Posts Tagged ‘environment’


Idiots (and they are idiots) who seek to deny climate change reality may care to note, as the BBC have, that the United States experienced a record year of losses from fires, hurricanes and other weather related disasters in 2017, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Total losses amounted to $306bn the agency said, over $90bn more than the previous record set in 2005.

Making the point that refusing to address climate change is not only idiocy, it’s very expensive idiocy, economically, too.

Last year saw 16 separate events with losses exceeding $1bn, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

NOAA also confirmed that 2017 was the third warmest year on record for the US. Only 2012 and 2016 were hotter.

Last year witnessed two Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the States.

Hurricane Harvey produced major flooding as a result of a storm surge and extreme rain. Nearly 800,000 people needed help. Researchers have already shown that climate change increased the likelihood of the observed rainfall by a factor of at least 3.5.

Noaa says the total costs of the Harvey event were $125bn, which is second only to Hurricane Katrina in terms of costs over the 38 years the record has been maintained.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US. Hurricanes Irma and Maria cost $50bn and $90bn respectively.

As well as hurricanes, there were devastating fires in western states, particularly in California. While last winter and spring saw heavy rains in the region that alleviated a long-term drought, the resulting boom in vegetation created abundant wildfire fuel. Deadly fires in both the north and south of California meant hundreds of thousands of residents had to be evacuated from their homes.

The report from NOAA says that across the US, the overall cost of these fires was $18bn, tripling the previous wildfire cost record.

“In the general picture the warming [of the] US over the long term is related to the larger scale warming we have seen on the global scale,” said Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA’s monitoring section.

“The US will have a lot more year to year variability so that it bounces up and down depending on prevailing weather regimes. But the long term signal is tied with long term warming.”

The eastern US has been experiencing an extreme cold snap, also one of the side effects of global climate change, leading some, such as US president Donald Trump, to query the impact of global warming.

But the stats don’t lie. Temperatures in most regions of the world were above the 1981-2010 average – especially in the Arctic. On the island of Svalbard, the city of Longyearbyen repeatedly experienced mean monthly temperatures more than 6 degrees C above the long-term mark.

In November last year the World Meteorological Organisation issued a provisional bulletin stating that 2017 was likely the second or third warmest year on record. That prediction will be clarified in the coming days and weeks as various agencies around the world publish their data for the full year.

There are usually some small differences between the datasets held by the different national bodies based mainly on their coverage of the polar regions and and in their estimates of sea-surface temperature.

Meanwhile, Australia swelters yet again, with our first serious fires of the season, and often having to endure temperatures in the 40s. And our politicians continue to fiddle while the country, quite literally, burns.



Pope Francis. Photo: 14 June 2015

Pope Francis will call for swift action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, according to a leaked draft of the pontiff’s encyclical. Pope Francis puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities.

The document – published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine – says global warming is directly linked to human activities and the intensive use of fossil fuels.

The Vatican called the leaking of the draft a “heinous” act. It said the final version would be released on Thursday as planned. However it will once again confirm this Pope as one of the most reforming and progressive in the Church’s history, and given the Roman church’s attitude to the infallibility of the Pope’s utterances, swing hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics behind the movement to combat man-made climate change. The Pope’s rumoured attitude has already brought attacks from right-wing Protestant Republican politicians in America.

One, Rick Santorum, argued the Pope should leave science to scientists, somewhat idiotically ignoring the fact that the Pope is, in fact, a scientist. Back when Pope Francis was still going by the handle of Jorge Bergoglio, he earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

The pope’s career path isn’t all that unusual. His Jesuit order has a history of producing men with one foot in the spiritual world and another in the scientific realm. Czech astronomer and Jesuit Christian Meyer did pioneering work studying binary star systems in the 18th century. Bavarian-born Jesuit Franz Xaver Kugler did triple duty as a chemist, priest, and researcher of cuneiform tablets. And modern-day science writer and Jesuit Guy Consolmagno studies asteroids and meteorites at the Vatican Observatory.

“Doing science is like playing a game with God, playing a puzzle with God,” Consolmagno once told the Canadian Broadcasting Center. “God sets the puzzles, and after I can solve one, I can hear him cheering, ‘Great, that was wonderful, now here’s the next one.’ It’s the way I can interact with the Creator.”

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Significant Roman Catholic contributions to science aren’t limited to the Jesuit order, though. The Augustinian friar Gregor Johann Mendel bred pea plants in the garden of his monastery and discovered the principles of genetics.

In 1927, Belgian priest Georges Lemaitre discovered the “redshift” phenomenon that describes how the farther away a galaxy is from Earth, the more of its light is shifted toward the red end of the visible spectrum. This was two years before the more widely reported discoveries by Hubble.

‘Enormous consumption’

The 192-page draft of the new encyclical – which is the highest level of teaching document a pope can issue – is entitled “Laudato Si: On the care of the common home”.

In the paper, Pope Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation.

He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples.

The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest.

The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution.

The encyclical has been months in the writing, and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris, the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt says.

(BBC and others)


Sometimes a story come wandering across the Wellthisiswhatithink desk that make us righteously angry, squirming with embarrassment, and gets us shaking our heads in disbelief, all at the same time.

Toni Shelton, who lives in Sugar Creek, Missouri, has been repainting old tires to turn them into flower planters.

“I was just really interested in recycling and I’m really big on self-sufficiency,” she told KCTV news.

Dangerous radical seeks to make world more beautiful: authorities act

Dangerous radical seeks to make world more beautiful: authorities act decisively

Not only is Shelton using the tires decoratively, as painted flower planters, but also to grow fresh vegetables for her family.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

After all, recycling is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our planet for future generations.

Apparently, the authorities in Sugar Creek do not agree.

They have issued Shelton a citation, but she is refusing to pay the fine on principle. Instead, she is prepared to go to jail after she was threatened by authorities in her home town.

Why are these tires such a threat to Sugar Creek? Well, apparently the number of tires she was storing could attract mosquitoes and lower property values.

Oh no! What could be more important than property values?

Well, let’s even concede the town has a point. Citing her, and threatening to prosecute her, is ludicrous. Even though the police department said they don’t have a problem with her using the tires as planters, they told her to get rid of her unused supply and fined her before she had a chance to move them.

From rawstory:

“We’d asked her to put them somewhere else because there were quite a number of them,” Sugar Creek Chief Herb Soule insisted.”We try to keep people from accumulating tires because they retain water and they attract mosquitos. They detract from property values in the neighborhood too.”

She looks dangerous to us.

She looks dangerous to us.

In response, Shelton has now moved most of the old tires and is storing some of them inside of an old truck.

Still, she said she won’t get rid of all the tires because she said it would send the wrong message to her children. And to other environmentally aware people, presumably.

“I don’t want my kids to see me back down and not follow my heart,” she explained.

Anyhow, unless pressure not to do so can be brought to bear, the case will be heard in municipal court in Sugar Creek next week.

Missouri officials don’t seem to be aware, but here are some of the benefits of recycling:

•    Recycling protects and expands US manufacturing jobs and increases US competitiveness;
•    Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration;
•    Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials;
•    Recycling saves energy;
•    Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change;
•    Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals;
•    Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

Shelton’s way of recycling these ugly objects should be applauded rather than punished. Shelton has moved her unused supply of tires to an enclosed space, but she says she’d rather go to jail than pay a citation for trying to set a good example for her kids.

Tell Sugar Creek recycling tires isn’t a crime.

If you agree that Toni Shelton is improving the environment by recycling old tires and that, far from being punished, she should be applauded, please sign the petition demanding that all charges against her be dropped immediately. They have 238 signatures already, (after I have just added mine), and are seeking at least 5,000. Let’s get it done, people.

Fellow bloggers, please PRESS THIS.

FUN FACTMr.Bumble_thumb

The phrase “the law is an ass” was popularized by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is informed that “The law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”.

Mr. Bumble grumpily replies “If the law supposes that … the law is a [sic] ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”


I confess I really have a hard time finding common ground with those on the right, even though I know that civility demands that I do – and possibly the survival of liberal democracy insists that I must.

It’s not that I think all right wingers are bad and evil people – clearly they are not. I mean, I have right wing friends.

(Why does that feel like you could add the word “Black”, “Jewish” or “French” in there?)

It is just that my experience of right wing politicians and their apparatchiks is that they never truly compromise – that they have no concomitant respect for the other side of politics, and any accommodations they arrive at with people like me are merely tactical, and never of the heart.

Putting it simply, they are not to be trusted. They hate progressive thought, and they despise those who engage in it. They mistrust innovation, they dislike equality, and they don’t really believe that anyone but them should be running things. Ever. It’s been called the “born to rule” mentality, and I have seen it everywhere for as many of my 55 years as I have actually been attuned to such things. I prefer “born to exploit”, but then, that’s me*.

And then I came across this little cartoon and it explained it eloquently, and simply, and, er, well, forever I guess. Recent right wing opposition to healthcare reform in the USA, to the mining super-profits tax and carbon pricing in Australia, and to rescuing the planet from man-fuelled climate change generally around the world, have merely confirmed me in my view.

So I don’t expect I will be offering much compromise anytime soon, unless the right changes its stripes, which I am frankly not expecting. So much as I love my right wing friends, please don’t ask me to change which side of the barricades are on. Because until we are met halfway, I won’t.

And to my left wing friends, the message is “Maintain the rage”.

Er, yup. That’s about it, right there.

*I exclude genuine entrepreneurs from this judgement, those who actually make something, make it at a price that can be afforded, and sell it to people who gratefully receive it. They are the lifeblood of liberal democracy, and I salute them.


There’s a persistent urban legends that the American snack cake, Twinkies, actually last forever due to the amount of preservatives they contain.  This myth seems to have been de-bunked and most estimates claim the real number is 25 days.

Canned Spam, on the other hands, is apparently good for around 10 years. I suspect this is an under-estimate. In the Well This Is What I Think household we recently ate some where the can label was printed in runes, and it was just fine.

“Fresh as the day she was landed, guv. Stand on me. Would I lie to you?”

Joking aside, food spoilage is a significant problem: 30% of all food in America, for example, spoils before being eaten and estimates are as high as 70% in developing nations.  Imagine if we could increase the amount of available food in the developing world by that 70%! Conquering this problem would not only mean a lot more people wouldn’t go hungry, but also the huge amounts of energy used in food production and transportation would not be burned off to no good purpose.

Spoilage is usually caused by bacteria.  New techniques for controlling bacteria place food in a plastic pouch and subject it to very high pressure (87,000 psi).  According to a recent Time article, fruit treated this way remained fresh for three years and a pork chop tasted ‘normal’ seven years later. The bride recently enjoyed a piece of cajun salmon which was suck-wrapped in a container that took fully ten minutes to get into and pronounced it delicious. Just think of all the extra exercise we’d get opening the packaging, too.

This technique could not only improve food safety but also significantly reduce the vast amount of energy we use to cool and store foods. Instead of all the bleating we hear in favour or against carbon taxes – or even, still, whether or not man-made global climate change is real (as my mother used to say, “There is none so blind as those who will not see”) – our governments and industries would do the world a big favour if they were to invest in such technologies, make them “tax advantageous” to overcome short-term cost implications for the food manufacturers, and thus see them used more widely.

The new packaging could also reduce – or eliminate the reason for – young people’s recent enthusiasm for “dumpster diving”. We have at least two nearby families whose young adults delight in invading the rubbish bins of nearby supermarkets for food that is past its “Use By” date but which they consider still edible. Some dumpster divers, who self-identify as freegans, aim to reduce their ecological footprint by living exclusively from dumpster dived goods.

We applaud the practical morality of these young people. Bravo. We just don’t visit their folks for dinner any more. Salmonella is such an unpleasant take-home gift.

Mind you, dumpster divers highlight a serious problem that would be addressed by breakthroughs in sterile packaging.

Irregular, blemished, or damaged items that are still otherwise functional are regularly thrown away. Discarded food that might have slight imperfections, that is near its expiration date, or that is simply being replaced by newer stock is often thrown away despite being still edible. Many retailers are reluctant to sell this stock at reduced prices due to the belief that people will buy it instead of the higher priced newer stock, that extra handling time is required, and that there are liability risks.

There now, bet you never knew an article on packaging could be interesting, right?

Nom, nom, nom.

PS  Here are some other popular myths about Twinkies for our American readers.

  1. Myth: Twinkies aren’t baked, but extruded in a process where sponge cake is made from a chemical reaction that causes a cake-like material to foam up, then coloured dark brown at the bottom to give the appearance of being baked.
    Twinkies are in fact baked and their primary ingredients are flour, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Myth: Twinkies contain a chemical used in embalming fluid which helps account for some of their extreme longevity.
    Fact: No, they don’t have any such thing.
  3. Myth: The Twinkie will last longer than the cellophane wrapper they’re wrapped in.
    Fact: After 25 days they get stale and go bad in a similar fashion to any other bread (supports the baked fact also).

Coal - its a worldwide solution. It's also one very big worldwide problem.

OK, no environmentalist is actually proposing to shut the coal industry down. But is it really that strange or irresponsible or revolutionary that some people should express concern about the largest (and pretty much un-checked) mining investment boom in Australia’s history?

At present Australia digs up around 400 million tonnes of coal every year.

While that raw number means little to most people, consider this: each year Australia digs up enough coal to make a pile one metre deep, and 10 metres wide, by more than 40,000km.

And we are planning to more than double that.

If Clive Palmer’s accurately named ‘China First’ mine goes ahead then Australia’s coal exports will rise by 25 per cent. This one single mine will increase our exports by a quarter. And there are another eight mines of similar scale on the drawing board.

The flood of new Queensland coal will travel on a flotilla of coal ships through the Great Barrier Reef. Indeed, it is estimated that a ship laden with coal will depart every hour of every day by 2020.

Is that the “low carbon economy” you thought the Labor government was talking about?

And what do we do, by the way, when the coal runs out? (Assuming we are all still breathing and haven’t melted or drowned.)

Oh, that’s right, silly me. Nuclear energy.

Unsafe, waste-producing, and hideously expensive, and with only enough uranium on the earth to last maybe another 50 years at current rates of consumption anyway.

So, never mind that our Japanese veggies and fish will glow in the dark for a while yet. What do we do when the uranium runs out?

Um, oil? Gas? No, that’s all going to run out, too.


Look. What is it going to take for the right wing and the left wing to join hands and actually tackle our need to develop renewable, non-polluting energy sources, including longer-lasting high capacity battery technology to store the electricity thus generated?

The sun’s shining brightly on Melbourne today.  What a shame the Government cut the subsidy for solar panels.

Oh well, let’s dig another hole … and bury our heads in it when we’ve got the coal out of it.

Those interested in coal, whether for or against it at the moment, will find some useful anti coal discussions and resources at the “Coal is Dirty” website in the States. Head to, and you might also like to see the new Greenpeace site, Quit Coal, at

What is surely clear is that coal is not a long-term option for the world, no matter how big an industry it is now. If you disagree, visit any Chinese city and walk, coughing and wheezing, as I have, down the main street. And it’s not their recent love affair with the car that has caused it. Right across Asia, BILLIONS of people live in a disgusting permanent fog/smog of pollutants, actually unable to see the sky for years on end, if ever. The overhead shroud persists way out into country areas.

That’s wrong. I simply don’t care what some economics professor or government official says. It’s wrong. We are the most innovative and intelligent animals on the planet. We have to be able to dream up a better plan than this.

And incidentally, The Australia Institute will host two events in Queensland in the coming fortnight to discuss the impact of the mining boom on the State’s tourism, manufacturing and agriculture industries. The events will focus on the 99 per cent of Queenslanders who don’t work in mining. To find out more jump to: