The Ecologist

 

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The Dounreay nuclear plant, now undergoing decommissioning, as seen from Sandside Bay in March 2008. Photo: Paul Wordingham via Flickr (CC BY).

UK-US air transports of high enriched uranium: global security at risk for commercial gain

Ernie Galsworthy / NFLA

3rd May 2016

Planned air transports of high-enriched uranium from Dounreay in Scotland to the US state of Tennessee would risk of accident or a terrorist seizure of weapon-usable nuclear material, writes Ernie Galsworthy. The motive for the transport appears to be purely commercial - and would thus put the public at needless risk for the sake of a cut-price nuclear waste / fuel deal between US and UK authorities. more...
The 'Daisyworld' model is integral to Gaia theory, developed by Dr James Lovelock, which proposes that organisms interact with their surroundings to form a complex, self-regulating system. Photo: Gordon Robertson via Flickr (CC BY).

Educating for Gaia: a wholistic approach to Earth science

Dr Stephen Harding

28th April 2016

As a society, we are strangely disconnected from the Earth, writes Stephan Harding. It's as if we were aliens placed here to prod and poke with our scientific instruments whilst feeling no sense of meaning, belonging or closeness to her ancient crumpled surface or rich, teeming biodiversity - a state of mind that a forthcoming course at Schumacher College aims to reverse. more...
Emerald ash borer is a saproxylic beetle native to Asia which feeds on Ash. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr (CC BY)

The fungus and the beetle: ash trees face wipeout from disease double whammy

Steve Woodward & Eric Boa

29th April 2016

Britain's ash woods are under threat from a fast-spreading 'dieback' disease, write Steve Woodward and Eric Boa. With 3% of ash trees resistant to the fungus, the species should just be able to survive. But now scientists fear the arrival of the Emerald ash borer beetle, already infesting forests in the US and mainland Europe. Could the two combine to push our ash trees into extinction? more...
A dust storm hits Jordan's  Zaatari refugee camp on 29th July 2012 shortly after it was established ear the northern city of Mafraq. Photo: European Commission DG ECHO via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Jordan grapples with the environmental consequences of its refugee crisis

Doug Weir

27th April 2016

Since 1948 Jordan has taken in millions of refugees from Palestine, Iraq and most recently Syria, writes Doug Weir. Politically and economically the country has proved astonishingly resilient - but the population increase has caused huge damage to its fragile environment. Ecological degradation, pollution and resource scarcity may cause political instability unless more is done to tackle the problems. more...
How CRISPR works: what could possibly go wrong? In fact, an awful lot, as it turns out. Image: James atmos via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

CRISPR and the three myths of precise genome editing

Jonathan Latham, PhD / Independent Science News

25th April 2016

The very term 'genetic engineering' implies high precision in the alterations made to genes and deep understanding of their consequences, writes Jonathan Latham. In fact, we have never had either. And even with the arrival of CRISPR and other 'gene editing' systems, that remains the case: technologists are thrashing about in a perilous sea of unfathomable complexities and unknowable outcomes. more...
From front cover of 'Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming' by Andreas Malm (Verso Books).

Fossil Capital: the rise of steam power and the roots of global warming

Irma Allen

27th April 2016

We all know that coal and steam vanquished over water power in Britain's - and the world's - industrial revolution, writes Irma Allen. But as Andreas Malm sets out in his fascinating new book, the deciding factors in that victory were the unconstrained mastery over people and nature that coal provided mill owners. And so the model was set for the fossil age that may only now be coming to an end. more...
Under construction: the New Safe Confinement arch at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, 23rd October 2013. Photo: Tim Porter via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA).

Chernobyl entombed: new sarcophagus aims to make site safe for 100 years

Claire Corkhill

26th April 2016

The Chernobyl sarcophagus which has long contained the fissured reactor core is at risk of collapse, writes Claire Corkhill. The solution: build a pair of tracked arches 260m wide and 100m high, and slide them over the site to enclose it for a century to come: so creating a sealed space for robots and remotely operated machinery to deconstruct the reactor and sarcophagus piece by radioactive piece. more...
A member of the National Guard - a department which costs over $8 billion a year. Photo: DVIDSHUB via Flickr (CC BY)

Global pitbulls: the US military mission to support corporate colonialism

Pete Dolack

22nd April 2016

With its 800 bases in 80 countries, the US's global military domination is often seen as an altruistic exercise to ensure world peace and harmony, writes Pete Dolack. It is, of course, the opposite: the essential underpinning of the US's predatory economic power, always ready to strike down any challenge to the rights and privileges of its corporate conquerors and financial oligarchy. more...
Image of CRISPR / Cas9. Image: NHGRI. via ja.wikimedia.org (Public Domain).

New GMOs are 'not GM' - EU folds under US pressure

Oliver Tickell

21st April 2016

The EU Commission has caved in to US pressure in TTIP trade talks by deciding to consider organisms modified by new 'gene editing' techniques as non-GM - in violation of the EU's own laws. The move could make the 'new GMOs' exempt from labeling and from health and environmental testing. more...
So cute! Two month old snow leopard cubs at the Cat Survival Trust in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, UK. Photo: dingopup via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Saving the Earth? I think there's an App for that

Paul Jepson, University of Oxford

21st April 2016

Consumer environmentalism aligns conservation with modern consumer culture, writes Paul Jepson, offering NGOs the means to reach new people and generate new funding streams. But it risks ever more shallow public engagement and digital activism where masses of people back 'solutions' that only make themselves feel good. more...
Longji terraces in Longsheng county, Guilin, China, January 2009. Photo: Anna Frodesiak via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Creating sustainability? Join the Re-Generation!

Daniel Christian Wahl

25th April 2016

Faced with multiple converging crises humanity is challenged to redesign the human presence on Earth within the lifetime of present generations, writes Daniel Christian Wahl, and so transform our impact from degeneration to regeneration. We are capable of creating diverse creative cultures elegantly adapted to the uniqueness of place. more...
Large wind and solar farms can be planned and built in 2-3 years (compared with 10-15 years for nuclear) and are ready now to replace fossil and nuclear electricity. Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND)

Renewable energy versus nuclear: dispelling the myths

Mark Diesendorf

19th April 2016

Don't believe the spurious claims of nuclear shills constantly doing down renewables, writes Mark Diesendorf. Clean, safe renewable energy technologies have the potential to supply 100% of the world's electricity needs - but the first hurdle is to refute the deliberately misleading myths designed to promote the politically powerful but ultimately doomed nuclear industry. more...

ec: 1/25 of 2159
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Cambodian army soldiers attack Chut Wutty, November 2011. Photo: Vanessa de Smet Last Line Productions / N1M.

Banned: premiere of film probing Cambodian ecodefender's murder

Rod Harbinson

21st April 2016

A film investigating the 2012 murder of a forest defender has been banned by the Cambodian Government, writes Rod Harbinson. Chut Wutty's campaign to protect the forest on which his community depends clashed with powerful business and military interests. A first attack by soldiers was held off by campaigners, but more...
Cabbage white butterfly with deformed wings (pinned to an insect board) that was fed an experimental diet enriched with long chain omega-3 fatty acids, 48 hours after emergence. Photo: PLOS One.

Nutritionally-enhanced GM crops? Too bad about the deformed butterflies

Claire Robinson / GMWatch

18th April 2016

It looked like such a good idea: take the pressure off wild fish stocks by growing GM oilseeds that produce health-enhancing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, writes Claire Robinson. But as a new study has established, those fish oils, novel in terrestrial ecosystems, cause wing deformities in cabbage white butterflies. Yet a third open field trial of these GM crops could soon be under way. more...
One of two undisclosed palm oil plantations in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, operated by Cargill, via PT Indo Sawit Kekal, 2010. Photo: David Gilbert / Rainforest Action Network via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Beyond the Empire of Chaos: building ecology into economy

John McMurtry

18th April 2016

'Natural capital' is an understandable attempt to put a value on our living planet and all the services it provides for us, writes John McMurtry. But it fails by measuring nature in dollars and cents. We need to develop a new concept of 'life capital' that must be preserved from exploitation and degradation no matter what the economic cost, because we, and Earth herself, depend upon it. more...
The nuclear show must go on! Sign for the Atomic Theater at the Museum of Science & Technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA. Photo: Joel Kramer via Flickr (CC BY).

'New' nuclear reactors? Same old story

Amory Lovins

12th April 2016

The nuclear industry is forever reinventing itself with one brilliant 'new' idea after another, Amory Lovins wrote in this classic 2009 essay. But whether it's touting the wonders of future SMRs, IFRs or LFTRs, the reality never changes: the reactors they are building right now are over time, over budget and beset by serious, entirely unforeseen technical problems. more...
Jin Liqun, President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, during the 'Asia’s Era of Infrastructure' session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 22nd January 2016. Photo: Monika Flueckiger / WEF / swiss-image.ch via Flickr (CC BY-N

New development banks propel environmental 'race to the bottom'

Bill Laurance / James Cook University

8th April 2016

New development financiers like China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are driving a global attack on the environment, writes Bill Laurance. With their fast track 'no questions asked' procedures, they are financing a wave of destructive mega-projects, giving the World Bank and other lenders the excuse to lower their already weak safeguards. more...
Nothing washes darker! BP's greenwashing efforts exposed in a Tate protest. Photo: Liberate Tate / Amy Scaife.

Is it the end? BP's arts sponsorship runs aground

Chris Garrard

7th April 2016

Tate and now the Edinburgh International Festival have dropped BP sponsorship, writes Chris Garrard, with BP citing unspecified 'challenging conditions'. As indigenous campaigners accuse BP of 'sponsoring death in our communities', it's high time for the British Museum to follow their lead. more...
Patrick Holden with his dairy herd. Photo: Steph French (www.stephfrench.com) / SFT.

Patrick Holden: 'cheap' food is costing the Earth, and our health

Emily Lewis-Brown

7th April 2016

Food has never been more affordable for middle class families in rich countries. But it comes at a high cost: the impact of industrial food production on health, environment and society has never been greater, as Patrick Holden explained to Emily Lewis-Brown. Now the real cost of food US production will be examined in a ground-breaking conference in San Francisco. more...
Danger - Radioactive! Photo: StefrogZ / Greens MPs via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Nuclear industry reveals its unsolved problem: waste

Gordon MacKerron, University of Sussex

6th April 2016

Britain is shipping 700kg of highly-enriched uranium capable of making scores of nuclear bombs to the US, writes Gordon MacKerron. The move is a symptom of a huge problem that's afflicting all nuclear nations - what to do with their nuclear wastes? The only real solution is deep geological disposal. But it's politically fraught, technically challenging, very expensive - and has yet to be done. more...
La Condamine, Monaco. Photo: Anandkumar N via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

It's the tax havens that own the politicians!

Donnachadh McCarthy

6th April 2016

Never mind Cameron's mealy mouthed denials that he or his family benefit from tax havens, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. The real problem is systemic: Britain's entire political establishment has long been owned by tax haven wealth. Finally a senior politician, Jeremy Corbyn, has the courage to stand up to the unaccountable super-rich. more...
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Photo: Skip Nyegard via Fliuckr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Fishing ban is helping the Great Barrier Reef resist and recover from damage

Camille Mellin, Aaron MacNeil & Julian Caley

7th April 2016

New research from Australia's Great Barrier Reef shows that no-take marine reserves don't just mean more and bigger fish, write Camille Mellin, Aaron MacNeil & Julian Caley. They also boost the resistance of reef communities to disturbances like storms, bleaching and predation, and speed their subsequent recovery. It's time for global rollout of coral reef marine reserves! more...
US soldiers perform a platoon mounted and dismounted live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany Oct. 6, 2010. Photo: Gertrud Zach / The U.S. Army via Fliclr (CC BY).

Thought for Earth Day: whether it's badgers or Trident missiles, shooting solves nothing

Linda Pentz Gunter

20th April 2016

Why do we humans resort to shooting, whenever a challenging problem confronts us? Whether it's culling badgers to protect hedgehogs, or renewing the Trident missile threat with expensive upgrades, our species seems determined to upset the balance of nature and harmony on Earth by shooting first - and never asking the questions at all. more...
Never again! Texaco-Chevron's toxic oil legacy at Lago Agrio in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest. Photo: Julien Gomba via Flickr (CC BY).

Ecuador's next Amazon oil battle: Indigenous Peoples on the front line

Kevin Koenig / Amazon Watch

4th April 2016

The rights of nature and of indigenous communities are enshrined in Ecuador's constitution, writes Kevin Koenig. But down in the Amazon the government is going full speed ahead with oil extraction on indigenous territories whose owners are committed to keeping their forests and waters pollution-free. A mighty battle is brewing that looks certain to come to a head this year. more...
The Royal Oak of Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest. Photo: justyna via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

No 'salvage' logging in Poland's ancient forest!

Lucinda Kirkpatrick

4th April 2016

Poland is intent on a huge increase in logging in Europe's greatest ancient forest, writes Lucinda Kirkpatrick. The government says it's needed to control spruce bark beetles. But the insect is a key part of the ecosystem, creating woodpecker nest sites and habitat for other endangered species. In truth it's just a big timber grab that must be strongly resisted. more...

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