A child born today may live to see humanity’s end

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/06/18/a-child-born-today-may-live-to-see-humanitys-end-unless/

Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, said the late Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders in the effort to eradicate smallpox during the 1970s. He blamed overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change.

Fenner’s prediction, made in 2010, is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway. When the G7 called on Monday for all countries to reduce carbon emissions to zero in the next 85 years, the scientific reaction was unanimous: That’s far too late.

And no possible treaty that emerges from the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, in preparation for November’s United Nations climate conference in Paris, will be sufficient. At this point, lowering emissions is just half the story — the easy half. The harder half will be an aggressive effort to find the technologies needed to reverse the climate apocalypse that has already begun.

For years now, we have heard that we are at a tipping point. Al Gore warned us in An Inconvenient Truth that immediate action was required if we were to prevent global warming. In 2007, Sir David King, former chief scientific advisor to the British government, declared, “Avoiding dangerous climate change is impossible – dangerous climate change is already here. The question is, can we avoid catastrophic climate change?” In the years since, emissions have risen, as have global temperatures. Only two conclusions can be drawn: Either these old warnings were alarmist, or we are already in far bigger trouble than the U.N. claims. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case.

Lowering emissions and moving to cleaner energy sources is a necessary step to prevent catastrophic temperature rises. The general target is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Higher increases — like the 5C increase currently projected by 2100 — run the risk of widespread flooding, famine, drought, sea-level rise, mass extinction and, worse, the potential of passing a tipping point (frequently set at 6C) that could render much of the planet uninhabitable and wipe out most species. Even the 2C figure predicts more than a meter’s rise in sea levels by 2100, enough to displace millions. It is no wonder that the Pentagon calls climate change a serious “threat multiplier” and is considering its potential disruptive impact across all its planning.

This is where the U.N. talks fall short — by a mile. The targets proffered by the United States (a 26 percent to 28 percent decrease from 2005 levels by 2025), the European Union (a 40 percent decrease from 1990 levels by 2030) and China (an unspecified emissions peak by 2030) are nowhere near enough to keep us under the 2C target. In 2012, journalist Bill McKibben, in a feature for Rolling Stone, explained much of the math behind the current thinking on global warming. He concluded that the United Nations’ figures were definitely on the rosy side. In particular, McKibben noted that the temperature has already increased 0.8C, and even if we were to stop all carbon-dioxide emissions today, it would increase another 0.8C simply due to the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That leaves only a 0.4C buffer before hitting 2C. Even assuming the Paris conference implements everything that’s promised, we will be on track to use up the remaining “carbon budget” — the amount of carbon we can emit without blowing past the 2C threshold — within two to three decades, not even at mid-century.

These emissions-reduction frameworks, it is safe to say, are simply insufficient. By themselves, they only offer a small chance of preventing the earth from becoming mostly uninhabitable – for humans at least — over the next few centuries. For the talks to be more than just a placebo, they need to encompass aggressive plans for climate mitigation, with the assumption that current wishful targets won’t be met.

Apart from coordination to cope with climate-driven crises and associated instability, climate-change leadership needs to encourage and fund the development of technologies to reverse what we are unable to stop doing to our planet. Many of these technologies fall under the rubric of “carbon sequestration” — safely storing carbon rather than emitting it. Riskier strategies, like injecting sulfates into the air to reflect more of the sun’s heat into space and ocean iron fertilization to grow algae to suck in carbon, run a high risk of unintended consequences. Better and safer solutions to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere don’t yet exist; we need to discover them and regulate them, to avoid the chaos of what economists Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman term “rogue geoengineering” in their book Climate Shock.

None of these approaches are substitutes for emissions reductions. Achieving a carbon-neutral society is a necessary long-term goal regardless of other technological fixes. Technology could buy us the time to get there without our planet burning up. Ultimately, we need a Cold War-level of investment in research into new technologies to mitigate the coming effects of global warming. Without it, the United Nations’ work is a nice gesture, but hardly a meaningful one.

Food for Thought

Costco: It’s Time to Go Cage-Free

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A Costco egg supplier was recently found cramming chickens into tiny cages, forcing birds to live in cages with the decayed, mummified corpses of their dead cage-mates, and engaging in other inhumane practices that are bad for animals and food safety. This is in stark contrast to the happy hens and green fields depicted on egg cartons sold at Costco.

It’s been eight years since Costco indicated publicly that it wanted to eliminate cage confinement of chickens from its supply chain. Let the company know that now is the perfect time to go cage-free!

Take Action: http://action.humanesociety.org/site/PageServer?pagename=mconnect_costco&s_src=em_ha060915

Media Coverage of California Water Shortage Omits Biggest Culprit — Animal Agriculture

http://theirturn.net/2015/04/07/animal-agriculture-water-shortage

April 7, 2015 by

In its extensive coverage of the California drought, the New York Times has consistently focused on the cultivation of crops without so much as mentioning animal agriculture, which is far more water intensive.

The glaring omission has sent readers the message that fruits, vegetables and nuts  – not beef and dairy – are responsible for the state’s grave water shortage. Following are excerpts from the NY Times over the past three days.

April 6th: “Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, . . . millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.”

April 5th: “The expansion of almonds, walnuts and other water-guzzling tree and vine crops has come under sharp criticism from some urban Californians.”

April 4th: ”There is likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops — like almonds.”

Cultivating crops might be be water intensive, but it uses a fraction of the water consumed in animal agriculture. On California’s factory farms, which house tens of millions of chickens, pigs and cows, water is used not only to hydrate these animals but also to grow their feed and clean the facilities and slaughterhouses where they are raised and killed.

Cows in a California feedlot

Eliminating animal agriculture, which inefficiently uses of a scarce resource and is altogether unnecessary, would undoubtedly help to curb California’s water shortage.

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

Following are just a few statistics that demonstrate the impact of animal agriculture on the water supply:

  • 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
  • Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons of blue* water per ton. Pork, beef and butter use 121,000, 145,000 and 122,800 gallons per ton respectively. (*Blue water is water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers.)
  • Each day, cows consume 23 gallons of water; humans drink less than one.
  • The amount of water needed to produce a gallon of milk is equivalent to one month of showers.
  • 132 gallons of water are used every time an animal is slaughtered.

One year ago (March, 2014), the NY Times published an op-ed, Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty, that included statistics comparing the amount of water used for crops and animals. So why is it omitting this vital information in its current coverage of the drought? Could it be a mere oversight? Or is it something more sinister?

2014 Climate March participants highlighted the the amount of water used in animal agriculture.

Spread of Avian Flu Raises Concerns About Human Pandemic

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102715155

Avian flu spread raises some concerns about human infection

At least for now, chickens, turkeys and other fowl are the only direct targets of the avian flu outbreak that has spread across the U.S. Yet scientists say there is a subtype of the virus that may have the potential to become a human pandemic.

The outbreak, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture says has affected 20 states, has resulted in the destruction of at least 6 million chickens and turkeys and has put upward pressure on poultry prices. It has also triggered fears that much worse could be in store.

Daniel Janies, professor of bioinformatics and genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who co-authored a paper this year on the spread of an avian influenza, admits it’s “hard to say” whether the flu could make the jump from contained to catastrophe. Still, according to his research, bird flu has the potential to be “highly pathogenic and periodically infect humans.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that human infection, though rare, has been known to happen when people come into contact with an infected bird. Most recently, the H7N9 variant of bird flu infected some people in China, according to the CDC.

“Our work and that of others suggest that H7N9 has pandemic potential,” saids Janies, who is also a research associate in the invertebrate zoology department at the American Museum of Natural History, “but we have not seen human to human transmission yet.”

Read MoreAvian flu in Midwest hits egg prices, may hit harder

Bill Gates gets worried

Flu pandemics, which are based on how a disease spreads rather than its death toll, have only occurred four times since the beginning of the 20th century, kicked off by the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed about 50 million people. The most recent was swine flu, which “quickly spread across the United States and around the world” in the spring of 2009, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

This new avian flu subtype, first reported in China in the spring of 2013, hits the human body hard. Federal officials say that many patients experience “severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in a death.” The strain still seems to be outside of the United States, but in January it reached Canada from two people who had been in China.

As of March, more than 640 human cases and 224 deaths from H7N9 flu have been reported globally.

Epidemiologists have been worrying about a global pandemic for years. Just this week, philanthropist and billionaire Bill Gates—whose foundation is involved in disease prevention in developing economies—told Vox he was worried about the potential for a global disease outbreak, although he acknowledged that the probability is “very low.”

In a normal season, human influenza can kill at least 10,000 and result in the hospitalization of more than 200,000 others in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. That translates into an economic cost of $14.9 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity each year. Some estimate this is just a fraction of the damage a severe flu pandemic could create. One study by the CDC puts the economic impact as high as $166.5 billion.

Read MoreThe cost of halting a pandemic? $344 billion: Study

A recent study in mBio looked at the H5N1 avian flu’s spread in Egypt, and whether it has the potential to become airborne. It found that the virus there “could rapidly adapt to growth in the human airway microenvironment,” but emphasized that such a mutation was not one that “enhanced viral airborne transmission between humans.”

In other words, explained Janies, the H5N1 in Egypt is not adapting to become transmitted between humans. Rather, the bug is doing “a better job of deepening the infection” in humans.

However, the question remains whether scientific inquiry and technology can keep pace with mutating viruses. That area at least offers modest comfort, according to Janies.

“We are much better equipped to see, via genetic sequencers, and communicate, via data sharing over the Internet, on viral spread than in the past,” he said.

 

Sneak preview of new documentary from creators of “Forks Over Knives”

T. Colin Campbell PhD, co-author of the extraordinary China Study, and his son Nelson Campbell, are hosting a sneak preview of the new documentary “PlantPure Nation.” They are on a multi-city tour before the movie premieres in July.  “PlantPure Nation” was written and produced by the same team that made the acclaimed documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

“PlantPure Nation” sneak preview
Tuesday, June 2
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Regal Meridian 16 movie theater
501 7th Ave, Seattle, WA  98101
Here is a link to the website with a 2-minute short about the movie:

A huge US food distributor says bird flu could hurt egg supply for the next year

 

by Anjali Athavaley, Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Food distributor Sysco said on Friday that a record U.S. outbreak of avian flu would limit its supply of eggs and chickens that lay them for nine to 18 months, based on information provided to the company by its suppliers.

Sysco is the biggest U.S. food distributor, whose clients include restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

The company is discussing options with its customers, including creating alternative menu items during the period, a Sysco spokesman said in an email.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-exclusive-sysco-sees-us-bird-flu-hurting-egg-supply-up-to-18-months-2015-5#ixzz3aLNgLNBa

Factory farms are hotbeds for viruses

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2015/04/22/factory-farms-hotbeds-viruses/26215265/

by Michael Greger, M.D  April 22, 2015

In Iowa, poultry producers are losing birds due to the latest avian influenza (H5N2) outbreaks on factory farms. The poultry industry nationally has already lost tens of millions of dollars. Since the government compensates producers for birds who are killed to prevent the flu from spreading, taxpayer dollars, as well as animal lives, are being squandered.

The largest outbreak of bird flu in American history was an H5N2 virus, which led to the deaths of 17 million domestic birds and cost the nation more than $400 million during an outbreak in Pennsylvania that started in 1983. In 2002, the first case of human infection with an avian influenza virus was reported. The emergence and spread of virulent strains of avian influenza has been attributed by experts to the intensely overcrowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions that often characterize large-scale factory farming in industrialized agriculture.

In nature, disease-causing strains of avian influenza rarely spread far because the birds sicken and die before they can fly to spread it to others. However, in unnatural, intensive agricultural systems, pathogens are more easily able to evolve from mild strains to dangerous, highly pathogenic forms. Nine out of 10 chickens used for egg production in the U.S. are confined in barren wire cages. These cages are stacked in often windowless sheds that typically confine more than 100,000 animals each.

Due to the extreme confinement, hens — who are highly intelligent and social animals — cannot engage in natural behaviors like nesting, perching, or even spreading their wings. High levels of stress can lead to weakened immunity, rendering animals much more susceptible to disease. This makes the average poultry factory farm a hotbed for outbreaks of avian flu.

Overcrowding vast numbers of animals beak-to-beak in their own waste presents threats to human and animal health. The poultry industry looks for easy scapegoats such as wild ducks and geese, even though these animals have flown over North America for millennia. Until our society demands hygienic and animal welfare reforms, dangerous pathogens will continue to multiply and spread. The best-case scenario is that these outbreaks will continue to squander taxpayer money on endless games of Whack-a-Mole. The worst-case scenario — the jump of a highly contagious strain to humans — is unfathomable.

MICHAEL GREGER, M.D., is the author of “Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching” and the director of public health and animal agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Contact: mgreger@humanesociety.org

Other Evils of the Livestock Industry

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The following is by Rosemary Lowe:

Thinking Beyond the Animal Factories to Save This Planet

 
 Those out there who are concerned about this planet, the wildlife, the wild places, really need to understand how very destructive the Livestock Industry is, and not just for the factory farming aspects (as horrendous as they are).
Even many Vegans, who rightly abhor  what goes on in animal factories,  ignore, (or are unaware of), the plight of billions of native wild species in the U.S. and around the world. Wild species’ populations are in severe decline , some near extinction, due to livestock grazing on the last open, wild places.
Since the 1880’s the western livestock industry in the U.S., has been responsible for the slaughter of Billions (not millions) of coyotes, bears, wolves, prairie dogs, birds of prey, mountain lions, bobcats, beavers, ferrets, and other wild fauna and flora. This industry is also killing our rivers, streams,  forests, not to mention increasing the volatile gas, methane, that is a by-product of grazing, &  increasing global climate change.
So, while most people are now at least aware of the evil animal factories,  the horror of what goes on “out there” on the range– the vast expanses of our public lands– is hardly mentioned or thought about. It is crucial to also understand that western public lands–wilderness areas, BLM, National Forests, National Grasslands,  National Wildlife Refuges, and state lands–are becoming Domesticated Feed Lots because of the ranching industry. These public lands are the last refuge for wildness, in this Climate Change world!
 No matter how livestock grazing is packaged, it is an industry which is  removing what is wild and replacing it with  Domestication. Every so-called “wildlife problem” west of the Mississippi is really about The Livestock Industry, whether it be actual  grazing, or the raising of crops used for grazing domestic sheep and cattle. The western livestock interests are powerful, vocal, and determined to keep wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, wild horses, & thousands of other species “controlled/managed” with emphasis on aerial shooting, roundups, poisoning, trapping, hunts,  subsidized by taxpayers.
Now, some misguided animal groups, like IDA, and HSUS are falling for the PZP “birth control” method for horses, deer and other wild ungulates–which means more “taming” of the wild west.
What does this trend mean for the future of The Wild, when even so-called “animal people” start Sleeping with The Enemy?
 The great naturalist, professor, author, John A. Livingston, wrote, in Rogue Primate that: “to domesticate…is to amputate its wildness, to tame it; to train or otherwise coerce it into living with, and being of use, to us; to make it a part of our (human) infrastructure.”

We who care, still have a chance to save what is left of wildness, but we don’t have much time. Worse yet, the other living beings–wild non-humans-are fast running out of time.
      __________________________________________________
And John A. Livingston also wrote (and ahimsaforever commented), One of my favorite quotes of Livingston catalogs why he and other people (including me) who care about animals can be misanthropic:

“In the alchemist’s dungeon that is almost any well-appointed shopping center in the “developed” world, you can buy cosmetics, transmission fluid, and pet food made from whales; you can buy the hide of lynx in the form of a hat, or gloves made from the skin of an unborn lamb; you can buy a coat made from seal whelps; you can buy a tropical finch in a metal cage and a Siamese fighting fish in a plastic bag; you can buy firearms and whammo ammunition and multiple hooks with barbs on them; you can buy sharkskin shoes and the unspawned eggs of a sturgeon; you can buy the pulverized enlarged liver of a force-fed goose and the testicles of a bull and the brain of a calf . . . . You can buy the sterile eggs of an untrod chicken and the tongue of a feed-lot steer that spent its last weeks hock-deep in its own manure; you can buy medicines made from the blood and viscera of living laboratory animals . . . . You can also buy the Holy Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights.” The John Livingston Reader (2007), p. 149.

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