Pacia Purcell: Current Environmental News

September 27, 2016

Fate of turtles, tortoises affected more by habitat than temperature


Many species of turtles and tortoises are classified as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered due to being traded, collected for food or medicine, and habitat degradation. However, a study was done to see if long-term climate changes also had an effect on these species. The study compared current warming patterns to how turtle and tortoise ancestors reacted to climate warming in the past using fossil records. It was found that in the past species were able to adapt to climate warming however, in these cases warming spanned over a longer time period. Species today are susceptible to changes in climate and rainfall patterns, as sex is dependent on the temperature of eggs in developmental stages. The effect of climate change on these species will be determined not by warming itself, but by how fast the warming occurs.

Current Issues: Max Kerns

September 21, 2016

Article: Climate Impacts: Melting Glaciers, Shifting Biomes and Dying Trees in US National Parks

I found this article very interesting. Mainly in the way that it was written. The article is discussing many of the issues that global climate change is effecting and stating that national parks are excellent sources to track this. What I found most interesting was that the article continuously states “Human Global Climate Change” though never really offers any direct correlation to this claim other than to state the obvious conditions. Furthermore, it goes on to say that national parks are pretty much doomed and will only be a remembrance due to biome shifting.  I am not saying that there is not any merit to the dialogue as I think it is important. However, I personally believe the message could have been stated in a better sense, allowing the reader to grapple with the ideas it was referring to, instead of plainly saying this is fact based on, I said so.

Pacia Purcell: Environmental News

September 21, 2016

Mozambique faces race against time to end illegal logging

The Guardian

Nearly 93% of all logging taking place in Mozambique is illegal. Obviously this is having an effect of the forests as a consequence of the unsustainable deforestation that is happening, but it is also having an effect on the economy of Mozambique. The country is losing money through untaxed wood being sold. The high demand for such wood comes from China. The government has reacted to the problem by banning the sale of wood to China for several years, however this will not necessarily stop those doing so illegally. Most of the illegal activity is not detected. Mozambique has weak law enforcement and there is corruption within the government. However, the country is determined to change. They are passing new forestry and conservation laws. Only time will tell if these efforts will be enough to save the forests of Mozambique.

Current Event: JetBlue Makes Biofuels Deal to Curtail Greenhouse Gases

September 21, 2016

According to this New York Times article, the airline company JetBlue has agreed to buy more than 330 million gallons of renewable fuel over 10 years (20% of its annual fuel use at Kennedy International Airport which is 4% of the fuel used throughout its network will be using a biofuel blend). This move was apparently decided based on the desire of the airline to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to “…jump-start the industry and … enable all airlines, very much ourselves included, to diversify our fuel supply.”. Biofuels are made from various sorts of organic matter produced from agriculture, wood scraps, and even municipal waste.

In the last few years there have been good signs of the airline industry shifting towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and switching to more environmentally-friendly fuel sources for their energy needs which is promising. But there is still quite a bit of resistance as it can be hard to get such a global industry to change as easily without complications as they have to figure out new regulations (different jurisdictions may not be as cooperative).

  • Amanda Apicella

Notes 9/21: Emily

September 21, 2016

Notes from Nature:

First, It seems to me that the author spends more time critiquing other histories than he does presenting any. This should be labeled as a critique not a historical summary. Unless is a historical summary of how historians have interpreted and understood history and not focusing on that history itself.

“Depending on your standpoint, humanity had either fallen from his state of grace, where it had been unencumbered by institutions, or had risen beyond its barbaric confines through the salutary mechanisms of culture and human laws.” Can there be no in-between?

“and if change is the only constant in the natural world as well as in human society, where is the urgency or sense in trying to preserve in perpetuity something both relatively recent and likely to change of its own accord anyhow?” And if we do want to control “bad” change then how do we know what is good change and bad change.

There seems to be a semi-consistent continuum of attitudes on the natural depending on the level of control is by humans or the forces of nature. On the far human end is the urban world which is both good and bad. On the far natural end are wildernesses which are considered too chaotic and hellish. Closer to humans than the natural are destructed areas like the meadowlands which are seen negatively. Closer to the natural but still somewhat controlled by humans is nature. Nature in this sense would be parks or gardens or the countryside. Nature is seen as positive.

Human Control  (Urban)——(Destruction)——(Nature)——(Wilderness)  Natural

Is nature a luxury for those of economic and social means, that are removed from the land but can visit nature and therefore appreciate it?

Current Environmental Notes:

Here is an MIT review of the sterile mosquito project based around the new technology CRISPR. This “extinction invention” is relatively easy to use but comes with strong moral questions about how we effect environment. We have affected the evolutionary pressures of the world for a long time but never have we had the capacity to change the genetic basis of evolving organisms. We are still struggling with how we should/do affect the environment with current technologies and adding this in will only complicate matters. But it made me realize that in a way it is no different from previous technologies. The effect of a technology changes the environment and when it affects it badly we blame the ignorance or immoral attitude of the society that used it. But scientists have never been in a position where they understood the environmental processes well enough to know how they will be affected by a certain technology before that reaction occurs. It is only in hindsight that we can know. So fear of environmental change would lead to no technology.

Current Issues: Max Kerns

September 14, 2016

forests in 14 years

31 August 2016 / Morgan Erickson-Davis

A new analysis of satellite data found some watersheds lost upwards of 22 percent of their tree cover, endangering water security.

This article was an overview of the current issues with the worlds 230 watersheds and the loss of tree cover from 6-14% with some cases showing loss of upwards of 22%. This has dire ramifications for local species and communities that rely on the tree cover, which helps with a multitude of benefits from preventing erosion to the filtering of groundwater.

Notes 9/14: Emily

September 14, 2016

Notes on The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse:

When he claims that we aren’t responsible for the future generations per say, is that against leaving a legacy?

It totally uses the word ecologists wrong (or perhaps it is translated wrong) and that drives me crazy.

“ecologists, wholly absorbed in their science-fiction ethics, care more about our possible misdeeds than about present injustices”. He uses a lot of absolutes. This quote sums up his attitude toward environmental concerns. He seems to think they are all in the distant future. Immediately after reading this I think of the problem of burning coal and how it hurts populations (especially human ones) right now. So not all of the issues are issues for the future. Another lack of knowledge of time scale is his statement that we will not actually know any affects for centuries even though there instances of quick ecological or even evolutionary reactions.

I did find intriguing and maybe a bit truthful the idea of being very self important. That humanity was raised to the level of gods and were at the pinnacle of history.

When he talked about the environmentalists who “want to see at least three Fukushimas a year”, it reminded me of the question whether naive visitors with little knowledge on wildlife deserved to be mauled by a bear or stupid visitors deserve to fall from a cliff.

As someone who has read Jared Diamond’s book and has heard much of the criticism about it, it may not be a good thing to use as an “excellent” source. Plus his synopsis in not only really really wrong but also very very mean. This ‘mistake’ is just one of many that makes his hard to take seriously, even if he does have decent points.

Bruckner seems to be hateful of not only extremists but of most people in general. He is almost subscribing to the same hate as he is bashing. I get that it is for criticism but still.  He also greatly generalizes groups like his so called ecologists. And goes to critic all fear in a really long chapter, not just fear of environmental disaster.

“It is also human beings that give meaning and rights” True and also reminiscent of the first article about how people define wilderness.

“But David M Raup, a paleontologist, tells us that even if were to blow up our whole nuclear aresenal, thus provoking the interruption of photosynthesis and the elimination of the human race, the biosphere would not dissappear and bacterial life would continue, hardly affected, just as it did after giant meteorites hit the earth” “It is never the end of the world. It is always the end of a world” This basically sums up my comments from the meadowlands notes.

I feel like I could sum this book up in about 20 pages but I think it is because I have fallen into most of the “bad” thought processes he describes at some point another and for most if not all of them have since retracted. He is just more rude about having gone through that process.

His talk about distrusting science illuminates the view of those that I find frustrating who dispute science so much (like politicians speaking of the fear of the people). But at the same time I appreciate his bashing of democracy as far as making science decisions. This reminds me of a quote by Issac Asimov,

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

But he also complained about the scientific authorities that governments turn to like Green Peace which reminded me of the letter from the Nobel Prize winners to green peace about GMOs. They were basically complaining that Green Peace attacked GMOs despite the lack of harm and despite the benefits for the world such as helping people who die from vitamin deficiencies. Here is an article about the letter.

Also his discussion of advocates for “going backward” or returning to native lifestyles remind me of this:


Image Source

Current Environmental Notes: Devil’s Hole Pupfish


Image Source

During a recent episode of CBS News Sunday Morning there was a feature on the Devil Hole Pupfish. This fish lives in Devil’s Hole not far from Death Valley in California. The species has evolved in this small environment in the middle of the desert and is the rarest fish in the world. So naturally it is protected. The aquifer is surrounded by fences and security cameras. One of the ways these fish are protected is bans on wells near the hole. There was a case that went all the way to the supreme court of the farmers vs the fish. In the middle of drought effected California this restriction is serious for farmers but the fish won. Another way to conserve this biological feat is to build a $4.5 million psuedo Devil’s hole to host a second population of pupfish. Stories like this make me understand why some non-environmentalists think of environmental activists as extremists. This is kind of extreme for 50 little fish that don’t actually pose any obvious biological value other than diversity in a single hole. Discover magazine did a study to check out just how “different” these fish were from other relatives and it turns out most of the difference is in environment and not genetics.

Also along the lines of stupid people “surveillance video captured three locals breaking in to skinny dip. Beer and vomit were found in the water. Fortunately, only one pupfish was killed.”

Here is the article from sunday morning and another from discover magazine and here is the official page of the national park service about the hole and its resident fishes.