Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

A New Harvard University Study Adds to a Growing Body of Evidence Linking Air Pollution and Autism

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We are poisoning ourselves, but at least we make a lot of money doing it. Removing pollutants from exhaust (from cars, from power plants, from factories and chemical production facilities) costs money, so most corporations see autistic children as the lesser evil. And they will fight fiercely any regulations that would force them to stop polluting. Profits are the only goal.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2014 at 1:52 pm

The costs of fracking

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Read this post by Faith Gardner at Daily Kos. It begins:

Another day, another toxic spill thanks to fracking:

About 25 families in eastern Ohio have been unable to live in their houses for the past three days because of a natural-gas leak at a fracking well that crews cannot stop.Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the state agency that regulates oil and gas, said crews lost control of the Monroe County well on Saturday. […]

The well is not on fire, but the gas could be explosive.

Ohio has had its share of fracking accidents this year. In May, a blowout resulted in an oil spill into an Ohio river tributary. And then this happened the following month: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2014 at 1:16 pm

Why businesses hate drones

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Businesses really like to keep their environmental degradations (for which they have no intention of paying) a secret, since otherwise they would have to acknowledge responsibility for what they’ve done. It’s the same imperative to secrecy that drives criminal enterprises, corruption in politics, CIA criminal behavior, police misconduct, and so on: if the offense is kept secret, then the offender cannot be held to account. (And in fact, we’re seeing more and more of society becoming secret—a very bad sign.)

This interesting article by Brian Merchant in Motherboard shows how people are using drones to look at what industrial farms do:

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Since 2012, Mark Devries has been ​flying drones over A​merica’s largest factory farms. In just-released aerial footage, he reveals the sheer size of the massive, toxic, feces-filled “lagoons” that they create.

Those lagoons you’re looking at belong to Smithfield Foods, which bills itself as is “the largest pork producer and processor in the United States.” They are often hundreds of feet long, and are fetid cesspools of waste—they are the result of pig excrement being sprayed out of the compounds where the animals are packed in like dirt-encrusted, antibiotics-loaded sardines.

“These factory farms make it exceedingly difficult to see the giant, open-air cesspools of toxic waste on their property,” Devries tells me in an email. “They are surrounded by trees, and often barbed-wire fences. With drones, I can bypass the trees and barbed wire, and see close-up what is being hidden.”

What he did end up seeing repulsed him, he said.

“Even though I knew what to expect in the abstract, I was shocked by the sheer size of these open-air pits of toxic waste—they can stretch on for the surface area of several football fields.

​Factory farms are quickly becoming one of the hardest places to photograph in the nation. The sprawling operations—which cram an enormous number of pigs, chickens, and cows into cramped quarters for harvesting—have responded to animal rights critics by pushing for state-level “ag-gag” bills that prevent journalists and activists from photographing their grounds.

It’s brazen, patently absurd, and one of the most egregious free speech violations that hardly anyone is talking about. Devries took care not to film any farms in states that have ag-gag bills, but hopes his footage will offer viewers an idea of the practices of operations of those that do.

“I was also particularly struck by how close they are to the houses of neighbors, who are forced to deal with the dangerous chemicals and stench in their own homes.”

The segment is part of Devries’ full-length documentary Speciesism​learn m​ore about the film here.

Needless to say, big agriculture is lobbying aggressively to make it illegal to take pictures and videos what they are doing because they understand that if people know what they are doing, they’ll have to stop  doing it. And there’s money to be made, so who cares about the environment?

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2014 at 9:24 am

Conservatives can be persuaded to care more about the environment, study finds

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Yasmin Anwar reports for the UC Berkeley News Center:

When it comes to climate change, deforestation and toxic waste, the assumption has been that conservative views on these topics are intractable. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that such viewpoints can be changed after all, when the messages about the need to be better stewards of the land are couched in terms of fending off threats to the “purity” and “sanctity” of Earth and our bodies.

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A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog.

Published today (Dec. 10)  in the online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the findings indicate that reframing pro-environmental rhetoric according to values that resonate strongly with conservatives can reduce partisan polarization on ecological matters.

“These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines,” said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of the study. “Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular.”

Researchers conducted a content analysis of more than 200 op-eds published in such newspapers as The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and found the pro-environmental arguments were most often pitched in terms of moral obligations to care about the natural environment and protect it from harm, a theme that resonates more powerfully with liberals, they added, than with conservatives.

They hypothesized that conservatives would be more responsive to environmental arguments focused on such principles as purity, patriotism and reverence for a higher authority. In their study, the authors specifically tested the effectiveness of arguments for protecting the purity of the environment. They said the results suggest they were on the right track:

“When individuals view protecting the environment as a moral issue, they are more likely to recycle and support government legislation to curb carbon emissions,” said Matthew Feinberg, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford University and lead author of the study which he conducted while at UC Berkeley.

Scientific consensus on the existence of warming global land and ocean temperatures – attributed in large part to human activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions – continues to grow and influence public opinion, especially with such extreme weather events as Hurricane Sandy. A recent Rasmussen poll reported that 68 percent of Americans view climate change as a “serious problem,” compared to a 2010 Gallup poll in which 48 percent of Americans said they thought global warming was exaggerated.

In the first experiment, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2014 at 11:46 am

Posted in Environment, GOP, Science

More Than 600 Reported Chemical Exposure in Iraq, Pentagon Belatedly Acknowledges

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I assume the Pentagon acknowledged the problem only because the NY Times was going to break the story. As with Agent Orange (dioxin) from the Vietnam war, the Pentagon refused to acknowledge the problem, denigrated veterans who were suffering from the effects of exposure to the toxin, and in general showed the military’s notion of “Honor,” which now seems to amount to “Cover Your Ass.” It is extremely difficult to respect the military as an organization.

C.J. Chivers reports in the NY Times:

More than 600 American service members since 2003 have reported to military medical staff members that they believe they were exposed to chemical warfare agents in Iraq, but the Pentagon failed to recognize the scope of the reported cases or offer adequate tracking and treatment to those who may have been injured, defense officials say.

The Pentagon’s disclosure abruptly changed the scale and potential costs of the United States’ encounters with abandoned chemical weapons during the occupation of Iraq, episodes the military had for more than a decade kept from view.

This previously untold chapter of the occupation became public after aninvestigation by The New York Times revealed last month that while troops did not find an active weapons of mass destruction program, they did encounter degraded chemical weapons from the 1980s that had been hidden in caches or used in makeshift bombs.

The Times initially disclosed 17 cases of American service members who were injured by sarin or sulfur mustard agent. And since the report was published last month, more service members have come forward, pushing the number who were exposed to chemical agents to more than 25. But an internal review of Pentagon records ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has now uncovered that hundreds of troops told the military they believe they were exposed, officials said.

The new and larger tally of potential cases suggests that there were more encounters with chemical weapons than the United States has acknowledged and that other people — including foreign soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi troops and civilians — may also have been at risk.

Having not acted for years on that data, the Pentagon says it will now expand outreach to veterans. One first step, officials said, includes a toll-free national telephone hotline for service members and veterans to report potential exposures and seek medical evaluation or care.

Phillip Carter, who leads veterans programs at the Center for a New American Security, called the Pentagon’s failure to organize and follow up on the information “a stunning oversight.” Paul Reickhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the military must restore trust by sharing information. . .

Continue reading. It’s yet another instance of the military refusing to help their own troops.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2014 at 4:47 pm

Muck reads

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From Terry Parris, Jr., at ProPublica:

“It’s not just bullets you need to watch out for.”  For the public, gun ranges are the most common way of getting lead poisoning outside of the workplace. And with an estimated 40 million annual recreational shooters and 10,000 gun ranges in America, the risk of contamination, if left unchecked, is high.The Seattle Times, through a “first-of-its-kind” analysis of occupational lead-monitoring data, found that shooting-range owners repeatedly violated workplace safety laws and the agencies that are supposed to monitor lead poisoning have been slow to act.— The Seattle Times via @JimNeff4

Sick and vomiting residents. A chemical smell. A dead 18-month-old German shepherd. For years, state agencies ignored, dismissed and outright botched investigations into complaints by residents in southwestern Oregon about helicopters spraying weed killers near their homes. Last October, the state got so many complaints about a single incident that officials finally acted, fining a pilot $10,000 and revoking his spraying license for a year. — The Oregonian via @robwdavis

Tracking suspects in violent felonies, kidnappings, and you. This tracking device goes by names such as StingRay, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish. It allows police to follow the cellphones of not only suspects but also anyone within range. A Charlotte Observer investigation, using heavily redacted documents, found that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are using this secretive surveillance system – and have been for eight years.  “It serves a legitimate purpose. I think the police don’t abuse it,” said a county judge who says he’s approved hundreds of surveillance requests. — The Charlotte Observer via @dougobserver

Prone restraints can be deadly for adults, too. Over the last 15 years, at least 24 developmentally disabled adults have died after being restrained, most of them residential facilities and group homes, according to 100 Reporters. Nine of those were ruled homicides, yet charges were filed in only one of those cases. According to one disability rights advocate, “prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases they fear they can’t win, relying heavily on staffers testifying against each other.” — 100 Reporters (Also read ProPublica’s coverage on schoolchildren being restrained and pinned down.)

What’s behind the deaths listed as “medical” on Rikers Island? Ninety-eight inmates have died at Rikers Island in the last five years. An Associated Press review of hundreds of documents showed that in 15 of those deaths, lack of care was cited as a factor, even as experts say “New York City is better equipped to deal with inmate health needs than perhaps anywhere else.” — The Associated Press via @JustinElliott

This cost saving measure is costing residents 20 percent or more in property taxes. Over the last 30 years, municipalities in Wisconsin cut costs by replacing their assessment offices with cheaper and more cursory outside contractors. The resulting sloppy work has cost residents 20 percent or more on property tax bills, a Journal Sentinel investigation found. “By them not policing assessors, they are screwing over millions of taxpayers across the state. It’s a huge disservice,” one assessor said. — Journal Sentinel via @Brizzyc

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:07 pm

A scathing indictment of the (highly artificial) sports culture

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Somehow it reminds me of nothing so much as factory farming: playing music to the cows to increase milk production in the “whatever it takes” spirit. Or the way slaughterhouses are now designed by animal behaviorists to minimize problems due to the cattle becoming fearful or angry: soothing and reassuring environments right up until the hammer falls. Or how casinos have no windows, no clocks, and seating only at the game tables. Free/cheap booze, though…

All examples of how the behavior of animals must be managed to improve corporate profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2014 at 5:32 pm

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