In the wake of Anene Booysen’s brutal gang rape and murder, South Africa has not reacted with the same intensity as India did when Jyoti Singh Pandey was gang raped and killed in December. Some people are taking to the streets though. Today saw protesters raising their voices outside Parliament in Cape Town.
Check out my new post at High Country News about how the phorid fly “zombifies” and kills honeybees.
Here’s an excerpt:
“If you were a honeybee, you might scare your children into obedience with tales of the phorid fly, a creature whose depravity sinks to deep depths. Picture this: you’re going about your business, pollinating flowers and the like, when one of these devils swoops in, clamps down on your abdomen and, using a spiked injector called an ovipositor, injects its eggs inside you. Within a few days, maggots hatch from the eggs and start eating your guts, disemboweling you from the inside. Obviously, this is enough to drive anyone demented. As the torture reaches its pinnacle you flee the hive, crazed and confused, and never return. You die a desperate death, vainly spinning in ridiculous circles, under the cold beam of a light that you are inexplicably attracted to. With little respect for your corpse, about a week later as many as 13 phorid fly larvae wiggle their way out of your decaying body, ready to begin the cycle anew by infecting some of your friends.”
Image: A female phorid fly (Apocephalus borealis) courtesy Brian V. Brown.
Today we ran a collection of photos at The Boulder Stand under the header “What is Winter?” This shot, from my sister Faith, was taken on a road trip last November through California. We were heading south to San Francisco along Highway 1 and the liquid sky just could not be ignored.
To see the full collection check out “Photo Round-up: What is Winter?” at The Boulder Stand.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama made it clear that further expansion of natural gas drilling is a key part of the government’s vision for America’s energy economy.
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years,” said Obama. “And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.”
Speaking at a town hall meeting at CU-Boulder’s Wittemyer Courtroom Friday, Nancy Sutley, principal environmental advisor to President Obama, touted the government’s commitment to expanding natural gas development as playing a vital role in the transition to a new energy economy. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Phil Weiser, dean of CU-Boulder’s Law School, and Patty Limerick, director of the Center of the American West, joined Sutley in chairing the meeting.
“Some have said the United States could be the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” Sutley told the crowd. Cheap natural gas is generally very good for the economy and, as the president talked about, the U.S. is not going to cede leadership in this area to other countries, she said.
While greater reliance on natural gas as a fuel source has the ability to bring down energy costs and decrease greenhouse gas pollution, the federal government has to engage with states, communities and industry to ensure that natural gas exploration is done safely, she said.
Weiser also stressed the need for federal oversight. “Better than having lots of communities say ‘I don’t trust fracking I want to have a ban on any fracking’ — this technology that’s integral to natural gas — there’s an important discussion about what rules are necessary to protect public health,” he said.
In many cases, those in the natural gas industry are willing to cooperate because they have a long-term interest in a sustainable regulatory regime, he said.
As the president announced Tuesday, companies that drill for gas on public lands will soon be required to disclose the list of chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process, which involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to release gas and oil harbored deep underground. Texas and Colorado recently passed state laws that require such disclosure. The new laws will take effect in Texas in February and in Colorado in April.
During the question and answer session, Alice Madden, the Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, raised concerns about how a focus on natural gas expansion, and the affordability of natural gas, could detract from efforts to promote and sustain the development of renewable energy technologies.
A failure to renew the production tax credit available to wind energy companies (which expires at the end of the year), as well the tax credit for other renewables, could lead to a loss of jobs in the renewable energy industry, she said.
In his address, the president called for the creation of a clean energy standard and an extension of manufacturing and production tax credits for the renewables industry, Sutley replied. “We’re hopeful that congress will act on that,” she said.
(Post also appears at The Boulder Stand).
In 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 191 times to obstruct protection of the environment, earning it the title of the “most anti-environment House in the history of Congress,” according to a report prepared for representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.).
On average, the House cast just over one anti-environmental vote for every day it was in session last year, according to the report. The report also highlights that, all told, during voting 94 percent of Republicans took an anti-environmental position, as opposed to Democrats — 86 percent of whom voted pro-environment.
Votes against the environment focused chiefly on stalling efforts to address climate change, stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to enforce certain Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act standards, allowing oil and gas development off the coasts of Florida and California instead of offshore drilling, preventing the Department of the Interior from identifying areas suitable for wilderness designations, and cutting funding for the Department of Energy, and its renewable energy endeavors, by 80 percent, according to the report.
The Environmental Protection Agency bore the brunt of most anti-environmental votes. Of the 191 votes against the environment, 114 targeted the EPA, 35 targeted the Department of the Interior, and 31 targeted the Department of Energy, according to the report.
“The House Republican assault on the environment has been reckless and relentless,” said Rep. Waxman in a press statement. “In bill after bill, for one industry after another, the House has been voting to roll back environmental laws and endanger public health.”
Read the full report, “The Anti-Environment Record of the U.S. House of Representatives 112th Congress, 1st Session” online.
Late afternoon at the Grand Canyon is a time of rare silence and explicit beauty. It is a time for reflection and introspection that leaves one greatly humbled. In these shots, taken during a recent trip to the South Rim, the sun catches portions of rock, highlighting the ancient contours with a numinous glow.
Image: Willow2012 via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License
Scientists predict a daunting set of potential consequences of climate change. With the possibility of increased droughts, a higher frequency of wildfires, rising sea levels, the decimation of deep ocean sea creatures, and threats to global food security, the future of a warmer world appears bleak.
What if the unpredictable effects of climate change arrive quicker than expected? Advocates of geoengineering, which involves manipulating the Earth’s climate with technological mechanisms, some of which, like blasting large mirrors into space to reflect sunlight, come straight from the annals of science fiction, argue that geoengineering could offer a last resort fix to save the planet. It could be used as a form of “insurance,” as Graeme Pearman of Monash University has put it. Critics, however, worry that if climate quick fixes are on hand there will be little reason for nations to cut their carbon emissions and reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.