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 LIVING OFF THE PLANET 
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 07:22:56 AM EST
Oil Habit Unchanged on Two-Year Anniversary of BP's Gulf of Mexico Spill | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Two years ago, 11 men lost their lives as a backlash of gas exploded into the night from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. In the ensuing months, roughly 5 million barrels of oil and more than 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas spewed into the ocean from the Macondo well more than a kilometer underwater. It took the combined efforts of the U.S. government, the world's major oil companies and, finally, a lonely hydrologist working through the night from a cellphone picture of pressure reading graphs to cap the spill on July 15, 2010.

Two years later, Gulf seafood remains suspect in consumers' minds, despite the "sniff test." Fishermen and scientists report an excess of deformed or sickly sea life, and more than a million barrels of spilled oil remain "missing," likely never to be found. The Gulf's dolphins have been dying, deepwater corals remain coated in hydrocarbons and many people involved in the clean-up complain of poor health.

It will take decades to fully reckon the toll of BP's 2010 oil spill. In fact, science is still grappling with the after effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill. It took three years for Prince William Sound in Alaska's herring fishery to collapse and 20 years to reach a legal settlement.

Meanwhile, an invisible leak of natural gas is ongoing in the North Sea from an offshore platform operated by French oil company Total. Oil spills occur weekly in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. And the oil industry has resumed deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as prospecting in the melting Arctic, without adequate oversight or the resources to contain or clean up any future spills in the frigid north.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 02:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prenatal exposure to air pollution linked to childhood obesity

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2012) -- Overall, 17% of children in the United States are obese, and in inner-city neighborhoods, the prevalence is as high as 25%. While poor diets and physical inactivity are the main culprits, there is new evidence that air pollution can play a role.

A study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health finds that pregnant women in New York City exposed to higher concentrations of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, were more than twice as likely to have children who were obese by age 7 compared with women with lower levels of exposure. PAHs, a common urban pollutant, are released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil and gas, or other organic substances such as tobacco.

Results are published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"Obesity is a complex disease with multiple risk factors. It isn't just the result of individual choices like diet and exercise," says the study's lead author Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "For many people who don't have the resources to buy healthy food or don't have the time to exercise, prenatal exposure to air pollution may tip the scales, making them even more susceptible to obesity."



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 02:23:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Accelerating climate change exerts strong pressure on Europe's mountain flora

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) -- A pan-European study published in Science shows that mountain plants across the continent are moving to higher altitudes. This often results in raised species numbers on mountain tops, when colonizers from lower down start to dwell on the summits. This study, however, also shows that upward shifts can lead to a reduction in species richness. The paper is based on detailed surveys of 66 mountain summits distributed between the north of Europe and the southern Mediterranean Sea. An international research group, led by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna, mapped all plant species at each site in 2001 and 2008 using the same standardized procedures.

The study was coordinated by Harald Pauli, Michael Gottfried, Stefan Dullinger and Georg Grabherr.

Increasing species numbers were only found on summits of northern and central Europe. By contrast, species numbers were stagnating or declining at nearly all sites in the Mediterranean region. Harald Pauli from the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) programme, which coordinated the study, said, "Our results showing a decline at the Mediterranean sites is worrying because these are the mountains with a very unique flora and a large proportion of their species occur only there and nowhere else on Earth



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 02:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Melting Glaciers Liberate Ancient Microbes: Scientific American

OZEMAN, Mont.--Locked in frozen vaults on Antarctica and Greenland, a lost world of ancient creatures awaits another chance at life. Like a time-capsule from the distant past, the polar ice sheets offer a glimpse of tiny organisms that may have been trapped there longer than modern humans have walked the planet, biding their time until conditions change and set them free again. 

With that ice melting at an alarming rate, those conditions could soon be at hand. Masses of bacteria and other microbes - some of which the world hasn't seen since the Middle Pleistocene, a previous period of major climate change about 750,000 years ago - will make their way back into the environment. 

Once thought to be too harsh and inhospitable to support any living thing, the ice sheets are now known to be a gigantic reservoir of microbial life. Altogether, the biomass of microbial cells in and beneath the ice sheet may amount to more than 1,000 times that of all the humans on Earth



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 02:59:26 PM EST
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