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Algae blooms on Lake Erie, virtually covering its Eastern bay in this August photo from space, are killing the lake. Again. And we know who the killer is.
Declared dead in the 1970s, brought back to life by the environmental movement it did much to inspire, Lake Erie is once again expiring, killed by industrial agriculture. Specifically, phosphorous from synthetic fertilizers, which the aforementioned environmental movement never gained the clout to regulate. After having been reduced by two-thirds with various buffering and conservation practices, phosphorous levels in Lake Erie are, according to an Ohio State University expert, “back up to when it was considered a dead lake.” Continue reading
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A satellite view released by NASA shows a blue-green algae bloom (the green part) taking over western Lake Erie (the blue part). And that's not all.
A legacy of industrial agriculture, energized by climate change, a continent-sized explosion of toxic algae blooms is besieging the freshwater lakes of North America, sickening people, killing animals and wrecking tourist- and recreation-based local economies. Although each eruption is big news in local papers, the unprecedented extent and severity of the epidemic has drawn no attention from national news media or political figurines. Continue reading
An oiled bird struggles to stay alive. Like many of the statements made by Exxon this week in Montana, this picture has nothing to do with reality on the Yellowstone River, it’s generic. (Photo by Igor Golubenkov/fotopedia)
Like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, we keep moving through the same sequence of events, disaster after disaster, until it really gets kind of annoying. This is the industry’s Standard Operating Procedure. First announcement: “We have a minor problem with ___________.” Fill in the blank: oil in the water, radiation in the water, methane in the water, water in New Orleans, whatever. Second Announcement: “The problem would now appear to be x orders of magnitude worse than we thought, but we have it completely under control.” Three: “It apparently will take us x (units of time, from days to millennia) to get the problem under control, but we will not rest until everything is like it was before.” Four: “No one could have predicted this.” Said over a distant, rising chorus of “I did!” “We did!” “Over here! We did too.” Today it’s the Yellowstone River. Continue reading
Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division Commander, explains to the news media on May 9 what the Mississippi River will be allowed to do during the flood of 2011. As the map clearly shows, it will be permitted to move only in straight lines. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo)
The headline in USA Today yesterday read: “Mississippi Flooding Redeems Army Corps.” Also yesterday, a Daily Impact commenter (a troll with no cogent argument, so you will not read the rest of his rant here) asked: “Don’t you get tired of predicting disasters that never happen?” Hard to know where to start, but let’s try here:
- How can the Corps be redeemed for handling an emergency that is only about halfway through its course?
- Warning of danger, and quoting authoritative people describing what could happen, is not the same thing as “predicting disasters.”
Let’s take another look at the Mississippi situation. Continue reading
First you blame me for global warming cause I get gas. Now you tell me there's crap in your water? (Photo by Gabrielle Gagne)
California’s Central Valley is probably the best example of the past success and imminent failure of industrial agriculture. The signs of the scope and proximity of the failure are accumulating fast, but while the past success has many wealthy fathers, the coming failure is an orphan. Continue reading
Algae scum in the waves of Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio, last June -- the symptom of a fatal illness. Last week, the governor applied a Band-Aid. (Photo by St. Marys Lake Improvement Association)
The government of the great state of Ohio demonstrated last week, with laser-like precision, exactly why we do not have a chance of avoiding the multiple catastrophes bearing down on our supplies of food, energy and water. In unveiling what was universally described as a “plan” to deal with one of the state’s biggest pollution problems, the governor and his fellow polititicans also demonstrated the new first principle of government: it is far, far better to appear to be doing something than to actually do something. Continue reading
In a scene from the Academy-Award nominated documentary GasLand, a Pennsylvania resident ignites the water flowing from his kitchen tap, a trick he could not perform before natural-gas fracking came to a field near his.
It has been a terrible month for the natural gas industry. From another well blowout in Pennsylvania to an emerging water war in Texas, from a new study by the EPA that scrapes some of the greenwash off the image of “natural” gas to an Academy Award nomination for an anti-fracking documentary. it’s been a total snafo (“situation-normal-all-fracked- over”). Continue reading
"I don't see any oil on me. Do you see any oil on you?" Now that the pelicans have been whitewashed, the BP-oil-spill apologists are at work on the rest of the story. (Photo by MindfulWalker/Flickr)
Scientists working for the government (hence the people) of the United States made the declaration in August, a scant month after BP had managed to stop a five-month gusher of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Like cops at an accident scene littered with crushed cars and dead bodies, they intoned “Nothing to see here. Move on.” Three quarters of the spilled oil, they said, was gone. Nearly five million barrels of oil and two million barrels of chemical dispersant had been processed by the Gulf, no problem. In the words of Energy Secretary Carol Browner, “the vast majority of the oil is gone.” Nothing to see here. Move on. Continue reading
That's a natural gas fracking well. You'd be well advised not to drink the water. (Photo by Daniel Foster/Flickr)
The contrast could not have been clearer. A lame-duck state governor who has little chance of holding public office again puts the safety of his people above the profits of the oil and gas industry; while the increasingly lame Obama administration waffles.
On Saturday, Governor David Paterson of New York — who did not run for a second term in the 2010 election — ordered a stop to all drilling for natural gas that involves hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Continue reading
Little noticed in the shadow of the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil eruption, the blowout of a natural-gas well in Pennsylvania last Thursday — after the failure of its blowout preventer — spewed gas and toxic chemicals for 16 hours before being brought under control. A single spark near the scene could have turned the event into a headline-grabbing conflagration that would have brought unwelcome attention to another unfamiliar new technology being used to get at previously inaccessible gas deposits. Continue reading