MAY LOVE PREVAIL ON EARTH
February 6, 2004
The Green Holocaust Files #14: On The Very Edge of The Tipping Point
Yet another compilation focusing both on the plight of our global environment and on glimmers of hope through a proposed New Energy Movement. Humanity's voracious gluttony for the resources of the Earth and lack of foresightedness of its consequences seem to be bottomless. When I consider the scope of potential changes ahead, a part of me thinks that it's no longer a matter of "if" but of "when" the dominoes start falling in a cascading crescendo of ecoblivion. Some would probably argue we are right now crashing down, with species, whole habitats and all that has so far maintained the delicate balance on this living planet disappearing faster and faster. It sure looks as if we have irremediably fouled our nest and are stuck in deep shifting sands.
Yet another part of me is not that much concerned and even feels that there is some pre-ordained beauty to this mad dash into shredding the last threads that hold this magnificent symphony of living symbiosis alive, as if there was really no other way to break the hard shell of our complacent and illusory sense of separation from All That Is.
At some point there will be a "break or shift" magical moment, a point Omega when suddenly our infinitely disparate cacophony of petty individual concerns and dreams will be vaporized as a deep reckoning will grab our souls, millennia of deep trance delusion will be shaken off, and a profound, blissful and oh! so Love-sparkling welling of tearful emotions and unconditional surrender will gently touch our souls, hearts and trembling lips to awaken us from this deep self-induced slumber...
I know it is coming... Can you sense it?
Earth Rainbow Network Coordinator
This compilation is archived at http://www.EarthRainbowNetwork.com/Archives2004/GreenHolocaust14.htm
Free subscription to such compilations by sending a blank email to email@example.com
"Your silence will not protect you."
- Audre Lorde
"A time comes when silence is betrayal."
- Martin Luther King
"Remaining silent about the destruction of nature is an endorsement of that destruction."
- Redwood Mary (a.k.a. Mary Rose)
"The world shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
- Anais Nin
1. New Energy Movement
2. Demand for oil outstripping supply
3. SECRET GLOBAL FUEL CRISIS
4. How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age...
5. CLIMATE COLLAPSE: Growing Evidence of Scary Change
7. US News on the Boreal: Fighting for a forgotten forest
8. THE STATE OF CONSUMPTION TODAY
9. Film-maker Records Effects Of Eating Only McDonald's For A Month
10. Bees Threatened Worldwide By Growing Pesticide Use
11. Potential for bird flu pandemic is real
12. Parrot's oratory stuns scientists
Administration OKs Drilling On Endangered Sea Turtles' Nesting Beach (Feb 3)
The Bush Administration has approved extensive gas drilling in a national park that is the main U.S. nesting beach for the most endangered sea turtle in the world. The National Park Service under President Bush has given the green light to "an aggressive drilling campaign" that could involve drilling 20 or more natural gas wells on Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. And it didso without formally consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act.  CLIP
Coke with Yet Another New Twist: Toxic Cola (Jan 17)
The Indian parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria. Indian parliamentarians should take the logical next step, and ban the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in the entire country. The ban came as the result of tests, including those by the Indian government, which found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the US of the same drinks were found to be safe.
Recommended by "Stephen Kaplan" firstname.lastname@example.org who wrote:
Please let your readers know about the New Energy Movement which was initiated a short while ago. The public needs to speak out about new energy, and this is a critical vehicle for interested people to use for that purpose.
New Energy Movement
"We who do not want to become extinct"
New Energy Movement Motto: Zero Emissions by 2020!
The New Energy Movement is a broad-based public movement dedicated to the study and promotion of peaceful and sustainable solutions for an imperiled planet. We believe the solutions exist and can be implemented if we adopt sensible public policies. Examples include the support of clean and renewable energy of all kinds, and the conservation and recycling of energy, hydrocarbons, carbohydrates, water, soil, wood and minerals.
We recognize that non-sustainable practices and their negative effects are physical problems demanding physical solutions. Corrective actions need to be implemented within realistic target timelines in order to avert catastrophe. We believe that toxic and greenhouse emissions should and could be reduced to zero by 2020.
We seek to work in concert with existing environmental, educational, business, and governmental groups, other progressive movements, and individuals who agree with these goals, without prejudice or vested interest as to the best means of accomplishing them.
We seek public jurisdiction over questions of peace and sustainability. We support a massive shift of federal priorities away from weapons programs to an Apollo-type research and deployment initiative which would identify and implement sustainable solutions to our pressing environmental, socioeconomic, and geopolitical problems. In the short term, this would mean a shifting of federal subsidies and research programs from polluting fossil and nuclear fuels to clean and renewable energy.
We support conversion of most military personnel into an Earth Corps, in addition to the Peace Corps, to carry out the job of restoring our planet's biosphere.
We seek lasting public policy measures which would ensure sustainable practices and the end of pollution.
Our first project is to research and educate about the potential of new energy sources such as zero-point energy, cold fusion, and advanced hydrogen technologies which could provide us with a quantum leap in having cheap and clean energy for all.
Read New Energy Movement Platform
The Challenge: Avoid Ecological Disaster
We are surely heading for ecological disaster if we do not make radical changes in energy and environmental policy. Here are some of the most salient aspects of our unsustainability dilemma which cries out for solutions such as new energy:
WHY WE CAN'T GO ON LIKE THIS--BETWEEN 1950 AND 2000:
* Population up 2x
* Energy use up 4x (U.S. now = world in 1950)
* No. of automobiles up 10x
* Paper use up 7x
* Wood use up 3x
* Water use up 3x
* Fish catch up 5x
* Rangeland production up 3x
DURING THE DECADE 2000-2010 WE ARE EXPERIENCING
"BIG ROLLOVERS" OR PEAK PRODUCTION IN OIL, NATURAL
GAS, WATER, WOOD, TOPSOIL, FISH AND OTHER FOODS.
* Demand outstrips the capacity to produce;
* Sellers market: prices skyrocket;
* Resource becomes more than half-depleted and quality decreases;
* Exponential increase in consumption is insensitive to underestimates in supply;
* We are "hitting the wall" in supply: at current rates of consumption, most of these resources will be gone from the Earth by 2050;
* We must radically change our policies by developing new energy sources and recycling our basic raw materials.
HUMAN IMPACT ON EARTH
* Biggest mass extinction in 65 million years;
* Toxic pollution kills 100s of millions;
* More carbon dioxide than in 160 million years;
* Disaster relief budgets are up 10x in twenty years because of global climate change and warming mostly attributable to the routine burning of fossil fuels;
* Global warming is exacerbated by ozone depletion, deforestation, melting of ice caps and glaciers;
* Depletion or scarcity in major natural resources;
* Dependence on fossil fuels, nuclear energy and weapons production comprise about 80% of the world economy directly or indirectly;
* Dependence on Mideast oil is ecologically, economically and militarily unsustainable.
* Increased outgassing of greenhouse gas methane
Main reference for these statistics: State of the World, annual volumes issued by the Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C
Forwarded by "Mark Graffis" email@example.com
Demand for oil outstripping supply
Jan. 28, 2004
In some year ahead - and by no means one necessarily that far ahead - we'll go through another bout of winter weather like this one but with one critical distinction that will make all the difference, even though it will have nothing to do with the weather.
Assume that we experience the same prolonged, extreme cold and high winds and succession of snowstorms, all right across the country. But assume, as well, that in that year the fuel by which we heat our houses, offices, factories and stores, and by which we power our cars, trucks, airplanes, trains and buses, is having to be rationed.
Rationing doesn't here mean actual physical rationing, with householders and car drivers limited to so many litres a month.
It means, instead, rationing by price. As oil supplies dwindle, not in themselves (or not for a long time) but in relation to demand, so will the price at first escalate, and then soar.
That's bound to happen. It will happen because the demand for oil is bound to outstrip the supply of oil, and of natural gas and coal and of other hydrocarbons.
The U.S. Energy Department reckons that this "tilting point" won't happen until 2037. Its calculation is widely criticized, with its forecasts for increases in demand dismissed as far too conservative. One well-known petroleum geologist, Colin Campbell, has put the tilting point at 2010, or little more than a half-decade away. Another, Kenneth Deffeys, forecasts that it will occur this year.
The basis facts are these: The entire world now both produces and consumes some 75 million barrels of oil a day. By 2015, or a decade away, demand is expected to increase by more than two-thirds, or by another 60 million barrels a day.
This extra demand simply cannot be met. We would have to find and develop the equivalent of 10 new North Sea oilfields in just a decade. Even if Iraq's oilfields are fully developed, with almost unlimited new investment and new technology, it could only produce an extra 6 million barrels, or a mere one-tenth of the amount needed.
Certainly, new supplies are being found in places such as Siberia, the Central Asian Republics and west Africa. But these are not net additions to the total output. At the same time, production from all existing super-giant and giant fields is contracting by 4 to 5 per cent a year.
Additional supplies could be generated from tar sands and oil shale in Western Canada and in Venezuela's Orinoco belt. But more than half as much energy is used extracting this oil as the energy value of the oil produced. Other potential supplies, such as polar oil and liquid natural gas, are horrendously expensive.
The real problem isn't supply, though. It's demand. Last year, one element of the demand equation clicked into place. In 2003, China overtook Japan to become the world's second-largest consumer of oil. The International Energy Agency describes China as "the major driver of global demand growth." The U.S. remains the world's gas guzzler. It consumes about one-seventh of global production. (Canada, relatively, is as liberal and as wasteful in its consumption.)
A bit surprisingly, President George W. Bush, himself an oil man, has actually expressed some concern about the issue. He's said, "It's becoming very clear that demand is outstripping supply."
In fact, a lot could be done. Tax loopholes could be closed, like the one that makes SUVs artificially attractive. Regulations could mandate higher fuel-efficiency standards. Tax incentives could motivate householders to improve their heating efficiency. Other remedies could range from minimizing urban sprawl to developing alternatives to hydrocarbons, such as hydrogen cells. Energy economist Philip Verleger reckons that the U.S.'s oil imports, of some 11 million barrels a day, could be cut by half.
Bush, though, has done nothing about the problem other than to mutter that it does exist, and no Democratic presidential candidate has dared to mention the subject. The reason is obvious: the last politician to talk seriously about conservation, Jimmy Carter in 1977, was trounced in the next presidential election.
Nothing is going to happen until the crisis of oil demand outstripping oil supply is clear, unmistakable and urgent.
And by then it may be too late. Too late, that is, to avoid what former British energy minister Michael Meacher forecasts will be, "the sharpest and perhaps the most violent dislocation (of society) in recent history." So enjoy today's weather.
Forwarded by Triaka SpiritNet@webtv.net
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Global Fuel Crisis - Energy Oil Gas Power Cut) Newsgroups: alt.liberty-vs.conspiracy
Date: 30 Jan 2004
SECRET GLOBAL FUEL CRISIS
The greatest crisis that civilization has ever faced is also one of the best-kept secrets of our time. The American, British, Russian, and various European governments, have consistently downplayed, concealed and lied about the global fuel crisis.
Put simply, it is now almost impossible to produce oil and gas at a rate that can meet the enormous and growing demands of major Western cities. Consumption of electricity and fossil fuel is higher than ever before and shows no sign of falling.
This may at first sound like an environmental problem, or a problem for big business. It is not. Neither is it a call for you to save energy: it probably wouldn't make any difference now. The fuel crisis is our problem: yours and mine. A global population of the present size cannot be sustained and drastic changes are inevitable.
If you live in a city then you could find yourself without food, water, electricity, transport, heat, or light at any moment and for any length of time. (Could this be the real reason why Americans are being urged to stockpile water, food and batteries? Certainly it seems like a good idea given the uncertainty and the extent of the fuel crisis: it is far more likely to effect Americans than any terrorist attack, no matter how large.)
Western governments including the United States and Britain already have been forced to use fuel from huge emergency stockpiles held in secret locations. But they have been powerless to prevent the first huge city power outages which struck the New York; then London; followed by similar city power outages in Denmark and Sweden; and then Italy, Switzerland, Austria and France. The effects only lasted a few hours, but each case was the biggest power failure in the history of the affected country. These massive power cuts were separated by a matter of days. The governments were only practicing this time. This is just the beginning."
This is more serious than just a lack of light or TV for a couple of hours, or a few days with no fuel for your car in the pumps. The shock waves of the secret global fuel crisis could begin dismantling civilization as we know it not in 50 or 100 years but right now, long before fuel supplies actually start to run out. There is no quick fix, no solution, no viable alternative fuel that we can switch our cities on to. It is not that there is no fuel left: we may not face that problem for another few decades (although when it happens there will be little that we can do.) The problem today is that the rate at which we consume oil and gas threatens to exceed the available rate of supply. At peak times and under certain conditions the supply is already unable to meet the demand. This shocking fact is not publicly acknowledged by any major Western government. It is a very closely guarded secret indeed.
The effect of the supply-demand imbalance is the same as if the oil and gas reserves were actually running out: civilization as we know it cannot exist without fuel.
There are signs in abundance that something is seriously wrong. Various, often contradictory official reasons are being given. Is there more to the headlines than meets the eye?
INTERNATIONAL POWER CUTS CHAOS:
US & Canada Power Cut Chaos:
Britain Power Cut Chaos:
Northern Ireland Power Cut Chaos:
Italy & Switzerland Power Cut Chaos:
Denmark & Sweden Power Cut Chaos:
Georgia Power Cut Chaos:
CONTINUING FUEL AND ENERGY PRICE RISES:
CALIFORNIAN ENERGY CRISIS:
NEW TRAFFIC CHARGES
(The UK is just the test-bed. The US & Europe are next.)
UK FUEL CRISIS:
UK FUEL PRICES:
VENEZUELA OIL EXPORT CRISIS:
OIL-PRICE RISES IN MAJOR OIL-COUNTRIES:
"Iraqis are suffering such a serious fuel shortage they will have to get emergency imports, even though their country has the world's second largest oil reserves."
Nigeria: "The government is just trying to trick us," a despondent taxi driver told the BBC while standing in a one hour long queue for fuel in Lagos."
THE OIL WARS:
On their own these issues look suspicious at best. The official cover-stories just do not add up. Multiple explanations contradict each other. Together these problems raise the specter of a secret global energy crisis and this is just the beginning.
Warnings have been and will be found in the widespread power cuts that have already begun to plague Western cities. For many decades such large-scale power cuts have been unheard of. Now power cut after power cut has effected the West's most prolific users of electrical power, again and again and will continue to do so over the next decade.
Warnings were to be found in the Afghanistan oil war. They were to be found in the Iraq oil war. They will be found in the Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia oil wars to come:
[ http://www.thedebate.org/ ]
Oil: Thirty years of turmoil: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3202174.stm
Dwindling supplies of natural hydrocarbon fuels are forcing an acceleration in the process of globalizing oil-producing Middle-Eastern countries like Iraq, Syria and Iran. This forced globalization is being delivered by the use of military force. Military force has also been used to secure Afghanistan, which enabled the building of the vital Centgas Caspian Sea oil pipeline.
(Can UK participation in the oil-wars be explained by the hidden extent of the fuel crisis?)
The latest report on Syria from the US Energy Information Administration states that Syria's oil production peaked in 1996, and that they could become a net importer by 2005. How many oil producing economies have a similar profile?
THEY ALL DO:
At the very least the West should expect further restrictions & price increases for fuel and for activities which use fuel, such as motoring and the consumption of electricity:
"Is the UK about to run out of cheap natural gas supplies?"
"Gas is the UK's main source of electricity generation, with 39% of the market, compared to a share of less than 1% in 1990, according to official industry figures. The UK is now the world's third largest consumer of natural gas, after the US and Russia."
"In a few years time, when the life blood of Western civilization is no longer readily available, it will be to late to adapt. The strong nations will take fuel from the weak nations in a futile final struggle for survival. But the writing is on the wall, and the collapse of civilization as we know it is inevitable. The oil wars have already begun." (Acheson Intelligence Group).
WHY NOT JUST CONVERT TO RENEWABLE ENERGY?
When oil and gas cease to be a feasible source of energy we cannot just convert to renewable fuels like wind and hydrogen. There is no converter-kit that would enable your car to run on hydrogen. There is no magic converter-kit for power stations either: if it was simple to convert then we would all have converted long ago. There are insurmountable obstacles to the widespread use of renewable energy as an alternative to oil and gas.
To produce sufficient wind or tidal-generated electricity to replace oil and gas fuel we would need to replace our cities, fields and planes with wind farms and our coastal towns and harbors with tidal power stations. We would need to pave the deserts with solar panels. Trillions upon trillions of new generation units would need to be built, installed and connected to power grids. This would be impossibly expensive and would take up too much room.
As supply increasingly outweighs demand, the price of oil rises, inflating the profits of those who hold and sell it. The oil companies whose income relies on the oil trade, the oil price and the global demand for oil, have prevented any real progress in the search for alternative fuels. They have blocked serious attempts to replace their product in both the political and the scientific arenas.
These are the organizations that fund Western leaders like President George W Bush. They command enormous wealth, power and influence.
Oil & The Bush Cabinet:
Bush & Big Business
In addition to political funding the oil corporations also provide more funding (and hence control) of energy research, than anybody else could or would contemplate: they have no choice. Without total control over the alternatives to their core product they would go out of business. Currently no alternative power can be produced without impossible cost and effort. This is largely a result of the oil-corporations' monopoly, control and hidden restrictions on serious research.
There is no obvious solution. There are just too many people using too much power too fast and it may already be too late: we cannot be certain because of the secrecy that surrounds the global fuel crisis in most Western countries. The military takeover of oil countries may reduce the impact of the crisis in the medium-term, at the cost of increased violence and instability. But the inevitable damage to the oil-infrastructure of the countries we attack means that oil-war is no quick fix. The continuing growth of fuel consumption, compounded by the fact that fuel will one day run out, means that there can be no long-term solution. Other than a drastic cull of the population in the civilized world, shutting down the machinery of civilization and forcing the survivors to farm their own food, there is no sure way to preserve civilization as we know it. (These measures would be unlikely to go down well with voters. Perhaps such measures should be carried out by governments in secret, using a series of disease outbreaks for example. Perhaps governments have already considered such measures.)
Those within government and the fuel industry who are aware of the problem would only damage their own interests by addressing the problem and making a genuine attempt to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels. The oil companies cannot just stop their drive for profits: Shareholders would revolt; companies would collapse. Politicians cannot act either because they rely on the oil corporations for a very large portion of their funding. It is not just the oil industry that is forced to resist efforts to address the crisis. Many other industries - notably the energy and transport industries - could not survive emergency measures like massive price-increases, which could otherwise be our only hope of preventing the global fuel crisis. Now it is too late.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Not much unfortunately. It may be prudent to stockpile bottled water, tinned foods, batteries, torches and blankets. But how much? Enough for a week or enough for your grandchildren? Nobody can be sure when or where the next power outages will occur, or how long they will last, because the truth is being distorted and concealed. (Perhaps this could be likened to wartime propaganda designed to prevent mass-hysteria.) Cutting our consumption of fuel and power may not now improve the fuel crisis. Unless you are interested in preserving the environment one could argue that you should enjoy the privilege of fuel and power consumption while you still can. Above all it is important that the world be made aware. Now you are aware and you can choose to make others aware. Be ready and help others to become ready. The secret global fuel crisis is a grave reality. Preparedness and the truth may be all we have.
ACHESON INTELLIGENCE GROUP
BEST ARTICLE I'VE SEEN SO FAR ON THIS REALLY, R-E-A-L-L-Y EARTH FREEZING CATASTROPHE. WINTER HAS BEEN ESPECIALLY COLD HERE IN QUEBEC in JANUARY. JUST HOPE WE ARE NOT - YET! - IN THE 2-3 YEARS ICE AGE ONSET PERIOD DESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE...
January 30, 2004
How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age...
by Thom Hartmann
While global warming is being officially ignored by the political arm of the Bush administration, and Al Gore's recent conference on the topic during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts, the citizens of Europe and the Pentagon are taking a new look at the greatest danger such climate change could produce for the northern hemisphere - a sudden shift into a new ice age. What they're finding is not at all comforting.
In quick summary, if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age - in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset - and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the "little ice age" of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world.
Here's how it works.
If you look at a globe, you'll see that the latitude of much of Europe and Scandinavia is the same as that of Alaska and permafrost-locked parts of northern Canada and central Siberia. Yet Europe has a climate more similar to that of the United States than northern Canada or Siberia. Why?
It turns out that our warmth is the result of ocean currents that bring warm surface water up from the equator into northern regions that would otherwise be so cold that even in summer they'd be covered with ice. The current of greatest concern is often referred to as "The Great Conveyor Belt," which includes what we call the Gulf Stream.
The Great Conveyor Belt, while shaped by the Coriolis effect of the Earth's rotation, is mostly driven by the greater force created by differences in water temperatures and salinity. The North Atlantic Ocean is saltier and colder than the Pacific, the result of it being so much smaller and locked into place by the Northern and Southern American Hemispheres on the west and Europe and Africa on the east.
As a result, the warm water of the Great Conveyor Belt evaporates out of the North Atlantic leaving behind saltier waters, and the cold continental winds off the northern parts of North America cool the waters. Salty, cool waters settle to the bottom of the sea, most at a point a few hundred kilometers south of the southern tip of Greenland, producing a whirlpool of falling water that's 5 to 10 miles across. While the whirlpool rarely breaks the surface, during certain times of year it does produce an indentation and current in the ocean that can tilt ships and be seen from space (and may be what we see on the maps of ancient mariners).
This falling column of cold, salt-laden water pours itself to the bottom of the Atlantic, where it forms an undersea river forty times larger than all the rivers on land combined, flowing south down to and around the southern tip of Africa, where it finally reaches the Pacific. Amazingly, the water is so deep and so dense (because of its cold and salinity) that it often doesn't surface in the Pacific for as much as a thousand years after it first sank in the North Atlantic off the coast of Greenland.
The out-flowing undersea river of cold, salty water makes the level of the Atlantic slightly lower than that of the Pacific, drawing in a strong surface current of warm, fresher water from the Pacific to replace the outflow of the undersea river. This warmer, fresher water slides up through the South Atlantic, loops around North America where it's known as the Gulf Stream, and ends up off the coast of Europe. By the time it arrives near Greenland, it's cooled off and evaporated enough water to become cold and salty and sink to the ocean floor, providing a continuous feed for that deep-sea river flowing to the Pacific.
These two flows - warm, fresher water in from the Pacific, which then grows salty and cools and sinks to form an exiting deep sea river - are known as the Great Conveyor Belt.
Amazingly, the Great Conveyor Belt is only thing between comfortable summers and a permanent ice age for Europe and the eastern coast of North America.
Much of this science was unknown as recently as twenty years ago. Then an international group of scientists went to Greenland and used newly developed drilling and sensing equipment to drill into some of the world's most ancient accessible glaciers. Their instruments were so sensitive that when they analyzed the ice core samples they brought up, they were able to look at individual years of snow. The results were shocking.
Prior to the last decades, it was thought that the periods between glaciations and warmer times in North America, Europe, and North Asia were gradual. We knew from the fossil record that the Great Ice Age period began a few million years ago, and during those years there were times where for hundreds or thousands of years North America, Europe, and Siberia were covered with thick sheets of ice year-round. In between these icy times, there were periods when the glaciers thawed, bare land was exposed, forests grew, and land animals (including early humans) moved into these northern regions.
Most scientists figured the transition time from icy to warm was gradual, lasting dozens to hundreds of years, and nobody was sure exactly what had caused it. (Variations in solar radiation were suspected, as were volcanic activity, along with early theories about the Great Conveyor Belt, which, until recently, was a poorly understood phenomenon.)
Looking at the ice cores, however, scientists were shocked to discover that the transitions from ice age-like weather to contemporary-type weather usually took only two or three years. Something was flipping the weather of the planet back and forth with a rapidity that was startling.
It turns out that the ice age versus temperate weather patterns weren't part of a smooth and linear process, like a dimmer slider for an overhead light bulb. They are part of a delicately balanced teeter-totter, which can exist in one state or the other, but transits through the middle stage almost overnight. They more resemble a light switch, which is off as you gradually and slowly lift it, until it hits a mid-point threshold or "breakover point" where suddenly the state is flipped from off to on and the light comes on.
It appears that small (less that .1 percent) variations in solar energy happen in roughly 1500-year cycles. This cycle, for example, is what brought us the "Little Ice Age" that started around the year 1400 and dramatically cooled North America and Europe (we're now in the warming phase, recovering from that). When the ice in the Arctic Ocean is frozen solid and locked up, and the glaciers on Greenland are relatively stable, this variation warms and cools the Earth in a very small way, but doesn't affect the operation of the Great Conveyor Belt that brings moderating warm water into the North Atlantic.
In millennia past, however, before the Arctic totally froze and locked up, and before some critical threshold amount of fresh water was locked up in the Greenland and other glaciers, these 1500-year variations in solar energy didn't just slightly warm up or cool down the weather for the landmasses bracketing the North Atlantic. They flipped on and off periods of total glaciation and periods of temperate weather.
And these changes came suddenly.
For early humans living in Europe 30,000 years ago - when the cave paintings in France were produced - the weather would be pretty much like it is today for well over a thousand years, giving people a chance to build culture to the point where they could produce art and reach across large territories.
And then a particularly hard winter would hit.
The spring would come late, and summer would never seem to really arrive, with the winter snows appearing as early as September. The next winter would be brutally cold, and the next spring didn't happen at all, with above-freezing temperatures only being reached for a few days during August and the snow never completely melting. After that, the summer never returned: for 1500 years the snow simply accumulated and accumulated, deeper and deeper, as the continent came to be covered with glaciers and humans either fled or died out. (Neanderthals, who dominated Europe until the end of these cycles, appear to have been better adapted to cold weather than Homo sapiens.)
What brought on this sudden "disappearance of summer" period was that the warm-water currents of the Great Conveyor Belt had shut down. Once the Gulf Stream was no longer flowing, it only took a year or three for the last of the residual heat held in the North Atlantic Ocean to dissipate into the air over Europe, and then there was no more warmth to moderate the northern latitudes. When the summer stopped in the north, the rains stopped around the equator: At the same time Europe was plunged into an Ice Age, the Middle East and Africa were ravaged by drought and wind-driven firestorms. .
If the Great Conveyor Belt, which includes the Gulf Stream, were to stop flowing today, the result would be sudden and dramatic. Winter would set in for the eastern half of North America and all of Europe and Siberia, and never go away. Within three years, those regions would become uninhabitable and nearly two billion humans would starve, freeze to death, or have to relocate. Civilization as we know it probably couldn't withstand the impact of such a crushing blow.
And, incredibly, the Great Conveyor Belt has hesitated a few times in the past decade. As William H. Calvin points out in one of the best books available on this topic ("A Brain For All Seasons: human evolution & abrupt climate change"): ".the abrupt cooling in the last warm period shows that a flip can occur in situations much like the present one. What could possibly halt the salt-conveyor belt that brings tropical heat so much farther north and limits the formation of ice sheets? Oceanographers are busy studying present-day failures of annual flushing, which give some perspective on the catastrophic failures of the past. "In the Labrador Sea, flushing failed during the 1970s, was strong again by 1990, and is now declining. In the Greenland Sea over the 1980s salt sinking declined by 80 percent. Obviously, local failures can occur without catastrophe - it's a question of how often and how widespread the failures are - but the present state of decline is not very reassuring."
Most scientists involved in research on this topic agree that the culprit is global warming, melting the icebergs on Greenland and the Arctic icepack and thus flushing cold, fresh water down into the Greenland Sea from the north. When a critical threshold is reached, the climate will suddenly switch to an ice age that could last minimally 700 or so years, and maximally over 100,000 years.
And when might that threshold be reached? Nobody knows - the action of the Great Conveyor Belt in defining ice ages was discovered only in the last decade. Preliminary computer models and scientists willing to speculate suggest the switch could flip as early as next year, or it may be generations from now. It may be wobbling right now, producing the extremes of weather we've seen in the past few years.
What's almost certain is that if nothing is done about global warming, it will happen sooner rather than later.
This article was adapted from the new, updated edition of "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com), due out from Random House/Three Rivers Press in March. http://www.thomhartmann.com
For the Record: Security Impact of Rapid Climate Change (01-29-2004)
Editors Note: For nearly a quarter-century, the debate over potential negative impacts from global climate change has involved scientists and a smaller handful of politicians who have made it an issue of concern. However, Pentagon planner Andrew Marshall, who heads up the DoD Office of Net Assessment and has been an out of the box theoretician for the department since 1973, last year ordered up a long-range forecast of how a rapid onset of global warming could affect the security of the United States and its allies. The study, written by analysts Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, provides a dire scenario of potential catastrophic impacts from global warming on the natural resources, political and economic systems and day-to-day life not only of the United States but the entire world. This is an abridged version originally published by Fortune magazine with the Pentagons permission.
03-Feb-2004: How Earth Survived Past Global Warming
30-Jan-2004: Major Media Finally Gets It
27-Jan-2004: History's Greatest Disaster has Begun
26-Jan-2004: Permanent Winter Coming Soon
16-Jan-2004: A Hole in the Sky
13-Jan-2004: Desperate Scientists May Try Sun Shield
12-Jan-2004: Crazy Plans for Global Warming
05-Jan-2004: Singles Changing the Climate
22-Dec-2003: Our Oceans are Changing
19-Dec-2003: Global Dimming
MORE CONFIRMATION OF THE LIKELY IMMINENCE OF A NEW GREAT ICE AGE
Forwarded by "Mark Graffis" email@example.com
CLIMATE COLLAPSE: Growing Evidence of Scary Change
By David Stipp
Scientists used to think that major climate changes, like the onset of an ice age, took thousands of years to unfold. Now they know such dramatic transitions can occur in less than a decade. The probable trigger of abrupt climate changes, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is the shutdown of a huge ocean current in the Atlantic Ocean. The current is driven by dense, salty water that flows north from the tropics and sinks in the North Atlantic. If fresh water is pumped into the northerly part of the current--which can occur as global warming melts Arctic ice--its salinity drops, making it less dense. This diminishing density can prevent the water from sinking in the North Atlantic, stopping the current's flow. Much of Europe and the U.S. could become colder and drier if that happened.
Many details of this big picture remain hazy, including whether recent global warming threatens to shut down the Atlantic current. But over the past few years, scientists have detected disquieting trends:
* In tandem with rising average temperatures across the globe, 3% to 4% of the Arctic ice cap has melted per decade since about 1970.
* Recently the Arctic's largest ice shelf broke up near Canada's Ellesmere Island, releasing an ice-dammed freshwater lake into the ocean. (Scientists believe that the similar melting of an Arctic ice dam 8,200 years ago triggered an episode of abrupt climate change.)
* The North Atlantic's salinity has declined continuously for the past 40 years--the most dramatic oceanic change ever measured.
* The flow of cold, dense water through a North Atlantic channel near Norway--part of the great ocean current that warms northern Europe --has dropped by at least 20% since 1950, suggesting that the current is weakening.
Scientists still don't know whether a climate disaster is on the way. But taken together, these changes appear strikingly similar to ones that preceded abrupt climate shifts in the past. Many researchers now believe the salient question about such change is not "Could it happen?" but "When?"
January 13, 2004
"Enronvironment" is how I think that Bush thinks Environment is spelled. His environmental "policies" spell disaster. From Don Williams' Five Impolite Questions to Ask the President comes this pertinent one:
"Does some fundamental religious belief - say, that the end of the world is coming soon - influence your policies on the environment and on nuclear weapons? If not, how do you explain policies that seem designed to destroy the planet? Seriously, if you had run on a platform of destroying the Earth, I don't think your policies would be much different.
According to a list released Dec. 23 by the Sierra Club, you've tripled allowable levels of mercury pollution, shifted the burden of toxic cleanup from polluters to taxpayers, changed the rules for cleaning up America's dirtiest power plants, undermined the endangered species act and lied about the air at Ground Zero after 9-11. You've made us more dependent on Arab oil, not less.
According to Sonoma State University's Project Censored, a 27-year-old program dedicated to shining light on the shortcomings of major news media, your administration has broken or otherwise compromised about 10 international treaties. These include the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Commission, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the U.N. Convention on Climate Change. You've also made a lot of old friends angry."
Williams concerns are echoed by Tony Blair's chief scientist, Sir David King in the article entitled "US climate policy bigger threat to world than terrorism" :
"As a consequence of continued warming, millions more people around the world may in future be exposed to the risk of hunger, drought, flooding, and debilitating diseases such as malaria," Sir David says.
"Poor people in developing countries are likely to be most vulnerable. For instance, by 2080, if we assume continuing growth rates in consumption of fossil fuels, the numbers of additional people exposed to frequent flooding in the river delta areas of the world would be counted in hundreds of millions assuming no adaptation measures were implemented."
To further round out this picture, another recent news release points out that global warming will cause extinction of a million species :
"A quarter of known land animals and plants, more than a million species, will eventually die out because of the global warming that will take place over the next 50 years, the most important study of its kind has concluded.
International scientists from eight countries have warned that, based even on the most conservative estimates, rising temperatures will trigger a global mass extinction of unprecedented proportions.
They said global warming will set in train a far bigger threat to terrestrial species than previously realised, at least on a par with the already well-documented destruction of natural habitats around the world.
It is the first time such a powerful assessment has been made and its conclusions will shock even those environmentalists accustomed to "worst-case" scenarios."
All of which, as usual, leads me to ask Bush, quite literally, "What on Earth are you doing?"
Posted by Harmony Kieding on January 13, 2004
ANOTHER PRECIOUS ELEMENT OF OUR GLOBAL ECOSYSTEM THREATENED BY CORPORATE GREED, OVER CONSUMPTION IN THE U.S. AND SHEER SHORTSIGHTEDNESS
Forwarded by Coeta Mills CoetaMills@aol.com
From: "Sharon Smith" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 3 Feb 2004
Subject: [endangered-forests] US News on the Boreal: Fighting for a forgotten forest
Here's a great article in this weeks US News and World Report on the Canadian Boreal Framework, crediting the Staples campaign, ForestEthics and Dogwood in particular, for driving industry towards protecting the boreal forests. They deserve congratulations!
Science & Society 2/9/04
Fighting for a forgotten forest
By Betsy Carpenter
Canada's northern forests are bitterly cold this time of year and mostly quiet, except for the wind whistling through the trees. The billions of songbirds and waterfowl that nest here in the summers, filling the woods with a cacophony of warbles, trills, and honks, disappeared months ago, as have the huge, buzzing swarms of mosquitoes.
But increasingly, new sounds are shattering the primal quiet. From the Mackenzie River valley in the Northwest Territories to Grassy Narrows in Quebec, the woods reverberate with the roar of engines and the whine of circular saws. Loggers up here like winter. Bogs and marshes freeze, so heavy machinery doesn't get mired in mud. Fresh snow smoothes out rutted tracks and roads. Snug inside the heated cab of a tree harvester, a logger can fell as many as 300 trees an hour.
These are the front lines of the latest battle over the planet's imperiled wild forests. While tropical rainforests have captured the world's attention over the past two decades, logging and drilling for oil and gas have accelerated in the boreal region, a vast swath of forest and wetlands girdling the planet through Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. Its sparse stands of pine, spruce, larch, and aspen begin just below the arctic tundra and stretch south for hundreds of miles until they give way to the grasslands and hardwood forests of the temperate region. But new maps compiled from satellite images by an international organization called Global Forest Watch show that 40 percent of Canada's northern forests have been carved up by logging, mines, oil and gas rigs, roads, and power lines. All but one seventh of Russia's European forests have been divided into parcels smaller than 50,000 hectares--roughly 14 miles on a side--the minimum size needed to preserve a fully intact ecosystem.
These developments threaten the caribou, lynx, wolves, bears, birds, moose, and martens that dwell in the forest. The encroachments may even jeopardize Earth's climate: A raft of studies show that the boreal region may play a vital role in tempering global warming. So conservationists are rallying, using tactics honed in past timber wars, including staging protests and spearheading consumer boycotts against firms that exploit the forests. In December, an unusual coalition of 11 environmental groups, energy and forest-product companies, and "first nations" (the term in Canada for aboriginal peoples) announced that they'd crafted a bold strategy for conserving Canada's forest.
The new plan would protect at least half of the forest in large, interconnected parks while opening up the rest to companies that operate in an environmentally responsible fashion. The plan is controversial and has yet to be endorsed by the federal or provincial governments. Indeed, at this point it's more a statement of first principles than a detailed road map. But its backers hope it will head off confrontations while providing for the livelihoods of the more than 4 million people who live in the boreal forest. "It's like going to the doctor for regular checkups instead of ending up in the emergency ward during a medical crisis," says Cathy Wilkinson, director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, which pushed for the agreement.
The plight of the tropical forests may be more familiar, but the American public has a much more direct stake in how the forests of the north are managed. The United States consumes 80 percent of Canada's forest products, including pulp, paper, particleboard, and lumber. The boreal zone provides much of the wood, the vast majority of it harvested by clear-cutting, in which loggers mow down every tree in the parcel of forest they're harvesting. U.S. consumers also suck up 60 percent of the oil and gas extracted from northern forests.
Bird-watchers and hunters owe a different debt to the boreal forest. Almost one third of all land birds in the United States and Canada--more than 3 billion birds--head to the region each summer to nest and fledge their young, according to the Boreal Songbird Initiative, a conservation organization. The woods teem with vireos, chickadees, sparrows, shrikes, and flycatchers, drawn by the profusion of insects and the expanses of unbroken forest. Millions of ducks and geese also see this chilly, watery landscape as a little piece of nesting heaven. In fact, 40 percent of North American water birds nest in the boreal forest.
But as the pace of logging and oil and gas drilling has accelerated in some regions, bird populations have declined. In Alberta, only 10 percent of the forest exists in untouched tracts larger than a few square miles, down from about 95 percent in 1960. The rest is shot through with pipelines, roads, and narrow, logged corridors cut by oil and gas companies for seismic testing. Over the past decade, bird populations in many parts of the province have plummeted by 20 to 50 percent, researchers at the University of Alberta say, and habitat fragmentation is probably the major cause.
Going to the mat. The boreal forest's greatest gift, however, may be climatic. When plants photosynthesize, they take in carbon dioxide, the same gas implicated in global warming, and release oxygen. Some of the carbon is sequestered in their limbs, leaves, and roots. Typically, lush landscapes hold the most carbon. But surprisingly, the spare woodland of the far north stores more carbon than any other land ecosystem, and not just because the forests still cover a lot of territory. The secret is the soil, which is made up of a mineral layer, covered by a blanket of partially decomposed plant matter, and topped by masses of living moss and lichen. In northern forests this carbon-rich, layered mat can get several feet thick because cold, wet conditions hamper the growth of microbes that would break down the plant matter. The mat locks up far more carbon than the scrubby trees--up to 90 percent of the forest's total, says University of Maryland fire ecologist Eric Kasischke.
What's the harm, then, in logging, which at first glance would seem to liberate only a fraction of the carbon? Scientists are concerned because after an area is cut and shade-giving trees removed, the ground typically warms up. Warmer conditions foster microbial activity, which could release a flood of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Just how much is not yet known, although studies of fires in boreal forests suggest it could be substantial. A hot forest fire burns soils right down to the mineral layer, also unleashing stored carbon. Kasischke estimates that during an average fire season in North America, the amount of greenhouse gases that the blazes release from the forest is about one third as much as the world's entire fleet of cars and trucks spews out during that same time. Widespread logging is a real concern, says Marcy Litvak, a plant ecologist at the University of Texas, because "we're disturbing a system without fully understanding what the consequences will be."
Environmentalists aren't alone in wanting an agreement. Canada's boreal coalition, called the Boreal Leadership Council, has gotten a lot of feelers from forest-product companies, says Wilkinson, a member of the council. Bill Hunter, president and chief operating officer of Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, a pulp producer, says one reason he joined the council was to forestall the kinds of protests that snarled logging in the old-growth coastal forests of British Columbia. Confrontations are bad for business even if logging in an area isn't permanently shut down, he says. Kodak, for instance, is one of Al-Pac's larger customers, says Hunter, and "they have to know they can count on us for a long-term, sustainable supply."
Increasingly, forest-product companies also want to be viewed as green suppliers when activist environmental groups pressure big retail stores to change their purchasing policies. A little over a year ago, for instance, superstore Staples agreed to stop purchasing paper that originated in endangered forests and to increase the fraction of recycled paper in its products to 30 percent. Activists had picketed Staples stores, heckled executives at shareholder meetings, and issued critical reports and press releases in a campaign led by ForestEthics and the Dogwood Alliance. By contrast, Canadian mining and oil and gas companies, which have drawn fewer boycotts, have expressed less interest in the forest-protection scheme, Wilkinson says.
Some environmentalists have charged that the framework doesn't go far enough to protect forests and is dangerously vague in places. The crucial term "protected area," for instance, seems to mean different things to different people. Al-Pac's Hunter embraces the idea of "floating preservation," whereby companies could borrow land from the parks for mining or logging if they substituted land of equal ecological value. Wilkinson, by contrast, maintains that protected areas should be kept pristine for all time. And battles are sure to erupt over how to exploit the remaining forest "sustainably."
Closing the deal. The council has also come under attack for not inviting government to the table as it fashioned a deal affecting Canada's vast public lands. Critics point out that the boreal region covers half the country and that most of it is publicly owned, mainly by the provincial governments.
But some provincial governments have a pretty poor track record of safeguarding their forests, says Monte Hummel, president of World Wildlife Fund-Canada and a veteran of decades of timber wars. And one lesson of past battles is that conservation deals often come together more quickly in the early stages when environmental groups negotiate directly with industry. "Things are changing; get used to it," Hummel says.
One of the next big challenges is bringing the Canadian government aboard. Without it, "this thing will go nowhere," Hummel says. But some timber companies are already re-examining their logging practices, looking for ways to speed forest recovery and minimize long-lasting impacts. The rescue plan for Canada's great northern forest will take at least a decade to firm up, says Hunter, "but it's a wonderful model," not just for Canada but for forests worldwide.
Old Growth Campaign Director
Rainforest Action Network
415/398-4404 x. 328
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From: "Boudewijn Wegerif" email@example.com
Subject: Worldwatch Institute - Consumer Statistics, from 'State of the World 2004'
Date: 5 Feb 2004
THE STATE OF CONSUMPTION TODAY
Abridged excerpt from http://www.worldwatch.org/topics/consumption/sow/trendsfacts/2004/02/04/
By one calculation, there are now more than 1.7 billion members of "the consumer class"-nearly half of them in the developing world. A lifestyle and culture that became common in Europe, North America, Japan, and a few other pockets of the world in the twentieth century is going global in the twenty-first. As incomes rise, people are gaining access to a multitude of consumer items associated with greater prosperity:
Worldwide, private consumption expenditures-the amount spent on goods and services at the household level-topped $20 trillion in 2000, a four-fold increase over 1960 (in 1995 dollars).
As incomes rise, people are gaining access to a multitude of consumer items associated with greater prosperity:
In 2002, 1.12 billion households-about three quarters of humanity-owned at least one television set.
There were 1.1 billion fixed phone lines in 2002, and another 1.1 billion mobile lines.
The Internet now connects about 600 million users.
At least part of the rise in global consumption is the result of population growth. The U.N. projects that world population will increase 41 percent by 2050, to 8.9 billion people, with nearly all of this growth in developing countries.
This surge in human numbers threatens to offset any savings in resource use from improved efficiency, as well as any gains in reducing per-capita consumption. Even if the average American eats 20 percent less meat in 2050 than in 2000, total U.S. meat consumption will be 5 million tons greater in 2050 due to population growth.
The Consumers of the Future
A growing share of the global consumer class now lives in developing countries. China and India alone claim more than 20 percent of the global total - with a combined consumer class of 362 million, more than in all of Western Europe. (Though the average Chinese or Indian member consumes substantially less than the average European.)
Developing countries also have the greatest potential to expand the ranks of consumers. China and India's large consumer set constitutes only 16 percent of the region's population, whereas in Europe the figure is 89 percent. Indeed, in most developing countries the consumer class accounts for less than half of the population - suggesting considerable room to grow.
Every day in 2003, some 11,000 more cars merged onto Chinese roads - 4 million new private cars during the year. Auto sales increased by 60 % in 2002 and by more than 80 % in the first half of 2003. If growth continues apace, 150 million cars could jam China's streets by 2015 - 18 million more than were driven on U.S. streets and highways in 1999.
While the consumer class thrives, great disparities remain. The 12 percent of the world's population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent.
The consumer society has strong allure and carries with it many economic benefits, and it would be unfair to argue that the advantages gained by an earlier generation of consumers should not be shared by those who come later. Indeed, lack of attention to the needs of the poorest can result in greater insecurity for the prosperous and in increased spending on defensive measures. The need to spend billions of dollars on wars, border security, and peacekeeping arguably is linked to a disregard for the world's pressing social and environmental problems.
As many as 2.8 billion people on the planet struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, and more than one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water.
The U.N. reports that 825 million people are still undernourished; the average person in the industrial world took in 10 percent more calories daily in 1961 than the average person in the developing world consumes today.
Curbing Our Wealthy Appetites
"If the consumption aspirations of the wealthiest of nations cannot be satiated, the prospects for corralling consumption everywhere before it strips and degrades our planet beyond recognition would appear to be bleak."
Despite rising consumption in the developing world, industrial countries remain responsible for the bulk of the world's resource consumption - as well as the associated global environmental degradation. Yet there is little evidence that the consumption locomotive is braking, even in the United States, where most people are amply supplied with the goods and services needed to lead a dignified life.
The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world's fossil fuel resources - burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world's natural gas.
As of 2003, the U.S. had more private cars than licensed drivers, and gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles were among the best-selling vehicles.
New houses in the U.S. were 38 % bigger in 2002 than in 1975, despite having fewer people per household on average.
Problems in Paradise
"If the levels of consumption that...the most affluent people enjoy today were replicated across even half of the roughly 9 billion people projected to be on the planet in 2050, the impact on our water supply, air quality, forests, climate, biological diversity, and human health would be severe." [A ridiculous understatement - BW]
Today's human economies are designed with little attention to the residuals of production and consumption. Among the most visible unintended byproducts of the current economic system are environmental problems like air and water pollution and landscape degradation. Nearly all the world's ecosystems are shrinking to make way for humans and their homes, farms, malls, and factories. WWF's Living Planet Index [World Wildlife Fund], which measures the health of forests, oceans, freshwater, and other natural systems, shows a 35 percent decline in Earth's ecological health since 1970.
Calculations show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes - yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These "ecological footprints" range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.
An estimated 65 % of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, leading to an annual loss of 300,000 lives and at least $117 billion in health care costs in 1999.
In 2002, 61 % of U.S. credit card users carried a monthly balance, averaging $12,000 at 16 % interest. This amounts to about $1,900 a year in finance charges-more than the average per capita income in at least 35 countries (in purchasing power parity).
Major New Discovery on Mars
From: "Judith Iam" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 30 Jan 2004
Filmmaker Records Effects Of Eating Only McDonald's For A Month
January 25, 2004
by DAVID USBORNE
NEW YORK, USA - Normally sane actors have been known to gain or lose huge amounts of weight for their art. Think of Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary. Directors, of course, never have to undergo such torture. Or so it used to be, until Morgan Spurlock had a bright idea for a film project. The first clue to his particular misery comes in the title of his documentary, which has become the darling of this year's Sundance Film Festival. It is called Super Size Me: A Film of Epic Portions and it is a sometimes comic but serious look at America's addiction to fast food. Spurlock, a tall New Yorker of usually cast-iron constitution, made himself the guinea pig in this dogged investigation into the effects of fast food on the body. He ate only at McDonald's for a month - three meals, every day - and took a camera crew along to record it. If a server offered to super-size his order, he was obliged to accept - and to ingest everything, gherkins and all.
Neither Spurlock, 33, nor the three doctors who agreed to monitor his health during the experiment were prepared for the degree of ruin it would wreak on his body. Within days, he was vomiting up his burgers and battling with headaches and depression. And his sex drive vanished. When Spurlock had finished, his liver, overwhelmed by saturated fats, had virtually turned to pate. "The liver test was the most shocking thing," said Dr Daryl Isaacs, who joined the team to watch over him. "It became very, very abnormal."
Spurlock put on nearly 12kg over the period and his cholesterol level leapt from a respectable 165 to 230. He told the New York Post: "I got desperately ill. My face was splotchy and I had this huge gut, which I've never had in my life ... It was amazing - and really frightening." And his girlfriend, a vegan chef? "She was completely disgusted by me," he said. Making the film over several months last year, Spurlock travelled through 20 states, interviewing everyone from fast-food junkies to the US Surgeon General and a lobbyist for the industry. McDonald's, for whom the film can only be a public relations catastrophe, ignored his repeated entreaties for comment.
Spurlock had the idea for the film on Thanksgiving Day 2002, slumped on his mother's couch after eating far too much. He saw a news item about two teenage girls in New York suing McDonald's for making them obese. The company responded by saying their food was nutritious and good for people. Is that so, he wondered? To find out, he committed himself to his 30 days of Big Mac bingeing.
The film does not yet have a distributor and, given the advertising clout of McDonald's, that may prove problematic. But the critics at Sundance seem to have been captivated. Certainly, the film is blessed by good timing. Obesity has in recent months captured headlines as America's new health scourge. The humour of the approach - and Spurlock's own suffering - obviously helps. At the festival in Park City, Utah, he has had teams handing out "Unhappy Meal" bags on the streets with a few "Fat Fun Facts". For instance, one in four Americans visits a fast-food restaurant every day. And did you know that McDonald's feeds more people around the world every day than the population of Spain? The makers have self-rated the film "F" - for "fat audiences".
McDonald's has finally been forced to comment. "Consumers can achieve balance in their daily dining decisions by choosing from our array of quality offerings and range of portion sizes to meet their taste and nutrition goals," it said in a statement last week.
Spurlock claims that the goal was not to attack McDonald's as such. Among the issues he highlights is the willingness of schools to feed students nothing but burgers and pizza. "If there's one thing we could accomplish with the film, it is that we make people think about what they put in their mouth," he said. "So the next time you do go into a fast-food restaurant and they say, 'Would you like to upsize that?' you think about it and say, 'Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll stick with the medium this time.'"
Tastes Like (Mutant) Chicken (Jan 30)
The great all-McDonald's diet test, and why Ukrainians won't touch your toxic buffalo wings (By Mark Morford) So then from way, way over there in Ukraine comes this hilarious bit about how the country's customs officials just confiscated a whopping 19 tons of frozen U.S. chicken parts that smugglers claimed was sugar. That's right: The crooks were trying to smuggle American-grown chicken into Ukraine territory, which is all well and good except it's very illegal, given how the U.S. genetically modifies billions of its chickens and injects them with hormones and chemicals and toxins and feeds them ground-up chicken parts mixed with chicken feces and saws off their beaks and packs them by the tens of thousands into tiny nauseating disease-ridden cages in massive "Matrix"-like hellhole factory farms and treats them worse than you treat a skin boil (http://www.factoryfarming.com/poultry.htm). Ukraine refuses to take this crap. U.S. officials insist our factory-farmed chicken is safe to eat. Ukrainian officials look at U.S. officials like they are childish Neanderthal idiots who must take the Ukrainian officials to be simpletons and fools. U.S. officials sneer and pout and stamp their feet and say eat our stupid noxious chicken parts goddammit. Ukrainian officials note how most of the U.S. officials are pale and sickly and obese and diabetic and precancerous and impotent and prematurely balding and sort of homely and piggish, and how seven of them just dropped dead on the spot from heart attacks just from stomping their angry little feet like that because they've eaten so many toxic chicken parts and now their bodies are saying, you know, screw you, I'm outta here. America, of course, does not give a damn about Ukraine. America laughs at such petty Euro foolishness, as we slaughter billions of toxic hormoned chickens a year and happily munch away on fried/liquefied/reconstituted/McNuggeted garbage food by the ton and say see? See Ukrainian snob fools? We aren't dropping dead! We are just fine! Ha! We are still big strong superpower, cough cough groan hack spit! Except that we're not. Except that every day millions in this country wonder why they feel so sluggish and drained and ill, or why cancer and diabetes and heart disease and a thousand other ailments plague our big healthy superpower nation, when in fact much of the answer is right there, in our little Styrofoam boxes and in that greasy paper bucket or in that Safeway grocery bag or wrapped in that oily paper with all the little taco logos all over it. Our nation wears its denial like a bad neon suit. CLIP
The Lighter Side
For those of you who watch what you eat... Here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting medical studies.
1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
3. Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
4. Italians drink large amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
5. Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like, speaking English is apparently what kills you.
THIS CRITICAL ISSUE WAS BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THROUGH THIS FRENCH WEBSITE:
Bees Threatened Worldwide By Growing Pesticide Use
July 4, 2003
With the summer heating up and the pesticide sprayers out in full force fighting the never-ending battle against mosquitoes and lawn and agricultural pests, we cringe at the thought of what these chemicals are doing our families and neighbors. But there is another susceptible population that we need to protect: bees and other animals that pollinate the plants that we and other species eat. According to Ohio State University, over 75 commonly used pesticides are highly or moderately toxic to bees. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at least one-third of agricultural crops depend on bees and other animals for pollination.
FAO describes the assumption that pollination is a "free ecological service" provided by nature as "erroneous." Effective pollination requires resources such as refuges of pristine natural vegetation and suitable habitat for pollinators. Where these are reduced or lost pollinators are becoming limiting and adaptive management practices are required to sustain livelihoods. In fact, throughout the world, agricultural production and agro-ecosystem diversity are threatened by declining populations of pollinators, for example in 1994 in California, almond producers were forced to import honey bees from other states to ensure that their crop was pollinated. The major contributors to this are considered to be habitat fragmentation, agricultural and industrial chemicals, parasites and diseases, and the introduction of alien species.
In June 2001, Beyond Pesticides Daily News reported that environmental biologist Peter Kevan, a professor from the University of Guelph in Canada, discovered that, due in part to pesticide use, there is a growing global scarcity of bees and insects, the pollinators required to produce the world's food supply. According to Dr. Kevan, the world's pollinator shortage is the result of a series of complicated factors that go beyond a simple lack of bees, but that is where the problem starts. "The changes in agricultural styles, chemicals and pesticides have taken a tremendous toll," explains Dr. Kevan. "And even if the pollinators survive, there are fewer and fewer places for them to live. Most of their natural places - holes, logs - have been cleaned up. Their natural habitat was gone a long time ago."
French journalist Michel Dogna recently wrote about the situation of declining pollinators in Europe, blaming much of the problem on imidacloprid, manufactured by the Bayer Corporation and sold to farmers to coat the seeds and to protect them from certain diseases. According to Mr. Dogna, imidacloprid paralyzes the insects, which cannot join the hive and therefore die. If they do succeed, the honey that results from it is toxic. In less than three years, 450,000 hives were thus lost and the production of honey fell from 45,000 tons to 25,000 tons in France alone. In Alsace, the bee-keepers are regarded as disaster victims because of the Bayer products.
Gary Paul Nabhan, director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University and Co-author of The Forgotten Pollinators, puts the issue in perspective by stressing the importance of interactions and relationships between species in our environment. "We tend to think and grieve a lot about endangered species, but endangered interactions, endangered relationships, are just as important, but harder to visualize. They remind us that every single one of our lives is dependent on other lives around us."
According to Ohio State University, the following pesticides are highly toxic to bees: 2,4-D (Weed-B-Gone), abamectin (Zephyr), acephate (Orthene), azinphos-methyl (Guthion), bifenthrin (Capture), carbaryl (Sevin), carbosulfan (Advantage), chlormephos (Dotan), chlorpyrifos (Lorsban, Dursban), cyfluthrin (Baythroid), d-phenothrin (Sumithrin), demeton-s-methyl (Metasystox (i), (50-% Premix), diazinon (Spectracide), dichlorvos (DDVP), dicrotophos (Bibrin), dimethoate (Cygon, De-Fend), esfenvalerate (Asana XL), ethion (tech), (Ethanox), etrimfos (Ekamet), fenitrothion (Sumithion), fenpropathrin (Farmatox), fensulfothion (Dasanit), fenthion (Baytex), fenvalerate (DMSO), (Belmark), flucythrinate (Pay-Off), fonofos (Dyfonate), heptachlor (Fennotox), lindane (Lindane), malathion (Malathion 50, Malathion ULV), methamidophos (Monitor, Tamaron), methidathion (Supracide), methiocarb (Mesurol), methyl parathion (Penncap-M), mevinphos (Phosdrin), monocrotophos (Azodrin), naled (Dibrom), omethoate (Folimat), oxydemethon-methyl (Metasystox-R), oxydisulfoton (Disyston S), parathion (Bladan), permethrin (Ambush, Pounce), phosmet (Imidan), phosphamidon (Dimecron), propoxur (Baygon), pyrazophos (Afugan), resmethrin (Chrysron), tetrachlorvinphos (Gardona), and tralomethrin (Scout X-TRA). The following are moderately toxic: Acetochlor (Acenit), Aclonifen (Challenge), allethrin (Pynamin), alphacypermethrin (Fastac), ametryn(Evik), bromopropylate (Acarol), cinmethylin (Argold), crotoxyphos (Ciodrin, Decrotox), DCPA (Dacthal), diphenamid (Dymid), disulfoton (DiSyston, Ekanon), endosulfan (Thiodan), endrin (Hexadrin), ethoprop (Mocap), flufenoxuron (Cascade), fluvalinate (tau-fluvalinate), (Mavrik, Spur), formetanate hydrochloride (Carzol), mancozeb (Manzate, Dithane, Fore), methanearsonic acid (MAA), neburon (Granurex, Propuron), pebulate (Tillam), phorate (Geomet, Thimet), pirimiphos-methyl (Acetellic), sethoxydim (Poast), sulfosate (Touchdown), terbufos (Counter), thiocyclam hydrogen oxalate (Evisect), thiodicarb (Larvin, Nivral), and triforine (Denarin, Funginex).
Growing Shortage of Bees Threatens Agriculture http://www.beyondpesticides.org/NEWS/daily_news_archive/2001/06_11_01.htm
Environmental biologist Peter Kevan, a professor from the University of Guelph in Canada, said it is a fact that, due in part to pesticide use, there is a growing global scarcity of bees and insects, and that these pollinators are required to produce most of the world's fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. It seems logical, then, that crop production and world commodity markets would be affected by the lack of pollinators and that it would be possible to attach a dollar amount to the losses. "Nonetheless, there is little information on how the shortage is affecting the costs of food production," he said. "There must be economic implications, and we should be able to figure out what it is costing the consumer, who is benefiting from the losses and who is not." CLIP
FactSheet #2 Pesticides
... Native bees invaluable role as pollinators of agricultural crops and other important plant species is threatened by the use of pesticides.
Potential for bird flu pandemic is real
By M.A.J. McKENNA
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The illness began with a headache like the blow of a sledgehammer. The victims shook with chills and burned with fever, and they whispered of agonizing muscle aches. They fought for breath as their lungs filled with fluid; as their bodies were starved of oxygen, their skin turned the deep gray of roofing slates. Within days -- sometimes within hours -- they died.
The first cases showed up in Boston, but the infection raced across the country on every road and railroad. In two weeks, Florida. In a month, California. In a single week, 2,000 people died in Chicago, 3,000 in Philadelphia, and more than 5,000 in New York.
Buffalo ran out of coffins. Philadelphia ran out of gravediggers. In Atlanta, every public gathering was banned.
The year was 1918. The disease was influenza. A common virus had produced a brand-new strain, one never seen before. Within 11 months it killed 675,000 Americans, and as many as 50 million people around the world.
Today, world health authorities are anxiously watching Southeast Asia, where a new strain of flu virus has spread to at least nine countries, infecting an unknown number of people and killing at least 10.
When they imagine the possible forms the unfolding epidemic could take, 1918 is what they see.
"I feel totally powerless," said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu authority at the University of Michigan, "to do something about what I think is a potentially dangerous situation."
Born among birds
Influenza is a constant winter companion for humans. Every year it sickens 10 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population with fever, aches and cough. Most recover, though in an average year flu kills up to 36,000 Americans, many of them elderly.
Roughly every 30 years, though, influenza gets dramatically worse and causes what is known as a pandemic: large outbreaks in widely separated parts of the world at roughly the same time. The last three pandemics occurred in 1968, when 700,000 died worldwide; 1957, when 100,000 died; and 1918.
In every case, science discovered afterward that the influenza virus had undergone a sudden and dramatic genetic shift. People whose immune systems had gotten used to the currently circulating flu viruses, and had evolved some defense against them, had no protection against the new strain. It struck with extraordinary force.
The virus causing the Southeast Asian "bird flu" -- influenza A H5N1 -- is as new to humans as possible: It is a disease of waterfowl and poultry, according to analyses done in Hong Kong and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Recent genetic sequencing has shown that the viruses in the three previous pandemics had at some point crossed over from birds as well.
At the moment, every confirmed human victim in Asia is believed to have been infected by a bird: The virus made one jump, between species, but then ran out of steam. Scientists are bracing for the possibility that, at some point, the chain of transmission will not stop, but continue from person to person.
Virologists agree that for the bird flu to pass from person to person, it would have to shift genetically, acquiring the infectiousness that human flu already possesses. That could happen if a person already infected with common human flu -- this year, the strain H3N2 -- also acquired the bird flu virus; within that person's body, the two viruses could swap genes.
Experts say the swap becomes more likely as the bird flu spreads and more people are exposed. Already it has spread from Japan to Indonesia and as far west as Thailand.
And epidemiologists say the location of the epidemic sharpens the odds. Southeast Asia, particularly southern China, is the historic home of new flu strains -- millions of rural people there keep a pig and a few chickens or ducks, putting them in constant contact with the species that harbor nonhuman flu.
On Friday, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua confirmed that H5N1 now is suspected in three more Chinese provinces, added to the three where it already has been found.
"This is the perfect storm," said Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "The only question now is: Will this set of circumstances be sufficient to push the microbial genetics over the edge and create a new strain of influenza virus that rivals past pandemic strains?"
Several risk factors
When health authorities select which disease threats to focus on, they tick off a mental list of danger signs. A disease is considered troublesome if it spreads rapidly, cannot be stopped by isolating victims, and has severe consequences. Avian influenza passes all those tests and more.
"Add to that the fact that a vaccine is not presently in hand and may be hard to make," said Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the CDC's former director, who is now vice president for academic health affairs at Emory University. "And there is no way to treat it when people get it -- or at least we are not sure that we can treat it well."
Even in an average flu year, flu vaccine is a challenge. Flu viruses have the genetic quirk of making many small errors when they reproduce. The result, from the point of view of the immune system, is a virus slightly different from the previous flu season, but different enough that last year's flu shot cannot protect against it. Thus flu vaccines must be reformulated each year.
When everything goes well, the six-month process produces just enough vaccine just in time for the start of flu season. When it goes badly, as it did this winter -- because the A/Fujian strain of human flu emerged last spring, too late to be included in the vaccine formula -- flu cases and flu-related deaths rise.
If avian influenza became human-adapted, the process would be more complicated, virologists say. The H5N1 virus is so dangerous to chickens that only labs possessing high levels of biosafety protection, such as those at the CDC, are allowed to handle it. For the virus to be released to vaccine manufacturers, it must first be reverse-engineered to remove the lethal portion. That step is necessary whether the vaccine is to be produced the old way, in chicken embryos -- which the unaltered virus would kill -- or via the new technology of cell culture.
Reverse engineering takes at least a month. Three labs -- at the CDC, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in London -- began the viral tinkering last week.
Once a pandemic is identified, "it will still take four to six months before a significant amount of vaccine can be produced," Dr. Klaus Stohr, project leader for influenza surveillance in the World Health Organization's H5N1 Outbreak Response Group, said last week.
Eleven pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in manufacturing a vaccine once the virus is reverse-engineered, Stohr said, though they could not begin immediately because they currently are making flu vaccine for the upcoming flu season in the Southern Hemisphere, where autumn arrives in June.
Stohr acknowledged that flu could spread faster than any vaccine could be produced.
"If a pandemic virus would emerge, then we would presume -- these are estimates based on historical data -- that this virus might travel around the world in a relatively short period of time," he said.
And a recent CDC computer model projects the worst-case scenario: If pandemic influenza came to the United States, it would cause 20 million to 47 million cases of illness and 89,000 to 207,000 deaths.
There is some hope, health authorities say.
If infection with avian influenza cannot be prevented by vaccination, it might be slowed down by other drugs. There are two classes of antiviral drugs -- adamantanes and neuraminadase inhibitors -- that can slow down the process by which flu takes hold in the body, reducing the severity of the symptoms and the risk of death.
But WHO analysis of the H5N1 strain recovered from recent victims in Vietnam shows that it is unaffected by adamantanes. That leaves only two neuraminadase inhibitors -- oseltamivir and zanimivir, known in the United States as Tamiflu and Relenza -- to blunt the impact of a pandemic if one develops.
Defenses are weak
WHO recommended Friday that countries stockpile anti-virals. But both drugs are new, and supplies are limited. Last week, the CDC, WHO and the Canadian government all said separately that they were discussing buying the drugs from their manufacturers. However, neither drug exists in sufficient quantity to fill all those orders.
It is unclear how rapidly the two manufacturers -- Tamiflu's Roche Pharmaceuticals and Relenza's GlaxoSmithKline -- could spool up production. Late last week, Roche said it had enough Tamiflu in reserve to dose the thousands of workers engaged in the preventive slaughter of chickens and ducks in Southeast Asia. Giving Tamiflu to the slaughterers would suppress any human flu virus in their bodies, preventing it from combining with avian viruses shed by the dying birds.
As the flu spread last week, a reluctant consensus emerged among health authorities: Despite years of warnings and a clear advance understanding of the risks, there are no mechanisms in place that could adequately brake a worldwide outbreak of avian-to-human flu.
"If we are lucky and dodge this bullet, we should remember that we are not prepared for pandemics," Monto said. "And you cannot prepare for a pandemic once it rears its ugly head."
A REALLY AMAZING STORY
Parrot's oratory stuns scientists
By Alex Kirby
The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.
The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.
He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do.
N'kisi's remarkable abilities, which are said to include telepathy, feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine.
N'kisi is believed to be one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world.
About 100 words are needed for half of all reading in English, so if N'kisi could read he would be able to cope with a wide range of material.
He uses words in context, with past, present and future tenses, and is often inventive.
One N'kisi-ism was "flied" for "flew", and another "pretty smell medicine" to describe the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, an artist based in New York.
When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?"
He appears to fancy himself as a humourist. When another parrot hung upside down from its perch, he commented: "You got to put this bird on the camera."
Dr Goodall says N'kisi's verbal fireworks are an "outstanding example of interspecies communication".
In an experiment, the bird and his owner were put in separate rooms and filmed as the artist opened random envelopes containing picture cards.
Analysis showed the parrot had used appropriate keywords three times more often than would be likely by chance.
This was despite the researchers discounting responses like "What ya doing on the phone?" when N'kisi saw a card of a man with a telephone, and "Can I give you a hug?" with one of a couple embracing.
Professor Donald Broom, of the University of Cambridge's School of Veterinary Medicine, said: "The more we look at the cognitive abilities of animals, the more advanced they appear, and the biggest leap of all has been with parrots."
Alison Hales, of the World Parrot Trust, told BBC News Online: "N'kisi's amazing vocabulary and sense of humour should make everyone who has a pet parrot consider whether they are meeting its needs.
"They may not be able to ask directly, but parrots are long-lived, and a bit of research now could mean an improved quality of life for years."
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