Tuesday, December 9, 2008

U.S. Drought Monitor

Current status: extreme drought on the Southeastern coast and in central Texas. Most of California is in "severe" drought.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blinded by Noise

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Ninth Circuit's decision banning the use of offshore sonar, allowing the Navy to continue blasting high-decibel bursts into waters off the coast of Southern California. The sonic blasts are believed to have the capacity to disorient, shock, and deafen whales and other cetaceans.

Meanwhile, new studies are showing that increasing carbon dioxide levels, which are being partially absorbed by the oceans, are compounding the issue of ocean noise -- producing a lethally -- and blindingly -- cacophonous environment for cetaceans, for whom underwater sound plays the role of both hearing and vision.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


There is something wonderful about these incinerator hot spots in Japan:
Besides not being smelly, smoky or deadly, Japan's urban incinerators are often not ugly. Indeed, many are architecturally significant and some are social hotspots.

The renowned architect Yoshio Taniguchi, designer of the expanded Museum of Modern Art in New York, also designed Hiroshima's incineration plant, an eye-catching tourist attraction that the architect has called "my museum of garbage."

Here in Tokyo, about 186,000 people a year frequent the Toshima Incineration Plant. These visitors, most of whom live in the neighborhood, come to swim and exercise in the plant's handsome and affordable fitness center.

The center was added to the incinerator complex when it was built in the late 1990s to appease neighbors appalled by the prospect of millions of tons of garbage being burned in their back yard.

Those neighbors now swim in a pool heated by burning garbage. They work out in rooms lighted by electricity generated from a steam-driven turbine linked to the furnace that burns the garbage. Surplus electricity, enough for 20,000 homes, is sold into the grid. The complex also has a health clinic for the elderly.

Ash from the incinerator is melted into a sandy slag used in asphalt, bricks and concrete.
Wash Post.

The Japanese, for reasons of geography and space, have always had to economize. There seems to be a lot that can be learnt from their new use of and relationship to waste.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Precious Bodily Fluids

Space toilet.

The election is over, and now I can stop obsessing about daily polling out of Western Pennsylvania. Time to care about water, the earth, sea mammals, weather, pollution, invasive species, and jellyfish again! I'm sure I've lost any and all readership this site once had during the long political hiatus. Oh well, we'll just have to start from scratch.

Toilet to tap is not just for the OC: it's coming to a space station near you!
Under the new system, urine undergoes an initial distillation process and then joins the rest of the recovered fluids in the water processor. The processor filters out solids such as hair and lint and then sends the wastewater through a series of multifiltration beds, in which contaminants are removed through adsorption and ion exchange.

"What's left over in the water are a few non adsorbing organics and solvents, like nail polish remover, and they go into a reactor that breaks them all down to carbon dioxide, water and a few ions," said Hand, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

After a final check for microbes, the water is again clean and ready to drink.
Science Daily

Just a matter of time before we have this system in our homes, now that we are officially a hardcore commie nation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beluga Whales in Alaska Receive Protection -- Despite Palin's Best Efforts

The U.S. government acknowledged earlier this month that beluga whales are now endangered:
The Bush administration Friday designated a small, isolated population of beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet as endangered, rejecting arguments from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that the small, white whales were on their way to recovery.

The National Marine Fisheries Service decided to extend federal protections to these whales near Anchorage after their numbers declined nearly 50% in the 1990s. The whales failed to rebound despite a decade-long program to revive the species.

"In spite of protections already in place, Cook Inlet beluga whales are not recovering," said James W. Balsiger, acting director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

As you may recall, Palin had previously made an unsuccessful bid to keep polar bears off the endangered species list. Her reasoning in both cases was that placing the polar bears and whales on the endangered species list might hinder off-shore drilling and other gas exploration. Imagine Palin's incredible short-sightedness that causes her to come out against protecting these animals -- in the face of climate change, increased pollution, and a generally degraded environment that threatens to render species extinct -- never to be seen on our planet again -- Palin opts to continue our short-term goals of getting a little more gas to drive our snow machines and SUVs for a few years more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goats Flight

I used to ride the bus to an office building downtown. I got off the bus at Hill Street, and walked up the steps next to Angels Flight. I am quite sad that my commute no longer takes me that way, as I am missing walking past goats grazing on the Angels Flight hill:
Leaders of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency hired 100 goats to nibble away thick weeds on a steep slope at the corner of 4th and Hill streets, next to the Angels Flight funicular.

Agency officials said the goats were cheaper and more environmentally friendly than two-legged brush-clearers armed with gasoline-powered weed-whackers.

And they are much more fun to watch, downtown office workers and other passersby quickly decided, as the animals fanned out over the 45-degree slope and chowed down.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Postcard from Germany; the Future Belongs to Dead Zones; Clean and Natural

First, a note that this blog is not solely about jellyfish. That said, the glorious jellyfish photo above was sent to me by my good friend the Tonic Blotter. He took this photo in Travemünde, Germany. He reports that the harbor there was full of these jellyfish. Normally, he takes fantastic pictures of birds.

Speaking of the march of the jellyfish, dead zones are appearing at a terrifying rate in coastal waters, doubling every decade since the 1960s:
In the latest sign of trouble in the planet's chemistry, the number of oxygen-starved "dead zones" in coastal waters around the world has roughly doubled every decade since the 1960s, killing fish, crabs and massive amounts of marine life at the base of the food chain, according to a study released yesterday.

"These zones are popping up all over," said Robert Diaz, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who led the study, published online by the journal Science.

Diaz and co-author Rutger Rosenberg of the University of Goteborg in Sweden counted more than 400 dead zones globally, ranging from expansive ones in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to small ones that episodically appear in river estuaries. Collectively, they cover about 95,000 square miles.

Low oxygen, known as hypoxia, is in significant measure a downstream effect of chemical fertilizers used in agriculture. Air pollution, including smog from automobiles, is another factor. The nitrogen from the fertilizer and the pollution feeds the growth of algae in coastal waters, particularly during summer.

The result is feast-then-famine: The algae eventually die and sink to the bottom, where the organic matter decays in a process that robs the bottom waters of oxygen. The ensuing die-off of marine life cuts down on the productivity of commercial fisheries. The "biomass" missing because of depleted oxygen in the Chesapeake Bay, Diaz estimated, is enough to feed half the number of crabs that are commercially harvested in a typical year.
Wash. Post.

And I am obligated to post the story the NYT ran in last Sunday's magazine on the growing number of cities implementing toilet to tap to process waste water into potable drinking water. Coming to a tap near you.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jellyfish Take Over Planet

In the end, the world will be left to the cockroaches, Wall*E, and the . . . jellyfish, which, as noted here last year, are exploding in population and spreading across the globe, as oxygen levels in oceans drop, their predators are over-fished, and waters warm:
Jellyfish, relatives of the sea anemone and coral that for the most part are relatively harmless, in fact are the cockroaches of the open waters, the ultimate maritime survivors who thrive in damaged environments, and that is what they are doing.

Within the past year, there have been beach closings because of jellyfish swarms on the Côte d’Azur in France, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and at Waikiki and Virginia Beach in the United States.

In Australia, more than 30,000 people were treated for stings last year, double the number in 2005. The rare but deadly Irukandji jellyfish is expanding its range in Australia’s warming waters, marine scientists say.

While no good global database exists on jellyfish populations, the increasing reports from around the world have convinced scientists that the trend is real, serious and climate-related, although they caution that jellyfish populations in any one place undergo year-to-year variation.

“Human-caused stresses, including global warming and overfishing, are encouraging jellyfish surpluses in many tourist destinations and productive fisheries,” according to the National Science Foundation, which is issuing a report on the phenomenon this fall and lists as problem areas Australia, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Black Sea, Namibia, Britain, the Mediterranean, the Sea of Japan and the Yangtze estuary.

Scientists see the rise of the jellyfish as an ominous sign that something has gone seriously wrong in the delicate balance of life in the ocean. Does the future belong to faceless, mindless stinging goop? I guess we could adapt, like "Jellyfish Fukuda" in Japan, and start munching on the new crowds of jellyfish.

It's going to be a long century.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The End is Here?

An opinion piece in the Sunday L.A. Times on the need to scale back or end growth in Southern California in the face of disappearing water sources touches on most of the core themes of this blog -- and should scare the crap out of SoCal residents.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poo-water coming (back) to L.A.

Apparently, L.A. tried the recycled water plan before, but people were grossed out by the "toilet-to-tap" label. But people are adaptable: with the drought and the price of water continuing to rise, we'll probably be fine with the recycled water.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Future Looks -- Dry

From Mongabay.com:
By 2025 more than half of countries will face freshwater stress or shortages and by 2050 as much as 75 percent of the world's population could face freshwater scarcity, but policy measures and new technologies could help reduce the shortfall, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.

Shark Attacks

Sharks off the coast of Mexico are apparently hungry: the first deaths from shark attacks in Mexico in 30 years took place this spring. Some believe the recent uptick in shark sightings and attacks at beaches may relate to the decline in the populations of sharks' traditional prey, like salmon.

The Waters

I haven't followed the stories about the flooding in the Midwest as closely as I should have. One thing seems clear: the weather is out of joint. Drought here in Southern California, uncontrollable flooding in the Midwest, killer cyclones in Southeast Asia: water, the lack of it or the surfeit of it, seems to be something we will be dealing with for a long time to come.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

L.A. Is Green?

Well, that's what some survey released this week says. There are, of course, some caveats and qualifications:From the air, Los Angeles hardly looks like an environmental paragon. It sprawls heroically, seeming to begin well before passengers from the east are told to fasten their seatbelts. On warm days a thin brown haze hangs over the city. Its most striking feature is its freeways—rivers flowing with glass and steel that turn red and white at night. Yet on May 29th the Brookings Institution reported that the residents of the “neon-lighted slum”, as Raymond Chandler called it, generated less carbon per person than any other metropolis in continental America.Economist.

The study's authors defended L.A.'s number two spot on the greenest cities list, noting that many of the popular conceptions about L.A. are simply wrong:
Los Angeles' spot as No. 2 in low per capita emissions brought surprise from some urban development experts who look upon the region as a poster child for sprawl, flaunting a committed car culture and low transit ridership.

But the study authors defended the rankings by saying Los Angeles is "not your parents' L.A."

"Los Angeles has changed. Over the last 10 years, we've seen that statistically Los Angeles is a surprisingly dense metropolitan area. While it lacks the impressive profile of New York, we see small lot sizes, shared walls, multifamily buildings, and the development is often master planned," said Mark Muro, policy director at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

"It's an intensely urban place. We call it dense sprawl," Muro said.
SF Chronicle.

It appears that one major reason behind L.A.'s surprising standing in the survey is our famously mild weather. We use less heating and air-conditioning than places like D.C. or Baltimore. The Economist reads a somewhat startling development prescription in the Brookings study:
These days Los Angeles is trying to improve its environmental image by encouraging developers to build blocks of flats. The Brookings report suggests this approach is wrong, or at least inadequate. The metropolis should build more bungalows rather than force families who want them to live farther inland, where temperatures are higher. There is plenty of room for more concrete on the coast. Between Orange county and the city of San Diego, for example, lies little besides tomato farms and a military base. To save the planet, fire up the bulldozers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Free Prescription Drugs?

Recent studies have found disturbing cocktails of pharmaceutical drugs in municipal drinking water supplies around the country. The drugs make their way into the water supplies after being imbibed, injected, or ingested by people, and then being washed down into the sewage system. No one is quite sure what the health risks are of these trace levels of drugs in drinking water. Filters at home -- and even bottled water -- will not prevent exposure to the drugs in drinking water:
So how are all these drugs getting in the water in the first place? Some fraction of every dose a person takes passes through unmetabolized and is evacuated by the body and flushed into sewage systems. Sewage treatment plants are meant to remove the more familiar kinds of pollutants, and typically do not remove pharmaceuticals from waste water as it is cleaned up and released back into the environment, eventually to find its way into other water supply systems. In some places, treated sewage water is reused directly for drinking water after several filtration processes to make it safe, although none of the systems in wide use effectively remove pharmaceuticals.

That Brita filter in your kitchen is not likely to do the trick, either. As for bottled water, it, too, may come from a tap, rather than some remote mountain spring. And the trade group representing bottled-water sellers told The A.P. that they aren’t testing for the presence of trace drugs anyway.

Don't worry, though. The experts say everything is fine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Coming Water Wars

My good friend the Tonic Blotter tips us to an interesting article on possible future U.S. exploitation of our good friends to the north and their fresh water reserves: "Canada, with less than 1 percent of the world’s population, is estimated to have as much as 9 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water supply." Canada Dry, anyone?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Aqueducts and Empire; Fortress L.A.

An interesting article on the relationship between the Roman aqueducts and the strength and scope of the Roman Empire.

Also, for Mike Davis fans, a piece in the LA Times a few days ago about the rise of bunker (and bulletproof) architecture in L.A:
Seniors in Steel Plaza's retirement complex in Pico-Union sometimes like to take their morning walks in the building's courtyard, protected by a black wrought-iron fence and perched 30 feet above the intersection of West 3rd Street and South Union Avenue.

"We're quite safe here," said Victor Gamad, 73, who has lived in the building since it opened a decade ago. "We never get frightened, except for when someone sets the fire alarm off."

Steel Plaza, which opened in 1998, was designed to be "drive-by proof."

It is one of the early examples of what has become a growing movement in urban sections of Los Angeles to blend public safety with architecture -- with some surprising results.

Last year, officials built a dirt hill at a new state park north of downtown aimed at shielding a play area from motorists who might commit drive-by shootings. Workers are now building a South L.A. community center with a community garden on the roof rather than at street level to protect against crime.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lake Mead and Vegas

The loss of water supply on the Vegas strip the other day may just be a foreshadowing of things to come.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Warm Dead Waters

More ominous news from the Pacific Northwest: Chinook salmon are disappearing. A prime suspect? changing ocean conditions:
Bill Petersen, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research center in Newport, Ore., said other stocks of anadromous Pacific fish — those that migrate from freshwater to saltwater and back — had been anemic this year, leading him to suspect ocean changes.

After studying changes in the once-predictable pattern of the Northern Pacific climate, Mr. Petersen found that in 2005 the currents that rise from the deeper ocean, bringing with them nutrients like phytoplankton and krill, were out of sync. “Upwelling usually starts in April and goes until September,” he said. “In 2005, it didn’t start until July.”

Mr. Petersen’s hypothesis about the salmon is that “the fish that went to sea in 2005 died a few weeks after getting to the ocean” because there was nothing to eat. A couple of years earlier, when the oceans were in a cold-weather cycle, the opposite happened — the upwelling was very rich. The smolts of that year were later part of the largest run of fall Chinook ever recorded.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Inter-species Communication

An amazing story about a dolphin that apparently communicated with stranded whales in New Zealand, and thereby helped save them.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Doomsday Vault: Archive Fever in Cold Storage

The NYT runs a fascinating article today on a seed archive being built deep underground on a Norwegian island:
With plant species disappearing at an alarming rate, scientists and governments are creating a global network of plant banks to store seeds and sprouts, precious genetic resources that may be needed for man to adapt the world’s food supply to climate change.

This week, the flagship of that effort, the Global Seed Vault near here, received its first seeds, millions of them. Bored into the middle of a frozen Arctic mountain topped with snow, the vault’s goal is to store and protect samples of every type of seed from every seed collection in the world.

As of Thursday, thousands of neatly stacked and labeled gray boxes of seeds — peas from Nigeria, corn from Mexico — reside in this glazed cavelike structure, forming a sort of backup hard drive, in case natural disasters or human errors erase the seeds from the outside world.

Descending almost 500 feet under the permafrost, the entrance tunnel to the seed vault is designed to withstand bomb blasts and earthquakes. An automated digital monitoring system controls temperature and provides security akin to a missile silo or Fort Knox. No one person has all the codes for entrance.

The Global Vault is part of a broader effort to gather and systematize information about plants and their genes, which climate change experts say may indeed prove more valuable than gold. In Leuven, Belgium, scientists are scouring the world for banana samples and preserving their shoots in liquid nitrogen before they become extinct. A similar effort is under way in France on coffee plants. A number of plants, most from the tropics, do not produce seeds that can be stored.

Because Scandinavians are involved, the article had to note that the boxes were "neatly stacked" and that everything was nicely "organized". I have a couple reactions to this doomsday seed vault. First, it's a little terrifying to realize that so many people, organizations, governments, etc., are so concerned and investing in this bomb-proof seed vault. On the other hand, it's also sort of amazing and life-affirming that people in all sorts of place, various states, etc., are coming together to put this vault together. This cooperation to preserve humanity fills me with that warm Star Trek, or Deep Impact humanity-united-to-save-itself feeling.

Of course, if the apocalypse did come and everything was left dead, there would surely be a war on for this archive of seeds. And even Scandinavian organization and neatness would go by the wayside as groups battled to own the past, and therefore, the future.

In any event, I've always been taken with the idea of a seed archive -- all of these life-containing materials from the past waiting, in storage, filed away, for a day when they will be referenced, hybridized, brought into bloom again, as something new -- the past bursting into the present. An archive, gathering and organizing the past, contains the promise of -- and to -- the future:
In an enigmatic sense which will clarify itself perhaps . . . , the question of the archive is not, I repeat, a question of the past, the question of a concept dealing with the past which already might either be at our disposal or not at out disposal, an archivable concept of the archive, but rather a question of the future, the very question of the future, question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what this will have meant, we will only know tomorrow. Perhaps. A spectral messianicity is at work in the concept of the archive and like religion, like history, like science itself, this ties it to a very singular experience of the promise.
Jacques Derrida, An E-mail to Freud (in Archive Fever).

(P.S. -- To any survivors of some future apocalypse searching the internet for keys to survival who have come across this post -- the Global Seed Vault is located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. Good luck to you!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Running on Empty

The L.A. Times is running a series of editorials on water and water policy. It's welcome news that the Times is taking the issue of L.A.'s water resources seriously. From today's editorial:
The early history of Los Angeles was defined by its struggle to get water wherever, and whenever, it could. William Mulholland and his colleagues did such a good job of securing water supplies during the early 20th century -- building the 223-mile-long, gravity-fed Los Angeles Aqueduct, which imports water from the Owens Valley; establishing the Metropolitan Water District, which brings in water from the Colorado River and Northern California -- that those of us living here today take for granted our lush gardens and year-round blooms. They appear a native bounty when they are, in fact, a work of man. We offer pious lip service to the notion that water is scarce when the weather is dry, only to forget our concerns at the fall of the first raindrop. Implicitly, we behave as if water will always be available and unlimited.

This must change. This page did not like the water bond that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed last year, but he is on to something when he insists that California needs to rethink its complicated and woefully overburdened water system. It has been said many times before, but it bears repeating: Our state's breathtaking natural beauty, envied easygoing lifestyle and booming economy . . . depend on an ambitiously conceived network of aqueducts, pumps, dams and pipes that will literally run dry if we don't invest heavily to change the way we use, capture, store and distribute water.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dead Zones

Apologies for my long absence.

First, an interesting interview at Alternet with Maude Barlow on the future of water.

Second, of special interest for inhabitants of the American Southwest, the frightening developments at and forecasts for Lake Mead:
Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.

Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.

“We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.”
NYT [hat tip to Tonic Blotter]

Third, vast dead zones in the Pacific, off the coast of Washington:
Where scientists previously found a sea bottom abounding with life, two years ago they discovered the rotting carcasses of crabs, starfish and sea worms, swooshing from side to side in the current. Most fish had fled -- and those that didn't or couldn't joined the deathfest on the sea floor.

Extraordinarily low oxygen levels were to blame -- swept up from the deep ocean into normally productive waters just off the Pacific Northwest coast by uncharacteristically strong winds.

On Thursday scientists announced they had documented that low oxygen levels that killed the sea life in 2006 were the lowest in a half-century -- and that for the first time, parts of the ocean off our coast were measured with zero oxygen in the water; 2007 looked only a bit better.

Strong winds and low oxygen levels have persisted for eight summers now, leading scientists to conclude that the ocean may be "poised for significant reorganization"-- their way of saying an ecosystem gone awry.

It looks like the Pacific has reached a "tipping point," a threshold where low-oxygen levels are becoming the rule, researchers said. And while scientists can't prove it's caused by a changing climate, that's consistent with what is predicted by computer projections built to anticipate global warming.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Finally, a murder mystery. Someone or something is killing sea lions on the Galapagos:
Ecuadorean officials are investigating the slaughter of 53 sea lions from the Galapagos Islands nature reserve, which were found with their heads caved in.
The dead animals included 13 pups, 25 youngsters, nine males and six females.

Galapagos National Park official Victor Carrion told AFP news agency that each was killed by "a strong blow from someone", though the motive is unknown.

They had not been injured in any other way, he said, discounting the notion they had been killed for their parts.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Year of the Rat Begins Inauspiciously

They're having super weird weather in China, which is messing up Lunar New Year travels (think of several hundred million people starring in their own versions of Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, but in China):
China's worst snow storms in decades forced the cancellation of more than 3,250 flights over the six days through noon on Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

The weather also delayed 5,550 flights and caused 380 planes to be diverted, Xinhua quoted the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China as saying.

They don't do small in China. In response to the massive snowstorms, the government has dispatched "about 460,000 army troops and paramilitary forces . . . to areas hit worst by the heavy snows to help clear roads, restore power and conduct relief operations . . . ." NYT. The Year of the Rat and the first Summer Games in China looks to be off to a rocky start.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Deluge

A rainbow over Eagle Rock during a break in the rains

It's been raining for a week straight here in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Napoli sta annegandosi in rifiuti

Naples is drowning in trash:
Nobody knows how much garbage has been rotting in the streets of Naples for the past several weeks. It is several meters high in some places, and in total may be up to tens of thousands of tons. Naples has always been a doomed city (it is only a matter of time before Vesuvius erupts again), and the current crisis has provoked predictably grim headlines, such as "Naples Beneath an Eruption of Garbage."
WSJ; see also AFP.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

George Bush vs. Marine Mammals

image by Alessio Marrucci; GNU FDL

Earlier this month, a district judge ruled that the Navy had to stop using powerful sonar in training missions in Southern California waters unless the Navy used the sonar more than 12 miles off the coast and adopted other measures to lessen the effect on whales and dolphins. The powerful sonar blasts used by the Navy were deafening whales and dolphins, resulting in the animals losing the ability to navigate, ending up beached, and death:
In her rulings, [Judge] Cooper has said she tried to balance national security needs with environmental protections -- specifically those to prevent unnecessary harm to whales and dolphins from mid-frequency active sonar. That's the type the Navy uses to detect quiet diesel-electric submarines.

She has cited scientific studies linking U.S. and NATO warships' use of sonar to the deaths and injuries of beaked whales and other marine mammals. She also has reiterated the Navy's own predictions that the upcoming exercises off Southern California "will cause widespread harm to nearly 30 species of marine mammals."

In response to the Judge's ruling, President Bush decided to step in and offer some kind of "waiver" to the Navy; it's unclear whether he has any grounds to do this.

Meanwhile, some of you may wonder what it is that these sonar blasts into the oceans are for; they're to help protect us from quiet diesel-electric submarines off our shores sent there by all those countries that want to attack us and start a war with the United States.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pulling Back

Image: Hannes Grobe 21:51, 12 August 2006 (UTC), Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany - Creative Commons License

A large construction project in the high desert outside L.A. is put on hold because builders cannot guarantee that there will be enough water for the development. This feels like the beginnings of a settling in of the realization that Greater Los Angeles cannot simply continue to ooze endlessly into the desert. With the drought on the Colorado River, in the snow packs of the Sierras, and the Delta Smelt ruling, Southern California will be forcing more of these hard choices in the future.

Meanwhile, in Antarctica, a new study finds that the western Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a rapidly accelerating rate:
[T]he new study is the first to show that this loss is accelerating, at least in western Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, the researchers say.

"In all the ice sheet models we have at present for Antarctica, things happen very slowly," Bamber said.

"[But] we're seeing things happen rather quickly."

They found that for Antarctica overall, ice loss increased about 75 percent over the ten-year period, from 112 gigatons of ice per year in 1996 to 196 gigatons of ice per year in 2006.
Too little water, too much water.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's Been A Long Time

And I'm very sorry. I got too caught up in the Road to the White House 2008.

While I was away, I failed to cover the deluge that hit Southern California over the weekend. It was amazing and terrifying.

Orange County's turning sewage into drinking water is now on-line.

Somewhere, up north, the delta smelt lives on.