environmental disaster


Massive gas leak in California forces out 2,147 families 

A blown SoCal Gas well 25 miles north of Los Angeles in Aliso Canyon has been spewing tens of millions of cubic feet of methane since October. One advocacy group says the current rate of leakage will have the same impact as 7 million cars. SoCal is working to fix it — but it’s going to take a while.

When all the trees have been cut down. When all the animals have been hunted. When all the waters are polluted. When all the air is unsafe to breath. Only then will you discover you cannot eat money. ~Chief Seattle

Sponsored Link
The World of Chief Seattle: How Can One Sell the Air? by Warren Jefferson can be purchased at BookBoutique. An online bookstore for offline reading.


(Hey, I’m writing this because I think you should know what’s happening
in Brazil right now. Sorry for any mistake, English is not my native language).

There’s a relatively small town called Mariana, in the state of Minas Gerais (500 miles from São Paulo), where 58.802 people live. On November 5th, two dams, belonging to a mining called Samarco Mineradora, just crashed down. About 500.000.000m³ of mud were released by the accident - that’s enough to fill 20.000 Olympic pools. This mud is contaminated by a combination of substances that are extremely dangerous to human health. Although Brazilian media treating the case as an accident, this is the result of an enormous indifference of the authorities and businessmen responsible for Samarco.

The mud invaded and destroyed at least 5 Mariana’s districts, resulting in 8 people dead, 19 missing and more than two thousand homeless. Those families lost everything - their houses, furniture, blankets, clothes, food, dignity. Everything.

But the worst part is the environmental disaster.

Rio Doce, one of the most important rivers of our country, was contamined by the mud. Now, it is absolutely dead. Dead. The water and animals that lived there are now dead. Fishes are dead. And some cities that depended on the river economically and for water supply are dead as well.

Environmentalists are saying that Rio Doce probably will not recover until the next century. So, for the next ten decades, we have fish shoals extinct, 800.000 people without potable water and two states (Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo) affected by the mud, that is still running and traveling through our rivers, in a natural disaster that never ends. About 186 miles of natural beach in Espírito Santo should also be contamined in a few days.

I know we’re all praying for Paris now, but please, if you can, pray for Brazil too.

Arsenic and mercury found in river days after Brazil dam burst
Unacceptable levels of pollutants found at several places along Rio Doce following Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster

On November 5, two dams burst at a major Brazilian mine wreaking havoc more than 80km downstream. Resulting mudslides entirely engulfed numerous village, killed 12 people and displaced hundreds of inhabitants. The 60 million cubic meters of mine waste ( equivalent to 25,000 Olympic swimming pools) cut off drinking water for a quarter of a million people. The dense, orange sediment made its way to the waters of the Rio Doce river, killing thousands of fish or organisms in the river, and has now reached the Atlantic ocean. Dead fishes are already washing up on shore. 

This is Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.  Scientists have argued that the sediment could alter the course of streams as they harden, reduce oxygen levels in the water and diminish the fertility of riverbanks and farmland. They expect the Rio Doce’s ecosystem to be ruined for years to come. Some local marine scientists expect it would take over 100 years for the marine life to recover. Additionally, this poses severe threats to regional economies, as many of these states depend on fisheries and tourism for food and revenue. 

(The Wall Street Journal shows the damage done to the wildlife in the Rio Doce)

Yesterday, the state water agency revealed that they found illegal levels of arsenic and mercury in the polluted river. Samarco, the mine operator, and its co-owners, BHP Billiton and Vale, have repeatedly claimed that the water and mineral waste unleashed by the dam burst were not toxic. However, the United Nations human rights agency said on November 25 that new evidence showed that the mud dumped by the flood contained high levels of toxic heavy metals and other chemicals.

This is horrific and so upsetting, and I cannot even imagine the damage being done in the ocean right now, seeing what it did to the Rio Doce. How come there was no emergency plans for these kinds of situations? Was nothing done to try to stop the sludge before it reached the ocean? It is so sad it takes a tragedy like this, and hopefully now with better access to information, Brazilian citizens will be able to put more pressure on their governments to avoid similar environmental disasters.

Brazil has announced it will sue BHP and Vale for $5 billion in damages.

All photos below from the Guardian. 

(Photograph: Fred Loureiro/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

(Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

(Photograph: Fred Loureiro / AFP / Getty Images)

I never ask you guys for anything but BRAZIL NEEDS YOUR HELP!!


Please take a moment to read this and please share it to your blog, we are trying to reach the international media because Brazil’s media is IGNORNIG it!


November, 5, 2015.

The world’s largest mining waste burst over a city, leaving over 600 people homeless and 280,000 people without any water.

The tragedy was caused by the break of a barriage which was containing 62MILLION cubic meters of mining waste, and as it broke the mud started to escape dragging down everything on its way. It took half an hour to reach the nearest community, but NO ONE helped. It continued along the way ‘till it reached Rio Doce, one of Brazil’s biggest rivers.

The mud contains metals such as iron, arsenic, barium, lead, copper, mercury, nickel, and the list is even longer. It’s needless to say the river is POISONED.
All aquatic life in the Rio Doce river has been extinguished, as the toxic waste reduces the level of oxygen to close to zero. Some fishing communities are attempting to move fish to nearby lakes. Meanwhile, the fine imposed upon Samarco is less than half the value of its donations to political campaigns in 2014.

The cities around the river have absolutely no water, no home, no food. The water gallons are being sold for R$ 30,00 or 7.79 dollars which most of the families can’t pay for it. They are stealing water from hospitals.
On this friday 5,000 people queued up for water rations in the city of Governador Valadares.
Samarco is told to be the company responsable for the tragedy, and it’s owned by BHP and VALE.  On a media pronunciation VALE said that the mud wasn’t toxic, liying to hide the very truth behind it. Scientists analyzed the water, and it has thousand times over the treatment capacity. The water will still be poisoned in 100 years from now.

The media is hidding it, they say it’s nothing to worry about.

Please share this so the world will know. WE need help.

It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week!

Letter from Kelli Middlestead from the Franklin School, Burlingame, California to Walter Stieglitz the Regional Director of the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4/13/1989

Series: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Correspondence, 1989 - 1991
Record Group 22: Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1868 - 2008

In case you found smithsonianlibraries‘ submission for Sea Otter Awareness Week  a bit too ferocious, we thought we’d share this drawing from second-grader Kelli Middlestead, one of our perennial favorites.

Up to 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash spilled into North Carolina from ‘antiquated’ storage pit
February 5, 2014

A stormwater pipe under an unlined coal ash pond at a shuttered plant in Eden, North Carolina, burst Sunday afternoon — draining tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

Duke Energy, which owns the Dan River Steam Station, retired since 2012, estimates that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from the 27-acre storage pond. The leak has at least temporarily been stopped, while Duke works on a more permanent solution. Coal ash is a toxic waste byproduct from burning coal, usually stored with water in large ponds.

The closest community at risk from the spill is Danville, Virginia, which takes its water from the Dan River about six miles downstream of the pond. No water quality issues have been reported so far.

“This is the latest, loudest alarm bell yet that Duke should not be storing coal ash in antiquated pits near our state’s waterways,” Frank Holleman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) told the Charlotte Business Journal.

SELC and others have been calling for Duke to remove ash from earthen basins such as the one at Dan River to more secure lined ponds to protect local water sources. Duke has 14 coal-fired power plants in the state, 7 of which have been retired.

In addition to air pollution, coal-fired power plants generate millions of tons of waste every year contaminated with toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium — more than two-thirds of which is dumped into landfills, storage ponds, or old mines.

The Southeast is home to 40 percent of the nation’s coal ash impoundments, and according to the EPA contains 21 of the nation’s 45 high hazard dams.

The nation’s most notorious coal ash spill was in 2008 at a plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Just a few days before Christmas, over 1 billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam at a storage pond and damaged or destroyed two dozen homes and 300 acres of riverfront property.

Late last month, the EPA announced plans to finalize the first-ever federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash by December 19, 2014. The announcement was part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought in 2012, by environmental and public health groups and a Native American tribe.

In October, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA must review and revise its waste regulations under the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act. The EPA has never finalized any federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash — the nation’s second-largest industrial waste stream.

Duke has also garnered negative publicity recently for saying that they believe the utility is paying its customers too much for the surplus solar energy generated on residential rooftops. Duke currently pays solar customers about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, under a decade-old net-metering standard. Electricity generated by large-scale solar operations costs the utility just 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour.


So far in 2014 in the US alone:

The rich societies, like the United States and Canada, are acting in ways to bring about disaster as quickly as possible. That’s what it means, for example, when both political parties and the press talk enthusiastically about “a century of energy independence.” “Energy independence” doesn’t mean a damn thing, but put that aside. A century of “energy independence” means that we make sure that every bit of Earth’s fossil fuels comes out of the ground and we burn it. In societies that have large indigenous populations, like, for example, Ecuador, an oil producer, people are trying to get support for keeping the oil in the ground. They want funding so as to keep the oil where it ought to be. We, however, have to get everything out of the ground, including tar sands, then burn it, which makes things as bad as possible as quickly as possible. So you have this odd situation where the educated, “advanced” civilized people are trying to cut everyone’s throats as quickly as possible and the indigenous, less educated, poorer populations are trying to prevent the disaster. If somebody was watching this from Mars, they’d think this species was insane.

Rio Doce Mining Disaster - 5 Novermber 2015

I talked about this to a friend, ad I wasn’t sure if I brought it up here.  

On the 5th of November 2015 a dam owned by  BHP Billiton and Vale collapsed and released 50-60 cubic meters (~13200-15800 US gallons)  of iron ore mining waste into the Rio Doce.  The waste has traveled from the plant’s origin down ~640 KM of the rive and into the Atlantic ocean, further spreading ~8.85 KM along the coast. 

More Information:


Mount St. Helens: Road to Recovery

From the series:  Public Information and Training Motion Picture and Television Productions, 1990 - 1995. Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1794 - ca. 2003

Made following the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, and recently digitized by our colleagues in the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab, this U.S. Forest Service documentary catalogs the devastation caused by the eruption and the subsequent efforts to restore the environmental balance.

Just about every U.S. military base and nuclear arms facility emits toxics into the environment. At many U.S. military target ranges, petroleum products and heavy metals used in bombs and bullets contaminate the soil and groundwater. And since the Pentagon operates its bases as “federal reservations,” they are usually beyond the reach of local and state environmental regulations. Local and state authorities often do not find out the extent of the toxic contamination until after a base is closed down.

Active and abandoned military bases have released toxic pollution from Cape Cod to San Diego, Alaska to Hawaii. In June 2001, the Military Toxics Project and the Environmental Health Coalition released the report “ Defend Our Health: A People’s Report to Congress,” detailing the Pentagon’s war on the Earth in the United States and Puerto Rico. The contaminants emitted from military bases include pesticides, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury, and uranium. The health effects for the surrounding communities are devastating: miscarriages, low birth weights, birth defects, kidney disease, and cancer.

Even the Defense Department itself now acknowledges some of the environmental destruction wrought by the U.S. military world-wide. The Pentagon’s own Inspector General documented, in a 1999 report, pollution at U.S.bases in Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Greenland, Iceland, Italy, Panama, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. Again, since even U.S. military bases abroad are treated as U.S.territory, the installations typically remain exempt from the environmental authority of the host country.

The New York Times has updated its interactive timeline of tornadoes and notes that, with the deaths from yesterday’s outbreak in Joplin, Missouri, 2011 is the deadliest year since 1953. Curious to see where tornadoes occur the most (realizing, of course, that this is information that I could easily find elsewhere), I combined all the years into the single map above. Blue dots represent tornado touchdowns, and yellow circles represent deaths.

An interesting observation from playing the timeline is that there is a large, step-wise increase in the number of touchdowns starting in 1996. Compare the number and spread of tornadoes since 1996 to the previous 45 years:

Except for 2011, the number of deaths for each year in this recent period is not significantly different from that of the previous years. Is the higher reported incidence of touchdowns due to better reporting, or have there really been more tornadoes in the last 15 years?


Brazil is currently experiencing one of the largest environmental disasters in its history. On November 5th, two dams holding hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic mining waste collapsed, demolishing nearby communities, devastating lives, and destroying over 300 miles of river.

Greenpeace Brasil is in the region documenting and exposing the situation. Learn more here.

DIY: Sexy Eco-Apocalypse

There’s no need for hot devils and sultry zombies on Halloween—the natural world is chock-full of terror…and temptation.

Does the idea of being a sexy stapler for the third year in a row make you want to snooze right through Halloween? Have you worn a hole in your vampy vampire getup? Don’t fret—environmental disasters can be just as scary-sexy as anything you’ve tricked out in before. Prepare to stop friends dead in their tracks with these irresistible, science-savvy, DIY costumes. Happy haunting!


Use body paint to draw pipes running up and down your otherwise bare body. Dribble coffee—or some other adult beverage—out of your mouth from time to time. That’s right, froth it up like you’re pumping drilling chemicals into an aquifer. Paint an inky Xsomewhere along the pipeline, and invite strangers to find the methane leak. Behave!


What’s hotter than a man afraid of commitment? The upcoming Paris climate talks will have beaucoup of them. Don a suit, tie, and beret, and palm a baguette. Act like a bad boy and entertain exclusive conversations behind closed doors. If anyone asks about the climate crisis, look concerned and blame someone else. And don’t make any promises!


Wear all white, and construct an elaborate reef headpiece out of papier-mâché, white paint, and toilet paper rolls. Procure some dead reef animals (do it legally, please), and dangle fish bones from your head to convey the cost of coral loss.

Sexy option: Wear a white swimsuit and cover your bod in zinc oxide.


Squeeze into a formfitting white bodysuit and slip on some black tights painted with a glossy, oily sheen. To a Styrofoam hat, attach a polar bear toy (or a walrus if you like long tusks). Add stilettos and blood-red lips, and voilà: environmental disaster diva!


Make a body-size map of California with cardboard, duct tape, and markers. Trail dust (or Fun Dip) behind you throughout the night, Pigpen-style. Bogart the punch bowl, because you’re dying of thirst.

Sexy option: Go nude beneath the sandwich board. There’s no #droughtshame in that.


Design your own submerged NYC skyline mask/headgear. Then slip into a blue sheet and drape yourself in seaweed. Say things like “Statue of Liberty? Fuhgeddaboudit….She’s all washed up.”

Sexy option: Go nude under the sheet, or try on the city of Amsterdam for size, with a red-light beacon under all that blue.