Melting Permafrost Releases Deadly, Long-Dormant Anthrax in Siberia

“This week’s anthrax outbreak signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape”
— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The cause of the anthrax outbreak could have been infected human remains from a local Nenets burial ground. (Photo: Siberian Times)

A Russian heatwave has activated long-dormant anthrax bacteria in Siberia, sickening at least 13 people and killing one boy and more than 2,300 reindeer.

According to the Siberian Times on Monday:

A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalized are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer.

A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia, and reindeer herding communities have been quarantined.

While NBC News last week pinned the blame for the outbreak on “[t]he carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago,” new reports suggest an old burial ground could be the source.

Nadezhda Noskova, press secretary of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region government, told the Siberian Times:

We are working out all the versions of what has happened. The first version is that due to the very hot weather permafrost thawed and bared the carcass of an animal which died from anthrax long ago.

The other version is that it could have been a human body. The point is that Nenets and Khanty peoples do not bury their dead in the ground.

They put them into the wooden coffins—they resemble boxes—and place them on a stand or hillock.

The old cemetery could be also the source of the disease.

But regardless of the precise culprit, there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the health crisis.

The Washington Post noted last week, “Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer,” with several regions seeing record heat. Indeed, temperatures in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have hit highs of 95°F this summer, compared to an average of 77°F.

The Post quoted two Russian researchers, who warned in 2011: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back…especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

“The extreme heat has triggered a seemingly endless rash of freak weather, natural disasters, and signs of ecological malaise, including enormous wildfires, record flooding, and natural moon bounces [methane bubbles] that might be explosive,” staff writer Maddie Stone reported at Gizmodo. “But above all else, this week’s anthrax outbreak—the first to hit the region since 1941—signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape.”

Or, as Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire on Monday, “an anthrax strain that has spent 75 years resting, sleeping a lot, going a few times a week to the Bacteria Gym, and generally muscling up, gets another chance at sickening reindeer and people because the Great Climate Change Hoax has thawed the permafrost, so it gets its shot at the reindeer and people that didn’t die in the record wildfires. I would point out that one of our two major political parties doesn’t believe that any of this is happening, and that the party’s candidate for president thinks it all might be a hoax thought up by the Chinese.”


src=”https://humboldtdems.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/creativecommons.png” alt=”CreativeCommons” width=”66″ height=”23″ />This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Advertisements

Naomi Klein Makes Moral Case for World Beyond Fossil Fuels

Activist and author, Naomi Klein, praises ‘courageous’ invitation by Pope in face of fossil fuel industry’s power

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Author and activist Naomi Klein spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday, calling climate change a “moral crisis” that should unite all people. (Photo: Adolfo Lujan/flickr/cc)

Naomi Klein—activist, author, and self-described “secular Jewish feminist”—spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday where she championed the Pope’s message for global action on climate change and made the case for “the beautiful world” beyond fossil fuel addiction.

Klein, who was invited to speak by the Vatican, gave her speech ahead of a two-day conference to discuss the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the environment and the threat of the global economic system—subjects that the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate knows well.

The encyclical has garnered praise from environmental campaigners like Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo, who called it a “clarion call for bold, urgent action.”

“Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for ‘every person living on this planet.’ And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me,” Klein told reporters ahead of the conference, which is called People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.

She praised what she described as “the core message of interconnection at the heart of the encyclical.”

Klein also expanded on what may appear to be an unlikely alliance with the leader of the Catholic Church.

“Given the attacks that are coming from the Republican party around this and also the fossil fuel interests in the United States, it was a particularly courageous decision to invite me here,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated, and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies and that’s part of what this is about.”

“In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.”  — Naomi Klein

“I have noticed a common theme among the critiques. Pope Francis may be right on the science, we hear, and even on the morality, but he should leave the economics and policy to the experts,” Klein said in her speech. “They are the ones who know about carbon trading and water privatization, we are told, and how effectively markets can solve any problem. I forcefully disagree.

“The truth is that we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us badly, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom,” she said. “In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it.”

Echoing the Pope’s message to address inequities, Klein said that “our current system is also fueling ever widening inequality.”

But Klein stressed that her appearance at the Vatican did not mean that any one world view was “being subsumed by anyone else’s.”

“This is an alliance on a specific issue. It’s not a merger,” Klein said. “But when you are faced with a crisis of this magnitude, people have to get out of their comfort zones.”

Despite the magnitude of the crisis, Klein stressed: “We can save ourselves.”

“Around the world, the climate justice movement is saying: See the beautiful world that lies on the other side of courageous policy, the seeds of which are already bearing ample fruit for any who care to look.

“Then, stop making the difficult the enemy of the possible.

“And join us in making the possible real,” she said.

The two-day conference, which comes in the lead-up to the COP21 international climate talks in Paris later this year, is being coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE), an alliance of Catholic development agencies. Alongside Klein, other speakers include Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pontifical council president H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson, and CIDSE secretary general Bernard Nils.


CC-BY-SA  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Ditch the Myth

Let’s get serious about protecting clean water

This post addresses concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect clean water. The proposed rule clarifies protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The following facts emphasize that this proposed rule cuts through red tape to make normal farming practices easier while also ensuring that waters are clean for human health, communities, and the economy.


MYTH: The rule would regulate all ditches, even those that only flow after rainfall.

TRUTH: The proposed rule actually reduces regulation of ditches because for the first time it would exclude ditches that are constructed through dry lands and don’t have water year-round. Tweet the truth

MYTH: A permit is needed for walking cows across a wet field or stream.

TRUTH: No. Normal farming and ranching activities don’t need permits under the Clean Water Act, including moving cattle. Tweet the truth

 The proposed rule to protect clean water will not change exclusions and exemptions for agriculture.

MYTH: Ponds on the farm will be regulated.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not change the exemption for farm ponds that has been in place for decades. It would for the first time specifically exclude stock watering and irrigation ponds constructed in dry lands. Tweet the truth

MYTH: Groundwater is regulated by the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: The proposed rule specifically excludes groundwater. Tweet the truth

MYTH: The federal government is going to regulate puddles and water on driveways and playgrounds.

TRUTH: Not remotely true. Such water is never jurisdictional. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA is gaining power over farms and ranches.

TRUTH: No. All historical exclusions and exemptions for agriculture are preserved. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle.

MYTH: Only the 56 conservation practices are now exempt from the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: No. The proposal does not remove the normal farming exemption. It adds 56 beneficial conservation practices to the exemption, which is self-implementing. Tweet the truth

Download the interpretive rule signed by EPA and USDA

MYTH: The proposed rule will apply to wet areas or erosional features on fields.

TRUTH: Water-filled areas on crop fields are not jurisdictional and the proposal specifically excludes erosional features. Tweet the truth

MYTH: This is the largest land grab in history.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act only regulates the pollution and destruction of U.S. waters. The proposed rule would not regulate land or land use. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA and the Army Corps are going around Congress and the Supreme Court.

TRUTH: EPA and the Army Corps are responding to calls from Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify regulations. Chief Justice Roberts said that a rulemaking would provide clarification of jurisdiction. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water keeps in place the current exemptions for farm ponds.

MYTH:  The proposal will now require permits for all activities in floodplains.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act does not regulate land and the agencies are not asserting jurisdiction over land in floodplains. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposed rule will harm the economy.

TRUTH: Protecting water is vital to the health of the economy. Streams and wetlands are economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The costs of this proposal are too burdensome.

TRUTH: For this proposed rule, the potential economic benefits are estimated to be about TWICE the potential costs – $390 to $510 million in benefits versus $160 to $278 million in costs.  Tweet the truth

Download an economic analysis about the proposed rule

MYTH:  This is a massive expansion of federal authority.

TRUTH: The proposal does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule specifically reflects the more narrow reading of jurisdiction established by the Supreme Court and the rule protects fewer waters than prior to the Supreme Court cases. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate floodplains.

MYTH:  This is increasing the number of regulated waters by including waters that do not flow year-round as waters of the United States.

TRUTH: Streams that only flow seasonally or after rain have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was enacted in 1972. More than 60 percent of streams nationwide do not flow year-round and contribute to the drinking water supply for 117 million Americans. Tweet the truth

See a map of counties that depend on these sources for drinking water

MYTH:  Only actual navigable waters can be covered under the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: Court decisions and the legislative history of the Clean Water Act make clear that waters do not need actual navigation to be covered, and these waters have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was passed in 1972. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The rule includes no limits on federal jurisdiction.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and specifically reflects the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of jurisdiction, and includes several specific exclusions. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate puddles.

MYTH:  This rule is coming before the science is available. 

TRUTH: EPA’s scientific assessment is based on more than 1,000 pieces of previously peer-reviewed and publicly available literature. The rule will not be finalized until the scientific assessment is finalized. Tweet the truth

Download the draft scientific assessment (331 pp, 11 MB, PDF)

MYTH:  This is about little streams in the middle of nowhere that don’t matter.

TRUTH: Everyone lives downstream. This means that our communities, our cities, our businesses, our schools, and our farms are all impacted by the pollution and destruction that happens upstream. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposal infringes on private property rights and hinders development.

TRUTH: EPA, the Army Corps, and states issue thousands of permits annually that allow for property development and economic activity in ways that protect the environment. The proposed rule will help reduce regulatory confusion and delays in determining which waters are covered. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water actually decreases regulation of ditches.

MYTH:  Stakeholders were not consulted in the development of the proposed rule.

TRUTH: This is a proposal. Agencies are seeking public comment and participating in extensive outreach to state and tribal partners, the regulated community including small business, and the general public. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The federal government is taking authority away from the states.

TRUTH: This proposed rule fully preserves and respects the effective federal-state partnership and federal-tribal partnership established under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule will not affect state water laws, including those governing water supply and use. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  Nobody wanted a rulemaking to define Waters of the U.S.

TRUTH: A rulemaking to provide clarity was requested by the full spectrum of stakeholders: Congress, industry, agriculture, businesses, hunters and fisherman, and more. Tweet the truth   

See who requested this rulemaking

Pesticide Use Spikes as GMO Failure Cripples Corn Belt

Midwest farmers douse their fields in chemicals as insects grow resistant to Bt Corn

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer


Pesticides Poured on Illinois Cornfield (Photo: Fig and Sage)

Pesticide use is skyrocketing across the Midwestern U.S. corn belt, as biotech companies like Syngenta and AMVAC Chemical watch their pesticide sales spike 50 to 100 percent over the past two years, NPR reported Tuesday.

The culprit? Bt corn—a type of genetically engineered corn with insecticide built into its genes.

Variations of this corn strain—peddled across the world by large multinationals including Monstanto and Syngenta—are giving rise to Bt resistant insects and worms, studies show.

NPR reports that resistant ‘pests’ are decimating entire cornfields across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Yet, now that the targeted insect killings are not working, big agribusiness is simply throwing pesticides at the problem instead of moving away from GMOs.

This is despite warnings last year from the Environmental Protection Agency that unrestrained use of Bt corn will off-set the balance of the ecosystem.

Monsanto denies the severity of the damage wrought by Bt corn, assuring customers that many farmers ‘have great success.’

Environmental groups have long warned that Bt corn is a danger to non-‘pest’ insects. In a 2004 briefing, Greenpeace showed that the effects of non-targeted insect killings ripple throughout the ecosystem.

Critics charge that the modified corn—which is spread by big agribusiness, pushed to small farmers, and crossbred with non GMO strains—undermines food diversity and security and devastates small-scale, sustainable farmers and peasants.

The revelation comes after scientists recently warned that pollution runoff from Midwestern farms, carried to the ocean by the Mississippi, is slated to create the largest ocean dead zone recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, choking marine life that crosses its path.


(Photo: Digital Journal)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Related Posts: