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in a study published yesterday in plos one, researchers at the five gyres institute concluded that more than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing almost 270,000 tons are afloat in our oceans. said one of the study’s authors, “it’s an important first step to bringing awareness that the entire ocean is a plastic soup.”  

the pieces of garbage - be it bottles, toothbrushes, bags, toys - gather at massive garbage patches known as gyres where ocean currents converge. brittle from exposure to the sun, they then collide against one another, breaking into smaller and smaller bits of plastic, some of which are ultimately consumed by marine life. 

on midway atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, this detritus ends up inside the stomachs of thousands of baby albatrosses. the nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food.

notes photographer chris jordan, ”kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. like the albatross, we [the consumers and polluters of this world] find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and souls.”

a study by the commonwealth scientific and industrial research organization concluded that 43 percent of all seabirds globally have plastic in their digestive systems, and predicts this number to rise to 95 percent by mid century.

Earth May Be in Early Days of 6th Mass Extinction

Earth may be in the early stages of a sixth mass extinction, an international team of scientists says.

Image: Neil deGrasse Tyson walks over to ‘The Halls of Extinction’ - Cosmos: A Space time Odyssey

Animals and plants are threatened. More than 320 land vertebrates have gone extinct since 1500, the researchers said. The world’s remaining animals with backbones are 25 percent less abundant than in 1500— a trend also seen in invertebrate animals, such as crustaceans, worms and butterflies, the scientists reported.

The previous mass extinction, which wiped out the dinosaurs, happened about 65 million years ago, likely from a catastrophic asteroid that collided with Earth. In contrast, the looming sixth mass extinction is linked to human activity, Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford University in California, said in a statement. Dirzo is the lead author of the new review of past research on the topic, which suggests Earth is in the early days of this sixth mass extinction.

A past study, which involved data from the fossil record and modern-day conservation biology, suggested Earth could enter such a mass extinction within the next 300 to 2,000 years. That study was detailed in the March 2, 2011, issue of the journal Nature.

Up to one-third of all vertebrates are threatened or endangered, the researchers said. Large animals — such as elephants, rhinoceroses and polar bears — have the highest rates of decline, which is a trend shared by other mass extinctions. These large animals are at particular risk because they tend to have few offspring and low population growth rates. Hunters and poachers, however, find their fur, meat, tusks or horns attractive targets.

Losing a species of large animal can have unexpected effects on the ecosystem and nearby human developments, a process known as defaunation. In one study, researchers isolated patches of land from animals, including zebra, giraffes and elephants. Without the animals, the grass and shrubs grew tall, and the soil became looser. Rodents quickly took over and doubled in numbers, eating the seeds from the plants and living in the patchy soil that was relatively predator-free.

Rodents can carry diseases and parasites that infect people, the researchers said.

"Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission," Dirzo said. "Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle."

The decline of big animals affects not only vegetation, but also invertebrates. In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled, and the number of invertebrate animals has dropped by 45 percent, the researchers said. Much of the loss is a result of habitat destruction and global climate disruption, the researchers said.

South Florida’s pine rockland, itself an endangered habitat with less than 2 percent remaining, hosts over 225 types of plants, 20 percent of which are exclusive to the area, and five of which are either threatened or endangered. And now, according to the Miami Herald, it’s about to boast a 158,000-square-foot Walmart, along with a L.A. Fitness, a Chik-fil-A, a Chili’s, and about 900 apartments. Of the 88 acres sold to a developer by the University of Miami, a mere 40 will be set aside for a preserve.
Reasons why...

You can’t call yourself an avid environmentalist and be non-vegan:

Take the United Nations’ advice and go vegan.

Californians Against Fracking Releases New Data Analysis: Oil Industry in California Wastes 2 Million Gallons of Water Each Day | Californians Against Fracking

Each day, the oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of water on average in California on dangerous extraction techniques such as fracking, acidizing, and cyclic steam injection. At a time when California is facing the worst drought on record, when farmers and cities are both struggling to find ways to conserve water, the oil and gas industry continues to use, contaminate, and dispose of staggering amounts of precious water resources each day.

…According to a recent report from the California Department of Conservation’s Divison of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), an average of 480,000 barrels of water per day (roughly 20 million gallons/day) is injected for cyclic steam projects in California.  Not all of this water is fresh water because certain operations reuse some amount of water during the process. Because the industry refuses to disclose how much freshwater they use in the process, and they are not required to do so, we looked at the amount of freshwater purchased by the oil industry in Kern County, where over 2/3 of California’s oil reserves are located, to estimate how much freshwater is used in the cyclic steam process.   In 2008 about 15 percent of the total amount of water injected in Kern was fresh water purchased from the State Water Project via local water districts.

We based our estimates on the conservative assumption that only 10 percent of the 20 million gallons of water injected per day is fresh water that could otherwise be conserved or used for municipal and agricultural purposes, which amounts to roughly 2 million gallons each and every day. The true number is likely to be higher because some cyclic steam projects recycle far less water. For example, the Indian Pilot Wells Project in San Benito County estimated that over one million gallons of freshwater would be needed for each of 15 separate wells, and that all of the water would be extracted from the Bitterwater Valley Groundwater Basin.

Acidizing, gravel packing, and fracking in Los Angeles Air Basin. In one year of reporting, the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s data show that oil and gas companies in Orange and Los Angeles counties used over 15 million gallons of water for acidizing, gravel packing, and hydraulic fracturing. That amounts to 41,000 gallons per day just in those two counties. Because DOGGR has not collected data on acidizing and gravel packing on other counties, it is difficult to estimate the amount of water used for these techniques in other parts of the state, particularly in Kern County. If acidizing is performed as routinely on wells in Kern County as it is in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, the total water usage attributable to acidizing and gravel packing could be many times higher.

Fracking throughout CaliforniaReports from FracFocus and DOGGR’s website show fracking has occurred over 200 times in 2014. Reports of water use total 12.8 million gallons so far in 2014 (through May, since it takes two months for water use reports to become available). This is equivalent to roughly 94,000 gallons per day.

CONCLUSION:

Total Water Use. In sum, water use by extreme oil and gas production amounts to approximately 2.14 million gallons every day. These numbers are estimates, and they are likely to be conservative due to the unreported well stimulation events occurring throughout the state and the likelihood that water recycling rates are significantly lower at cyclic steam injection projects. The true figures for water use by these extraction techniques are likely far larger.

(Read Full Text) (Photo Credig: 350.org)