Perfect Storm Gathering off America’s West Coast

Sea Storm

A storm gathers over Manhattan Beach, California. But the real threat to the West Coast is from what’s happening in the water, not in the air. (Photo by Neil Kremer/Flickr)

When three or more meteorological disturbances merge, the result is called a “perfect” storm to signify that it is more destructive than the sum of its parts. In the Pacific Ocean off our West Coast, a confluence of dire events is forgathering whose cumulative effect may destroy more life on earth than anything that has occurred in 300 million years. That is not hyperbole, it is the considered opinion of a number of oceanographers who have begun to look at the threats cumulatively, rather than in the confines of one specialty or another. What happened 200 million years ago is called the Great Death of the Permian Age, during which most living things on Earth died.

What is happening today in the eastern Pacific Ocean is thought by some experts to be a runup to just such an event, beginning, as did the Great Death, with the extinction of most life in the ocean. Continue reading

Attack of the Zombie Plants: World War A

Just when you think it's safe to go near the water, you start feeling dizzy. Thanks, algae. (Photo by Dave Shefer/Flickr)

Just when you think it’s safe to go near the water, you start feeling dizzy. Thanks, algae. (Photo by Dave Shefer/Flickr)

Along most of its coastline, in its bays and estuaries, and in many of its rivers and lakes, America is under mounting attack by another enemy of its own making — toxic green algae. It’s like a bad horror movie, with the slime sprawling across vast reaches of water (so much that it’s visible from space), eventually covering beaches and burping a neurotoxin that is deadly to earthlings. As a movie, it wouldn’t get past a concept lunch in Hollywood today (Hey, Arnie! It’s been done, okay?) but it is raising real dread — not the fake movie kind — from California to Florida, from the coast of Washington to the coast of Ohio. Yes, Ohio. Continue reading

China: Falling Faster

Sunset in Shanghai. Except that’s not the horizon the sun is sinking behind, it’s the pollution layer. (Photo By Suicup via Wikimedia Commons)

Sunset in Shanghai. Except that’s not the horizon the sun is sinking behind, it’s the pollution layer. (Photo By Suicup via Wikimedia Commons)

It is increasingly likely that our ailing Western industrialized economy will be preceded in collapse by that of China, whose degradation of the natural web of life has been far faster and more profound than ours. Every six months or so I check on China’s disintegration, plowing through metric tons of punditry on its Miracle-Grow GDP, its rising military power, its imperial ambitions — to come upon a patient in ICU, nearly comatose. If America is Dead Man Walking with respect to food, water, air and soil quality, China is The Walking Dead. [Really? I have to explain that? One is about a man about to die, the other about a zombie, already dead.] Continue reading

West Coast Marine Ecosystem May Be Crashing

Now you see them, now you don't. And when you don't see sardines, the whole web of ocean life falters. (Photo by Juuyoh Tanaka/Flickr)

Now you see them, now you don’t. And when you don’t see sardines, the whole web of ocean life falters. (Photo by Juuyoh Tanaka/Flickr)

This is not a drill. A profound crash in the web of marine life in West Coast waters is under way, and may have gone on for two years already. Current observations that are setting biologists’ hair on fire include:

  • the sardine population from California to Canada is vanishing — the worst crash in generations;
  • starving sea lion and seal pups are washing up on California beaches in unprecedented numbers for the second straight year;
  • brown pelicans in the same area are showing signs of starvation and have not raised any chicks for four years;
  • a massive bloom of toxic algae in Monterey Bay is poisoning sea lions, fish and shellfish, and poses a threat to human health.

Continue reading

China Burning: This is Not a Drill

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

China has proved to be so much better than us at fouling its own nest that it is winning hands-down the lemming-like race we are having to the edge of the cliff that defines the end of the industrial age. China — Communist! China — has adopted our religion (the absolute love of money) with a zeal that makes the archbishops of Wall Street look like apostates. It has sacrificed to its new found god its air, land, water and now its financial system, at such speed it is beginning to blaze like a rock falling into the atmosphere. As the country singer puts it: “Falling feels like flying — for a little while.”

Imitation may be the sincerest form  of flattery, but can turn out badly when the object of the admiration is suicidal. China adopted all our vices at once — relocation of the rural population to jammed cities, runaway industrial and commercial development, electrification, automobilization, to name a few. And it not take any of our virtues, such as a free press, a vibrant environmental movement, a once-strong regulatory environment. It wanted, and it got, a machine that moved at blinding speed and that had no brakes. There have been casualties. Continue reading

Duke Energy’s Coup d’Etat in North Carolina

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina's Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

You will encounter frequent references here to industry’s wholly-owned and -operated Congress, or state legislature, or government agency. Usually, some irony is intended. But in North Carolina, irony is extinct; the state government is wholly owned and operated by Duke Energy. It is still true that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but it is no longer true that the citizens of this Republic give a tinker’s dam about corruption as long as the lights are on, the gas is cheap and there’s football on Saturday. Yet evil is so stupid, the power-mad are so given to wretched excess, that having won everything, they are capable of losing everything, because they cannot rest from destruction. Continue reading

Chinese Academy: Beijing Almost “Uninhabitable”

Beijing Uninhabitable

Pollution in Beijing last year, before it got really bad. (Photo by Pekka Tamminen/Flickr)

Unbridled air pollution has reached such concentrations in Beijing and six of China’s northern provinces that breathing and photosynthesis have become almost impossible. In addition, landing airplanes, driving cars, and seeing anything, have become extremely difficult in an epic smog concentration that has persisted for more than a week. According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences — the second largest academic institution in the country — the capital city is virtually “uninhabitable for human beings.” Continue reading

California Drying. And Strangling. Oh, and Burning.

No,it's not Beijing, but downtown Fresno on Friday, January 17, 2014. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee)

No,it’s not Beijing, but downtown Fresno on Friday, January 17, 2014. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee)

In the headlong race to see which city or region of the United States will generate the first wave of climate refugees, a race long dominated by Las Vegas NV and Phoenix AZ, California’s Central Valley has suddenly become a contender. It’s not just that the drought is becoming unbearable in this near-desert that through the wonders of water engineering has become the lettuce capital of the country; now the air is becoming unbreathable. Just as the lack of rain has parched the earth and overtaxed the water pipelines, so too has it left the air unwashed, and with the enormous quantities of junk being emitted into California’s air, you don’t want that. Continue reading

China Collapse Continues, Debris Falls on US

The Great Wall of China proves ineffective against pollution. Maybe if they made it bigger. (Photo by ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

The Great Wall of China proves ineffective against pollution. Maybe if they made it bigger. (Photo by ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

As signs of China’s impending collapse from industrial poisoning continue to proliferate (about which, more in a minute), some of them are proliferating in California. Air pollution, largely from China’s unrestrained use of coal, has become legendary in the country — virtually shutting down Shanghai in December and Beijing last week, and touching off armed uprisings by desperate people in various locations across the country. Now, a new study says that China’s industrial air pollution accounts for a significant portion of California’s smog. Continue reading

China Disintegrating: Stunning New Evidence

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

It’s not just the air in China that is becoming toxic to human life, now it’s the earth itself. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

Just as China became the envy of the industrial world by achieving growth (of its gross national product) of ten percent and more per year for two decades, so its consequent collapse is about to demonstrate clearly to the rest of the world what happens when you turn your country over to unfettered greed. Stunning new evidence of the imminence of that collapse became public last week. Unfortunately, it is not just their end of the Titanic that is sinking, and it is too late to avoid catastrophe. But understanding what is happening there might help some of us survive catastrophe. Continue reading