The Watering Hole, Tuesday September 30, 2014: Environmental News and Food Politics

Study calculates that water on Earth is actually older than our Sun!

The heathens who conduct science in this country strike another blow against the ‘earth is 8000 years old theory. It turns out that the water here on earth may be from interplanetary sources older than our sun (which itself is a bit older than 8000 years old).

Read on…

National monument expanding

Looks like Obama muffed another one. Large portions of Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument increased in size by a factor of six.

Obama’s fault.

 

Born free… again

 

I just knew that this study would come out of Oregon (OSU to be precise)

If Hops aid cognitive function in mice, maybe beer will do it in humans

Pass, pass pass that bottle of beer.

The Waterless Watering Hole, Monday, February 3rd, 2014

A few recent articles got me started connecting several dots, which then began forming an unsettling picture. Read along, and let me know what you think.

First, according to this ClimateProgress article from January 31st, what was once the largest lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, has reportedly lost 95% of its water. While Lake Urmia is a saltwater lake, and not essential for agriculture or drinking water, such a huge reduction in size is more than alarming. From the article:

“Dam construction recently increased throughout the country, to provide both badly needed electricity and water supplies for irrigation. But that’s also diverted massive amounts of the freshwater that formerly flowed into Lake Urmia. Other major rivers throughout the country have gone dry, and the dust from the riverbeds and the salt from Lake Urmia’s dried basin are now a form of pollution unto themselves. Major cities around the country — including the capital of Tehran, home to 22 million — are making contingency plans for rationing. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently named water as a national security issue, and demonstrations and riots over water supplies have already erupted.”[emphasis mine]

“According to a 2012 study by the United Nations, 65 percent of the decline can be chalked up to climate change and the diversion of surface water cutting inflow to the lake. Another 25 percent was due to dams, and 10 percent was due to decreased rainfall over the lake itself.

A long drought in Iran ended two years ago, but the recent boost to rainfall has not been able to offset the other effects on the lake. Average temperatures around Lake Urmia rose three degrees in just the past ten years. In Pakistan, which sits along Iran’s southeast border, climate change has reduced snowmelt and river flow. That’s led to domestic political strife, and to a strained relationship with India over dams along the Indus River — Pakistan’s main source of freshwater.”[emphasis mine]

A commenter on the thread then led me to this Guardian article from November, concerning Hongjiannao Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake:

“Data released by local meteorological agencies on Thursday and reported by Chinese state media, shows the lake has now shrunk by almost one-third since 2009…”

Then there was this article by Graham Land entitled “Asia’s Disappearing Lakes”, with its alarming opening paragraphs:

“One of the worst environmental disasters in living memory is the near vanishing of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. What was once one of the world’s four largest lakes, containing some 1.5 thousand islands and covering 68,000 square kilometres (26,000 miles), by 2007 the Aral Sea was only 10% of its previous size and divided into four lakes.

What happened to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’s inland sea was not the result of normal changing weather patterns. The fate of the Aral Sea is a story of human intervention, contamination and local climate change.”

Next, Brad Plumer interviews Francesca Femia of the think-tank Center for Climate and Security in this Washington Post article. Ms. Femia states that, during the period between 2006 and 2011, “…up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst long-term droughts in modern history.”

“This drought — combined with the mismanagement of natural resources by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who subsidized water-intensive crops like wheat and cotton farming and promoted bad irrigation techniques — led to significant devastation. According to updated numbers, the drought displaced 1.5 million people within Syria…They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.”

Ms. Femia added, “…we’re not making any claim to causality here. We can’t say climate change caused the civil war. But we can say that there were some very harsh climatic conditions that led to instability.” Later in the interview, Ms. Femia says that it was a 2011 NOAA report “showing that a prolonged period of drying in the Mediterranean and the Middle East was linked to climate change” that brought the conditions in Syria to her attention. [I mention this simply because I find it ironic that a NOAA report is taken so seriously outside of the U.S., while so many of our “exceptional Americans” are dumbfuck climate change deniers who wouldn’t trust a NOAA report if god it/him/herself read the report to them.]

We’ve all read the recent stories about the toxic spill in West Virginia that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people. (And they’re still peeling more eye-watering layers off this onion of a story.) We’ve seen the photos and news reports showing West Virginians driving to designated water-supply centers for their ration of clean water–which didn’t appear to be enough for families to bathe, drink, cook, and somehow wash clothes with. At one point, Wal-Mart had to call in the local police to help protect a delivery of bottled water.

Now imagine if the Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead, and eventually there’s a spill that contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer. Instead of 300,000 people being without clean water, it would be 3,000,000 – all vying for relief deliveries of fresh water.

I could go on, but I think you catch my drift: if mankind, and the United States in particular, continues to ignore global climate change, refuses to enforce current environmental regulations, continues to rely heavily on finite and filthy fossil fuels, and refuses to consider stricter pollution regulations, then clean drinking water will become more scarce, and more valuable. If scarcity of water is fueling riots and protests in other parts of the world, imagine what could happen in the United States: with so much of our citizenry being over-armed and paranoid, how soon would the shooting start? And, if even Iran is already considering water to be “a national security issue”, eventually the inept fools who occupy Congress might finally get it through their thick skulls that clean water is essential to life as we know it, and is therefore more important than oil. So, when do you think the first War for Water would start? Or maybe it would be referred to as WWW: World Water War?

Not that I think that all of this may happen within my lifetime, but as Rachel Maddow used to say, “Somebody talk me down!”

This is our daily open thread–talk about whatever you want!

Sunday Roast: Glacial Lake Missoula

Photo by Zooey

I took this photo on my recent trip to Glacier National Park, having taken a detour down to the National Bison Range.  Over 13,000 years ago, this lush farmland was the site of a huge glacial lake; today we refer to it as Lake Missoula.

The lake was the result of an ice dam on the Clark Fork caused by the southern encroachment of a finger of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet into the Idaho Panhandle (at the present day location of Clark Fork, Idaho at the east end of Lake Pend Oreille). The height of the ice dam typically approached 610 metres (2,000 ft), flooding the valleys of western Montana approximately 320 kilometres (200 mi) eastward. It was the largest ice-dammed lake known to have occurred.

Approximately forty times over a 2000 year periodthe glacial ice dam ruptured, and the contents of Lake Missoula went screaming across the Idaho Panhandle, Eastern Washington (creating the Scablands), and the Columbia River Gorge.  You can see that the flood even reached my little corner of the world on the Snake River.

The cumulative effect of the floods was to excavate 210 cubic kilometres (50 cu mi) of loess, sediment and basalt from the channeled scablands of eastern Washington and to transport it downstream. These floods are noteworthy for producing canyons and other large geologic features through cataclysms rather than through more typical gradual processes.

If you drive across Eastern Washington, you’ll see that even today it looks like a virtual wasteland.  Being in the rain shadow of the Cascades has something to do with it, but the main culprit was flood after flood after flood scouring off the land.  It’s really quite fascinating to imagine the raw and determined power of WATER.

This is our daily open thread — Hey, you learned something new today!

The Watering Hole: June 15 — Planet Earth, Handle With Care

Now and then, I need a reminder that the political ugliness in this world is not the only thing of which we’re made, so I search out the beauty of this planet on the YouTubes.

This video is comprised of clips from the BBC series “Planet Earth,” and it helps restore my perspective, within the greater scheme of things.

My favorite part is…all of it.  In particular, I can’t help but notice the amazing and powerful effects of WATER in etching the wonderful and gorgeous features of our home.

A quote from one of my favorite movies sums it up…

Sayuri: My mother always said my sister, Satsu was like wood. As rooted to the earth as a sakura tree… But she told me I was like water… Water can carve its way through stone. And when trapped, water makes a new path.

I can relate.

This is our Friday open thread — What’s on your mind?

Here’s Yer Freakin’ Water, New York

The water supply for New York City, “The Greatest City in the World”, is provided by three systems of reservoirs stretching through several counties north of the city. According to the NYC website, the “watersheds of the three systems cover an area of almost 2,000 square miles, approximately the size of the state of Delaware.” Wayne and I are lucky to live near several of the reservoirs in the Croton Watershed system. Both of us grew up in a development overlooking the Middle Branch reservoir, and the view on a fall day was glorious. Our wedding was held in late October, 1988, at the Middle Branch Restaurant adjacent to the reservoir.

This photograph is of one of the many reservoirs surrounding Brewster, New York, along Route 6 heading toward Danbury, Connecticut.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

UN recognizes human right to safe drinking water and sanitation

Photo by Zach Meier

Green Cross

The 3rd Commission of the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations made history today by overwhelmingly adopting the draft resolution proclaiming the Human Right to Safe drinking Water and Sanitation.

I’m such a spoiled American.  Everyday, I turn on the tap and am rewarded with fresh clean water for my drinking, bathing, washing, and sanitation needs.  I have two bathrooms available to me in my home, and anywhere I may venture throughout my day, I can count on finding a restroom.  I don’t even have to think about it!

The resolution that was adopted [July 28] “declares the Right to Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

It also “calls upon States and international organisations to provide Financial resources, capacity building and technology transfer, through international assistance and co-operation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”  (Emphasis mine)

122 states voted in favor of the resolution, with 41 states abstaining — including the United States, Canada, Israel, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  None voted against the resolution (wouldn’t that raise some interesting red flags?).

Why did the U.S. abstain from voting for or against the resolution? Continue reading

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to notify farmers and other people living in watersheds contaminated with atrazine, a pesticide used heavily in the corn growing industry.

Wonder if Steve Bradbury from the EPA would be willing to drink the water in these contamined watersheds.

Civilian Contractors, Water, U.S. Soldiers, KBR, and Wastewater Pouring Out of Showers…

Stories of short supplies have haunted the U.S. military throughout the war in Iraq—things like inadequate body armor or unshielded Hummers. But while many soldiers say they had good access to water and even Gatorade, the 11 News Defenders discovered that others, stationed all over the country and during all phases of this desert war, say something else was often missing.

“We were rationed two bottles of water a day,” said Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey, referring to 1 to 1.5 liter bottles.

In this report, Robey talks about running out of water and forced to drink water out of faucets in Iraq homes, because that was the only water around.  The problem with that is, most Iraqi water is untreated and can cause illness. As a result, dysentery spread rapidly through his unit, affecting between 50 to 60 men.

They had to resort to stealing water from civilian contractors by taking unsafe routes, with road bombs, to the airport to find pallets of water that had not been distributed.

Another problem facing the soldiers was – unclean water in the sinks and showers in Iraq.

Turns out, at many similar bases, the water was supposed to be processed by Houston-based company KBR. In an internal KBR report, the company sites “massive programmatic issues” with water for personal hygiene dating back to 2005. It outlines how there was no formalized training for anyone involved with water operations, and one camp, Ar Ramadi, had no disinfection for shower water whatsoever.

“That water was two to three times as contaminated as the water out of the Euphrates River,” said former KBR employee Ben Carter.

Carter, a water purification specialist, was the one to blow the whistle on it all. He said he first noticed a problem when he found a live maggot in a base toilet at Camp Ar Ramadi. He subsequently discovered that instead of using chlorinated water, the soldiers’ sinks and showers were pouring out untreated wastewater.

I did some digging and found that this problem goes back to 2004, it was first reported by ABC News in 2006.

Continue reading