Posted by Big Gav
Now, you might think with a title like that that I might be exaggerating a little.
But you'd be wrong - reports indicate that polar bears have been forced to find new food sources as sea ice shrinks - including each other (Grist says Let's Feed Them Some Oil Execs).
Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea may be turning to cannibalism because longer seasons without ice keep them from getting to their natural food, a new study by American and Canadian scientists has found.
The study reviewed three examples of polar bears preying on each other from January to April 2004 north of Alaska and western Canada, including the first-ever reported killing of a female in a den shortly after it gave birth.
Environmentalists contend shrinking polar ice due to global warming may lead to the disappearance of polar bears before the end of the century.
The Center for Biological Diversity of Joshua Tree, Calif., in February 2005 petitioned the federal government to list polar bears as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Cannibalism demonstrates the effect on bears, said Kassie Siegal, lead author of the petition. "It's very important new information," she said. "It shows in a really graphic way how severe the problem of global warming is for polar bears."
Deborah Williams of Alaska Conservation Solutions, a group aimed at pursuing solutions for climate change, said the study represents the "bloody fingerprints" of global warming.
African leaders are looking to raise food production by trying to kick start the "green" revolution on the continent via efforts to make fertiliser less expensive. In a near peak world this wouldn't seem to be such a great idea.
African leaders recommended on Tuesday scrapping taxes on fertilizers as one of 12 key measures to foster a "Green Revolution" in farming and reduce hunger in the poorest continent.
One third of sub-Saharan Africans face recurrent famine and under-nutrition and experts say this is due partly to a worsening problem of soil depletion, which occurs when farmland loses more nutrients than are being replaced.
"Population pressure now compels farmers to grow crop after crop thereby mining the soil of nutrients," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told heads of state and farming ministers from across Africa at a summit to address the crisis.
The modernization of farming techniques and increased fertilizer use spurred Green Revolutions in Asia and Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s that increased crop yields dramatically and eradicated hunger in most regions.
But in Africa, where many farmers cannot afford fertilizer, yields per person have fallen over the last 40 years and experts warn that if soil depletion continues unabated, they will decline by up to 30 percent over the next 15 years.
To avoid this, the heads of state pledged to reduce the cost of fertilizer by harmonizing taxes and tariffs across the continent by mid-2007.
The financing mechanism would help farmers obtain fertilizer but would also aim to foster local production. Africa has 60 percent of world reserves of phosphate, a key ingredient, but produces hardly any fertilizer. As things stand, Africans pay up to six times the average world price for their fertilizers because of transport costs.
Fertilizer use is negligible and most of it is for cash crops. Subsistence farmers are not replacing the nutrients they harvest along with each successive crop. This means the land eventually becomes barren, forcing farmers to clear new lands for cultivation.
Studies show that 70 percent of deforestation in Africa is done by farmers clearing new fields, while soil depletion also accelerates desertification, which affects half of Africa.
While an African might say that fertiliser would be much more available locally
if Africa was able to export less of their hydrocarbons, the IMF would
frown upon this sort of thinking (and further repercussions would probably eventuate should any African leader try to implement such a strategy).
While Mr de Rato did not name countries, a number of international institutions are concerned China is undermining the market by signing bilateral energy security agreements, including with Russia, Nigeria and India.
"We have to avoid the risk of energy protectionism in which some countries will try to secure their oil needs by agreeing to contracts that are not transparent without having a true … global oil market," he said.
Officials are also concerned at the nationalisation of oil companies in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, which has encouraged under-investment.
And they are concerned that governance and transparency could be deteriorating in the state-owned or influenced oil companies that proliferate in Russia, South America, Mexico and elsewhere.
While state-owned oil producers were underinvesting in new production (with the exception of Saudi Arabia), Mr de Rato said oil-consuming countries were hurting themselves.
Of course, there are other mistakes that Africans could make besides making their agricultural system dependent on petrochemicals or daring to nationalise their oil and gas - they could buy some of those GM "pest resistant" seeds and make themselves slaves of Monsanto while their insect population grows fat.
Genetically modified crops specially engineered to kill pests in fact nourish them, startling new research has revealed. The research - which has taken even the most ardent opponents of GM crops by surprise - radically undermines one of the key benefits claimed for them. And it suggests that they may be an even greater threat to organic farming than has been envisaged. It strikes at the heart of one of the main lines of current genetic engineering in agriculture: breeding crops that come equipped with their own pesticide.
Drawbacks have already emerged, with pests becoming resistant to the toxin. Environmentalists say that resistance develops all the faster because the insects are constantly exposed to it in the plants, rather than being subject to occasional spraying.
But the new research - by scientists at Imperial College London and the Universidad Simon Rodrigues in Caracas, Venezuela - adds an alarming new twist, suggesting that pests can actually use the poison as a food and that the crops, rather than automatically controlling them, can actually help them to thrive.
Steven Hawking thinks we (humanity) are a bunch of dangerous loons and we'd be well advised to shift some of the population off the planet if we want to avoid extinction.
Hawking said that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.
"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."
While global markets are deep in a bout of fear and loathing (partially driven by the effects of high oil prices finally kicking in), BP's John Browne is predicting cheap oil for all is just around the corner (strangely enough I remember him saying much the same thing 18 months ago).
OIL prices could drop to about $US40 a barrel in the medium term as new supplies are found, and might fall even further in the long run, according to the chief executive of BP.
But Lord Browne cautioned that "we cannot really expect that prices will drop back sharply in the short term", in an interview published on Monday in the German weekly, Der Spiegel.
He said large new oilfields were still being found and regions such as West Africa had significant oil supplies.
Lord Browne said sources such as Canada's oil sands also could be tapped profitably, adding that production costs still amounted only to a small proportion of the price. "It is very likely that, in the medium term, prices will stand at about $US40 on average," Lord Browne was quoted as saying.
"In the very long run, even $US25 to $US30 are possible."
George Monbiot says Behind the spin, the oil giants are more dangerous than ever.
For a company that claims to have moved "beyond petroleum", BP has managed to spill an awful lot of it on to the tundra in Alaska. Last week, after the news was leaked to journalists, it admitted to investors that it is facing criminal charges for allowing 270,000 gallons of crude oil to seep across one of the world's most sensitive habitats. The incident was so serious that some of its staff could be sent to prison.
Had this been Exxon, the epitome of sneering corporate brutality, the news would have surprised no one. But BP's rebranding, like Shell's, has been so effective that you could be forgiven for believing that it had become an environmental pressure group. These companies have used the vast profits from their petroleum business to create the impression that they are abandoning it.
Shell's adverts feature photos of its technologists in open-necked shirts and showing perfect teeth (which proves they can't be real greens). They tell stories of their brave experiments with wind power, hydrogen, biofuels and natural gas. The chairman of Shell UK was one of the 14 signatories to a letter sent by businesses to Tony Blair a week ago, calling for the government to exercise "bold leadership on domestic climate change policy" in order to speed "the transition to a low-carbon economy".
BP's adverts tell the same story, illustrated with its logo - a kind of green and yellow sunflower which looks rather like the Green party's. So what on earth was it doing in Alaska, messing around with crude oil? Don't its filling stations now dispense pure carrot juice?
Admittedly BP's latest campaign, "exploring new ways to live without" oil, was prefaced with adverts boasting about its new means of finding the stuff. "By developing innovative technology like BP's Advanced Seismic Imaging, we've been able to make discoveries that were unthinkable only a decade ago." But even this campaign seeks to answer an environmental concern.
For the past two or three years, environmentalists (myself included) have been publicising the idea that global oil production might soon peak and then go into decline. This possibility helps to demonstrate, we argue, that our dependence on oil is unsustainable, and we must find means of giving it up. The oil companies have seized our arguments and are using them for the opposite purpose: if oil supplies are in danger, they must be permitted to prospect in new places.
Whatever happens, they can't lose.
Past Peak notes that Ian Campbell isn't the only politician intent on sabotaging clean wind power.
It takes some energy to build, transport, install, and maintain wind turbines, yes, but after that wind power is basically energy for free. No carbon emissions, no pollution. Who could oppose it? Chicago Tribune:The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.
But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.
Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year.
The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Ill., that would be the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough juice to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area. The developer had planned to begin installing turbines this summer and start up the farm next year.
Groovy Green has a look at Volvo's new flex fuel vehicle.
Think picking the color of your new car is tough? Try picking a car that will still be road-worthy 20 years from now and use the latest and greatest in alternative fuel technology. Well, Volvo–the leader in ‘inherited’ vehicles–is solving that problem with a concept car that runs on FIVE different fuels. “The Volvo Multi-Fuel is a five-cylinder, 2.0-litre prototype car (200 bhp) that runs on five different fuels; hythane (10% hydrogen and 90% methane), biomethane, natural gas (CNG), bioethanol E85 (85% bioethanol and 15% petrol) and petrol.”
This feature effectively allows you to run your car on any fuel source, anywhere in the world. “The idea is to make use of the fuels that are produced locally, says Mats Morén. This means that less fuel needs to be transported between continents, and you can fill up the car on the fuel that is available wherever you are.”
Crooked Timber has a post on the Orwellian police state we're now living in - We Could Tell You Why It’s Legal But Then We’d Have to Kill You.
One of my most-disliked cliches is the term Kafkaesque – most things that are described as being so really aren’t. But it’s hard not to think of The Trial when reading this.A National Security Agency program that listens in on international communications involving people in the United States is both vital to national security and permitted by the Constitution, a government lawyer told a judge here today in the first major court argument on the program. But, the lawyer went on, addressing Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the Federal District Court, “the evidence we need to demonstrate to you that it lawful cannot be disclosed without that process itself causing grave harm to United States national security.” The only solution to this impasse, the lawyer, Anthony J. Coppolino, said, was for Judge Taylor to dismiss the lawsuit before her, an American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the eavesdropping program, under the state secrets privilege.
As one commenter noted:
You left out the best part—the secret brief!Even portions of the government’s brief that were said to demonstrate why further information about the program cannot be disclosed have not been filed in court. Instead, the government “lodged” the brief and other classified papers at the Justice Department in Washington, inviting Judge Taylor to make arrangements to see them. At today’s hearing, she shook her head no when Mr. Coppolino asked her whether she had “had a chance to review our classified submission.”
The plaintiffs can’t see the brief and its super-secret arguments (& thus must argue against an invisible adversary). Nor can the judge, unless she flies to D.C. to visit the Chamber of Secrets.
Mobjectivist has a link to a PZ Myers article thrashing a libertarian strawman.
LIB: Isn't this wonderful? I have a desire to drive, and sufficient surplus income to purchase a vehicle, and the market and technology provide me with one. Praise Jesus! Praise Adam Smith!
SCI: Uh, yeah, OK...but you know, the way you're driving is neither safe nor economical. Could you maybe slow down a little?
LIB: I decide what is economical; I can afford the gas. As for safety, I have insurance, and the little whatchamacallit meter in front of me goes all the way up to 140. I haven't exceeded the limit yet.
SCI: What you can do and what is safe and reasonable to do are two different things. If you want to experience natural selection first hand, that would be OK with me, except for the fact that we're both in the same car.
By the way, that's a lake a couple of miles ahead, and you're headed straight for it.
LIB: Lake? We haven't encountered any lakes in our travels so far. We don't have to worry about lakes. History is our guide, and it clearly says, "no lakes".
SCI: Well, yes, there's a lake right there in front of us. You can see it as well as I can, I hope. It's even marked right here on our map. I suggest you turn left just a little bit and steer clear of it.
LIB: Oh, you pessimistic doomsayers. You're always gloomily predicting our demise, and you're always wrong. We hit a mud puddle a few miles back, and see? No problems.
SCI: I'm only predicting doom if you keep driving as foolishly as you have so far. I suggest that we start on this alternate route now, so that we don't have to swerve too sharply at the last minute.
LIB: There is no lake. I like driving fast and straight. The last thing I want to do is turn left.
SCI: What do you mean, there is no lake? It's right there! And we are getting closer by the minute! Why are you accelerating?
LIB: That there is a lake is only your opinion. We need to study this, and get more input.
(LIB reaches down beneath the seat. His hand reemerges with a sock over it.)
SOCK: No lake!
LIB: Hmmm. We seem to have two opinions here. Since Mr Socky has taken economic considerations into account and you have not, I can judge which is the better and more informed. Sound science says there is no lake. Or if there is, we can accept the compromise solution that it will disappear before we reach it.
SCI: We are headed for that lake at 80 miles per hour, in a car driven by a lunatic. Slow down and turn left!
LIB: I am confident that our innovative and technologically sophisticated economy will come up with a solution before we impact any hypothetical lake. Right, Mr Socky?
SOCK: 's alright!
SCI: I have been telling you what the solution is for the last 3 miles. Slow down. Turn. Now. How is science going to save you if you insist on ignoring it?
LIB: Aha! Look! There's a pier extending out into the lake! I told you that technology would be our salvation. You scientists always underestimate the power of the free market.
SCI: Jebus. That's a rickety 40-foot wooden dock. You can't drive at 90 miles per hour onto a short pier! BRAKE! TURN!
LIB: You are getting emotional, and can be ignored. Market forces and the science and engineering sector will respond to our needs by assembling a floating bridge before we hit the end. Or perhaps they will redesign our car to fly. Or dispatch a ferry or submarine to our location. We cannot predict the specific solution, but we can trust that one will emerge.
SCI: Gobdamn, but you are such a moron.
(car tires begin rapid thumpety-thump as they go over planks)
LIB: I love you, Mr Socky.
While there are plenty of free market fundamentalists in the US who seem to fit into this caricature, I should note that we aren't all like that (something Lou Grinzo frequently has to say about economists as well). In fact, I'd be willing to bet a fair proportion of the supposed libertarians who fit into this mould also support Bush's police state and endless "war on terror / war for oil", which would make them fascists in my book.
As a couple of commenters put it:
Hey, not all libertarians are nuts. ... The important thing about the libertarian philosophy is that people should be left alone to do their own thing, but not to the detriment of others. Some people conveniently ignore that last bit. It's not so simple as they'd like.
Libertarians (real ones) tend also to be civil libertarians. There is a deep pool of self-identified conservatives who are deeply upset by the wiretaps, by the gay marriage attacks, and similar government intrusions into the daily lives of ordinary people.
In other words, I'd take an economically conservative socially liberal libertarian anyday over the so called conservatives we have now, who want nothing more than to spy on us and control our bedrooms, in addition to raping the planet and forcing millions into poverty.
While on the topic of non-authoritarian philosophies, the recent saga of the Swedish file sharing Vikings at The Pirate Bay prompted this revivial of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone.
THE SEA-ROVERS AND CORSAIRS of the 18th century created an "information network" that spanned the globe: primitive and devoted primarily to grim business, the net nevertheless functioned admirably. Scattered throughout the net were islands, remote hideouts where ships could be watered and provisioned, booty traded for luxuries and necessities. Some of these islands supported "intentional communities," whole mini-societies living consciously outside the law and determined to keep it up, even if only for a short but merry life.
Some years ago I looked through a lot of secondary material on piracy hoping to find a study of these enclaves--but it appeared as if no historian has yet found them worthy of analysis. (William Burroughs has mentioned the subject, as did the late British anarchist Larry Law--but no systematic research has been carried out.) I retreated to primary sources and constructed my own theory, some aspects of which will be discussed in this essay. I called the settlements "Pirate Utopias."
Recently Bruce Sterling, one of the leading exponents of Cyberpunk science fiction, published a near-future romance based on the assumption that the decay of political systems will lead to a decentralized proliferation of experiments in living: giant worker-owned corporations, independent enclaves devoted to "data piracy," Green-Social-Democrat enclaves, Zerowork enclaves, anarchist liberated zones, etc. The information economy which supports this diversity is called the Net; the enclaves (and the book's title) are Islands in the Net.
The medieval Assassins founded a "State" which consisted of a network of remote mountain valleys and castles, separated by thousands of miles, strategically invulnerable to invasion, connected by the information flow of secret agents, at war with all governments, and devoted only to knowledge. Modern technology, culminating in the spy satellite, makes this kind of autonomy a romantic dream. No more pirate islands! In the future the same technology-- freed from all political control--could make possible an entire world of autonomous zones. But for now the concept remains precisely science fiction--pure speculation.
I'm quite looking forward to Andrew Denton's forthcoming documentary on George Bush - "God On My Side".
Denton shot the 72-minute documentary in February, travelling to Texas in the United States, and has spent the past few months in post-production.
The film was shot at America's annual National Religious Broadcasters' Convention.
"I guess it was a bit of guerilla documentary making," he said.
"We had four days in which to shoot and the aim was to go into George Bush's heartland but not in a political way, to come at it through a question of faith.
"As religion and politics are mixing in increasingly potent measures around the world, we thought it was very interesting to go and look at Christian fundamentalism."
And I'll close with my customary quote from that great fan of Mr Bush and his merry band of fundamentalists - Billmon.
We can only guess whether Shrub's secret repeat visit to Iraq was dreamed up before the Abu Zarqawi Hour went off the air, as the White House claims, or whether the trip was actually thrown together on the fly in an effort to milk a little more free publicity from the final episode. Either way, the stunt revealed as much about the depleted state of the Cheney administration's bag of propaganda tricks as it did about the gang's determination to keep pouring blood and treasure into the world's largest hole in the desert.
Sending America's titular head of state to Baghdad the first time, to celebrate Thanksgiving with the troops in 2003, was a clever stroke -- just the thing to distract the media from the rapidly deteriorating security situation, which only a few weeks before had sent generals and diplomats (including the current president of the World Bank) scurrying for cover in their underwear.
Of course, simply waving a shiny metal object in front of the White House press corps probably would have been just as effective, not to mention a whole lot cheaper for the taxpayers, but you still can't argue with the results: saturation coverage of the world's biggest Thanksgiving turkey -- serving dinner to a bunch of grinning GIs.
...Bush invites critics to discuss war
Looking for new ideas on Iraq, President Bush sought advice from his critics Monday at an unusual two-day war council.
The headline alone probably gave Dan Bartlett an orgasm. See? Bush is not trapped in an airtight bubble of self-regard. He listens to people, even when they disagree with him. Why he probably only gave them the finger once or twice.
But here's who Hutchenson (and the White House) consider "the critics":In addition to [Fred] Kagan, Bush heard from Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, journalist Robert Kaplan and former CIA officer Michael Vickers, who now is with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
We're talking, in other words, about the same neocon assclowns who got us into Iraq in the first place, who made a complete mess out of the initial occupation with their idiotic, Israel-centric views about what's wrong with the Arabs, and who've been consistently clueless about every single policy issue they've opened their freaking pieholes about -- and they open them so often they've got pie filling permanently dribbling down their chins. To call these guys war "critics" is like calling Typhoid Mary a "critic" of 19th century hygiene standards.
If Bush called in people like Gen. Zinni or William Lind or Ahmed Hashim or Andrew Bacevich (in other words, people who actually know what they're talking about) and listened to what they had to say, instead of spouting self-serving nonsense in their faces for 10 minutes and then shooing them out of the Oval Office, that would be taking advice from his critics. What Hutcheson is talking about is offering olive branches to the same neocon mafia that has virtually wrecked Bush's presidency. And yet somehow the White House propaganda department convinced Hutchenson to toe the party line, right down to the millimeter.