“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy”
– Henry Ward Beecher
The Disaster We’ve Wrought on the World’s Oceans May Be Irrevocable
In the great halls of La Boqueria, Barcelona’s central market, tourists, foodies and cooks gather every day to marvel at the fresh food, like pilgrims at the site of a miracle. The chief shrines are the fish counters, where thousands of sea creatures making up dozens of species gleam pink and gray on mounds of ice. But to many ocean scientists this is not a display of the ocean’s bounty but a museum—by the end of this century, many of these animals may be history due to man’s reckless abuse of the planet. As we keep dumping greenhouse gases into the air, the oceans keep sucking them up, making the waters deadly to their inhabitants.
On the Boqueria’s fish stands I count 10 types of bivalves—creatures like clams, oysters and mussels that use calcium carbonate to make their endlessly varied shells. In as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone. Then there are the ranks of huge Asian prawns and tiny shrimps, terra-cotta crabs from Scotland, and lobsters, magnificent admirals in blue fringed with gold. Lucky for them, these creatures make their shells differently (mostly out of a polymer called chitin), so the rapidly acidifying waters of our oceans won’t dissolve them as it will the exteriors of the bivalves. But the acidification—which some scientists believe is the fastest change in the ocean’s chemistry in 300 million years—appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behavior of the crustaceans when they are very young.
On the crushed ice sit a dozen kinds of finned creatures that the Spanish love—monkfish, hake, sardines, tuna. The Spaniards eat more fish than anyone else in Europe. The effect of changing ocean chemistry on fish health, longevity and reproduction is not yet certain. But even now, many species on the Boqueria stalls are also on one or more European “at-risk” lists: under threat because of overfishing or changes in the chain of foods that supply them, or from the bigger threat of the changing ocean biogeochemistry.
The last is the least understood of these phenomena. Along the coasts and out in the deep, huge “dead zones” have been multiplying. They are the emptiest places on the planet, where there’s little oxygen and sometimes no life at all, almost entirely restricted to some unicellular organisms like bacteria. Vast blooms of algae—organisms that thrive in more acid (and less alkaline) seawater and are fed by pollution—have already rendered parts of the Baltic Sea pretty much dead. A third of the marine life in that sea, which once fed all of Northern Europe, is gone and may already be beyond hope of recovery. Read More.
New Study Quantifies Causes of the “Urban Heat Island” Effect
A new Yale-led study quantifies for the first time the primary causes of the “urban heat island” (UHI) effect, a common phenomenon that makes the world’s urban areas significantly warmer than surrounding countryside and may increase health risks for city residents.
In an analysis of 65 cities across North America, researchers found that variation in how efficiently urban areas release heat back into the lower atmosphere — through the process of convection — is the dominant factor in the daytime UHI effect. This finding challenges a long-held belief that the phenomenon is driven principally by diminished evaporative cooling through the loss of vegetation.
The effects of impaired “convective efficiency” are particularly acute in wet climates, the researchers say. In cities such as Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, this factor alone contributes a 3-degree C rise in average daytime temperatures, according to the study, published July 10 in the journal Nature.
The phenomenon could have profound impacts on human health in cities worldwide as mean global temperatures continue to rise — and as more and more people move into cities — said Xuhui Lee, the Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor of Meteorology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and one of the study’s authors.
“There is a synergistic relationship between climate conditions and the urban heat island,” Lee said. “This relationship suggests that the urban heat island will exacerbate heat wave stress on human health in wet climates where temperature effects are already compounded by high humidity.
Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park is a wonderland of rivers, streams, rainforest and cascading water.
EarthKeeper of the Month
David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is familiar to audiences around the world as host of CBC TV’s long-running series, The Nature of Things. He has authored over 40 books, and is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology. Dr. Suzuki has received numerous awards for his work, including a UNESCO prize for science, a United Nations Environment Program medal, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. He has 22 honorary doctorates from universities in the USA, Canada, and Australia. For his support of Canada’s First Nations people, Dr. Suzuki has been honored with six names and formal adoption by two tribes. Read More.
La Casa de Maria
The mission of La Casa de Maria is to provide, through its programs and environment, a nourishing place of peace where persons of all faiths can search for truth, engage in dialogue, experience personal growth, realize their self worth, embrace the sacred, then refreshed and renewed, participate more responsibly in the creation of a just and peaceful world and a whole and healthful earth. Currently, La Casa de Maria’s is working on raising funds to build a water well in order to sustain their food production.
Experience the wildlife, adventure, unique culture and vast scenery of Southern Africa. See wildlife parks teeming with animal life, journey through wild canyons, witness majestic waterfalls, and experience the dramatic landscapes of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.