About Exposing the Big Game

Jim Robertson

It’s 2019. Why Haven’t Humans Gone Back to the Moon Since the Apollo Missions?

On Dec. 13, 1972, scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt is photographed standing next to a huge boulder during the final Apollo moon-landing mission, Apollo 17. This mosaic is made from two photos shot by fellow Apollo 17 moonwalker Eugene Cernan.

On Dec. 13, 1972, scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt is photographed standing next to a huge boulder during the final Apollo moon-landing mission, Apollo 17. This mosaic is made from two photos shot by fellow Apollo 17 moonwalker Eugene Cernan.
(Image: © Eugene Cernan/NASA)

In retrospect, Apollo 11 was even more exceptional than we thought.

NASA put two astronauts on the moon on July 20, 1969, just eight years after President John F. Kennedy announced the audacious goal and a mere 12 years after the dawn of the Space Age.

Five more crewed missions hit the gray dirt after Apollo 11, the last of them, Apollo 17, touching down in December 1972.

Related: Apollo 11 at 50: A Complete Guide to the Historic Moon Landing

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Humanity hasn’t been back to Earth’s nearest neighbor since (though many of our robotic probes have). NASA has mounted multiple crewed moon projects since Apollo, including the ambitious Constellation Program in the mid-2000s, but none of them have gone the distance.

So what was different about Apollo? It was incubated in a very particular environment, experts say — the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union.

“This was war by another means — it really was,” Roger Launius, who served as NASA’s chief historian from 1990 to 2002 and wrote the recently published book “Apollo’s Legacy” (Smithsonian Books, 2019), told Space.com. “And we have not had that since.”

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Reconstructed Using Orbiter Imagery
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The Soviet Union fired the first few salvos in this proxy war. The nation launched the first-ever satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957 and put the first person in space, Yuri Gagarin, in April 1961. These shows of technological might worried U.S. officials, who wanted a big win of their own. And they believed putting the first boots on the moon would do the trick.

This wasn’t viewed as empty flexing. The United States wanted, among other things, to show the world that the future lay with its political and economic systems, not those of its communist rival.

“The Apollo days were not, fundamentally, about going to the moon,” John Logsdon, a professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., told Space.com. “They were about demonstrating American global leadership in a zero-sum Cold War competition with the Soviet Union.”

Watch NASA’s Artemis-1 Mission Launch to Moon in New Animation
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So NASA got the resources it needed to pull off its moon shot. And those resources were immense — about $25.8 billion for Apollo from 1960 through 1973, or nearly $264 billion in today’s dollars. During the mid-1960s, NASA got about 4.5% of the federal budget — 10 times greater than its current share.

The stakes haven’t been nearly as high since the end of the Cold War, so subsequent moon projects haven’t enjoyed such sustained support. (They likely also suffered from some been-there-done-that sentiment.) For example, the Constellation Program, which took shape under President George W. Bush, was canceled in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Obama directed NASA to instead send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid. But President Donald Trump nixed that plan in 2017, putting the agency back on course for the moon.

Watch Apollo 11’s Moon Landing in Amazing Simulation
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NASA initially targeted 2028 for the first crewed lunar landing since the Apollo days. But this past March, Vice President Mike Pence instructed NASA to get it done by 2024.

The accelerated timeline might actually make this newest moon shot more achievable, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said, citing the “political risk” that doomed Constellation and other programs.

Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins Talk With Trump For Apollo 50th Anniversary
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Political risk exists “because priorities change, budgets change, administrations change, Congresses change,” Bridenstine said May 14 in a town-hall address to NASA employees.

“So, how do we retire as much political risk as possible?” he added. “We accelerate the program. Basically, the shorter the program is, the less time it takes, the less political risk we endure. In other words, we can accomplish the end state.”

The 2024 landing is part of a program called Artemis, which aims to build up a long-term, sustainable human presence at and around the moon. The main goal is to lay the foundation for crewed trips to the ultimate human-spaceflight destination: Mars. NASA aims to put boots on the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

Op-Ed: How cracking down on organized crime could save a tiny porpoise from extinction 

The Extinction Chronicles

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-07-19/vaquita-porpoise-mexico-do
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<https://www.latimes.com/opinion> Opinion

The vaquita, nicknamed the “panda of the sea” for its black-rimmed eyes and
mouth, is nearly extinct. Fewer than 15 are believed to exist.

(Los Angeles Times)

By Richard Ladkani

July 21, 2019

3:05 AM

Why should you care about the vaquita, a tiny porpoise you have probably
never seen, living in a sea you may have never touched, with a fate tied to
a fish you likely didn’t know existed?

Because the vaquita is a powerful symbol of what we are losing on our
planet. If we can’t save this smallest and most endangered porpoise on
earth, what hope is there for rhinos, tigers or elephants? Unless
governments and societies the world over get much more involved in saving
endangered creatures, we will be destined to live in a terribly quiet world
with nothing wild.

The vaquita is on…

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Bear attacks worker during wildlife tour at Pennsylvania resort

The resort said that it has “ensured the enclosure is completely secure” and is arranging counseling for guests and staff who witnessed the attack.

Climate crisis needs radical food changes

Climate crisis needs radical food changes

19 Jul 2019
Sheep
The entire food system needs to change, researchers say. Image: By nima hatami on Unsplash

To feed 9 billion people by 2050, and keep planet Earth from overheating, will mean massive and radical food changes – and not just in the way food is grown.

To contain global temperatures to no more than 2 °C above the average for most of human history will require humanity to change its diet, contain its appetite and reform the entire system of food production and distribution.

This is the verdict of the latest study of the challenge set in Paris in 2015, when 195 nations promised to limit global warming – driven by profligate use of fossil fuels and by the conversion of forest, grassland and wetlands into commercial use – to “well below” 2 °C by 2100.

Researchers report in the journal Sustainability that they looked at 160 studies and analyses of global agriculture and food systems and most closely at the world’s smallholders and markets that sustain as many as 2.5 billion people, mostly in the developing world.

Farming’s massive impact

Small farmers account for about a third of global agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, but these include also many of the people most vulnerable to the coming climate crisis, which is likely to put harvests at hazard on a global scale.

Agriculture, together with forestry and changes in land use, accounts for a quarter of all the carbon dioxide, methane and oxides of nitrogen that fuel global warming.

Just on its own, the action of growing grain, fruit and vegetables or feeding grazing animals accounts for no more than 12% of global warming, but a third of all the food that leaves the farm gate is wasted before it arrives on the supper table.

This is enough to provide 8% of the world’s emissions, and if just one fourth of the waste could be saved, that would be enough to feed 870 million people for a year.

Agronomists, crop researchers, climate scientists and ministry planners know of many steps that can be taken to reduce the greenhouse impact of agriculture: even under the most hopeful forecasts, these are likely to be deployed slowly.

The researchers see reductions in food loss as a “big opportunity” that will benefit farmers and consumers as well as reduce emissions. A more challenging problem is to change global appetites: the meat and dairy business accounts for about 18% of all human-triggered emissions, counting the clearance of forests and the impact of changes in the way land is used to feed the demand for meat, milk, butter and cheese.

A shift to plant-based diets would save on land and water and deliver more and healthier meals and permit more forest restoration.

“If you think about the two degree increase, efforts need to go beyond the agriculture sector,” said Anna Maria Loboguerrero, of the climate change, agriculture and food security programme of CGIAR, once known as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, who led the study.

Drastic cuts needed

“This means reducing emissions by stopping deforestation, decreasing food loss and waste, reducing supply chain emissions and rethinking human diets, if we really want to get on track to that target.”

The researchers acknowledge that what they propose will constrain farm choices and increase costs. But a second study reports once again that the health benefits of immediate, dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions will save lives, improve human health, and offset the immediate costs of containing planetary heating and adapting to the climate crisis.

“The global health benefits from climate policy could reach trillions of dollars annually, but will importantly depend on the air quality policies that nations adopt independently of climate change,” they write in the journal Nature Communications.

And Mark Budolfson of the University of Vermont, one of the authors, said: “We show the climate conversation doesn’t need to be about the current generation investing in the further future. By making smart investments in climate action, we can save lives now through improved air quality and health.”

 

The Green New Deal Must Include Regenerative Agriculture and an End to Factory Farming

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https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/18/green-new-deal-must-include-regenerative-agriculture-and-end-factory-farming

A millennial perspective on why the way we farm and how we consume food must be part of the conversation when it comes to the climate crisis

“A unique opportunity to address climate change can be found in our agriculture sector,” writes Kruger, “an area which must be made sustainable if we’re going to survive.” (Photo: PeopleImages/iStock)

This week, a petition signed by more than 100,000 people was delivered to Congress, outlining issues that should be addressed in Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey’s (D-MA) Green New Deal. This petition shows overwhelming support for the Green New Deal, and calls for more attention to be brought to how our food system can be reformed to combat climate change. With the food and farming sector being the United States’ largest employer, and the country being one of the highest contributors toward climate change, citizens are calling for action to be taken to protect our world.

As someone in their mid-twenties, I have grown up seeing how climate change is actively impacting me and my community. Here in California, I expect droughts in the summer and extreme wildfires or mudslides in the fall; learning from a young age to always conserve water because the next shortage is just around the corner. Young activists from all across the U.S. have seen similar changes in their home states, and we recognize that our future depends on action being taken to stop the climate crisis before it is too late.

“Disinvestment from factory farms is necessary, not only from a climate standpoint, but from a larger human and environmental health perspective as well.”

A unique opportunity to address climate change can be found in our agriculture sector—an area which must be made sustainable if we’re going to survive. Climate scientists have identified agriculture as one of the largest contributors to climate change. This an opportunity to shift agricultural practices away from the large scale, conventional farms that currently dominate our food system to a regenerative, locally-focused, small-scale system that values the welfare of the land and those who work it. CFS has identified several focus points that should be implemented with the passing of the GND resolution to cut back greenhouse gas emissions and create a healthier, more sustainable food system.

1. Invest in regenerative, local agriculture

The future of agriculture lies in the shifting of practices away from large scale monocultures towards small and medium-sized diversified farms. We must wean away from the mass amounts of toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers being used, and instead integrate regenerative practices such as cover cropping, the use of compost, and the implementation of hedgerows as alternatives that not only add nutrients into the soil, but provide many other ecosystem services. Among these, regenerative agriculture protects biodiversity, including the native bees and pollinators that are currently being decimated by conventional agriculture. Our “Regenerating Paradise” video series covers many practices currently being practiced in Hawai’i—including several that can be implemented nationwide—to reduce carbon emissions and protect our soils. Implementing these practices can sustain our food production all while sequestering carbon, protecting pollinators, and promoting on-farm biodiversity.

Switching to these regenerative agriculture practices will not be easy, but it will be beneficial. Despite research showing the vast benefits that come from cover cropping and other regenerative practices, farmers have been slow to start implementing them. Government and university grants, technical assistance, and further research should be funded to help promote these practices, transition farms, and aid the continuous education of farmers and farmworkers. This investment will have far-reaching effects on farms—preserving native pollinator habitat, sequestering carbon, and providing climate-smart food to local communities.

2. Cut meat consumption and shut down environmentally-harmful animal factory farms

Disinvestment from factory farms is necessary, not only from a climate standpoint, but from a larger human and environmental health perspective as well. Large scale animal operations pollute the water, lead to a higher risk of disease in humans, and contribute large amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases into the air. Cutting back meat consumption, purchasing meat from local sources, and shifting toward plant-based sources of protein are all ways that individuals can help. More people than ever, especially young people, have recognized the harmful impacts of meat consumption and we are turning toward a flexitarian diet, vegetarianism, and veganism as a way to cut back on our carbon footprint. The government has the opportunity to support this effort on a larger scale by providing financial support and technical assistance to ranchers to help them transition to pasture-based and integrated livestock operations that reduce livestock’s impact on climate change and help sequester carbon in the soil.

CFS’s recently launched EndIndustrialMeat.org, a website that highlights some of the negative impacts that come with factory farming, including the vast amount of carbon released into the air and heavy metals being drained into the ground; serious consequences that disproportionately affect rural populations and disadvantaged communities. The GND’s goal to secure clean air and water, healthy food, and a sustainable environment for all communities mean that shutting down these harmful operations is imperative.

3. Reverse the trend of consolidation within the agriculture sector

For decades now, there has been increasing consolidation of seed, livestock, and other agriculture-related companies. These mega-corporations have purchased vast quantities of land and set the rules for how a farm has to run, undercutting disadvantaged farmers and farmworkers, and wrecking rural communities. GND policies can be used to break up these mega-farms, and empower local communities to take back the food system. Breaking up these predatory mega-farms would not only reinvigorate the economies of rural areas, but it would also give these communities access to the healthy, climate-friendly food necessary to slow the rate of climate change.

The growth of small and medium-sized farms would allow farmers and farmworkers to set fair wages and provide safe and humane conditions for themselves and a future for their children. Doing so would not only allow current farmers to continue their operations, but also would open the door for young farmers to have access to the land, resources, and funds needed to operate for a viable, sustainable farm.

4.  Support young and disadvantaged farmers

Finally, we must utilize the GND to support disadvantaged and young farmers, paving the way for a climate-friendly food future. For a long time, people have been turning away from farming, instead opting for job opportunities found in cities. For the past several years, there has been a renewed interest in working the land in a regenerative, holistic manner. We must support these new farmers, along with the farmworkers who have been subjugated to the abuses of industrial agriculture, to forage a community-focused, regenerative food system.

The principles of equity and justice outlined in the GND must guide our transition away from industrial monocultures, and toward a food system that supports and uplifts disadvantaged groups, providing the economic assistance and infrastructure needed to improve these communities, and ultimately improving our economy as a whole. Likewise, many young and disadvantaged farmers have limited access to the equipment and mentorship needed to run a successful farm enterprise. Having grants and training programs available to take on the huge costs of tractors, land, and resources necessary to start a farm should be central to the Green New Deal.

Young people have paved the way for the Green New Deal and our future depends on immediate action being taken to stop climate change. Not only will this resolution allow for the huge changes needed to prevent climate change, but will allow for new opportunities for farmers. While the challenge ahead of us won’t be easy, there are many things that can be done to mitigate current greenhouse gas emissions that aren’t being implemented. The GND is an opportunity to reform our way of farming to allow for huge cuts to current emissions, all while creating a more equitable food system.

TV hunter admits poaching 11-point ‘Unicorn Buck’ minutes after killing smaller deer

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

The Star spent a year and a half exploring the hidden world of breeding deer for freakish antlers so they can be shot behind fences. Robert Scheer

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A former cable TV host who killed two deer — including one he dubbed “Unicorn Buck” — for an episode of “Fear No Evil” filmed in Indiana has pleaded guilty to federal charges in a poaching case.

Christopher Brackett, 41, admitted he killed two bucks on the same day in Jefferson County while filming his Outdoor Channel show in December 2013, according to an Indiana Department of Natural Resources news release.

State law limits hunters to one buck per season.

Brackett also admitted transporting “Unicorn Buck,” an 11-pointer nicknamed for its unique antlers, across state lines to his home in East Peoria, Illinois…

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Trump let down American hunters and anglers

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Trump let down American hunters and anglers
© Getty Images

America’s hunters and anglers are a diverse group that come from across the nation: from rural and urban areas, from Democratic and Republican states. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that we must work diligently to protect our natural spaces and the resources that support our outdoor traditions.

Conservation requires collaboration to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences we do. Despite what his recent comments suggest, President Trump has not lived up to this spirit of collaboration or conservation.

On July 8, the president gave a speech from the White House praising his administration’s record of protecting our outdoor spaces and wildlife. Echoed by several of his cabinet secretaries, the president’s…

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What the Ebola emergency means, what it doesn’t mean, and what’s next

The Extinction Chronicles

Finally, the World Health Organization has declared the world’s latest Ebola outbreak a global health emergency. But what, exactly, does that mean?

The decision this week by the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to designate the long-running Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern generated a flood of news coverage.

Some global health experts have been vociferously insisting for months now that a PHEIC (pronounced FAKE or PHEEK) needed to be declared. They say it could improve the outbreak response and speed an end to the crisis.

But how might it do that? Read on.

What is…

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Running the numbers on an insane scheme to save Antarctic ice

The Extinction Chronicles

SLIPPERY SLOPE —

It would take a lot. Like a real lot.

Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier sheds some icebergs. Could we... sort of... put them back?
Enlarge / Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier sheds some icebergs. Could we… sort of… put them back?

Imagine, if you will, the engineers of the king’s court after Humpty Dumpty’s disastrous fall. As panicked men apparently competed with horses for access to the site of the accident, perhaps the engineers were scoping out scenarios, looking for a better method of reassembling the poor fellow. But presumably none of those plans worked out, given the dark ending to that fairy tale.

A recent study published in Science Advances might be relatable for those fairy tale engineers. Published by Johannes Feldmann, Anders Levermann, and Matthias Mengel at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the study tackles a remarkable question: could we save vulnerable Antarctic glaciers with artificial snow?

Keeping our cool

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