Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Mexico Farmers Seek ‘Priority Call’ as Drought Persists


by Felicity Barringer

CARLSBAD, N.M. — Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.
“It’s always been about us giving up,” Mr. Walterscheid said, to nods. “I say we push back hard right now.”
The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Mr. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.
For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.
A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: the lands whose owners first used the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.
The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West. “A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”
“It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.
Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state Constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.” Read More

China’s Massive Water Problem

by Scott Moore

This month, a hundred years after the completion of the Panama Canal, China is expected to finish the first phase of its gigantic South-North Water Transfer Project, known in Chinese as Nanshui beidiao gongcheng — literally, “to divert southern water north.” The phrase evokes the suggestion, attributed to Mao, that “since the south has a great deal of water, and the north very little, we should borrow some of it.”
In realizing Mao’s dream of moving huge quantities of water from areas of plenty to those of want, Beijing is building a modern marvel, this century’s equivalent of the Panama Canal. But whereas the canal inaugurated a century of faith in the ability of human ingenuity to reshape the natural world, the South-North Water Transfer Project is a testament to the limits of engineering solutions to problems of basic environmental scarcity.
China is one of the most water-rich countries in the world. But as Mao observed, its water resources are unevenly distributed and overwhelmingly concentrated in the south and far west. Water scarcity has always been a problem for northern China, but shortages have reached crisis levels as a result of rapid economic development. Read More

A Meditation on Gay Marriage, Change and Love

by Mark Salter

I was an original thinker when I was young. So were my peers. We knew the world was changing after generations of stasis, changing because we had arrived, children of the ’60s and ’70s, with our new affinities and attitudes. We were certain in our convictions, and never more so than in our conviction that our parents were foolish to be certain in theirs.
Our parents saw the world in black and white, their certitude built on unexamined values inherited from their parents. We saw the bright new hues of a culture changed by our individuality, our benign tolerance, our eagerness for new experiences. We knew happiness eluded those who sought it in conformity to the past. Self-actualization, which our narrow-minded elders mistook for selfishness, was the only means to happy, fulfilled lives.
It’s been a rude surprise, now that I have reached middle age (OK, late middle age), to experience my powers of perception, my comprehension of complexity, decline so noticeably. I lack certainty about all sorts of things these days, and that deficiency has induced something like desperation, a feeling that has me clutching for values that would be familiar to my parents.
How did that happen? I assume I’m fully self-actualized now. I’m almost 60. How long does the process take? Shouldn’t the wisdom I possessed at the beginning of my journey of self-discovery have increased now that its end is in sight? Shouldn’t I have reached the summit of my personal Olympus by now? Read More

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Comet, Not Asteroid, Killed Dinosaurs, Study Suggests

LiveScience

The rocky object that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may have been a comet, rather than an asteroid, scientists say.
The 112-mile (180 kilometers) Chicxulub crater in Mexico was made by the impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs and about 70 percent of all species on Earth, many scientists believe. A new study suggests the crater was probably blasted out by a faster, smaller object than previously thought, according to research presented this week at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Water is Life - Indigenous Perspectives on Water

World Water Day: Water is Life - Indigenous Perspectives on Water (Video)Water is a precious and finite natural resource. Here in Canada, we are fortunate to be surrounded by clean, easily accessible fresh water. This abundance, however, has let us take our good fortune for granted and we have abused our water through over use and pollution.

The First Peoples of Canada treasured the water as the blood of the earth, and the land as her body. Continued abuse of the land and water is harming the health of all the earth’s dependants, both human, plant and animal. In the tar sands, both water quality and quantity are being severely affected throughout the Athabasca watershed.

We must act now to protect the Athabasca and neighbouring rivers, such as the Peace River system.

The Facts:

Tar sands development requires an enormous amount of water – current projects remove about 349 million m3 of water from the Athabasca River each year, equivalent to about 140,000 swimming pools or twice the amount of water the City of Calgary uses per year. Read More

View the YouTube: Water is Life - Indigenous Perspectives on Water

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

'Lost' tectonic plate found beneath California


by Stephanie Pappas - LiveScience

A tectonic plate that disappeared under North America millions of years ago still peeks out in central California and Mexico, new research finds.
The Farallon oceanic plate was once nestled between the Pacific and North American plates, which were converging around 200 million years ago at what would become the San Andreas fault along the Pacific coast. This slow geological movement forced the Farallon plate under North America, a process called subduction.
Much of the Farallon plate got pushed down into the mantle, the gooey molten layer below the Earth's crust. Off the coast, parts of the plate fragmented, leaving some remnants at the surface, stuck to the Pacific plate.
Now, new research published Monday, March 18, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that these pieces of Farallon plate are attached to much larger chunks at the surface. In fact, part of the Baja region of Mexico and part of central California near the Sierra Nevada mountains sit upon slabs of Farallon plate.
The finding solves a mystery of California geology. Earth scientists use seismic waves (either recorded from earthquakes or created with dynamic charges or other methods) to map out the region beneath the Earth's surface. Softer and hotter materials slow seismic waves down. Read More

Congress hears options for asteroid defense: Pay now or pray later

Congress hears options for asteroid defense: Pay now or pray later

Monday, March 11, 2013

How Climate Change is Destroying the Earth


by Silvio Marcacci
Earth & Industry readers most likely will agree that climate change is happening, and is caused by human actions. But it's often hard for individuals, no matter how well read, to fully grasp the enormity of how anthropogenic climate change is affecting the planet.
That's why we were interested to come across a new infographic from learnstuff.com that attempts to do just that - not only encompass all the evidence of climate change, but detail how it is destroying the Earth:

Thanks to extensive research and noticeable changes in weather and storm prevalence, it’s getting harder to turn a blind eye to the reality of climate change. Since the Industrial Age spurred the increasing usage of fossil fuels for energy production, the weather has been warming slowly. In fact, since 1880, the temperature of the earth has increased by 1 degree Celsius.
Although 72% of media outlets report on global warming with a skeptical air, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the extreme weather of the last decade is at least partially caused by global warming. Some examples of climate calamities caused partly by global warming include:
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Drought in desert countries
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Tornadoes in the Midwest
These storms, droughts, and floods are causing death and economic issues for people all over the world – many of whom cannot afford to rebuild their lives from the ground up after being wiped out by a tsunami or other disaster. Read More

Inspiring the Global Mind

"...project seems to confirm that we are all part of a collective consciousness."

by Jurriaan Kamp

For psychologist Sigmund Freud, man was determined by elemental, material passions: the need for food, sex, security. Matter does indeed provide security, but ultimately more matter does not provide more security. And beyond a certain point, more money, according to study after study, does not make us happier. The serious problems of modern civilization can be attributed to the fact that advancing material development has not gone hand in hand with parallel spiritual development. External evolution requires internal evolution. That was the dimension Abraham Maslow added to the basic Freudian needs: our search for meaning. We strive to develop our consciousness, to achieve self-actualization.
Spiritual development as humanity’s ultimate goal is not new, of course. It’s a theme that’s been around 6,000 years. Enlightened spirits such as Lao Tse, Confucius, the writers of the Indian Upanishads and Rig Veda, Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Moses, Christ and Mohammed (Author’s note: I know many women have led this lineage but shamefully, their names are not in the history books) all devoted their lives to this pursuit. But they were lone voices in their day. The Information Age has put consciousness at a more prominent place on the agenda than ever before. The Internet links billions of us together, and we influence and inspire each other ever faster and more often. That means new insights are finding their way more easily. Jesus didn’t have the Web at his disposal.An interesting research project seems to confirm that we are all part of a collective consciousness. Laboratory experiments had shown that human intention could induce small but significant changes in the output of so-called random number generators. Such instruments randomly flip virtual coins. Over time, there should be roughly as many heads as tails. However the experiments showed that human intention could change the outcome of these machines. Read More

Global Warming Pushing Trees North: The Evidence


Discovery News - As the planet warms, the Arctic is feeling the heat. Trees and shrubs are taking hold on what was once tundra, like this young pine and surrounding shrubs in Norway's Arctic Finnmark.
A new international study of the satellite record of greening landscape shows that the places which were firmly Arctic in climate during the mid-20th century are now transforming into evergreen forest lands. If the trend continues, by the end of this century northern Sweden could get the temperatures more common to southern France and northernmost Canada could be more like Montana. Read More

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

'I am one of the Fukushima fifty': One of the men who risked their lives to prevent a catastrophe shares his story

It was, recalls Atsufumi Yoshizawa, a suicide mission: volunteering to return to a dangerously radioactive nuclear power plant on the verge of tipping out of control.
As he said goodbye to his colleagues they saluted him, like soldiers in battle. The wartime analogies were hard to avoid: in the international media he was a kamikaze, a samurai or simply one of the heroic Fukushima 50. The descriptions still embarrass him. “I’m not a hero,” he says. “I was just trying to do my job.”
A stoic, soft-spoken man dressed in the blue utility suit of his embattled employer Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) Mr Yoshizawa still finds it hard to dredge up memories of fighting to stop catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Two years later, debate still rages about responsibility for the planet’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its impact. Fish caught near the plant this month contained over 5,000 times safe radiation limits, according to state broadcaster NHK.
A report this week by the World Health Organisation says female infants affected by the worst of the fallout have a 70 per cent higher risk of developing thyroid cancer over their lifetimes, but concluded that overall risks for the rest of the population are “low”. Over 160,000 people have been displaced from their homes near the plant, perhaps permanently, and are fighting for proper compensation. Stress, divorce and suicides and plague the evacuees. Read More

Ships to sail directly over the north pole by 2050, scientists say

Melting sea ice will allow ice-strengthened vessels to sail directly over the pole, and normal ships to take the 'northern sea route'
Ships should be able to sail directly over the north pole by the middle of this century, considerably reducing the costs of trade between Europe and China but posing new economic, strategic and environmental challenges for governments, according to scientists.
The dramatic reduction in the thickness and extent of late summer sea ice that has taken place in each of the last seven years has already made it possible for some ice-strengthened ships to travel across the north of Russia via the "northern sea route". Last year a total of 46 ships made the trans-Arctic passage, mostly escorted at considerable cost by Russian icebreakers.
But by 2050, say Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson at the University of California in the journal PNAS on Monday, ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the northern sea route, and moderately ice-strengthened ships should be able to take the shortest possible route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, passing over the pole itself. The easiest time would be in September, when annual sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is at its lowest extent. Read More