Category Archives: Biodiversity

California ecological collapse on the fast track

It is said that the name “California” came from the Spanish after a Greek adopted legend about an island fortress populated by “beautiful Amazon women warriors whom were gifted in the use of golden tools and weapons.”  Early European “explorers” described the place as having fog shrouded and rugged coastlines, vast mountains, deep valleys, desserts, and lakes. They dreamed and schemed about how to conquer the wilderness. Invasion and colonization of the west coast of the United States by Europeans began in earnest about 500 years ago. They did not know or care that they were preceded by at least 250 generations of people who were there first. People that had lived in relative harmony with the natural world and each other–Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mohave, Yo Semite, Paiute,  Tule–were now put under the colonial guns. The wilderness that supported all life was on the road to evisceration.

The Mother of the Forest, -Mother Tree of Calaveras County- Cut down for lumber 1902.  Height 300 plus feet. circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York circa 1870-1880)

The Mother of the Forest, Mother Tree of Calaveras County, cut down for lumber 1902. Height 300+’. Circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York (circa 1870-1880)

There was once a vast waterbody, Lake Tulare, located in the Central Valley. It was the largest freshwater lake in North America outside of the Great Lakes. At one point, pre-contact with Europeans, it is thought that 70,000 human beings lived along this beautiful productive lake. Around this lake and stretching to the coast, vast groves of Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods stood as sentinels that helped to balance the atmosphere and the ecosystem in ways that we are only just learning about in 2014.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Forests, Indigenous Peoples

UN Biodiversity Convention urges countries to regulate synthetic biology

Our friends at the ETC Group led this victory at the recently ended UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in South Korea.  Synthetic biology, a new extreme form of genetic engineering with researchers building unique organisms designed to facilitate the manufacture of various products, was previously unregulated.  Now countries are urged to create regulations over this potentially disastrous Wild West of DNA manipulation.

Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries
SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered

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A cacao farmer in Costa Rica. Despite stiff opposition from SynBio countries, the decision is a victory for farmers in the global south. Photo: Everjean

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing numbers of synthetically-derived products are making their way to market. The CBD’s decision is regarded as a “starting signal” for governments to begin establishing formal oversight for this exploding and controversial field.

“Synthetic Biology has been like the wild west: a risky technology frontier with little oversight or regulation,” Jim Thomas of ETC Group explained from CBD negotiations in Korea. “At last the UN is laying down the law.”

“This international decision is very clear,” Thomas added. “Not only do countries now have to set up the means to regulate synthetic biology, but those regulations need to be based on precaution and not harming the environment.”

“The good news is that precaution won the day.”

This decision comes at a critical time. The SynBio industry is bringing some of its first products to market, including a vanilla flavour produced by synthetically modified yeast and specialized oils used in soaps and detergents derived from synthetically modified algae. In December, bay area SynBio firm Glowing Plants Inc. intends to release synthetically-engineered glow-in-the-dark plants to 6,000 recipients without government oversight. The United States is not a signatory to the CBD, making it one of only three countries that will not be formally bound by this decision (the other 2 are Andorra and the Holy See).

For the entire article click here

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Commodification of Life, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology, UN, Uncategorized, Victory!

Colorado Biomass = Clearcut=False Solutions to Climate Change

It is difficult to imagine that in 2014 we are still facing clearcut  strategies for our rapidly disappearing forested lands. Biomass is certainly a false solution to climate change. From the Summit County Colorado Summit Daily

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Is biomass all its cut up to be? 

Howard Brown    17 October 2014    Summit Daily

One possible reason for sticking to the ill-advised Ophir Mountain and other clear-cutting plans is that the clear-cut trees would go to the biomass power plant in Gypsum. Biomass power is renewable energy. It wouldn’t justify destroying Summit County’s wonderful forests and trails, but biomass is green energy right? Maybe not.

Is biomass power a good renewable energy source that we should promote here in Colorado? To answer this, we need to back up and look at where biomass energy comes from. As with most of our energy sources, it starts with energy from the sun. In photosynthesis, plants use solar energy to convert water and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates. Energy is stored in the carbon-hydrogen bonds. (Geologic pressure over time strips the oxygen from plant material to create hydrocarbon fossil fuels.) When animals metabolize carbohydrates, or when plant or fossil fuel material combusts (burns), that energy is released as oxygen combined with the material, returning to the lower-energy carbon-oxygen and hydrogen-oxygen bonds of carbon dioxide and water.

The problem with fuels such as coal and wood is that they are solids. The combustion process requires direct contact between oxygen molecules and molecules of the fuel. For gaseous fuels such as natural gas, that is very easy, individual oxygen molecules readily mix directly with individual methane molecules. For liquid fuels such as petroleum products, vegetable oil or ethanol, that mixing is more difficult and the resulting combustion less efficient. With solid fuels, however, it is exceedingly difficult for individual oxygen molecules to contact individual fuel molecules, so the combustion process is incomplete and far less efficient.

Read the Full Article Here

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Invasive Species and The GE/GMO Relationship

Most readers of Climate Connections know that we at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, and Biofuelwatch, consider that GE Trees can be highly invasive species. These synthetic organisms live for a long time and introduce toxins into natural ecosystems. This profoundly and negatively impacts ecosystem services. The biotech industry wants us to believe that these products are safe. The  Convention for Biological Diversity adopted the The Precautionary Principle in 2001 because adequate GMO science is uncertain, ambiguous, has omitted research areas, and lacks the basic knowledge of crucial risk assessments.

An article published yesterday in Environmental Health News and Truthout tells the horrible story of the consequences of invasive species to birds in the Great Lakes of North America.

While the invasives in the story are not GE Trees, the lessons to be learned from this invasion are fundamental and are exactly why we have to be very careful when introducing invasive species into the wild.

 

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin's gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin’s gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Mass Murder by Botulism: surge in Great Lakes Bird Deaths Driven by Invaders

By Brian Bienkowski, Truthout. 15 October 2014

Leland, Michigan - A midsummer overcast lifts as Lake Michigan changes from inky black to a deep blue-green. Ben Turschak bends over the rail of the boat, staring into the abyss in search of an exact spot.

“There it is, there it is,” Turschak says. He points to an underwater buoy used to mark a stash of underwater cameras and monitoring equipment 60 feet below the surface.

Turschak, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student, and his colleague Emily Tyner climb into bulky dry suits and strap on air tanks, masks and flippers, preparing for a plunge into the 60-degree water.

“I’m a little nervous, I haven’t dived here in two years. I’ve dived in the Caribbean and it’s just much harder here,” Tyner says. “This lake might as well be an ocean.”

Turschak leads Tyner down to the bottom. Ten minutes later they splash up, then climb back onto the boat and start unloading their bounty of water samples and a big bag of smelly green algae. “That’s the most gobies we’ve seen,” Tyner says. The aggressive bottom-feeding fish with a voracious appetite, accidentally imported from Eurasia, has taken over the nearshore waters here.

Read the full article here.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Great Lakes, Human made disasters, Monsanto, Pollution

What wood are you burning? Try some from the U.S. National Forests

The latest info from the U.S. Forest Service is nothing short of terrifying. According to an article on Earth Island Journal, the U.S. government is considering ripping through national forests for biofuels. The propaganda on this pillage concludes that forests are overgrown fire hazards and that a “burn the forest before it burns you” policy would not only help prevent fires, but also eliminate climate change.

1,600 acres of White River National Forest are being clear-cut. All of the trees are fueling the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass facility. Photo: Josh Schlossberg

1,600 acres of White River National Forest are being clear-cut. All of the trees are fueling the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass facility. Photo: Josh Schlossberg

So, for the U.S. Forest Service, here is an FYI: The number of trees and bugs in an area has nothing to do with causing forest fires. Wildfires are brought on by human action, drought and rising temperatures, which will all INCREASE if we tear down more forests.

Will National Forests Be Sacrificed to the Biomass Industry?
BY JOSH SCHLOSSBERG, Earth Island Journal, OCTOBER 15, 2014

The US Forest Service wants to sell our forests for fuel in the name of wildfire reduction
If we’re to believe the biomass energy industry, the US Forest Service, and a chorus of politicians from both sides of the aisle, we can solve the energy crisis, cure climate change, and eradicate wildfire by logging and chipping our national forests and burning them up in biomass power facilities.

The plotline of their story goes something like this: Years of taxpayer-funded logging and fire suppression in federal forests (at the behest of the timber industry) has resulted in “overgrown” forests crawling with icky bugs, ticking time bombs ready to burst into flames. And the fix, it just so happens, involves even more taxpayer-funded logging and fire suppression, with the trees forked over to the biomass industry to burn in their incinerators and then the “green” electricity sold to utilities and eventually the public — at a premium.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change

World Rainforest Movement on GE Trees at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Right Now

Information below from the World Rainforest Movement regarding the ongoing UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP 12 in South Korea and the controversy stirring there around the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)’s consideration of a request to commercialize GE eucalyptus trees in the country.

Timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene made this request to CTNBio earlier this year. Any such approval would blatantly violate the CBD COP-9 decision that called on all signatories to the CBD (including Brazil) to adhere to the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees [in other words don't approve them unless they have been proven safe--which they have not, not even close!]

Please read more on the issues below.

The 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is taking place in South Korea.

There are several issues being addressed by the COP 12 such as biodiversity and ecosystems conservation, invasive species, synthetic biology, benefit sharing from access to genetic resources, biofuels and many others. If you wish to learn more about the discussions taking place and why they are relevant, we would like to invite you to visit the CBD Alliance web site (http://www.cbdalliance.org) where you will be able to read about what is at stake at the COP 12. The CBD Alliance, a group of civil society actors that critically monitor and seek to influence and inform about the CBD, has identified key issues that will be debated at the CBD.

One such issue has to do with Genetically Modified Trees, also called Genetically Engineered (GE) or transgenic trees. During a previous CBD meeting (COP 9) a decision was adopted (IX/5) calling for application of the precautionary approach regarding transgenic trees. It urges parties to strictly apply the precautionary approach and not to authorise the environmental release of GE trees until research can show that any possible negative impact can be ruled out, including impacts on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities. This international CBD decision has to be followed up and implemented at the national level. Further reading at: http://www.cbdalliance.org/en/images/COP12/Briefing_notesCOP12/Briefing_on_GE_Trees.pdf

However, in countries like Brazil and USA (whose government has never ratified the CDB), corporations have submitted applications to request the commercial release of GE Trees. Indigenous Peoples, civil society organizations and social movements in both countries are raising alarms and urge their governments not to approve those requests, amongst others on the grounds of the CBD decision. Worldwide, several groups are involved in a campaign to Stop GE Trees (see stopgetrees.org).

If you wish to read the letter sent to Brazilian authorities urging them not to authorise the request by a company involved in industrial tree plantations please visit: http://wrm.org.uy/all-campaigns/open-letter-to-be-sent-to-the-brazilian-national-technical-biosafety-commission-ctnbio/

In the USA the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest. You can read further at:
http://stopgetrees.org/indigenous-peoples-unite-stop-genetically-engineered-trees/

Finally, for those who would like to know what is happening in relation to GE Tree research in countries around the world, we invite you to read the updated WRM publication called: “GE Trees Research. A Country by Country Overview”. It includes information on whether there is research on GE Trees taking place or not in the countries included in the overview, which tree species are being engineered, for which purposes, who is behind the research and what are the risk for the environment and the communities whose livelihoods depend on it. The publication is available at : http://wrm.org.uy/books-and-briefings/ge-tree-research-a-country-by-country-overview/

We hope you find this information useful. Please let us know if you have any question.

The WRM Team


www.wrm.org.uy

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, UN, Uncategorized

Biomass-the Wrong Solution to Climate Change

Today’s post comes from our friends at the Energy Justice Network and the Biomass Monitor.

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Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change Denial

By Josh Schlossberg, Biomass Monitor. October 12, 2014

We’re all familiar with climate change deniers, cheerfully and/or willfully ignorant folk who refuse to accept that human-caused carbon emissions are responsible for the climate crisis — or that there even is a climate crisis. Those of us who value science and common sense typically have as much patience for these twenty-three percent of Americans as we do for anyone who believes that maggots arise spontaneously from rotting meat, witches cause disease, or the Earth is the center of the universe.

Recently, a subtler breed of climate change denier has emerged, spreading their propaganda and even infiltrating aspects of the environmental movement: biomass boosters. These advocates for the biomass energy industry often avoid detection by professing concern with carbon emissions. Yet, while cursing fossil fuels out of one side of their mouths, out of the other they bless the burning of one of the world’s greatest buffers against runaway climate chaos — our forests — for energy.

If the climate movement wants to win over the American people and influence policy, it needs to have credibility, which only comes through consistency, and that means distancing itself from the climate change deniers in our midst.

Read the whole article here.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change

Friday paean to us, love the earth!

This little video poem is shared to us from David Suzuki and the Blue Dot Tour.  The tour is criss-crossing Canada and is designed to bring together informed individuals to build a powerful force for positive change.

Here we find the intersections between art, love, humanity, and the natural world of the blue dot.

“Shoulders” by Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long.

More on the Blue Dot Tour here

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Independent Media