Our species’ environmental footprint is not sustainable

Substantial, fundamental changes in the world economy are required to reduce humanity’s overall environmental footprint to a sustainable level. This is the conclusion of Arjen Hoekstra, professor of Water Management at the University of Twente. He publishes his findings in the article “Humanity’s unsustainable environmental footprint[.pdf] in Science magazine.

Hoekstra, mainly known for the water footprint, has published the research together with his German counterpart Thomas Wiedmann, employed by the University of New South Wales in Australia. In Science, the authors describe how intertwined the global economy, politics, consumption and trade are in their effect on global land, water and raw material consumption and on the climate.

“Our article mainly focuses on understanding the interdependence of the different types of footprints and the role that businesses, consumers and governments play in creating our overall footprint,” says Hoekstra. “We know that we are not sufficiently sustainable in our actions. But the interdependence has not previously been shown in this way. The various players have divergent interests and take too little responsibility. Consumers do not feel responsible for what producers do and politicians focus too much on growth, exports and cheap imports. For example, who feels responsible for the distress caused when we deplete the resources in China because of cheap imports? If you buy a stolen bicycle, you are liable to punishment and individually responsible. But isn’t the consumption of products that are not produced sustainably also irresponsible behaviour? Rethinking the global supply chain, that’s what it’s all about.”

Hoekstra and Wiedmann map out mankind’s total environmental footprint in a scientific, unique manner, but also realize that a solution is not immediately obvious. “This of course requires fundamental changes in the global economy and international cooperation. But understanding the role of the various parties and the enormous complexity underlying our overall footprint is a first step. Everyone should assume and be given greater supply-chain responsibility; only then can we sustain our society“, concludes Hoekstra.

I don’t think this will provoke anymore examination and thought in the bowels of our government than, say, in the boardrooms of Western Capitalism.

That is not to say it will be ignored in the ever-burgeoning hinterlands of Brazil or China or the few centers of Realpolitik that engage with science. None of which are within the borders of the United States. Unfortunately.

Thanks, Mike

Art rises from blitzkrieg


Click to enlarge

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The images of so many houses destroyed, so many bomb blasts, even so many bodies wrapped in burial shrouds can begin to blur together, indistinguishable. But Belal Khaled, a young photojournalist and painter in this southern Gaza town, saw symbols and stories in the smoke all around him.

First, in a black cloud staining the bright blue sky above a beach, he saw hints of a prominent nose, thick mustache and wild hair, “like an old man contemplating the situation of Gaza,” Mr. Khaled said. Then, in a friend’s photograph of a taller, thinner plume, he saw a fist with the index finger extended, a gesture Muslims make when saying, “No God but Allah.” Using Photoshop, Mr. Khaled added a few simple lines to emphasize these hidden icons, and uploaded the artwork to Facebook, where it was shared and “liked” thousands of times.

Artists may see things others can’t see,” said Mr. Khaled, 23, who works for a Turkish news agency. “Even at the very tense times and very hard moments, we still draw…”

Mr. Khaled said he learned Arabic calligraphy in the seventh grade and painted Quranic verses on the walls of his family home. He started taking photographs at 18 and dropped out of college, where he was studying interior design, to take a job at Anadolu, a Turkish news agency. Three years ago, he began painting — haunting portraits, mostly, of the forlorn old men and impoverished youths in his neighborhood. At the office one night, he used the coffee left in his cup to paint a child screaming.

RTFA. Details and description of work by other artists in Gaza. Yes, even simple things like paints and other graphic materials are limited and regulated by the Israeli government. As you would expect.

Anti-Fascist hero sends his Holocaust medal back to Israel


The “Righteous Among the Nations” medal

A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour…He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive…

Mr Zanoli and his mother were awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations” honour by Israel in 2011 for helping to shelter a Jewish child from the Nazis in their family home from 1943-45.

The award is accorded to non-Jews who risked their lives to protect and save Jews during the Holocaust.

However, Mr Zanoli said in a letter published by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that “to hold on to the honour granted to me by the State of Israel under these circumstances, would be an insult… to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza…”

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza…Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft…

Mr Zanoli also lost his father at a Nazi concentration camp. His brother-in-law was murdered by the Nazis for his role in the Dutch resistance. Like pretty much everyone who rejects the apartheid government of Israel, Mr. Zanoli holds no brief against Jews in any nation. His opposition is to the government of the state of Israel and their racist and militarist policies.

You can read his letter over here.

Hemp homecoming in Kentucky

Kentucky Hemp Field

Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.

Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.

The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.

Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.

The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department sued the federal government, but dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeds into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.

Since then, test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing – and a potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of traditional uses including clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.

“What we’ve learned is it will grow well in Kentucky,” Comer said. “It yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted.”

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to be grown. But commercial uses are also emerging.

Which goes to prove for the umpteenth time, our government is managed by cowards, fools and idjits.

RTFA for the measured sign of progress back from a half-century of stupid regulation. All based on fear and an absolute rejection of scientific knowledge.

Cripes, people wonder why I’m so “intolerant”. Why should anyone with a modicum of sense and education have to put up with the range of incompetence – from bigotry and racism to abusive laws regulating vegetables – embraced so thoroughly by the lawgivers of this supposed Land of Liberty.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge — AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Newspapers, other media, even galleries displaying the work of photographers stick to the protocol of detailing not only every technical jot of taking the photo; but, they persist in describing the context and incidence of the photo. This is one of those photos where I think it doesn’t matter in the least.

It’s an interesting picture. Use your imagination.

If you really need to know what’s going on – click over here.

Agencies warn Africans over bogus Ebola cures

Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.

Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims…

Earlier this week, a W.H.O. expert panel ruled it ethical to try some experimental drugs to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top W.H.O. official emphasized that it did not.

The hustlers who specialize in the class of medical alternatives guaranteed to be nothing more than a hustle – take this as an invitation to flood the market of fear with so-called wonder cures.

While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not F.D.A.-approved for systemic use against viruses…

ZMapp is a set of antibodies made by the Mapp company of San Diego. Only a few doses exist, and the first two were given to American health workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia and are now hospitalized in Atlanta.

NanoSilver is for sale on the foundation’s website alongside hemp oil, ear candles, chocolate and “mental clarity packs.”

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the W.H.O., said that testing promising treatments “doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have — things that have barely been tested in anything — will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question…”

Since the outbreak started, many rumored cures have swept West Africa. A popular Nigerian rumor is that bathing in or drinking saltwater is protective. Bags of “blessed Ebola cure salt” are for sale.

While bathing in saltwater is harmless, drinking large amounts of it is not. The W.H.O. said two Nigerians have died of it.

Medical hustles abound in every culture in direct proportion to the segment of the public still stuck into religion and superstition. Poverty is another quality creating an open door to snake oil salesmen. If your nation has a significant number of politicians afraid of science and education it’s all the more likely that 14th Century solutions will take hold of the hopes and prayers of ignorant folk.

The placebo effect is next to useless on a virus as deadly as Ebola. So, miracle cures, amazing remissions, aren’t likely. Just more dead – after being drained of every penny they could come up with.

Global warming is humidifying the upper atmosphere

We have long suspected that greenhouse gases which cause the Earth to warm would lead to a wetter atmosphere. The latest research published by Eul-Seok Chung, Brian Soden, and colleagues provides new insight into what was thought to be an old problem. In doing so, they experimentally verified what climate models have been predicting. The models got it right… again.

To be clear, this paper does not prove that water vapor is a greenhouse gas. We have known that for years. Nevertheless, the paper make a very nice contribution. The authors show that the long-term increase in water vapor in the upper troposphere cannot have resulted from natural causes – it is clearly human caused. This conclusion is stated in the abstract,

Our analysis demonstrates that the upper-tropospheric moistening observed over the period 1979–2005 cannot be explained by natural causes and results principally from an anthropogenic warming of the climate. By attributing the observed increase directly to human activities, this study verifies the presence of the largest known feedback mechanism for amplifying anthropogenic climate change.

As stated earlier, climate models have predicted this moistening – before observations were available. In fact, the models predicted that the upper troposphere would moisten more than the lower atmospheric layers. As the authors state,

Given the importance of upper-tropospheric water vapor, a direct verification of its feedback is critical to establishing the credibility of model projections of anthropogenic climate change.

To complete the experiments, the authors used satellite measurements of radiant heat. The emissions have changed but it wasn’t clear why they have changed. Changes could be caused by increases in temperature or from increased water vapor. To separate the potential effects, the authors compared the first set of experiments with others made at a different wavelength. That comparison provided a direct measure of the separate effect of moistening.

Next, the authors used the world’s best climate models to test whether the observed trends could be caused by natural changes in the Earth’s climate or whether they require a human influence. Sure enough, only the calculations that included human-emitted greenhouse gases matched the observations. The authors conclude that,

Concerning the satellite-derived moistening trend in recent decades, the relations of trend and associated range among three experiments lead to the conclusion that an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases is the main cause of increased moistening in the upper troposphere.

Another box ticked, another set of relevant questions answered. Now, real scientists will continue with their work – preparing answers for those nations and politicians ready to deal with serious ecological questions.

The rest…? I don’t know. Don’t waste too much time asking a Republican what they intend to do?

Thanks, Mike

Rick Perry indicted on two charges of felony corruption

A Travis County grand jury Friday indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunken driving arrest.

Grand jurors charged Perry, 64, with abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony. The first charge carries a punishment of 5-99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The second charge is punishable by 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

The indictment stems from Perry’s threat last summer to withhold $7.5 million in state money from Lehmberg’s office unless she step down – a threat he later carried out by vetoing an appropriation in the state budget.

Mary Anne Wiley, General Counsel for Perry, said blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

The special prosecutor in the case, San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum, said he was confident with the strength of the charges filed against Perry.

“There has been an immense amount of work that has gone into my investigation up until this point,” he told reporters after announcing the indictment. “I have interviewed over 40 people who were related in some way to the events that happened.”

He later added: “I looked at the law. I looked at the facts. and I presented everything possible to the grand jury.”

RTFA for all the political brouhaha that immediately followed Perry’s indictment. Everyone knows what sort of opportunist power-hungry liar Rick Perry is. Given the accepted level of corruption in the Confederacy, no one expected him to be indicted.

Funs and games ahead, folks.