Ebola and Climate Change: Are Humans Responsible for the Severity of the Current Outbreak?

http://www.newsweek.com/climate-change-ebola-outbreak-globalization-infectious-disease-264163

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Sierra Leone has, in recent years, seen significant deforestation and other man-made environmental changes which, some argue, could be one cause of the recent Ebola outbreak. Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

The army base, a cut of cleared land amidst a thick, verdant, unnamed jungle, is filled with soldiers and locals, dead or dying of a mystery disease. A pile of bodies burns outside. At the sound of a U.S. army plane approaching, Americans and Africans both run out of the medical tents, arms raised to the sky in welcome and anticipation. But one man’s smile turns to horror when he realizes the airdropped package isn’t relief in the form of a cure or supplies, but instead another kind of solution. The bomb explodes, killing the men and devastating their arboreal surroundings; out of the wreckage run two white-headed capuchin monkeys.

This is the opening scene—ground zero—in the 1995 film Outbreak, in which an Ebola-like virus ultimately lands on U.S. soil and becomes an unstoppable killer. In the film, the virus is connected directly to the deforestation of the land enacted by western military: a local health care worker tells a U.S. army virologist, played by Dustin Hoffman, that the local “juju man” believes “the gods were awoken by their sleep by the man cutting down the trees where no man should be, and the gods got angry; this is their punishment.”

In 2011, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion looked anew at the same issues of global infection, and here too, the filmmakers came to the same conclusion: the source of the killer virus is (spoiler alert) also industrial deforestation. In the 21st century edition, a multinational bulldozes a grove of palm trees in China for some unnamed purpose, destroying the nest of some local bats. Those bats end up flying over a pig farm, dropping a piece of infected fruit into the pen. The pig eats the fruit, the humans eat the pig, and the next thing you know, the contagion is spreading.

These, and other, pop culture characterization of Ebola-like viruses place the blame for the spread of the disease squarely on the shoulders of globalization and man’s careless despoiling of the environment. It’s not just Hollywood that believe that we are the cause of our own potential demise.

“Humans are the major driver of emerging diseases,” says Jonathan Epstein, an epidemiologist at the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance who studies Ebola and other infectious disease. “Things like agricultural expansion and deforestation…and certainly travel and trade — these are things that manipulate our environment and allow pathogens to get from animal hosts to people and then travel around the world.”

In a study published in 2012, researchers asked national infectious disease experts in 30 different countries whether or not they thought climate change would affect infectious disease patterns in their countries. The majority agreed.

Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether these beliefs are driven by good science, or, as Malcolm Gladwell argued way back in 1995, a guilt-driven “idea of disease as a punishment for wickedness.”

It’s true that West Africa, where the latest and most catastrophic Ebola outbreak is currently raging, has faced unequivocal environmental changes in recent years. The International Food Policy Research Institute published a report in 2013, finding that in Sierra Leone (the epicenter of the outbreak), climate change has resulted in “seasonal droughts, strong winds, thunderstorms, landslides, heat waves, floods, and changed rainfall patterns.”

And there is, according to the World Health Organization, a recent global increase in infectious diseases that seems to correspond with rising global temperatures. But determining whether there is a direct causative relation between the two is a hazy business.

One issue at play is food scarcity. The Ebola virus is known to spread into human populations through contact with an infected animal. The virus can live for years in animal populations (such as bats and monkeys) without harming the animals, becoming dangerous to humans only when humans prepare and eat infected bush meat. Poorer populations, living in resource-strapped areas, are the most likely to become stricken with the virus—because they’re the ones most likely to rely on bush meat to feed their families. And according to the 2013 IFPRI report, “poor communities suffer the most from climate change impacts.” It’s not hard to extrapolate from there and estimate that as these communities become more and more needy, they will encroach further into the wild in search of food. These changes in human behavior will likely impact the natural environment.

“We we see more incursion into the forest, we might see more exposure to Ebola,” says Stephen Morse, an infectious disease and epidemiology expert at Columbia University. “But it’s unclear whether there would be a net positive or net negative.”

Morse believes that the only way to make an educated guess at how climate change will impact future Ebola outbreaks is to undertake nuanced microclimate analyses of the specific African regions that have been affected in the past. And even that might not say all that much, given that Ebola and other emerging diseases seem to pop up in new parts of the continent every few years.

On the other hand, research does suggest strongly that warming global temperatures will make vector-borne diseases like malaria more common, mostly because the vectors that carry those diseases — like mosquitoes — thrive in warmer climates.

In the past few century, the temperatures of the oceans have risen significantly, at an average of  0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. And it turns out cholera thrives in warm water; research has shown that rising sea temperature seem to be connected to rising incidences of cholera. Further, as temperatures rise, the polar ice caps will continue to melt, leading to rising sea levels. The most dire prognosticators warn that low-elevation coastal zones

This is particularly problematic in developing countries. Globalization has  led to significant change in the demographics in these parts of the world; in Africa, more and more people are moving out of the rural areas and into the growing cities. That, in turn, has had some serious public health consequences that look to worsen in coming years.

“As you move towards these megacities and mega populations on coastal areas, you wind up with huge vulnerability to infectious outbreaks because of inadequate sanitation and water,” says Stephen Morrison, the director of the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center. “And then if you have flooding, those coastal environments will be more at risk because of climate change. You’ll be at a higher risk of the kind of infectious outbreaks like cholera.”

And the reality is that both malaria and cholera have had — and are expected to continue to have — a much bigger impact on public health than Ebola (unless the current outbreak becomes a truly once-in-a-lifetime, Hollywood-style pandemic). The WHO estimates about 110,000 deaths due to cholera every year; malaria killed an estimated 627,000 in 2012 alone. Meanwhile, since the first Ebola case was identified in 1976 there have been only 1,600 Ebola-related deaths.

That, though, is not exactly good news for human populations. Because though modern society’s impact on the Earth’s environment may not result in an explosion in Ebola, it seems that it will almost certainly drive up rates of these other, far more dread diseases.

Climate Change May Impact Predators to Influence Entire Ecosystems

Predators play crucial roles in ecosystems. They weed out prey that are sick or old, and they can even push species to move in order to stay in their climatic comfort zones. Now, scientists have taken a look at how climate change might impact predators which could, in turn, affect entire ecosystems…

A historical example of this particular phenomenon is the sea otter. These mammals were once decimated by the fur trade that spanned the late 1700s to the early 1900s. This important predator species regulated prey in areas spanning from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.

“The near extinction of sea otters is one of the most dramatic examples of human-induced impacts to the structure and functioning of temperate nearshore marine ecosystems,” said Rebecca G. Martone, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Without sea otters, which live on abalone, clams, crabs, mussels, shrimp and sea urchins, kelp forests suffer. Without the otters, undersea urchins prey on kelp forests, causing dense areas to become barren and essentially disrupting entire ecosystems. In fact, scientists found that this may even have an effect on climate change.

Kelp forests grow rapidly and store large amounts of carbon. This means that if otters are absent and urchins are destroying these forests, more carbon is released. Not only that, but kelp provides a three-dimensional habitat for species such as rockfish, seals, sea lions, whales, gulls, terns, snowy egrets and some short birds. Without otters, though, these communities rapidly decline.

The analysis of the effect of sea otters shows that predators play huge roles in ecosystems. This means that climate change that affects predators negatively can also greatly impact ecosystems. A symposium focusing on climate’s effects on predators will occur during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/16584/20140813/climate-change-impact-predators-influence-entire-ecosystems.htm

Tell the Feds NO Arctic Offshore Drilling

From Ocean Conservancy.org:

Breaking: The U.S. government is beginning to make plans for future offshore oil and gas operations—and those plans could open Arctic waters to risky drilling.

This follows Shell Oil’s decision to abandon Arctic drilling this summer, after an accident-plagued 2012.

If a disaster like BP Deepwater Horizon happened in the Arctic, spill response would be even more challenging. The Arctic’s sea ice, freezing temperatures, gale force winds, and lack of visibility could make cleanup next to impossible.

The government’s public comment period ends on July 31, so we only have 10 days to respond. We need you to tell the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to say no to risky Arctic drilling now.

Take a stand against oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean. Act now, and tell BOEM not to open additional Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling!

The Arctic Ocean and all those who depend on it are already under stress. The rapidly changing climate, including extreme deterioration of the summer sea ice, is putting Arctic marine animals at risk. Many people who live in coastal communities in the Arctic depend on a clean and healthy ocean to support their subsistence way of life. Offshore drilling for oil and gas would expose this already fragile ecosystem to significant noise, pollution and traffic.

Stand against risky oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean. Tell BOEM not to open additional Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling!

also see: http://www.yakimaherald.com/news/yhr/saturday/2358984-8/change-in-climate-sparking-ever-growing-wildfire-dangers

and: http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/obama-western-wildfires-have-a-lot-to-do-with-climate-change/

What do Wolves, Hunting Accidents and Trophy Hunter Kendall Jones have in Common?

Answer: Well, nothing really, yet. They just happen to be three of the more popularHNTSTK_1_2__66133_1314490481_1280_1280 keywords, and I hoped that if I used them in a title I’d tempt more of you to read some of the recent posts that have been overlooked according to this blog’s stats.

Why, for instance, did an article about Kendall Jones’ trophy hunting pictures receive over 22,000 reads here, whereas posts about climate change, elk or mute swans have only been looked at by a few dozen?

I’m trying to figure out what makes people tick.

Maybe there just aren’t enough hunting accidents involving trophy hunters to keep people reading, so here’s one that someone made up:

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Obama: Western wildfires have a lot “to do with climate change”

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While I’m generally no hardline presidential apologist, I do have to praise Obama for acknowledging that the record-setting Carlton Complex wildfire, along with other ongoing western blazes, can be attributed to climate change.

“A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change,” the USA Today quoted the president as saying during a recent visit to Seattle.

Unfortunately since then, the media has been silent about the president’s statement, omitting it in any subsequent article about President Barack Obama signing a federal emergency declaration for the areas affected by the wildfires. The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief and help state and local agencies with equipment and resources.

That’s good news for this particular weather event, but it hardly trumps the fact that the planet is sure to experience this scale of catastrophic wildfire again and again in the future.

Perhaps the reason we’re not hearing about the climate change connection has to with the results of a recent survey revealing that Americans are more skeptical of climate change than others polled across the globe.

According to an ABC News article, when asked if they agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity,” just 54 percent of Americans surveyed said yes. Although this number indicates a majority, the United States still ranked last among 20 countries in the poll.

Meanwhile, China topped the list, with 93 percent of its citizens agreeing that human activity is causing climate change. Large majorities also agreed in France (80 percent), Brazil (79 percent), Germany (72 percent) and other countries.

Similarly, 91 percent of those from China agreed with the statement, “We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.” Only 57 percent of Americans thought so — again, last among 20 nations surveyed.

‘Mother Nature is winning here': Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington

As  you’ve probably heard by now, Washington’s scenic Methow Valley, up in the North central portion of the state, is on fire. Big time. The title of the attached U.S. News article, “Mother Nature is Winning Here,” hit the nail on the head. What started out two days ago as 4 small fires covering 18,000 acres has mushroomed almost overnight to a monstrous 240,000 acre inferno, capable of gobbling up any town that tries to stand in its way.

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

I lived in the  Methow for 20 some years, in a cabin in the heart of the Lake Chelan Sawtooth range, nestled on the eastern edge of the North Cascades mountains. My wife grew up in the valley; my brother and his wife still live there.

It was there that I learned to really respect the power of wildfires. I was working on a trail crew for the U.S. Forest Service. When we were sent on “controlled” burn on the Gold Creek Ridge near the now infamous town of Carlton I saw just how quickly an out of control fire can spread.

Being a “controlled” burn, it was planned for the spring when conditions aren’t nearly as dry as they are this time of year. We were using drip torches to set off slash piles. One big pile was next to the edge of a flagged “unit,” next to an unlogged slope. The guy working on that pile got carried away, so a couple of us went over to help keep his fire from spreading. We started frantically pulling slash off the unburned slope and tossing it out of reach of the flames. But the effort was too late; one worker who stopped to take a break saw the flames reach across the flag line behind us. He yelled, “Get out of there, you guys.” We turned to see the fire move over our fire line and into the brush and trees outside the unit. Luckily we hurried out of the fire’s path. Within seconds, the flames reached the crowns of the trees and the fire shot uphill and blackened the entire slope before we could even think about trying to get ahead of it and slow its progress…

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‘MOTHER NATURE IS WINNING HERE': Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS and GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

PATEROS, Wash. (AP) — A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley.

Friday’s dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

“It was just a funnel of fire,” Brownlee said. “All you could do was watch her go.”

Next door, the Pateros Community Church appeared largely undamaged.

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of Pateros.

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes Friday morning, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two big water towers perched just above the town were singed black by the flames. The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, one feeding Pateros and the other feeding the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.

Inslee said that the state was rapidly training about 1,000 additional National Guard troops and active duty military could be called in as well.

“This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event,” he said.

The Methow Valley, about 180 miles northeast of Seattle, is a popular area for hiking and fishing. Sections of several highways were closed.

“There’s a lot of misplaced people, living in parking lots and stuff right now,” said Rod Griffin, a fly-fishing guide who lives near Twisp. “The whole valley’s in disarray.”

He described long lines for gasoline, with at least one gas station out of fuel, and said cellphone towers must have been damaged as well because there was very little service.

In Brewster, 6 miles to the south, a hospital was evacuated as a precaution. The smoke was so thick there Friday it nearly obscured the Columbia River from adjacent highways. The smoke extended all the way to Spokane, 150 miles to the east.

Jacob McCann, a spokesman for the fire known as the Carlton Complex, said it “ran quite a bit” Thursday and officials were also able to get a better handle on its size. It blackened 260 square miles by Friday morning, up dramatically from the prior estimate of 28 square miles.

“Mother Nature is winning here,” Don Waller, chief of Okanogan County Fire District 6, told The Wenatchee World newspaper.

The county sheriff, Frank Rogers, said his team counted 30 houses and trailers destroyed in Pateros, another 40 in a community just outside the town at Alta Lake, and about 25 homes destroyed elsewhere in the county of about 40,000 people.

More: http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2014/07/18/growing-wildfire-empties-washington-town

Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/08/whale-poo-reverse-climate-change

I have been at the wrong end of a defecating sperm whale: it smells, it’s nutrient rich, and could just save the world
A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina.

A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina. Photograph: Justin Hofman / Barcroft Media

The first success of the environmental movements of the 1960s was to save the whale. Now, with deep irony, whales may be about to save us with their poo. A new scientific report from the University of Vermont, which gathers together several decades of research, shows that the great whales which nearly became extinct in the 20th century – and are now recovering in number due to the 1983 ban on whaling – may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces.

Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere – even in death the sinking bodies of these massive animals create new resources on the sea bed, where entire species exist solely to graze on rotting whale. There’s an additional and direct benefit for humans, too. Contrary to the suspicions of fishermen that whales take their catch, cetacean recovery could “lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth”. Their fertilizing faeces here, too, would encourage phytoplankton which in turn would encourage healthier fisheries.

Such propositions speak to our own species’ arrogance. As demonstrated in the fantastical geoengineering projects dreamed up to address climate change, the human race’s belief that the world revolves around it knows no bounds. What if whales were nature’s ultimate geoengineers? The new report only underlines what has been suspected for some time: that cetaceans, both living and dead, are ecosystems in their own right. But it also raises a hitherto unexplored prospect, that climate change may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century, which removed hundreds of thousands of these ultimate facilitators of CO2 absorption. As Greg Gatenby, the acclaimed Canadian writer on whales told me in response to the Vermont report, “about 300,000 blue whales were taken in the 20th century. If you average each whale at 100 tons, that makes for the removal from the ocean of approximately 30m tons of biomass. And that’s just for one species”.

A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. Photograph: Andrew Sutton There’s another irony here, too. American whaling, as celebrated in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), declined in part because of the discovery of mineral oil wells in the second half of the 19th century. One unsustainable resource – the whale oil which lit and lubricated the industrial revolution – was replaced by another. By killing so many whales, then turning to carbon-emitting mineral oil, humans created a double-whammy for climate change. (Conversely, and perhaps perversely, some US commentators have claimed that capitalism saved the whales rather than environmentalists. They contend that our use of mineral oil actually alleviated the pressure on whale populations – proof, they say, that human ingenuity has the ultimate power to solve the planet’s problems).

The 10 scientists who jointly contributed to the new paper note the benefits of “an ocean repopulated by the great whales”. Working on a whalewatching boat off Cape Cod last month, I witnessed astonishing numbers of fin whales, humpbacks and minkes feeding on vast schools of sand eels. I watched dozens of whales at a time, co-operatively hoovering up the bait – and producing plentiful clouds of poo in the process. (Having been at the receiving end of a defecating sperm whale, I can testify to its richly odiferous qualities.)

Observers in the Azores have reported similarly remarkable concentrations of cetaceans this summer. And with a 10% increase in humpback calves returning to Australian waters each year, and blue whales being seen in the Irish Sea, a burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet’s rearguard action against climate change.

It would certainly be a generous return on their part, given what we’ve inflicted on them. Indeed, as Melville imagined in his prophetic chapter in Moby-Dick, Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?, the whale might yet have the last laugh, regaining its reign in a flooded world of the future to “spout his frothed defiance to the skies”.

We’re in a War Over Climate Change…

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — America’s “WWIII, the Global Warming War” was launched by the Bush Pentagon in 2004 with this warning: “Climate could change radically and fast … be the mother of all national security issues … hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined,” reported Fortune, causing “massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes.” Accelerating population unrest, so that by “2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … an old pattern could emerge, warfare defining human life,” expanding in 12 climate change war zones worldwide.
In the past decade America spent over $7 trillion on the Pentagon’s budget. We’ve had time for a new General Eisenhower to emerge, plan and launch a WWIII “D-Day” attack on the “Climate Change” battlefield. Instead, we’re losing WWIII, in retreat, sabotaged by Big Oil, GOP political drama, and a powerful army of climate-science deniers … as 2020 and the “mother of all national security issues” relentlessly targets our defenses.
Well, the president finally launched a counterattack, rearming America with new EPA regulations targeting large carbon emitters, coal-burning power plants. But these regs are the global warming equivalent of video games fighting against combat-ready warriors, military strategies, weapons, B-2 bombers, nuclear armed drones and silo-launched missiles. We’re still virtually defenseless against an enemy with a war chest of billions, millions of employees and science deniers, plus the backing of shareholders, politicians, lobbyists, bankers and auto owners.
Yes, the new EPA regs may minimize the more immediate dangers of all the incoming bogies that trigger global warming — auto pollution, fracking, methane, hot oceans, overfishing, deforestation, glaciers melting. But unfortunately, the new EPA regs aim too low, targeting aging power generators and coal-burning power plants with outdated technology, most of which already are slated for replacement and release a mere 4% of the industry’s CO2 emissions. Worse, the full impact of the new regs won’t kick in till 2030 … long after the Pentagon’s warning ignites.
WWIII? Where’s the “D-Day” urgency? A decade after the Pentagon’s warning that by 2020 “warfare will define human life,” our leaders still lack moral courage as our collective conscience keeps drifting deep into pure materialism, choosing short-term economic growth and jobs, handicapping the long-term survival of the planet and our civilization. Worse, we’re ignoring the growing threat as the world’s population explodes from 7 billion today to 10 billion by 2050, further accelerating unrest among all nations.
WWIII Phase 2: new EPA regs vs. Big Oil, GOP, science deniers
Yes, global-warming politics is an American war, started by the Bush Pentagon. Obama’s EPA regulations officially launched Phase II. As the president put it in an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050.” The president added, “Science is science. There’s no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.” So “we’re not going to be able to burn it all. … but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon.”
The GOP counterattacked: House Speaker John Boehner called the new EAP regs a “war on coal” that “will kill 224,000 jobs and surge electric bills by $17 billion every year.” The conservative Townhall magazine says “a half a million workers” could lose jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed businesses would lose over $50 billion a year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the regulations “a dagger in the heart of the middle class.” Forbes, and other media echoed Boehner’s numbers. When the noise cleared, newspaper fact-checker PolitiFact.com analyzed Boehner’s statement, ruled it “false.” This war is in our heads.
For years we’ve been using a 12-sector investment strategy based on Jared Diamond’s classic, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” He analyzed 12 macroeconomic areas that over the centuries resulted in entire civilizations disappearing. Here are those 12 macro sectors. Given the threat as 2020 approaches, these 12 are now war zones in President Obama’s Phase 2 of the accelerating WWIII Global Warming Wars:
1. Global population growth
Optimists and bulls see an abundant world and three billion more consumers by 2050 and others see the United Nation’s estimates as limiting growth. However, population is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment,” says Scientific American. In Diamond’s 12-factor equation, population growth and lifestyles increases are the two main drivers impacting the others. By 2050 global population will explode from 7 billion to 10 billion, with 1.4 billion each in China and India. Yes, experts challenge the numbers. Earth Institute’s Jeffrey Sachs says even five billion is unsustainable.
2. Worldwide consumer lifestyle
Today, all across the world, people have their own version of the American Dream. In effect, we are all capitalists, the rich, middle class and poor all want more. Witness luxury-car sales in China, microloans for entrepreneurs in India. The downside is that even if population levels off, accelerating lifestyle demands are driving all nations to increase resource use to the same rate as America today, 32 times more resources and dumping 32 times more waste.
3. Global water crisis
Buffett says buy what you know. Well, buy water. It’s everywhere, essential for drinking, industry, agriculture, transportation. And threatened. Media calls water the “new gold.” Water generated over a half trillion dollars in revenue worldwide in 2010. As world population accelerates, as more than one billion “lack access to clean drinking water,” it will soon “trade like oil futures.” For many, water is more valuable than fuel. Consider bottled water companies, soft-drinks, purification, desalination. Buy water.
4. World’s food and nutrition
Huge opportunities: “If you want to become rich, become a farmer,” says Jim Rogers in “Hot Commodities.” The World Bank, UN and IMF all estimate a billion of the planet’s seven billion people are poor, undernourished, surviving on two dollars a day. Mostly subsistence farmers. Monsanto and other agriculture giants have a huge stake in the future of farming, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and genetically engineered seeds. Downside: Money manager Jeremy Grantham says the planet can’t feed the three billion more projected. Others focus on commercial opportunities, and they’re hot.
5. Productive agricultural zones
Both billionaire investors and nations see the opportunities: Owning farmlands is a solid bet on the future of developed economies and emerging nations. Critics call the trend “land-grabbing” when rich nations buy the agricultural assets of poorer nations. But rich or poor, new populations demand better lifestyles, needing more food. So today there’s a global rally in ag lands, with 25% returns possible.
6. Worldwide forest lands
The demand for urban land and lumber rides population growth up. China and India are planning 500 new cities. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is advising China. Half the world’s rain forests and natural habitats have been converted into new urban centers. Another quarter will be converted by 2050. Downside: Soils are being eroded by water and wind at “rates between 10 to 40 times the rates of soil formation,” much higher in forests where erosion is “between 500 and 10,000 times” replacement rate, due to the accelerating of mega fires.
7. Global fossil fuels
Even if you’re not a cash-rich nation or superrich billionaire, you can still invest in energy mutual funds at Vanguard, Fidelity and Pimco. They manage hundreds of billions in oil and natural gas equities, bonds and commodity funds. Pimco’s Bill Gross predicts a “significant break” in the world’s “growth pattern,” betting we’re past the “peak oil” tipping point. His New Normal strategy accounts for a decline in consumer shopping as economies grow slower and “corporate profits will be static.” Many investors already own energy stocks and mutual funds.
8. Alternative energy
In his classic, “The Quest,” Daniel Yergin, the world’s leading energy expert, says alternative energies will remain a niche market for decades. Fossil fuels will remain 80% of the total in 2050. The Foreign Policy journal echoes Yergin’s forecast in “The 7 Myths About Alternative Energy.” Biofuels, solar, wind and nuclear may not be the “major ticket,” but still huge with global economies now in excess of $80 trillion annually. And with America spending over a trillion annually on total energy usage, 20% on alternatives may grow even faster as fossil fuel production costs increase.
9. International solar power
New technologies are inviting innovative alternatives, such as fuel cells and batteries. Also promising: When the Mars Rover project shut down, Silicon Valley billionaires privatized the Mars engineering team tasked to build new rockets and robots to explore and mine 10,000 asteroids for energy resources potentially worth trillions. If this sounds like a plot right out of the movie “Avatar,” well, it is.
10. Global toxic chemicals

Human solutions to climate change have unintended consequences. For example, while mining generates economic growth, it also dumps toxins into the air, soil, rivers, lakes, oceans. Toxins break down slowly, if at all. From insecticides, pesticides and herbicides to detergents and plastics, balance is essential between growth and public health. Yet, solutions are more in the realm of politics and government regulations, all of which are at odds with business plans, yet offer new opportunities for innovation. 
11. International ozone 
Yes, human activities, autos and manufacturing plants produce carbon dioxides and other gases that escape into the atmosphere and destroy the protective ozone or absorb and reduce solar energy. Innovative geo-engineering plans are under development to explore using space rockets to block harmful sun rays, reduce global warming, reverse climate change. 
12. Species diversity 
In his classic “Collapse,” Diamond warns, “a significant fraction of wild species, populations and genetic diversity has been lost. And at present rates, a large percent of the rest will disappear in a half century.” Diamond also targeted the unpredictable consequences of transferring native species onto foreign lands where they begin “preying on, parasitizing, infecting or outcompeting” native animals and plants that lack evolutionary resistance, infecting native species with new diseases. 
We’re falling behind, losing WWIII. The new EPA regs are a small step. Lots more must be done. Soon. Diamond tells us these 12 climate-change war zones are “time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years, if unsolved would do us great harm, because they all interact with each other … we need to solve them all.” 
Piecemeal solutions won’t save us from collapse: “The world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another within the lifetime of the children and young adults alive today…. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies.” 
-Paul B. Farrell

5 Reasons Not to Eat Fish

Sea Lion Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Sea Lion Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

5. Seals and sea lions are scapegoated and shot by commercial fishermen and their lackeys who blame the marine mammals for dwindling fish populations. It’s the same “all here for us” mentality that ranchers and trophy hunters use to justify killing wolves.

 

Painting by  Barry K. MacKay

Painting by Barry K. MacKay

4. Cormorants are culled by the thousands, by both commercial and sport fishing interests unwilling to share “their” resources. Last April, sport fishermen in South Carolina shot over 11,000 cormorants for the crime of eating fish; and the U.S. Government is currently planning $1.5 million-a-year program that would arm federal trappers with silenced rifles and night-vision scopes to shoot thousands of Columbia River cormorants during their nesting season .

 

Featured Image -- 62263. Live fish sequester carbon. The sea absorbs about half of the billions of tons of CO2 humans produce…, but only if there’s plenty of phytoplankton, fish and other organisms living in it.

 

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2. Bykill, including pelagic sea birds, turtles, marine mammals, and non-target fish species, accounts for 50% or more of some fisheries’ take. Many fisheries around the world throw away more fish than they keep.

 

 

images1. Fish are sentient beings too, no less deserving of compassion than any other species humans claim as their food. Flying in the face of what is considered popular opinion, fish have good memories, build complicated structures and show behaviour seen in primates – as well as feel pain like any other vertebrates. 

 

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