Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048

The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.

The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.

The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.

“I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.

“This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.

“If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.

Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.

But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.

“A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.

The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.

They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.

Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.

And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.

Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.

But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.

Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.

This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.

“It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”

Worm and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 3 issue of Science.


SOURCES: Worm, B. Science, Nov. 3, 2006; vol 314: pp 787-790. News release, SeaWeb. News release, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/salt-water-fish-extinction-seen-by-2048/?fbclid=IwAR07lyVZ4WYeyb3Tx7_zGVtW-jzp5IUO2DGa5f7j-yJiJL4o7mqsO6UEeuA

Less beef, more beans. Experts say world needs a new diet

Plant-based diet has enough flexibility to accommodate food cultures around the world, report’s authors say

The diet encourages cooking with ingredients such as whole grains and beans. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press)

A hamburger a week, but no more — that’s about as much red meat people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.

Eggs should be limited to fewer than about four a week, the report says. Dairy foods should be about a serving a day, or less.

The report from a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems. It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.

John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.

“The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be,” Ioannidis said.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based non-profit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.

Overall, the diet encourages whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables, and says to limit added sugars, refined grains such as white rice and starches like potatoes and cassava. It says red meat consumption on average needs to be slashed by half globally, though the necessary changes vary by region and reductions would need to be more dramatic in richer countries like the United States.

Convincing people to limit meat, cheese and eggs won’t be easy, however, particularly in places where those foods are a notable part of culture.

Think of it [meat] like lobster — something that I really like, but have a few times a year.– Walter Willett

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, systems analyst Cleberson Bernardes said as he was leaving a barbecue restaurant that letting himself eat just one serving of red meat a week would be “ridiculous.”

In Berlin, Germany, craftsman Erik Langguth said there are better ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and dismissed the suggestion that the world needs to cut back on meat.

“If it hasn’t got meat, it’s not a proper meal,” said Langguth, who is from a region known for its bratwurst sausages.

Before even factoring in the environmental implications, the report sought to sketch out what the healthiest diet for people would look like, said Walter Willett, one of its authors and a nutrition researcher at Harvard University. While eggs are no longer thought to increase risk of heart disease, Willett said the report recommends limiting them because studies indicate a breakfast of whole grains, nuts and fruit would be healthier.

He said everybody doesn’t need to become a vegan, and that many are already limiting how much meat they eat.

“Think of it like lobster — something that I really like, but have a few times a year,” Willett said.

Advice to limit red meat is not new, and is tied to its saturated fat content, which is also found in cheese, milk, nuts and packaged foods with coconut and palm kernel oils. The report notes most evidence on diet and health is from Europe and the United States. In Asian countries, a large analysis found eating poultry and red meat (mostly pork) was associated with improved lifespans. That might be in part because people might eat smaller amounts of meat in those
countries, the report says.

Reduce red meat for optimal health

Ioannidis of Stanford noted nutrition research is often based on observational links between diet and health, and that some past associations have not been validated. Dietary cholesterol, for example, is no longer believed to be strongly linked to blood cholesterol.

Under the new recommendations, consumption of fruits and vegetables would need to more than double compared with current diets. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The meat and dairy industries also dispute the report’s recommendations, saying their products deliver important nutrients and can be part of healthy diets.

Andrew Mente, a nutrition epidemiology researcher at McMaster University, urged caution before making widespread dietary recommendations, which he said could have unintended consequences.

Still, the EAT-Lancet report’s authors say the overall body of evidence strongly supports reducing red meat for optimal health and shifting toward plant-based diets. They note the recommendations are compatible with the U.S. dietary guidelines, which say to limit saturated fat to 10 per cent of calories.

While people in some poorer counties may benefit from getting more of the nutrients in meat and dairy products, the report says they shouldn’t follow the path of richer countries in how much of those foods they eat in coming years.

Environmental benefits

Though estimates vary, a report by the United Nations said livestock is responsible for about 15 per cent of the world’s gas emissions that warm the climate.

Robbie Andrew, a senior researcher at CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Norway, said farming practices that make animals grow faster and bigger may help limit emissions.

But he said cows and other ruminant animals nevertheless produce a lot of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

“It’s very difficult to get down these natural emissions that are part of their biology,” Andrew said.

The environmental benefits of giving up red meat depend on what people eat in its place. Chicken and pork produce far fewer emissions than beef, Andrew said, adding that plants in general have among the smallest carbon footprints.

Brent Loken, an author of the EAT-Lancet report, said the report lays out the parameters of an optimal diet, but acknowledged the challenge in figuring out how to work with policy makers, food companies and others in tailoring and implementing it in different regions.

The Arctic has lost 2.6 million reindeer over the past 20 years

The Arctic is changing — fast. That’s bad news for reindeer and caribou.

Archive Photos/Getty Images

Warning: This story may be upsetting to children who believe in Santa Claus.

Reindeer are perhaps best recognized by their magnificent antlers, the largest of any deer species in proportion to their bodies. They’re also notable for their epic thousand-mile journeys every year in search of food, in herds of 100,000 or more.

And they’re supremely important to the Arctic ecosystem as a source of food and livelihood for local people, and because of their power to reshape vegetation by grazing.

But the populations of reindeer, a.k.a. caribou, near the North Pole have been declining dramatically in recent years. Since the mid-1990s, the size of reindeer and caribou herds has declined by 56 percent.

That’s a drop from an estimated 4.7 million animals to 2.1 million, a loss of 2.6 million.

“Five herds,” out of 22 monitored “in the Alaska-Canada region, have declined more than 90 percent and show no sign of recovery,” according to the latest Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, out Tuesday. “Some herds have all-time record low populations since reliable record keeping began.”

Herds have lost hundreds of thousands of individuals, as measured by aerial photography of herds and counts in areas where caribou give birth. And their declines affect not just the landscape but the people who depend on it. The report explains that the declining number of animals are “a threat to the food security and culture of indigenous people who have depended on the herds.“

Arctic Report Card/NOAA

Big swings in population size aren’t a shock

Reindeer and caribou are the same animal. They are members of the species Rangifer tarandusThe Rangifer tarandus that live in North America are called caribou, and the ones in Europe and Siberia are called reindeer. Mostly they are wild creatures, but sometimes they are domesticated to pull sleds and carriages.

Ecologist Don Russell, the lead author of the report subsection on caribou, says it’s normal for herd sizes to fluctuate greatly. It’s part of a natural cycle: Herds can go from numbers in the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands in just a few decades, and then rebound.

“The fact that these herds are declining shouldn’t be a shock — they do it all the time,” Russell said by phone from the Yukon territory in Canada. “But they’re at such low levels, you start to be concerned. … If we return in 10 years and [their numbers] have gone down further, that would be unprecedented.”

The question now, he says, is “are their numbers so low they can’t recover?”

Climate change means the future of caribou, like that of so many other creatures, is uncertain

The herds have been declining in recent decades due to a complicated mix of factors including hunting, disease, diminished food availability, and climate change, the report explains.

On one hand, you’d think that with climate change, the Arctic would become a more favorable environment for these grazing animals. Longer, warmer summers mean more vegetation for them to nosh on. And according to the Arctic Report Card, the Arctic did grow greener between 1982 and 2017.

But it seems the warmer Arctic summers are also taking a toll on the reindeer. “Warmer summers also have adverse effects through increased drought, flies and parasites, and perhaps heat stress leading to increased susceptibility to pathogens and other stressors,” the report notes. Higher summer temperatures and wintertime freezing rain (as opposed to snow) seem to be correlated with adult caribou mortality.

Warmer summers have also meant that diseases, long locked in the Arctic permafrost, may thaw and spread among herds, though scientists aren’t completely sure how much of an impact this is having.

And warmer winters can hurt them too. When it rains in the Arctic, as opposed to snow, it can freeze over into ice. That makes it harder for the caribou to walk, and to eat. In 2013, 61,000 (61,000!) reindeer died of starvation in Russia due to excess ice. Currently, a lack of snow in Sweden is impeding reindeer migrations there.

As the climate warms, and as freezing rain replaces snow in the far north, this threat may increase.

Animal populations are shrinking worldwide

The change in caribou numbers also looks concerning when you factor in what’s happening to wildlife around the world.

In October, WWF, the international wildlife conservation nonprofit, released its biennial Living Planet Report, a global assessment of the health of animal populations all over the world. The topline finding: The average vertebrate (birds, fish, mammals, amphibians) population has declined 60 percent since 1970.

That eye-popping figure — a 60 percent decline in average populations — is not the same as saying the world has lost 60 percent of its animals. But most populations of animals, like particular herds, or schools of fish, have seen declining numbers.

There’s a bigger global story here that we must reckon with: Humans are a small part of the living world, yet we have an outsize impact on it. The WWF report stresses that wildlife faces multiple threats — climate change, habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and invasive species — which all trace back to us and our insatiable consumption patterns.

What we lose if we lose the caribou

Caribou don’t have the ability to fly. (Sorry, kids. Though, if you’re reading a science news article, you probably know this by now.) But they’re hugely important to the Arctic ecosystem as a source of food for predators like wolves and biting flies. “A lot of the ecosystem components are riding on their backs,” Russell says.

Moreover, they’re central to the traditions of indigenous people in the Arctic, like the Sami, as a source of food and clothing. “If you look at the [top] Northern resources, that shape the culture of northern communities and aboriginal people, what they have in common is caribou and or wild reindeer, no matter where they are in the circumpolar North,” he says.

The takeaway is that the Arctic landscape is changing — and it’s changing more dramatically than anywhere on the Earth. The temperature increase in the Arctic just since 2014, the report card also finds, “is unlike any other period on record.” And it’s not yet clear if the caribou can change and adapt with it.

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/12/11/18134411/christmas-reindeer-north-pole-populations-decline-agu-arctic-report-card?fbclid=IwAR1RQAyv0xMTNIF6HkJHTIXKzyXTjP-fRjN1o9UlYTDS_BYR28pdLjAsZNM

HUMAN POPULATION GROWTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE

https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/climate/?fbclid=IwAR0IVSbh5phNB7dFjcypdp-dA8Y7D_KtQWYFYyrZRZu5xpsWwhCb4Vattec

The largest single threat to the ecology and biodiversity of the planet in the decades to come will be global climate disruption due to the buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. People around the world are beginning to address the problem by reducing their carbon footprint through less consumption and better technology. But unsustainable human population growth can overwhelm those efforts, leading us to conclude that we not only need smaller footprints, but fewer feet.

Portland, Oregon, for example, decreased its combined per-capita residential energy and car driving carbon footprint by 5 percent between 2000 and 2005. During this same period, however, its population grew by 8 percent.

2009 study of the relationship between population growth and global warming determined that the “carbon legacy” of just one child can produce 20 times more greenhouse gas than a person will save by driving a high-mileage car, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, etc. Each child born in the United States will add about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent. The study concludes, “Clearly, the potential savings from reduced reproduction are huge compared to the savings that can be achieved by changes in lifestyle.”

One of the study’s authors, Paul Murtaugh, warned that: “In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime. Those are important issues and it’s essential that they should be considered. But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources. . . . Future growth amplifies the consequences of people’s reproductive choices today, the same way that compound interest amplifies a bank balance.”

CO2 Emissions by Country

The size of the carbon legacy is closely tied to consumption patterns. Under current conditions, a child born in the United States will be responsible for almost seven times the carbon emissions of a child born in China and 168 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.

The globalization of the world economy, moreover, can mask the true carbon footprint of individual nations. China, for example, recently surpassed the United States to become the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter. But a large portion of those gases is emitted in the production of consumer goods for the United States and Europe. Thus a large share of “China’s” greenhouse gas footprint is actually the displaced footprint of high-consumption western nations.

The United States has the largest population in the developed world, and is the only developed nation experiencing significant population growth: Its population may double before the end of the century. Its 300 million inhabitants produce greenhouse gases at a per-capita rate that is more than double that of Europe, five times the global average, and more than 10 times the average of developing nations. The U.S. greenhouse gas contribution is driven by a disastrous combination of high population, significant growth, and massive (and rising) consumption levels, and thus far, lack of political will to end our fossil-fuel addiction.

Coal-fired power plantMore than half of the U.S. population now lives in car-dependent suburbs. Cumulatively, we drive 3 trillion miles each year. The average miles traveled per capita is increasing rapidly, and the transportation sector now accounts for one-third of all U.S. carbon emissions.

Another one-fifth of U.S. carbon emissions comes from the residential sector. Average home sizes have increased dramatically in recent decades, as has the accompanying footprint of each home. Suburban sprawl contributes significantly to deforestation, reducing the capacity of the planet to absorb the increased CO2 we emit. Due to a dramatic decrease in household size, from 3.1 persons per home in 1970 to 2.6 in 2000, homebuilding is outpacing the population growth that is driving it. More Americans are driving farther to reach bigger homes with higher heating and cooling demands and fewer people per household than ever before. All of these trends exacerbate the carbon footprint inherent in the basic energy needs of a burgeoning U.S. population.

Globally, recent research indicates that assumptions regarding declining fertility rates used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to develop future emissions scenarios may be overly optimistic. While fertility rates have generally declined over the past few decades, progress has slowed in recent years, especially in developing nations, largely due to cutbacks in family planning assistance and political interference from the United States. And even if fertility rates are reduced to below replacement levels, population levels will continue to climb steeply for some time as people live longer and billions of young people mature and proceed through their reproductive years. Per-capita greenhouse gas emissions may drop, but the population bulge will continue to contribute to a dangerous increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Time is short, but it not too late to stop runaway global warming. Economy-wide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to a level that brings atmospheric CO2 back from 386 parts per million to 350 or less, scaling back first-world consumption patterns, and long-term population reduction to ecologically sustainable levels will solve the global warming crisis and move us to toward a healthier, more stable, post-fossil fuel, post-growth addicted society.

AN OPEN LETTER TO PEOPLE WHO LEFT ANIMALS TO DROWN DURING HURRICANE FLORENCE

The following is an open letter to those who left animals to drown in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
Dear North Carolinians,
How dare you! You had ample time to pack up your most precious belongings, gas up your car, and flee the state with your loved ones. And you still chose to leave animals behind.
For most of last week, I watched the updates about where Florence would land, how much flooding could occur, and how it would affect farmed animals in the area. As an animal rights activist, I felt helpless knowing people would choose to leave animals behind with no way to survive. And just “hoping animals would survive the worst of the storm” is the biggest disgrace. Sorry, not sorry.
Now that rescue teams are in the area, my Facebook feed is filled with videos of people rescuing dogs trapped in waist-high floodwaters and dogs left crying for help, some barely able to swim and on the brink of death. And these are the lucky ones.
For every dog rescued by teams in North Carolina, thousands of pigs have already drowned.
Unlike companion animals, who by law must be included in government evacuation plans during natural disasters, farmed animals are afforded no legal protections. So while farmers fled for safety, animals drowned in cages and crates with absolutely no chance of survival.
Drowning is one of the worst things one can experience. Submerged underwater, fully conscious, you panic, unable to call for help. After a few minutes, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen and you lose consciousness, allowing your airways to relax and your lungs to fill with water. Your body eventually shuts down from brain damage and cardiac arrest. It’s easily one of the most terrifying ways to die.
And this is what you did to them. As floodwaters rushed in, pigs and piglets would have panicked, just like anyone fighting to survive. We’ve seen such panic time and time again when animals are being slaughtered. Most likely, they would have bitten the bars of their crates, hoping to break free. But many were unable to escape. Imagine if you were in their place.
You let them die because they were nothing more than property to you, and the insurance money was probably worth more than the hassle of moving thousands of pigs to safer areas.
I’ve heard on some news sites that there was “nothing we could do about the animals.” That is a sheer lie. You can stop torturing them.
As a people, we need to take a serious look at ourselves and decide whether we truly want to be such monsters. Then we need to change the laws. Immediately.

And while that happens, all of us can stop supporting the disgusting meat industry by refusing to buy its products. Learn more here.

Earth Overshoot Day: Humans are using Earth’s resources faster than ever, group warns

“There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet,” the CEO of the Global Footprint Network network said.
by James Rainey / 
Image: Ratcliffe on Soar power station

Coal-fired powered, Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station in Nottinghamshire, England. (Photo by: Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)Loop Images / UIG via Getty Images

A hummingbird flew into New York’s Times Square Friday, and has been hovering and flitting high over the heads of tourists and workers ever since.

Never mind that the bird arrived via jumbo screen — the arresting image was intended to turn attention to humanity’s tenuous place in nature. The onscreen message: “Earth Overshoot Day is August 1…Because We Have Only One Earth…#MoveTheDate.”

Created by the Global Footprint Network environmental nonprofit, Earth Overshoot Day estimates the point in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than Earth can replace or safely absorb in a year. The Aug. 1 date projected this year is earlier than any time in the dozen years the calculation has been made and a warning, especially, of the heightened challenge from the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

“Fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of the Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network. “There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.”

Earth Overshoot

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The electronic billboard campaign in Times Square — with additional images of a blooming hibiscus from renowned slow-motion nature filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg — will be followed by a YouTube and Facebook livestream July 31 and Aug. 1. The live video feed will feature environmental leaders from around the world, including representatives from the United Nations, the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Day Network and others.

The Earth Overshoot concept is designed to bring urgency to climate issues that can seem distant in time and place. It aims to keep citizens and decision-makers in touch with spiraling carbon dioxide levels, particularly Americans who don’t live in coastal flood zones or in the path of more frequent and sizable hurricanes.

HOW EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY IS CALCULATED

When the first overshoot calculation was announced in 2006, it found that Earth used a year’s worth of resources by Oct. 9. The Global Footprint Network determines the date by drawing data from the United Nations, the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others. These estimates of productive land and sea area, grazing land, cropland and fishing grounds are expressed in so-called global hectares. This measurement (roughly 2.5 acres) is meant to be a standard unit, projecting average productivity, that can be tallied to represent the Earth’s total “biocapacity.”

The researchers then examine the demand side: mankind’s need for crops, livestock and fish, timber and space for urban development, along with a calculation of the forests’ capacity to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The difference between this “ecological footprint” and the Earth’s biocapacity represents the overshoot.

The Aug. 1 date declared this year means that, for the final five months of the year, mankind is overdrawing natural resources. Framed another way, it would take 1.7 Earths to supply the resources needed to feed, clothe and sustain Earth’s 7.6 billion people for a year.

Earth Overshoot

JUL.20.201800:16

Global Footprint Network also calculates the biocapacity and ecological footprint at the national level, offering a look at how much each country is living beyond its home-grown resources. It shows, for example, that the United States has a biocapacity of 3.6 hectares per person but that the average consumption is 8.4 hectares per person, meaning that Americans are running a 4.8 hectare per-capita deficit. Stretched across a population of 317 million, that country uses all of its native resources by March 15, the formulation suggests. To continue consuming at current levels indefinitely, the U.S. would need the resources of five Earths.

That’s in sharp contrast to nations that have little industry and relatively few cars and trucks and often substantial forests, pumping oxygen back into the biosphere. So Suriname in the northern end of South America, has a biocapacity of 97 hetacres per person, but each of its 496,000 inhabitants only uses 2.7 hectares, on average, annually. So the tiny nation produces a large 94.6 hectares of “reserve.” Because the construct is only theoretical, though, Suriname can’t escape the excess carbon dioxide most other countries pump into the atmosphere. And it exports surpluses of wood and commodities that other countries can’t produce on their own.

Andrew Simms, a progressive British political economist who helped conceive the idea, said it is important to show how cultures live beyond their own resources. “The wealthiest countries, in particular, depend on a much larger land base than they have themselves to enjoy the material lifestyles they are accustomed to,” Simms said. Wackernagel said his group uses the statistics conservatively and that, if anything, the overshoot date underestimates humanity’s impact on the planet.

A GLOBAL RESPONSE

The calculation is not without critics. A World Wildlife Fund official in Britain wrote a column in 2010 calling the footprint “clever” and “succinct.” But he added that the diverse array of data it compiled — from greenhouse gas emissions, to rainforest destruction, to corn yields — was hard to reconcile and made the calculation “a useful guide stick rather than anything absolute.”

Rush Limbaugh offered a less generous critique after the announcement of the overshoot date in 2015. “If we have exhausted our yearly allotment of natural resources,” Limbaugh asked, “then why are we still breathing?”

Wackernagel responds that just because resources like water and oxygen remain available, it doesn’t mean they aren’t being depleted to threatening levels. “We can live off of depletion for a time,” he said, “but not forever.”

“We can live off of depletion for a time but not forever.”

Regardless of the calculation’s degree of precision, it has met the Global Footprint Network’s goal of driving conversation about natural resources. Coverage has grown steadily, with organizers saying the story received 1.3 billion web hits in 2017, across more than 1,900 websites. In a few countries, including Japan and the United Arab Emirates, governments have discussed reshaping public policy around the limits suggested by the overshoot calculations.

The awareness gap seemed on display Friday at the south end of Times Square, not far from where the giant images of the hummingbird and hibiscus appear a couple times an hour. A dozen Americans said they had never heard of the Earth Overshoot concept, though several said they had deep concerns about damage that humanity was inflicting on the Earth.

George Allen, 61, declared it “not a good thing” that President Donald Trump has rolled back measures to slow down global warming. ” His wife, Regina added: “It’s important to us that we do all that we can do to make sure that we protect the Earth so that our grandchildren can live on this Earth and live well. But not just them, but their children, and their children’s children.” As proof of their commitment, the couple, from Louisville, Kentucky, said they were deeply committed to recycling.

When a young German family was asked about Earth Overshoot, even the 8- and 11-year-old daughters did not hesitate to recognize the term. Back in their hometown of Bielefeld, the Hoeners said the topic of environmental costs can come up among among neighbors, in school and, often, on the news. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the most populous in Germany, has made the ecological footprint central to its reckoning of environmental costs and benefits.

Nadine Hoener, visiting New York with her daughters and husband, said the ecological footprint concept comes up “all the time,” adding: “In Germany, people are quite aware of that problem.”

This seems unlikely to happen in the U.S. anytime soon. Wackernagel, a Swiss-born PhD, trained in community and regional planning, is quoted routinely in European publications. He has the lead essay in the 2016 annual environmental report for North-Rhine Westphalia.

But he has grown accustomed to an American identity closely attached to the idea of unlimited horizons. Wackernagel recalls President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address, in 1985: “There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.”

But the world’s population has ballooned by nearly 3 billion since then, driving the need for more creative solutions. And the overshoot date can play a role in communicating both urgency, and opportunity, Wackernagel believes.

“By seeing the world more clearly, we have a leg up in understanding the forces and trends,” he said, “and hence, we can steer innovation — a deep American value — towards where it gives us the highest chances to succeed.”

What Fossil Fuels and Factory Farms Have in Common

In 2008, Cabot Oil and Gas started fracking operations in Dimock, Pennsylvania. It was around that time the community started noticing their water was turning brown and making people and animals sick. One woman’s water well exploded. Fracking had come to town.

It’s a familiar story in other rural communities—from Pennsylvania to Montana and Texas—where fracking has contaminated drinking water resources and emitted toxic air pollution associated with higher rates of asthma, birth defects, and cancer.

But the story is similar in other communities where fracking or other extreme fossil fuel extraction isn’t happening. Air and drinking water that’s been dangerously polluted from industrial operations affect communities across Iowa, including the state’s largest city, Des Moines. Polluting facilities are operating in Central OregonNorth Carolina,Wisconsin, and Maryland. None of those places are fracking, but they are host to another environmental hazard facing rural communities: factory farms.

Like the fossil fuel cartel, this highly consolidated industry prioritizes profits at the cost of our environment. Factory farms are an industrial model for producing animals for food where thousands of cows, pigs, or birds are raised in confinement in a small area. While farms can and do apply manure as a fertilizer to cropland, factory farms produce more manure than nearby fields can absorb, leading to runoff into surface waters and contaminants leaching into groundwater. And storing concentrated quantities of manure releases toxins like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the air, threatening nearby communities—and even leading to worker deaths. The nearly half a million dairy cows on factory farms in Tulare County, California, produce five times as much waste as the New York City metropolitan area and carries chemical additives and pathogens like E. coli, many of which are antibiotic resistant.

Factory farms are also an issue of environmental injustice. In North Carolina counties that contain hog factory farms, schools with larger percentages of students of color, and those with greater shares of students receiving free lunches are located closer to hog farms than whiter and more affluent schools. Just like with fossil fuel infrastructure, these toxic facilities are more likely to be in places that are least able to resist their development.

Another thing factory farms have in common with fossil fuels: They are a danger to the climate. Livestock production contributes 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emissions from the digestive processes of cattle contribute 39 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and manure storage and processing contribute 10 percent. Additionally, monoculture crops like corn and soy are a hallmark of our highly consolidated food system and are one of the reasons we can raise mass quantities of livestock. These crops contribute nearly half of the emissions from the sector. Meanwhile, more sustainable meat production methods like smaller farms and grass-fed operations may have lower greenhouse gas emissions than factory farms. Without a rapid transition away from factory farming, we will not avoid catastrophic climate change.

Yet attempts to regulate factory farms have been weak-kneed and ineffective. For example, federal law requires they report significant releases of toxic pollutants like ammonia. But the Environmental Protection Agency actually does little to monitor, much less prevent, these emissions. In 2009, for example, the agency rolled back regulations so that only the largest facilities had to report these emissions—and only to local, not national, emergency response officials. In 2018 Congress went even further, granting an exemption from reporting requirements for air emissions created by manure on farms. Similarly, the EPA does not collectcomprehensive data on factory farm size or location, making oversight impossible. And while the Clean Water Act regulates water pollution from industrial facilities, the EPA has looked the other way; the agency estimated in 2011 that less than half of the facilities required to get discharge permits had actually obtained them.

Calls to ban fracking have been proliferating since we have found that it is too dangerous to simply regulate. The inherent risks to our environment, our climate, and our communities are simply too much.

Now, we need to say the same thing about factory farms. Both industries are putting rural communities at risk so that large polluting companies can become larger and more profitable. Climate advocates who are already facing down the fossil fuel industry should find common cause with those who are fighting to stop industrial agriculture in their community.

Systemic change is needed. We can’t shop our way out of the damage that is being done to our environment by simply choosing to reduce meat consumption or ride bikes to work. While these are meaningful steps, we must also demand policy action. It’s time to reverse the decades of pro-industry policy that have made Big Ag and Big Energy bigger and badder, and create policies that start phasing out pollution from agriculture and energy.

We know how to do it: We need to demand meaningful laws and regulations—including bans on new polluting factory farms and fossil fuel infrastructure—that prioritize people over profit. This is already happening at the state level in places like Iowa, but we need to work at all levels, starting now, to enact the changes we need to protect our environment, our water, and our communities.

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

Groundbreaking assessment of all life on Earth reveals humanity’s surprisingly tiny part in it as well as our disproportionate impact

Cattle farm at Estancia Bahia, Agua Boa, Mato Grosso, Brazil
 A cattle farm in Mato Grosso, Brazil. 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock. Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet.

The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.

Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by the recent BBC television series Blue Planet II turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.

“I was shocked to find there wasn’t already a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass,” said Prof Ron Milo, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” he said, adding that he now chooses to eat less meat due to the huge environmental impact of livestock.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/all_life-zip/giv-3902Sgt2JYGV7lbj/

The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe.

The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

“It is pretty staggering,” said Milo. “In wildlife films, we see flocks of birds, of every kind, in vast amounts, and then when we did the analysis we found there are [far] more domesticated birds.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/livestock-zip/giv-3902QQbv2wCQM1xg/

The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years.

But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/wildlifelosses-zip/giv-39025SaTVRineiu5/

“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” said Milo. “When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino. But if I was trying to give them a more realistic sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”

Despite humanity’s supremacy, in weight terms Homo sapiens is puny. Viruses alone have a combined weight three times that of humans, as do worms. Fish are 12 times greater than people and fungi 200 times as large.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/humanvother-zip/giv-3902p90ROfRxGU0x/

But our impact on the natural world remains immense, said Milo, particularly in what we choose to eat: “Our dietary choices have a vast effect on the habitats of animals, plants and other organisms.”

“I would hope people would take this [work] as part of their world view of how they consume,” he said. ”I have not become vegetarian, but I do take the environmental impact into my decision making, so it helps me think, do I want to choose beef or poultry or use tofu instead?”

The researchers calculated the biomass estimates using data from hundreds of studies, which often used modern techniques, such as satellite remote sensing that can scan great areas, and gene sequencing that can unravel the myriad organisms in the microscopic world.

They started by assessing the biomass of a class of organisms and then they determined which environments such life could live in across the world to create a global total. They used carbon as the key measure and found all life contains 550bn tonnes of the element. The researchers acknowledge that substantial uncertainties remain in particular estimates, especially for bacteria deep underground, but say the work presents a useful overview.

Paul Falkowski, at Rutgers University in the US and not part of the research team, said: “The study is, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of the biomass distribution of all organisms – including viruses – on Earth.”

“There are two major takeaways from this paper,” he said. “First, humans are extremely efficient in exploiting natural resources. Humans have culled, and in some cases eradicated, wild mammals for food or pleasure in virtually all continents. Second, the biomass of terrestrial plants overwhelmingly dominates on a global scale – and most of that biomass is in the form of wood.”