We count ourselves privileged to have seen close up the beauty of elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and other large plant-eating animals. Sadly, due to humanity’s incessant demands and practices, these large animals are threatened with extinction in the not-too-distant future; already, many are present on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The article Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores in Science Advances makes for sobering reading and is one of the first reviews of this dire state of affairs.
Archive for Environment
On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began; it took three months to finally cap the flow of oil. In that time period, over 200,000,000 gallons were released into the ocean. Five years later: what have we learned? it such an occurrence either preventable or stoppable? what are the long-term effects or has not enough time passed to truly gauge the extent of the ecological damage? what other energy options are currently available to prevent more deepsea drilling? (A point of transparency here. We worked for a major oil company back in the day and have firsthand experience of North Sea oil platforms and deepsea drilling rigs.) For reports that address these and other topics, we recommend: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (an ongoing series from NOAA); The BP Oil Disaster Five Years Later (Diane Rehm Show, April 19, 2015); Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments (CRS, May 12, 2014); 5 years after BP spill, drillers push into riskier depths (Houston Chronicle with this observation: “…drillers have been hit by a steady string of “well losses,” reportable incidents when a drilling operation temporarily loses control of a well. Since the Macondo blowout [Deepwater Horizon], 22 such incidents have been reported to authorities.”); An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico (National Academies Press 2013, also consult its Deepwater Horizon Collection of documents); Double, double, oil and trouble (The Economist, April 17, 2015); Emerging from Deepwater (Royal Society of Chemistry, April 20, 2015 with important links); Using Natural Abundance Radiocarbon To Trace the Flux of Petrocarbon to the Seafloor Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Environmental Science & Technology, web publication, 12-12-14); Gulf of Mexico Environmental Recovery and Restoration (BP, March 2015); Rebuttal to the BP report (Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustees, March 16, 2015); Deepwater Disaster: Five Years On (Huffington Post, April 18, 2015); BP oil spill plus 5: Why it’ll happen again (The Washington Post, April 20, 2015); and Deepwater Horizon five years later (podcast, Science, April 3, 2015).
Major reports from various sources: Report on the implementation of EU water legislation: there is progress, but still work to do (European Commission, with links to previous implementations of the Water Framework Directive); Koch Industries tops political spenders among leading water polluters (Environment American); Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (CRS); Desalination and Membrane Technologies: Federal Research and Adoption Issues (CRS); Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation (PLoS One); Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure, 1956 to 2014 (CBO); and Tidal Wave or Drop in the Bucket? Differences in Water Use Across the United States (Brookings).
The World Risks 2015 from the World Economic Forum ranks “water crises” as the top global risk in terms of impact (Table 1, executive summary). The report goes on to state how environmental risks have increased over time : “The nexus of food, water, energy and climate change has been identified by the US National Intelligence Council as one of four overarching mega trends that will shape the world in 2030.” (Referencing the NIC’s Global Trends 2030)
As people travel to the Jersey shore this summer, they can be comforted by the fact that New Jersey ranks #3 in the nation (out of 30 states listed) in cleanliness of its beach water. In fact, New Jersey contains more “superstar beaches” than any other state. The Natural Resources Defense Council issued Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation beaches that compiled statistical information the states have on their beach quality. State rankings are found in the executive summary. See how your state fared.
Today the Environmental Protection Administration released its Clean Power Plan, one of President Obama’s steps to curb excess carbon pollution and fight climate change. Climate Change and President Obama’s Action Plan from The White House provides the overarching blueprint for his proposals. Here is a Q&A from The Wall Street Journal along with this informative article from The New York Times.
Risks to freshwater supplies—due to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate change—are growing. These forces will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, potentially undermining global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia particularly will particularly face difficulty coping with water problems. Lack of adequate water is a destabilizing factor in developing countries that do not have the management mechanisms, financial resources, or technical ability to solve their internal water problems. Other states are further stressed by heavy dependence on river water controlled by upstream nations with unresolved water-sharing issues. Wealthier developing countries will probably face increasing water-related, social disruptions, although they are capable of addressing water problems without risk of state failure. Historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than to violent conflicts. However, where water-sharing agreements are ignored or when infrastructure development for electric power generation or agriculture is seen as a threat to water resources, states tend to exert leverage over their neighbors to preserve their water interests. This leverage has been applied in international forums and has included pressuring investors, nongovernmental organizations, and donor countries to support or halt water infrastructure projects. In addition, some local, nonstate terrorists or extremists will almost certainly target vulnerable water infrastructure in places to achieve their objectives and use water-related grievances as recruiting and fundraising tools. (10)