Sunday Reading: Deforestation and Ebola, Deep Sea Mining

By Roxy on October 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Industrial kimberlite diamond pit mine in Sierra Leone, West Africa owned by Koidu holdings, one of a number of international mining companies who have come to Sierra Leone in search of diamonds. Mining is among major factors driving deforestation of the region. Photographer: David Levene

How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic, via The Guardian:

Although bats have long been on the menu in West Africa, there are other transmission routes for the virus besides bushmeat. It is conceivable the two-year-old boy in Guinea thought to be the first case in this outbreak was infected after eating bat-contaminated fruit. This mode of transmission may also explain how the disease gets into wild gorilla populations.

The bottom line is that there is no public health without environmental health. Deforestation didn’t cause this Ebola epidemic, but did make it much more likely. The region’s legacy of war and poverty, its beleaguered health care systems, and a series of bureaucratic fumbles fanned a small and isolated outbreak into a full-blown epidemic fire, which has already killed more people than all previous 25 known Ebola outbreaks put together.

It is shocking to realize that a tiny virus with just a handful of genes can fracture families, shred communities, destroy national economies and destabilize whole regions in just a matter of months. But this is what are witnessing with Ebola.

Ethical Metalsmiths recently published an article an deep sea mining, which would be devastating to marine habitats, called A Close Look At Deep Sea Mining:

Intensive research, planning, risk mitigation and the advances of technology hope to decrease environmental degradation.   The risk to the environment is far greater, however, in the form of large scale disaster.  EM fears the potential of large scale environmental disaster similar to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  During the spill, British Petroleum’s fail safes were unable to stem the flow of oil gushing out of the sea floor.  The prospects of a rogue tank-sized robotic vehicle on the ocean floor gobbling up ecologically diverse habitats concerns us here at EM and it sadly is not out of the realm of possibilities.

[...]

The ROVs will remove some of the most biologically diverse and active vents and habitat on planet earth.  This concerns environmentalists even though the production area is much smaller than land based mining.  All that grinding and crushing of the vents will create noise pollution and large plumes of sediment that have the potential to spread over a larger area of habitat, impacting whales and possibly smothering other sensitive species in a larger swath of habitation.  Scientific research concludes that these ROVs will disturb and suspend 16% of the floor sediment in the surrounding water and predict it will take 20 years for sediment to regain its original density. This disturbance could destroy species’ environments and feeding grounds. Even after the slurry of ore is pumped up to the ship the environmental impacts do not stop.  The waste water is pumped back down to the ocean floor, and even if it is filtered prior to return, it could contain sedimentary particles and heavy metals that are harmful to ocean floor species and migrate to human consumption through seafood and shellfish and via water tables.

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Sunday Reading: California Drinking and Irrigation Aquifers Contaminated with Fracking Water

By Roxy on October 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm

California aquifers contaminated with billions of gallons of fracking wastewater, via Reuters

Troubling news from California. Protected aquifers in drought-ridden California have been found to contain billions of gallons of fracking wastewater.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California State Water Resources Board found that at least nine of the 11 hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wastewater injection sites that were shut down in July upon suspicion of contamination were in fact riddled with toxic fluids used to unleash energy reserves deep underground. The aquifers, protected by state law and the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, supply quality water in a state currently sufferingunprecedented drought.

The documents also show that the Central Valley Water Board found high levels of toxic chemicals – including arsenic, thallium, and nitrates – in water-supply wells near the wastewater-disposal sites.

Arsenic is a carcinogen that weakens the immune system, and thallium is a common component in rat poison.

“Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

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A Marriage Equality Victory

By Roxy on October 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Another marriage equality victory to celebrate that could potentially expand same-sex marriage to 30 states, up from 19.

Supreme Court Delivers Tacit Win to Gay Marriage, via the New York Times.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will have an enormous practical effect and may indicate a point of no return for the Supreme Court.
Most immediately, the Supreme Court’s move increased the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19. Within weeks legal ripples from the decision could expand same-sex marriage to 30 states.

Where does your gold come from? A discussion in San Francisco on Fairmined gold initiatives

By Roxy on October 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

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RSVP by October 5th for this event. Get to know the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Fairmined gold initiatives.

Event takes place on October 16th at 6:30PM at the Makeshift Society, 235 Gough St., San Francisco CA 94102

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People’s Climate March 2014

By Roxy on September 26, 2014 at 11:53 am

AP Photo/Jason DeCrowScreen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.51.12 AM

 

Top image via AP/Jason Decrow. Anna was at the People’s Climate March in New York last weekend! Described as the largest climate march in history, estimates of marchers ranged between 310,000 and 400,000 in Manhattan alone:

“Feeling hopeful that the message was heard at the UN. Climate change is the issue of our time; it affects everyone and everything. There is no planet B!” Attached are some photos Anna snapped on her cell phone from the march.

 

photo 5 photo 3 photo 4

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Introducing One of a Kind Stones

By Roxy on September 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

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Phenakite pair cut and sourced by Top Notch Faceting

Tourmaline cut and sourced by Top Notch Faceting.

Half-octahedron diamond.

Visit our website for more information and images.

 

 

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Top Notch Faceting’s Jean Noel Soni

By Roxy on September 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Jean-Noel Soni is the mastermind behind Top-Notch Faceting. Jean creates award-winning, precision cut gemstones that are ethically-sourced, cut by hand, and created without the use of computer-aided design . In his words, the unique facets in his gemstones are “all figured by man.” I had the opportunity to take a peek at his notebook and the degree of detail and geometry that goes into every gemstone is remarkable. Speaking with Jean, it’s clear that he is incredibly knowledgeable about the materials he sources, and is passionate about his process and unique perspective on the industry.

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Jean-Noel Soni’s interest in gemstones began at an early age. Raised by his mother, a collector of antique jewelry, Jean was surrounded by intricate vintage trinkets as well as his mother’s talented jeweler friends. His introduction to gemstone cutting started in 2009, taking a once-a-week class at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. The curriculum was solely in cabochon cutting, or stones that are polished and shaped without facets. Jean’s interest in gemstone cutting took off.  Jean states that cabochon cutting is very precise and this experience aided his understanding in creating the dimensions for a stone.

Since Randall didn’t offer classes in facet cutting, Jean decided to take matters into his own hands. Saving money to spend on gem cutting equipment every few months, Jean turned to how-to books in gemstone faceting, including a vintage German book his mother owned from 1896.  At this point, it seemed clear that gemstone cutting was Jean’s calling. Jean picked out other books from the library, paying close attention to the detailed diagrams, illustrating interesting facets and techniques.

16.10ctOregonSunstoneBefore 16.10ctOregonSunstoneAfter

More or less self-taught, Jean’s work is precise and thoughtful.  He strives to create heirlooms from gemstones with the understanding that the material is finite. Never creating the same stone twice, Jean takes the needed time to design each stone. “For me, I really enjoy the challenge of taking whatever shape is presented to me and changing that into a gemstone. It can be challenging depending on the shape of the stone.”

Browsing through Jean’s instagram he is clearly prolific. “I love to work. I love the challenge and the ritual.” He was kind enough to send us a few before and after shots of stones, as well as a few shots from his studio. The transformation of a rough stone into a gem is quite magical and even sculptural.

17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetBefore 17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetAfter 4.82ctImperialGarnetBefore 4.82ctImperialGarnetAfter 1.87ctBenitoiteBefore 1.87ctBenitoiteAfter 1.79ctNigerianSapphireBefore 1.79ctNigerianSapphireAfter

“I use an older faceting machine. By machine, it is only a motor that spins round grinding wheels in different grits, horizontally. Each facet on every stone is ground down in finer and finer grits until each is polished. The trick lies in keeping all the facets at the proper depth and keeping symmetry. [This is] all done by eye and hand. There is also a whole other slew of things that go into cutting a gem including orientation of the crystal, dopping (attaching) the stone to a quill with wax so it doesn’t fall off and polishing, which is it’s own science by itself. I do not use any computer programs for my work at all. The materials are all very different and I feel that computers can only account for so much. Besides it’s more fun to figure out the stones with my own head.”

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I asked Jean about his views in the gemstone industry and appreciated his honest and critical approach. He mentioned that often in the industry, gems are cut for optimal weight, rather than precision cutting, which brings out natural beauty of the stone. “In the commercial gemstone cutting industry, it’s business as usual.” Jean notes that in the industry, people source cheaper materials rather than the quality of stone, but notes that a few people, such as himself, are searching for high quality products.

Jean prides himself in his ethical sourcing, saying the best way to ensure that a stone is ethical is to work small and stay local. Jean works directly with miners, traveling to places as diverse as Romania, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. His stones are  vibrant, clear, and untreated. Some of his favorite stones to work with are garnets and zircons. Every once in a while, Jean will find a zircon stone with a phenomena called double-refraction, which creates an almost double-vision effect. “You’re essentially watching the molecules vibrate.”

Please join us at NextFab Studios for a discussion with Jean-Noel Soni about his practice on September 24th, from 5-7PM. Please sign up here: https://nextfab.ticketleap.com/jewelry-lecture/dates/Sep-24-2014_at_0500PM

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Saturday Reading: EPA Decision on Bristol Bay Pebble Mine, Mountaintop Removal Victory, Polar Vortex Linked to Climate Change

By Roxy on September 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Photo of the Bristol Bay in Alaska by Jim Klug

EPA Propose Limits on Alaska’s Pebble Mine Project via the Washington Post:

Dennis McLerran, the regional administrator for EPA Region 10, told reporters Friday the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one currently envisioned by Pebble’s sponsors would produce “almost unfathomable amounts of rock” which “posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem” in Bristol Bay.

The EPA was taking this step “to protect the world’s largest salmon greatest fishery what would certainly be one of the world’s largest open pit mine developments ever conceived of,” he said.

Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Wins Huge Court Victory, via ILoveMountains.org:

In a huge victory for our water and our future, a federal appeals court stated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are authorized to enforce laws on water pollution from mountaintop removal mines.

After years of effective organizing, our movement pressured the EPA to issue a water quality guidance in 2011 that used peer-reviewed science to show the devastating impacts that mountaintop removal coal mining has on Appalachia’s water. Unfortunately, a coalition including the National Mining Association and the state governments of Kentucky and West Virginia sued to prevent the EPA from protecting our water from dangerous coal pollution.

This important ruling says that the EPA was correct to enforce the law and follow the science to protect Appalachian waters and community health.

Remember that brutal, frigid winter we had here on the east coast? This seems obvious, but a new study has linked the polar vortex to climate change.

via Slate.com:

As the last few days of summer linger, you’d be forgiven if you feel a wave of anxiety upon the inevitable return of crisp, cold mornings. There’s no two ways about it: Last winter, replete with polar vortexes galore, was brutal. And we may not have seen the last of them.

New research published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications attempts to track the polar vortex disturbances back to their source.

The study, written by a team of Korean and American scientists, is the latest (and perhaps most comprehensive) attempt to answer a question that’s as hot as any in climate science right now: What’s the impact of melting Arctic sea ice on extreme weather?

Through a blend of statistical analysis of recent weather and computer modeling of a world in which rapid Arctic ice loss hadn’t occurred, the study establishes a link between the warming ocean, melting ice, and weakened polar vortex. For the first time, the study also proposes an epicenter of action where years of extreme ice loss in particular appear to dominate this process: a remote part of the Arctic between Scandinavia and Siberia.

I reached study co-author Seong-Joong Kim, a climate scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute, by phone in a Seattle hotel room, where he was preparing to discuss his work with American colleagues at a conference devoted to extreme weather and Arctic sea ice.

As strange as it sounds, Kim believes the intense cold air outbreaks in recent winters across Europe, Asia, and North America are, in his words, “a side effect of global warming.” Building on results released in the new paper and his interpretation of other researchers’ findings, here’s his best guess of what’s going on. Abnormally warm waters in the tropical Atlantic travel up the Gulf Stream toward Europe in the late summer and fall months, motivating exceptional sea ice melt in the Barents-Kara seas north of Scandinavia. When that area is ice free, the open water releases heat into the atmosphere during November and December, and sets up an anomalous blocking pattern over the Ural Mountains. By midwinter, as more and more heat is being transferred to the Arctic, the troposphere and stratosphere can link updestabilizing the polar vortex, weakening the jet stream, and sendingwaves of cold air southward.

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Fairmined Initiatives Funding Education in Relave, Peru

By Roxy on August 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

We recently received a lovely e-mail from Ethical Metalsmiths to jewelers using FAIRMINED gold: “Responsibly sourced, fairly mined, fairly traded, transformative and fully traceable gold is no longer an idea, but a reality and you are the ones making it happen in the United States [...] What I am most excited about and think you may be too, is that the premiums you paid on your certified gold has been applied to the building a of a new high school in Relave, Peru. The use of the premium is democratically decided by a committee.” We are so proud to see the benefits to the mining community and their families. Images courtesy of Ethical Metalsmiths.

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Top Notch Faceting Discussion at NextFab Studio

By Roxy on August 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Bario Neal is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a discussion at NextFab Studios with Top Notch Faceting‘s Jean-Noel Soni. Soni specializes in unique, ethically-sourced, precision cut gemstones. The prolific gemstone cutter is the winner of multiple AGTA Awards in Innovative Faceting and Phenomenal Gemstones. No cut is ever done twice and every facet is “figured by man.” This event takes place September 24th and NextFab Studios in Philadelphia from 5-7PM.

topNotchFlier1

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