Blue Marble

WTF? New England Rescinds Protections For Sea Turtles

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 7:11 PM EDT

loggerhead1.jpg

Come on, New England. This is a wicked bad idea—rescinding protections for threatened and endangered sea turtles caught in scallop dredges. Yesterday, the New England Fishery Management Council removed seasonal restrictions on scallop dredging in an area off New Jersey. These restrictions were designed to keep loggerhead and other turtles from being entangled, crushed and drowned in industrial-sized scallop dredges. The Council also rejected a proposed seasonal closure to fishermen of an area east of the Delmarva peninsula, reports the Environmental News Network:

The Council opted to rely on untested scallop dredge modifications called "chain mats" as its sole precaution against turtle bycatch. These grids of chain prevent turtles from entering the chain bag at the rear of a dredge but are unlikely to prevent turtles from being injured by scallop dredges used by fishermen to scour the seafloor. "Turtle chains do not protect turtles from being mangled by scallop dredges. The chain mats may have simply turned scallop dredges into giant turtle bludgeons," said David Allison of Oceana.

chainmat.jpg

Want one of these chain mats crashing through your world? Neither do turtles.

Wondering just how badly sea turtles are doing? Browse the IUCN Red List for loggerheads and leatherbacks.

Okay. Strike northeast scallops off my sustainable eat list.

Oh, and if you're interested in the strange bedfellows that be fishers and fisheries councils, read MoJo's The Catch

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Greenhouse Gas Sensors Tap California Air

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

315428461_54649b3aa7_m.jpg Sutro Tower in San Francisco now hosts the first of California's regional greenhouse-gas detectors. Nature reports that another sensor is in place atop Richland Tower near Sacramento, part of the California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project, a collaboration between state and federal agencies and universities. The sensors are the first of 10 that will take measurements twice daily. The project, born at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, hopes to establish whether California is reaching its goal of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases—at present, running about 550 million tons a year—by cutting state emissions. The data will also be used to improve estimates of GHG emissions at the national scale in support of the North American Carbon Program.

The gears are grinding. Slowly. Let's hope momentum develops faster than disaster.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

French Clay Kills Superbugs

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 7:23 PM EDT

This is how they did it in the olden days. Slap on the clay. Watch wounds heal. Some animals still do (foxes that dig themselves into clay banks to heal wounds and/or broken limbs). Anyway, new research out of Arizona State University, reported by the Geological Society of America finds that one kind of French clay kills several kinds of disease-causing bacteria. Including Mycobacterium ulcerans, a germ related to leprosy and tuberculosis, which causes the flesh-eating disease Buruli ulcer. Currently, advanced cases of Buruli ulcer can only be cured by surgical excision or amputation. In lab tests, the French clay also killed bacteria responsible for many human illnesses, including: Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), penicillin-resistant S. aureus (PRSA), and pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli). In other words, the really bad stuff we've bred through egregious overuse of antibiotics.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Is Climate Change Fueling Huge California Fires?

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 10:37 PM EDT

FSHScalifornia296_N8L.jpg

If not, they're a not-so-sneak preview. In fact, the catastrophic SoCal fires are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years. They may be a prelude to many more such events in the future, as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged droughts, says Ronald Neilson, a bioclimatologist at Oregon State University and with the USDA Forest Service, and a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize:

"This is exactly what we've been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change. You can't look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate. But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows, and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects. In the future, catastrophic fires such as those going on now in California may simply be a normal part of the landscape."

Fire forecast models developed by Neilson's research group at OSU and the Forest Service rely on several global climate models. When combined, they accurately predicted both the Southern California fires that are happening and the drought hitting Georgia and Florida, causing crippling water shortages. In studies released five years ago, Neilson and other OSU researchers predicted that the American West could become both warmer and wetter in the coming century, conditions that would lead to repeated, catastrophic fires larger than any in recent history.

Got a fire tent?

new_generation.jpg

Oh, and northern California might not get off so easy. IDEA forecasts of particulate suggest the smoke could blow ashore in San Francisco in the next 48 hours.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

The Greenest (Richest) Colleges

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

report%20card.jpg

The Sustainable Endowments Institute released its 2008 College Sustainability Report Card this week. Download the full report (including a list of the 200 colleges included and their overall green grades) here.

The grades themselves are not especially interesting—with a few exceptions, giant endowment=giant sustainability program. While no one got an A, Harvard and Dartmouth received an A-, and Yale got a B+. Yawn.

But the report does offer a few more newsworthy nuggets. It's interesting to note, for example, that more than one in three schools included in the list have full-time staff dedicated to sustainability, and three in five schools have green building projects.

Weird Weather Watch: Southern California Fires

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 3:44 PM EDT

By now, you've probably heard that there's a really big wildfire in the San Diego area, and it's being fueled by the Santa Ana winds. It's the worst fire in four years—which is saying something in Southern California. Fire season is especially bad this year due to the erratic weather that's the hallmark of climate change: First, record rainfall produces lots of brush; then, a record drought turned it into so much kindling. Add the Santa Ana winds, and you've got a conflagration. 170,000 acres, to be exact.

Almost 300,000 people have been asked to evacuate, and about 10,000 of them spent the night in Qualcomm stadium (formerly San Diego Stadium). Seems that as climate change progresses, more and more of us are going to be camping out in behemoth football stadiums. Their corporate sponsors are probably stoked.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Just Say No, Ewan McGregor

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 9:44 PM EDT

Jeff Stark's short, Desserts, starring Ewan McGregor. Warning: kinda graphic, not for the squeamish or sweet-toothed. Warning for ADD viewers: slow paced, until . . . well, you'll see.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Scared Yet? Atmospheric CO2 Levels Growing - Correction, Exploding - Faster Than Imagined

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 8:21 PM EDT

53616c7465645f5f20a59e5ebdd0818648f60e9ae43394d487a319f45e9e54bd.jpg Just in case anyone out there is deluded into thinking we're actually making progress on this issue because it's in the occasional headline, or, now and again, mentioned by a jaw-wagging politician. Here's the latest: Atmospheric carbon dioxide growth has increased 35 percent faster than expected since 2000.

The findings by the British Antarctic Survey and others, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels drove up atmospheric CO2 by 17 percent since 2000. At the same time, the declining efficiency of natural land and ocean sinks drove it up another 18 percent.

The research shows that improvements in the carbon intensity of the global economy have stalled since 2000, after improving for 30 years, due to population growth and the growing global wealth. The decline in global sink efficiency, according to author Dr Corinne Le Qéré, "suggests that stabilization of atmospheric CO2 is even more difficult to achieve than previously thought. We found that nearly half of the decline in the efficiency of the ocean CO2 sink is due to the intensification of the winds in the Southern Ocean".

Hold onto your hats, peeps.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

California Fires From Space

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

Here a couple of different perspectives on the wildfires in SoCal. One via Space.com from the International Space Station:

031028_iss_fire_04.jpg

These from NASA's MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center, taken three hours and 15 minutes apart, 21 Oct, show how the Santa Ana winds fanned embers into firestorms:

firenasa.jpg

Wondering where else is burning just now on our warming planet? Interested in the link between mega-fires and climate change? Take a look at the last 10 days. Yellow areas mark fire clusters:

firemap.2007281-2007290.600x300.jpg

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Factory Conditions Sicken Chinese Workers

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

6331.jpg

The fact that lead-laced toys put kids at risk is bad enough, but Chinese factories also cause big problems for another population—workers.

A few of the ways factory employees risk their lives to produce goods bound for the U.S., according to the Salt Lake Tribune's series on the hazards of manufacturing plants in China: