Earth News Not So Great
Ecosystem Suffers on 3 Fronts
Under our current system of property, the lion’s share of profit from using Earth goes to a few humans while the costs are felt by everybody. Geonomics reverses that so you’d have to pay for any costs you impose while being entitled to an equal share of Earth’s worth. Geonomics would also de-tax our efforts so that you’d pay for the values you take, not for the ones you make. It’s a way for our species to live in harmony with others. We trim, blend, and append four 2010 articles from: (1) BBC, Jun 9, on snakes by Richard Black; (2) BBC, Jun 18, on nukes; (3) BBC, Jun 21, on BP by Hilary Andersson; and (4) Christian Science Monitor, Jun 24, on oily rain by Eoin O'Carroll.
by Black, by BBC, by Andersson, and by OCarroll
Snakes in mysterious global decline
Researchers examined records for 17 snake populations covering eight species over the last few decades, and found most had declined markedly -- some by more than 90% -- with only one showing any sign of a rise.
Monitoring snake populations means marking the individuals in some way -- typically by snipping a pattern into their scales, or implanting a microchip.
Species in decline include the asp and the smooth snake from Europe, the Gabon viper and rhinoceros viper of West Africa, and the royal python.
Populations shrank even in protected areas, suggesting that the progressive loss of habitat for wild animals being seen all over the world is not the only cause.
Similar steep declines observed in frogs and newts in an earlier period were eventually found to be caused by the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.
Some populations shrank in number abruptly around 1998. "We don't have a clue what it was about that period of time,” said project leader Chris Reading who ran the study with institutions in Australia, France, Italy and Nigeria.
Climatic factors might be involved, as very strong El Nino conditions contributed to making 1998 the hottest year recorded in modern times.
JJS: Another way we disturb the natural world is by raising the level of background radiation.
Sweden to replace existing nuclear plants with new ones
The Swedish parliament has approved the replacement of old nuclear reactors with new ones, marking a change in policy on nuclear power.
The plan, proposed by the government, passed by two votes, 174 for, 172 against, with three MPs absent.
In 1980, a Swedish referendum decided to phase out reactors by 2010, although the target was later abandoned.
Sweden's 10 reactors, at three power stations, supply as much as half of the country's electricity.
The plan allows for new reactors to be built at the same site as the country's existing plants, but forbids the approval of new sites. The number of reactors is not allowed to exceed 10.
The opposition said they would rescind the law if they win the next election in September.
Some members of parliament do not take the environmental risks posed by nuclear power seriously, and do not trust in the enormous potential for renewable energy, Greenpeace spokesman Ludvig Tillman said.
JJS: From one centralized way to make heat to make electricity to another.
BP was told of oil safety fault 'weeks before blast'
A Deepwater Horizon rig worker identified a leak in the oil rig's safety equipment weeks before the explosion.
Tyrone Benton said the leak was not fixed at the time; instead the faulty device was shut down and a second one relied on.
April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded killing 11 people, the blowout preventer (BOP) failed.
The most critical piece of safety equipment on the rig, they are designed to avert disasters just like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The BOP has giant shears to cut and seal off the well's main pipe. The control pods are effectively the brains of the BOP and contain both electronics and hydraulics.
Benton said his supervisor e-mailed both BP and Transocean about the leaks when they were discovered.
BP said rig owners Transocean were responsible for the operation and maintenance of BOP.
Transocean said it tested the device successfully before the accident.
Benton said to repair the control pod would have meant stopping drilling work on the rig when it was costing BP $500,000 (£337,000) a day to operate it.
Several workers who were on the Deepwater Horizon told BBC there was pressure in April to work fast.
Work to prepare and then seal the well was behind schedule and had to be completed before a production rig could move in and start turning profits.
Benton is now suing BP and Transocean for negligence.
Raining oil in Louisiana?
An amateur video shows what appears to be the aftermath of an oily rain in Louisiana, some 45 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, that has left a sheen on the streets of River Ridge, Louisiana. It's unclear from the video whether the rainbow sheen seen on the ground really fell from the sky.
Crude oil normally doesn't evaporate, but some are speculating that oil mixed with Corexit 9500, the dispersant that BP is using on the ever-growing slick, could take to the air.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued statements saying that it "has no data, information, or scientific basis that suggests that oil mixed with dispersant could possibly evaporate from the Gulf into the water cycle."
The auto blog Jalopnik dug up a 2003 study that shows that oil on the open ocean could evaporate under the right conditions. And it's unclear how the dispersant affects evaporation.
Calling Corexit 9500 unnecessarily toxic, the EPA has ordered BP to stop spraying it on the slick, an order that the oil company has so far ignored.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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