Blue Marble - July 2007

Epuron

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

An element speaks.

JULIA WHITTY


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Live Earth Concert Kicks Off, Critics Weigh In

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 3:52 PM EDT

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Live Earth, the 24-hour concert, part of a larger multi-year campaign called Save Our Selves -- The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis (see video below), kicked off today on all seven continents across the globe. The event, organized by former U.S. Veep Al Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection, features nearly 150 artists, including U2, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna, who play to trigger a "global movement to solve the climate crisis."

But regardless of the star power, some are critical. Live Aid/Live 8 creator Bob Geldof says, "It's just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get up on stage." Keith Farnish, a British environmentalist and the founder of the Earth Blog is "not sure events like this make a difference."

Some are more harsh. Matt Helder, the drummer of Arctic Monkeys, a British Indie rock band, thinks the execution is hypocritical. "We're using enough power for ten houses just for lighting," he notes. This type of skepticism is being echoed by many, but Treehugger, an environmental blog that touts bringing sustainability to the mainstream, reports that steps have been made to make the concert greener and proceeds do go to create a foundation to combat global warming, which will be led by the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The concert does have its supporters (it is estimated that 2 billion people will be reached). Vocalist Patrick Stump of the alt rock band Fallout Boy is hopeful. "If we spread out the influence as much as we can and if we hit some people with some really big ideas, there might be a kid there that will totally eradicate fossil fuel." And of course, Gore is a big, big fan. He says, "the task of saving the global environment is a task we should all approach with a sense of joy."

We want to know what you think?

—Anna Weggel

SOS For Live Earth

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 6:12 PM EDT

The concerts. You know. 7/7/07. New York, London, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Sydney, Hamburg. JULIA WHITTY

Gray Whales Going Hungry

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 3:21 PM EDT

Scientists are reporting an unusually high number of undernourished whales for the first time since malnourishment and disease claimed a third of the gray whale population in 1999 and 2000. Ken Weiss at the Los Angeles Times reports that so far this year scientists haven't seen a decline in numbers. Nor are they sure what's causing the whales to waste. But they suspect the same thing that triggered a die-off eight years ago &mdash a rapid warming of the whales' Arctic feeding waters. Gray whales consume tons of small crustaceans in order to pack on the pounds for their long migration to Mexican breeding lagoons. But as Arctic ice recedes, the crustaceans on the Bering Sea floor are disappearing. . . Add this to the bad news for gray whales on the other side of the Pacific too. JULIA WHITTY

CO2 Weakens Soybeans

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 2:37 PM EDT

Elevated atmospheric CO2 may negatively impact the relationship between some plants and insects. A new study from the University of Illinois finds that soybeans exposed to elevated levels of CO2 become more susceptible to attack by Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica), reports the American Society of Plant Biologists. Furthermore, as the beetles consume the weakened soybeans, the insects' invasive abilities also intensify. . . So how will the naysayers spin this? JULIA WHITTY

Organic Tomatoes Richer In Antioxidants

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 6:38 PM EDT

Levels of two kinds of flavonoids were found to be 79 to 97 per cent higher in organic tomatoes. These flavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol) are known antioxidants and have been linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and dementia, reports New Scientist. The 10-year study from the University of California, Davis, suggests chemical fertilizers diminish flavonoid production because flavonoids are triggered as a defense against nutrient deficiency. . . Next question: do flavonoids make tomatoes juicier, tastier, and more flavorful, too? Because organics win out on that score as well. JULIA WHITTY

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Endangered Species List Endangered

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 6:14 PM EDT

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is neglecting its mission as keeper of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Los Angeles Times reports. While the Bald Eagle soars back from near-extinction, hundreds of other dwindling species are foundering under the legal, bureaucratic and political turmoil facing the agency. The Bush administration has added fewer species to the ESA list than any other since the law was enacted in 1973, resulting in a waiting list of 279 candidates creeping closer to extinction each day nothing is done on their behalf. Another bottleneck weakens efforts to save those already listed. Two hundred of 1,326 of these are now closer to disappearing forever, in part because funds have been cut for their recovery. The agency acknowledges a 30% vacancy rate in ESA staff. Plus the top position has been left vacant for more than a year. . . More evidence that the casualties of war, stupidity, and this administration will never be healed. JULIA WHITTY

AIDS Takes A Toll On The Environment

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 5:44 PM EDT

AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is taking its toll on the natural world. Nature reports from South Africa, and the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, that the disease is acting on communities in a multitude of ways. Game wardens and other conservation workers have died, while others miss work to care for ill loved ones. Families that have lost their primary breadwinners turn to the land for food and fuel. In some places, timber harvesting for coffins is causing deforestation. Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand surveyed several hundred families in the rural northeast of South Africa, where about one in four people are HIV positive. JULIA WHITTY

Weird Weather Watch: Floods and Draughts

| Wed Jul. 4, 2007 2:40 PM EDT

I'm late on this one, but you may have read elsewhere that Central Texas was deluged with day after day of rain in late June, causing a dozen deaths. Is this weather weird? Yes indeed. As a former Texan, I can tell you that Texas summers (everywhere but East Texas, where weather is more like Louisiana's) are dry as a bone. There is an occasional thunderstorm to cool things down, but all too briefly and infrequently. Not so this summer. The days of continuous rainfall reached a 70-year high, and the weather was sometimes so bad that helicopters rescuing people from rooftops were grounded.

Now move over a bit to the east. Things in the Cotton Belt are dry as a bone. Farmers in this traditional agricultural hotbed are facing the worst draught in 100 years, and three quarters of their crop is gone to proverbial seed.

It seems difficult to get people to respond to the threat of global warming because in many places the warm (or dry) weather is a welcome change. But this is what global warming really looks like: floods and draughts right next door to one another, with nobody benefiting.

Construction Of Oil Platforms Scaring Whales From Feeding Grounds

| Tue Jul. 3, 2007 6:59 PM EDT

Extremely high noise levels at an oil and gas construction site off the east coast of Russia is frightening critically endangered whales out of their summer feeding grounds, reports New Scientist. Monitors for WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and Sakhalin Environment Watch report that western gray whales were nowhere to be seen over the weekend of 30 June to 1 July, when noise levels increased dramatically. Normally the monitors see the whales daily. Sakhalin Energy, a company partially owned by oil giant Shell, is in the final stages of installing two platforms 7.5 miles offshore &mdash part of the world's largest oil and gas extraction project. The company denies exceeding noise limits. Fewer than 100 western grey whales are left on Earth. They congregate around Sakhalin to feed. . . Just another way the carbon footprint squashes the life out of the planet. JULIA WHITTY