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Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360

Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360.

17 MAR 2014: ANALYSIS

Rebuilding the Natural World:
A Shift in Ecological Restoration

From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.

by richard conniff

Restoring degraded ecosystems — or creating new ones — has become a huge global business. China, for instance, is planting 90 million acres of forest in a swath across its northern provinces. And in North America, just in the past two decades, restoration projects costing $70 billion have

Tianjin Qiaoyuan Wetland Park

Turenscape
Qiaoyuan Wetland Park in Tianjin, China, has terraced ponds that incorporate designed experiments to monitor benefits.

attempted to restore or re-create 7.4 million acres of marsh, peatland, floodplain, mangrove, and other wetlands.

This patchwork movement to rebuild the natural world ought to be good news. Such projects are, moreover, likely to become far more common as the world rapidly urbanizes and as cities, new and old, turn to green infrastructure to address problems like climate change, flood control, and pollution of nearby waterways. But hardly anyone does a proper job of measuring the results, and when they do, it generally turns out that ecological restorations seldom function as intended.

A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise,

A new study finds more than 75 percent of river restorations failed to meet minimal performance targets.

an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.”

Hence the increasing interest in what Alexander Felson, an urban ecologist and landscape architect at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, calls “designed experiments” — that is, experiments designed by ecologists and incorporated into development and landscape restoration projects to test which alternative approaches work best — or whether a particular approach works at all. The idea is both to improve the project at hand, says Felson, and also to provide a scientific basis for making subsequent projects more successful.

At first glance, the designed experiment idea might seem to echo practices that already exist. Environmental consultants have been a part of most development projects for decades. But they almost never do long-term research on a project, says Felson. “Adaptive management,” the idea of continually monitoring environmental projects and making steady improvements over time — or “learning by doing” — has also been around in ecological circles since the 1970s. But a recent survey in Biological Conservation found “surprisingly few practical, on-ground examples of adaptive management.” In part, that’s because “long-term investigations are notoriously difficult to establish and maintain.”

To deal with that challenge, Felson proposes incorporating ecologists into the design team, so that designers and ecologists build a relationship and complement each other’s strengths from the start. As part of its Million Tree Initiative, for instance, New York City was proposing in 2007 to plant almost 2000 acres of new and restored forest over a ten-year period. The project fit the city’s sustainability agenda to reduce air pollution, sequester

As part of New York’s Million Tree Initiative, a scientific team proposed experiments for the planned forests.

carbon dioxide, control stormwater run-off, and provide wildlife habitat.

But planners didn’t have much basis for determining which species were more likely to achieve those goals, or where to plant them. The usual feedback about whether an urban tree planting project is successful boils down to a single question: “Are they alive or are they dead?” Nor could science provide much guidance. A literature search turned up only a single long-term study of new urban forests planted with native tree species.

So Felson and a team of scientists and designers proposed designed experiments for New York’s planned forests — plantings with different species, in varying configurations, some with compost or other amendments, some without — to learn what worked best.

The proposal represented a compromise between two sensible but contradictory ideas. On the one hand, it is widely accepted that the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago — or, failing that, right now. On the other hand, Felson writes, you “would not build a wastewater treatment plant if it did not achieve water-quality standards, so why plant an urban forest without knowing that it performs the intended function?”

Because experimental plots are not typically scenic, the ecologists worked with park managers to disguise the test plots within a more natural-looking forest. The first test forest went in at Kissena Corridor Park in Queens in 2010, and a second at Willow Lake in 2011, on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.

The ambition is to study traits like carbon sequestration and how species patterns change over decades. But the study is already producing results that may be useful within the context of the Million Tree Initiative, according to Felson and Yale co-authors Mark Bradford and Emily

The Chinese park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff.

Oldfield: If the goal is to get trees to canopy height as quickly as possible, for instance, competition from shrubs will actually make them grow faster, not slower. Some trees, like basswood, do better in more diverse plantings; others, like oaks, prefer less diversity. Compost doesn’t seem to make much difference for the first two years but kicks in during year three.

The designed experiment idea has begun to turn up in restoration projects around the world, notably in China. The northeastern city of Tianjin, for instance, was struggling in 2003 to deal with a 54-acre former shooting range that had become an illegal dumping ground and was also heavily polluted by urban runoff. It hired Kongjian Yu, founder of the Beijing design firm Turenscape, who had trained at Harvard with Richard T.T. Forman, a leading thinker in urban landscape ecology.

The result, Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, opened in 2008, with none of the great lawns and formal plantings seen in conventional Chinese parks. Instead, Yu’s design features a naturalized landscape of ponds, grasses, and reeds, with walkways and viewing platforms for local residents.

Traditional landscape design in China is “based on art and form,” says Yu. “My practice is to find a scientific basis.” The park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff as it moves through the site. Yu calls it “peasant” landscaping, based on traditional rice farms. But the ponds are of different sizes and depths, with the aim of monitoring how

As urban crowding increases, cities may require new projects to deliver multiple ecosystem services.

each microhabitat affects water quality, PH values, and the character of the evolving plant community.

Ecologists on staff at Turenscape and Yu’s students at Beijing University do the monitoring. Among other results, they recently reported that three families of Siberian weasel now call the park home, a remarkable development in a city of 7.5 million people. Yu acknowledges that the experimental results don’t hold much interest for city officials, who have sometimes tried to replace “messy” reeds with playgrounds and formal plantings. But Yu has employed the results from Tianjin to improve his subsequent projects, which also incorporate designed experiments.

The pell mell pace of urban development in China, combined with the often catastrophic environmental after-effects, together create a demand for landscape designs that do more than look pretty, according to Yu. The usual engineering solutions — for instance, “larger pipes, more powerful pumps, or stronger dikes” to handle monsoon flooding — often just aggravate other problems, like the water shortages and falling groundwater levels that now afflict 400 Chinese cities. Yu sees naturalized landscapes as urban “green sponges” to retain and filter water, with designed experiments to show whether or not they deliver the promised services.
The goal of incorporating designed experiments more broadly in restoration and development projects is likely to meet resistance on both sides. Developers may regard ecologists as natural adversaries, and research as a costly nuisance. The idea of working within the agenda of developers and government agencies may also strike some ecologists as a fatal compromise.

But China is no means the only place with rapidly worsening environmental issues. As urban crowding increases worldwide and the effects of climate change become more evident, cities may require every new development or restoration project to deliver multiple ecosystem services. The stricter financial standards of the green marketplace will also oblige project managers to demonstrate that those services are real and quantifiable.

“There are certainly problems with what we’ve been doing in restoration projects, but it doesn’t mean we should stop,” says Franco Montalto, a Drexel University environmental engineer who has written about the designed experiment idea. “We should be trying to figure out what doesn’t work and stop doing that, and figure out what does work and do more of it. That’s what you learn from experiments.”

POSTED ON 17 MAR 2014

Fukushima Radiation To Reach West Coast Next Month | Zero Hedge

Fukushima Radiation To Reach West Coast Next Month | Zero Hedge.

Over the past three years there has been endless debate over whether the Fukushima radioactive fallout is hitting the US west coast, or if, as the media spin would have it, it is largely isolated, and best to just take their word for it for the simple reason that no federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation. The answer may finally be in sight, and it is not a pleasant one: USA Today reports that “very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast next month, scientists are reporting. Current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won’t harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week.

Hopefully these “models” are better at forecasting than the Fed’s (which are operated by three supercomputers), and the definition of “minimum” hasn’t undergone the same material revisions as did “maximum” in the context of the maximum permitted radiation dose falling on Tepco workers in the days when Japan desperately was lying every day about the magnitude of the radioactive disaster. Obviously, it is one thing to make up predictions for the sake of avoiding a panic, it is something entirely different to have empirical data: “I’m not trying to be alarmist,” Buesseler said. “We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it’s safe?”

As if Buesseler doesn’t know that any actual data that reveals alarming results will be seasonally adjusted, and then all excess radiation will be blamed on the “harsh winter weather.”

Mockery of economists and other idiots aside, here are the facts on the prevailing models:

There are three competing models of the Fukushima radiation plume, differing in amount and timing. But all predict that the plume will reach the West Coast this summer, and the most commonly cited one estimates an April arrival, Buesseler said.

 

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium 134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

 

Cesium 134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima, Buesseler said.

 

“The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast,” Buesseler said.

The good news:

By the time it gets here, the material will be so diluted as to be almost negligible, the models predict. Radiation also decays. Cesium 134, for example, has a half-life of two years, meaning it will have half its original intensity after that period.

Or rather, make that the spin: after all as the paper notes, West Coast states are winding down their tsunami debris response efforts. “Oregon’s coastline is seeing less debris from the tsunami this winter than in the past two years, Oregon State Parks spokesman Chris Havel said. If that doesn’t change, officials likely will disband a task force that was mobilized to deal with the debris. Last year, Washington suspended its marine debris reporting hotline.”

One can be certain that no amount of reality, or radioactivity, will be allowed to spoil the budgeted plans that involve a return to normalcy even as the Fukushima power plant is nowhere near contained today, than it was the day after the historic catastrophe from March 2011.

And in case that is not yet clear, here is exhibit A: aReuters report on Fukushima children that assigns increasingly abnormal pathologies not on the fallout from the Fukushima explosion but, get this, on their staying indoors!

Some of the smallest children in Koriyama, a short drive from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, barely know what it’s like to play outside — fear of radiation has kept them in doors for much of their short lives.  Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside.

 

And the impact is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination, some cannot even ride a bicycle, and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say.

 

“There are children who are very fearful. They ask before they eat anything, ‘does this have radiation in it?’ and we have to tell them it’s okay to eat,” said Mitsuhiro Hiraguri, director of the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama, some 55 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear plant. “But some really, really want to play outside. They say they want to play in the sandbox and make mud pies. We have to tell them no, I’m sorry. Play in the sandbox inside instead.”

You see, the falling strength, the lack of coordination, and the behavioral changes three years after the explosion, are all due to children not being allowed to play in Fukushima’s spilling over radioactive cooling water, where as of a month ago, record amounts of Cesium were recorded. Nothing to do at all with slightly “abnormal” levels of alpha, beta and gamma radiation in the air.

This continues:

“Compared to before the disaster, you can certainly see a fall in the results of physical strength and ability tests – things like grip strength, running and throwing balls,” said Toshiaki Yabe, an official with the Koriyama city government.

 

Hiraguri said that stress was showing up in an increase of scuffles, arguments and even sudden nosebleeds among the children, as well as more subtle effects.

 

“There’s a lot more children who aren’t all that alert in their response to things. They aren’t motivated to do anything,” he said.

Yes: the nosebleeds and the lack of alertness too are not due to the radiation, but all entirely due to being keptaway from it. We suppose the proper advice here is: to avoid sudden nosebleeds, short tempers, and falling strength, let you children run like the wind, if possible into the Third reactor’s cooling tanks.

One really can’t make this pathetic, deadly BS up.

So keeping in the theme of this lunacy, and coming soon to a Orwellian banana dictatorship near you: the poor will be taxed more, because it is their fault they did not invest the money they don’t have, in Glorious Bernank’s attempt to make everything better for everyone. Remember: the Chairsatan was just paid in one hour more than in one full year at the Fed to reveal that “his natural inclination would be to try to help the average person.”

Fukushima Radiation To Reach West Coast Next Month | Zero Hedge

Fukushima Radiation To Reach West Coast Next Month | Zero Hedge.

Over the past three years there has been endless debate over whether the Fukushima radioactive fallout is hitting the US west coast, or if, as the media spin would have it, it is largely isolated, and best to just take their word for it for the simple reason that no federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation. The answer may finally be in sight, and it is not a pleasant one: USA Today reports that “very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast next month, scientists are reporting. Current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won’t harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week.

Hopefully these “models” are better at forecasting than the Fed’s (which are operated by three supercomputers), and the definition of “minimum” hasn’t undergone the same material revisions as did “maximum” in the context of the maximum permitted radiation dose falling on Tepco workers in the days when Japan desperately was lying every day about the magnitude of the radioactive disaster. Obviously, it is one thing to make up predictions for the sake of avoiding a panic, it is something entirely different to have empirical data: “I’m not trying to be alarmist,” Buesseler said. “We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it’s safe?”

As if Buesseler doesn’t know that any actual data that reveals alarming results will be seasonally adjusted, and then all excess radiation will be blamed on the “harsh winter weather.”

Mockery of economists and other idiots aside, here are the facts on the prevailing models:

There are three competing models of the Fukushima radiation plume, differing in amount and timing. But all predict that the plume will reach the West Coast this summer, and the most commonly cited one estimates an April arrival, Buesseler said.

 

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium 134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

 

Cesium 134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima, Buesseler said.

 

“The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast,” Buesseler said.

The good news:

By the time it gets here, the material will be so diluted as to be almost negligible, the models predict. Radiation also decays. Cesium 134, for example, has a half-life of two years, meaning it will have half its original intensity after that period.

Or rather, make that the spin: after all as the paper notes, West Coast states are winding down their tsunami debris response efforts. “Oregon’s coastline is seeing less debris from the tsunami this winter than in the past two years, Oregon State Parks spokesman Chris Havel said. If that doesn’t change, officials likely will disband a task force that was mobilized to deal with the debris. Last year, Washington suspended its marine debris reporting hotline.”

One can be certain that no amount of reality, or radioactivity, will be allowed to spoil the budgeted plans that involve a return to normalcy even as the Fukushima power plant is nowhere near contained today, than it was the day after the historic catastrophe from March 2011.

And in case that is not yet clear, here is exhibit A: aReuters report on Fukushima children that assigns increasingly abnormal pathologies not on the fallout from the Fukushima explosion but, get this, on their staying indoors!

Some of the smallest children in Koriyama, a short drive from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, barely know what it’s like to play outside — fear of radiation has kept them in doors for much of their short lives.  Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside.

 

And the impact is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination, some cannot even ride a bicycle, and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say.

 

“There are children who are very fearful. They ask before they eat anything, ‘does this have radiation in it?’ and we have to tell them it’s okay to eat,” said Mitsuhiro Hiraguri, director of the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama, some 55 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear plant. “But some really, really want to play outside. They say they want to play in the sandbox and make mud pies. We have to tell them no, I’m sorry. Play in the sandbox inside instead.”

You see, the falling strength, the lack of coordination, and the behavioral changes three years after the explosion, are all due to children not being allowed to play in Fukushima’s spilling over radioactive cooling water, where as of a month ago, record amounts of Cesium were recorded. Nothing to do at all with slightly “abnormal” levels of alpha, beta and gamma radiation in the air.

This continues:

“Compared to before the disaster, you can certainly see a fall in the results of physical strength and ability tests – things like grip strength, running and throwing balls,” said Toshiaki Yabe, an official with the Koriyama city government.

 

Hiraguri said that stress was showing up in an increase of scuffles, arguments and even sudden nosebleeds among the children, as well as more subtle effects.

 

“There’s a lot more children who aren’t all that alert in their response to things. They aren’t motivated to do anything,” he said.

Yes: the nosebleeds and the lack of alertness too are not due to the radiation, but all entirely due to being keptaway from it. We suppose the proper advice here is: to avoid sudden nosebleeds, short tempers, and falling strength, let you children run like the wind, if possible into the Third reactor’s cooling tanks.

One really can’t make this pathetic, deadly BS up.

So keeping in the theme of this lunacy, and coming soon to a Orwellian banana dictatorship near you: the poor will be taxed more, because it is their fault they did not invest the money they don’t have, in Glorious Bernank’s attempt to make everything better for everyone. Remember: the Chairsatan was just paid in one hour more than in one full year at the Fed to reveal that “his natural inclination would be to try to help the average person.”

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater by Roger Real Drouin: Yale Environment 360

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater by Roger Real Drouin: Yale Environment 360.

With hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas continuing to proliferate across the U.S., scientists and environmental activists are raising questions about whether millions of gallons of contaminated drilling fluids could be threatening water supplies and human health.

by roger real drouin

An hour south of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania’s Washington County, millions of gallons of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing wells are stored in large impoundment ponds and so-called “closed container” tanks. The wastewater is then piped to treatment plants, where it is cleaned up and discharged into streams; trucked to Ohio and pumped deep down injection wells; or reused in other fracking operations.

But tracking where the fracking wastewater from Washington County and sites across the United States ends up — and how much pollution it causes — is exceedingly difficult. In a study conducted last year, researchers from the environmental consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, attempted to trace fracking water — from water withdrawal to wastewater disposal — at

wastewater recycling facility

Roger Drouin
This mobile water recycling facility treats wastewater so it can be reused in other wells.

several wells in the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We just couldn’t do it,” said Downstream Strategies staff scientist Meghan Betcher, citing a lack of good data and the wide range of disposal methods used by the industry. What the study did find was that gas companies use up to 4.3 million gallons of clean water to frack a single well in Pennsylvania, and that more than half of the wastewater is treated and discharged into surface waters such as rivers and streams.

Increasingly, the fracking boom in the Marcellus Shale and across the United States is leaving behind some big water worries — concerns that are only growing as shale gas development continues to expand. Pennsylvania, which has experienced a frenzied half-dozen years of hydraulic fracturing, is now the U.S.’s third-largest producer of natural gas. The Downstream Strategies report noted that from 2005 to 2012, Pennsylvania and West Virginia issued permits for nearly 9,000 natural gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing technology, which pumps a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals, and sand deep into shale formations to extract natural gas.

The vast volume of water needed to extract that natural gas, and the large amounts of wastewater generated during the process, is causing increasing concern among geochemists, biologists, engineers, and toxicologists.

Initially, worries about fracking and water pollution focused largely on leaks of drilling fluids and other contaminants from well casings, which could potentially pollute groundwater supplies. But with engineering improvements that have reinforced well casings and reduced pollution from that source, experts now say fracking’s real pollution danger comes from wastewater.

“I am more worried about wastewater management — handling, storing it, driving across the countryside with it,” said Monika Freyman, a senior manager of the water program at Ceres, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster sustainable practices in business and industry. Freyman spent months studying the effect of the industry on water resources. “It’s complicated,” she said. “There are a lot of different pathways wastewater can go.”

A Duke University study conducted last year showed that some of the Marcellus Shale wastewater, tainted by high levels of radioactivity, flows

The oil and gas industry’s ‘social license’ to use groundwater without limit may no longer be a given.

downstream into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities, with uncertain health consequences.

The huge amount of fresh water used by the industry is also a concern. The Downstream Strategies report, funded by theRobert & Patricia Switzer Foundation, said that more than 80 percent of the water used in hydraulic fracturing in West Virginia is pulled directly from rivers and streams. Ninety-two percent of that water and drilling fluids remains deep underground, “completely removed from the hydraulic cycle,” the report said.

Only 8 percent of those fluids are recaptured, and Betcher’s research team found that because of inadequate state reporting requirements, the fate of 62 percent of that fracking waste is unknown.

Betcher and others note that Pennsylvania and West Virginia are water-rich states, but that in the arid western U.S. some of the nation’s most intense fracking activity is sucking up huge amounts of groundwater for oil and gas operations. In Texas, most of that groundwater is trucked to injection wells, where it is pumped deep underground and thus lost from the already-depleted water supply. Water shortages in Texas could well push companies to recycle more wastewater.

Freyman said that the oil and gas industry’s “social license” to use groundwater without limit in Texas is no longer a given, adding, “When there are restrictions put on homeowners, there is a bit more resentment at the industry’s use of groundwater.”

In California, the current drought will shape some of the upcoming debate over planned fracking. “There is a ton of interest because water is already a big issue in California,” said Dustin Mulvaney, an assistant professor of environmental studies at San Jose State University.

According to Betcher, millions of gallons of wastewater used in fracking comes back to the surface in three different forms: flowback fluid returns to the surface for up to a month after the mix of water, sand, and chemicals is forced into porous shale rock; brine continues to come back up after 30 days; and throughout the process drilling debris and fluids are mixed in with the wastewater.

Raina Rippel, director of the nonprofit Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project in Washington County — which has thesecond highest number of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania — worries most about the wastewater and potential health impacts from fracking compounds such as arsenic and chloride, as well as naturally-occurring

‘It is highly likely that more water is withdrawn and more waste generated than is known,’ says a report.

radioactive elements, such as radium, loosened during the fracking process.

Rippel points to instances where homes are sited downhill from impoundment ponds. “In some cases, the [Pennsylvania] DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has been made aware of contamination,” Ripple said. “There are certainly more cases we don’t know of.” Ripple is also worried about the ability of newer, closed-container systems to securely store millions of gallons of wastewater. “It’s inevitable that a closed system can only hold so much,” she said.

Scott Perry, a deputy secretary of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, acknowledged that impoundment spills “have happened on some rare occasions,” especially at older impoundments called open “pits.”

The industry in Pennsylvania is making a shift to closed systems for holding wastewater before it is treated or shipped out of state. The companies still use large impoundment ponds to store wastewater, but the newer ponds meet stricter requirements enacted in 2012 mandating double-lined walls and spill detection, Perry said.

Wastewater storage, treatment and disposal, however, remains one of the Pennsylvania DEP’s “more significant environmental concerns” when it comes to fracking, Perry said. For that reason, regulators and inspectors have been “pushing the industry as far as anyone has” to improve its handling of wastewater and prevent spills, according to Perry. Industry officials say that rapidly improving treatment and storage technologies mean that the overwhelming majority of drilling operations do not discharge untreated or poorly treated wastewater.

While states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, working with industry, have improved reporting and data collection on fracking wastewater, the Downstream Strategies report said that “critical gaps persist,” adding, “It is highly likely that much more water is being withdrawn and more waste is being generated than is known.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has little oversight over fracking fluids and wastewater because a 2005 law exempts the industryfrom the Safe Drinking Water Act.

David Brown, a toxicologist at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, said the close proximity of some wastewater sites to homes

New technology includes mobile filtration plants to filter the flowback of fracking fluids.

and schools is cause for concern, especially given the presence of radium and other pollutants in fracking wastewater. According to Brown, more than 50 families have called the center, or were referred by doctors, after experiencing rashes, gastrointestinal conditions, or other health concerns. After ruling out pre-existing conditions or symptoms triggered by other causes, Brown said, the center’s medical staff concluded that 17of the 50 cases may have been caused by exposure to pollutants.

According to Thomas Murphy, co-director of Pennsylvania State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, the “technology is improving” for wastewater storage and treatment. In addition, state regulations are changing and becoming more effective, Murphy said.

New industry technology includes mobile filtration plants designed to filter the flowback of fracking fluids. That’s becoming an industry “best practice,” said Joe Massaro, a field director with Energy In Depth, a group sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America. For instance, a mobile wastewater treatment facility that Cabot Oil & Gas uses in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, treats wastewater in the field so it can be reused in nearby wells.

Massaro acknowledged some initial problems during the fracking rush, but says most companies drilling natural gas are focused on operating cleanly. “Dumping stuff down the [storm] drain, those guys should get the book thrown at them,” Massaro said, referring to an Ohio company charged with improper dumping last February. “That is not the case for the whole industry.”

A new wastewater treatment facility run by Eureka Resources in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, holds perhaps the most promise for cleaning tainted wastewater. The plant uses a more effective filtering process of distillation to burn off wastewater contaminants, according to Duke University biologist Robert B. Jackson. The newer distillation plants, however, have proven more energy intensive, and thus more expensive, and the Williamsport plant remains the only one of its kind operating in Pennsylvania. The EPA has cited the Eureka facility for air quality violations.

Industry officials say that as much as 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s fracking wastewater is either reused or treated before it is released back into

Levels of radium 200 times higher than normal were found in sediment downstream.

streams or other water sources. But while there have been improvements in storage and treatment technology, there hasn’t been “an overall industry solution for flowback in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University. “In Pennsylvania, disposal of wastewater has been and will remain a chronic problem because they produce it in very large quantities,” Ingraffea said.

Violations issued in Washington County, show the scale of the problem. In the last 12 months, Pennsylvania DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management found 27 violations in the county, of which 10 involved improper treatment or storage of fracking wastewater.

During testing from 2010 to 2012, Jackson and fellow Duke scientists made an alarming discovery at the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, a disposal site on Blacklick Creek, which feeds into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities. The researchers found that the facility did a poor job of filtering chloride and that levels of radium 200 times higher than normal were present in the sediment downstream, Jackson said. The plant had contributed about four-fifths of the downstream chloride content, and bromide was also found downstream, posing a possible health risk for drinking water, Jackson said.

The dangerous releases at the Josephine plant have ended. In May, 2013,Fluid Recovery Services, the facility’s operator, signed an agreement to stop accepting or discharging wastewater from Marcellus Shale wells until it installs technology to remove toxic and radioactive compounds.

But Freyman predicts that municipalities will begin legislating to keep fracking a safe distance from population centers and their water supplies, as Dallas, Texas has done. “There needs to be more discussion and more transparency before we as a society decide what the tradeoffs are and how to mitigate the risks,” she said.

The moral of the natural gas/winter weather story  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

The moral of the natural gas/winter weather story  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

If the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop were alive today, he might have written a fable about North American energy markets. Aesop’s sheet of papyrus may have ended with the moral: “If you wait long enough, gas prices will go up.”

Last week, the ticker showed the highest continental natural gas prices in four years, momentarily bobbing above $5.50 (U.S.) per 1,000 cubic feet (Mcf) in the United States and $5 (Canadian) in Canada. We know Aesop could have easily penned another truism, “Cold weather drives higher prices,” but would he have offered the more complex wisdom: “Prices under $3.50 are not sustainable?”

Are we to believe that the days of two or three dollars for a 1,000 cubic feet of the coveted heating fuel are gone?

Since December, the shivering populace on the eastern side of the continental divide have dialled up their thermostats and brought vigour back to winter natural gas consumption. Scenes of snowy roads and frosty mustaches made it look like conditions were exceptionally frigid in the U.S. and Canada. They were (and still are). But averaged over the span of the continent, the numbers tell a different story; the spreadsheets show that what we have been experiencing is nothing more than a good old-fashioned winter. While thermometers have been showing cold in the east, readouts in western states like California have been indicating warm temperatures.

Of all the natural gas burned in North America in one year, between 30 and 35 per cent is seasonally related to warming up our bodies in the winter months. Heating Degree Days (HDDs) are a measure of cold weather intensity that correlate directly to natural gas consumption. Figure 1 shows weekly U.S. HDDs from 2000 to present. The seasonality of heating is obvious: Furnaces are turned off in mid-summer and blowing hard in the third week of January.

What’s notable about our HDD chart this week is that there is nothing notable about this winter of 2013-14. Total HDDs have been close to the long-term average, back to 2000. In fact, this winter’s performance is unremarkably reminiscent of the winter of 2009-10.

It was the winter of 2011-12 that was weird – one of the warmest on record. And last winter, that of 2012-13, was also anomalously short on heating, and therefore gas demand. Back to back, these abnormally weak winters were juxtaposed against excessive gas output from shale drilling. On top of that, large quantities of associated gas – natural gas liberated as a byproduct from oil drilling – also pressurized the pipeline gauges to “full.” Storage levels ballooned out as a consequence. Not enough consumption and too much production combined in a “perfect storm” that pummelled gas for two years hence.

Today, North American natural gas production is still rising, but nowhere near the growth rate experienced between 2007 and 2012. During that boom era, productive capacity in the U.S. expanded by 20 per cent (10 billion cubic feet a day). Today, output growth is running at a reasonable 2 per cent to meet incremental demands, which means that the demand-pull of a normal winter isn’t masked by a surplus of production.

By the numbers, this coming year is like déjà vu 2010, which was arguably a pretty “normal” year. Volumes of natural gas in storage today – where supply meets demand – are on a restrained 2010 trajectory. By association, price indications for 2014 also seem to be tracking 2010. Back then Henry Hub averaged $4.40 (U.S.) Mcf while AECO logged the year at $4.00 (Canadian) Mcf. Those numbers are reasonable expectations for 2014.

Yet neither producer nor consumer should believe that $4.00 (U.S.) Mcf ($3.50 U.S. Mcf AECO) is a stable price, although the bias is for a firmer floor. Volatile weather will always conspire to rattle the markets up and down. Fundamentals are running hot and cold too. New drilling and completion techniques continue to improve productivity, yet the marginal cost of bringing dry gas to market is still obscured by waste gas coming from oil drilling. Production growth is becoming increasingly dependent on “sweet” areas like the Marcellus (concentration of assets is usually accompanied by greater volatility). And the price impact of potential liquefied natural gas exports may excite markets in a couple of years.

More than anything, the past couple of months remind us that natural gas is a commodity that can’t sit still. Prices are, and will continue, to be volatile. So it’s prudent for both producers and consumers to heed Aesop’s advice in his classic winter fable, The Grasshopper and the Ant: “It is wise to plan for tomorrow today.”

Peter Tertzakian is chief energy economist at ARC Financial Corp. in Calgary and the author of two best-selling books, A Thousand Barrels a Second andThe End of Energy Obesity.

Globe and Mail

University of Alaska Scientists: Fukushima Radiation May Be Making Alaska Seals Sick Washington’s Blog

University of Alaska Scientists: Fukushima Radiation May Be Making Alaska Seals Sick Washington’s Blog.

Is Fukushima Radiation Making West Coast Wildlife Sick?

American sailors on the USS Reagan got really sick after having snowball fights with radioactive snowblowing off of the coasts of Fukushima.

University of Alaska professors Doug Dasher, John Kelley, Gay Sheffield, and Raphaela Stimmelmayr theorize that radioactive snow might have also caused Alaska’s seals to become sick (page 222):

On March 11, 2011 off Japan’s west coast, an earthquake-generated tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant resulting in a major nuclear accident that included a large release of airborne radionuclides into the environment. Within five days of the accident atmospheric air masses carrying Fukushima radiation were transiting into the northern Bering and Chukchi seas. During summer 2011 it became evidentto coastal communities and wildlife management agencies that there was a novel disease outbreak occurring in several species of Arctic ice-associated seals. Gross symptoms associated with the disease included lethargy, no new hair growth, and skin lesions, with the majority of the outbreak reports occurring between the Nome and Barrow region. NOAA and USFWS declared an Alaska Northern Pinnipeds Usual Mortality Event (UME) in late winter of 2011. The ongoing Alaska 2011 Northern Pinnipeds UME investigation continues to explore a mix of potential etiologies (infectious, endocrine, toxins, nutritious etc.), including radioactivity. Currently, the underlying etiology remains undetermined [i.e. scientists don’t yet know what caused the seals’ sickness, but they think it might have been Fukushima radiation]. We presentresults on gamma analysis (cesium 134 and 137) of muscle tissue from control and diseased seals, and discuss wildlife health implications from different possible routes of exposure to Fukushima fallout to ice seals. Since the Fukushima fallout period occurred during the annual sea ice cover period from Nome to Barrow, a sea ice based fallout scenario in addition to a marine food web based one is of particular relevance for the Fukushima accident. Under a proposed sea ice fallout deposition scenario, radionuclides would have been settled onto sea ice. Sea ice and snow would have acted as a temporary refuge for deposited radionuclides; thus radionuclides would have only become available for migration during the melting season and would not have entered the regional food web in any appreciable manner until breakup (pulsed release). The cumulative on-iceexposure for ice seals would have occurred through externalinhalation, and non-equilibrium dietary pathways during the ice-based seasonal spring haulout period for molting/pupping/breeding activities. Additionally, ice seals would have been under dietary/metabolic constraints and experiencing hormonal changes associated with reproduction and molting.

Here are some pictures of the sick seals:

Harmed: Seals like this one in Barrow, Alaska, have been found with bleeding lesions, damaged fur and flippers thought to have been caused by radiation from Fukushima, Japan.

Many other West Coast animals have gotten sick. Scientists need to get to the bottom of what is making them sick, whether it’s radiation or something else.

Random Acts of Revolution |

Random Acts of Revolution |.

oprevolution

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery.  This means that if you are a slave today, it’s either illegal, or you have voluntarily accepted your servitude.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

You have a Constitutionally protected right to be free. If you aren’t free, then revolution is your duty.

Many people believe that revolution requires that they lead a march, stand in front of a crowd with a bullhorn, or form a militia. They feel like it’s a job for the Alex Joneses, the Adam Kokeshes,  the James Wesley Rawleses, and the Bradley Mannings of the world.

They’re wrong.  You don’t have to be a person with thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook .  You don’t have to be a person with a military leadership position on  your resume. You need not get yourself arrested on the steps of the White House, got to prison forever for telling the truth about your unit in the army, or stare down a bunch of scary-looking thugs in jack boots.

But you do have to do something.

You can’t just sit there and complain unless you are really just another armchair Rambo.

The way you lead your life every single day can be an act of revolution.  By refusing to concede your natural rights, quietly and resolutely, you are performing an act of revolution. Walking the walk doesn’t always require civil disobedience or militia membership (although those actions definitely have their places).  It requires your consistent determination not to be infringed upon.

It doesn’t matter if you are a soccer mom from the suburbs, a college student in a dormitory, a church-going dad and husband, or a person who has found themselves homeless through the ongoing economic crisis – by living resolutely, you are performing an act of revolution.

Don’t get me wrong – we need the Alexes, the Adams, the militias, the Bradleys, and the JWRs.  We need the people who stand in protest.  We need those who expose wrongdoing.  We need the organizers, the shouters, the big personalities, the quiet strong types, and the leaders. But these are not the only ways to revolt.  If every single person was off organizing their own rally, there’d be no one left to march in it.

What it is imperative upon us to do is to find our compass and follow it.  We must make ourselves immune to control by not needing what “they” hand out.  We have to be armored against the way everyone else lives and choose our own paths.  We must stubbornly refuse to participate in the hoop-jumping that is everyday life in North America.  By all of us who believe in liberty doing this, we form an army of stubborn non-participants in the status quo.

Here’s an example. It’s a small thing, a battle that today only affected my daughter and me.  My daughter is not vaccinated.  She attends a public school where the kids must be vaccinated, or hoops must be jumped through. I filled out the initial forms stating that I had an objection of conscience to vaccines.  I was contacted by a representative of the school system who suggested that I sign instead the form that stated a religious objection, because that was “easier”.  I refused, because my objection is NOT one of religion, and I felt like that was a cop-out. I knew that I was within my rights to have an objection of conscience, and I felt that it was important to make a point that might make it easier for the next parent.  I was then told that I’d have to pay $25 and get a statement notarized to allow her exemption on my basis.  I said I’d be happy to get a statement notarized, but not at my expense. I pointed out that nowhere does our local law state that I should have to pay any money for my child to NOT do something.  Lo and behold, after 5 months of politely going back and forth,  being escalated through numerous different superiors of superiors in the school board and public health system, my daughter is still unvaccinated, I have not spent $25, and she was not suspended from school.  The point I’m making is not about vaccines, but about not stepping back from your rights, for your convenience or for the convenience of others. This requires that you read the relevant laws and understand them.  It requires a certain degree of persistence and a willingness to be a pain in the butt.

There are valid reasons for revolution.

One of the benchmarks of tyranny is the dizzying arrays of laws on the books, with more and more added every single day.  It is humanly impossible not to break multiple laws every single day.  Regulations are revenue builders and/or control mechanisms. If the “authorities” can ALWAYS find a law that you’ve broken, then they can ALWAYS give a “reason” for punishing you.  Punishment might include incarceration, hefty fines, or the removal of some privilege (like taking away your driver’s license or not allowing your child to go to school).

If the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

~ James Madison, Federalist Papers 62

The police state is growing at a dizzying rate, and often the news makes it look like we live in Nazi Germany. It is now or never.  Like cockroaches, “they” – the thugs in jackboots and their masters – multiply in the dark, and will soon overtake us if we don’t put a stop to it right now.  They want to take our guns because that would make our resistance more difficult.  They keep buying up ammo and now have more than enough to kill every man, woman, and child in America multiple times. The NDAA means that any person can be indefinitely detained. There has been a sustained attack on the Bill of Rights and one by one our rights are being submerged beneath the desires of those who would demand our submission.

How can you be an everyday revolutionary?

The most revolutionary act is to be self-sufficient and in need of nothing that the government can provide for you in exchange for some small liberty.  When there is nothing that you require enough to submit, then bullying you becomes much more difficult.

This list of suggestions is by no means comprehensive.  Please, add your own random acts of resistance in the comments below.

  • Question absolutely everything you hear on the news.  Always be a skeptic. All major media goes back to just a few conglomerates.  The “news” is now all a propaganda ploy to help the rich get richer and the powerful remain in power.  The media can make or break a candidate with unholy zeal in less than a week.  These people and others like them are the ones that decide what “we the people” get to see.  If they feel like a candidate or a news item might upset the status quo, they black it out by refusing to cover it.
  • Call out the media.  Let everyone know that the mainstream media is the enemy of the people.  When you see coverage that is clearly biased, take a moment to call out the media about it.  Take the time to comment on mainstream media websites and point out the unbalanced coverage.  If you use social media, share this information and post on the media outlet’s social media pages as well.
  • Get out of the banking system. By opting to “unbank” or “underbank” there is a limit to what can be easily stolen from you.  When you have physical control of your financial assets, you are not at as high a risk of losing those assets, and therefore, less likely to be dependent on “the system.”
  • Turn your savings into precious metals or tangible assets.  On the same note as unbanking, you definitely don’t want to rely on a 401K or savings account to provide for you in your old age. Ask the people of Cyprus how well that worked out for them.  Diversify with assets you can touch.  Purchase tangible goods like land, food, ammo, and seeds. Once you are well supplied, move on to precious metals to preserve your wealth.
  • Educate others.  At the (very high) risk of people thinking you’re crazy, it’s important to let people know WHY you do what you do. If you are an anti-Monsanto activist, teach others about the dangers of GMOs.  If you object to a municipal policy, speak at a town meeting or send a letter to the editor of your local paper.  By ranting incoherently or by keeping your mouth shut, you influence no one. By providing provable facts, you can open minds and awaken others to tyranny.
  • Get others involved in the fight.  For example, if you are fighting with the city council that wants to rip out the vegetables growing in your front yard, let  your friends and neighbors know, post a notice at the grocery store, and write a letter to the editor.  When injustice occurs, use the power of social media to spread awareness. Often a public outcry is what is necessary to get the “authorities” to back down.  Look at the case of Brandon Raub, the veteran who was kidnapped and taken to a mental hospital for things he posted on Facebook. Raub was not charged, but he was detained in the psych ward involuntarily. His friends and family immediately mobilized and spread the videos of his arrest all over the internet.  It snowballed and alternative media picked it up – soon Raub was released, and all because of a grass roots and social media campaign to bring the injustice to light.
  • Grow your own food.  Every single seed that you plant is a revolutionary act.  Every bit of food that you don’t have to purchase from the grocery store is a battle cry for your personal independence.  When you educate yourself (and others) about  Big Food, Big Agri, and the food safety sell-outs at the FDA, you will clearly see that we are alone in our fight for healthy, nutritious foods.  Refuse to tolerate these attacks on our health and our lifestyles. Refuse to be held subject to Agenda 21′s version of “sustainability”.
  • Take control of your health.  It is imperative that you not blindly trust in the medical establishment.  Many members of this establishment are merely prostitutes for their pimp, Big Pharma.  Millions ofchildren are given powerful psychotropic drugs to help them fit into the neat little classroom boxes, and the numbers are growing every day.  Americans spent 34.2 BILLION dollars on psychiatric drugs in 2010. (Source) Big Pharma is an enormously profitable industry that only pays off if they can convince you that you’re sick.  Learn about the toxic injections and medications, weight the risks and benefits, and always look for second and third opinions before making a medical decision.  Maintain your health by avoiding toxins, exercising, and ditching your bad habits to reduce the number of doctor’s visits that are necessary.
  • Refuse to comply.  If you know your natural rights, which are guaranteed under the Constitution and its Amendments, then it makes it much harder for “authorities” to bully you.  You don’t have to let them search your home without a warrant, you don’t have to answer questions, and you don’t have to comply with laws that are in conflict with the Constitution.
  • Learn.  Every day, spend time learning. This shouldn’t stop once our formal education ends. Fill your mind with history, with current events, with constitutional law, and information about the natural world.  Learn about health, study economics, research things that interest you, and unravel the complicated conspiracies that are afoot.  To pursue unbiased knowledge is to free your mind from the prison of propaganda and indoctrination.
  • Don’t consume chemicals that cause you to be dumbed down.  Avoid chemical-laden food with brain-killing neurotoxins like MSG and aspartame.  Don’t drink fluoridated water.
  • Embrace your right to bear arms.  Be responsible for your own safety and security.
  • Don’t be in debt.  No one can be free if they are in debt. If you are in debt, you are forced to work in whatever conditions are present, for whatever amount is offered, complying with whatever criteria is necessary to keep your job.  in order to either pay your debt or face penalties. As well, the high interest rates that you pay only serve to make the bankers more wealthy.  Instead of borrowing, save until you can afford something or realize that if you could actually afford it, you wouldn’t need to borrow money to have it.
  • Be prepared for disaster.  Have enough food, water, and supplies to take care of your family in the event of a natural disaster. Don’t expect FEMA to take care of you.
  • Be involved in your children’s education.  For some, this means homeschooling or unschooling, and for others this means being on top of what they are learning in a formal school setting. Join the PTA and actively volunteer if your child goes to school.  Be an advocate for your child and insist that the teachers teach. If your child goes to school, supplement this at home with discourse about current events and outings that help them learn about the world around them.
  • Be the squeaky wheel. If you see something wrong, don’t just ignore it. Say something about it, and keep saying something until it changes.  Whether this is some process that infringes on your privacy, a job requirement that impedes your health, or another injustice, pursue it relentlessly. Ask questions publically, write letters, and use social media to bring pressure to encourage a change.
  • Reduce your consumer spending.  Spending less helps to starve the beast by reducing the sales taxes you pay and withdrawing your financial support to big conglomerates. If we vote with our dollars, eventually there will, of a necessity, be a paradigm shift that returns us to simpler days, when families that were willing to work hard could make a living without selling their souls to the corporate monoliths. A low-consumption lifestyle reduces your financial dependency, which allows for more freedom.
  • Ditch popular culture.  If reality TV isn’t a tool for dumbing people down, I don’t know what it is.  My daughter recently begged to watch an episode of a popular reality TV show that “everyone” was watching.  She managed about 15 minutes of it and then said, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”  She decided to read a book instead.  Popular entertainment is a media tool used to change our perspectives about our personal values, and to tell us how to think and feel about issues.
  • Buy locally.  Support local small businesses to help others who are fighting for independence from the system.  You might pay a little bit more than you would at your big box store, but the only people benefiting from your purchases made at the corporate stores are those with the 7 figure annual bonuses.
  • Develop multiple streams of income.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Figure out several ways to bring in income.  Not only does this free you from being a wage slave, but it allows you to hire friends or family members.  You are less entangled in the system and not subject to corporate whims.  If one business fails, or becomes subject to regulations that make it no longer worthwhile, you are not forced to comply just to keep a roof over your head.
  • Say thanks, but no thanks.  There is no such thing as a benevolent hand out.  Nearly anything offered for free (particularly by a government entity) has strings attached.  Maybe there is a handy-dandy registration form that you need to fill out. You might be influenced to vote a certain way just to keep the freebies coming. You might have to pee in a cup every two weeks. Perhaps one day you’ll need to have a microchip embedded in your hand.  Either way, by accepting handouts from those in “authority”, you become beholden to them or you need them, and someone who is free is neither beholden nor needy.
  • Don’t take the easy road.  The PTB like to seduce people with simplicity.  ”If you just sign this paper, it will be much easier,” they say.  ”This chip is for your convenience,” they tell you.  ”By giving up this, it lets us take care of you and you will be much safer.”  The easy road only gets you to Slave Street a whole lot faster.  Take the difficult road and be responsible for yourself.  Don’t take shortcuts that compromise your beliefs. Go to court to fight a ticket, read the laws and defend yourself, and know that anything you give up, you will never get back.

According to the Declaration of Independence,  ”Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

That means that you don’t have to accept the unjust laws. That means you don’t have to quietly take it, muttering under your breath that it isn’t right, but not daring to raise your voice.  That means that “they” are only in control of you if you allow it.

There are nearly 316 million people in the United States. (source)

Only 3% of the population fought in the Revolutionary War, and 10% actively supported them.

If 9,480,000 people quietly and peacefully revolted by withdrawing their consent to be governed by tyrants we could not be silenced.

If 31,600,000 people supported those revolting, we could not be stopped.

The government might  be watching us, but we can watch them right back.  Make the way you live your life a revolutionary act.

What random act of revolution did you commit today?  Please share it in the comments section below.

This essay was originally published on June 1, 2013. The principles outlined here are worth a reminder. Live your life every day as a quiet act of revolution against those who seek to enslave you.

About the author:

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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