Fishing Industry’s Fuel Efficiency Gets Worse as Ocean Stocks Get Thinner
Cornelia Dean, New York Times
If the fishing industry were a country, it would rank with the Netherlands as the world’s 18th-largest oil consumer, a team of fisheries scientists is reporting.

In 2000, the scientists said, fisheries around the world burned about 13 billion gallons of fuel to catch 80 million tons of fish. And although the fish-per-gallon ratio varies widely from species to species, they said, it is getting worse over all because boats must venture farther and farther out to sea in search of dwindling stocks.

“This is the only major industry in the world that is getting more and more energy-inefficient,” said Daniel Pauly, director of the Fisheries Center of the University of British Columbia and one of the report’s authors. While other researchers have compiled fuel data for particular species of fish in particular regions, this report is the first to sum up the global picture, experts said.

As such, the new report “adds to the list of concerns about fishing as a destructive practice,” said Ellen K. Pikitch, director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, who was not involved in the report.

But it also shows how vulnerable fishing is to increases in fuel costs, said Peter H. Tyedmers, an ecologist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. European experts predict that as much as 30 percent of Europe’s fishing fleet may remain at the dock this winter because of fuel costs, he said, adding that the industry’s sensitivity to fuel costs is alarming given the importance of fish in the world’s diet.

In the report, the scientists said fisheries accounted for about 1.2 percent of global oil consumption, and they use about 12.5 times as much energy to catch fish as the fish provide to those who eat them. Their report is in the current issue of Ambio, a journal of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Fattening beef in feedlots and even growing fish in aquaculture pens can be less energy efficient than fishing, Dr. Pauly said in an interview. But fishing is “a far-from-trivial player” in global oil consumption, the researchers wrote.
(20 December 2005)
Emphasis added. Kudos to the New York Times for recognising the importance of reporting such figures. -AF

In Exurbs, Life Framed by Hours Spent in the Car
Rick Lyman, New York Times
…America is growing at its fastest in places like this, at the margins of some of its biggest cities, in the domain of the automobile and the master-plan subdivision, far from the urban centers that spawned them.

They begin as embryonic subdivisions of a few hundred homes at the far edge of beyond, surrounded by scrub. Then, they grow – first gradually, but soon with explosive force – attracting stores, creating jobs and struggling to keep pace with the need for more schools, more roads, more everything.

And eventually, when no more land is available and home prices have skyrocketed, the whole cycle starts again, another 15 minutes down the turnpike.

But in the meantime, life here is framed by hours spent in the car.

It is a defining force, a frustrating, physical manifestation of the community’s stage of development, shaping how people structure their days, engage in civic activities, interact with their families and inhabit their neighborhoods.
(18 December 2005)

Body of Evidence: Contaminated Californians
Peter Warshall, Common Grounding
New Tests Reveal that our Bloodstreams May Be as Polluted as our Rivers

The human body has evolved a great wisdom, refining, over five million years, its ability to fight viruses, bacteria and parasites. Only recently, in the last 50 years, has the human body been forced to deal with a tsunami of new enemies — a deluge of modern synthetic chemical molecules. The dosages, cocktails, and shapes of these new molecules can confuse the development and workings of the body’s immune, reproductive, nerve, brain and other tissue systems. Specific chemical compounds, used in such common goods as soap and shampoo and as softeners in plastic products, have been associated with cancers in rats and abnormalities in the reproductive systems of babies. Mothers who eat organic foods, buy non-toxic furniture from Ikea, think diligently about the safest stain- and flame-resistant fabrics, and purchase certified herbal cosmetics still carry a burden of synthetic molecules and toxic traces of industrial metals. Even though a pregnant woman may take great care to avoid chemical exposure, her fetus can absorb part of its mother’s pre-existing body-burden of toxics through the placenta.
(December 2005)

Gas Drilling Raises Dust Clouds Throughout the West

Bob Moen, Associated Press via Environmental News Network
SHERIDAN, Wyo. — When Jack Cooper looks out the window of his saddle shop in rural Sheridan County, he sees the jagged Bighorn Mountains to the west and a tree-lined creek winding its way through a wide valley to the east. Only the dust, which hangs in the air like ground fog among the trees and rolling hills, gets in the way of the scenic view. “We don’t dare leave a window open in the daytime,” Cooper said.

Cooper lives along a gravel road that has become a major artery for trucks and workers in one of the many coal-bed methane gas fields in northeast Wyoming. The traffic kicks up clouds of dust that have drawn complaints from residents who say it’s not only unsightly, but potentially dangerous to asthma sufferers and even livestock. While oil and gas development creates other problems — housing shortages, noise, water pollution and increased crime — dust is just about universal in the booming methane fields of Wyoming and other states rich in natural gas. …

“Anywhere there’s a producing oil and gas well, it’s an issue,” said Gwen Lachelt, director of the Durango, Colo.-based Oil and Gas Accountability Project, reeling off problem areas in parts of Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Wyoming and Canada. …
(13 December 2005)

Why America finally woke up to climate change threat

Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald (Scotland)
Goaded by its neighbours, its mayors, its former president and some rubber ducks, the US finally agrees to dialogue

The turning point, history may record, was the duck moment. It was around midnight on Thursday at the crucial United Nations climate talks in Montreal, Canada, when the chief United States negotiator, Harlan Watson, threw a wobbly. Fearing that a Canadian proposal for an international dialogue on combating global warming was really a covert attempt to drag the US into binding negotiations, he walked out. But not before making the memorable retort: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

That prompted an imaginative piece of direct action by Phil Clapp, the president of the US National Environmental Trust. On Friday morning his team scoured Montreal shops for rubber ducks, and within hours the little yellow creatures were ubiquitous in the conference centre. They were paraded by environmentalists, popped up in ministers’ top pockets, and even made an appearance on the US delegation’s table. The Americans, after being harangued and vilified all week, were finally embarrassed. …

The Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin, had also attacked the US for not having “a global conscience”. And some of the 195 mayors from US cities committed to combating climate change turned up in Montreal to say what they thought of their country’s stance. “I’m a very proud American,” declared the mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels. “To see my country not among the community of nations on this issue – which I believe is the pre-eminent issue threatening our species – really disturbs me.” …

Dr Richard Dixon, who was in Montreal representing WWF Scotland, accused the Bush administration of misjudging the mood of the international community. “They played silly games with the talks and forced countries to bend over backwards just to agree to keep talking,” he said. “But in the end they realised that any failure would be blamed squarely on them. And all they are signing up to is a bigger version of the G8 dialogues, an international talking-shop to keep them in the loop until Bush leaves office.” …
(11 December 2005)

Earth’s uneasy breathing measured on Niwot Ridge
Gases collected at 11,500 feet reveal nature’s responses to warming world

Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
NIWOT RIDGE — Searching for signs of global climate change in nature goes beyond studies of receding mountain glaciers, thinning Arctic sea ice, shifting tree lines or quirky animal behavior. Invisible gases trapped in glass flasks also have a story to tell. …

“In the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, there’s a strong signal of a lengthening of the growing season,” [James Randerson, an associate professor of earth system science at the University of California at Irvine] said. “It’s a clear signal that ecosystems are responding to changes in climate, and you’re tapping into that at Niwot.” The findings suggest that between 1980 and 2002, the biological start of spring advanced by about 10.5 days, according to David Schimel, an ecologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. At a weather station several hundred yards from the tower, average spring temperatures rose 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit between 1968 and 2003, according to records maintained by the University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station. …
(13 December 2005)

Can’t resist urge to shop? Blame it on brain chemistry
he feeling will be familiar to millions at this time of year: a surge of excitement as they find that must-have item in shops, followed by a sickening sense of let-down shortly afterwards. It may be some relief to discover that scientists know why it happens and can now provide some pointers to avoiding it.

The feeling is caused by the release of a specific chemical in the brain, studies have found. Dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, is released in waves as shoppers first see a product and then consider buying it.

But the research shows that it is the anticipation rather than the buying that discharges dopamine and drives the process.
(12 December 2005)