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Drought to shut down Canadian rain forest resort

OTTAWA – A well-known resort town in a Canadian Pacific rain forest must shutter its hotels and businesses this week because a prolonged drought has slashed water supplies, officials said on Wednesday.

Tofino, perched on the tip of Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific coast, is in a picturesque region that is popular with surfers and whale watchers. It relies on rainwater to fill its main reservoir, and officials ordered the shutdown because there has been no significant rainfall since June.

“We just don’t have the water to offer them, that’s all there is to it,” Tofino mayor John Fraser told CBC television, noting the town was experiencing its third driest year on record and had ordered businesses to shut from Friday.

“We normally end up getting a good rain sometime along the way (to) bail us out. But this year has just been different … the weather forecast for the next two weeks, even two months is still continued dry without prospect of rain,” said Fraser. …
(30 August 2006)
This might be considered as much a population issue. LJ

Fire ecology group: Climate change will limit wildfire management

Perry Backus, Missoulian (Montana)
In a declaration released this week, the Association of Fire Ecology said climate change will limit humans’ ability to manage wildland fire.

“Under future drought and high heat scenarios,” the declaration reads, “fires may become larger more quickly and be more difficult to manage. Fire suppression costs may continue to increase, with decreasing effectiveness under extreme fire weather and fuel conditions. Extreme fire events are likely to occur more frequently.”

The five-page San Diego Declaration on Climate Change and Fire Management will be submitted to delegates at the third International Fire Ecology and Management Congress in San Diego this November.

…While discussions will range over myriad topics, Miller said, the impact of climate change on wildland fire will be a major focus.

“My personal hope is the declaration will raise awareness among the populace that climate change is going to have an effect on everyone,” said Miller. “It’s not only going to impact people living along the Eastern seaboard or in hurricane-prone areas. People will feel it here as well.”

In the western United States, researchers recently confirmed the fire season is getting longer, with large fires starting both earlier and later in the year.

“These changes are correlated with earlier spring snowmelt dates,” the declaration says. “The ecological impacts are wide-reaching because of the high severity of these fires burning through heavy fuel loads.

“With global temperatures projected to rise throughout this century, we expect increases in fire season length and fire size,” the declaration read.
(31 Aug 2006)

More Crop Per Drop

Jonathan Greenblatt, WorldChanging
You might have missed the opening of World Water Week in Stockholm this past weekend. There was no gala celebration nor an appearance by Bono or Brangelina to attract the paparazzi. The keynote speaker was High Royal Highness Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, not exactly a household name on this side of the Atlantic.

The annual session is an important gathering for international policymakers who are focused on water management issues. The time has come to take water out of the hands of a select few academics and regulators. Rather, an open discussion about water priorities must move into the mainstream. It deserves the attention of anyone who is concerned about issues of environmental sustainability and resource management because the global water scarcity shows no signs of abating.

In fact, the future would appear dire. This past week, a panel of scientists released a groundbreaking study on water usage over the past half-century. Under the banner of the International Water Management Institute, more than 700 researchers from 100 institutions across the world contributed to this important study. Their warnings should wake us from our collective slumber

Some of the news might not surprise long-time observers. For example, the report estimates that one out of three people living on the planet currently suffer from a scarcity of water in their daily lives. This is terrifying, but consistent with the statistics published for years by the United Nations. But a more important element from the report concerns water usage.

IWMI found that, if we continue to apply current water manageent practices, by 2050 the global agricultural sector will need to double the amount of water to grow the food we eat. The researchers found that such a hurdle actually is consistent with historical trends as water usage has increased by an estimated six times in the past 100 years. Nonetheless, it remains a staggering proposition. Agriculture already uses 70 percent of the global water supply. Imagine a scenario where its consumption must grow 200% simply to satisfy the basic hunger of the planet.
(28 Aug 2006)
See original for links and more text.

How to Avoid War over Water

Kevin Watkins and Anders Berntell, International Herald Tribune via Common Dreams
‘Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting over,” Mark Twain once said. At the start of the 21st century, his gloomy view on the water side of the equation has been getting endorsements from an impressive – if unlikely – cast of characters.

The Central Intelligence Agency, the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and, most recently, Britain’s Ministry of Defense have all raised the specter of future “water wars.” With water availability shrinking across the Middle East, Asia and sub- Saharan Africa, so the argument runs, violent conflict between states is increasingly likely.

The specter is also on the agenda for the experts from 140 countries gathered this week at the annual World Water Week forum in Stockholm. Meetings of water experts are not obvious forums for debating issues of global peace and security. But the ghost of Mark Twain is in Stockholm this week as we reflect on the links between water scarcity and violent conflict between states.

So, here’s the question. Are we heading for an era of “hydrological warfare” in which rivers, lakes and aquifers become national security assets to be fought over, or controlled through proxy armies and client states? Or can water act as a force for peace and cooperation?
(23 Aug 2006)

Of mites and men – bees as a metaphor for global markets

Bill McKibben, Orion Online
A few notes about honeybees, for a lazy summer day with a low, humming buzz coming from the direction of the squash patch: Under ideal conditions, a single colony can produce two hundred pounds of surplus honey a year, the product of visits to as many as 500 million flowers.

Honey is their fuel-a bee gets about 7 million flight miles to the gallon…

Bees pollinate more than ninety fruit, vegetable, nut, and seed crops-a third of the human diet in many countries…

But honeybees live their lives next to ours, and have ever since they were first domesticated about seven thousand years ago. And so when things go askew with our society, those problems can cross, quite literally, into the hive. Consider, for instance, the varroa mite, a microscopic parasite that can devastate a bee colony. It was, for many years, confined to regions of the world where it had long coevolved with bees, allowing them to develop a certain resistance. In the twentieth century it began to spread around the globe, however, and in the 1980s it got to Florida -no one knows quite how, but when every commodity on Earth is traded far and wide every day, such things happen. From there it infested hives the length and the breadth of the country, including those that were also being taken over by nasty hybridized African bees released by accident by Brazilian researchers. But that’s another story.

Anyway, the varroa mites, following on the heels (perhaps not a very apt mite metaphor) of the less devastating but equally exotic tracheal mites, decimated all kinds of beehives, and threatened all kinds of crops. This spring almond growers in California were flying in beehives from Australia to service their $5 billion harvest. The National Academy of Sciences is apparently considering adding honeybees to the endangered species list. It is, more or less, a disaster of the kind that we’re becoming all too used to.
(23 Aug 2006)
File under the fragility of ecosystems. Contributor Big Gav writes:

Not sure if this one is entirely relevant, but you might find it interesting anyway.

I’ve been loosely following the bee story for a while – I’m not sure if the bee mite is just one of those natural pests which will occur every now and then or if its another sign of a damaged biosphere – but either way, there are a lot of risks to various agricultural enterprises posed by the absence of bees to pollinate the crops.