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Showing posts from November, 2020

On Wells and Wellness: Oil and Gas Flaring as a Potential Risk Factor for Preterm Birth

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Environmental Health Perspectives Cattle graze in a field as gas flares from a pumping installation on the Eagle Ford Shale in Karnes County, Texas. The shale oil boom is going strong on a formation that stretches for about 500 kilomtres across south Texas, one of the most prolific oil patches in the U.S. Excess gas is burned off at oil pumping stations which dot the countryside. A Greenpeace photo. Several studies have examined the association between unconventional oil and gas development and adverse birth outcomes. But up to now, no study is known to have looked specifically at flaring—the controlled burning of natural gas at the well site to relieve pressure or dispose of waste gas.1 In a recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, investigators report their findings on flaring and maternal and fetal outcomes.  Details here.

Just 1% of Farms Control 70% of Global Farmland: Study Finds 'Shocking State of Land Inequality'

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ECO WATCH RELATED: Concentration Matters. Farmland Inequality on the Canadian Prairies

British chicken driving deforestation in Brazil’s “second Amazon”

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THE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM This satellite shot shows soybean production in Cerrato, Brazil. Green represents areas cleared before 2001 and purple - between 2007-2013. NASA. Soya used to feed UK livestock linked to industrial-scale destruction of vital tropical woodland. Story here.

As giant ice shelves collapse amid global warming in the Arctic, experts call for more protection for the "Last Ice Area" (LIA). The vast communities of plants and animals living there could be lost, they warn, before we even get to understand them!

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     by Larry Powell                                   The vast Milne Ice Shelf broke up this summer. Animals found  living within its ice cavity (red box),  are shown on the right.  Photo credits: Left: Joseph Mascaro, Planet Labs Inc.  Right: Water and Ice Laboratory, Carleton University. Using tools which included video taken by a robot submarine, a Canadian research team recently discovered an amazing array of plants and animals, living in the hear t of Milne, the very ice shelf which broke apart just this summer north of Ellesmere Island (above), losing almost half of its mass. Dr. Derek Mueller, Professor of Geography and Environment Science at Ottawa's Carleton University, is a team member who's worked in the area for decades. In an email to PinP, he can barely disguise his excitement over what they found. "There are really neat microbial mats (communities of micro-organisms including cyanobacteria, green algae, diatoms, heterotrophic bacteria, and viruses) that li

As South Africa clings to coal, a struggle for the right to breathe

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YaleEnvironmnt360 A small coal Mine, Highveld, South Africa.  A Sierra Club photo. Close ties between the ruling elite and the coal industry have helped perpetuate South Africa’s dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel for electricity. But now residents of the nation’s most coal-intensive region are suing to force the government to clean up choking air pollution. Story here.

The role we humans play in the continuing decline of Earth's biosphere knows no boundaries. Sadly - an essential part of human life - food production - remains part of the problem.

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by Larry Powell   A thick blanket of smoke again darkens skies over northern India. Every year, farmers light large numbers of small fires between September and December—after the monsoon season—to burn off rice stalks and straw leftover after harvest, a practice known as stubble or paddy burning. (A NASA satellite image.)  Details here. Smoke from burning stubble hovers over a small town in southwestern Manitoba, CA. Nov. 2020. A PinP photo. Canada is no stranger to the same practise. While "stubble-burning" in this country did not approach that of India's (at least not this year), numerous such fires were still common again this fall over the eastern prairies (See above) and in past years (below). Stubble-burning in Manitoba - circa 2005. Photos by PinP. Wildfire smoke (see brown) over the Canadian prairies last year. A NASA photo. Smoke from several large wildfires in Canada (now proven to be more severe, frequent and prolonged thanks to manmade climate change) was so

Snarl for the camera! An international team of scientists and software developers use facial recognition technology to identify individual grizzlies in the wild.

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 By Larry Powell An adult female grizzly  (Ursus arctos). "BearID," as the program is called, captures a bear’s face in a  photo image, rotates, extracts and embeds it in order to classify the individual.   Facial recognition techniques have long been used to identify primates, including humans. But, up 'til now, there's really been no effective way of identifying wild species like the grizzly (brown) bear who, unlike the zebra or giraffe, lacks unique and consistent body markings.       In co-operation with two US software developers, four scientists from the University of Victoria bought their idea to reality. They tested their system on grizzlies at two locations - Knight Inlet, BC, and Katmai National Park, Alaska. After taking thousands of pictures, they were able to positively identify 132 individuals with almost eighty-four percent accuracy.  An adult female in another colour phase. All images by Melanie Clapham, U of Victoria, Canada.  The technology enables

Concentration Matters. Farmland Inequality on the Canadian Prairies

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The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives    by Darrin Qualman, Annette Aurélie Desmarais, André Magnan and Mengistu Wendimu A scene typical to the Canadian prairies - a big farm at harvest time. A public domain photo by cj berry. The ownership and control of Canada’s food-producing land is becoming more and more concentrated, with profound impacts for young farmers, food system security, climate change and democracy.  On the Canadian prairies, small and medium-sized family farms are often portrayed as the primary food production units. Yet, the reality of farming in Western Canada is quite different. In fact, a small and declining number of farms are operating the lion’s share of Prairie farmland and capturing the lion’s share of farm revenue and net income.  The authors analyse the extent of farmland concentration in Canada’s three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), where over 70 per cent of the country’s agricultural land is situated. They find that 38 per ce

Recent research shows: More rare, endangered sharks are dying in the worldwide trade in shark fins than earlier feared.

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by Larry Powell   The "Grey Nurse" or "Sand Tiger," shark (  Carcharias taurus ), a coastal species on the ICU's Red List as  critically endangered. A public domain photo by Richard Ling.  Here's how sharks are "finned." After hauling them aboard their vessels, the fishermen cut off their fins, then toss them back into the ocean. Still alive, they sink to the bottom where they're either eaten by other predators or die of suffocation.    About 100 million sharks are believed to be taken by fishers each year, most of them for their fins alone.  It's an industry estimated to be worth US$400 million a year.  The blue shark (Prionaceglauca). Photo by Mark Conlin/NMFS. If one were to believe official trade records over the past twenty years, most fins traded on world markets have come from more abundant "pelagic" species (ones which live in the open ocean) like the blue shark (above).  The leopard shark (Stegostoma fasciatum). An ADV

Pollution and pandemics: A dangerous mix. Research finds that as one goes, so goes the other -- to a point.

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ScienceDaily A highway project in Alberta. A PinP photo. Are we setting ourselves up for the spread of a pandemic without even knowing it? Story here.

Ending greenhouse gas emissions may not stop global warming

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Nature (With minor editing by PinP) One of several steel power pylons toppled in an historic wind, snow and ice storm which swept through eastern Manitoba about a year ago. It left thousands without power in what was described as the worst power outage in the history of Manitoba Hydro. Damages are expected to exceed 100 million dollars. A Manitoba Hydro photo.  Even if human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be reduced to zero, global temperatures may continue to rise for centuries afterwards, according to a simulation of the global climate  published in Scientific Reports. Jorgen Randers and Ulrich Goluke modelled the effect of different greenhouse gas emission reductions on changes in the global climate from 1850 to 2500. They also created projections of global temperature and sea level rises. What do they show? Under conditions where manmade greenhouse gas emissions peak during the 2030s, then decline to zero by 2100, global temperatures will be 3°C warmer and sea levels 3

Where people go, there too, goes Covid-19! Surprising? Perhaps not. But, if more solid science will help to convince the doubters - here it is!

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Nature A busy London pub. Photo by Steve Parker. Reopening places such as restaurants, fitness centres, cafes, and hotels carries the highest risk for transmitting SARS-CoV-2, according to a modelling study based on data from the United States published in Nature. Reducing occupancy in these venues may result in a large reduction in predicted infections, the model suggests. The study also highlights disparities in infection risk according to socioeconomic status. To assess how changes in movement might alter the spread of the  virus, Jure Leskovec and colleagues use phone data (collected this spring) to map the movements of millions of people from different local neighbourhoods. They combined these data with a model of transmission. This allowed them to identify potential high-risk venues and at-risk populations. The simulations from their model accurately predict confirmed daily case counts in ten of the largest metropolitan areas (such as Chicago, New York City and San Francisco). T

Rivers melt Arctic ice, warming air and ocean.

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 SCIENCEDaily An Arctic river in Alaska. Photo by mypubliclands  A new study shows that increased heat from Arctic rivers is melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and warming the atmosphere. Details here.

For at least a decade, three founders of HyLife Foods have contributed thousands of dollars to the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.

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by Larry Powell Giving money to political parties, while older than Manitoba itself, has now erupted into something of a political storm in the province. And, to give context to the role of party donations, it's necessary to explain it in chronological order, going back a few months. Colleen Munro, owner and president of Hugh Munro Construction Ltd., Winnipeg. (HMC) A company photo. This summer, Opposition parties slammed the provincial government  when a financial contributor to the PCs, Colleen Munro (above), got the green light to develop a controversial limestone quarry in the southeastern RM of Rosser. The Government-appointed Municipal Board, made up of at least two other PC party donors, approved the project, over-ruling opposition  to the quarry, both  from local residents and the duly-elected local council. (There is no appeal from Board rulings.) As the Manitoba Liberal Leader, Dougald Lamont put it at the time, "If you want something done, all you have to do it to