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News & Events On Our Changing Planet

8/20/2014

Lake Mead At Lowest Water Level In Decades

Lake Mead is a harbinger of drought for the west.
"Like a giant measuring stick in the desert, the dropping water level of Lake Mead, the nation's largest man-made reservoir, provides a vivid representation of the drought that is gripping the Southwest and much of the West," USA Today recently reported.
The lake is in bad shape. "Now at 39 percent of capacity, [it] has been dropping since 2012, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data, as much of the western U.S. has suffered the most serious drought in decades. The shortfall is endangering water supplies to the residents and 43 million annual visitors to the driest metropolitan area in the country," Bloomberg reported.
Why does it matter? The significance of the hardship at Lake Mead is that low water levels at the lake mean the Colorado River "is running out of water," 8 News Now reported. "That's a big problem for the millions of people who live in the Southwest. Lake Mead, which is fed by the river, is now at its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built almost 80 years ago."
The Colorado River is key to economic wellbeing in the West. It "contributes $2.8 billion for Nevada every year. It supports 17,000 jobs and quenches the thirst of 2.5 million Nevadans and it remains in serious danger," the report said.
Lake Mead was constructed during the Great Depression, according to the report. It gathers up "water that falls as snow on the Rocky Mountains as far north as Wyoming and collects in the Colorado River," the report said. It is a water source for parts of California, Las Vegas, and Arizona.
The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
"Officials of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's offices here, who control the river flow and distribution of water within legal guidelines, expect Lake Mead's level to decline a bit more before recovering some as water held further upstream in Lake Powell is released," the USA Today reported.

Water Online

8/08/2014

Why Monsanto's 'Cure' For World Hunger Is Cursing The Global Food Supply

What if the very GM agricultural system that Monsanto claims will help to solve the problem of world hunger depends on a chemical that kills the very pollinator upon which approximately 70% of world's food supply now depends?
A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology titled, "Effects of field-realistic doses of glyphosate on honeybee appetitive behavior," establishes a link between the world's most popular herbicide – aka Roundup – and the dramatic decline in honeybee (Apis mellifera) populations in North American and Europe that lead to the coining of the term 'colony collapse disorder' (CCD) in late 2006 to describe the phenomena.[1]
The researchers found that concentrations of glyphosate (GLY) consistent with the type of exposures associated with standard spraying practices in GM agricultural- and neighboring eco- systems reduced the honeybee's sensitivity to nectar reward and impaired their learning abilities – two behavioral consequences likely to adversely affect their survival abilities. Moreover, while sub-lethal doses were not found to overtly affect their foraging behavior, they hypothesized that because of their resilience, "..forager bees could become a source of constant inflow of nectar with GLY traces that could then be distributed among nest mates, stored in the hive and have long- term negative consequences on colony performance."

A Deeper Look at the New Study: Roundup Interferes with Bee Appetite and Learning

Roundup herbicide is a ubiquitous toxicant, with an accumulating body of research now showing it is a common contaminant in our air, water, rain, soil and food, and in physiologically relevant concentrations (even the part-per-trillion concentration range demonstrates endocrine disruptive and potentially carcinogenic properties) to microbial, insect, animal and human life.
When Roundup herbicide was first evaluated for toxicity to the honeybee, the focus was on acute toxicity of the 'active ingredient' and not sub-lethal and prolonged exposure effects; and certainly not the amplified toxicological synergies present in glyphosate formulations like Roundup, which when the so-called 'inert' adjuvant ingredients (e.g. surfactants) are taken into account, have been found to be at least 125 times more toxic than glyphosate alone. By only taking into account acute toxicity – as measured by the so-called LD50 (lethal dose, 50%) – on the 'active' ingredient, government regulators approved glyphosate as relatively harmless to honeybees prematurely.
The researchers expanded on the topic:
"Glyphosate [GLY] toxicity tests on Apis mellifera for product approval did not consider sub-lethal nor prolonged exposure effects. Studies were only focused on obtaining LD50 (lethal dose, 50%) as a measure of the effect of an acute exposure, but nevertheless, they were carried out on the basis that honeybees might in fact be exposed to GLY in their natural environment, either through the consumption of contaminated resources or through a direct exposure as a result of inadvertent spraying (Giesy et al., 2000). Even though LD50 results seem to indicate that GLY is not harmful for honeybees, the fact that honeybees are potentially exposed to GLY motivated us to pursue further analysis and to address the lack of chronic studies."
The authors of the new study set out to test whether doses of glyphosate bees would realistically encounter in the field (field-realistic doses) could affect their feeding behavior (appetitive behavior) in a deleterious manner.
They exposed honeybees to field-realistic doses of glyphosate chronically and acutely, and observed: "a reduced sensitivity to sucrose and learning performance for the groups chronically exposed to GLY concentrations within the range of recommended doses," as well as significant decrease in elemental learning, non-elemental associative learning, and short-term memory retention, when exposed to acute GLY doses.

Roundup Already Identified As Likely Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder

This latest study is not the first to link glyphosate to the vanishing honeybee.
Extensive research on the topic performed by Dr. Don D. Huber and summarized in an article published last year titled, "Is glyphosate a contributing cause of bee colony collapse disorder (CCD)?," lead him to conclude that the 880 million pounds of glyphosate released into the environment worldwide has been contributing to the collapse of the honeybee. The paper revealed the following six ways that glyphosate could contribute to CCD:

  • Glyphosate chelates minerals, lowers nutrients in plants: In CCD, Malnutrition is universally present.
  • Glyphosate acts like an antibiotic to beneficial bacteria: In CCD, loss of Lactobacillus and other critical beneficial bacteria for digestion is commonly observed.
  • Glyphosate is a neurotoxin: In CCD, honeybees experience neurological changes associated with disorientation.
  • Gyphosate causes endocrine hormone & immune disruption: In CCD, immunity and other hormonal variables are altered or suppressed.
  • Glyphosate stimulates fungal overgrowth: In CCD, the fungal pathogen Nosema increases.
  • Glyphosate persists and accumulates: High environmental exposure, including glyphosate residues present in honey, nectar and other plant products, make honeybees susceptible to continual toxic challenge -- which is believed to be a primary underlying cause of CCD.

Other Factors Contributing to Colony Collapse

While it is now increasingly acknowledged that many agrochemicals pesticides -- especially neonicotinoids -- are toxic to honeybees, there are other factors that likely play a role as well:
It should be pointed out that the last factor listed – infectious organisms – are likely more a symptom than a cause of honeybee morbidity and mortality. In other words, following electromagnetic, agrochemical and dietary assault, the immune system of the honeybee – and the collective immunity of the hive – weakens, leading to greater susceptibility to opportunistic infections.
One USDA study published in 2013 discussed the role of fungicidal contaminants in pollen leading to increased probability of Nosema fungal infection in bees who consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load.[3]
This linkage between chemical exposure > immune suppression, > opportunistic infection, is especially poignant when it comes to Roundup herbicide, which profoundly alters the makeup of the beneficial flora in exposed organisms, leading to the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. A 2012 PloS study found that lactic acid bacteria living in the crop (the part of the bee's alimentary canal that stores food prior to digestion) of bees are vitally important for the health of honeybees, with some strains suggesting a history of association with bees stretching over 80,000,000 years ago. Various chemical are capable of damaging this vitally important locus for the honeybee's immunity and digestion, and are likely exerting their adverse effects through sublethal, hard to detect mechanisms.

Why Does Monsanto Own Beelogics, 'The Guardian of Bee Health Worldwide'?

On Sept. 28th, 2011, Monsanto announced that it was acquiring the company Beeologics, whose explicit goal is to become "the guardian of the bee health wordwide," including finding ways to address CCD.
Here is their mission statement:
"Beeologics LLC is an international firm dedicated to restoring bee health and protecting the future of honey bee pollination. Beeologics' mission is to become the guardian of bee health worldwide. Through continuous research, scientific innovation, and a focus on applicable solutions, Beeologics is developing a line of RNAi-based products to specifically address the long-term well being of honey bees, including the control of parasites and how they're involved in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)."
A classical problem-solution approach, Monsanto creates a problem – a systemic herbicide intended to 'save the world' from hunger as part of its GMO Roundup-ready proprietary production system that actually destroys the pollinators required to maintain our global food supply – and then capitalizes on a GM solution on the backend, with patented RNA interference 'solutions' intended to, again, 'save the world' from hunger.

Green Med Info 

8/07/2014

Gulf of Mexico 'dead zone' is the size of Connecticut

The Gulf of Mexico's annual spring-summer "dead zone" is the size of Connecticut -- slightly smaller now than in recent years but nowhere near the trim scientists had sought, researchers said this week.
Scientists' annual survey found an area of 5,052 square miles of "low oxygen water," or hypoxia, off much of Louisiana's coast and part of Texas, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.
The zone is formed by nutrients that wash into the Gulf's waters -- largely agriculture fertilizer and wastewater coming down the Mississippi River. These boost algae blooms that suck up the oxygen in deep water, according to NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Marine life struggles to find enough oxygen to survive within the zone.
Fish and shrimp can migrate to areas with oxygen-rich water, but some life forms in the deep water and ocean floor -- including those that serve as food for the fish and shrimp -- can't get out of the zone and eventually die.
That hurts biodiversity and makes food hard to come by for the fish and shrimp when they return, said the survey's leader, Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.
Scientists first discovered a dead zone in these waters in 1972, and it has appeared ever spring and summer since, with varying sizes.
This year's dead zone, measured from July 27 to August 2, is smaller than the five-year average of 5,550 square miles, and well under 2002's record 8,481 square miles.
But scientists had set a goal of reducing the zone to 1,900 square miles by 2015 -- and this year's measurement likely means that target won't be met, Rabalais said.
"The average we're targeting against is three times the goal. ... There hasn't been any progress in reaching that goal," she said.
Ways to shrink the zone, she said, would include changing agricultural practices, including the timing of fertilization -- ideas that have worked well on the small scale but not, so far, on the large.
There's been no evidence to show that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 had any contribution to that year's dead zone or any subsequent one, Rabalais said.
The survey is supported by NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the world's second-largest caused by humans, Rabalais said. The largest is in the Baltic Sea.
"The number of dead zones throughout the world has been increasing in the last several decades and currently totals over 550," Rabalais said.
Dead zones amount to an expensive hit for America's fishing industry. NOAA estimates the annual cost of algae blooms to U.S. seafood and tourism industries at $82 million or more.

CNN 

7/31/2014

Massive numbers of sea creatures dying along the west coast

Never before have we seen so much death along the west coast of North America.  Massive numbers of sea stars, bluefin tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, oysters, salmon, marine mammals and marine birds are dying, and experts are puzzled.  We are being told that we could even see “local extinctions” of some of these sea creatures.  So are all of these deaths related?  If so, what in the world could be causing this to happen?  What has changed so dramatically that it would cause massive numbers of sea creatures to die along the west coast?
The following are 15 examples of this phenomenon.  Most scientists do not believe that these incidents are related.  But when you put them all together, it paints quite a disturbing picture…
#1 A “mystery plague” is turning sea stars all along the west coast of the United States and Canada into piles of goo…
Sea stars, commonly referred to as starfish, have been dying off in alarming numbers along the entire West Coast, from Baja, Mexico, to Alaska. According to reports from the Seattle Aquarium, some parts of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands have seen population declines of up to 80 percent.
On the Oregon coast, according to CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator Fawn Custer, “Last December, we had less than 1 percent of sea star wasting. By May 1, more than 5 percent of sea stars were affected. Now, I would say, in some areas, it is up to 90 percent.”
A marine epidemiologist at Cornell University says that this is “the largest mortality event for marine diseases we’ve seen“.
#2 The population of bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean has declined by 95 percent.  Mexico has already banned fishing for bluefin tuna for the rest of the year, and the U.S. government is considering doing the same thing.
#3 Sardine, anchovy and herring populations have dropped dramatically along the west coast in recent years…
Pacific sardine populations have shown an alarming decline in recent years, and some evidence suggests anchovy and herring populations may be dropping as well.
The declines could push fishermen toward other currently unmanaged “forage fish,” such as saury, smelt and sand lance, stealing a critical food source relied on by salmon and other economically important predators.
In response, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering an ecosystem-based management approach that recognizes the fundamental role of forage fish in the Pacific marine food web. Tiny, but abundant, these small schooling fish feed on plankton and, in turn, fill the bellies of Oregon’s iconic marine species, including salmon, sharks, whales, sea lions and sea birds.
#4Record numbers of distressed sea lions have washed ashore in California” for the second year in a row.  One news report described these distressed sea lions as “malnourished and dehydrated, too weak to find food on their own“.
#5 Marine birds are “disappearing” in the Pacific northwest…
From white-winged scoters and surf scoters to long-tailed ducks, murres, loons and some seagulls, the number of everyday marine birds here has plummeted dramatically in recent decades.
Scoters are down more than 75 percent from what they were in the late 1970s. Murres have dropped even more. Western grebes have mostly vanished, falling from several hundred thousand birds to about 20,000.
#6 Those that work in the seafood industry on the west coast are noticing some very “unusual” mutations.  For example, a red king crab that was recently caught in Alaska was colored bright blue.
#7 Pelicans along the California coastline are “refusing to mate“.  This is being blamed on a lack of fish for the pelicans to eat.  As a result, we are seeing less than one percent of the usual number of baby pelicans.
#8 The oyster population in the Pacific is falling so fast that it is being called “the great American oyster collapse“.
#9 The population of sockeye salmon along the coast of Alaska is at a “historic low“.
#10 Something is causing herring off the coast of British Columbia to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.
#11 Scientists have discovered very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.
#12 Back in May, more than six tons of anchovies died in Marina Del Ray over a single weekend.
#13 Just a few days ago, thousands of dead fish were found on Capitola Beach.  Authorities are trying to figure out what caused this.
#14 Earlier this month, thousands of dead fish were found on Manresa Beach.
#15 According to a study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, radiation levels in tuna caught off the coast of Oregon approximately tripled in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Could it be possible that at least some of these deaths are related to what has been happening at Fukushima?
We do know that fish caught just off the shore from Fukushima have been tested to have radioactive cesium that is up to 124 times above the level that is considered to be safe.
And we also know that a study conducted at the University of South Wales concluded that the main radioactive plume of water from Fukushima would reach our shores at some point during 2014.
Is it so unreasonable to think that the greatest nuclear disaster in human history could have something to do with the death of all of these sea creatures?
Just consider what one very experienced Australian boat captain discovered when he crossed the Pacific last year.  According to him, it felt as though “the ocean itself was dead“…
The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.
“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.
“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.
“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”
In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.
“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”
 The American Dream

What do you think?
Is Fukushima to blame, or do you think that something else is causing massive numbers of sea creatures to die?
Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

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