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As if things weren’t bad enough, we now have droughts on the scale of the Dust Bowl era to contend with:
In other climate news, Texas and 13 other states stretching from Arizona to Florida continue to face one of the worst U.S. droughts on record. Some say the drought c
ould rival the Dust Bowl Days. In Texas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently designated all 254 counties in the state natural disaster areas.
More collateral damage in our insatiable love affair with oil:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to collect indoor air samples from homes downstream of an Exxon Mobil oil spill that’s leaked as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River. The Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company initially downplayed the incident saying it would only affect 10 miles of the river, but state officials say the spill has already stretched more than 240 miles to near the North Dakota border. Local residents have raised concerns over health risks and reported symptoms including nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
Burst pipes, exploding wells, and wrecked tankers are all-too-common occurrences in our incessant quest to produce greater and greater quantities of oil. Such events reek havoc on ecosystems and the health of local residents, but the underlying issue — our undying addiction to oil — seems beyond the bounds of public debate.
Continuing with the anti-religious theme, let us now turn to Kentucky, where creationism apparently trumps education every time:
In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.” It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.” …
Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks. At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. …
In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.
This is the very definition of idiocy, and another prime example of why we need to fight against religious belief in every way we can. It is not simply a matter of respecting the beliefs of others, allowing people to live according to their own wishes. The problem, as anyone who has ever met a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim understands, is that a substantial percentage of religious people are not content to keep their views and way of life to themselves. Spreading religion is built into the very fabric of their belief system, as is the case with every successful collection of memes.
Harold Camping of the U.S.-based Christian group, Family Radio, predicted that Jesus Christ will return to earth on May 21, 2011, to take with him the good ones to heaven and leave the sinners to face the end of the world.
Sparking fury across the world, the Family Radio president said, “Earthquakes would sweep across the earth, first starting in New Zealand.”
The day, May 21, which Camping predicted to be doomsday through a series of mathematical calculations 7,000 years after Noah’s floods, has provoked many.
Of course not all Christians are this crazy, as amply demonstrated by these believers who rushed to condemn Camping’s prediction of our imminent demise:
“Do not believe the hype! No man knows the hour when all will be said and done,” he urges.
Another staunch follower of the Holy Bible, Donna L. Serino, who is a businesswoman in Philadelphia, opposes the hoax of Saturday’s end of the world, while she refers to the Act 1:7 and Matthew 24:36 in Bible.
“Jesus said, it is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, but concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” she said.
In other words, and as vjack pointed out over at Atheist Revolution, the view held by sane Christians is that the world is probably not going to end today, but don’t let your guard down because Jesus will be coming eventually. The only catch is that our loving creator decreed that we couldn’t possibly know when he was going to return, as this would allow all of us horrible sinners to repent and therefore save ourselves from eternal damnation. What a compassionate God!
In a welcomed move to embrace the inevitable, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report suggesting that renewable energy sources could meet 80% of all energy needs within our lifetimes:
Renewable sources such as solar and wind could supply up to 80 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and play a significant role in fighting global warming, a top climate panel concluded Monday.
But the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that to achieve that level, governments would have to spend significantly more money and introduce policies that integrate renewables into existing power grids and promote their benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and improving public health.
There is nothing here that should surprise anyone, but the report will undoubtedly be attacked by the science-phobic Luddites of the fringe right. Already, there are indications that the initial findings of the panel were watered down in order to satisfy oil-giants Saudi Arabia and Qatar:
Greenpeace and other environmentalists said Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two oil-rich states that don’t have an interest in alternatives, successfully watered down the report’s language on the cost benefits of renewables – a charge the Saudis denied.
Obviously, there are still major hurdles to be overcome in the transition to renewable energy. But these obstacles are hardly insurmountable, and their existence should by no means discourage us from attempting to make that transition. Fossil fuels are part of an old paradigm: they are dirty, polluting, inefficient, and increasingly difficult to extract. Simply because we have been using them for so long, and because ongoing reliance on them appears to be the easiest course of action, is not a sufficient reason to continue doing so.
The tiny island of Graciosa off the coast of Portugal is undergoing a silent revolution. A German company is trying to make the 4,500-strong community energy self-sufficient and independent.
Berlin-based “Younicos” wants to harness and store the power generated by the wind and the sun on a scale large enough to supply the entire island.
Company founder, Clemens Triebel describes his vision:
“We would have a place in the world where already today, the energy supply with renewables would be ensured one hundred percent, without the people living there having to suffer from poorer quality or other disadvantages compared to other industrialized countries.”
The bottom line about Gracioca’s move towards a complete reliance on renewable energy is this: we have the capacity to do it, even today. If communities and nations around the globe merely made the effort and directed sufficient resources to the cause, there is no reason to believe we could not attain total energy self-sufficiency. The only thing which prevents us from realizing that goal is a simple lack of motivation; instead of utilizing our intellectual and material wealth for creative purposes with benefits for all, we prefer to squander our wealth on weapons and war.
One year later, Boston.com has an excellent photo essay exploring the lingering devastation of the tragic BP disaster:
What is the cost of spilling almost five million barrels of oil into the ocean? How do you measure that cost? In GDP reduction? In lives affected? In environmental impact? And how do you measure the cost when long-term effects are impossible to calculate yet, and when a significant portion of the spilled oil is still unaccounted for? One year since the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded, killing 11 workers, there are measurable effects, and many more unknowns.
The stirring collection of photos includes several then-and-now pictures, comparing conditions in the immediate aftermath of the spill to those of today:
One of the first things one notices about the photos above is the dreary lack of color resulting from the erosion of the shore and the mass destruction of the marsh grasses and mangrove trees. The once thriving marshland of the fragile coastal ecosystem has been utterly devastated by the spill and the myriad chemical dispersants released afterwards. Dead dolphins and sea turtles continue to wash up on the shores of the Gulf coast, and the remnants of oil are still to be found virtually everywhere.
Nearly one year after the BP Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, dead dolphins and sea turtles continue to wash up on the shore:
(Reuters) – Scientists confirmed on Thursday that they have discovered oil on dead dolphins found along the U.S. Gulf Coast, raising fresh concerns about the effects of last year’s BP oil spill on sea life.
Fifteen of the 406 dolphins that have washed ashore in the last 14 months had oil on their bodies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said during a conference call with reporters.
The oil found on eight of those dolphins has been linked to the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists said.
“It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago,” said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.
Since mid-March, 87 dead sea turtles have also been found, although no visible traces of oil have been discovered on the carcasses, said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator. …
In February, NOAA declared “an unusual mortality event” after a spike in the number of dead dolphins washing up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
There have been 153 deaths this year, 65 of them newly born or stillborn calves, NOAA officials said on Thursday.
Before addressing the obvious concern regarding BP’s disastrous role in destroying the Gulf ecosystem, it is worth pointing out that the spate of dead dolphins actually began two months’ prior to the BP spill. What exactly was causing these dolphins to die? Obviously, the occasional finding of a dolphin carcass would be no cause for concern, and undoubtedly happens for natural reasons. But to suggest that the rate of 406 dolphins over 14 months (some 29 dolphins per month) had begun some two months before the BP disaster raises some serious questions that need to be addressed.
I recently logged on to Facebook to find this lovely little gem posted by an aunt, the wife of a Baptist pastor:
Sept 11th (NewYork) Jan 11th (Haiti) and March 11th (Japan)….Luke 21:10-11 Then jesus said to his disciples: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes’, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. ‘Jesus says for behold I come quickly. So ask yourself r u ready? Sad to say, many won’t repost this.
This ridiculous post highlights much of what is wrong with religion, and why sharing the earth with people who hold such beliefs is more dangerous than most of us realize.
The mysterious spate of dead birds and fish continues:
Three hundred dead birds fell from the sky in Alabama on Friday. The carcasses of grackles, who appear similar to blackbirds, were found along Interstate 65 in Alabama. Wildlife biologist, Bill Gates told WAFF television he saw the bodies of the dead birds scattered all over the snow along the side of the highway.
Scientists have not confirmed if the mysterious Alabama bird deaths are related to other sudden birds deaths being reported in the southern United States and worldwide.
On New Year’s Eve, 5,000 blackbirds died suddenly in Beebe, Arkansas. Two days later, 500 blackbirds fell dead in Pointe Coupee Parish Louisiana. More birds were then reported dead in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, and thousands of doves inexplicably died in Italy.
In addition to the bird deaths, millions of fish have washed up dead, during the same period of time.
The cause of the massive increase in dead birds and dead fish has occurred simultaneously over the past three weeks. No solid data has been discovered to explain the deaths.