Oceans of Acid

21 11 2009

Here’s  a nice article from Australia’s Cosmos magazine.  It’s nominated for an Earth journalism award.  You can vote for it here.

Oceans of acid

Pickrell, John
Cosmos Magazine (2009-02-06)
Read the original report (online, press)


As global warming wreaks havoc on coral reefs, evidence is mounting that another problem caused by carbon dioxide is an even bigger threat. But is it too late to fix?

It’s six o’clock on a Sunday morning and I’m sitting on Queensland’s Four Mile Beach. There’s still a night chill to the air. Though the light is dim, a red glow is building on the horizon as the Sun is about to emerge from beyond the Pacific Ocean.

I’m playing with the sand between my toes and fiddling with a small piece of coral rubbed smooth by the tide.

I’ve spent the preceding few days out on an Australian government marine survey vessel snaking its way along the Great Barrier Reef. The trip has given me a lot to think about, both good and bad, and this morning I’m mulling over everything I’ve experienced.

In late July, the CSIRO invited me to join a team of 14 scientists, led by oceanographer Bronte Tilbrook and climate modeller Richard Matear, as they collected data to predict the future health of the reef.

The issue on their agenda is ocean acidification, commonly referred to by those in the know as “the other CO2 problem” – separate, but linked to climate change. Though acidification has had a lot less press, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it will be a bigger problem for marine life than the warming of the oceans themselves.

Our waste carbon dioxide (CO2) is mostly maligned for causing climate change as it builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, but for the past 200 years it’s also been quietly dissolving into the oceans, slowly making them more acidic.

Continued here.


Ecology lessons from traditional cultures

15 10 2009

While the term “racist” is a little too loosely thrown about, Ariel Salleh, a sociologist from the University of Sydney, makes the case for a far more radical sustainability discussion to the one that dominates the mass media right now.  Click the link to stream the audio from Radio National.

Is our sustainability science racist?

Crimes against nature

12 01 2009

ABC news online has this sobering news today:

Police move on anti-logging protest camp.

There are calls going out on along green channels for activists to head down that way.

I can’t believe we’re still consuming our ancient forests in 2009.  Tree-sitters are bloody heroes.

If its bad for devils, then what about us?

24 01 2008

It turns out that dead Tasmanian devils are showing high concentrations of flame retardants in their tissues.  Its a reminder for us that contrary to notions of pollution being pleasantly diluted in the natural world, sometimes toxins (especially fat soluble ones) become concentrated up the food chain. That means that predators like Tasmanian Devils and….well….us…..can be especially at risk.  Australia has five times the concentrations of these particular nasties in our blood as Japanese or Europeans.

This article here reports on worrying levels in human breast milk.  Kids under 4 years have particularly high levels. Also a reminder that although we know a lot about very short term, high levels of exposure to organic toxins, we know next to nothing about long term, more moderate exposure to such pollutants. Can we blame male infertility, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases and rapidly escalating cancer rates on pollution? For the most part, we can’t say just yet. The complexity and expense of doing large, prospective studies on these things is quite extreme. So its unlikely we’ll find out any time soon.

A precautionary approach seems sensible. All of this makes me want to move away from petro-chemicals and towards organic processes and foods.

It will be a very sad day for our species when it is safer for babies to drink formula than to drink their own mother’s milk.

Polar bears disrupt Shell wildlife photography show

17 12 2007

Dead polar bears - onthelevel

British climate change activists made an appearance this week at the well known Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit which is sponsored by Shell. Amazingly, one of the group managed to get hold of the microphone and made the following hilarious introductory remarks while posing as shells public relations representative:

Good evening my name is Derek Leavussum, public relations director for Shell. I want to welcome you all to the 2007 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. As you can imagine- I don’t have an easy job, what with all this fuss about melting glaciers, extreme weather and wildlife extinctions. I’d like to thank the Bristol City Council, BBC Wildlife Magazine and the Natural History Museum for making my job all that much easier by allowing us to sponsor your wild lie- I mean wildlife- exhibition.We prefer not to see the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a threat to human civilization. We see it as a business opportunity. After all, there are millions of barrels of oil under there just waiting to be extracted. And we’ll need all the energy we can get since we’ve just abandoned our solar program. When you see the Shell logo, we don’t want you to think about the whale habitat we’re destroying in Siberia and Ireland, human rights violations in Nigeria, and especially not climate change. This may all be true but the fact is that the world needs oil and this is simply the price of progress.

Some say it’s ironic that the world’s second largest oil company is sponsoring a wildlife photography exhibition- but Shell is truly committed to preservation of the polar bear and other wildlife- in photographs if not in the real world. Some say it’s the end of the oil age- but we say it’s just the beginning- we’re thrilled about digging into Canada’s oil sands and with your help we can continue to deceive the public into thinking we’re a responsible corporate citizen. Thank you all for coming tonight and we hope you enjoy viewing these amazing photographs of wildlife that Shell is destroying- I mean conserving.

Also a special thanks to Dawn Primarola and the Labour party for supporting a third runway at Heathrow and ensuring that there remains a healthy demand for our products.

Wonderful that cynical corporate greenwashing can be cut down by clever people with a sense of humour.

Thanks to onthelevel and bristol indymedia for the lowdown.

Australia to breech international wetlands convention?

22 04 2007

Murray-Darling wetlands

Until it is revealed which Murray-Darling wetlands are to be drained, then we can’t know the answer to this question.   According to this ABC online news article, there are 10 wetlands on the Murray-Darling listed for protection under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

What a tragedy that it has come to this.

Today’s dose of good news

5 04 2007

Discovery logoThere’s this little thing called agenda setting.   Trying to fit news into pre-defined categories is part of this process.    I believe it was an interview with Noam Chomsky that introduced me to this idea.  He said something like (paraphrasing):

Have you ever wondered why there’s a business section and an entertainment section in your paper but no environment section or labor section?

So how the hell can we expect quality news when the topics up for airing are pre-determined using these and other filters?

Blogging presents such a great opening.   It doesn’t do away with bias.  Of course my postings are heavily filtered and the agenda is set.  But, there is such a diversity of voices (850,000 blogs approx. on wordpress alone presently) that one hopes that they collectively allow the airing of many opinions and stories.

Before I get too carried away,  my “dose of good news” refers to this story from the New York Times.

Discovery to Start Channel Focusing on Green Movement


Published: April 5, 2007

Discovery Communications, the cable channel operator, plans to start a 24-hour channel focused on eco-friendly living, as part of a push into the rising environmental movement.

The company, based in Silver Spring, Md., will next year rebrand its Discovery Home Channel with a name that has not been selected but will reflect its position as the centerpiece of an initiative called PlanetGreen.

 Almost enough to make cable worth the cost………………..almost.