PBS Nature: Christmas in Yellowstone

If you can, watch this wonderful presentation by PBS Nature series called “Christmas in Yellowstone” about wildlife and one of the U.S. most famous parks. It has breathtaking scenery and wonderful accounts of animals in the wild. Hopefully, it will remind viewers of all that’s at stake relative to the plight of our LIVING natural resources in the U.S. and how some have lost protection and are facing ill managed plans by state agencies.

Watching the film, it’s easy to see and understand better that nature balances itself. These ecosystems should be preserved and protected for generations to come. I can’t imagine a world without wonderful places like this.

Link to the schedule for this PBS presentation in your area: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/schedule/.


Nova Science Now Season Premiere on PBS

The new season of Nova Science Now premieres on PBS Tuesday, June 30th, at 9:00 pm on PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) following the regular Nova show. If you don’t get subscription TV and a lot of people do not these days, then PBS’s offerings on WGTE, both the Nova series, and Nova Science Now are shows to catch in lieu of Discovery, History, and/or Nat Geo. Nova Science Now is good viewing for the whole family.

Check out the You Tube video of the new season and don’t forget to watch:

Catch audio and video podcasts online if you miss the new season premiere: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/


Madagascar land grab we’re not hearing much about in the news

Korea’s “Daewoo Logistics” is attempting to lease HALF the agricultural land in Madagascar for 99 years for the industrial farming of palm oil and maize (corn), some 1.3 million acres according to an article on Care2.com. Of all the stupid things a country could do at this time of environmental uncertainty is kill off habitat for some of the most diverse creatures on the planet. Madagascar is a treasure chest for scientists and holds a key to biological changes occurring as the planet’s climate changes.

But the biggest travesty is that the people on this island off the SE coast of Africa are already suffering a severe food crisis. Naturally they are protesting because they may soon be losing THEIR land. This in turn is causing a governmental crisis. The world needs to let the people of Madagascar and those CEO’s of Daewoo know we are watching and will not in any way stand around and let this happen. We know about the wonderful biodiversity there and the plight of the people. What business does Korea have intruding on an island off of Africa anyway? We’re worried about N. Korea, and S. Korea proposes to do this? This is just not getting enough media attention considering the biodiversity issue at stake. Some of the world’s most rare creatures are found in Madagascar ONLY.

Anyone with children has seen the animated features “Madagascar and Madagascar II.” Like “Charlotte’s Web” these animated animal icons in Madagascar films are far removed from the horror the creatures they imitate suffer in real life. Little pigs like the one in “Charlotte’s Web” more than not will be found rotating in their whole bodily form on some rotisserie barbeque somewhere this summer. And the animals in “Madagascar” are no different. The lemur is already endangered. We’ve watched the Discovery, Science, Nat Geo, and Sundance Channels, Jeff Irwin and Jack Hanna enough to catch presentations about Madagascar and hopefully comprehend that Madagascar is a biological wonder http://www.wildmadagascar.org/overview/FAQs/.
That notwithstanding, the hostile takeover of any people’s agricultural property by another country, especially a people already suffering a food crisis, should be a call for intervention by the U.N. if their own country doesn’t soon support them.

We’re hardly hearing about this advance on Madagascar in the news. Please sign petitions to let both Korea and Madagascar know the world is watching and protesting. The people of Madagascar have managed to keep the biodiversity of their island country in tact forever. Just last year they agreed to “sell more than nine million tons of carbon offsets to fund rainforest conservation in a newly established protected area. Conservationists say the deal protects endangered wildlife, promotes sustainable development to improve the economic well-being of people living in and around the park area, and helps fight global warming” according to the website “wildmadagascar.org.” And this is how they are repaid by the world community? Much of that biodiversity could be lost with one bad decision, the decision to look the other way instead of protesting along with the people of that country. The U.S. should have much to say to S. Korea about this proposed plan.

To sign petitions: http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1172161.



Can Mega Wind Farms Inhibit a Tornado or Defer Its Path?

I was watching ABC news about the 900 mile swath of 21 tornadoes that were active from western Michigan to Missouri last night and remembered watching a special on TV about one of climatologist’s biggest fears, tornadoes that unite to become multi-vortex mega storms. Is this what we’re beginning to experience? The NOAA website reports: “There is a statistical trend (as documented by NSSL’s Harold Brooks) toward wide tornadoes having higher damage ratings. This could be related to greater tornado strength, more opportunity for targets to damage, or some blend of both. However, the size or shape of any particular tornado does not say anything conclusive about its strength.” So there is a trend but it appears to be downplayed, while tornadoes are becoming rampant across the heartland of our country, destroying more and more properties every year, and occurring out of season.

Residents in the Missouri area said they witnessed 4 distinct heads of the multi vortex tornado that covered a 5-mile swath of land. This tornado was also described by the newscaster as a bouncer, touching down, going up, and then touching down again. The same NOAA website states that tornadoes don’t literally skip. It says: “By definition [] a tornado must be in contact with the ground. There is disagreement in meteorology over whether or not multiple touchdowns of the same vortex or funnel cloud mean different tornadoes (a strict interpretation). In either event, stories of skipping tornadoes usually mean

1. There was continuous contact between vortex and ground in the path, but it was too weak to do damage;
2. Multiple tornadoes happened; but there was no survey done to precisely separate their paths (very common before the 1970s); or
3. There were multiple tornadoes with only short separation, but the survey erroneously classified them as one tornado.

So was this multi-vortex, bouncing tornado possibly a new phenomena? Is there anything that can be done to limit the increasing velocity and strength of tornadoes? Well, “Daniel Barrie and Daniel Kirk-Davidoff of the University of Maryland concocted an experiment. They took the pattern of expanding turbine fields to an extreme, and used a computer model to calculate what might happen if all the land from Texas to central Canada, and from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains were covered in one massive wind farm,” according to an article on Discovery Channel website. It said, “[They] acknowledged the hypothetical wind farm was far larger than anything humans are likely to build. But meeting the Department of Energy’s goal of wind power generation by 2030 would require that scores of huge wind farms be built throughout the Midwestern United States. The total disturbance caused by turbines could be enough to steer storms.”

Although the NOAA website states that it is unlikely we could ever come up with anything that could stop a tornado that wouldn’t be worse than the tornado itself, it does talk about dissipating one, which means to slow down or cause it to break up. The website’s FAQ’s page said that tornadoes do need a source of instability and a “larger-scale property of rotation (vorticity) to keep going.” It went on to say that a lot of processes surrounding a storm could rob the area around a tornado of either instability or vorticity. Cold outflow is one. This is the flow of wind out of the precipitation area of a shower or thunderstorm. It’s been observed that cold outflow causes a tornado to go away. It also says: “For decades, storm observers have documented the death of numerous tornadoes when their parent circulations (mesocyclones) weaken after they become wrapped in outflow air — either from the same thunderstorm or a different one.”

Could that different outflow of air possibly be produced by large wind farms in the near future? Could they produce enough wind to replicate the outflow air of a thunderstorm? If so, it’s incentive enough to develop wind power. There are far too many homes and properties destroyed every year from increasingly bad weather. If we thought the stock market dive was bad, imagine insurance companies going bust?





Michigan is Tilting and Affecting the Great Lakes


I’m going from notes here and I can’t seem to find this particular show on National Geographic’s website as part of its series Naked Science. So here it goes. It’s long but very interesting especially for Michiganders. On Sunday, April 5th, I viewed a series on Nat Geo about the origin and age of the Great Lakes. The show’s starting point was around 20,000 years ago when the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to melt and retreat. The show culminated with the current assessment that Michigan is tilting.


Since Michigan has the greatest telltale signs of this massive ice sheet—the Great Lakes, it was a good place to study its after affects. However, this was not the initial intention of the study. The study was simply trying to date the Great Lakes, but as research continued, the study shifted with new findings and the combination of 2 theories as to how the lakes were formed.


The study began with a focus on Niagra Falls where all central U.S. water floods over the edge at 150,000 gpm. This study revealed that the falls are retreating or moving back 1 ft. per year toward Lake Erie. It used to retreat 3-4 ft. just 100 years ago, but the introduction of hydroelectric power slowed that progress. The perpetual destruction of the falls is a giant timepiece. One would think that the weight of the water would harden the surface rock it flows over and it does. It’s called cap rock and is extremely hard, but there is weaker shale behind the cap rock and at the base where it is perpetually pummeled with 70 mph water flow. The base is honed back leaving a cantilever of rock at the top of the falls, which eventually breaks away and lines the river edge below. So Niagra Falls at some point in time will end up in the basin of Lake Erie.


The researchers couldn’t carbon date the rock left behind but they could carbon date the clam shells they found from Lake Erie that remained stuck in crevices as the falls regressed. So the further away from the falls, the older the shells with the oldest being 7 miles downriver. Carbon dating these shells puts Niagra Falls at 12,600 years old. Now onto dating the lakes.


The Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of N. America and Canada and was a 1000 times bigger than our largest glacier. When it began to melt and retreat, it carved out Lakes Michigan and Erie first. The bedrock in Mohawk Bay in Lake Erie seems to support this theory. Core samples of sediment there showed that it ground away 1 inch of bedrock every 100 years. Ice streams in glaciers don’t freeze but flow and move 10 times faster than the glacier and grind rock 10 times faster. This fast stream could have carved out the lakes in as short a time as 10,000 years. Core samples coincide with this grinding theory because samples near the top are 1700 years old, the middle 7500 years old, and near the base of the lake are 9,000 years old. The rocks deposited along the shores of Mohawk Bay are both worn smooth by water running over them and jagged as newer hard cut pieces.


The early lakes were lifeless, cold, and harsh with a milky appearance that didn’t allow light to penetrate until the bedrock sediment settled. Once clear, the biggest difference in the lakes then and now was that the lakes were disjointed and the floodwaters of the retreating glacier ran south down the Mississippi to the Gulf. Researchers found 14,000 year old freshwater seashells in the Gulf of Mexico. What else could have dumped that much freshwater into the Gulf back then? One more catastrophic event must have happened that joined the lakes and created the 2000-mile long water system—the St. Lawrence Seaway.


At the bottom of Lake Ontario is a crater ½ mile wide. None of the other lakes have craters. The theory is that a comet may have caused this crater on first impact. Since comets are actually ice there would be little evidence left behind. But besides this crater, researchers did find grains of iridium along Lake Michigan and black dots of pure carbon compressed so tightly they formed millions of tiny diamonds called impact diamonds.


It appears that 12,900 years ago, a comet did strike the Great Lakes area. Wildfires from it quickly broke up the last of the retreating Laurentide glacier. Debris from trees and rocks, giant ice forms, and flood waters from the melting glacier stopped up the flow down the Mississippi backing up the lakes to connect them all and forge the St. Lawrence Seaway as an outlet.


Researchers recently found tree trunks still rooted and wood in Lake Huron in 40 ft. of water. The area was never surveyed before. It was a forest of cedar and pine carbon dated as 6,400 to 7,900 years old. Lake Huron was a great degree smaller than Lake Erie, which was believed to be much bigger than now and more turbulent because wild rice was found 5 miles inland from Erie. Rice needs well-oxygenated water to grow. This rice was 4,200 years old. This huge backwash effect caused Lake Huron to swell and swamp that forest and carve out the St. Claire River to Lake Erie. When the seaway was finally carved out, Erie’s shoreline retreated also. But why to the east?


Michigan is tilting. Researchers used GPS monitoring to measure whether the shed housing the GPS equipment was rising or falling. They found Michigan tilting higher in the north and lower in the south with the west part of the state rebounding more quickly than the east. Earth’s surface can be compressed and the Laurentide Glacier weighed upwards of 10 million billion tons. It depressed the land around the Great Lake ½ a mile over time. The land is recovering and the rebound is responsible for not only Michigan but also much of N. America to tilt in odd ways. Global warming is accelerating this rebound. The future of the Great Lakes may well be as turbulent as its past.


To make it easier to understand how global warming affects the rebound, think of cake batter in a pan in an uneven oven. The dry heat of the oven causes the shallow, less dense batter to rise while the other side—well, it’s just a lopsided cake, and we all know that water will seek the lowest point.



75% of U.S. Citizens Want Environmental Improvements from Obama Administration



I caught CNN report a national poll about the top 3 things people wanted president-elect Obama to tackle in the New Year.


1.  77% of all people polled want something done about national health care.


2.  75% of all people polled want something done about the environment.


3.  70% of all people want to end the war in Iraq.


I’m a little amazed. I’m not running into many of these people who want something done about the environment. Truth is not much can be done if we allow the Bush administration to continue against the environment the way they have been. If Bush is successful at lifting the obstacles to more drilling, mining, and lumbering and those industries move quickly to begin their projects, how will a new president be able to come in and simply put a halt to it?


And Bush is moving toward that goal. According to the Wilderness Society, in the past few weeks the Bush administration has:

  • Announced plans to lease iconic areas in Utah – including Desolation Canyon and greater Nine Mile Canyon – to the oil and gas industry;
  • Released new oilshale plans that could affect up to 2 million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming with this as yet unsafe and unproven technology;
  • Made changes to the Endangered Species Act that would all but eliminate protections for fish, wildlife and forests; and
  • Proposed to allow clearcut logging in ancient forests in Oregon.

Bush plans to remove critical scientific review of the impact of federal permits on endangered and threatened species. This will weaken the Endangered Species Act even further according to Care2.com’s petition site, which also stated that Bush is:

  • Allowing the EPA to ignore unsafe levels of rocket fuel in drinking water that pose a risk to nearly 40 million Americans; and,
  • Permitting more uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

And Earthjustice reports that the fate of U.S. rivers, lakes and streams — and years of Earthjustice legal efforts — hang in the balance next month when the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether mining wastes can be dumped in an Alaska lake. This is bad because it sets a precedent for the mining industry in general to be able to dump what they don’t want/need into bodies of water like streams and rivers.

Clearly this is like a last minute corporate takeover of America. The heck with national forests, critters, birds, and fish in lieu of big dirty business like oil, mining, lumber. When we look at the anti-environmental moves of this exiting administration vs. numbers like 75% for the environment, it’s pretty evident we as citizens haven’t had much of an impact on Bush/Cheney, and waiting for a new president is too late.


Contact your legislators, and/or email the White House that we want change for a clean future, that we love our land, national parks, animals, streams, rivers, and lakes. This should be a given for everyone in America, especially our leadership. 








Toxic Algae Increasing Around U.S.Coastlines

Recently I caught someone’s smart remark after reading that scientists are studying shrimp, putting them on treadmills, that’s right, on treadmills to find how they are coping with toxic algae. It probably doesn’t sound important to most people other than their favorite food may disappear. I answered the remark that the study is important, because first the shrimp, then us.

Then yesterday I watched a Nova presentation on PBS about a marine animal rescue facility in CA that is seeing a surge of Domoic Acid poisoning in the past 3 years after a rise beginning in 1998. In 1998 tests were done to determine the effects of this natural occurring marine neurotoxin. It is found in algae/plankton and was formerly believed to be cyclical. Until this Nova presentation.

Nova showed satellite pictures of the coastline of California. Heavy concentrations of plankton that produces Domoic Acid showed up as a specific color on the map. Satellite images viewed after large storms that carry an overabundance of groundwater and stream/river water to the coastline also showed an increase in the plankton growth immediately afterward. This Nova presentation shows the connection of heavy runoffs of inland water that usually contains high concentrations of agricultural fertilizers and the resulting increase of “natural” plankton growth. It’s not looking so natural. Gee why would there be a steady rise since 1998, coinciding with the very anti-environmental, deregulation happy Bush administration?

The poor sea lions that are suffering seizures on the beach from this stuff were sad to watch. They were pretty much paralyzed, aware of humans but listless. Domoic Acid poisoning has no antidote. Plankton is a natural food source for sea lions and they are literally dying from too much of it. The poisoning was formerly thought to affect short-term memory. Now it’s believed that it is literally eating holes in the brain of the sea lions. Most of the poor animals we viewed will die.

Now the bad part. Humans and their pets can suffer the same poisoning. Rarely, for now anyway, Domoic Acid poisoning has sickened and killed humans in the past. Sardines, and all types of seafood eat plankton. And studies even before the Nova presentation have already ascertained that this over abundance of toxic algae is around the entire coastline of the U.S. Remember first the shrimp, then us.

The Nova presentation about the CA rescue facility is so new it isn’t available yet on this website. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ocean911/.

National Geographic’s previous info on Domoic Acid. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080617-sea-lions.html


Spreading the Wealth Around Instead of in a Landfill

I was watching PBS news last night and found out a little more about how the foreclosed home situation is being handled. No wonder banks/lenders are in trouble. The waste is unbelievable. It’s called “trashing out a home” when mortgage lenders pay someone to carry everything out of a house to a dumpster. The items are many times top notch household furnishings and electronics. It all ends up in a landfill. What a waste. This pillage should be spread around.

I watched a whole new genre of mover called “trash-out crews.” They go into foreclosed homes and strip the house of all its belongings and send it to the trash dump. You might think that wouldn’t be much, but many upper middle class homes that have been vacated, leave behind much of their high-end belongings too. In some cases it looked as if someone came through and yelled “run for your lives the damn has burst” because food was left out, and toys were still on the floor. There is a large amount of TV’s and electronics like PCS left behind. These items could be put to use in schools.

When the interviewer asked the head of one of these trash-out companies about giving it to charity he said the logistics of hooking up with a charity is slim. They don’t show up, or aren’t on time, or leave things of little value behind so that he has to go back a second time. Unfortunately, he said he tried the eco friendly way and it ends up costing him money. His company is paid by the mortgage companies to pick up perfectly nice items and send them to the landfill where they pay fees to dump the stuff too.

Don’t think this happens much? The same guy with the trash-out company started with 3 employees and now has 73. His trash out crews trash 15 homes per dayhigh scale stuff from the edge of the golf course homes. It was sickening to see what went into a dumpster knowing the mortgage industry is in serious trouble and wasting like this. To think people somewhere are living in huts on dirt floors, and the amount and variety of things that are getting buried in the earth here is ridiculous.

I ran across one article that wanted to know where the entrepreneurs are when it comes to trashing out homes? Think about it. It’s a never ending supply of free merchandise that you can actually resell on eBay or Craig’s list, and the bank/lender pays you to pick it up. If you don’t resell it, you store it and in the future you charge the same bank that paid you to pick it up in order to stage the same empty homes for resale using the furniture you took from them in the first place. Think of it as getting paid to pick it up, then put it back.

My first thought was, “Where is Habitat for Humanity?” After all, if an organization like Habitat is going through the trouble of enlisting volunteers to build someone a brand new home, it shouldn’t be an empty home with all this “trash” around. The same volunteers for Habitat could be working with the mortgage lenders for “clear out” not “trash out” jobs. Imagine presenting someone with a new and “furnished” home.

Is this socialist ideology? It’s certainly “spreading the wealth” around. I see it as recycling whatever, whenever from someone who didn’t care enough to take it, store it, or donate it in the first place. Besides the amount spent on trashing and landfill costs is not that much cheaper than doing the right thing.

I don’t buy it that there is no way to hook this stuff up with charity. There is always a way. If someone offered good money for a solution there would certainly be a way to do it, but then it wouldn’t be charity.




Global Warming and the Environment on PBS

Previewing October 14th on PBS is a presentation called “Climate Change; Then and Now.” Watch it as it will be replayed on either WGTE or PBS Detroit again. If you want to hear what has happened since the words “global warming” first graced our ears some ten years ago, you might be surprised. The results are in and we definitely have an impact on what’s up with the weather. Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/story/2008/10/heat.html.

I watched another presentation on WGTE’s Frontline last night relative to the oil industry and the environment that’s part of a larger series entitled “Heat.” I swear that it was a compilation of many of the blogs I’ve done over the course of two years from the net wealth of the oil industry down to Detroit automakers. It’s nice to know I’m not totally daft.

The program began by showing Exxon Mobil’s baby “Hibernia” the largest (by weight) oilrig platform in the world. It’s 16 stories high and 200 miles off the coast of Newfoundland in God forsaken nowhere. Every 5-6 days a tanker leaves with a load worth 500 million dollars. This rig cost Exxon 4 billion dollars!

The storyline then settled in with the statement that no one has resisted change like big oil. The reporter harped about, the ratio of net income for every major U.S. oil company compared to what they invest in alternative technologies. There were quite a few times oil company spokespeople were flustered and could not answer the interviewer. I mean how do you say “we’re greedy?” The coverage then shifted to the Rockefellers, (not so greedy stockholders) demanding in public court that Exxon invest in more alternative energy. Let’s face it, the oil companies are not going to let their bread and butter go without a fight, and do they have the money to fight.

The fight consisted of spin regarding the state of our environment. This spin has made the plight of the environment political rather than scientific, inciting even more divisiveness. The program showed that big oil had a connection to many denial machines like “The Heartland Group, Competitive Enterprises,” and I have to add “Friends of Science,” Senator Inhofe’s favorite. Inhofe was included in last night’s foray of who and what helped stifle the movement toward alternative energy.

Not to be left out, there was a segment on American auto companies. I could not believe my ears when a scientist being interviewed reiterated my words about our auto industry: “Where was the foresight?” It continued to show that Clinton funded the American auto industry to develop hybrid cars in 98. The prototypes were shown. The auto companies rolled them out and bingo, Bush got into office. That all stopped. The American car companies made bigger and bigger gas-guzzlers like SUV’s, Hummers, etc. But Japan kept up with the hybrid idea since that time. Now Japan is 10 years ahead of us. Japan’s factories are also aiming to cut emissions drastically more than they already have. If only we could work on the dolphin/whale thing…

It was quite a night for me to see the same content of some my past blogs come to life in a presentation. We live chaotic lives at times and so our news becomes disjointed and senseless. We only get bits and pieces. Heat is a long series to catch in its entirety. There are 9 chapters. But you can view them online. It’s nice to see it all strung together and for that effort we can always thank Public TV.