Archive for the 'climate crisis' Category

Jun 01 2010

THE EARTH IS BLEEDING BLACK

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BP Oil Slick – Photo: Richard Perry, The New York Times



Declaration of Penguin Sympathy and Penguin Solidarity



We have had our short moment in the sun. For the briefest time, humans flocked to see “March of the Penguins.” During those days, they cared about us. But we have learned, like many before us, that fame is fleeting. And there lots of birds and bees and fish and bears, and a flock of documentary filmmakers looking for Emmys and Oscars.


Thanks to the internet, we have learned that there are many species threatened as we are. The Javan Rhinoceros, fish like the Vaquita, the Cross River Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Golden-Headed Langur, the Black-Footed Ferret, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Giant Panda, and the Polar Bear from the other end of the Earth. We could go on and on.


Today our hearts go out to all those live in and about the waters of the Gulf Coast. The oysters, the shrimp, the sturgeon, the Brown Pelican, the Least Tern, the Piping Plover, the Oystercatcher, the Northern Gannet, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. We could go on and on. And we know it is nesting season.


To our human brothers and sisters, we have a simple question. When will you learn? How many of us have to die before you remember once again to live simply? A train instead of a car. Walking rather than riding. Charity not greed. Care not carelessness.


The American President says he is in control. Perhaps you sleep better believing him. But we who swim and fly know that he controls not the ocean, not the sky, not the ice or the snow.


There is a hole in Earth. The Earth is bleeding black.


The ice melts. The ocean burns.


Wake up!




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Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP



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Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP




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Aug 24 2009

THE ICE MELTS – HUMANS SQUABBLE

OK so maybe now you will believe us – us small folk you think are so cute. The ice is melting. What have we been telling you? The ice is melting.

Down here. Up there. In Montana. In Europe. In South America. In Asia.

Melting faster than you thought. Or wanted to admit.

Go to the BBC: see the pictures.

This is Antarctica, our home:

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University says this about the melting ice:

This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.

Now similar things are happening up north in the Arctic.

Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been studying the melting ice up north with Greenpeace. He has been surprised by the lack of significant ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

According to the BBC: “He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it’s expected that a major part of it could break off imminently:

The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It’s like removing a cork from a bottle.

So you are finally seeing the melting ice. But what exactly are some of you doing about it. Banding together to finally confront global warming? Taxing your use of carbon?

How about fighting each other to take advantage of the melting ice? Now that sounds like human beings

The more the ice melts the easier it is to send ships through the North. Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States all have a strong interest in controlling the northern route. The Russians are having training exercises and firing missiles; the Canadian government is sending its politicians to show how much they care about the far north. Everybody is planting their flags on the ice.

Nobody is asking the polar bears.

Nobody is asking the penguins.



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Jun 10 2008

SAVE THE EARTH – A FAIR TAX

Sorry. Sorry. A heartfelt penguin apology for not writing sooner.
We have been busy here in the land of ice and snow.

Many young people write us asking what they can do to save the earth. Of course, none of us have gone to school, let alone college. We have what we call “ice smarts” – you call it street smarts. But there is a very smart man who has a very simple but very smart idea about what can be done. James Hansen works for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.



His plan is called “Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend.” We’ll do our penguin best to describe it. Taxing fossil fuels raises the prices of fuel but spurs reduced use. That is what is absolutely necessary today. Reducing the use of the fuel that drives global warming. Unfortunately, there are those who are fighting against the global movement to drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels – and the drive to increase the use of renewable fuels.

Of course, there are many different ways of taxing oil and gas and coal. Many allow companies to buy and sell the right to use energy. Many proposals are about business as usual and are designed by and favor the wealthy users of energy.


James Hansen’s plan
starts when fossil fuel energy is first sold – “within the
country or at the last (e.g., at the gas pump), but it can be collected easily and reliably.
You cannot hide coal in your purse; it travels in railroad cars that are easy to spot.”

So all users of coal, oil and gas are taxed. The question is how does the system work and how do you protect average working people.

Hansen continues:

A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially,
will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will
spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus
economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects
will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport
will become more expensive and vice versa – it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop
importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a growing price
incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.

There is a price to be paid for addressing the climate crisis; but the price has to be paid fairly.

Hansen argues that there is a simple way to build in fairness:

The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit to their
bank accounts, an equal share to each person (if no bank account provided, an annual
check – social security number must be provided). No bureaucracy is needed to figure
this out. If the initial carbon tax averages $1200 per person per year, $100 is deposited in
each account each month (Detail: perhaps limit to four shares per family, with child
shares being half-size, i.e., no marriage penalty but do not encourage population growth).

The price is oil is rising all over the world. The cost of producing and delivering food is rising. Working people are suffering as prices rise. An unfair tax system will only make things worse. Here is what Hansen has to say:

The worst thing about the present inadequate political approach is that it will generate
public backlash. Taxes will increase, with no apparent benefit. The reaction would
likely delay effective emission reductions, so as to practically guarantee that climate
would pass tipping points with devastating consequences for nature and humanity.



Americans, in particular, are always concerned about how the government spends their tax money. Hansen has some strong ideas about all this.

Carbon tax and 100% dividend, on the contrary, will be a breath of fresh air, a boon and
boom for the economy. The tax is progressive, the poorest benefitting most, with
profligate energy users forced to pay for their excesses. Incidentally, it will yield strong
incentive for aliens to become legal; otherwise they receive no dividend while paying the
same carbon tax rate as everyone.

Special interests and their lobbyists in alligator shoes will fight carbon tax and 100%
dividend tooth and nail. They want to determine who gets your tax money in the usual
Washington way, Congress allocating money program-by-program, substituting their
judgment for that of the market place. The lobbyists can afford the shoes. Helping
Washington figure out how to spend your money is a very lucrative business.

But we can save the planet and alligators by making sure that not one thin dime of the
carbon tax is siphoned off by lobbyists for their clients – 100% must be returned to
citizens as dividend. Make this your motto: “100% or fight! No alligator shoes!”




We started this blog to help you understand what is happening to our world. We are only penguins after all.

We have no vote. We pay no taxes. But you do.

Go to James Hansen’s website and read more.

Save the Ice. Save the Earth. Save our Home.



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Jan 18 2008

PENGUINS: ON THIN ICE

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you have been thinking about penguins, or about global warming and climate change, maybe wondering how we are doing, or maybe about your future.

These are scary and complicated times for all of us.

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Adélie 422 walking – Photo: Geroge F. Mobley



The news down South is not very good. And for that matter, it’s even worse up North. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. But there’s one thing that really confuses me. Now that I’m surfing the web – interesting choice of words for a penguin – I read a lot of newspaper reports about the climate crisis. And, of course, the comments that readers post. Have you ever taken the time to read those comments?

So many of you humans are so very angry. You’re angry at the newspaper for printing the reports. You’re angry at your scientists for telling you about rising levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and melting ice. About disappearing glaciers. Check it out: angry comment after angry comment.

What’s going on? Is it so very hard to acknowledge what is happening before your very eyes? Here’s a picture of the Boulder Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana, US in 1932.

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And a photo taken in 2005:

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It’s gone. Do you want to blame the scientists?

Is it so very hard to understand that the Earth is paying a price for all the coal you burn to keep your cities lit so bright? When did you become so afraid of the dark? Is it so very hard to understand that there is a price to be paid for the SUVs you drive to the malls you shop in? Where is it written in your holy books that each man and woman needs to have a car, two cars, three? That it is too much of an inconvenience to ride together in buses and train and trolleys? That you need second homes and motor boats and private airplanes?


Anyway here’s a quick update of the latest news. Antarctica, our home, our ice is melting. TV3 in New Zealand reports:

The ice shelves of Antarctica are collapsing faster than scientists could ever have predicted, loosened by warming climate conditions – warm air and warm water is compromising the existence of the entirety of the Antarctic ice sheet as global temperatures rise.

Dozens of ice shelves are steadily breaking apart – three major ice shelves have disintegrated in recent times, one of which taking mere days to collapse …

During the last 15 years, almost 90% of the glaciers observed by scientists in Antarctica have shown significant levels of retreat.



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Adelie penguins – Photo: Frans Lemmens



Our dear friends, the Adélies, founding members of Penguins United, are in deep trouble. The melting ice is a matter of life and death for the Adélies. A National Geographic headline asks “Antartica’s Adelie Extinct in a Decade?”

Adélie penguins in Antarctica are in the midst of a major upheaval as climate change causes their icy habitat to warm up, experts say.

Some populations of the birds are thriving, but most are declining rapidly.

The penguins rely on winter sea ice as a platform for feeding on ocean krill.

But they also need the ice to shrink in the summer so they can access their breeding colonies on land.

The mid-latitudes of the Antarctic Peninsula once provided the perfect habitat for the penguins—but not anymore.

“That region has experienced the most rapid warming during winter on the planet,” said Bill Fraser, an ecologist with the Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.

“The mid-winter temperatures are now around 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit [6 degrees Celsius] higher than they were 50 years ago.”



Help the Adélies. Save the Ice. Save our Home.





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Dec 18 2007

BALI, SCHMALI

Well there is the small victory to celebrate at Bali – the U.S. was frightened enough by the threatened boycott of its January conference to refrain from preventing an agreement.

But from the point of view of the rest of the world – the non-humans of this world – it was pretty sad. It is very disappointing to penguins around the world that after so much talk, the best you humans can come up with is an “agreement” for a “new framework” for two more years of talk.


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Emperors – Photo: AFP



Meanwhile during the Bali conference, we learned from new studies that 4 species of penguin are in great peril, the Arctic ice is melting far faster than any of your scientists predicted, carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 650,000 years and that our coral reefs are in danger.


George Monbiot pointed out how little has changed by quoting the following:

“After 11 days of negotiations, governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night session.”

These are extracts from a press release by Friends of the Earth. So what? Well it was published on December 11 – I mean to say, December 11 1997. The US had just put a wrecking ball through the Kyoto protocol … Its climate negotiators were led by Albert Arnold Gore.

The European Union had asked for greenhouse gas cuts of 15% by 2010. Gore’s team drove them down to 5.2% by 2012. Then the Americans did something worse: they destroyed the whole agreement.



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Moon above Feegletscher, Switzerland – Photo: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini



As for Bali, Monbiot declares:

There are still two years to go, but so far the new agreement is even worse than the Kyoto protocol. It contains no targets and no dates.



While the climate negotiators were negotiating, this is some of what we learned. It was a very bad year for walruses. The AP reports:

In what some scientists see as another alarming consequence of global warming, thousands of Pacific walruses above the Arctic Circle were killed in stampedes earlier this year after the disappearance of sea ice caused them to crowd onto the shoreline in extraordinary numbers …

”It was a pretty sobering year — tough on walruses,” said Joel Garlach-Miller, a walrus expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Dead walruses, Arctic Circle – Photo: A Kochnev/AP

Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. The giant, tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land for just a few weeks at a time.

But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds, Garlach-Miller said.

As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a ”haulout” for a century, scientists said.

Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.


And as the ice melts and thins, the polar bears suffer. The polar bears die. Paul Richards of AFP writes that climate change has reduced the time polar bears can hunt for the food they need.


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Polar bear and cubs, Hudson Bay – Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP


“For many years, there were 1,600 to 2,200 of our polar bears, called the western Hudson Bay sub-population,” Bonnie Chartier, a Churchill native who works as a guide for tour groups who come to this northern town to spot the world’s largest bear, told AFP.

“Now they’re saying there are about 965. Boom! In a very short span of time, we have a much smaller population and this has been attributed to global warming,” she said.

Polar bears are carnivores, and the seals that live in the Hudson Bay are their favorite meal.

They hunt when the bay is frozen, venturing far out on the thick ice and waiting patiently for a seal to pop its head out of the water for air.

They spend the part of the year when the bay is not frozen on land, fasting.

“In the last 20 years, our bears have been coming off the ice two weeks earlier and going out about one week later, so you’ve taken three weeks’ hunting time out of their diet, including the crucial spring weeks, when seals are pupping. Seal pups are easier prey for the polar bears,” Chartier said.

“The bears are having a harder time. They’re not able to put on enough weight to carry themselves through the whole fasting season,” she said.



As the politicians were arguing, we also discovered that thanks to climate change the oceans are rising faster than scientists predicted. The BBC reports on a study published by the journal, Nature Geoscience:

The world’s sea levels could rise twice as high this century as UN climate scientists have previously predicted, according to a study.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes a maximum sea level rise of 81cm (32in) this century.

But in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers say the true maximum could be about twice that: 163cm (64in).

They looked at what happened more than 100,000 years ago – the last time Earth was this warm.

The results join other studies showing that current sea level projections may be very conservative.

Sea level rise is a key effect of global climate change. There are two major contributory effects: expansion of sea water as the oceans warm, and the melting of ice over land.



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Kangerdlussuaq Glacier, East Greenland – Photo: J A Dowdeswell


All this while humans talk and talk and talk.


It’s enough to drive a penguin batty.


Bali, Schmali.





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Dec 04 2007

ADOPT A HUMAN #2

Right now human leaders are meeting in Bali to talk about global warming and the climate crisis. No penguins, spotty owls, polar bears. Lots of humans talking and arguing about how much or how little to do or not do and what it will cost.

Of course, some of them are talking about money and not the billions of living things that are threatened. A very sad and interesting article by Gregor Peter Schmitz of Der Spiegel, the German newspaper, talks about how the United States is working with China and India to make sure no strong limits are set on the greenhouse gases that are creating the climate crisis.

The poorer nations naturally want to catch up with the richer nations. Unfortunately for penguins and polar bears and billions of people, this means more power plants, more cars, and superhighways, and more and fancier things to buy: second homes and speedboats and expensive sneakers.

Countries like China and India don’t feel it is fair to limit their growth and do without all the advantages that the European countries and Australia and Canada and the United States enjoy. And some of the leaders of the United States don’t want to give up anything. Der Spiegel writes about how together they can block real action:

Washington is hoping that the two greenhouse gas emitters will openly declare during the conference that they are unwilling to accept any binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases — at least not as long as the US is unwilling to do more or if the Western industrial nations do not provide them with more financial aid for climate protection initiatives. If successful, the US could use the tactic to prevent itself from becoming an isolated scapegoat if negotiations in Bali end in a stalemate.

That may make sense to well-to-do humans but it is certainly unfair to the rest of us.

Penguins from all over the world have written us about our new Adopt A Human campaign. Here are some people who could certainly use our help.

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Farmers by factory, Baokang, China – Reuters



These farmers are playing cards in the shadow of a cement factory spewing smoke. I’m sure there are several penguins and a porpoise or two or some baby seals who might be willing to chip in and buy them masks.


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Children using public toilet, Jakarta harbor – Beawiharta/Reuters



This makes me very sad. For the children. For their parents. For the water.


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Chinese miners shovel coal – Oded Balilty/AP



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Storm survivors, Bangladesh -Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters



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Bali policeman at Climate Conference – Jewel Damad/AFP



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Britney Spears – Robyn Beck/AFP



We recently learned that human beings have been searching the world wide web for information about global warming and Britney Spears. According to Glenn Chapman of AFP:

A review of Yahoo searches reveals global warming, celebrity meltdowns, social networking and a literary boy wizard’s final adventure captured mankind’s attention in 2007.

The US Internet giant sifted billions of searches made this year by its hundreds of millions of users worldwide to identify trends regarding what piqued people’s interest …

“It is really a barometer for what is interesting and relevant for the world,” Yahoo director of product marketing Raj Gossain said while discussing the findings with AFP.



Well if anyone knows about meltdowns, we do. Adelie 622 wrote in to say she would be glad to help Britney Spears in any way she could.

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Adelie 622 – Photo: George F. Mobley



Adelie 622 sent off an email just the other day. “Swim, Britney. When in doubt, swim. We’re all in this together. Your friend, Adelie 622. Penguins United Chapter 12.” Unfortunately, the email bounced back.


We’ll keep writing.





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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:
l

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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Oct 14 2007

CAN PENGUINS FLY?

Published by under climate crisis,floods,gnus

Not if you’re watching.

These documentary film-makers went to great expense to prove the point:

Do Pinguins Fly?

You can find the film at iFilm.

Flying might be the answer.

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Photo: Arthur Morris – Corbis

Do gnus fly?
What do gnus do?
Jumana Farouky of Time tells us that because of the climate crisis “there’s bad news for gnus:”

More than a million wildebeest — also known as gnus — crossing from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and then back again in the search of fresh grass makes for some dramatic action shots, as massive herds travel across the plains before plunging into the Mara River to swim to greener pastures …

This time, piles of wildebeest carcasses line the riverbanks, after 10,000 of the animals drowned trying to cross the Mara at the start of their journey back east to the Serengeti …

The Mara River was especially high this year, after the heavy rains that flooded parts of Africa, killing hundreds of people and uprooting thousands more. Climatologists are pointing to the downpours as proof that predictions that Africa will suffer the most from global warming and climate change are already coming true. The human toll is what makes all the headlines, but the consequences for Africa’s wildlife is just as drastic.

Floods. And more floods. Sorry to repeat myself but … according to James Copnall of the BBC the Ivory Coast town of Grand Lahou is sinking.

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Ivory Coast Lighthouse – Photo: BBC

Once one of the first points of contact between Africans and the French in what is now Ivory Coast, Grand Lahou is threatened by a combination of climate change and other factors.

Some predict the town will be completely under water within 10 years, and it is widely accepted it is doomed unless drastic action is taken …

According to Guillaume Za-Bi, a senior scientist at the Ivorian Ministry of the Environment, the uncontrolled mouth of the river Bandama is attacking the town from behind, while the sea is eroding it from the front.

It is a complicated problem, and one for which it seems global warming is at least partly responsible.

“Climate change is one of the reasons for what we can locally see in Grand Lahou,” Mr Za-Bi explains.

Paging Noah! Anybody out there IM’ing the man? Got his cell number on speed dial? Flooding elsewhere in Africa:

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Log Canoe, Lira Uganda – Photo: Anony Njunga – Reuters

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Flood – Budalangi in W. Kenya – Photo: EPA

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Flood, N.E. Ghana – Photo: Jane Hahn, EPA




Can Penguins Fly? Not yet, but we’re practicing.

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