Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2843. Poetry: What Matters

By Jaime K. Reaser, Wonderment: New and Selected Poems, 2016-2018
Photo: Jaime K. Reaser

What Matters
Somewhere within you there is a love story
longing to find its way into the world.
It wants the tip of your tongue, or
the tip of your pen,
or your finger tips on the keyboard,
or all of these possibilities.

And, the day will come – maybe it is today –
when you have to let it out. When you
have to tell the world, in your own unfamiliar
voice, that a little something once broke your
heart wide open and left you unmercifully
stranded in the life you are living now, an
apprentice to a moment when something caught
your eye, seized your soul, and never let go.
And, everything matters because of it.
How old were you?
Where were you?
What was the form of your betrothed?
Oh, yes, people will stare and adjust themselves
in their chairs, or shift their weight from one
foot to the other if they are standing.
They might offer an uncomfortable silence as
advice because love has become a four-letter
word when spoken in front of an audience.
But, don’t stop.
Life depends on this. This is what matters. This
terrible melancholy of fate that placed a love story
within you. Leave the voices of fear behind, drifting
away across escarpments and surface waters.
Claim this life; this life that you can save. Capture
the memory of what brought you alive. Then. Then.
In that moment when you suddenly became a human
fully inhabiting this place that offers us otherness,
release it into the world: your love story.
I’m going to plead with you, maybe a little, actually
a lot, because this is what matters.
Once upon a time, a toad gave me a reason to live.
And, I’m standing here now because of it.
Because, I came here to tell you a love story.
A story about how falling in love with the
other-than-human world enables us to live out
our humanity.
This is what matters. You are listening.
(c) 2016-2018/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Wonderment: New and Selected Poems"
A work in progress
Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser; American toad
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2842. The Pentagon Is Using an Environmental Law Meant to Protect Us, Against Us

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout, February 20, 2018
The U.S. military is a major polluter
While it has long been known the US military is one of the biggest polluters in the world, the egregious and intentional nature of its actions is less well known.
Canadian researchers recently revealed how an extremely toxic chemical used in US military explosives that the Pentagon has been downplaying for decades has been seeping into surrounding communities for years.
Meanwhile, as Truthout has reported extensively, US Naval warplanes are producing deadly levels of jet noise around airstrips in the Pacific Northwest, despite the widespread public outcry.
For years, the Department of Defense has been using the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a 1970 law designed to protect people from harmful environmental actions by federal agencies, to allow military entities to engage in operations harmful to millions of civilians.
"NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions," the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website states about the law.
But experts are calling out the Department of Defense for repeatedly violating the spirit, intent, and often even the letter of this federal law.
Whether by dumping toxic waste in areas where people are exposed to it, or by conducting training exercises that subject people to harmful levels of noise, instead of protecting civilians, the military is willfully harming them.

The Military's Playbook

Using the NEPA process, the US military is required to evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. The military is also required by NEPA to provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.
But critics say the military has stacked the deck in its own favor in order to get what it wants, oftentimes even doing so illegally.
Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist, co-founded the West Coast Action Alliance, which acts as a watchdog of naval activities in the Pacific Northwest.
Sullivan has compiled a document that she believes to be akin to a DOD "NEPA Playbook," which she shared with Truthout.
The pattern Sullivan sees the DOD use to insure its operations or trainings are never held up or denied by NEPA begins with the military always finding, in its environmental assessments, that its activities will have "no significant impact" on the environment or civilians.
Sullivan explained how in October 2017, she asked the Navy to provide examples within the last 10 years in the Pacific Northwest region where, during an environmental assessment (EA) process for any of their requests, impacts were determined to be significant. In such a case, the Navy would need to begin an environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Sullivan told Truthout that a Navy spokesperson told her, "There have been no regional Navy projects over the past 10 years that stopped an EA process, and elevated it to become an EIS process."
How is this possible? Sullivan pointed out that if impacts from the military's activities are likely to be significant for a particular project, the military segments that project into multiple pieces, so that several EAs (rather than one comprehensive EIS) can be prepared. This strategy allows it to portray the impacts described in each EA as below the threshold of significance. This is illegal. It is called "impermissible segmentation" under NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508), which prohibits the breaking up of a larger project into smaller components that separately might have negligible impacts, but would, if considered together, likely be significant. It's illegal for an agency to do this. 
Sullivan pointed out that the Navy has "piecemealed" its aircraft testing and training activities in the Pacific Northwest, thereby hiding broader cumulative impacts of all of their war planes. "As a result of this piecemealing and not examining cumulative impacts, the Navy stated in its latest Growler [war plane] EIS that it could not promise that regional air quality would not fall below [federal] standards," Sullivan said. "This would render our [Puget Sound] air quality closer to that of big cities like Chicago or New York."
Another part of the "playbook" includes splitting larger EIS projects into "phases" and rolling them out in rapid succession. This tactic makes it nearly impossible for people to keep up with what the Navy is doing and functions as sort of an informational "shock and awe" tactic on the public, which is often left with thousands of pages of documentation to read and comprehend in an extremely short amount of time. Another entails the military citing an absence of controversy or public opposition to their plans as a justification to stay beneath "threshold triggers" for an EIS. Sullivan pointed out that this ignores the fact that actual environmental impacts from the Navy's actions are what triggers the necessity of an EIS to be carried out.
Another play the military uses: It makes its public notifications of the meetings about proposed activities as cryptic as possible. It even removes the names and email addresses of vocal opponents from their mailing lists, according to Sullivan, who said she has been removed from Navy email lists for notifications at least three times.
The military also makes it difficult for the public to participate in its meetings and speak on the record, according to Sullivan. This is accomplished by limiting online public comments on complex issues to a low word count, and abbreviating and/or limiting some public comment periods. This is illegal according to NEPA policy.
In fact, the military often makes decisions on plans and commits funding for them before even initiating the public process, according to Sullivan. This, too, is against the law: Obviously, the NEPA process must be followed, in a correct order; hence, carrying forward on making plans and commitments of funding before the public process has been completed is yet another violation of the NEPA process..
Moreover, Sullivan said the military never proposes or considers any "preferred alternatives" to its plans that would actually reduce environmental or human impacts.
Sullivan explains that in evaluating potential impacts, the military also selectively ignores recent peer-reviewed scientific literature. "They cherry-pick statements from scientific papers and use them ambiguously and out of context, even if those papers concluded the opposite," Sullivan, who has written at length about this tactic and its illegality, said.

The Military's "Guidelines for Success" for Training on Public Lands

Carol Miller is a researcher and member of New Mexico's Peaceful Skies Coalition, a coalition of groups working to hold unbridled and unchecked military expansionism in check in the state.
Miller pointed out to Truthout that, in response to the creation of Earth Day in 1970, the US Army War College hired a retired US Forest Service employee to create a guide for enabling more military operations on public lands.
"That darn Earth Day movement had created all the pesky environmentalists who felt they had an obligation to protect the land," Miller said. "This document ["Military Training on Public Lands: Guidelines for Success"] is still the Bible of military land grabs for the public lands."
The document contains a whole section on NEPA. Altogether, "Military Training on Public Lands: Guidelines for Success" is essentially a step-by-step guide instructing the military on how to get what it wants.
"Because many Americans have an increased awareness of environmental, social, and economic issues related to natural resource management, the military often faces adverse public reaction to conducting training on these lands," reads page one of the report, which was authored by former US Forest Service employee Michael King. "My purpose here is to discuss the issue of military training on public lands and to identify guidelines that military decision makers can apply to meet their training objectives within the strictures that Americans expect of proper public land management."
Page four of the document discusses an "Interdepartmental Agreement" between the DOD and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that requires the USDA to include making allowances for military "needs."
"This Agreement updates earlier policy statements and identifies the procedure for planning, scheduling, and conducting military activities on National Forest Lands," the document reads on pages 4-5. "It also affirms the long-standing policy that national forests can provide a variety of settings to conduct military training exercises." In a section titled "Trends in Society," the document discuss how the US "underwent a transformation toward an increased awareness and appreciation for natural resource lands and improved environmental laws. Legislation in Congress produced the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, the National Trails Act, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act."
"In 1970, America experienced its first 'Earth Day' -- April 22, 1970," it reads. "The words 'ecology,' 'environmentalist,' 'environmental analysis' and 'special interest group' became the buzz words of the natural resource community."
Then on page 7, the report discusses how "segments of the population feel that the bases and training centers scattered around the United States are the proper places to train" because "people are sensitized through television news, movies, and personal experience to equate training with destruction."
"The idea of training on natural resource lands also violates a widespread belief that military training is not an appropriate use of these lands," the report adds. "Wildlands are essentially 'zoned' for recreational enjoyment, wildlife, grazing, timber, and minerals management. Many people think military use violates the 'psychological experience' one comes to expect from public lands."
Outlining a long-time part of the military's strategy, page 11 states, "The congressional delegations and their staffs should be consulted and informed of the proposals to enter into agreements with public land or large private landowners." This is because, as the report goes on to state, "Often the first place a concerned citizen or group turns to is their senators or representatives in Washington, D.C."
One example of the effectiveness of this tactic comes in the form of the Washington Military Alliance (WMA), which works directly with Washington State's Department of Commerce to assist in making all of the state "more compatible" with military activities, according to the WMA website. The WMA was convened and supported by Washington's "green governor" Jay Inslee, and uses taxpayer money to fund studies supportive of bringing more military jobs to the state.
It is a perfect example of how a state bends over backwards to not only give the military everything it wants, but even more, to bring military money into the state economy, regardless of negative impacts on the environment or civilian populations.

Ignoring the Impacts

Glen Milner is a researcher and member of the activist group Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, which has been involved in two NEPA lawsuits against the Navy.
Milner told Truthout that the Navy consistently avoids conducting environmental impact statements, using the segmentation strategy Sullivan mentioned. One example of many he provided entailed the Navy ignoring impacts from vessel operations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound in compiling an environmental assessment regarding Coast Guard vessels escorting naval submarines into the Sound. Milner filed a comment in the Navy's EA on the issue last January.
"This type of segmenting is like building a bridge across a river, in which the agency obtains an EA for one side of the river, and [builds] half of the bridge before conducting an environmental review for the other side of the river," he said. "By then, half the project is built and the full impacts of the project are never addressed."
Given the vast scale of munitions and nuclear weapons stored by the Navy in the Puget Sound region, Milner warned that Washington State's Hood Canal is "becoming an industrial corridor. An accident at the second Explosives Handling Wharf could cause a catastrophic explosion and spread plutonium across our region."
Milner noted that the courts nearly always defer to the military when they are challenged by a lawsuit about the impacts of their plans.
Carol Miller said she has yet to see one example of the Department of Defense following the law when it comes to NEPA. She believes everyone should be concerned about how the Pentagon is handling its NEPA obligations.
"Anyone who cares about their health needs to get informed about military operations," she said. "Anyone who cares about the environment needs to understand that the Pentagon is the biggest environmental threat to Planet Earth. The military does not care about the environment, whether human or natural; it's all just terrain to them."
Several examples she provided of the military contaminating water near their bases included Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and in Hawaii. Miller also cited those living downwind from nuclear weapons testing sites and the prevalence of thyroid cancer among them. In fact, nuclear waste has a legacy that is popping up everywhere, even in the suburbs of St. Louis, where the Pentagon did not bother doing anything to protect human health or the environment. Soil near a local creek in a St. Louis suburb was contaminated by nuclear weapons waste stored there during the 1960s and '70s, and led to people living there now getting sick.
The military's practice of ignoring civilians' needs and interests is widespread. Sullivan pointed out how, in 2014, the Navy failed to notify affected communities of the creation of an electronic warfare range over Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest and the west end of the Olympic Peninsula, including tribal lands. As a result, nobody knew about the EA and nobody was able to comment.
"Immediately after the short comment period closed, the Navy issued a 'Finding of No Significant Impact' that basically said nobody was concerned about it, therefore the impacts are minimal," Miller said. "They then slammed the door and refused to accept any public comments after these communities found out about it."
Karen Sullivan also mentioned that the Navy's NEPA coordinator, John Mosher, told her there had been no Navy projects in the Puget Sound region over the last decade that had been stopped by an EA or EIS, which according to Sullivan, "means the outcomes were predetermined."
Sullivan has spent the last several years of her retirement tracking the Navy's ongoing NEPA violations in her region, and expresses frustration at the Navy's lack of concern about the impacts of its activities.
"I don't know how to say this any plainer: The Navy deliberately, routinely and chronically violates the law in order to prevent public input from altering or mitigating actions it has long decided on before initiating NEPA," she said. "After studying the Navy's NEPA compliance for several years, I believe it's safe to say that our oldest environmental law has become the doormat on which they wipe their feet."

2841. Why is the FDA Banning the Herb Kratom?

By Coco Smyth,, February 27, 2018
With the opioid crisis growing ever more dire, what is the significance of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent decision to ban the herb Kratom?
Kratom is a plant indigenous to Southeast Asia that has been utilized for millennia to treat pain and illness, and improve mood, among other uses. In the past few years, Kratom has become increasingly popular in the U.S., with an estimated 5 million users today. It's become particularly popular among people trying to get off prescription and non-prescription opioids, as well as those who suffer from chronic pain.
Though the FDA claims that there are several dozen deaths related to the use of Kratom and supplements that contain it, the herb has proven to be a generally safe, cheap and effective alternative in comparison to the treatments offered by the pharmaceutical industry.
As part of the effort to address the opioid crisis that continues unabated across the U.S., especially in the Upper Midwest "Rust Belt," the FDA recently announced it was classifying Kratom as an opioid, paving the way for criminalization.
The backdrop to this classification of Kratom is the ongoing opioid crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were more than 42,249 opioid overdose deaths in 2016--an average of 115 deaths a day. An estimated 2.1 million Americans have an opioid use disorder.
This isn't the first time there has been an attempt to ban Kratom. A 2016 move by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to ban the herb testified to the importance it holds for many sufferers of chronic pain, as well as recovering addicts.
The ban was staved off temporarily after a widespread negative response, including a petition signed by 142,000 people, as well 1,175 statements against the ban from doctors, veterinarians, scientists and law enforcement officials.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE FDA's current decision to classify Kratom as an opioid is both alarmist and dangerously unscientific.
Given its current unscheduled classification, the listing of Kratom as an opioid appears as an obvious attempt to whip up hysteria about the threat it supposedly represents and to strengthen the case for criminalization.
More astounding, but perhaps unsurprising, is the FDA's blatant fabrication in this move. The key factor in the classification of a substance as an opioid is whether it binds with opioid receptors in the brain. Kratom, though it interacts with opioid receptors, does so in a way that differs from traditional opioids.
This unique interaction with opioid receptors results in Kratom having some different effects from traditional opioids, as well as the low addictiveness that has led many opioid users to embrace the drug as a form of self-treatment. The reality of Kratom's interaction with the brain suggests that the FDA is stretching the category of opioids for political, rather than scientific, reasons.
As for its safety, as a recent CNN article pointed out, the 44 overdose deaths that the FDA has attributed to Kratom have been based on a highly questionable methodology of self-reporting. Only a few of these claimed overdoses have been medically investigated, and each time, Kratom could not be attributed as the sole cause of death.
The character of the FDA's study demonstrates that its key concern is certainly not the threat Kratom poses to Americans, but how it can shore up the monopoly of the pharmaceutical industry and bolster industries around drug treatment and incarceration.
The pharmaceutical industry has made billions of dollars through the production, dissemination and misuse of opioids for pain management.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 21 and 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids. A significant market has developed through both the legal and illegal production and distribution of these drugs.
In take just one example, drug distributors shipped nearly 21 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to the town of Williamson, West Virginia, between 2008 and 2015. Williamson's population is just 3,000.
At the same time, there is a major and growing industry around both rehabilitation for opioid users--and incarcerating them.
Much of the treatment for opioid addiction consists of expensive live-in programs or drug cocktails. The U.S. government also exacerbates the impact and stigmatization of addiction by incarcerating addicts.
Thus, the opioid crisis has been exacerbated by both the cost of treatment and the fear produced by the looming specter of incarceration.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE PUSH to ban Kratom is nothing new. Before every new drug criminalization, the U.S. government steps up rhetoric about the dangers of addiction and the threats of crime.
For nearly a century, the U.S. government has utilized drug criminalization against primarily poor and working class people. In particular, the "war on drugs" policies begun under Richard Nixon in the 1970s and continued ever since have helped make the U.S. the country with the world's largest prison population by an order of magnitude, with a disproportionate representation of Black and Brown people.
Drug criminalization has done nothing to prevent crime or rates of addiction. What it has done is cost U.S. citizens billions of dollars and increased the budget for policing and incarceration, lining the pockets of some of the wealthiest, decimating poor and working-class communities across the country, and transforming countries like Mexico into war zones by creating an illegal black market.
The decision to ban Kratom will not prevent the opioid crisis from escalating. Instead, it will leave millions of recovering addicts and those with chronic pain without a means of coping.
The entire ideology of drug policy in the U.S. is reactionary: Addiction is labeled a personal flaw and criminalized. However, the opioid crisis and drug abuse generally are primarily a social phenomenon--a product of the declining living standards, wages and the stability of working-class life, as well as a lack of medical care and other factors.
We should oppose the Kratom ban. But we must also do much more if we want to combat the opioid crisis that is killing thousands across the country.
Two things in particular would be vital. The first would be to end the failed "war on drugs," which treats criminalization of drug addicts as a method of reducing drug use. Such policies have uprooted the lives of countless people in this country and across the world through violence and imprisonment, while doing nothing to stop drug abuse and addiction.
The second would be to establish universal health care so that those with addiction and chronic pain could receive compassionate and medically appropriate treatment.
Today, the wanton way the U.S. health care system and the for-profit corporations that run it treat the issue of pain management and the marketing of opioids has dovetailed with a lack of affordable and safe means to treat addiction.
The danger today is not Kratom, but a social system that criminalizes the only means millions of people have to cope.

2840. California Court Ruling Ends Decades of State Pesticide Spraying

By Center for Biological Diversity, February 26, 2018
171 million ponds of pesticides was used in crop agriculture in California in 2013. This is a breakdown by type.

A judge has ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture to stop using chemical pesticides in its statewide program until the agency complies with state environmental laws.

The injunction, issued late last week, is a sweeping victory for 11 public-health, conservation, citizen and food-safety groups and the city of Berkeley. The coalition sued the state after unsuccessfully attempting for years to persuade the agency to shift to a sustainable approach to pest control that protects human health and the environment.

Despite thousands of comment letters urging the department to take a safer approach, officials in 2014 approved a program that gave them broad license to spray 79 pesticides, some known to cause cancer and birth defects, anywhere in the state, including schools, organic farms, public parks and residential yards.

Spraying was allowed indefinitely and required no analysis of the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals at the specific application sites and no public notice or scrutiny of treatment decisions. Many of the pesticides are also highly toxic to bees, butterflies, fish and birds.

This injunction follows a Jan. 8 ruling by Judge Timothy M. Frawley voiding approval of the agency's statewide program for numerous violations of state environmental laws, including relying on "unsupported assumptions and speculation" to conclude that pesticides would not contaminate water bodies. The ruling also cited the state's "woefully deficient" analysis of the cumulative danger of increasing the more than 150 million pounds of pesticides already being used in California each year.

The court process culminating revealed not only far-reaching flaws in the state's analysis of the environmental harm caused by the department's pesticide use but also the agency's decades-long history of evading disclosure of the human health and environmental impacts of its activities by granting itself repeated "emergency" exemptions from environmental laws.

"After more than 30 years of disregard for state environmental laws, the agency's chemical weapons have finally been taken off the table," said Nan Wishner of the California Environmental Health Initiative. "We hope the department will take this opportunity to shift course and apply sound science, partner with the public, and develop a more sustainable, transparent approach."

The court also held that the agency had to give public notice of its activities, which officials had insisted was not required.

"The court rejected the agency's blank check to spray people's yards, exposing children and pets to a range of pesticides that can cause serious long-term problems, including cancer, asthma and IQ loss," said Debbie Friedman, founder of MOMS Advocating Sustainability. "If only the $4.5 million in taxpayer dollars used to develop this outdated program had been spent to develop a modern, sustainable approach that does not rely on toxic chemicals, just imagine what progress we could have made toward a healthier environment for everyone."

"Now California must ensure these pesticides aren't harming our water supplies and imperiled species like salmon," said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This ruling affirms that people should have a voice in pesticide use in their neighborhoods."

The state's attorney told the court that the Department of Food and Agriculture had already carried out more than 1,000 pesticide treatments since the program was approved in 2014. Program pesticides include these dangerous chemicals:

• Chlorpyrifos, known to cause brain damage in children and to threaten 97 percent of endangered wildlife;
• Neonicotinoid pesticides that are highly toxic to pollinators like bees and aquatic invertebrates like crustaceans and mollusks;
• The toxic fumigant methyl bromide, which depletes the protective ozone layer;
• The chemical warfare agent chloropicrin, which causes genetic damage.

"The judge has told the state that harmful pesticides simply can't be sprayed indiscriminately, without robust consideration of impacts on people, animals and water," said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. "The ruling also affirms that Californians have the right to know about pesticides being sprayed around them and the ability to challenge spraying that endangers public health and natural resources."

The suit was brought by the city of Berkeley, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, California Environmental Health Initiative, MOMS Advocating Sustainability, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Beyond Pesticides, Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safe Alternatives for Our Forest Environment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Arthur Friedman of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, along with Jason Flanders of ATA Law Group.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2839. Acid Oceans Will Dissolve Coral Reef Sands Within Decades

By Bradley Eyre, The Conversation, February 22, 2018
Researchers used benthic chambers (pictured) to test how different levels of seawater acidity affect reef sediments. Steve Dalton/Southern Cross University

Carbonate sands on coral reefs will start dissolving within about 30 years, on average, as oceans become more acidic, new research published today in Science shows.

Carbonate sands, which accumulate over thousands of years from the breakdown of coral and other reef organisms, are the building material for the frameworks of coral reefs and shallow reef environments like lagoons, reef flats and coral sand cays.
But these sands are sensitive to the chemical make-up of seawater. As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they acidify – and at a certain point, carbonate sands simply start to dissolve.

The world's oceans have absorbed around one-third of human-emitted carbon dioxide.

Carbonate sand is vulnerable
For a coral reef to grow or be maintained, the rate of carbonate production (plus any external sediment supply) must be greater than the loss through physical, chemical and biological erosion, transport and dissolution.

It is well known that ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate material produced by corals. Our work shows that reefs face a double-whammy: the amount of carbonate material produced will decrease, and the newly produced and stored carbonate sands will also dissolve.

We measured the impact of acidity on carbonate sands by placing underwater chambers over coral reefs sands at Heron Island, Hawaii, Bermuda and Tetiaroa in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Some of the chambers were then acidified to represent future ocean conditions.

The rate at which the sands dissolve was strongly related to the acidity of the overlying seawater, and was ten times more sensitive than coral growth to ocean acidification. In other words, ocean acidification will impact the dissolution of coral reef sands more than the growth of corals.

This probably reflects the corals' ability to modify their environment and partially adjust to ocean acidification, whereas the dissolution of sands is a geochemical process that cannot adapt.

Sands on all four reefs showed the same response to future ocean acidification, but the impact of ocean acidification on each reef is different due to different starting conditions. Carbonate sands in Hawaii are already dissolving due to ocean acidification, because this coral reef site is already disturbed by pollution from nutrients and organic matter from the land. The input of nutrients stimulates algal growth on the reef.
In contrast, carbonate sands in Tetiaroa are not dissolving under current ocean acidification because this site is almost pristine.

What will this mean for coral reefs?
Our modeling at 22 locations shows that net sand dissolution will vary for each reef. However, by the end of the century, all but two reefs across the three ocean basins would on average experience net dissolution of the sands.

A transition to net sand dissolution will result in loss of material for building shallow reef habitats such as reef flats and lagoons and associated coral cays. What we don't know is whether an entire reef will slowly erode or simply collapse, once the sediments become net dissolving, as the corals will still grow and create reef framework. Although they will most likely just slowly erode.

It may be possible to reduce the impact of ocean acidification on the dissolution of reef sands, by managing the impact of organic matter like algae at local and regional scales. This may provide some hope for some already disturbed reefs, but much more research on this topic is required.

Ultimately, the only way we can stop the oceans acidifying and the dissolving of coral reefs is concerted action to lower CO₂ emissions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2838. Startling Orangutan Population Decline Recorded in Borneo

By Reuthers, February 15, 2018

WASHINGTON — Hunting by people and habitation destruction by oil palm, paper, logging and mining industries helped drive a startling drop of about 50 percent in the orangutan population on the island of Borneo from 1999 to 2015, scientists said on Thursday.

The researchers calculated a population decrease of about 148,500 during that 16-year period and projected another drop of 45,000 by 2050, painting a bleak picture for the future of these shaggy reddish tree dwellers that are among the world's most imperilled great apes.
Orangutans inhabit lowland forests on Borneo, an island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, and Indonesia's island of Sumatra, eating wild fruits, insects, bark, flowers and leaves.

Deforestation was only part of the danger. Around 70 percent of the loss in Borneo's populations may have resulted from orangutan killings by people in forested areas, the researchers said.

"People have hunted orangutans for their meat on Borneo since they colonised the area, as they hunt any other edible animal," said biologist Maria Voigt of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"The orangutans are not their preferred prey species. This is, rather, pigs and deer. But they also take one when encountered. Killing also occurs in situations where humans are frightened or startled by orangutans, for example when orangutans enter gardens or plantations to eat the crop," Voigt added.

The researchers tallied arboreal nests for these apes and used satellite images to appraise forest loss, determining there were between 200,000 and 300,000 Borneo orangutans in 1999 and between 70,000 and 100,000 in 2015.

"It is disheartening that despite all the conservation efforts we still see these declines. But we need to remain optimistic because if the forests remain and we can reduce killing to zero we can, over time, see a rebound of orangutan numbers," Liverpool John Moores University ecologist Serge Wich said.

"Even though the numbers are bleak there is a reason for hope," Voigt added. "We don't think that it is likely that the species is going to go extinct soon, because we are seeing some stable populations in the larger national parks in the Indonesian part of Borneo and the some areas of the Malaysian part."

Borneo has one orangutan species and Sumatra has two. Wich said Sumatran population declines probably are also steep, though that data is less comprehensive.

2837. Interview with Andreas Malm: "Without a Popular Movement We Don’t Stand a Chance”

By Rasmus Landström, Verso,  February 5, 2018
Andreas Malm
Andreas Malm sits in his office in his apartment in Malmö. He is looking uncomfortable. The question I asked — if he is active in any political organisation — seems to have opened the floodgates of his bad conscience. Well, of course, he is a member of Socialistiska Partiet (“The Socialist Party” — a Swedish left-wing organisation with its roots in the Trotskyist tradition) and Klimataktion (“Climate Action”), but the days when he went blocking airport runways seems to be over. Last year he missed the major actions against the coal plants in Germany due to a foot injury.
"Since I became a researcher I have turned into a kind of 'Armchair Activist,' and it’s something that I makes me feel incredibly embarrassed."
He scratches his head.
"But I do try to participate in as many demonstrations and manifestations as I can; and why not a riot every now and then? I guess you shouldn’t write that last bit though."
An internationally renowned researcher and authority in the field of Human ecology who participates in riots? For those of us who have followed Andreas Malm’s trajectory over the last decades that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. For many years he was a well-known character of the non-parliamentarian, far-left Sweden. He started out with Palestine activism in the 1990s, which led to the book Bulldozers Against a People — in which he chronicled his own work with activists in some of the most dangerous parts of Palestine’s. Later he wrote two books on the workers’ struggle in Iran together with his partner Shora Esmailian — which led to them both being banned from returning to the country. He has also been an activist in the struggle against Islamophobia and American imperialism, and has written books on these topics as well.
"Since I became a researcher I’ve been drawn into this academic bubble. I could say that that’s because I have a small child to take care of, but it still gives me a very bad conscience."
Malm sighs and looks quite unhappy. I figure its time to change the subject. After all, the reason I’m doing this interview isn’t his personal track record as an activist, but his contributions as a researcher and political commentator. I start by asking how he got engaged in the struggle against climate change.
"In the early 2000s I considered the whole issue of climate change a bit "petty bourgeois," as did most of us on the radical, non-parliamentarian left. Why should we care about polar bears or melting ice caps when there were more important issues, such as the workers’ struggle, right here? But then I came across Mark Lynas’ book High Tide; I read it and it got me thinking. At that time, I was active in issues concerning the Middle East, and suddenly it struck me that a democratic Iran would never come about if there was no potable water around. That made me write the book Det är vår bestämda uppfattning att om ingenting görs nu kommer det att vara för sent (“It is our Firm View that if Nothing is Done Now it will be too Late”). Since then I have kept working on these issues within the academy."
Inspiring Naomi Klein
Malm presented his dissertation Fossil Capital In 2014, at Swedens’ Lund University. The book is a tome of 797 pages in total, and a breakthrough in the debate on climate change. I read it myself when it was newly published, and it gave me an epiphany. In it Malm claims that, even by the mid 19th century it was far from given that the global economy would come to be dominated by fossil fuel. Based on a massive amount of empirical data, Malm showed that the eventual breakthrough of coal power was not due to its efficacy as a power source, but because it made controlling the work force much easier. While hydro power — which at the time was both cheaper and more energy efficient — was tied to certain locations of rivers in open landscapes, steam engines could be set up in towns and cities, where there an infrastructure of schools, poor houses and police forces was already in place. This in the long run made it easier for capitalists to exploit the work force and guarantee their profits. The conclusions of the dissertation were revolutionizing: capitalism and the fossil economy are much more intertwined than we had hitherto imagined. Thus Malm’s worked opened for research within the field now known as "Capitaloscene" — his research inspired Naomi Klein in her writing This Changes Everything.
Today Malm is a kind of "red star" within the debate on climate change. His forthcoming book The Progress of This Storm (Verso, 2018) — in which he makes the case for a Marxist perspective on the climate — has already provoked debate within the field.
I ask Malm what has changed since he wrote the dissertation.
"I sense a growing interest in issues of energy and climate change amongst Marxists, and a growing interest in Marxism amongst those studying energy and climate change. Just yesterday I read an article in one of the leading climate change journals — The Anthropocene Review in which the editor concluded that much of the research in the field is now guided by Marxist analyses of climate policy and ecological issues. He found it lamentable, but for me its refreshing, of course."
But, I ask, is a Marxist perspective on these issues really what is called for today? Aren’t there signs that the global economy is already shifting? Since the dissertation, we have gone through what is know as the “the energy revolution”; i.e. the shift into a situation where solar, wind and hydro power are commercially viable, and have started to compete seriously with fossil fuels. For example, already in 2015, the worlds wind power reached a higher combined productivity than the sum total of all that of all the worlds nuclear plants.
Malm sighs once more.
"This has become a very prevalent idea. But what those who are enthusiastic about market solutions disregard is the fact that the fossil power infrastructure keeps expanding at the same time. With Trump in the White House the oil companies have more political power in the United States, and new pipelines and highways are being prospected as we speak. In India many new coal power plants are being built, and in China the winding down of coal power has been reversed. For the world's climate it doesn’t matter much if the market for renewable fuels is booming. What matters is that we stop using fossil fuels, right now."
A Growing Movement Against Climate Change
Not since the 1950s have as many pipeline projects been under construction as today, Malm underscores. At the same time there are reasons to be hopeful. The movement against climate change is growing. In Germany large protests against coal power plants are held every year. In the US activists are blockading the building of new pipelines. Malm gets enthusiastic as he talks about how Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, recently announced that the city is planning to sue five giant oil companies for contributing to the hurricanes that have recently hit the city.
"At the press conference he sat flanked by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. The message couldn’t have been any clearer: this only came about as a result from the pressure mounted by the climate movement. We have to appreciate the symbolic power of something like that."
Then he turns pessimistic again.
"But the movement still needs to grow so much bigger, and the different groups all over the world have to be linked up on a scale we have not seen so far. Otherwise we don’t stand a chance against fossil capital."
Note: This inteview was first published in ETC