Hinterland Green

Monday, November 30, 2009

SHOCK: Two-Thirds of of Chicken Tested Harbor Dangerous Bacteria

SHOCK:  According to the Huffington Post, Consumer Reports' latest test of fresh, whole broilers bought in 22 states reveals that two-thirds of birds tested harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease. The report reveals that organic "air-chilled" broilers were among the cleanest and that Perdue was found to be the cleanest of the brand-name chicken. Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were found to be the most contaminated. The report is available, free online (note, you have to click through the side bars to the left of the story) and in the January 2010 issue of the magazine.
Consumer Reports has been measuring contamination in store-bought chickens since 1998. The recent test shows a modest improvement since January 2007, when the magazine found these pathogens in 8 of 10 broilers, but the numbers are still far too high. The findings suggest that most companies' safeguards are inadequate. The tests also found that most disease-causing bacteria sampled from the contaminated chicken were resistant to at least one antibiotic, potentially making any resulting illness more difficult to treat.
Each year, salmonella and campylobacter from chicken and other food sources infect at least 3.4 million Americans, send 25,500 to hospitals, and kill about 500, according to estimates by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While both salmonella and campylobacter are known to cause intestinal distress, campylobacter can lead to meningitis, arthritis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe neurological condition.

"Our tests show that campylobacter is widespread in chicken, even in brands that control for salmonella," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. "While one name brand, Perdue, and most air-chilled chickens were less contaminated than others, this is still a very dirty industry that needs better practices and tighter government oversight."
This is reason for concern and one has to wonder why the USDA  reported finding much lower numbers. Either way, we must all exercise caution with the foods we eat, including meats and poultry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Oceans Absorb Less Carbon Dioxide as Marine Systems Change (Study)

The oceans are by far the largest carbon sink in the world. Some 93 percent of carbon dioxide is stored in algae, vegetation, and coral under the sea.  But oceans are not able to absorb all of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels. In fact, a recent study suggests that the oceans have absorbed a smaller proportion of fossil-fuel emissions, nearly 10 percent less, since 2000. The study, published in the current issue of Nature, is the first to quantify the perceived trend that oceans are becoming less efficient carbon sinks. 

The study team, led by Columbia University oceanographer Samar Khatiwala, measured the amount of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the oceans since 1765. "Our method takes as input the relatively well-known atmospheric CO2 concentration history. Given this history, we calculate the ocean absorption of industrial CO2 consistent with this history," Khatiwala said.

Industrial carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since the 1950s, and oceans have until recently been able to absorb the greater amounts of emissions. Sometime after 2000, however, the rise in emissions and the oceans' carbon uptake decoupled. Oceans continue to absorb more carbon, but the pace appears to have slowed. The reason is based in part on simple chemistry. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide have turned waters more acidic, especially nearer to the poles. While carbon dioxide dissolves more readily in cold, dense seawater, these waters are less capable of sequestering the gas as the ocean becomes more acidic. The study revealed that the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, absorbs about 40 percent of the carbon in oceans.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

Photo courtesy NOAA

Sunday, November 22, 2009

US Army Corps Found Negligent in Katrina Floods

US district judge Stanwood Duval has ruled that negligence by the US Army Corps of Engineers led to massive floods in parts of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. It was the first time a US court has found the federal government directly responsible for some of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The court upheld complaints by six residents and a business against the Corps over its maintenance the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. They were awarded damages totaling $720,000, and the ruling could lead to thousands more claims.  The Corps is responsible for maintaining a system of canals and earthworks that protect New Orleans from storm surges. About 80% of New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. More than 1,800 people died on the US Gulf coast in the devastating storm.

Article continues: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8367702.stm

Inferno on Earth: Wildfires Spreading as Temperatures Rise (Earth Policy Institute)

"Future firefighters have their work cut out for them.," says Janet Larsen, Director of Research for the Earth Policy Institute, in a recent release, "Inferno on Earth: Wildfires Spreading as Temperatures Rise". "Perhaps nowhere does this hit home harder than in Australia, where in early 2009 a persistent drought, high winds, and record high temperatures set the stage for the worst wildfire in the country's history."

On February 9th, now known as "Black Saturday," the mercury in Melbourne topped 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.4 degrees Celsius) as fires burned over 1 million acres in the state of Victoria—destroying more than 2,000 homes and killing more than 170 people, tens of thousands of cattle and sheep, and 1 million native animals.

Even as more people move into fire-prone wildlands around the world, the intense droughts and higher temperatures that come with global warming are likely to make fires more frequent and severe in many areas. (See table of regional observations and predictions) For southeastern Australia, home to much of the country's population, climate change could triple the number of extreme fire risk days by 2050.

Although fires typically make the news only when they grow large and put lives or property at risk, on any given day thousands of wildfires burn worldwide. Fire is a natural and important process in many ecosystems, clearing the land and recycling organic matter into the soil. Some 40 percent of the earth's land is covered with fire-prone vegetation. A number of plants—such as giant Sequoia trees and certain prairie grasses—need fire to propagate or to create the right conditions for them to flourish.

Now policies are shifting in many places to let some fires proceed naturally or through preventative controlled burns; yet by warming the planet, we may be relinquishing even more control than we bargained for. Higher average global temperatures mean extremes are in store: even as climate change brings more flooding in some areas, other places will be plagued by droughts and extended heat waves. As the temperature rose between the 1970s and early 2000s, for instance, the share of total global land area experiencing very dry conditions doubled from less than 15 percent to close to 30 percent. A hotter, drier world burns more readily. Global warming could be pushing us into a new regime of larger, longer-burning, more intense fires as well as fires in places that historically have been hard to ignite, like moist tropical forests.

Just as a weakened immune system leaves a person vulnerable to otherwise innocuous germs, the combination of logging, road construction, and intentional burning to clear forests for cattle ranches, farms, and plantations has fragmented the world's tropical forests, increasing their vulnerability to fire. Piling higher temperatures on top of such stresses could completely undermine forests' resilience. For the massive Amazon rainforest, we risk reaching a tipping point where recurrent droughts dry out the landscape enough so that small fires can turn into devastating conflagrations.

For full report visit Earth Policy Institute

Contact Info:
Media & Permissions to Reprint Contact:
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 12
E-mail: rjk (at) earthpolicy.org

Research Contact:
Janet Larsen
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 14
E-mail: jlarsen (at) earthpolicy.org

Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403                
Washington, DC  20036
Web: www.earthpolicy.org

Website : Earth Policy Institute

Maryland Green Hawks Becomes the First Green Pro Sports Team in the U.S.A.

Welcome to the Maryland Green Hawks -- the first green pro sports team. The NightHawks, who claimed to be the nation's longest-running minor-league basketball franchise, has changed its name to the GreenHawks and is attracting green-friendly sponsors such as Honest Tea, Sweet Green and CarbonFund.org. The team is holding an introductory event at which it promises a bamboo court, hemp nets and uniforms made from either recycled plastic or recycled bamboo.

The GreenHawks won't start playing until Jan. 16, but they've already been dubbed "the pride of Montgomery County," "a pioneer in promoting environmental conservation," and a team dedicated to "spreading the message environmental conservation to the community and its basketball fans."

The Washington Post article continues: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/11/welcome_to_americas_first_gree.html

Feared Asian Carp May Have Breached Barriers Designed to Keep Them Out of the U.S. Great Lakes

There are signs that the Asian carp may have breached barriers designed to keep it out of the Great Lakes. Authorities said that could spell ecological disaster for the vital source of fresh water. Concentrations of DNA discovered by Notre Dame University researchers may indicate the presence of bighead and silver carp upstream from two electrical barriers designed to bottle up the invasive fish. Environmentalists say that if the fish reach the Great Lakes, about 20 miles from the barriers, they would quickly destroy the lakes' $4.5 billion fishery by consuming other fish and their food sources. Only Lake Superior among the five lakes may be too cold for the carp, which can reproduce rapidly and reach 100 pounds (45 kg). The Great Lakes are the world's largest body of surface fresh water and are relied on by 30 million people in the United States and Canada for drinking water and recreation.

The barriers are on the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal, which is fed by several waterways that flow away from Lake Michigan. The canal is connected by various rivers to the Mississippi River. Two electrical barriers constructed in recent years in the canal near Chicago were designed to shock the carp and keep them out of the lake. The DNA could be from carp feces or eggs carried by ship and barge traffic, but it could indicate the carp have breached the barriers. Environmentalists called for the immediate closing of several locks separating the lakes from the inland waterways, and pressed for a permanent solution that would separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed.

To read the entire article from Reuters, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kenya To Boost Geothermal Generation Capacity by 4,000 Megawatts Over Next Two Decades

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Kenya plans to boost geothermal generation capacity by 4,000 megawatts over the next two decades to ensure East Africa’s biggest economy has clean and reliable energy supplies, the Geothermal Development Co. said. 

Three production sites at the Olkaria geothermal field, 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Nairobi, can now produce a combined 167 megawatts, against a national potential of 7,000 megawatts, said Silas Simiyu, chief executive officer of the state-run company that was set up in February.  “There is a political push in Kenya to produce electricity that is more affordable, reliable and from green energy,” Simiyu said in an interview in Nairobi, the capital, yesterday.

Funds from Kenya’s government, private investors and donors totaling about $16 billion will be required to exploit the potential of a fault line in the earth’s surface that runs through Kenya over the next 20 years, he said. Kenya introduced power-rationing between August and October after drought cut output at hydro-electric plants, which account for more than 70 percent of installed power capacity. Article continues

GREENBIZ: Americans' Interest in Green Sags During Downturn

OAKLAND, CA — A growing number of American consumers would like to tell President Obama to focus on the economy first before tackling environmental issues, according to research published today. The finding, part of the monthly Green Confidence Index, is that while significant numbers of Americans support the administration's environmental stance, their principal concern remains focused on the economy. The number of Americans preferring that the president "focus on the economy first" or "keep a balanced perspective" rose over the past month, while the number urging President Obama to "educate us about the issues" dropped.

The Green Confidence Index is a monthly snapshot of Americans' attitudes about and confidence in their leaders and institutions, nationally and locally, on the subject of environmental responsibility, as well as in their own understanding of issues and their willingness to make green purchasing choices. During October, the Index fell four points from a month earlier, from 103.6 to 99.5. The Index was set in July 2009 at 100.0.

According to Chief Research Officer Amy Hebard of Earthsense, whose company creates the Index: "Should we worry about a four-point drop in the Index? Not yet. Confusion in this market is broad and deep and, with the economy still in jitters, consumers' confidence in going green will take time to build before we realize the pent-up demand we've seen. As we approach the holiday season, a key question will be whether or not the drop we saw in October is the start of a downward slide or just a one-month blip." Article continues

Penguins, Sea Lions Help Produce New Atlas of Patagonian Sea

Recording hundreds of thousands of signals sent by satellite transmitters fitted on penguins, albatrosses, and marine mammals, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Birdlife International have released the first atlas of South America’s Patagonian Sea. The atlas contains the most accurate maps ever assembled for this ecosystem and shows key migratory corridors spanning from coastlines to deep-sea feeding areas off the continental shelf hundreds of miles away.

Data for the atlas was gathered by a team of 25 scientists working over a 10-year period. The team tracked 16 species of marine animals, which produced some 280,000 uplinks of data over the Patagonian Sea, a huge area ranging from southern Brazil to southern Chile. Called Atlas of the Patagonian Sea: Species and Spaces, the 300-page book was edited by Valeria Falabella and Claudio Campagna of WCS, and John Croxall of Birdlife International.   

The atlas, which is in English and Spanish, will be used to help inform policy decisions in the region such as managing fisheries and charting transportation routes of oil tankers. This vast region, which spans 1.1 million square miles, is increasingly threatened by burgeoning development and overfishing.  Article continues

Environmental Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Grand Canyon Uranium Mine

The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Land Management over its decision to allow a uranium mine to reopen north of the Grand Canyon. The group argues that the mine plan has expired and that the environmental analysis is outdated and Denison has not proven its claims.

Canadian mining firm Denison Mines Corp. received the final state permit needed to move forward on its Arizona 1 Mine in September. The BLM says Denison has an approved mine plan and should be allowed to resume operations.

The mine is about 20 miles from the canyon's northern border. Denison plans

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NASA on a Crusade to Debunk 2012 Apocalypse Myths

NASA is on a crusade to debunk the myths surrounding December 12, 2012, and the impending doom that many believe will occur when the Mayan calendar comes to and end. NASA poses the question: remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won't be the end of the world as we know. It will be another winter solstice, NASA says.
Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Below, NASA Scientists answer several questions that we're frequently asked regarding 2012.

Q: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.

A: Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.

Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?

A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 -- hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?

A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then -- just as your calendar begins again on January 1 -- another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

Q: Could a phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?

A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.

"There apparently is a great deal of interest in celestial bodies, and their locations and trajectories at the end of the calendar year 2012. Now, I for one love a good book or movie as much as the next guy. But the stuff flying around through cyberspace, TV and the movies is not based on science. There is even a fake NASA news release out there..." - Don Yeomans, NASA senior research scientist  

Q: Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?

A: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.

Q: What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?

A: A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-shift to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.

Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?

A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.

Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of pending doomsday?

A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.

Q: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?

A: Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history. Source: NASA
Do you buy NASA's argument, or do you still expect to see catastrophe in 2012?

Photo source: Scenes from the motion picture "2012." Courtesy Columbia Pictures

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ancient Huarango Trees at Risk As Ecosystem in Peru Losing Key Ally

The huarango is a storied Peruvian tree that can live for over a millennium and rests like a mirage amid the sand dunes just west of Ica, Peru. The tree has provided inhabitants of this desert with food and wood since before the Nazca civilization etched geoglyphs into the empty plain south of the city approximately 2,000 years ago. The depletion of the huarango, a giant relative of the mesquite tree of the American Southwest, around Ica is sounding alarm. The tree has survived the rise and fall of Pre-Hispanic civilizations and plunder by Spanish conquistadors, but the very survival of these trees of being pushed to the limits.
Villagers are cutting down the remnants of these once vast forests. They covet the tree as a source of charcoal and firewood. According to the New York Times, the depletion of the huarango is raising alarm among ecologists and fostering a nascent effort to save it. Many Peruvians view the huarango as a prime source for charcoal to cook a signature chicken dish called "pollo broaster." The long-burning huarango, a hardwood rivaling teak, outlasts other forms of charcoal. Villagers react to a prohibition by regional authorities on cutting down huarango with a shrug.

That the huarango survives at all to be harvested may be something of a miracle. Following centuries of systematic deforestation, only about one percent of the original huarango woodlands that once existed in the Peruvian desert remain, according to archaeologists and ecologists. Few trees are as well suited to the hyperarid ecosystem of the Atacama-Sechura Desert, nestled between the Andes and the Pacific. The huarango captures moisture coming from the west as sea mist. Its roots are among the longest of any tree, extending more than 150 feet to tap subterranean water channels. Source: NY Times
Protecting the huarango groves is going to be an uphill battle in this impoverished desert climate. As David Beresford-Jones is an archaeologist at Cambridge University who co-authored the Nazca study, pointed out in an interview with the New York Times, “It takes centuries for the huarango to be of substantial size, and only a few hours to fell it with a chainsaw … The tragedy is that this remnant is being chain-sawed by charcoal burners as we speak.”

Photo credit:  NY Times

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hurricane Ida Heads for the Gulf of Mexico, Leaves Devastation in El Salvador -- 91 Dead, At Least 60 Missing

Hurricane Ida is heading for the Gulf of Mexico and has left behind devastation in El Salvador where 91 people were killed and at least another 60 are missing in floods and mudslides. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ida is expected to weaken gradually as it heads toward some of the oil and gas production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the energy companies in the Gulf were evacuating workers from offshore platforms, but so far, production has not been affected.

According to Reuters, the hurricane center set a hurricane watch from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Mexico Beach in northwestern Florida, but did not include the city of New Orleans. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, not taking any chances, declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing the government to mobilize troops and rescue workers. If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana it would be the first storm to strike the state since Hurricane Gustav came ashore in September 2008.

As of 4 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), Ida was 95 miles west-northwest of the western tip of Cuba, the hurricane center said. It was moving north-northwest near 10 mph and was forecast to turn toward the north over the next two days. Ida first became a hurricane on Thursday off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, where heavy rains forced more than 5,000 people into shelters.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Concern over Canned Foods: Consumer Reports Tests Tind Wide Range of Bisphenol A (BPA) in Soups, Juice, Tuna and More

Consumer Reports' has released data on its latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). The results are reported in the December 2009 issue and also available online. BPA, which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, has been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities because it has been linked to a wide array of health effects including reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE

Photo credit: Consumer Reports

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mirador, Guatemala: The Forgotten Mayan City

El Mirador flourished as a trading center from around 300 BCE to 150 CE during the Maya Pre-Classic Period. With a population as high as 80,000, it was one of the first large cities in North America. The city's main group of buildings covers two square kilometers and many were built on a grand scale. The largest pyramid at El Mirador, El Tigre, has six times the surface area as Temple IV at Tikal and is 55 meters tall.

The Danta Complex is about 300 meters wide on each side of the bottom base, which is 7 meters high and supports a series of buildings. The next and smaller platform rises another 7 meters. Above that is another platform around 21 meters high, which is topped off by three pyramids, the tallest of which is 21 meters high. The total height is 70 meters, making it taller than Temple IV at Tikal.

El Mirador was a pre-Columbian site whose existence began from the movement of people from Nakbé to what was then an area of shallow lakes and more water availability. It is two days on foot in the Petén Jungle from the nearest village, although there is now helicopter service that is not unthinkably expensive. Currently there is a project called the Mirador Basin National Park, whose objective is to form a major national park in the area, where archaeological excavation will be done and tourists also can share in the discoveries about the Maya civilization. This will be done with the help of the Guatemalan government and interested individuals. A long term plan would include narrow gauge train service. Source: Mostlymaya.com

Beijing's First Snow Fall of Season, Artifically Induced to Combat Lingering Drought

Chinese meteorologists blanketed Beijing in snow Sunday after seeding clouds to bring winter weather to the capital in an effort to combat a lingering drought, state media reported. The unusually early snowfall covered the capital from Sunday morning and continued falling for half the day. It was aided by temperatures as low as 29 degrees Fahrenheit and strong winds from the north.

The report said snow fell in the northeastern provinces of Liaoning and Jilin and the northern province of Hebei, the eastern port city of Tianjin. Chinese meteorologists have sought for years to make rain by injecting special chemicals into clouds. The drought in northern China has continued for over a decade.

Xinhua, the state news agency, said besides the snow, which was the earliest to hit the capital in 10 years, the cold weather and strong winds also delayed air travel from Beijing's Capital Airport, while interrupting passenger shipping services off the coast of Shandong province in the east.

Photo credit: Snow in China, AFP