Phear of Phosphorus: “We Will Begin to Starve.”

Not really the farmer's friend, synthetic agriculture is leading the way toward a crash. (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture photo/Flickr)

Not really the farmer’s friend, synthetic fertilizer is leading the way toward a crash. (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture photo/Flickr)

The declining amount of phosphorus left in the world illustrates perfectly a basic premise of Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age: that it’s too late to save all of us from the crash of the industrial age, but on the other hand any of us, in small groups, can escape the worst consequences by living sustainably. Industrial agriculture cannot survive without industrial supplies of mined phosphorus, of which a diverse, small family farm has no need whatsoever. It also illustrates other components of our situation: a mortal threat recognized by a small group of scientists with their hair on fire who are ridiculed by industry hacks and ignored by a public who could not find a way to care less. [Wait, don’t leave. I’m about to explain why you should care more.] Continue reading

Falling Colors: The Long Agony of Trees

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

A long-time friend of, and commenter on, The Daily Impact, Gail Zawacki, has for years maintained a lonely vigil on behalf of trees. On her blog. Wit’s End, she chronicles the massive, mortal harm being done to trees all over the world by air pollution. They are, in fact, slowly dying, a fact that should be most strikingly obvious to everyone in the fall, when by the tens of thousands we drive our emissions-rich cars long distances to see the fall colors. Which, increasingly, aren’t there any more. In part because of the emissions from our cars. Yet no one (except Gail) seems able to see the sick trees for the pale forest. Continue reading

Cable News: A Plug for Personal Energy Independence

The Next Big Thing in electricity is already pretty old -- it’s been around for two or three styles of IPhone. But the mighty USB cable may be about to electrify the world. In a good way. (Photo by Teo/Flickr)

The Next Big Thing in electricity is already pretty old — it’s been around for two or three styles of IPhone. But the mighty USB cable may be about to electrify the world. In a good way. (Photo by Teo/Flickr)

In the long debate between industrial, grid-based electricity and distributed, home-grown electricity…wait, you didn’t know there was a debate? Not surprising, since one side has all the TV commercials, all the cash-and-carry political power, all the hyper-funded “think tanks” and the endowed university departments. The other side has engaging stories to tell around campfires. Nevertheless, there are two sides to the debate, and the turtle in this race is showing some life recently. Continue reading

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America

Algae -- the rising tide that poisons all boats.  (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Algae — the rising tide that poisons all boats. (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America! What a great movie pitch! Awesome special effects! Multitudes of bikini-clad victims! Unfortunately, it’s true, so hardly anybody is interested. This summer, 21 states that we know of — most don’t even bother to keep records on this pestilence — closed beaches and issued public-health warnings when their waters became clogged with blooms of toxic green algae. At least one person and 20 pets have been killed by the slime, along with untold numbers of birds and wildlife. Yet no cable news network has gone wall-to-wall on this spreading, deadly threat — perhaps because there’s no mystery here. We know who the culprit is, and we know how to stop the threat. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico: “There is No Life Out There.”

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Manager Jereme Phillips reports oil on a refuge beach in Alabama in June of 2010. Three years later, the hits just keep on coming. (Photo by Jennifer Strickland USFWS)

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Manager Jereme Phillips reports oil on a refuge beach in Alabama in June of 2010. Three years later, the hits just keep on coming. (Photo by Jennifer Strickland USFWS)

The Gulf Oil spill is old news, right? 2010? Over and done with. The seafood industry has recovered. tourists are back, BP has kept its promises to make things right. We know that because that’s what the incessant BP commercials on television are telling us. BP seems to believe its own commercials, because it announced in June that it and the Coast Guard were ending regular patrols of the Gulf Coast (except for Louisiana) looking for washed up oil. It did this, it said in its exuberant announcement, because of its “extraordinary progress in cleaning up the Gulf,” which, it declared, is almost back to normal. Who you gonna believe? BP’s commercials, or your lyin’ eyes? Continue reading

It’s Official: Breathing is Bad for You

pollution prosperity

(Photo by Mike Licht/Flickr)

The World Health Organization has classified polluted air as a Group One human carcinogen. That puts the air that most people in the world are breathing in the same category of harmfulness as such things as asbestos and cigarette smoke. It also ranks the eastern United States, along with China, Mexico and North Africa as having the most polluted air in the world. In some ways, of course, this is old news. Some of us figured out a few decades ago that polluted air is not good for you. Nevertheless, as reported by Reuters this new study is going to rock some big boats. Continue reading

Oil Figures Don’t Lie, but Oil Liars Go Figure

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

The headlines are coming with dizzying speed. On October 11, “US Soon to Overtake Russia as World’s Largest Oil Producer.” And then days later, “US Surges Past Saudis to Become World’s Top Oil Supplier.” Wait, how can Russia and Saudi Arabia both be the world’s largest oil producer in the same week? Okay, never mind, they run neck and neck. So this is really great news for American oil burners, no reason at all now they should change their planet-warming ways. If the headlines were true. Which they weren’t. Continue reading

Feds: Poison Chicken Approved, Cantaloupe Farmers Jailed

sick chicken

This chicken is safe to eat. Just handle while wearing a biohazard suit, in a negative-pressure, double-sealed room, and cook for several days at 900 degrees.[See also: Handling the Ebola Virus for Dummies] (Photo by amslerpix/Flickr)

When 33 people died and hundreds were sickened from eating cantaloupe contaminated with listeria, the owners of the farm involved were hauled into court in handcuffs and charged with six criminal offenses. When hundreds of people were sickened by salmonella in chicken — seven different strains of salmonella, all resistant to antibiotic treatment — from a chicken plant that did the same thing last year, nothing happened. No prosecutions, not even a recall of the contaminated chicken. It’s being suggested that the latter outbreak is not being dealt with because of the government shutdown, but the real reason is far worse than that. Continue reading

Leading US Publications Mislead on Climate Change. Together.

Does journalism get more lame than this? Increasingly, yes.

Does journalism get more lame than this? Increasingly, yes.

In just one week, TIME Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have published pieces that say, respectively, that the earth might be cooling, not warming; that there is no limit to how many humans can live on earth; that there is no “scientific” connection between global warming and extreme weather; and that “most experts” believe that the benefits of global warming will outweigh the harm. What are we to make of the fact that these colossi of traditional journalism (not to mention Britain’s Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch’s Australian papers) are all singing from the same sheet music, on virtually the same day? Has there been some epic paradigm shift away from global climate change? Or is the rising tide of destruction and human suffering around the world driving the industrialists — industrial journalists included — closer to panic? Continue reading

Steroids for Cows: How to Gag a Hyena

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these -- sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals -- are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these — sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals — are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

It is possible to gag a hyena; the food industry has actually choked on its own latest solution to an economy-of-scale problem. The problem was created when the corn industry mandated (through its wholly owned subsidiary, the United States Congress) the use of corn ethanol in automobile fuel. Among the unintended consequences were an immediate tripling of the cost of corn, leading to  1) widespread famine in countries whose staple food is the tortilla, and 2) more importantly, decreased profits for cattle feedlots. The feedlots demanded, and got, a quick fix: a chemical that would reduce the amount of corn needed to fatten cattle by making them swell up. Oddly, not everything worked out well. Continue reading