Archive for the ‘Worst of Times’ Category

Remember the Scottish Wildcat ?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

From the Scottish Wildcat AssociationBBC Animal Science — A scientist who has developed a genetic test to identify pure Scottish wildcats has warned that the species could be extinct within two years. Dr Paul O’Donoghue said cross breeding with feral and hybrid cats made extinction a certainty unless “urgent” conservation activity took place. The University of Chester biologist said pure wildcats should be trapped. He also suggested that private individuals could be keeping the “very best” wildcats as pets. The senior lecturer in biology asked for these people to come forward and help with the conservation effort.

In remote and rural parts of the Highlands it is known for people to take wildcats that visit their properties into their care. Dr O’Donoghue and his team have developed a test that can look at a small blood sample and scan all of the 63,000 genes that make up any individual cat. …

The biologist said the species was now one of the rarest in the world. He said it was of the “utmost importance” that large scale live trapping took place and cats found to be pure-bred wildcats then be placed in protected areas in the west Highlands.

In September last year, conservationists forecast that Scottish wildcats would be extinct in the wild within months as numbers of pure-bred cats had fallen to about 35 individuals. (05/22/2013)

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Climate Change is Real

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Climate ChangeLearnStuff — Allison Lee writes: Thanks to extensive research and noticeable changes in weather and storm prevalence, it’s getting harder to turn a blind eye to the reality of climate change. Since the Industrial Age spurred the increasing usage of fossil fuels for energy production, the weather has been warming slowly. In fact, since 1880, the temperature of the earth has increased by 1 degree Celsius.

Although 72% of media outlets report on global warming with a skeptical air, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the extreme weather of the last decade is at least partially caused by global warming. Some examples of climate calamities caused partly by global warming include: Hurricane Katrina, drought in desert countries, Hurricane Sandy, and tornadoes in the Midwest.

These storms, droughts, and floods are causing death and economic issues for people all over the world – many of whom cannot afford to rebuild their lives from the ground up after being wiped out by a tsunami or other disaster.

Evidence also indicates that the face of the Earth is changing because of warming trends. The ice caps of the Arctic are noticeably shrinking, the ice cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro alone has shrunk by 85% in the last hundred years, and the sea levels are rising at the rate of about 3 millimeters per year because of all the melting ice. Climate change is also affecting wildlife – for instance, Arctic polar bears are at risk of losing their environment; the Golden Toad has gone extinct; and the most adaptable species are evolving into new versions capable of withstanding warmer water. (03/03/13)

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The Recreation

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

File:Creación de Adán.jpgCommUnity of Minds — Don Halcom writes: In the next sixty years the entire world will be forced to re-create itself. This is not a prophecy of doom but a fact.  The single event that will require this re-creation is the exhaustion of fossil fuels. The world consumption of energy per capita grows faster, with respect to time, than the population growth. This predicts the exhaustion of fossil fuels sooner than the optimists calculate.

The entire infrastructure created by the exploitation of fossil fuels will have to be replaced by a new one. Literally everything will need to be changed. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the houses we live in, the lights we use, the heat we need, the transportation we use, the roads we use, the medicines we need, the energy we use — everything about the infrastructure will have to be re-created.  We are that dependent upon fossil fuels.

The desperation of this event cannot be minimized. Politicians, economists, businessmen, philosophies, governments, armies or the clergy will not solve this problem. Only one institution has any chance of performing this re-creation and that is science. Without science, all the other institutions are useless for this task.

Science and the exploitation of fossil fuels created our current infrastructure. Science and something new will have to re-create a new infrastructure. Any other path will only lead to a total collapse of modern civilization. If you believe that this is an exaggeration, then you are part of a group that does not understand the current world we live in. It is very easy to take our surroundings for granted and assume they will always be the same. The existential event that is about to confront mankind will swamp any other disaster in the history of the world. If you do not believe me just hide and watch it happen. If you do believe me then get involved with the re-creation. Procrastination will only lead to a condition that will not allow the re-creation to occur in a peaceful manner. We must have sufficient motive, resources and time to accomplish the re-creation. It is a problem of bootstrapping ourselves to a new world. …

The most important conclusion is that massive energy consumption is the creator of population growth. We cannot support 7 billion people (or more) without the use of fossil fuels energy. There is only a finite amount of sunshine and land to create the future energy requirements.

We must reduce our current crude oil energy equivalent consumption by an estimated 80%. About 20% of our current crude oil energy consumption should support a world population of about 1 billion with a life style similar to our current system.

Here is the most difficult part to execute; we must initiate controlled population reduction in a planned way over about the next sixty year from about 7 billion to about 1 billion. Population should stabilize at about 1 billion. Our grand children demand it. Religion will be the major obstacle here. In my opinion, wars are not ethical solutions.

About 12% of the earth’s agricultural land could be devoted to BioDiesel production. This is about four times the current land used for cooking oils. Remember that at least 60% of the earth’s agricultural land is required to maintain the current status quo of crude oil based energy equivalence. I did not include coal and natural gas in these calculations which will also become exhausted in the future. To replace the latter two will require even more agricultural land. The game only gets more intractable. We will have to determine the plants we want to use to replace the coal and natural gas. Got any good ideas? I will guarantee that no “computer” scientist or economist or banker or politician or stock market analyst or pure mathematician or justice of the Supreme Court will solve these problems.

Diesel engines and jet turbines will be the only engines in the future. Electric motors/generators will also be used.

We are no longer going to have the energy resources to employ all of our current working population when fossil fuels become extinct. We are already seeing hints of this. All of the infrastructure will be smaller as well as the goods for sale from such a system. All of economics is the result of the real physics of the planet and not the reverse. We can only use what we are given.

Failure to abide by the above suggestions will result in the ugliest set of wars we can imagine and will kill most of our grand children in a short period of time. Stupidity is not an excuse.

I apologize for presenting such a dark calamity but it is better to know about it now than to wake up one morning and find WWIII erupting outside our windows. It will happen if we do not wisely execute the transformation of our existing infrastructure and that begins now, not 50 years from now. Time and resources are the enemies.

I fully realize that our current ways of thinking and living are opposed to this transformation ever occurring. We do not live on a planet chocked full of infinite resources. I repeat; stupidity is not an excuse. Our current crop of politicians and economist may, in fact, be that stupid. Infinite growth requires infinite resources which do not exist on this planet. If your daddy told you that this is not true, then your daddy was wrong. Do your own thinking. Make it scientific thinking this time and not just another fairy tale about the princess and the knight in shining armor living happily ever after. We cannot have everything, we only imagine we can. This is dangerous thinking. The world is changing too rapidly to day dream about the good old days. Make our dreams about tomorrow realistic. Please help modulate our lusts. (01/09/2013)

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The Tragic Geography of Disconnected Youth

Monday, September 17th, 2012

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/517GCJM7T9L._SL500_AA300_.jpgNational Journal — More than one in seven young Americans are “disconnected” from work and from school, according to a report released Thursday by the Social Science Research Council‘s Measure of America project.

The report (PDF) is based on data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, and looks specifically at the numbers of young people aged 16 to 24 who are not working nor enrolled in school. The report tracked the data for the U.S. as a whole, in comparison to other countries, by race, and for the 25 largest metro areas as well as neighborhoods within cities.

Nationally, over 5.8 million young people (almost 15 percent) are disconnected — a figure that grew by 800,000 as a result of the economic crisis, according to the report.

Globally, the U.S. has a higher rate of youth disconnection than many advanced nations, including the United Kingdom (13.4 percent), Austria (11.4 percent), Canada (10.5 percent), Germany (9.5 percent), Norway (9.2 percent), Finland (8.6 percent), Switzerland (6.8 percent), Denmark (5.7 percent), and the Netherlands (4.1 percent).

Youth disconnection varies substantially by race. More than one in five (22.5 percent) young African-Americans are disconnected, 18.5 percent of Latinos, 11.7 percent of whites, and just 8 percent of Asian-Americans.

Phoenix, Arizona, has the highest rate of disconnected youth, at 18.8 percent. Miami is second (17.1 percent), and Detroit third (17.0 percent). These three metros, so hard hit by the economic collapse, attest to the lingering effects of the crisis on the economic status of young people. Seven of the 10 metros with the highest levels of disconnected youth are in the Sunbelt.

Youth disconnection varies substantially within cities and metros as well. Parts of the South Bronx have a rate of 35.6 percent — more than double that of the New York metro as a whole. In Los Angeles, the rate of youth disconnection in Watts is 25.1 percent, versus 3.5 percent in West L.A. (09/17/12)

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What Makes You Think We Can Grow Out of This?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

http://www.synearth.net/imgs/USdebt.pngCommUnity of Minds — Donald Halcom writes: As I sit here pondering the current status of the USA, I am struck by the conclusion that all of the politicians, business men, and economist have reached. They all believe that the only solution to the current economic mess of the USA is growth. Only growth will solve our problems. In fact only sustained growth will do it. When all these people believe the same thing then I suspect that something is wrong. The mechanism by which the growth is to be obtained differs with respect to political persuasions, but it is always growth that will perform the miracle. The question then occurred to me —– Is sustained growth over decades even possible? Is such an assumption even valid?

The last time the world was in this predicament was after WWII.  All of Europe and the Orient were in shambles. The USA had a national debt of more than its GDP like it does now. The USA had one advantage. It was the only economy left whose manufacturing base was still viable. The USA had essentially financed WWII for the allies by selling bonds.

In 1945 the national debt as a percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 109%. Over the next 35 years the debt was paid down by the government represented by all the presidents (Democrat and Republican) from Truman to Carter until the debt as a percent of the GDP was 33%. When Reagan was elected president things changed. The debt began to rise almost continuously till in 2012 it was 102 percent of the GDP. The last four years have given the most precipitous rise. The next graph shows the recent history. In about 31 years we have accrued a debt as a percent of GDP almost equal to the debt of WWII.

Since WWII the USA has become a different country. We now have a world full of economic competitors. Our old monopoly is gone. Europe, parts of South America, the Middle East, the Far East and a few countries in Africa have all become major rivals for resources and trade.

The above data indicates that politics have been a major factor in the increase of the National Debt but that alone was not the problem. The demands of Banks, Wall Street and Hedge Funds have been major factors in increasing our economic woes. The debt from 2007 to the present, indicate these factors. Some claim that had we used the proper governmental legislation, then the debt crisis from 2007 onward could have been avoided. This is true, but that is water over the dam. Mankind has never been omniscient and will not be so in the future.

A balanced economy is like a see-saw, if you put too much weight on one end, it stops working. This is not rocket science. Our economy became unbalanced when too much money flowed to one end. How did this happen? Here goes. (09/13/12)

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Arctic Warming Accelerating! ! !

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/62750000/gif/_62750557_2012.gifBBC Polar Science — Scientists in the Arctic are warning that this summer’s record-breaking melt is part of an accelerating trend with profound implications. Norwegian researchers report that the sea ice is becoming significantly thinner and more vulnerable. Last month, the annual thaw of the region’s floating ice reached the lowest level since satellite monitoring began, more than 30 years ago. It is thought the scale of the decline may even affect Europe’s weather.

The melt is set to continue for at least another week – the peak is usually reached in mid-September – while temperatures here remain above freezing.

The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) is at the forefront of Arctic research and its international director, Kim Holmen, told the BBC that the speed of the melting was faster than expected.

“It is a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago,” Dr Holmen said. “And it has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us.”

The institute has been deploying its icebreaker, Lance, to research conditions between Svalbard and Greenland – the main route through which ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean. During a visit to the port, one of the scientists involved, Dr Edmond Hansen, told me he was “amazed” at the size and speed of this year’s melt.

“As a scientist, I know that this is unprecedented in at least as much as 1,500 years. It is truly amazing – it is a huge dramatic change in the system,” Dr Hansen said. “This is not some short-lived phenomenon – this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating – you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what’s happening.” (09/11/12)

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The Top American Science Questions in 2012

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Future Positive — Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking.  ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.

ScienceDebate then worked with a number of  the leading US science and engineering organizations to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012. Here is their answer:

1. Innovation and the Economy.  Science and technology have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federal government first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation?

2. Climate Change.  The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

3. Research and the Future.  Federally funded research has helped to produce America’s major postwar economies and to ensure our national security, but today the UK, Singapore, China, and Korea are making competitive investments in research.  Given that the next Congress will face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in research in your upcoming budgets?

4. Pandemics and Biosecurity.  Recent experiments show how Avian flu may become transmissible among mammals. In an era of constant and rapid international travel, what steps should the United States take to protect our population from emerging diseases, global pandemics and/or deliberate biological attacks?

5. Education.  Increasingly, the global economy is driven by science, technology, engineering and math, but a recent comparison of 15-year-olds in 65 countries found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 23rd, while average U.S. math scores ranked 31st.  In your view, why have American students fallen behind over the last three decades, and what role should the federal government play to better prepare students of all ages for the science and technology-driven global economy? (07/23/12)

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British Butterflies in Freefall

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Small tortoiseshell (c) Jim Asher/ Butterfly ConservationBBC Animal Science — The British butterfly population is continuing a marked downward trend. This is according to a national survey which revealed that numbers of the insects fell by more than 20% between 2010 and 2011.

The results, announced by the charity Butterfly Conservation, appear to contrast with a recent study revealing a boom in numbers of rare UK species. But while rare species may thrive in Britain’s “pollinator hot spots”, the more general outlook appears bleak. …

In July and August 2011, more than 500 volunteers counted butterflies on these patches of countryside. Each person counted an average of 47 butterflies and saw seven different species. This is a reduction of more than 20% in the number of butterflies per survey compared to 2010. It is also a 40% reduction compared with 2009, when each recorder saw an average of 80 butterflies and eight different species.

Butterfly Conservation has blamed the decline on “last year’s record-breaking cold summer”, but also said there was a long-term and “ongoing deterioration of suitable butterfly habitat across the countryside”.

The once ubiquitous small tortoiseshell was one of the species badly-affected, with less than one seen per kilometre walked, on average. Butterfly Conservation says that, less than a decade ago, this species was “likely to be seen in almost every garden and flowery place through the summer months”. (06/01/12)

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A Jubilee for Student Debt?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

College StudentsYes! Magazine — Ellen Brown writes: Among the many ideas posed by different groups of protesters on Wall Street and around the nation is student debt forgiveness—a debt “jubilee.” Occupy Philly has a “Student Loan Jubilee Working Group,” and other groups are studying the issue.

Commentators say debt forgiveness is impossible.  Who would foot the bill?  But there is one deep pocket that could pull it off—the Federal Reserve.  In its first quantitative easing program (QE1), the Fed removed $1.3 trillion in toxic assets from the books of Wall Street banks.  For QE4, it could remove $1 trillion in toxic debt from the backs of millions of students.

The economy would be the better for it, as was shown by the G.I. Bill, which provided virtually free higher education for returning veterans, along with low-interest loans for housing and business. The G.I. Bill had a sevenfold return, making it one of the best investments Congress ever made.

There are arguments against a complete student debt write-off, including that it would reward private universities that are already charging too much, and it would unfairly exclude other forms of debt from relief.  But the point here is that it could be done, and it would represent a significant stimulus to the economy.

Toxic Student Debt: The Next “Black Swan”?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is heavily populated with students—many without jobs—groaning under the impossible load of student debts that have been excluded from the usual consumer protections.  A whole generation of young people has been seduced into debt peonage by the promise of better jobs if they invest in higher education, only to find that the jobs are not there when they graduate.  If the students default on their loans, lenders can now jack up interest rates and fees, garnish wages, and destroy credit ratings; and the debts can no longer be discharged in bankruptcy.

Total U.S. student debt has risen to $1 trillion—more than U.S. credit card debt.  Defaults are also rising; and with a very tight job market, the situation is expected to get worse.  The threat of massive student loan defaults requiring another taxpayer bailout has been called a systemic risk as serious as the bank failures that brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse in 2008.  To prevent a repeat of that disaster, we need to defuse the student debt time bomb before it blows.  But how?  (11/03/11)

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Danger and Opportunity

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

http://www.spg-corp.com/images/decr-7.jpgCommUnity of Minds— Donald B. Halcom writes: The recent history of the United States of America has indicated a propensity for economic “bubbles”. The “.com” bubble of the 1990’s, the “housing bubble” of the 2000’s and indeed the current National Debt crisis of the USA are all manifestations of bubbles.

The belief in bubbles is inherently tied to a false belief in the infinite. This is a false belief because there is nothing on the earth that is infinite. Infinite growth of money, property values, debt, the stock market or any other earthly resource is physically impossible. We all live on a finite planet with finite resources. There are those who will claim that the National Debt is not a bubble. This is profoundly not true. The payment of the National Debt is based upon the false assumption of continuous and unrelenting growth of the US economy. These false assumptions based upon infinite growth will produce monumental tragedies eventually.

This is being written with the intent of educating as many people as possible about a future that may be absolutely devastating or, if we execute well, a new dawn for mankind.

Short Synopsis of the Intent

1)     Fossil fuels are finite resources.

2)     Sunshine is a finite resource.

3)     Fossil fuels stored the sun’s energy over millions of years.

4)     We are about to consume all this energy over about 300 years.

5)     Once this stored energy is consumed, the energy party is over.

6)     Fossil fuels are also the sources for many chemicals.

7)     When fossil fuels are gone, our chemical party is also over.

8)     The infrastructure of the world will change post fossil fuels.

9)     A new infrastructure must replace the old before the old dies.

10)   Failure to do so will produce devastation.

The history of the world has always been about the exploitation of resources in one form or another. Before the year 1800, these exploitation’s were mainly about agricultural resources. Agriculture requires arable land and a consistent supply of water. Wild trees and grasses are also agricultural resources. Countless wars were fought over these resources. Resource wars over minerals such as precious metals and iron were also important. About the only exceptions to these resource wars were religious wars.

Using the year 1800 as a reference, mankind’s resources began to change. The exploitation of coal began and this initiated the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the steam engine led to larger scales of farming and locomotives plus much more. Mankind cannot exploit what he does not know exists.

Somewhere around 1860 the exploitation of oil began.  Fossil fuel exploitation, including natural gas, really began to grow. Internal combustion engines were invented, without which the airplane would not exist. People like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and James Clerk Maxwell came along. These people, among others, led to the exploitation of hydroelectric power as well as fossil fuel fired electrical plants. About the year 1900 the exploitations of fossil fuels were in full bloom.

Fossil fuels lay in the ground for at least a million years before mankind discovered them. Before DNA created plant life on the earth there was no oxygen in the atmosphere. There were no life forms that used oxygen to live. There was no coal, oil or methane. The plant life took light from the sun, carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the atmosphere and water from rain to form hydrocarbons. The growth and death cycles of these plants repeated over millions of years and their residues were covered by dirt. Eventually the residues were under enough pressure to form coal, oil and methane down in the bowels of the earth. (10/30/11)

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