fear-mongering liberal conspiracy. Listen, we’ll explain:

Recently Florida Sen. Marco Rubio joined the deniers: “I think all science deserves skepticism.” And in a recent debate all four candidates in the GOP primary for North Carolina governor denied climate change was manmade, agreeing with the current governor, a former long-term Duke Power executive.

Yes, their party position is clear, mapped out by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe in “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” But in an effort to question Inhofe’s motivation, his ClimateProgress.org reviewer noted that over the years Inhofe has received “$1,352,523 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, including $90,950 from Koch Industries.”



Funny, the RW always smear climate scientists by saying they are in it for the money. Projection.

Friday TOON Roundup 3 -The Rest









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