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UK faces serious winter blackout risk - National Grid's rosy nuclear forecast fails reality test

Chris Goodall

31st October 2014

Hurricane Sandy brought this blackout to Lower Manhattan in October 2012. Unless Britain's nuclear power stations perform implausibly well this winter, we could well be sharing the experience. Photo: Reeve Jolliffe via Flickr. The National Grid's forecast for UK power supply this winter relies on overstating the availability of increasingly unreliable nuclear power stations, writes Chris Goodall. Realistic estimates of nuclear, gas and coal power station availability shrink the 'safety margin' to zero. more...

Fracking is driving UK civil and political rights violations

Jess Elliot & Damien Short

30th October 2014

Anne Power surrounded by police at an anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss, December 2013. Photo: Steven Speed / SalfordStar.com. Extreme energy in the UK is arousing extreme reactions, write Jess Elliot & Damien Short. On the one side stand citizens committed to preserving the quality of the local and global environment. And against them, a government determined to let fracking rip, and police forces prepared to ignore legal norms to suppress the growing popular resistance. more...

Oil palm explosion driving West Africa's Ebola outbreak

Richard Kock

29th October 2014

An enormous plantation cut from the Liberian rainforest. Photo: Chulius Caesar via Flickr. The medical response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been monstrously inadequate, writes Richard Kock. But so has been recognition of the underlying causes - in particular the explosive spread of industrial oil palm, which disrupts the ecology of forests and farms, and undermines local economy and traditional governance, leading to a 'perfect storm' of disease. more...

Brazil's giant dam programme is a climate disaster

Helle Abelvik-Lawson / Greenpeace

28th October 2014

The Balbina Dam reservoir. Photo: via Greenpeace. Brazil's newly elected Dilma Roussef is committed to completing the disastrous Belo Monte dam, writes Helle Abelvik-Lawson. Worse, she looks certain to press ahead with the industrialisation of the Amazon, with 61 hydroprojects in the pipeline. And new scientific findings about the massive climate impacts of tropical forest dams are not about to stop her. more...

Leaked Sellafield photos reveal 'massive radioactive release' threat

Oliver Tickell

27th October 2014

The B30 pond showing a full loading with fuel rods. Photo: unknown. Dilapidated nuclear waste storage ponds abandoned 40 years ago containing hundreds of tonnes of fuel rods pose an immediate danger to public safety, photographs sent to The Ecologist reveal. The fuel and sludge in the ponds could spontaneously ignite if exposed to air, spreading intense radiation over a wide area. more...

Latin American progressives and environmental duplicity

Daniel Macmillen

26th October 2014

Texaco's signature, written in oil, at Lago Agrio in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo: Julien Gomba via Flickr. Left wing governments across the Americas are faced with a dilemma, writes Daniel Macmillen - high social spending programs financed by income from destructive mining and hydrocarbon extraction - or a slower but sustainable development path that puts ecology, equity and justice first. Their answer - a constant pushing back of the resource frontier. more...

Ghana's farmers battle ‘Monsanto law' to retain seed freedom

Chris Walker & Oliver Tickell

24th October 2014

Farmers in Ghana marching against the Plant Breeders Bill, now before the country's parliament, September 2014. Photo: Food Sovereignty Ghana. Ghana's government is desperate to pass a Plant Breeders Bill that would remove farmers' ancient 'seed freedom' to grow, retain, breed and develop crop varieties - while giving corporate breeders a blanket exemption from seed regulations. Now the farmers are fighting back. more...

Ebola: don't blame the bats!

Alexandra Kamins, Marcus Rowcliffe & Olivier Restif

23rd October 2014

In Ghana, more than 100,000 straw coloured fruit bats are harvested as bushmeat every year. But the country is not affected by the Ebola epidemic. Photo: Diana Ranslam, CC BY-NC. Bats serve as a natural reservoir for the Ebola - but we cannot blame them for the epidemic. In Ghana alone people eat over 100,000 fruit bats a year as 'bushmeat', yet the country has escaped the epidemic. Much more research is needed to discover the mechanisms of transmission, and to devise effective, appropriate interventions. more...

Germany's green power surges ahead - at a price that's finally falling

Gert Brunekreeft

22nd October 2014

Landscape with hundreds of wind turbines close to the North Sea in Ostfriesland, Germany. Germany's transition to a renewable power system is on track, writes Gert Brunekreeft. But it's costing households €218 a year in surcharges, causing voter enthusiasm to wane. That may be about to change though. The surcharge is about to fall, while targets stay the same - a sign that renewable energy costs may be falling faster than expected. more...

Greening the revolution - Ukrainian youth joins fight for nature

Dimiter Kenarov

21st October 2014

Biology students from the National University of Kiev on a trash monitoring mission at the city's Lysa Hora nature park. Photo: Dimeter Kenarov. With 300,000 hectares of forests, fields and steppes damaged by fire, the war in Ukraine has done huge damage to the country's environment, writes Dimiter Kenarov. But there has been an upside: a new green spirit is taking root, and young volunteers are stepping in to protect wild spaces. more...

Ocean grabbing: a new wave of 21st century enclosures

Nick Buxton, Carsten Pedersen & Mads Christian Barbesgaard

20th October 2014

Fisherfolk on the beach, The Gambia. Photo: Angus Kirk via Flickr. Small-scale fishing communities are key to any transition towards an ecologically and socially just food regime. But backed by the World Bank, powerful corporate interests are seizing their fish, seas and shores in the name of 'sustainability'. A revolution of the poor is needed to rebuild food sovereignty - and restore the oceans to the global commons. more...

Bomb test veterans' grandchildren suffer health impacts

Chris Busby

16th October 2014

The UK's first bomb test: Operation Hurricane. The plutonium implosion device was exploded at sea at the Montebello Islands, West Australia, on 3rd October 1952. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. A scientific paper published this week shows that the severe health damage caused to UK bomb test veterans persists through the generations, writes Chris Busby. Their children and grandchildren are almost ten times more likely to suffer from congenital malformations than controls - and the only common cause is historic radiation exposure.
more...

France's 1,000 cow factory - a second battle of the Somme

Evan Jones

17th October 2014

Is France determined to put an end to this kind of farming? Cattle grazing in the marais d'Olonne, Vendée, in Western France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr. For all France's rhetoric about supporting the small farmer, the authorities are bending legalities to push through the country's biggest dairy farm, writes Evan Jones. This reveals the 'socialist' government true loyalties: to subsidy-driven 'free trade', and industrial agriculture that pollutes, depopulates, unemploys - and generates vast profits for a powerful elite. more...

Once a Sea - now it's the Aral Desert

Anson Mackay

16th October 2014

What was once the Aral Sea at Muinak, Qoraqalpoghiston, Uzbekistan. Photo: so11e via Flickr. The Aral Sea is a well known environmental disaster zone. But this year, it got a whole worse, writes Anson Mackay, as its biggest basin dried up completely to expose a toxic, salty wasteland. With continuing irrigation and declining river flows due to climate change, the desert is only set to expand. more...

Hinkley C will cost Britain dear - if it's ever built

Keith Barnham

15th October 2014

Greenpeace demonstration in Olkiluoto, Finland. Photo: Greenpeace Finland via Flickr. The UK Government promises that the Hinkley C 'EPR' nuclear reactor will lower electricity bills, but Keith Barnham shows that this is the very reverse of the truth. Our best hope is that it will never be built. Legal challenges aside, no sane investor will commit until one of the two EPR prototypes is working, which will be in 2016 at the earliest. more...

WWF International accused of 'selling its soul' to corporations

John Vidal / The Guardian

14th October 2014

Photo: Stéfan via Flickr. A new book charges the world's biggest conservation group with forging links with global corporations that are using its name to 'greenwash' environmentally damaging activities, writes John Vidal - in the process becoming too close to industry, and over-dependent on corporate funding. more...

Ethiopian tribes' ancient ways threatened by UK-backed sugar project

Matthew Newsome

10th October 2014

Commercial agriculture is creating an uncertain future for tribes like the ancient Hamer. Photo: Matthew Newsome. A massive sugar plantation and up to 700,000 migrant workers will occupy almost 2,000 sq.km of Ethiopia's Omo Valley, with the help of British aid finance. But the valley's native inhabitants have been given no choice in the matter, and are being forced to abandon their homes, lands, cattle, and entire way of life, or go to jail. more...

Crusaders and Zionists

Uri Avnery

12th October 2014

Krak des Chevaliers, the greatest of all the crusader castles, located in modern day Syria. Gavin Bannerman via Flickr. The words 'Crusaders' and 'Zionists' are appearing ever more often as twins, writes Uri Avnery - and there are astonishing historical resonances between the two. If Israel wants to avoid the fate of the medieval Crusaders, it had better start accentuating the differences, and become a true Middle Eastern state, rooted in the region's native soil and culture. more...

Unlawful, ineffective, toxic: the badger cull must end - vaccination is the answer

Dominic Dyer

10th October 2014

Never mind the questions, never mind the answers, never mind the evidence. The badgers will be culled. Photo: b/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA. The Badger Trust' is in the Court of Appeal today, making its case that the 2014 'trial' badger cull is unlawful, writes Dominic Dyer. But beyond that, the entire culling policy is driven by politics, not science, and is doomed to failure. It's time for Cameron to harness his 'big society' to apply a genuine solution: badger vaccination. more...

England's 'upland Amazon' destroyed for grouse shooting

Paul Brown

9th October 2014

Skilful heather burning can enhance biodiversity, according to the Moorland Association. Recently burnt heather at Ramshaw Rocks, Staffordshire. Photo: Paul via Flickr. The repeated burning of England's upland moors - carried out so more grouse can be reared for lucrative shooting parties - is seriously damaging a unique and valuable ecosystem, writes Paul Brown - destroying ages-old peat, reducing its capacity to retain water, and releasing megatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere. more...

Greens join Swedish government with radical environmental agenda

Dominic Hinde

8th October 2014

Sweden's Greens celebrate six ministerial positions in the new Social Democrat-led government. Photo: Miljöpartiet de gröna via Flickr. Sweden's Greens are in government for the first time, wriites Dominic Hinde, with six ministerial posts in the new Social Democrat / Green coalition. After eight years of Conservative-led government, the country is determined to resume its former role as a green pioneer, but many challenges lie ahead. more...

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