Archive for November, 2007

Nov 26 2007

ADOPT A HUMAN

Several human-based environmental organizations have ways of raising money based on adopting animals.

One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, has a program called “Adopt a Penguin.” This is what they write:
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A variety of species of penguins have been declining due to the effects of global warming. Starvation, habitat loss, and the fact that the penguins’ world is literally breaking up under their feet are all contributing factors to dramatic population loss.

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Adelie Penguins Photo: British Antarctic Survey

In one instance, a large number of Adelie penguins were literally made prisoners and starved because global warming had unexpectedly altered their habitat. In 2004, Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound was blocked by the mountainous remnant of the world’s largest iceberg. The iceberg cut off supply routes for several research bases on the sound and was so big that it blocked wind and water currents that would normally break up the ice in the sound and make access to the sea much easier for researchers and penguins. As a result, tens of thousands of Adelie penguin chicks and their parents were stranded inland with a 112-mile round trip being the shortest distance to gather food. Experts estimate that the three colonies of Adelie penguins may have declined by up to 70 percent.

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Rockhopper Penguin, The Falklands Photo: Ben Tubby

The decline of the rockhopper penguin is another example of how warming temperatures are affecting these beloved birds. The number of rockhopper penguins breeding on one island has gone from 1.4 million to only 100,000 in the last 60 years–most likely due to warming waters surrounding the island.

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Emperor Penguins Photo: Serene Chew

… according to National Geographic News, the population of emperor penguins has been cut in half over the past 50 years … These amazing animals can withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth, but they cannot continue to sustain themselves without krill–a shrimplike creature that is a staple of the emperor penguin’s diet. The sea ice necessary to the survival of krill larvae is disappearing earlier and taking with it 80 percent of the krill population. The emperor penguins are starving to death because the warming air and water is drastically changing the environment to which they have adapted.

Where there are obviously good reasons to adopt a penguin. We are in big trouble. Melting ice, starvation, the destruction of our home. So maybe the least you can do is to adopt one of us.

But, the fact of the matter is. if you have been paying attention to our last posts you should be adopting many many others: polar bears, the scottish puffin, butterflies, baby seals, dolphins, whales … The list never ends.

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately down here at Penguin Central. And we’ve been doing a lot of reading too.

How many of you have checked out the latest report of the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is their report to policy makers about the climate crisis. Here are a few excerpts:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level …

Numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed. These include changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones …

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Beached mini-icebergs Longyearbyen Photo: Rob Bell

Sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic under all SRES scenarios. In some projections, arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century … It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent …

So what does this all mean. The UK Independent puts it this way:

Here it is: the future of the world, in 23 pages … [The IPCC] spelled out comprehensively that the Earth could warm by an average of up to 6C during the course of the coming century, and that this would be catastrophic in its impact for human society, most of all the poor in developing countries; but they also offered hope that the problem was solvable, if the governments took rapid and decisive action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing the warming.

So you can adopt a penguin if you want. You can adopt a baby seal. You can adopt a fern. But that won’t change what’s really going on here. It isn’t us spewing greenhouse gases up into the atmosphere. It isn’t us burning coal and oil. We’re not cutting down the forests of Indonesia and the Amazon.

How about you adopt a human for a change? How about you adopt your friends and neighbors? How about you save your farmland? How about you save Glacier National Park in Montana? How about you save the Swiss Alps? How about you demand to drive a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? Better yet, how about you demand energy-efficient buses and trains?

See these people. Don’t they deserve to be adopted?

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Yutian, China Photo: Peter Parks/AFP – Getty



God bless these environmental movements. And thanks if you’ve actually adopted one of us. But really isn’t it time to wake up! Look, really look, at the world around you. It’s time for you human to get your act together.


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Polluted reservoir, La Paz Bolivia Photo: Dado Galdieri/AP



Adopt A Human.
Save the Earth.
Save the Ice.
Save the Penguins.
Save us All.
Save Yourselves.
Adopt A Human.
Please, Adopt A Human.





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Nov 15 2007

ECO-CRISIS

One of the biggest problems with human language is how often words and expressions create their own limits. I write Global Warming and you automatically think about heat. I write Climate Crisis and you think about climate and weather.

What I want you to think about is what is happening all around the world – for turtles and coral, for birds and bees, glaciers and lakes. For everything that lives.

A Crisis for All. An Eco-Crisis.

Our human friend Beth Bogart once called the next 10 years “the Do-Or-Die-Decade.”

Let’s all try and think bigger than our own space, your home town, the city you live in, your friends and family.

How about a quick trip around the world.

Since we just heard from our friend Awkward Turtle, let’s look at what some of our turtle friends are dealing with.


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Loggerhead Turtle – Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP



According to scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there is a big drop in nests for loggerhead turtles. The AP reports:

The number of loggerhead turtle nests was substantially lower in 2007 than in past years, according to preliminary numbers from scientists statewide.

Scientists found 28,500 nests from 19 surveyed beaches, down from almost 50,000 last year. The number was so low that this could be the lowest nesting year on record for loggerheads, said Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The turtles’ nesting numbers have declined in at least four of the past seven years.

The problem is nobody knows why this is happening.

While we are in Florida, people are asking: “Who Will Save the Everglades?” It seems the restoration effort is running out of money. Abby Goodough writes this for the New York Times:

The rescue of the Florida Everglades, the largest and most expensive environmental restoration project on the planet, is faltering.

Seven years into what was supposed to be a four-decade, $8 billion effort to reverse generations of destruction, federal financing has slowed to a trickle. Projects are already years behind schedule. Thousands of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat continue to disappear, paved by developers or blasted by rock miners to feed the hungry construction industry.



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The Everglades – Photo: Barbara Fernandez, New York Times



There’s bill in Congress for water projects, including about $2 billion for the Everglades, but President Bush is threatening to veto it.

the plan aims to restore the gentle, shallow flow of water from Lake Okeechobee, in south-central Florida, into the Everglades, a vast subtropical marshland at the state’s southern tip.

That constant, slow coursing nurtured myriad species of birds, fish and other animals across the low-lying Everglades, half of which have been lost to agriculture and development over the last century.

More birds and fish and animals have lost their homes. Here is a second photo:


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Photo: Barbara Fernandez, New York Times



Let’s move southward from Florida to the Caribbean. And spend a moment with the parrotfish and the health of coral reefs. Scientists are warning that the combination of human overfishing and pollution could damage coral reefs beyond their ability to repair themselves.


According to research done at the Universities of Exeter and California Davis. Nature magazine reports:

Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Exeter, lead author on the paper said: “The future of some Caribbean reefs is in the balance and if we carry on the way we are then reefs will change forever. This will be devastating for the Caribbean’s rich marine environment, which is home to a huge range of species as well as being central to the livelihood of millions of people.”

The paper argues that in order to secure a future for coral reefs, particularly in light of the predicted impact of climate change, parrotfish need to be protected. Parrotfish are frequently caught in fish traps that are widely used in the Caribbean, with many ending up on restaurant diners’ plates.

Professor Peter Mumby continued: “The good news is that we can take practical steps to protect parrotfish and help reef regeneration. We recommend a change in policy to establish controls over the use of fish traps, which parrotfish are particularly vulnerable to. We also call on anyone who visits the Caribbean and sees parrotfish on a restaurant menu to voice their concern to the management.”


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Parrotfish – Photo: University of Exeter



Meanwhile, further south still, the Amazon continues to burn. Christopher Joyce of National Public Radio reports from Brazil:

In Brazil, it’s the end of the burning season, when people use fire to clear land for farms and ranches. But people also use fire as a weapon in range wars to push others off their land.

Scientists say this fire cycle is not just destroying parts of the Amazon’s southern forests, but altering the climate as well.



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Photo: Christopher Joyce



Christopher Joyce interviewed John Carter, whose land has been burned several times.

His ranch covers 22,000 acres. He says more than 90 percent of it has just burned. And fires are still consuming what’s left …

Carter isn’t the only victim of these burning duels. These fires put millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which makes global warming worse. They’re also drying up the Amazon.

In some places, the ice is melting too fast. In other places the forests are burning too fast. In many places there is just not enough water. The British newspaper, the Independent recently wrote about the drought facing American communities. The big thirst, they called it. The great American water crisis. Here’s a picture of Debbie Cash from Orme, Tennessee. She only has water three hours a day.


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Photo: AP


The US drought is now so acute that, in some southern communities, the water supply is cut off for 21 hours a day. Leonard Doyle reports from Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a once-lush region where the American dream has been reduced to a single four-letter word: rain

The odds are Debbie Cash has never met Rod Chalmers from Wakool, Australia. They live many many miles from each other, but they share a similar predicament. They really need water. Australia is in the midst of a dreadful drought. The American magazine, National Geographic, calls it the “Worst Drought in a Century.”

November on Rod Chalmers’ farm in Wakool, Australia, shouldn’t look like this.

It’s springtime, and the wheat fields should be green and waist-high instead of mostly dead.

There are no sheep are in sight either. The animals were sold long ago, because there is no grass for them to graze on.

Chalmers is among many farmers whose crops are withering in an unusual spring heat, following one of the warmest and driest winters on record.

In the seventh year of a crippling drought, much of Australia is in an unprecedented water crisis. The Big Dry, as Australians have dubbed the weather, is the worst in a century and has forced water restrictions on an entire nation.



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Australian farmland – Photo: David Gray/Reuters



Here, there and everywhere.

All living creatures.

Bound together.

One earth. One eco-crisis.


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Nov 05 2007

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL

Too much news. Too few penguins. We are buried here at Penguin Central. News reports. Photographs. No wonder humans abandon non-profits for the private sector.
Penguin 8 has barely seen the outdoors. Penguin 4 has a back ache and a stiff neck.

It is not only emotionally exhausting to be reading about the effects of climate change everywhere in the world, but physically exhausting as well to be gathering the information.
We haven’t seen the television program called “Heroes” but we would like to thank one of its heroes or heroines, Hayden Panettiere for her brave action on behalf on our close friends, the dolphins and whales.


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Hayden Panettierre

Tim Nudd and Bryan Alexander report in People magazine:

This week a video surfaced from Britain’s Sky News of the actress and six other activists paddling on surfboards out into a cove in the town of Taiji in southwestern Japan, in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt there …

The protesters were intercepted on Tuesday by fishermen on a boat who told them to leave and prodded them with a pole. They were eventually forced back to shore, unable to prevent the hunt. The video shows Panettiere breaking down in tears as she describes what happened. “This baby stuck its head out and kind of looked as us, and the thought that the baby is no longer with us is very difficult,” she said …

“The world and the environment are evolving and that means we must change our ways as human beings as well … The dolphins and whales in our ocean are a part of a larger eco-system that prevents the killing off of other marine life. By destroying these animals and not allowing our future generations to enjoy their beauty, we are causing our own selves damage. I always felt the need to speak on behalf of these helpless creatures who can not defend themselves.”



Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


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Chinese coal workers – AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel



Speaking of morality. Former Senator John Edwards put the issue of the climate crisis in perspective:

“This is the great moral test of our generation. Are we actually going to leave this planet and America better for our children than we found it?” Edwards said at an environmental rally in New Orleans.

“Why have we not addressed the issue of climate change and global warming?” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you why, no question about it: oil companies, gas companies, power companies and the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We have to have a president who will stand up to these people.”



Coal is a good place to start when we think about the challenges facing us.

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China pollution – Photo: Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News



Michael Casey offers this interesting report from Taiyuan, China:

It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm.

It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in the Willamette River in the western U.S. state of Oregon. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States …

Cheap and abundant, coal has become the fuel of choice in much of the world, powering economic booms in China and India that have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Worldwide demand is projected to rise by about 60 percent through 2030 to 6.9 billion tons a year, most of it going to electrical power plants.

But the growth of coal-burning is also contributing to global warming, and is linked to environmental and health issues ranging from acid rain to asthma. Air pollution kills more than 2 million people prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

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Indian woman carries water jug across Osman Sagar Lake – Photo AFP



Some of the most pressing problems you humans are facing. How does climate war sound? Well, there’s a sad analysis in a recent report, “A Climate of Conflict.” Robin McKie, the science editor of the UK Observer writes:

A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

Much of Africa, Asia and South America will suffer outbreaks of war and social disruption as climate change erodes land, raises seas, melts glaciers and increases storms, it concludes. Even Europe is at risk.

‘Climate change will compound the propensity for violent conflict, which in turn will leave communities poorer and less able to cope with the consequences of climate change,’ the report states.

The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’

Consider Peru, said Smith. Its fresh water comes mostly from glacier meltwater. But by 2015 nearly all Peru’s glaciers will have been removed by global warming and its 27 million people will nearly all lack fresh water. If Peru took action now, it could offset the impending crisis, he added. But the country has little experience of effective democracy, suffers occasional outbreaks of insurgency, and has border disputes with Chile and Ecuador. The result is likely to be ‘chaos, conflict and mass migration’.



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Australian Drought affects Lake Eucumbene – Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images



Already drought is taking its toll on Australian farmers. Leigh Dayton writes “Climate fears paint bleak future” for the Australian News:

CRAIG Harsant is coping. But the Queensland farmer confesses it’s been tough making a living in his bone-dry corner of Australia, and he worries some of his neighbours may be feeling the bite of the black dog of depression. “But blokes are not keen on talking about that sort of thing,” he says …

Little wonder Harsant is “not surprised” by findings of a report released this week by Research Australia (RA), a national non-profit alliance of health and medical research organisations.

It warns of skyrocketing rates of depression in rural communities if, as predicted, climate change triggers ever more extreme events, from drought to fire to flood. “Assuming climate change is real, you can imagine life on the land would become harder,” says Harsant. “You can imagine health issues like depression would follow suit.”



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Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane, AU Photo: Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

Some facts from Reuters about the Australian drought:

Australia had its driest September this year since records began in 1900.
The eastern state of New South Wales is 78.6 percent in drought.
The southern state of Victoria has declared 100 percent of farmland in drought.
Australia is the second-largest wheat, canola and beef exporter in the world and the largest barley exporter.
Drought cut the 2006/07 wheat crop to 9.8 million tonnes from 25.0 million tonnes the year before. Forecasts for the current wheat crop are 15 million tonnes or less, down from 26 million tonnes earlier this year before the drought hit.
The number of Australian farms has declined by 25 percent over the last 20 years to 129,934, due to falling commodity prices, mechanisation, technology and a strong trend of younger people moving to cities. About 99 percent of farms are family-owned.
Average farm income dropped to A$26,000 in the year to June 30, 2007, its lowest level in over 30 years, because of drought. A total of 77 percent of farms operated at a loss in 2006/07.
Average farm debt rose to A$412,700 at June 30, 2007, from A$357,380 the year before, bureau figures show. Farmers say debt has now risen into the millions for many.





Back to Laigh Dayton’s report:

Climate experts have long argued that climate change is real. But it’s only recently that their medical colleagues have begun considering the implications planetary warming holds for the health of people living on a changing globe, claims epidemiologist Tony McMichael. “Climate change doesn’t exist in isolation,” said McMichael, the head of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at Canberra’s Australian National University and lead author of the Research Australia report. “Increasingly, the risk it poses to human well-being and health is now being seen as part of the policy discussion agenda.”




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