February 10, 2012
“More evidence that Mars might have been the original Earth.” –KTRN
ESA’s Mars Express has returned strong evidence for an ocean once covering part of Mars. Using radar, it has detected sediments reminiscent of an ocean floor within the boundaries of previously identified, ancient shorelines on Mars.
The MARSIS radar was deployed in 2005 and has been collecting data ever since. Jérémie Mouginot, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) and the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues have analyzed more than two years of data and found that the northern plains are covered in low-density material.
“We interpret these as sedimentary deposits, maybe ice-rich,” says Dr Mouginot. “It is a strong new indication that there was once an ocean here.”
The existence of oceans on ancient Mars has been suspected before and features reminiscent of shorelines have been tentatively identified in images from various spacecraft. But it remains a controversial issue.
Two oceans have been proposed: 4 billion years ago, when warmer conditions prevailed, and also 3 billion years ago when subsurface ice melted, possibly as a result of enhanced geothermal activity, creating outflow channels that drained the water into areas of low elevation.
April 13, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
Earlier this year, research linked bisphenol A (BPA), a common component of plastics and a powerful hormone disrupter, to heart disease. Now, in the March issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers have reported yet another newly discovered danger posed by BPA. Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University, and his research team have found for the first time that BPA exposure during pregnancy can cause abnormalities in the uterus of offspring and permanent alterations in DNA.
But at least you can avoid plastics and therefore avoid exposure to the BPA, right? Unfortunately, another group of scientists has just announced that’s getting harder and harder to do. Bottom line: there is now solid evidence that Earth’s oceans have been contaminated on a global scale with BPA.
Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D., of Nihon University in Chiba, Japan, and his colleagues announced their startling and worrisome findings at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society held in San Francisco recently. He stated that the massive BPA contamination of oceans resulted from hard plastic trash thrown in the seas as well as from another surprising source — the epoxy plastic paints used to seal the hulls of ships.
“This new finding clearly demonstrates the instability of epoxy, and shows that BPA emissions from epoxy do reach the ocean. Recent studies have shown that mollusks, crustaceans and amphibians could be affected by BPA, even in low concentrations,” Dr. Saido said in a statement to the media.
The scientists noted that light, white-foamed plastic decomposed rapidly at temperatures commonly found in the oceans, releasing the endocrine disruptor BPA. It isn’t just soft plastics that leach BPA, either.
“We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment,” Dr. Saido explained. “Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries. Biodegradation, of course, releases BPA to the environment.”
Dr. Saido’s research team analyzed sand and seawater from over 200 sites in 20 countries, including areas in Southeast Asia and North America. Every site tested contained what Dr. Saido labeled as “significant” amounts of BPA, ranging from 0.01 parts per million (ppm) to 50 ppm.
Dr. Saido pointed out that littering currently results in about 150,000 tons of plastic debris washing up on the shores of Japan alone each year. In addition, a huge area of plastic waste known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is about two times the size of Texas, now contaminates the area between California and Hawaii. “Marine debris plastic in the ocean will certainly constitute a new global ocean contamination for long into the future,” Dr. Saido predicted in the press statement.
In yet more BPA news, Rolf Halden, associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University and assistant director of Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute, has just published a sobering research article on the hazards of chemical-loaded plastics. His findings, which are included in the latest issue of the Annual Review of Public Health, provide more evidence that plastics in garbage dumps, landfills and the world’s oceans are an ever-increasing toxic problem.
In fact, Dr. Halden concluded in his paper that plastics and their additives such as BPA aren’t only around us; they are inside virtually every human. The chemicals show up in blood and urine tests because they are ingested with the food we eat, the water we drink and from other environmental exposures.
“We’re doomed to live with yesterday’s plastic pollution and we are exacerbating the situation with each day of unchanged behavior,” Dr. Harden said in a press statement. “We are at a critical juncture and cannot continue under the modus that has been established. If we’re smart, we’ll look for replacement materials, so that we don’t have this mismatch — good for a minute and contaminating for 10,000 years.”
December 23, 2009
By E. Huff
Many experts believe that the world’s oceans are at a crucial tipping point in which major ecological collapse is imminent. Overfishing, pollution, and general destruction of sea life is putting the oceanic system and its delicate ecosystems in dire straits.
Brian Skerry, an undersea photojournalist interviewed by a journalist from The Boston Phoenix, elaborated on what he was witnessing in the oceanic system. Decaying coral reefs, endangered species, and the massive reduction in population of certain sea creatures are among the devastating realities that has caused this diver to avoid eating seafood.
Every year, over 100 million sharks are killed. The North Atlantic right whale population, which was once a highly populous species in the region, is down to about 400. Atlantic cod is said to be about 10 percent of what it once was. Most commercial fish populations have been reduced by 90 percent or more. The Atlantic Ocean is becoming highly acidic and the Pacific Ocean is becoming a giant garbage dump. And all of these things have occurred in about 50 years.
Some scientists believe that if things don’t change and current practices continue as they are, the ocean will be barren of all sea life by 2048. Others believe this notion is drastic and unrealistic, but the point remains that the careless treatment of the world’s oceans is likely to have catastrophic results if not curtailed.
Overfishing in certain areas has led to increases in coral reef decay and death. Catching shrimp, for instance, involves dragging a net along the bottom of the ocean floor which catches all sorts of other ocean wildlife. Only a small portion of the catch is actually shrimp, leading to the dumping of the rest of the then-dead by-catch back into the ocean.
Some of the ocean damage has also been inflicted by severe hurricanes and tsunamis which are outside of man’s control. Yet there is no denying that ruthless ocean harvesting practices are causing problems that would otherwise not occur if proper ocean stewardship practices were followed.
While some suggest that international regulations should be mandated, the consequences of giving control over natural resources to an international global government would likely prove disastrous for American sovereignty. Many current regulations are actually harming the waters more than they are helping them. Incentives that encourage proper stewardship are one possible option that would preserve freedom and liberty while avoiding totalitarian restrictions over the waters.
December 11, 2009
By Diane Francis
The “inconvenient truth” overhanging the UN’s Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world.
A planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.
The world’s other species, vegetation, resources, oceans, arable land, water supplies and atmosphere are being destroyed and pushed out of existence as a result of humanity’s soaring reproduction rate.
Ironically, China, despite its dirty coal plants, is the world’s leader in terms of fashioning policy to combat environmental degradation, thanks to its one-child-only edict.
The intelligence behind this is the following:
-If only one child per female was born as of now, the world’s population would drop from its current 6.5 billion to 5.5 billion by 2050, according to a study done for scientific academy Vienna Institute of Demography.
-By 2075, there would be 3.43 billion humans on the planet. This would have immediate positive effects on the world’s forests, other species, the oceans, atmospheric quality and living standards.
-Doing nothing, by contrast, will result in an unsustainable population of nine billion by 2050.
Humans are the only rational animals but have yet to prove it. Medical and other scientific advances have benefited by delivering lower infant mortality rates as well as longevity. Both are welcome, but humankind has not yet recalibrated its behavior to account for the fact that the world can only accommodate so many people, especially if billions get indoor plumbing and cars.
The fix is simple. It’s dramatic. And yet the world’s leaders don’t even have this on their agenda in Copenhagen. Instead there will be photo ops, posturing, optics, blah-blah-blah about climate science and climate fraud, announcements of giant wind farms, then cap-and-trade subsidies.
None will work unless a China one-child policy is imposed. Unfortunately, there are powerful opponents. Leaders of the world’s big fundamentalist religions preach in favor of procreation and fiercely oppose birth control. And most political leaders in emerging economies perpetuate a disastrous Catch-22: Many children (i. e. sons) stave off hardship in the absence of a social safety net or economic development, which, in turn, prevents protections or development.
China has proven that birth restriction is smart policy. Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the planet.