Sunday Reading: Deforestation and Ebola, Deep Sea Mining

By admin 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.

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

By admin on October 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm
Fracking in California, Photo from www.CAFrackFackts.org
Fracking in California, Photo from www.CAFrackFackts.org

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 suffering unprecedented 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.”

A Marriage Equality Victory

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

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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.