The Global Fool

our planet is our village

It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying: A New Campaign to Raise Awareness of Climate Change
Aug14

It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying: A New Campaign to Raise Awareness of Climate Change

By The Editors Milton Glaser, one of the most celebrated graphic designers in the United States, has launched an environmental campaign to raise awareness of climate change. He is known for the ubiquitous I heart NY logo, his Bob Dylan poster, the Brooklyn Brewery logo, and a lot more. You can view a collection of his work here.  The campaign — It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying —  is based on a strong message that is meant to create a sense of urgency around climate change, a well-established major global threat. For his campaign, which defines climate change as “The most important fact on Earth“, Glaser designed a visual for buttons and posters — our planet seen as a green disk covered by black smoke, with only a narrow band of life (in still visible green) remaining at its bottom. The green section is printed in glow-in-the-dark ink for maximum impact. “There is no more significant issue on earth than its survival,” Glaser told Dezeen, one of the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazines. “The questions is, ‘how can anyone not be involved?'” And he added: “If half the people on earth wear the button even the ‘masters of the universe’ will be moved to action,” referring to the large corporations he says have prevented significant action to protect the planet against the changing climate. “Global warming” does not convey the seriousness of the problem. Glaser wants to point out what global warming really is — a death sentence — and make people more receptive to truly understand what it’s at stake here. He told Brian Lehrer (listen to the interview here): “Global warming in its own way sounds sort of reassuring and comforting … that’s terrible. You begin by attacking the phrase itself — the word and what the word means — because the truth of the matter is that the earth is dying. And wouldn’t it be nice if today was the beginning of the most important date in human history which is the date we decided not to let the earth die?” A Twitter account provides a stream of news reports and updates about the campaign. Follow this link to buy buttons ($5 for five). All proceeds will be used to produce and distribute more...

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Global Threats: Soil and Topsoil Erosion and Degradation
Aug09

Global Threats: Soil and Topsoil Erosion and Degradation

By Roberta Attanasio “Soil anaemia also breeds human anaemia. Micronutrient deficiency in the soil results in micronutrient malnutrition in people, since crops grown on such soils tend to be deficient in the nutrients needed to fight hidden hunger. (…) Managing our soil and water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner needs a new political vision.” M.S. Swaminathan — the “Indian Father of Green Revolution”. Soil, the earth’s skin, is one of our most valuable resources — it’s a dynamic and complex ecosystem that acts as a growing medium. Plant and animal life depend on the recycling of primary nutrients through soil processes. It plays a major role in determining the composition of the atmosphere by emitting and absorbing carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor and, due to its water filtering function, is essential for the clean water supply of our planet.  Soil degradation is the decline in soil quality caused by its improper use.  Examples of soil degradation are loss of organic matter, decline in soil fertility, decline in structural condition, erosion (soil is naturally removed, for example by the action of water or wind), adverse changes in salinity, acidity or alkalinity, and the effects of toxic chemicals, pesticides, pollutants or excessive flooding. Back in 1984, a study by the Worldwatch Institute defined the erosion of agricultural topsoil a ”quiet crisis” that could lead to “pockets of famine” around the world. At the time, Lester R. Brown told the New York Times: ”Grave though the loss of topsoil may be, it is a quiet crisis, one that is not widely perceived. Unlike earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters, this disaster of human origin is unfolding gradually.” Then, in 1992, the World Resources Institute published the results of the first global assessment of land degradation. It reported that, since World War II, about 11 percent of the world’s vegetated surface area had become degraded, mostly due to farming, overgrazing and deforestation. It pointed out that the continuation of activities leading to soil degradation would seriously affect the ability of providing growing populations with food, fuel, and fiber. Now, more than twenty years later, The Global Soil Partnership — which brings together a broad range of government and non-government stakeholders — recognized that urgent action is required to improve the health of the world’s limited soil resources and stop land degradation, so as to ensure that future generations have enough supplies of food, water, energy and raw materials. Thus, it has endorsed a series of action plans to safeguard soil resources which provide the basis for global agricultural production. Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), said: “Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production. Without soils we...

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Nuisance Flooding: Climate Change and Increasing Sea Levels on U.S. Coasts
Jul29

Nuisance Flooding: Climate Change and Increasing Sea Levels on U.S. Coasts

By Roberta Attanasio According to a new report released yesterday (July 28, 2014) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), nuisance flooding — which causes public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure — is a growing problem along the U.S. coasts. Indeed, nuisance flooding has increased between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s.   The report (Sea level rise and nuisance flood frequency changes around the United States) points out that eight of the top ten U.S. cities that have seen the increase in nuisance flooding, which is caused by rising sea levels, are on the East Coast, one is in Texas and the other in California.  Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, lead the list with an increase in number of flood days of more than 920 percent since 1960. Port Isabel, Texas, along the Gulf coast, showed an increase of 547 percent, and nuisance flood days in San Francisco, California increased 364 percent. “As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding,” said William Sweet, Ph.D., oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the report’s lead author. “Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers. The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor.”   The extent of nuisance flooding depends on multiple factors, including topography and land cover. The study defines nuisance flooding as a daily rise in water level above the minor flooding threshold set locally by NOAA’s National Weather Service, and focused on coastal areas at or below these levels that are especially susceptible to flooding. The report concludes that any acceleration in the rise of sea levels (predicted to occur this century) will not only intensify the impacts of nuisance flooding over time, but it will also reduce the time between flood events. Below is the list of the top ten U.S. cities with increasing nuisance flooding: Annapolis, Maryland, 925 percent Baltimore, Maryland, 922 percent Atlantic City, New Jersey, 682 percent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 650 percent Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 626 percent Port Isabel, Texas, 547 percent Charleston, South Carolina, 409 percent Washington, DC, 373 percent San Francisco, California, 364 percent Norfolk, Virginia, 325 percent The report explains that climate change — by causing thermal expansion of the world’s oceans and melting of glaciers and ice sheets — has contributed to the rise of global sea levels at a...

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Climate Change: Influence on the Spread of Lyme Disease
Mar30

Climate Change: Influence on the Spread of Lyme Disease

By Roberta Attanasio Blacklegged ticks feed on blood — they attach to the skin of humans and many animals and, slowly, suck for several days. To get there, they patiently wait on the tip of grasses and shrubs using their lower legs to hold on, until a human or an animal passes by. Ticks can’t jump or fly, so they keep their upper pair of legs outstretched, ready to climb aboard. Once there, they insert their feeding tube into the skin and start to suck the blood — this is how they become infected by or transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the micro-organism that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is one of the most common infectious diseases in the United States, and it also occurs in many regions of Europe and Asia. It’s at the center of ongoing disputes on how to cure it and on whether or not a chronic form of the disease exists.  Now, something else may add to the controversy — the influence of climate change on its spread. During their life cycle, ticks undergo profound transformations that require moisture in the air — eggs develop into larvae, which then become nymphs and, finally, adults. In addition, the ticks’ development from egg to larva depends on warm temperatures. Climate change, then, may make the ticks’ life harder or easier — if the climate becomes warmer, ticks will reproduce and spread more, thus increasing the risk of Lyme disease. The blacklegged tick (also dubbed deer tick) Ixodes scapularis spreads Lyme disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States, whereas the western blacklegged tick Ixodes pacificus spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast. In the 1970s, populations of Ixodes scapularis expanded in the northeastern United States, thus leading to the diffusion of Lyme disease in this region. Now, Ixodes scapularisthe is expanding northwards, leading to the increased occurrence of Lyme disease in Canada. Results from a study published on March 14, 2014, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Estimated effects of projected climate change on the basic reproductive number of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis) show that, as temperatures increased northward between 1971 and 2010, so did the sprawl of Ixodes scapularis. Thus, the authors of the study suggest that climate warming may be responsible for the emergence of Lyme disease in northeastern North America. On the basis of climate projections to 2070, the authors conclude that, in the future, higher temperatures may drive Lyme disease into new geographic regions while, at the same time, increasing the risk of diseases carried by ticks in climates currently suitable for their...

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Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water in India Impairs Kala-Azar Treatment
Oct30

Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water in India Impairs Kala-Azar Treatment

By Roberta Attanasio Visceral leishmaniasis, known in India as kala-azar or black fever, is a parasitic disease that kills an estimated 500,000 people a year, 90 percent of them in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sudan. In India, the disease is endemic in the northeastern Indian State of Bihar – the epicenter of kala-azar in the region – and in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. It manifests with irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anemia. Left untreated, kala-azar is almost always fatal, especially in children, According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Leishmaniasis is a poverty-related disease. It affects the poorest of the poor and is associated with malnutrition, displacement, poor housing, illiteracy, gender discrimination, weakness of the immune system and lack of resources. Leishmaniasis is also linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, new irrigation schemes and urbanization, and the accompanying migration of non-immune people to endemic areas.” Leishmania, the protozoan parasite that causes kala-azar, spreads to humans through the bite of infected female sandflies. No vaccine has yet been licensed to prevent infection. Drugs to treat the disease are toxic and expensive. In Bihar, where 90% of India’s large kala-hazar burden is located, the parasite has developed resistance to one of the main treatments, a group of drugs known as antimonial preparations. Indeed, the effectiveness of the antimonial preparations is now so low that these drugs are no longer recommended in the Indian subcontinent, whereas they remain an essential part of the treatment for visceral leishmaniasis in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Now, researchers at the Universities of Dundee and Aberdeen in the U.K. report, in an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, that arsenic contamination of the water supply may have played a significant role in building the resistance of leishmania to the antimonial drugs. In the article, the researchers state: “The Indian subcontinent is the only region where arsenic contamination of drinking water coexists with widespread resistance to antimonial drugs that are used to treat the parasitic disease visceral leishmaniasis.” The article (October 28, 2013) is entitled “Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water can lead to resistance to antimonial drugs in a mouse model of visceral leishmaniasis” Professor Alan Fairlamb, senior author of the article, said: ”The water supply in Bihar has been found to be affected by contamination from naturally occurring arsenic in the groundwater. What we have been able to show through experiments is that arsenic contamination of water can build resistance in Leishmania parasites to antimonial treatments.” The researchers performed their experiments...

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