Planet Eaters

Fact of the day: 2,500 people own 65% of the wealth on Earth. It might interest you to know that just eight of them own 50%.

https://www.globalresearch.ca/implanted-vaccine-package-id-germanys-parliament-has-ratified-gavis-digital-agenda-id2020/5736277

S.F

Spring Not Quite Springing April 16t 2021 – Robert Cook

Signs of Spring in Swanbourne , North Bucks. Planting seeds came 3 weeks late and the weather remains poor. Food prices predicted to rise while farming still takes unreasonable blame for pollution and rising prices. R.J Cook.

Frozen Out By Nuclear Winter by Robert Cook April 15th 2021

Aylesbury Plus feature June 25th 1987

In today’s WOKE world it is a crime to question the massive and continuing population growth, and consequent overflow into Europe and United States. We little people are supposed to take blame for climate change , accepting cultural and racial genocide. Muslims must have their rights in the west , but this is not reciprocated in the ‘go forth and multiply’ Islamic world.

In my logistic industry work, my excellent boss used to accuse me of overthinking. Given all the things that could go wrong there, I thought that reasonable. In writing , I aim to simplify without trivialising.

The full potential of this developing climate disaster is easily exemplified by my favourite statistic : The average African woman has 15 babies each. Africa is a land of immense natural wealth. That wealth is controlled by black dictators and the 500 corporations who control two thirds of the global economy.

The current officially backed BLM campaign about slavery , compensation , re writing history and tearing down statues is a distraction. It works to suit vested interests and incenses ignorant badly educated youth – especially the feminists and the ones who have the conceit and arrogance sold to them on their expensive ‘uni ‘courses.

By June 1986 I had left maths , science and P.E teaching behind and was teaching geography. The first years were still called second years – I forget the year that intake were officially renamed eigth years. It was also the year and time the Chernobyl Nuclear power station blew up.

We were then on the topic ‘chance factors influencing agriculture.’ I am ashamed to admit to being a Guardian reader back then. Covering the Chernobyl diaster , a Guardian journalist had written about Laplanders having to destroy their entire staple Reindeer population , due to the radioactive fallout.

So I wove this into my lessons. Dabbling with music and song writing at the time, I had written a simple tune in the key of C Major , using the additional fourth , fifth and relative minor chords in common time with lots of quavers to make it bounce. It was called ‘The Nuclear Winter.’ My son Kieran was nearly one year old. I was angry that morons were destroying the world and my boy’s future.

Off the top of my head , some of the words went something like this :

‘The Nuclear Winter is coming, coming down on the breeze.

‘Old Reagan , he says it don’t matter , he says it’s just God with a sneeze.

‘And your flesh will burn and your bones will melt and your heart won’t beat anymore.

‘And there’s nowhere to run when the show goes down , and there’s nowhere to hide when it rains.

‘We’re gonna grow old in a minute , and we wanted to be kids all our lives’ x 2.

I was working for the local ‘Aylesbury Plus’ news paper as well as teaching with Bucks County Council. One of my sixth formers , John Newton’ was into synthesisers so arranged the music, then recorded it on 8 track with three 8th years on vocals, pictured above.

I was already very concerned about the environment and thought it my job to make matters relevant in my teaching. This was before the dead hand of the Thatcher Government’s National Curriculum – intended to take the masess back to the nineteenth century ignorance , reinforced by computer woship instead of God.

Using a contact on BBC Radio Oxford , I got early morning air time and later national radio exposure. Admittedly I was also trying to get exposure for John Newton and his band ,Tu Tu Tango. The three child vocalists were also interviewed about their opinions on the Chernobyl disaster. I didn’t script them. Their parents , one deputy head of neighbouring Aylesbury High School, had given written permission to be involved in the project , as had the headmaster , Ray Jones.

The fall out for me was serious. At the time I was due for promotion to head the new GCSE Integrated Humanities project. I had been leading the training of teachers for this across Aylesbury Vale.

Gillian Miscampbell was chair of Bucks Education Committee and a rampant Thatcherite. Thatcher hated coal miners and was planning a whole string of dangerous Nuclear Advanced Gas Cooled Reators ( AGCRs ) to replace them. Her greedy Tories were afraid of Chernobyl becoming a PR disaster. Trawsfynydd had very nerly blown up in North Wales due to a similar catastophe.

Gillian Miscampbell heard the broadcast and called for an inquiry. I was accused of politicising and advised to leave with the headmaster’s blessing. My promotion was withdrawn. By this time, I was not going to jeaporadise my other job on the local paper. Writing seemed rather important. So I stayed ,making myself a nuisance, looking at Misscampbell’ s interesting other work on the health authority and in planning – she was also a District Councillor married to a lawyer.

There was lots of raw material about her et al for me in the anonymous ‘Paul Pry’ column . I also started the ‘Junius’ column ridiculing and exposing the Bucks selective education system, appalling management and dreadful GCSE examination. That was how I came to create the ‘Blancmange School , the school with the sweet smell of success.’Robert Cook.

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely – Robert Cook April 10th 2021

This is the reality of British minimalism , a bed by the water and a canal to jump into if it all gets too much. Robert Cook

The problem with the following article is that the majority of the ever expanding world population are less than minimalist as how Covid 19 is a real problem in Brazil demonstrates.

This is a comfortble person who , by Britain’s declining average standard and rising homelessness , has no right to preach or judge. He needs to evaluate the greedy super rich elite who have more wealth than most of the world’s population put together. They have the material , media and hence political power. They are the cause of the problems because , as Bertand Russel wrote : ‘Power corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.’ So , in my view , Becker’s article is more pseudo self help intended to distract people from what is really going on behind the scenes.

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his “rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West.”

I read this book when I was 18. British Education leaves a lot to be desired these days.
Robert Cook

The Problem with Always Wanting More

Written by joshua becker · 46 Comments

We live in a culture that is never satisfied and always desires more:

More money. More clothing. More toys. More square feet. More followers.

In fact, in many ways, the pursuit of more defines our entire society:

More power. More wealth. More prestige. More reputation. More sex. More. More. More

But there is a problem with the lifestyle choice of desiring more. When we constantly desire more, we are never satisfied. Because no matter how much we accumulate or achieve, more always exists.

By definition, it is unquenchable.

No matter how much money is in your bank account… there can always be more. No matter how big your house… there can always be more. No matter how many likes on your Instagram post or views on your Tik-Tok video… there can always be more.

When more is the goal, we never fully arrive. It is insatiable. And that is the problem with always wanting more. Happiness and contentment will always elude us if we are looking for it in the acquisition of more.

I suppose, if it was commonplace to see an end to this pursuit, that would be a different story. If human beings eventually arrived at a level of more, and suddenly became content, we could all strive to reach that magical level.

But that is not the example surrounding us. Quite the opposite in fact. Most everybody who acquires more, only continues to pursue it.  

We see it in the lives of individuals who amass great fortunes but are not satisfied.

We see it in the world’s largest corporations who continue to pursue greater and greater market share and profits.

We see it in those who acquire power and then work relentlessly to keep it and expand upon it.

In the early 1900’s, John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world. He was once famously asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough money?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

The richest man in the world, not satisfied, still in pursuit of more. More can never satisfy.

Other larger, less anecdotal studies, come to the same conclusion that even the wealthiest among us are never fully satisfied.

Of course, we don’t need to look at the lives of others to understand this phenomenon. One look in the mirror reveals the same motivation inside us.

The average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years and continues to grow larger and larger. The average American woman owns 4X the amount of clothes as her grandmother, but continues to purchase. The average American home has 300,000 items inside it… and yet Amazon arrives on our doorstep several times each week.

When more is the goal, we will never find contentment. More is always a moving target. Never fully attainable.

We live life with only two options:

1. We can continue to pursue more. We can believe there is a better life waiting if we were just to acquire more money, more property, more fame.

2. We can reject the false notion that more is needed to discover happiness. And we can find contentment in our circumstances and gratitude for the blessings we already possess.

The choice is yours.

As for me, I’ll choose contentment with less.

US warships set sail for Black Sea amid stand-off with Russia over military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Turkish diplomats report – RT Posted April 10th 2021

9 Apr, 2021 16:24 Get short URL

US warships set sail for Black Sea amid stand-off with Russia over military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Turkish diplomats report

FILE PHOTO. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey December 2, 2020. © Reuters / Yoruk Isik

Follow RT on American sailors have set course for the Black Sea, off the south coast of Russia, in a move widely seen as a show of support for Ukraine, where fighting between Kiev’s forces and separatist militias has worsened in recent weeks.

On Friday, a source at the Turkish foreign ministry told TASS that it had received a notification from Washington that two US warships would pass through the Bosporus straits and into the Black Sea. Under international law, Ankara controls access to the inland body of water for certain types of vessels, including navy ships.

In accordance with these conventions, Turkish envoys say they “were notified through diplomatic channels 15 days ago that two US warships would enter the Black Sea. The ships will remain there until 4 May,” the unnamed official said. The journey will take the crews almost 9,000 miles from the eastern seaboard of America, near to coastal Ukraine and Russia, including the sensitive and disputed Crimean peninsula. Also on rt.com ‘Stop your saber rattling!’ Russia tells US to sail its warships in its own waters, and not jeopardize peace in far-away Black Sea

Since then, the vessels have been named by Istanbul-based news network NTV as the USS Roosevelt, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer that was previously intercepted by Russian jets off the coast of Kaliningrad, in the Baltic Sea.

The maneuver comes amid an escalating military conflict in the East of Ukraine between Kiev’s army and separatist forces in the Donbass, who are backed by Moscow. The Kremlin has described the situation as “frightening,” and has held talks this week with counterparts in Washington to “explain” the situation.

The US, however, has highlighted “credible” reports of Russian troops massing on the borders with Ukraine, and State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a “call on Russia to refrain from escalatory actions.” Read more Full-scale Ukrainian war would threaten Russian security Kremlin warns, pledging action to prevent ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

On Friday, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that “the situation on the contact line in Ukraine is extremely unstable,” he said. “The dynamics of the development of this state of affairs, and the behavior of the Ukrainian side, creates the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities.”

In the event of an offensive or a further escalation in fighting, “all countries, including Russia, would take measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again,” the official said.

In February, Russia warned that US naval exercises in the Black Sea were jeopardizing the stability of the region and could lead to disaster. In response to a group of American warships announcing the drills, Moscow’s embassy in Washington said that “it looks like the US 6th fleet can’t wait to find an enemy in the Black Sea. It is desperately looking for a pretext – now openly under the banner of warfare exercises – for ramping up presence in the region.”

CO2 Surpasses 420 Parts Per Million for First Time

Apr 07, 2021

In climate news, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history. The measurement puts the planet roughly at the halfway point on the path to doubling preindustrial CO2 levels. The reading was taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii this past weekend.Topics:

The Coal Plant Next Door

Near America’s largest coal-fired power plant, toxins are showing up in drinking water and people have fallen ill. Thousands of pages of internal documents show how one giant energy company plans to avoid the cleanup costs. Posted April 5th 2021

by Max Blau for Georgia Health News March 22, 5 a.m. EDT

Republish Co-published with Georgia Health News. Series: Sunken Costs Coal Ash in Georgia

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

This article was produced in partnership with Georgia Health News, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

Mark Berry raised his right hand, pledging to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The bespectacled mechanical engineer took his seat inside the cherry-wood witness stand. He pulled his microphone close to his yellow bow tie and glanced left toward five of Georgia’s most influential elected officials. As one of Georgia Power’s top environmental lobbyists, Berry had a clear mission on that rainy day in April 2019: Convince those five energy regulators that the company’s customers should foot the bill for one of the most expensive toxic waste cleanup efforts in state history.

When Berry became Georgia Power’s vice president of environmental affairs in 2015, he inherited responsibility for a dark corporate legacy dating back to before he was born. For many decades, power companies had burnt billions of tons of coal, dumping the leftover ash — loaded with toxic contaminants — into human-made “ponds” larger than many lakes. But after a pair of coal-ash pond disasters in Tennessee and North Carolina exposed the environmental and health risks of those largely unregulated dumps, the Obama administration required power companies to stop using the aging disposal sites.

Berry had spent nearly two decades climbing the ranks of Southern Company, America’s second-largest energy provider and the owner of Georgia Power. By the time he was under oath that day, company execs had vowed to store newly burnt coal ash in landfills designed for safely disposing of such waste. But an unprecedented challenge remained: Figuring out what to do with 90 million tons of coal ash — enough to fill more than 50 Major League Baseball stadiums to the brim — that had accumulated over the better part of a century in ash ponds that were now leaking.

Georgia Power would have to shut down roughly 30 ponds from the Appalachian foothills to the wetlands near the Georgia coast. After draining all the ponds, the company would have two options for disposing of the highly contaminated dry ash left behind: It could either move the ash into a landfill fitted with a protective liner, or pack the dry ash into a smaller footprint and place a cover on top — leaving a gaping hole in the ground that, in some places, would be larger than Disneyland. The former would cost more but vastly reduce the possibility of toxic leakage; the latter lowered expenses but would perpetually risk contaminating drinking water in neighboring communities.

As scientists had grown more aware of the threat posed by coal ash, Southern states like Virginia and North Carolina had forced utilities to move ash into lined landfills. But Georgia was something of an outlier. The state historically was known as a coal ash capital, a place where lawmakers touted their pro-business bona fides by denouncing regulations, and Georgia Power had a track record of delaying or blocking efforts to regulate pollution. The company was lobbying hard for the cheaper option.

Of course, the $7.3 billion price tag wasn’t all that cheap. Sitting on the Georgia Public Service Commission’s witness stand, Berry and his top deputy spent hours arguing that the whopping costs of cleaning up Georgia Power’s coal-ash ponds should be passed along to its customers. If Berry could persuade the regulators that the costs were both “reasonable” and “prudent,” the company could tack a monthly fee onto the bills of 2.2 million residential customers for decades to come, which would work out to each customer footing $3,300 of the bill to clean up the company’s mess. If he failed, the commissioners could effectively force Georgia Power to eat those costs — a major blow to investors in a publicly traded company that has annual operating revenues of over $8 billion.

During Berry’s testimony, PSC commissioner Tim Echols said he has concerns about putting ratepayers on the hook for the costs of cleaning up the ash ponds — and whether Georgia Power is spending more than it has to. “This is enormously expensive,” he said.

Berry didn’t mention that the cleanup costs could increase by billions of dollars if Georgia’s environmental officials adopted the safer standards used by neighboring states. Anticipating Echols’ next question, Berry said that Georgia Power’s $7.3 billion plan was the “most cost-effective way” to comply with coal-ash regulations.

“If we were to do something less,” Berry added, state environmental officials “would force us to go back and redo what we did not do right the first time.”

Had those five energy regulators swiveling in their chairs asked more pointed questions about Georgia Power’s waste-disposal practices, Berry would have been pressured to tell a long-hidden story about ash and avarice. In the second half of the 20th century, Georgia Power had saved money by building some of America’s largest coal-ash ponds without a protective liner underneath, despite knowing some of the risks of contaminating residents’ drinking water. It had also sought to do as little as possible to protect drinking water that’s now believed to be tainted by coal-ash toxins.

A yearlong investigation by Georgia Health News and ProPublica has revealed that Georgia Power and its parent company have spent millions of dollars on lobbying tactics to dodge billions in environmental costs. Thousands of pages of previously unpublished documents obtained by the news organizations shed new light on how Georgia Power leveraged political tensions to reduce a massive financial liability that could decimate its bottom line — and how it pushed disinformation to distance itself from patterns of sickness among people who lived near its coal-ash ponds.

Georgia Power spokesperson John Kraft declined to answer most of the news organizations’ questions and to make Berry available for an interview. Kraft said in a statement that Georgia Power has worked to “quickly and safely begin closing all of our ash ponds” in a manner that complies with federal and state coal-ash regulations.

But at the hearing in April 2019, none of the energy regulators pressed Berry on the topic of coal-ash contamination. Because they didn’t ask, Berry remained mum. His silence would make it easier for the regulators to stomach the idea of passing the cost of the cleanup on to customers — and easier for Georgia Power to avoid responsibility for the much more expensive fix. And it allowed Georgia Power to continue its longstanding efforts to cover up the hazards of coal ash across the state, most notably in a tiny town where the company operates the largest coal-fired plant in the Western Hemisphere.


In the spring of 1974, as Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s home run record and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson first forged a friendship with Gov. Jimmy Carter ahead of his presidential campaign, a towering attorney named Tommy Malone set his sights on a white two-story house in the sleepy central Georgia town of Juliette.

Malone would, years later, become one of the state’s most successful medical malpractice attorneys. At the time, though, he ran a firm that had hit a financial rough patch. To cover payroll, he’d landed a gig representing Georgia Power, which sought to buy thousands of acres for a new coal-fired power plant. Georgia law allowed the utility to condemn nearly any property it wanted. But the actual use of eminent domain spurred negative headlines and local resentment — both of which could undermine Georgia Power’s carefully cultivated corporate reputation. So Georgia Power dispatched Malone to convince residents of Juliette to sell their land. He’d been scouting properties along Luther Smith Road, a winding two-lane street hugged by Georgia pines. The white house belonged to a retired cowboy named Brack Goolsby. Malone hoped Goolsby might willingly sell more than 300 acres.

The Goolsby family home had stood long before Brack rode his first horse, before his hometown was established in the 1880s, and even before General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops passed through it on the infamous March to the Sea. Brack’s family had such deep roots in Juliette that the road he lived on was named for his Uncle Luther.

When Luther Smith died in the early 1950s, he left the family home to his nephew. Brack and his wife, Betty, raised two sons, Mark and Bob, who grew up exploring the family’s untamed forests. Two decades later, when Georgia Power announced its plans to build a 12,000-acre plant site abutting Luther Smith Road, some neighbors balked. They fought the company’s use of eminent domain. One farmer’s wife mailed a desperate letter to Carter, writing that their land, tended by them through good times and bad, is “not for sale at any price. … We hold precious its beauty, the quiet and peace.”

A small-town peanut farmer who frequently rafted down Georgia rivers, Carter raised concerns to his aides about the plant’s environmental impact. The aides peppered Georgia Power Executive Vice President Harold McKenzie with questions about how much energy — and pollution — the plant would generate. When the conversation turned to a waste-disposal site nearly the size of Central Park, one Carter aide asked McKenzie: What do you do when the ash pond fills up?

Clean it up, McKenzie promised, according to the Carter administration’s notes from that meeting.

Carter’s hands were ultimately tied: Georgia lawmakers had previously granted the utility immense power for an investor-owned company. (A spokesperson for President Carter did not respond to an interview request.) Not only could Georgia Power use eminent domain to condemn property without public hearings, it had the authority to build new plants nearly wherever it wanted. Georgia Power quickly acquired the land for its new coal-fired plant site. The company would eventually name the plant after McKenzie’s boss, CEO Bob Scherer, who guided Georgia Power through a tumultuous period marked by the oil embargo of the 1970s.

In the midst of Georgia Power’s land-buying spree, Brack Goolsby took Malone’s offer and sold 312 acres of land for $207,524. Goolsby kept roughly 30 acres and his house, which was on the other side of Luther Smith Road from the Plant Scherer site. Goolsby was relieved that the home would remain there for his kids and grandkids. For several years, whenever he turned right out of his driveway, Brack watched as the company felled trees and dug deep into the red Georgia clay to build a pit for all the ash left over from burning mountains of coal.


In late 1976, two years after Georgia Power bought the Goolsbys’ land, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, granting the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the disposal of waste, including everything from household garbage to some radioactive materials. The EPA considered whether coal ash should be classified as a hazardous waste. The designation would have required electric utilities to install a protective liner under every existing or proposed ash pond to prevent contaminants from seeping into underground aquifers.

Roughly four out of five Americans get their household water from their city or county. That water is typically sourced from lakes and rivers, tested for toxins, treated, and piped directly to homes. But 43 million people, largely in rural areas, rely on a private drinking well that pumps up groundwater from an underground aquifer.

By the time the act was passed, scientists knew coal ash contained trace metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead and other chemicals recognizable from the periodic table, all of which could slowly infiltrate groundwater. In 1979, Tennessee ecologist Robert Van Hook wrote in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives that the trace metals in coal ash “may constitute human health problems,” including increased risk of cancer. With utilities burning record levels of coal each year, and thus producing more ash, Van Hook called for an evaluation of the “potential for contamination of drinking water supplies by trace elements in leachates from settling ponds.”

Most ash ponds at that time had not been built with protective liners, and America’s power company execs feared that retrofitting them would collectively cost more than $20 billion — $72 billion in today’s dollars. Coal ash’s designation as “hazardous” would not only impact Georgia Power, but also Alabama Power, Gulf Power and other utilities in the Southern Company system. Southern Company soon found an ally in Congressman Tom Bevill, then a seven-term Alabama Democrat whose father had mined coal on the northwest outskirts of Birmingham, where coal had burned at one of the system’s oldest plants since World War I.

During a speech in 1980, as lawmakers debated a bill to strengthen the EPA’s ability to enforce waste regulations, Bevill told his colleagues he knew of no evidence that coal ash “has ever presented a substantial hazard to human health or the environment.” He proposed to exempt coal ash from hazardous waste regulations until the EPA conducted more studies. His amendment passed with minimal attention.

The Bevill Amendment ushered in an era during which Georgia Power and other utilities could keep dumping coal ash into unlined ponds — despite emerging evidence of contamination. That same year, an EPA study described how trace metals in coal-ash ponds could seep deep enough into the ground to come into contact with groundwater. Recognizing the threat, some utilities changed their coal-ash practices absent any federal mandates, including the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, which installed a $2.3 million liner under an ash pond that was leaking wastewater. And while some states like Maryland and Louisiana created tougher regulations for coal-ash disposal, other states, such as Georgia and Ohio, did not.

By the early 1980s, Southern Company execs knew that storing coal ash in ponds without a protective liner could contaminate groundwater. Internal corporate filings obtained by Georgia Health News and ProPublica from multiple state archives show that an in-house research and development company called Southern Company Services Inc. was established to design plant sites for utilities in the Southern Company system. In the 1970s, Florida environmental regulators denied an SCSI-designed ash pond proposal for Plant Crist in Pensacola, which was owned by Southern Company’s Gulf Power, because the plans lacked a “suitable liner … constructed to prevent leaching,” according to the records. In response, from 1977 to 1982, SCSI developed a $20 million waste-disposal system to hold dry coal ash with a liner underneath.

Simultaneously, SCSI designed Plant Scherer in Juliette, where it could have included a liner like it did at Plant Crist. However, Georgia Power claimed in filings that a protective liner at Plant Scherer was “not economically feasible.” Indeed, the installation of a liner at Plant Scherer’s ash pond could have cost as much as $95 million, according to industry estimates from the time.

When Georgia Power fired up Plant Scherer’s first unit in late 1982, water and ash flowed into a giant hole buttressed by an earthen berm that stood 100 feet tall. Engineers had designed the pond to be large enough to accept waste into the next century. With each week that passed, tiny contaminants in the ash pond seeped through soil under the pond and into an underground aquifer, according to company filings. And as weeks turned to years, water in the aquifer slowly carried those contaminants closer to Luther Smith Road.


Water is part of Andrea Goolsby’s earliest memories of her grandparents’ home. She watered her father’s tomatoes, sipped from her grandfather’s garden hose and ate fresh strawberries washed by her grandmother. The idea that Brack and Betty Goolsby’s water might be contaminated by the nearby power plant never figured into family conversations back then. It hadn’t crossed the minds of Andrea’s grandparents, parents or sisters, nor those of her aunts, uncles or cousins, who also lived near Plant Scherer.

“I’d see the ash pond,” Andrea later recalled. “It just looked like a big lake.”

Bevill had indicated back in 1980 that two years of EPA research would definitively rule out the possibility that coal ash could be harmful to human health. But the agency didn’t issue a report for another eight years, informing Congress in 1988 that while coal ash had caused some cases of groundwater contamination, the agency had insufficient evidence to reclassify coal ash as a hazardous waste. That same year, investigators with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division collected groundwater samples from several older Georgia Power plant sites that revealed evidence of contamination. Groundwater at Plant McManus in Brunswick contained chromium at levels 16 times higher than Georgia deemed safe for drinking. And at Plant Mitchell in Albany, groundwater contained levels of lead that exceeded federal drinking water standards. The investigators, who estimated that thousands of residents near the plants relied on private wells for drinking water, recommended further examination of groundwater contamination. (Current EPD spokesperson Kevin Chambers said the division has no records indicating that officials followed up with subsequent investigations; Georgia Power declined to elaborate on the findings of the reports.)

Georgians who lived near coal-ash ponds, including ones at newer plant sites like Scherer, told GHN and ProPublica they were never informed by the EPD or Georgia Power that their drinking water might be contaminated. As a child, Andrea had played at Plant Scherer cookouts held for hundreds of employees, including her father and uncle. As a teenager, she benefited from Georgia Power’s tax dollars that helped fund one of the state’s best public school systems. Many of Andrea’s neighbors believed that Georgia Power had revived Juliette, a place that, after serving as the backdrop for the 1991 Kathy Bates film “Fried Green Tomatoes,” became a quaint symbol of small-town America.

Andrea loved her small town. Juliette felt safe, a place untouched by tragedy. She had experienced little in the way of loss until one windy Thursday in November 2002. Andrea, then a 15-year-old high school student, watched her grandfather writhe in pain on the living room couch. Earlier that week, Brack had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer in his bile duct, a tube that connects the liver to the small intestine. She hugged him tight, worried it might be the last time. Indeed, it was. Brack died the next day.

Three days later, Andrea stayed home from school to say goodbye to her grandfather, who was buried at the Juliette United Methodist Church cemetery, two miles north of Plant Scherer’s front gates. His death would be first in a string of nine cancers among her extended family members who lived near the plant. At first, no one suspected that the sicknesses that came next — a great aunt diagnosed with breast cancer, two distant relatives who died from leukemia — were anything but coincidental.

But then Andrea’s family noticed changes around the family’s land: Their plants and animals were dying more often than usual. The Goolsby family began to wonder why, after years of good health, a wave of sickness and death had descended on Luther Smith Road.


In December 2008, four months after Andrea’s second relative died of leukemia, more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry broke through a dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. A wave of dark, gray sludge spread over 300 acres, as deep as 6 feet, downing power lines, pushing a home off its foundation and filling a nearby river with toxins. As the hidden dangers of coal ash flooded into plain sight and workers began cleaning up the waste, environmentalists swiftly called for stricter regulations, including a liner mandate to prevent toxins from seeping out of unlined ash ponds.

Until the Kingston spill devastated the 6,300-person town of Harriman, located 250 miles north of Juliette, air pollution from coal-fired power plants had long overshadowed the peril of groundwater contamination caused by coal ash. Around the turn of the millennium, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had filed an epic lawsuit against Southern Company and other utility giants for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act. Plant Scherer was one of more than two dozen coal-fired plants that, according to the EPA, had “illegally released massive amounts of air pollutants.” (Southern Company wrote in an annual report that “the action against Georgia Power has been administratively closed.”) As Reno’s lawsuit grabbed headlines, Southern Company quietly partnered with its allies to quash a stricter coal-ash regulation.

In the late 1990s, nearly two decades after the Bevill amendment exempted coal ash from being classified as a hazardous waste (and after Bevill promised that a definitive analysis of coal ash’s danger would be available in two years), the EPA finally wrapped up its coal-ash studies, which determined that coal ash posed “significant risks to human health and the environment when not properly managed.” The agency cited 11 cases where coal ash contaminants were found in ground or surface water at levels that exceeded health standards, as well as dozens of other newly reported cases of water contamination. Communities from Faulkner, Maryland, to Velva, North Dakota, were grappling with the consequences of coal ash. Regulators forced utilities in Wisconsin and Virginia to pay to hook homes up to a public water supply after contaminating their private drinking wells. Beyond these cases, the EPA determined that utilities had installed well networks to monitor groundwater quality at only 38% of the nation’s ash ponds and installed protective liners at just 26% of them. Given those low percentages and the limited oversight by states, EPA officials recommended tougher coal ash regulations — ones that stopped short of reclassifying coal ash as a hazardous waste.

Medical experts say that over a dozen trace metals in coal ash can lead to health ailments ranging from mild (nausea) to serious (organ damage). The type and extent of health problems can vary greatly depending on the amount of contaminants entering the body, the duration of the consumption and even where the coal was originally mined. Of those dozen toxins, several — including arsenic and hexavalent chromium — are considered to be carcinogenic if consumed even in small amounts over a long period of time. The list of cancers linked to coal ash contaminants include ones in the liver and lungs, prostate and bladder, and stomach and skin.

In 2000, as the EPA proposed tougher coal-ash regulations, Southern Company fought those efforts. Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Gulf Power were all dues-paying members of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, an industry association of over 100 utilities. Led by a lobbyist named Jim Roewer, USWAG had previously recruited power company employees to testify against the hazardous waste designation and attack environmental studies that were being considered by the EPA. (Roewer did not respond to multiple interview requests.) On behalf of Southern Company and other utilities, USWAG lobbyists aggressively pressured the Clinton administration to stop the EPA proposal, citing the billions of dollars it would take to clean up toxins from the ash ponds. They argued against the regulation in letters and in-person meetings. Ultimately, the Clinton administration backed off from the tougher coal ash regulations.

But the risks the EPA tracked remained hidden from the public. During the George W. Bush administration, EPA officials had produced internal reports that showed people who lived close to unlined coal-ash ponds were more susceptible to cancer. The EPA report found that nearby residents had as much as a 1 in 50 lifetime risk of developing cancer from drinking water with high levels of arsenic, one of the most common coal-ash contaminants. That’s 200 times higher than the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s recommended risk level for limiting worker exposure to any carcinogen. When environmental advocates tried to obtain those records, officials delayed their release for years; they were made public by the Obama administration only after the Kingston spill.

Georgians rarely heard about problems with Georgia Power’s ash ponds. In 2002, local journalists covered the story of a 4-acre sinkhole at northwest Georgia’s Plant Bowen, which released over 2 million gallons of arsenic-laced ash and water into a nearby creek. From 1988 to 2008, GHN and ProPublica found that Georgia Power had disclosed to state regulators dozens of other unpermitted discharges at its coal plants. The vast majority, which were logged by state environmental officials, were not publicized by those officials or the media.

After chilling images of toxic Tennessee ash circulated in 2008, Obama’s EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, vowed that environmental disasters like the one in Kingston “should never happen anywhere.” When EPA officials sought further information from the records of coal-ash pond safety inspections after the Kingston spill, Georgia Power initially moved to prevent the release of that information, claiming those records contained trade secrets. The EPA rejected that argument. Ultimately, the EPA found that over a quarter of the country’s 559 coal-ash ponds were rated “poor” in a safety assessment and required remedial action to correct their flaws. (One of Georgia Power’s ash ponds at Plant Hammond was rated poor; most were deemed “satisfactory.”)

During a 2009 meeting with EPA officials, Southern Company CEO David Ratcliffe and other utility execs urged then-EPA Administrator Jackson not to impose liner mandates for coal-ash ponds. Jackson told the utility execs that she “understands all sides of the argument” regarding coal-ash regulations but did not comment specifically on the issue of liners, according to an EPA readout. (Jackson, who is no longer with the EPA, did not respond to a request for comment.) Southern Company’s top environmental affairs executive, Chris Hobson, followed that 2009 meeting with a letter that claimed its unlined ash ponds were “safe and functioning.”

Five years passed without new regulations. Then, in February 2014, a pipe ruptured at a Duke Energy coal-fired plant, flooding North Carolina’s Dan River with 39,000 tons of ash. The Dan River spill finally pushed the EPA to enact America’s first-ever federal coal-ash regulations in 2015. The rule sought to lower the risk of catastrophic failures, protect groundwater and outline best practices for shuttering ash ponds. Under those regulations, Georgia Power would be required to publicly disclose the results of groundwater monitoring tests near its ash ponds.

But the industry’s fierce lobbying campaign defanged stronger protections originally proposed by the EPA. Once again, utilities escaped the hazardous waste label for coal ash. Georgia Power could still dump the ash into unlined ponds so long as the utility proved that large amounts of contaminants were not leaking beyond a pond’s edges. Environmentalists criticized the rule for squandering a historic opportunity to pass strict regulations, including mandated liners.

“The coal-ash rule was a compromise,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on coal ash. “Instead of declaring it as a hazardous waste, they were reluctant to do so for political reasons.”


In 2011, nine years after Brack’s death (and three years before the EPA finalized the coal-ash rule), Andrea noticed that her grandmother had stopped drinking water from the kitchen tap. She’d started to worry after word had spread that something might be wrong with the groundwater that supplied her drinking well. Suspicions grew that summer, after Georgia Power purchased the 2-acre lot next to the family’s property for $218,750, a stunning price considering the average acre in the area sold for four figures. The property belonged to Gloria Dorsett, Andrea’s great-aunt, the one diagnosed with breast cancer. Georgia Power required that Dorsett sign a nondisparagement agreement, razed her home and sealed off the drinking well, preventing future testing of its groundwater. (State law requires the utility to seal unused wells within three years to protect against accidents and illegal dumping.)

Andrea couldn’t help but think about all those summer days in her childhood, drinking from the garden hose. After switching to bottled water herself, she searched for news articles that mentioned groundwater contamination near coal plants. She then turned to scientific studies to better understand the effects of coal ash on human health.

From 2014 to 2018, Monroe County had one of Georgia’s highest rates of cancer incidence, at 522 cases per 100,000 people, which was 12% higher than the statewide average and 17% higher than the national one. Juliette, with 3,000 residents, accounted for about a tenth of Monroe County’s population. Andrea wondered if Juliette’s cancer rate was even higher than Monroe County’s — it would take just 16 new cancer incidences in an average year for Juliette to exceed the county rate. But no formal cancer-cluster study had been conducted to determine if coal-ash toxins had contributed to their sicknesses.

Dr. Alan Lockwood, a neurologist who wrote “The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health,” says that it’s “really difficult” to establish a link between the health outcomes reported by an individual — or even a single family like the Goolsbys, who’ve had numerous cancer incidences — and trace metals found in groundwater. To establish that link, epidemiologists must study data collected from private wells in an entire community over time and review the medical histories of residents to determine if a place is a cancer hotspot. Because of the costs, time and expertise needed, Lockwood said, “the deck is stacked in favor of the company because of how difficult it is to show a cause-and-effect relationship.”

To prove such a thing in court, residents must rely on deep-pocketed lawyers to fund class-action suits. If all the stars align, a company will be pressured into a settlement. More often than not, big corporations with seemingly endless resources can evade responsibility. Despite the long-shot odds of holding Georgia Power accountable, Andrea felt there was no other choice but to seek answers about the water. To her, the pursuit was not just a question of sickness or health, contaminated or not: It might reveal a greater, unsettling truth about the unintended consequences of a tightknit town placing its faith in the hands of a corporation that pledged to do right by its residents.

In 2013, three of Andrea’s relatives were among more than 100 current and former Monroe County residents who sued Georgia Power, claiming the utility had knowingly released toxins contained in coal ash into the air and groundwater. The lawsuit contended that contaminants from Plant Scherer caused a “loss of potable water supply and increased risk of diseases.” In court filings, Georgia Power denied the claims. But before the case proceeded to discovery, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs abruptly dropped out, prompting the suit to be dismissed without prejudice in 2014 — a disposition that allowed for the filing of future claims. In a moment of despair, Andrea looked up the email of Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist who had uncovered evidence that Pacific Gas and Electric Company had contaminated drinking wells with hexavalent chromium in Hinkley, California, a tiny town more than 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Hundreds of Hinkley residents alleged that tainted drinking water had caused miscarriages, cancers and a scourge of chronic illnesses. After a three-year legal battle, PG&E agreed to pay a record-setting $333 million settlement in private arbitration. Andrea pasted into the email a news article about Juliette residents’ fears over contamination, followed by a brief, urgent message.

“What can we do about this?” Goolsby wrote.

Brockovich promised to look into the matter. But when Goolsby didn’t immediately hear back, her family looked for help closer to home. (Brockovich did not respond to a request for comment.) In the summer of 2016, Andrea’s father, Mark — who’d left Georgia Power the mid-’90s to become a funeral home director — learned of an environmental nonprofit called the Altamaha Riverkeeper that had called for his former employer to safely close its ash ponds. During a conversation with the organization’s executive director, Jen Hilburn, Mark Goolsby explained his concerns about potential groundwater contamination along Luther Smith Road. In response, Hilburn told a story about nearby Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville. Earlier that year, heavy rains had threatened to send water pouring over the top of an ash pond’s berm at Plant Branch, which could have caused a major breach. Hilburn received an anonymous tip that the plant had pumped wastewater into the lake, avoiding a violation of its permit but polluting that 24-square-mile body of water. She flew a camera drone overhead, sent her photos to state officials, and publicized the risks. Residents and lawmakers successfully pressured Georgia Power to move the ash out of the plant’s pond and into a lined landfill. (Georgia Power said in a statement that the decision was about “more than compliance” and reflected its commitment to “protecting water quality every step of the way.”)

One afternoon that August, Hilburn traveled up Luther Smith Road to the Goolsby family home. Mark showed her the dying trees and the surface water on his property that had a sheen of oil. After walking over to a small roofed structure that housed the well that supplied water to Goolsby’s taps, Hilburn pulled on gloves, broke the seal of a sterile plastic bottle, and filled it with water. She collected several bottles and shipped them to a lab in North Carolina. The lab would determine if the contaminants found in Goolsby’s well were the same ones found in coal ash — and whether they were present at high enough levels to be harmful.

When the results came back a couple weeks later, Hilburn called Goolsby to explain that the well water sample confirmed the presence of several heavy metals such as boron, considered one of the DNA fingerprints of coal ash, and cobalt, a trace metal confirmed to be leaking out of Scherer’s ash pond at levels that exceeded federal groundwater-protection standards. She also said that the samples contained worrisome levels of hexavalent chromium: 2.3 parts per billion, 33 times higher than what North Carolina public health guidelines deem safe and 115 times higher than what California ones do. (California and North Carolina are the only two states to establish public health guidelines for hexavalent chromium in water.)

Georgia does not regulate hexavalent chromium, specifically, in water — only the broader category of “chromium,” which includes both chromium III, a naturally occurring trace metal, and hexavalent chromium, which can be naturally occurring or produced by industrial processes. But while relatively high levels of chromium III is considered safe in drinking water, experts say hexavalent chromium can be dangerous at much lower levels. Some scientists warn that hexavalent chromium, not chromium III, can lead to a higher risk of cancer. Georgia’s local public health departments offer a $122 well test that can detect a limited number of toxins, but not hexavalent chromium. If someone can’t afford to pay more for a private lab to test for that toxin, former EPA official Betsy Southerland says they’re “totally unprotected.”

In the fall of 2016, weeks after Mark Goolsby received the test results from his well water, Georgia Power purchased a string of properties along Luther Smith Road, part of a quiet buying spree in which the company ultimately paid more than $15 million for nearly 1,900 acres of land near five of its 12 coal-fired power plant sites, according to a previous investigation by Georgia Health News and ProPublica. A year later, in 2017, Andrea’s grandmother passed away after a stroke, and Andrea noticed the company had erected “no trespassing” signs along Luther Smith Road and knocked down more homes. More than four decades after attorney Tommy Malone pressed Brack Goolsby to sell most of his family’s land, Georgia Power returned with another offer — this time for the last of their property and the home that had belonged to the Goolsbys for more than 150 years. The company, which still wielded the power of eminent domain, said in a statement that its purchases of land near Plant Scherer would reduce the “short- and long-term inconvenience for our neighbors” during the process of shutting down the nearby ash pond. Georgia Power razes the Goolsby home after buying the property. Credit: Courtesy of Andrea Goolsby

On a windy day in March 2019, Andrea Goolsby, then 31, pulled down a gravel driveway toward the white two-story house on Luther Smith Road. Her father and uncle were just days away from handing it over. The terms of the sale prevented them from speaking publicly about the well tests that found hexavalent chromium in their drinking water. (Citing a nondisparagement agreement, Mark Goolsby declined to speak for this story. A spokesman for Georgia Power noted that confidentiality clauses are routinely inserted in its contracts but declined to comment regarding any purchases of individual properties off Luther Smith Road.)

As she walked inside, memories flooded back: the taste of her grandmother’s biscuit dough, the smell of fresh-tilled dirt in the garden, the sound of the blues playing from her daddy’s truck. She had recently helped her father clear out the house, sorting through her late grandmother’s old letters, church bulletins and photographs. She’d even stripped century-old wood off the walls of a bedroom in hopes of repurposing it someday. Tears fell past her straight blonde hair as she stepped into each room one final time. She felt like her grandparents had died once again.

“I had to say goodbye to a place where my son, nieces and nephews won’t be able to experience,” Andrea wrote in her journal that day. “I had to say goodbye to a piece of my heart.”


Two weeks after Andrea’s final visit to her family home, Mark Berry faced one of his toughest challenges as Georgia Power’s top environmental lobbyist: persuading five fiscally conservative energy regulators to allow his employer to offload more than $7 billion in coal-ash cleanup costs onto its customers.

Georgia Power, along with the Public Service Commission, has fought GHN and ProPublica’s attempts to obtain information about how much money the company is saving by not adopting the more protective measure of moving all of its coal ash into lined disposal sites. Last year at a town hall meeting in Monroe County, PSC commissioner Tim Echols said that at Plant Scherer alone, moving millions of tons of ash out of its current pond and into a disposal site with a protective liner would cost $1 billion. (Georgia Power did not dispute Echols’ estimate when asked if it’s accurate.) Industry cost estimates obtained by GHN and ProPublica indicate that Georgia Power could have originally installed a liner at Scherer back in the early 1980s for $95 million or less — $270 million in 2020 dollars, far cheaper than the $1 billion it would take to fully fix the problem today.

Getting approval for the cheaper plan from the five energy regulators on the state’s Public Service Commission would not be Georgia Power’s final hurdle. Even with the PSC’s rubber stamp, state environmental officials could reject the company’s plans to keep dry ash in unlined ponds at Scherer and five other plants. That would mean that Georgia Power’s $7.3 billion price tag could skyrocket to over $10 billion, potentially lowering the chances that the company would be able to get its customers to pick up the full bill. (A year after Berry took the stand, Georgia Power would disclose in a filing that its ash pond cleanup cost estimates increased by 11% to $8.1 billion.) PSC Commissioner Tricia Pridemore said the agency recently hired a consultant to review Georgia Power’s future coal-ash expenses. The other four commissioners declined to comment.

In the spring of 2019, the EPA’s administrator, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, authorized Georgia to become one of America’s only states to take over the process of approving how utilities could clean up their ash ponds. Left to work with the state’s cash-strapped environmental agency (the EPD), Georgia Power pressured regulators to narrowly interpret the coal-ash rule in a way that would increase the chances of leaving its waste in unlined ponds, according to records obtained by GHN and ProPublica. Georgia Power did not respond to questions about lobbying tactics. But in his 2019 PSC testimony, Berry said Georgia Power is “actively involved in both federal and state rulemaking.” EPD spokesperson Kevin Chambers, who did not make any agency officials available for an interview, said in a statement that the EPD “does not provide deferential treatment” to Georgia Power.

In a closed-door meeting in early 2020, EPD Land Branch Chief Chuck Mueller met with a small group of Juliette residents, including Andrea and several members of the Goolsby family. Mueller explained that if the company could show its contaminants had not migrated beyond its property lines, the company would satisfy the state’s environmental requirements, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by GHN and ProPublica.

One Juliette resident, John Dupree, asked Mueller why the EPD hadn’t independently tested nearby Juliette residents’ wells for the presence of contaminants. Dupree recently tested his drinking well, finding levels of hexavalent chromium above the health standards set by California and North Carolina. He was concerned that coal ash would move off-site for years to come, perpetually jeopardizing his family’s drinking water.

“What I’ve got to determine is, is it coming from the ash pond, or is it naturally occurring, or is it from another source?” Mueller told the residents. “I don’t know.”

Berry assured residents that Georgia Power is “working hard to make things better.” But what he left unsaid was that Georgia Power’s recent purchase of over 1,000 acres of land near Scherer’s coal-ash pond would extend its property lines and limit its liability. Simply reducing the number of private wells in operation near the ash pond is far cheaper than installing a liner that would prevent further spread of contaminants.

After the conversation meandered into technical jargon, one of Andrea’s neighbors, Karl Cass — whose son and niece had survived two different kinds of childhood cancer — directed the conversation back toward Berry.

“I appreciate your commitment, based on what you’ve shared, that you want to do the right thing — did I hear that correctly?” Cass asked Berry.

“Yes sir, you did hear that correctly,” Berry said.

“I appreciate your commitment,” Cass continued. “Why the resistance on the liners?”

Berry said the company had “really studied” this site and concluded that burying the waste in an unlined pond was a viable option to comply with state regulations. The company’s groundwater modeling predicted that contaminants wouldn’t move out enough to warrant a liner. Because of that, he said, the residents didn’t need to worry. Georgia Power declined to comment on Berry’s remarks.

“If something is happening, EPD is going to ask us to fix it and we’re going to fix it,” Berry said.


In the months after Georgia Power purchased the Goolsby home, more family members got sick or died. One of Andrea’s cousins, Gloria Hammond, believed the prostate cancer that recently had killed her husband, Cason, was linked to toxins in the water. Two of Andrea’s other relatives, a retired grocery store owner named Tony Bowdoin and car bumper repairman named Mike Pless, were diagnosed shortly thereafter with colon and throat cancer, respectively. Few of the cancer-stricken family members were related by blood to the Goolsbys — some had married into the family — which, to Andrea, ruled out the possibility that the cancers were caused by a genetic predisposition. All three of her recently diagnosed family members lived close to Plant Scherer’s ash pond. The Altamaha Riverkeeper, now overseen by a former paratrooper named Fletcher Sams, had recently tested all three of their homes’ wells. Each one contained hexavalent chromium levels between 30 and 140 times higher than drinking-water guidelines in North Carolina, and between 100 and 490 times higher than those in California.

In early 2020, residents’ concerns about Plant Scherer’s coal-ash pond prompted a bill from Democratic state lawmakers that would force all of Georgia’s coal ash to be moved into lined disposal sites. One night in February 2020, the same month as the closed-door meeting with Berry, Andrea joined Hammond, Bowdoin, Pless and dozens of other Juliette residents inside a tiny Presbyterian church with stained-glass windows. They’d gathered to learn more about the ongoing groundwater test campaign conducted by the Altamaha Riverkeeper. For months, Sams had steered his red pickup truck down driveways near Plant Scherer and to homes farther away from the plant, collecting water samples from anyone who’d asked for their well to be tested. Now he was finally revealing the full results of what he’d found so far.

Standing before the crowd, Sams explained that almost all of the more than 30 wells he’d tested so far at homes near Plant Scherer had contained worrisome contaminants often present in coal ash that could be harmful to humans if consumed at high enough levels. The wells closer to Scherer’s ash ponds — including along Luther Smith Road — generally had levels of hexavalent chromium higher than those farther away. Pointing to a projector screen near the altar, Sams showed a Georgia Power filing certifying that parts of the ash pond are so deep that they’re below the water table, which meant those contaminants are in constant contact with the groundwater in the aquifer. He then pulled up an aerial image of Scherer’s ash pond, circled by red dots signifying locations of Georgia Power’s own groundwater monitoring wells where tests had exceeded federal protection standards for cobalt, a trace metal leaking out of Scherer’s ash pond.

Sams then rattled off other coal-ash contaminants that the tests had found, words most residents had only ever heard while studying the periodic table during chemistry class.

Residents had grown visibly uncomfortable by the end of Sams’ presentation. Afterward, some people suggested that Georgia Power should pay for county water lines to be built to their homes so they wouldn’t have to drink from the wells anymore. Hammond, one of the few Luther Smith Road homeowners who refused to sell to the company, said she doubted that would happen; doing so might signify an admission of guilt.

Incredulous, Andrea doubled down on the call for Georgia Power to fix the problem. She said the company was already “purchasing property and paying people hush money” so they would not discuss contamination. (Georgia Power did not respond when asked about Goolsby’s comment.)

At one point, Andrea noticed a man in a suit near the front of the church. When someone shouted a question his way, he walked toward the altar to grab the microphone from Sams. The man, PSC Commissioner Echols, explained that he and his colleagues had approved Georgia Power’s request to pass $7.3 billion in ash pond cleanup costs on to customers, adding that “we authorized a lot of money — billions of dollars.”

Listening closely, Andrea grew outraged as Echols — who had voted two months earlier to allow Georgia Power to start collecting money from its customers — shifted the responsibility for reining in Georgia Power to EPD, inaccurately claiming that the environmental agency had the sole authority to stop the company’s unlined pond proposal. (The Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter would later sue the PSC for unlawfully granting the bill surcharge; the company is approved to recoup a first round of $525 million, though it is expected to return to PSC for permission to recover the remainder of the cleanup costs in future rounds. The case could soon go before the Georgia Court of Appeals. Echols declined to answer GHN and ProPublica’s questions, but said in a brief statement, “I am confident we are on the right track.”)

“I wasn’t even born when the problem started, but I have to pay for this mess?” Andrea later said. “It’s hypocritical. They’re the ones doing this, but we have to pay for it, when it would have cost a lot less to do it right the first time or fix it when they knew it was a problem.”


As COVID-19 spread across Georgia, Berry’s team submitted more than 25,000 pages of filings to the EPD to prove how its plan to bury 48 million tons of coal ash in ponds without a protective liner was, in fact, legal and safe. But in corporate filings dated as recently as 2020, Georgia Power acknowledged that Plant Scherer’s ash pond was susceptible to a catastrophic dam failure that could mirror the Kingston spill, potentially sending a wave of ash toward homes, injuring or killing Juliette residents, and contaminating a span of at least 15 miles of the nearby Ocmulgee River. Parts of the ash pond had grown unstable enough that, in 2017, one contractor nearly died after a sinkhole larger than a basketball court suddenly opened up in the pond, causing part of the shoreline to collapse, according to photos of the incident and eyewitness accounts. (Georgia Power did not respond when asked about the sinkhole.)

On top of that, the company faced a growing number of hurdles related to coal-ash contaminants. Georgia Power had to notify a homeowner near Plant McManus in Brunswick of its discovery of levels of arsenic in groundwater that exceed federal and state safety limits. During a recent legislative hearing, state Rep. Mary Frances Williams told one of Berry’s deputies that she was “concerned” to discover contaminants had migrated off-site from Plant McDonough’s ash pond over to property owned by Cobb County in suburban Atlanta. “I’m not clear how you can prevent that from happening without liners,” she told the Georgia Power lobbyist.

Plant Scherer, however, posed the biggest challenge for Georgia Power. EPD scientists said last year that they would need more information before the agency could allow the company to move ahead with leaving dry ash in Scherer’s unlined pond. Georgia Power had disclosed to EPD the data from several dozen groundwater monitoring wells near Scherer, some of which detected the presence of contaminants often found in ash ponds at levels higher than groundwater-protection standards. The data also showed that contaminants were migrating toward the properties the company had purchased on Luther Smith Road. The EPD is now seeking to determine the speed at which groundwater flowed through and under Scherer’s ash pond and to what degree the contaminants posed a threat to remaining neighbors. (Chambers, the EPD spokesperson, said permits to leave coal ash in unlined ponds will not be issued to Georgia Power if its plans fail to comply with the coal-ash rule.)

The company downplayed the concerns from outside experts. Back in 2019, Berry testified that “advanced engineering methods” would allow Georgia Power to clean up its ash pond at Scherer in a way that complies with environmental regulations, but he has refused to disclose the methods because the company claims they are confidential. In January, Georgia Power submitted filings that claimed further risk evaluations of groundwater were no longer warranted because the ash pond’s contaminants “are not expected to pose a risk to human health or the environment.”

Read More About Georgia Power A Power Company’s Quiet Land-Buying Spree Could Shield It From Coal Ash Cleanup Costs

In another recent filing, Georgia Power claimed that contaminants such as hexavalent chromium at Plant Scherer come from “naturally occurring” sources instead of its operations. Researchers in North Carolina, led by Vengosh of Duke University, have found that high levels of hexavalent chromium found in drinking wells in the central part of that state are in fact naturally occurring. (A similar study has not been conducted to determine the source of the hexavalent chromium in Juliette’s drinking water wells.) On the other hand, Vengosh also has conducted research showing that ash from Wyoming-sourced Powder River Basin coal — the coal that Georgia Power uses at Plant Scherer — contains high levels of hexavalent chromium. Last year Vengosh wrote in an email to Monroe County officials that “even if the hexavalent chromium found in drinking water wells is not derived from coal ash contamination,” other coal ash metals could pose a “constant risk” to homeowners’ drinking water.

Residents’ fear of that constant risk has revived a legal battle against Georgia Power. Brian Adams, the Macon attorney behind the lawsuit that fizzled in 2014, found a powerful new partner in Atlanta attorney Stacey Evans. A state lawmaker who once ran for governor, Evans was looking for her next big case after winning a $495 million whistleblower settlement against DaVita, an international dialysis chain. Last July, Evans and Adams filed a new lawsuit on behalf of 45 residents who alleged that Plant Scherer is “poisoning” their community’s water. Their claims extend beyond those of the previous case: The lawsuit alleges that Georgia Power not only constructed and operated Plant Scherer in a way that led to contaminated drinking water, but also that the company built a network of monitoring wells at an elevation so high that their groundwater testing “evades representative results.” Georgia Power has denied those allegations in court filings.

One of the plaintiffs, Andrea’s cousin Tony Bowdoin, said last summer that he’s seeking damages to offset the six-figure costs of treatment for Stage IV colon cancer. Another plaintiff, Karl Cass, whose son is a survivor of childhood cancer, hopes a jury trial might deliver clarity in a saga that so far has offered no clear answers.

“I don’t want to see my kids have to fight this fight against Georgia Power,” Cass said. “And I hope their children won’t have to live in fear about what’s happening to their health.”


Asked what would make things right, Andrea explained that the answer is both simple and complicated. Driving around Juliette in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Andrea saw one type of yard sign more than any others. It wasn’t in support of President Donald Trump, as one would have expected in deep-red Monroe County, where 70% of voters cast ballots for him last year. It was one with a clear call to action: Georgia Power: Clean up your trASH.

At a hearing expected to be held in late 2021, Andrea intends to urge the EPD to reject Georgia Power’s plans to bury coal-ash waste in unlined ponds. If she and other Georgians get their way, state officials would force the company to submit a new plan to either retrofit the ponds with a liner or move the ash to a lined disposal site and begin the yearslong process of reducing the immediate threat to the groundwater.

Andrea said Georgia Power should also cover the costs of Monroe County’s $16 million project to extend water lines to the homes of about 850 Juliette residents who currently rely on drinking wells. (Those residents still would need to pay — as much as thousands of dollars — to have the line connected to their homes; Andrea says Georgia Power should pay for that, too.) Georgia Power has instead mailed residents packets touting the company’s environmental track record and accusing the Altamaha Riverkeeper of making “false claims” about contamination. To find the truth, Andrea said, there should finally be a cancer-cluster study to figure out whether coal-ash contaminants are linked to more than 40 cancer cases compiled by her and others in the community.

The more complicated solution, as Andrea explained, is compensating Juliette residents for “what they lost.” She’s thinking of her cousin, Hammond, who rejected recent offers by the company to buy her land on Luther Smith Road, in part because her well may hold answers to the question of why her husband died. Then there’s Mike Pless, another of her relatives, who, after surgery and two rounds of radiation therapy, has reckoned with his uncertain future and what that might mean for his family. “No easy choices, no guarantees,” he wrote on Facebook. “Welcome to the crucible.”

In late February, Andrea was once again reminded of all she has lost. A mile north of Luther Smith Road, she walked up a gravel path in a black funeral dress, past her grandparents’ tombstones, to find a sunflower-topped wooden casket holding her cousin, Tony Bowdoin, who had just died from colon cancer at age 58. In front of more than 100 mourners, Rev. Mark Goolsby, Andrea’s father, gave a moving eulogy honoring his nephew as an avid hunter and hardworking storekeeper, a serial gift-giver and a morbid joke-teller. Andrea thought of all the death since her grandfather Brack had passed nearly two decades earlier. How much more would her family lose? she wondered. What would Georgia Power’s ultimate cost be?

“They took things families can’t get back,” Andrea said. “There’s no amount of money that can ever give those things back.”

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Whitewash April 5th 2021

Comment on the following. I don’t think it is possible to trust any absolutist views on the subject of alarmism over climate change. Across the world, education of the masses is restrictive and not intended to encourage critical thinking. Currently we have the most blatant revival of state backed race and gender warfare along with the myth that lockdowns are a solution to COVID 19 spread.

The hidously wealthy elite control governments, although Russia and China struggle to create a basis of rationality in an insane hubristic human world. Both great nations are pilloried for trying to contain the expanding influence of unreformed Islam, conequently being labelled racist and human rights abusers.

We are not supposed to question the Assange case or the fact that the western elite have been bombing Muslim countries since 1990, in earnest and in the name of democracy. Now we in Britain and Europe are being told to respect Islam, with one British Imam warning he cannot be responsible for extreme Muslim behaviours if we don’t.

We are not supposed to point out that Islam is not a race or that – as their resistance to Covid 19 attests- they value fertility and large families. The view is rooted in the unreformed Judaic Old Testament origins of their all consuming religion. ‘Go forth and multiply’ was all very well before the means of extending individual life on a mass scale had been achieved. So much is the same view in Catholic Latin America and religion dominated Africa where females average 15 babies each. Overpopulation is the key issue. Against this background we have the devious elitist patronising nonsense of lockdowns to ‘beat the virus.’

The elite know this but stoking up so called respect for religious views with penalties for dissidents is an old story from ruling elites across the centuries. Divide and rule works wonders in a world where people are expected to tick one of the LGBTQI or religious boxes. We are supposed to enjoy the colours of the rainbow failing multi culture world which suppresses criticim and wants to reserve social media for dumbed down propaganda purposes. Those rainbow colours, paradoxically , are the ingredients of white. In this instance it isn’t the hated white skin, it is for whitewash. Their is no crock of gold at the end of the multi culture rainbow. Gold, like diamonds, is for the rich. Robert Cook

Climate alarmism is misleading the public Posted April 1st 2021

A new poll shows that many people think the planet is in a far worse state than it really is. Andrew Montford 1st April 2021

Climate alarmism is misleading the public

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The British public has been subject to a consistent diet of climate alarmism for years. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that just 8.8 per cent of the general public are aware of the truth about so-called extreme-weather events: namely, that the number of people dying from such events has fallen by 95 per cent since the 1920s, as data from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database shows.

This revelation about public perception of climate change comes from new polling by Savanta, commissioned by my organisation, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The polling certainly shredded a few of the green lobby’s favourite myths, including showing that the young are, in general, less worried than the old about climate change. In fact, one in four Brits is ‘not concerned’ about the climate, contrary to claims of complete consensus on the issue (or ‘crisis’, as greens call it).

But, as indicated above, the polling did show that 12 per cent of Brits thought extreme-weather deaths had increased by a massive 95 per cent, and that 42 per cent thought they had increased by a quarter. Why were they so mistaken?

Maybe it has something to do with scaremongering headlines like these: ‘“Wilful ignorance”: Flood-hit Australia urged to rethink climate adaptation’; ‘Australia is being burned alive by the climate crisis – so why is it still promoting fossil fuels?’ and ‘Climate change: Extreme weather causes huge losses in 2020’.

That last report, from the BBC, stated that ‘the world continued to pay a very high price for extreme weather in 2020’. It had a terrifying, somewhat biblical tone, even referring to swarms of locusts sweeping Africa, before listing some truly terrible events no one would wish to make light of. By failing to put these events into historical context, it painted a picture of impending doom and worsening suffering and disaster that is not grounded in reality. Podcast Charlie Hebdo: a duty to offend spiked

In fact, in decades gone by, deaths from natural disasters and floods were in the millions. Now they are in the tens of thousands. In 1931, for example, an estimated three million people died due to flooding. In 2019, just 11,000 deaths were attributable to all natural disasters. But the huge progress we’ve made does not get mentioned in the numerous reports on the threat of extreme-weather events.

Take the terrible bushfires in Australia last year. You would think, given the borderline apocalyptic coverage of them, that they were proof of an increase in the threat posed by wildfires. Yet while there is evidence to suggest ‘fire weather’ is becoming more common in certain areas, overall human-fire suppression efforts are working. They have led the annual global burnt area since 2003 to shrink by up to a quarter, as shown by NASA satellites.

The public understandably had no awareness of this fact, given it was rarely reported. Indeed, 39 per cent thought the total land area affected by wildfires had actually increased by a quarter since 2003. Only 16 per cent gave the correct answer of a decrease by a quarter.

Human intervention is working to counter other forms of disaster, too. Entire cities used to be wiped from the face of the earth by volcanoes, earthquakes and floods. Once upon a time, famines might wipe out whole villages without the outside world ever knowing or being able to help. Now, seismologists and volcanologists give us warnings. Rescue workers in helicopters and excavators pluck the unlucky from the water and the rubble. And aid workers bring food and relief over great distances in an instant. Recommended Do we now need permission to be free? Tim Black

Human striving, ingenuity and advancement should provide the context within which climate change is reported. But it almost never does. Those pushing the alarmist narrative need us to be frightened and thinking the worst. They need us to believe that humans cannot overcome the challenges facing us. The green industry depends on such alarmism.

The final question in our survey concerned the good news about global food production increasing by more than a third since 2005, according to the UN. We’re making more with less land and the apocalyptic predictions of global starvation made in the 1970s look increasingly fantastical.

Yet, while two fifths of respondents correctly said food production had increased since 2005, one fifth thought food production had actually gone down, despite humanity’s immense technological progress.

The climate has always changed, due to natural and man-made reasons. But never before have we been better equipped to deal with such change. Alarmism and increasing censorship (in the media, online and from the government) around the climate means we are making decisions based on misconceptions and emotion rather than on facts and reason.

The danger is that the resulting green medicine could well turn out to be much, much worse than the disease. Net Zero is already negatively impacting on the economy, and the fear spread by the green doom-mongers is harming our mental health and faith in the future. Hopefully this polling can begin to expose the danger that alarmist reporting poses to the public and policymaking alike.

Andrew Montford is deputy director of the Global Warming Policy Forum.

There are great pressures on British agriculture at the moment. Here we see an antique Field Marshall tractor at work in North Buckinghamshire, yesterday March 31st 2021. The unique starting system for the Field Marshall’s large displacement single cylinder diesel engine. The engine is rotated to a specific spot on its stroke, the smoldering paper is inserted into the cylinder head to act as a glow plug and a special black powder 12ga. shotgun blank is loaded into a chamber connected to the cylinder and then fired. The result is a quick start that requires no cranking. However this system places extra mechanical stress on the engine and leaves corrosive residue in the starting system, so it is rarely used. R.J Cook.

Economy

This land is your land

Business

Stuck in Suez: Thousands of Animals Packed Tight on Ships

By Michael Hirtzer , Megan Durisin , and Sergio Chapa 26 March 2021, 22:51 GMT Updated on 27 March 2021, 17:19 GMT

  • As many as 14 vessels stuck near the canal may have livestock
  • Ships usually carry 2 or 3 days worth of extra feed: group
Commercial cargo and container ships ride anchor while waiting to transit the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, on March 25.
Commercial cargo and container ships ride anchor while waiting to transit the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, on March 25. Photographer: Islam Safwat/Bloomberg

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Of all the millions of tons of cargo that’s piled up in the Suez Canal, none is more delicate than the animals crammed into the hulls of several of the ships.

Scientists Are Planning to Build Noah’s Ark on the Moon Posted by R.J Cook March 25th 2021

Earth is destined for disaster. This is a good insurance policy.

By Courtney Linder Mar 12, 2021 future city on the moon, illustration MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYGetty Images

  • Humans, plants, and animals on Earth face the dual threats of climate change and asteroids someday striking the planet.
  • Scientists believe they can preserve all living things with a solar-powered lunar ark.
  • This compound inside the moon’s lava tubes could store cryogenically frozen reproductive cells from 6.7 million species on Earth as a sort of insurance policy.

In 2013, a cataclysmic meteor the size of a six-story building broke apart above Chelyabinsk, Russia, and the resulting blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion. In 2068, astronomers believe a potentially hazardous “God of Chaos” asteroid could slam into Earth. Both events suggest humans—and every other animal and plant on Earth—are much more susceptible to total annihilation than we think.

That’s why scientists at the University of Arizona are proposing a far-out concept that just might save us all: a 21st-century version of Noah’s Ark … on the moon.

You love weird f#@!-ing science. So do we. Let’s nerd out over this stuff together.

This ark wouldn’t contain two of every animal, but rather, a repository of cryogenically frozen reproductive cells from 6.7 million species on our planet.

Consider it a global insurance policy of sorts, says Jekan Thanga, Ph.D., the mastermind behind the project. Thanga is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, where he and a group of his undergraduate and graduate students have been toiling over this “lunar ark” concept for the past two years.

“As a human civilization, we’re in a fragile state,” Thanga tells Pop Mech. “We’re not really that rigid or able to face all kinds of adversities. And Earth’s ecosystem is also very fragile.” This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Enter the lunar ark, which would be a storage shelter filled to the brim with genetic material for the most important plants and animals on Earth.

From the network of lava tubes just beneath the moon’s surface where scientists hope to build the compound, to the lunar solar farm that generates electricity for the underground facility, to the robotic lab techs, the lunar ark sounds like the setting for a sci-fi novel. But Thanga says the possibility for such a shelter is very real—and it could come to fruition in the next few decades.

The Moon as a Storage Unit

the marius hills pit is a possible skylight in a lava tube in an ancient volcanic region of the moon called the marius hills this lroc image is the highest resolution image of the pit to date

The Marius Hills pit is a possible skylight in a lava tube in an ancient volcanic region of the moon called the Marius Hills. This LROC image is the highest resolution image of the pit to date. NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

While we Earthlings may eventually need to evacuate our planet if we’re right in the trajectory of a massive asteroid, a moon colony isn’t necessarily the best option, Thanga says.

For the past seven years, his team has been studying the moon’s extensive network of over 200 lava tubes just beneath its rocky surface—the underground tunnels where a moon settlement would make the most sense. ➡️Moon Must-Reads Isaac Asimov: ‘How We’ll Live on the Moon’ Every. Single. Moon. Ranked. Why Mining the Moon Seems More Possible Than Ever

These tunnels formed billions of years ago when streams of lava melted through the soft rock underground. While the lava tubes are about 328 feet in diameter and could provide a sanctuary from solar radiation, micrometeorites, and cruel surface temperatures, they aren’t a particularly homey space for people to live in and thrive. This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

“Setting up a base inside a lava tube seems like a plausible way to go if we wanted to set up a permanent settlement on the moon,” Thanga says, but these moon shafts may not be compatible with the human condition.

He puts it bluntly: “We as humans are not mole rats. We’re going to feel pretty stuffy being underground without being able to see outside.”

So what’s the next best use for a nearby celestial body with a stable environment that only takes about four days to reach on a supply mission? Turn it into a storage locker of sorts for the most precious data on Earth: our own reproductive cells.

Noah’s Ark 2.0

lunar ark compound mockup

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the lunar ark’s architecture, Thanga says. Scientists would build the complex inside ancient lava tubes beneath the lunar surface. Image courtesy of Arizona State University

To build a lunar ark, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel; much of Thanga’s inspiration for the architecture includes the kinds of materials you might use to build a structure on the surface of the moon, so long as the parts would fit inside a lava tube.

Thanga and his colleagues have proposed sending miniature hopping and flying robots into the lunar lava tubes to collect samples of regolith, or loose rock and dirt. Then, researchers could examine those samples to learn about the layout, temperature, and makeup of the lava tubes, ultimately guiding design considerations for the base. ➡️Must-Read: Genetic Storage Why Scientists Stored DNA in the Wizard of Oz

“What we envision is taking one of the existing pits—just the opening into the lava tube—and installing an elevator shaft there,” Thanga says. From there, the elevator shafts would function as the entry and exit to the cryo preservation modules below the lunar surface. Robots or astronauts would be able to use the elevators to check in and check out samples in petri dishes, “much like a library.”

The plans also include room for a second elevator shaft that robots or astronauts could use to transport construction material below the surface. That way, they could expand the base from inside the lava tubes.

To send messages back to Earth, we’ll need a parabolic antenna at the surface of the base. It would likely operate on the Kₐ band, says Thanga, which is the most modern portion of the electromagnetic spectrum used for data transmission.

“That system could directly get in touch with Earth in its line of sight,” he says. “Out of line of sight would need a relay satellite, which is possible, but the infrastructure isn’t there at the moment.”

For power, the lunar ark will use a set of solar panels—much like a solar farm on Earth—to turn sunlight into electricity. But depending on where the base is set up, the surface of the moon could go through cycles of 12 days of daytime and 12 days of darkness, Thanga says.

His design calls for modular batteries that will attach to the cryo preservation modules to keep the lights on and maintain the right temperatures for the samples.

Lunar Cryogenics

robots tend to cryogenically frozen reproductive cells

Inside the lunar ark, robots will navigate through the facility above magnetic tracks. They’re responsible for retrieving cryogenically frozen samples and testing them in the analysis lab. Image courtesy of Arizona State University

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is a somewhat appropriate analog for the lunar ark. But storing 6.7 million gametes, spores, and seeds isn’t the same in space as it is on Earth; there are added challenges due to the microgravity on the moon and bitter cold temperatures.

To preserve the samples with cryopreservation techniques, human or robotic archivists must store the seeds at -292 degrees Fahrenheit, and the stem cells at -320 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s far cooler than the inside of the lava tubes, which usually remain stable at about -15 degrees Fahrenheit. ➡️Get the Facts: Doomsday Prep The Future of Farming Is Inside This Bomb Shelter Microsoft is Storing Source Code in an Arctic Cave The Doomsday Clock Creeps Close to Midnight

This means the cryogenic modules could jam or freeze together. To combat that risk, plus the relative lack of gravity, the facility could use a spinning apparatus—much like a cement truck—that uses centrifugal force to keep the modules in motion.

All the while, robots connected to a magnetic strip could remove the samples from their modules and transport them to an analysis lab, periodically checking to see if the seeds and sex cells are stable.

250 Launches, 30 Years, and 6.7 Million Species

This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

If this all sounds a bit far-fetched, Thanga says the lunar ark could actually be possible in the next 30 years, especially as private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin continue to drive down the cost of space launches.

With some back-of-the-envelope calculations, Thanga estimates it would take 250 rocket launches to carry 50 specimens each of the 6.7 million species his team wants to preserve on the lunar ark. To put that into context, it took 40 launches to build out the International Space Station.

And what happens when that devastating meteor inevitably strikes the Earth? Let’s just hope there’s someone left who knows how to get to the lunar ark and use those reproductive cells to create life.

Suez Crisis Posted March 25th 2021

A digger working to free the ship from the side of the canal
A digger working to free the ship from the side of the canalCredit: AFP

Ten per cent of world shipping uses the Suez Canal. Oil prices have surged about six per cent today after ship, which is the size of the Empire State Building, ran aground.

Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said it was trying to refloat the 1300ft long Taiwanese ship.

The authority a gale-force sandstorm, a common occurrence in the country’s Sinai desert at this time of year, blotted out light and limited the captain’s ability to see.

Five tug boats are currently working to try and drag the ship free.

Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis, which is trying to free the ship, said it was too early to say how long the job might take.

The ship’s bow and stern had been lifted up against either side of the canal, he explained.

Is this the end of forests as we’ve known them? Posted March 22nd 2022

Forest fires another new norm.
Climate change is rooted in world overpopulation , encouraged by elites and religious bigotry in BAME nations where BAME are the majority with culture moving worldwide as apparent refugees are welomed as cheap labour.

Trees lost to drought and wildfires are not returning. Climate change is taking a toll on the world’s forests – and radically changing the environment before our eyesby Alastair GeeSupported by

SEJ

About this contentWed 10 Mar 2021 08.00 GMT

Last modified on Thu 11 Mar 2021 13.51 GMT

Camille Stevens-Rumann never used to worry about seeing dead trees. As a wildland firefighter in the American west, she encountered untold numbers killed in blazes she helped to extinguish. She knew fires are integral to forests in this part of the world; they prune out smaller trees, giving room to the rest and even help the seeds of some species to germinate.

“We have largely operated under the assumption that forests are going to come back after fires,” Stevens-Rumann said.

But starting in about 2013, she noticed something unsettling. In certain places, the trees were not returning. For an analysis she led of sites across the Rocky Mountains, she found that almost one-third of places that had burned since 2000 had no trees regrowing whatsoever. Instead of tree seedlings, there were shrubs and flowers.

This shift – echoed across a warming world – is a distinct phenomenon from trees dying because of direct human intervention such as logging. These trees are dying without humans laying a hand on them, at least physically, and they are not resprouting. Forests cover 30% of the planet’s land surface, and yet, as humans heat the atmosphere, some locations where they would have grown now appear too dry or hot to support them.

Sequoias in California view from below at Mariposa Grove of Yosemite USADJ2FYM Sequoias in California view from below at Mariposa Grove of Yosemite USA

Sequoias at Mariposa Grove of Yosemite, California. Sequoias are dying in remarkable numbers. Photograph: Natureworld/Alamy

In western North America, huge swaths of forested areas may become unsuitable for trees owing to climate change, say researchers. In the Rocky Mountains, estimates hold that by 2050, about 15% of the forests would not grow back if felled by fire because the climate would no longer suit them. In Alberta, Canada, about half of existing forests could vanish by 2100. In the south-western US, which is experiencing a “megadrought”, as much as 30% of forests are at risk of converting to shrubland or another kind of ecosystem.

“Now’s a good time to go visit national parks with big trees,” said Nate McDowell, an earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the lead author of a paper forecasting that in southwestern US forests more than half of conifers, the dominant type of trees, could be killed by 2050. “It’s like Glacier national park – now’s a good time to see a glacier before they’re gone.”

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The change isn’t unique to the US and Canada. In the Amazon, some experts warn that a forest mortality tipping point is looming. The boreal forests of Siberia are under attack from higher temperatures. Temperate European forests thought to be less vulnerable to climate change are showing worrying symptoms.

Forest mortality researchers say while this does not mark the end of the forests, it may well be the end of many forests as we’ve known them.Iconic species such as giant sequoias and Joshua trees are succumbing in remarkable numbers. The landscapes of beloved wild places and national parks are, in turn, being transformed. And the changes being observed today – in which slow-growing trees that have survived for hundreds of years are dying in a drought or wildfire – cannot be undone in our lifetimes.

US-FIRESFire-ravaged Joshua Trees are seen ona scorched landscape from the Bobcat Fire on September 19, 2020 in Juniper Hills, California. - The Bobcat Fire erupted on September 6 in the Angeles National Forest and has scorched 91,017 acres at 15% containment, with full containment estimated by Oct. 30. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Fire-ravaged Joshua trees are seen on a scorched landscape after the Bobcat fire in September 2020 in Juniper Hills, California. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

“You realize in some ways how short our lives are in comparison to these ecosystems,” said Stevens-Rumann, a fire ecologist at Colorado State University. “I’m never going to see these landscapes again.”


The possibility of worldwide mass forest mortality linked to climate change was flagged in the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments in 1990. But today, many researchers are expressing particular concern about the tree mortality crisis building in California and other parts of the west.

Since 2010, 129m trees are estimated to have died in California’s national forests, as a result of a hotter climate, insects and other factors. Astonishingly, 48.9% of all trees in a comprehensive study of the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range were killed.

The effects of a warming planet on trees were already obvious in summer 2016, as California was emerging from its driest four-year period since scientific record-keeping began. In August that year, I drove from San Francisco to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to visit Steven Ostoja, the director of the US agriculture department’s California Climate Hub. At his house on the rural outskirts of a community called Oakhurst, Ostoja led me into his yard.

A boardwalk in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite damaged by a fallen ponderosa pine during the Mono wind event on 19 January.

A boardwalk in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite damaged by a fallen ponderosa pine during the Mono wind event on 19 January. Photograph: AP

“I watched that tree die,” he said, gesturing toward a 40ft-tall ponderosa pine. We crunched across yellowed grass and leaves to examine it. The ponderosa was wizened and bleached by the elements. Up close, Ostoja was able to pull off a chunk of bark as easily as peeling a tangerine. He pointed out dozens of small holes along the bark made by burrowing beetles. Small, hard blobs of pitch, resembling honey, indicated where the tree had tried to push them out, but lacking water, it had not been able to produce enough.

Dehydration is not always the culprit when trees die in droughts. Droughts often create such hostile conditions that trees with decades or centuries of life ahead of them are suddenly vulnerable to insects or disease, or to wildfires that can rampage when the environment dries out.

The distant whine of a chainsaw taking down a dead tree served as a reminder of the extent of the problem. “That’s a sound you hear all the time,” Ostoja said. “You’ll hear it on a Monday, on a Tuesday, all day long.”

Ostoja had an unruffled scientific manner, but even so he was perturbed by the speed of the change he had witnessed. “It wasn’t within a career,” he said. “It was within three years.” He wondered aloud whether this was one of the most pronounced ecological shifts in the western US “in such a short period of time in the last 10,000 years”.

Burned trees are seen after the first winter storm of the season drops snow on the Bobcat fire scar in the Angeles national forest near Azusa, California, on 31 December 2020.

Burned trees are seen after the first winter storm of the season drops snow on the Bobcat fire scar in the Angeles national forest near Azusa, California, on 31 December 2020. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Researchers acknowledge that there is considerable ambiguity in their predictions about tree mortality. For one thing, it is unclear how many of the trees now dying essentially weren’t meant to be there in the first place. Western forests are denser than they were historically because of human influence: the practice of tamping out wildfires, beginning in the early 20th century, has interfered with a natural process in which blazes weed out younger trees and undergrowth.

Even so, the tree mortality problem spanning the western part of the continent is prompting a broad and looming sense of disquiet. Take New Mexico, which has just experienced one of its driest two-decade periods in 1,200 years. At Bandelier national monument, recent wildfires have left bare landscapes. “Why aren’t we getting pine regeneration?” the monument’s chief resource manager said to the Durango Herald in 2017. “We may have to redefine recovery, because we’re not sure some of these forest types will ever return.”

Not far away, ecologist Craig Allen just marked his 40th year studying forests and landscapes in the Jemez mountains. When he arrived from the cooler climes of north-east Wisconsin, moist weather patterns made the region “a great place to be a tree in the south-west US”. That natural variability has now, thanks to climate change, flipped to megadrought conditions. By mid-century, Allen suspects, trees will barely cling to existence in the mountains of the south-west.

A series of photographs taken in 2011, 2013 and 2014 by researcher Craig Allen in the footprint of the Las Conchas fire, a 2011 ‘megafire’ in the eastern Jemez mountains. The images show little tree regrowth.

A series of photographs taken in 2011, 2013 and 2014 by researcher Craig Allen in the footprint of the Las Conchas fire, a 2011 ‘megafire’ in the eastern Jemez mountains. The images show little tree regrowth. Composite: Craig Allen

“I have to be a little careful about not sounding like some Cassandra saying the sky is falling and forests are going to die and burn – but I have seen what that looks like,” said Allen, who founded the US Geological Survey’s New Mexico Landscapes Field Station.

On a personal level, he added, “it’s actually disorienting to me to be out in the landscapes in some ways because they’re so different from how I first knew them. Now you see a vista literally for 100 miles – you see the next mountain range 100 miles away. And [previously] you couldn’t see more than 20 meters. The canopies are thin, the whole productivity and vigor of the system is suppressed.”

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Around the globe, research has suggested that the tree mortality rate in some temperate and tropical forests has doubled or more in recent decades.

While in some places there will be wholesale tree die-offs as a result of climate change, in other places it will alter the very composition and feel of forests. They will not be what they were.

In the Amazon, climate change has lengthened the dry season and caused the rainfall to decline in parts. These shifts are reorganizing the forest: trees that prefer drier conditions are thriving, while those that prefer wetter conditions, and which make up the majority of tree species in Amazonia, are dying off in greater numbers, a study has found.

These changes demonstrate just how far-flung the impacts of climate change can be. The Amazon “is one of the most remote places on Earth”, said lead author Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham and researcher at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research. “Humans are managing to change the environment even very far away from where they are living, or most of them are living.”

With the combined impacts of global heating and rampant logging, some researchers warn that large parts of the rainforest ecosystem could collapse and convert to savanna. “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny,” two leading academics declared in a 2019 editorial. “The tipping point is here, it is now.”

An aerial view of deforestation in Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve in Brazil’s Amazon basin in August 2019.

An aerial view of deforestation in Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve in Brazil’s Amazon basin in August 2019. Photograph: João Laet/AFP/Getty Images

Cooler regions are not immune. Boreal forests ringing the northerly parts of the globe are in fact projected to experience the greatest warming of all. In central Siberia, conifers are already dying at greater rates and are expected to retreat upslope and to the north. One boreal forest researcher told Yale Environment 360 that “the boreal forest is breaking apart.” He added: “The question is what will replace it?”

Even forests thought more impervious to climatic shifts are proving not to be. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, heat and low rainfall in 2018 caused mass mortality among species such as Norway spruce and European beech. The German government estimated that at least 2,450 square kilometers would need to be reforested.

“It was a really impressive period, the last two years, because so far I’d only known large-scale mortality events from the literature,” said Henrik Hartmann, co-author of a study on the die-off and an organizer of the International Tree Mortality Network. “And now it is actually here in a very temperate region where nobody would expect it.”

A great irony of this shift is that trees are dying just as we understand them better than ever. It has become clear that far from beinginert and silent, and little more than a backdrop for wildlife, trees are able to communicate with one another and even share resources.

Forests also absorb around one-quarter of all human carbon emissions annually, and increasingly there are worries that if forests die back they will switch from storing carbon to emitting it, because dead trees will release all the carbon they have accumulated. This helps explain why much-touted proposals toplant millions of trees to suck up carbon and ameliorate the climate crisis are encountering skepticism; they won’t work if conditions on Earth don’t allow for forests to reproduce and thrive.

An aerial view of a wildfire in the taiga in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, in north-west Siberia. The boreal forests of Siberia are under attack from higher temperatures.

An aerial view of a wildfire in the taiga in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, in north-west Siberia. The boreal forests of Siberia are under attack from higher temperatures. Photograph: Denis Bushkovsky/Tass

It is true that forests could find new footholds in places that were formerly too cold or otherwise unsuited to them. But trees can take centuries to reach maturity, and in terms of global heating, older, large trees store much more carbon than younger, smaller ones. Instead of focusing on new trees, researchers say, the best answer to the mortality crisis is to preserve the forests we already have – by cutting carbon emissions.

For Camille Stevens-Rumann, the fire ecologist studying tree mortality in the Rockies, watching these changes in places she has known for years – and where she has backpacked and rafted – has required an adjustment.

“As a person who loves trees and has spent my career so far looking predominantly at trees, it is a bit of a stark difference and a shift of mindset to think about these landscapes as not ‘treed’ for a longer period of time – or indefinitely,” she said.

Even so, she is able to find beauty in them, and in what humbler plants are able to make a comeback even if the pine and fir trees cannot. She is a realist. Life marches on.

“This is the beginning of a new ecological state.”

Reversing CO2 Emissions Posted March 21st 2021

The device that reverses CO2 emissionsShare using EmailShare on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Linkedin(Image credit: Carbon Engineering)

Carbon Engineering is planning the world's largest direct air capture plant, in Texas, USA (Credit: Carbon Engineering)

By Frank Swain12th March 2021Cooling the planet by filtering excess carbon dioxide out of the air on an industrial scale would require a new, massive global industry – what would it need to work?T

The year is 2050. Walk out of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, and drive north across the sun-baked scrub where a few remaining oil pumpjacks nod lazily in the heat, and then you’ll see it: a glittering palace rising out of the pancake-flat ground. The land here is mirrored: the choppy silver-blue waves of an immense solar array stretch out in all directions. In the distance, they lap at a colossal grey wall five storeys high and almost a kilometre long. Behind the wall, you glimpse the snaking pipes and gantries of a chemical plant.

As you get closer you see the wall is moving, shimmering – it is entirely made up of huge fans whirring in steel boxes. You think to yourself that it looks like a gigantic air conditioning unit, blown up to incredible proportions. In a sense, that’s exactly what this is. You’re looking at a direct air capture (DAC) plant, one of tens of thousands like it across the globe. Together, they’re trying to cool the planet by sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. This Texan landscape was made famous for the billions of barrels of oil pulled out of its depths during the 20th Century. Now the legacy of those fossil fuels – the CO2 in our air – is being pumped back into the emptied reservoirs.  

If the world is to meet Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2100, sights like this may be necessary by mid-century.

We have a climate change problem and it’s caused by an excess of CO2. With direct air capture, you can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time – Steve Oldham

But step back for a moment to 2021, to Squamish, British Columbia where, against a bucolic skyline of snowy mountains, the finishing touches are being put to a barn-sized device covered in blue tarpaulin. When it becomes operational in September, Carbon Engineering’s prototype direct air capture plant will begin scrubbing a tonne of CO2 from the air every year. It is a small start, and a somewhat larger plant in Texas is in the works, but this is the typical scale of a DAC plant today.

“We have a climate change problem and it’s caused by an excess of CO2,” says Carbon Engineering chief executive Steve Oldham. “With DAC, you can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time. It’s very powerful tool to have.”

Most carbon capture focuses on cleaning emissions at the source: scrubbers and filters on smokestacks that prevent harmful gases reaching the atmosphere. But this is impractical for small, numerous point sources like the planet’s billion or so automobiles. Nor can it address the CO2 that is already in the air. That’s where direct air capture comes in.

The number of things that would have to happen without direct air capture are so stretching and multiple it’s highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without it – Ajay Gambhir

If the world wants to avoid catastrophic climate change, switching to a carbon neutral society is not enough. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2100 will require technologies such as DAC for “large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal measures” – large-scale meaning many billions of tonnes, or gigatonnes, each year. Elon Musk recently pledged $100m (£72m) to develop carbon capture technologies, while companies such as Microsoft, United Airlines and ExxonMobil are making billion-dollar investments in the field.

“Current models suggest we’re going to need to remove 10 gigatonnes of CO2 per year by 2050, and by the end of the century that number needs to double to 20 gigatonnes per year,” says Jane Zelikova, a climate scientist at the University of Wyoming. Right now, “we’re removing virtually none. We’re having to scale from zero.”Carbon Engineering's pilot plant in British Columbia, is the "cookie cutter" model for much larger DAC plants (Credit: Carbon Engineering)

Carbon Engineering’s pilot plant in British Columbia, is the “cookie cutter” model for much larger DAC plants (Credit: Carbon Engineering)

Carbon Engineering’s plant in Squamish is designed as a testbed for different technologies. But the firm is drawing up blueprints for a much larger plant in the oil fields of west Texas, which would fix 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. “Once one is done, it’s a cookie cutter model, you simply build replicas of that plant,” says Oldham. Yet he admits the scale of the task ahead is dizzying. “We need to pull 800 gigatonnes out of the atmosphere. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Blue-sky thinking

The science of direct air capture is straightforward. There are several ways to do it, but the one that Carbon Engineering’s system uses fans to draw air containing 0.04% CO2 (today’s atmospheric levels) across a filter drenched in potassium hydroxide solution – a caustic chemical commonly known as potash, used in soapmaking and various other applications. The potash absorbs CO2 from the air, after which the liquid is piped to a second chamber and mixed with calcium hydroxide (builder’s lime). The lime seizes hold of the dissolved CO2, producing small flakes of limestone. These limestone flakes are sieved off and heated in a third chamber, called a calciner, until they decompose, giving off pure CO2, which is captured and stored. At each stage, the leftover chemical residues are recycled back in the process, forming a closed reaction that repeats endlessly with no waste materials.

We’re past the point where reducing emissions needed to take place. We’re locking in our reliance on DAC more and more – Jane Zelikova

With global carbon emissions continuing to rise, the climate target of 1.5C is looking less and less likely without interventions like this.

“The number of things that would have to happen without direct air capture are so stretching and multiple it’s highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without it,” says Ajay Gambhir, senior researcher at the Imperial College Grantham Institute for Climate Change and an author of a 2019 paper on the role of DAC in climate mitigation.

The IPCC does present some climate-stabilising models that don’t rely on direct air capture, but Gambhir says these are “extremely ambitious” in their assumptions about advances in energy efficiency and people’s willingness to change their behaviour.

“We’re past the point where reducing emissions needed to take place,” says Zelikova. “We’re locking in our reliance on DAC more and more.”

DAC is far from the only way carbon can be taken out of the atmosphere. Carbon can be removed naturally through land use changes such as restoring peatland, or most popularly, planting forests. But this is slow and would require huge tracts of valuable land – foresting an area the size of the United States, by some estimates, and driving up food prices five-fold in the process. And in the case of trees, the carbon removal effect is limited, as they will eventually die and release their stored carbon, unless they can be felled and burned in a closed system. (Read more about why planting trees doesn’t always help with climate change)

The scale of the challenge for carbon removal using technologies like DAC, rather than plants, is no less gargantuan. Gambhir’s paper calculates that simply keeping pace with global CO2 emissions – currently 36 gigatonnes per year – would mean building in the region of 30,000 large-scale DAC plants, more than three for every coal-fired power station operating in the world today. Each plant would cost up to $500m (£362m) to build – coming in at a cost of up to $15 trillion (£11tn). Climeworks' facility near Zurich, Switzerland, sells the CO2 it captures to nearby vegetable growers for their greenhouses (Credit: Alamy)

Climeworks’ facility near Zurich, Switzerland, sells the CO2 it captures to nearby vegetable growers for their greenhouses (Credit: Alamy)

Every one of those facilities would need to be stocked with solvent to absorb CO2. Supplying a fleet of DAC plants big enough to capture 10 gigatonnes of CO2 every year will require around four million tonnes of potassium hydroxide, the entire annual global supply of this chemical one and a half times over.

And once those thousands of DAC plants are built, they also need power to run. “If this was a global industry absorbing 10 gigatonnes of CO2 a year, you would be expending 100 exajoules, about a sixth of total global energy,” says Gambhir. Most of this energy is needed to heat the calciner to around 800C – too intense for electrical power alone, so each DAC plant would need a gas furnace, and a ready supply of gas.  

Costing the planet

Estimates of how much it costs to capture a tonne of CO2 from the air vary widely, ranging from $100 to $1,000 (£72 to £720) per tonne. Oldham says that most figures are unduly pessimistic – he is confident that Climate Engineering can fix a tonne of carbon for as little as $94 (£68), especially once it becomes a widespread industrial process.

A bigger issue is figuring out where to send the bill. Incredibly, saving the world turns out to be a pretty hard sell, commercially speaking. Direct air capture does result in one valuable commodity, though: thousands of tonnes of compressed CO2. This can be combined with hydrogen to make synthetic, carbon-neutral fuel. That could then be sold or burned in the gas furnaces of the calciner (where the emissions would be captured and the cycle continue once again).

Surprisingly, one of the biggest customers for compressed CO2 is the fossil fuel industry.

As wells run dry, it’s not uncommon to squeeze the remaining oil out of the ground by pressuring the reservoir using steam or gas in a process called enhanced oil recovery. Carbon dioxide is a popular choice for this, and comes with additional benefit of locking that carbon underground, completing the final stage of carbon capture and storage. Occidental Petroleum, which has partnered with Carbon Engineering to build a full-scale DAC plant in Texas, uses 50 million tonnes of CO2 every year in enhanced oil recovery. Each tonne of CO2 used in this way is worth about $225 (£163) in tax credits alone.

It’s perhaps fitting that the CO2 in our air is eventually being returned underground to the oil fields from whence it came, although maybe ironic that the only way to finance this is in the pursuit of yet more oil. Occidental and others hope that by pumping CO2 into the ground, they can drastically reduce the carbon impact of that oil: a typical enhanced-recovery operation sequesters one tonne of CO2 for every 1.5 tonnes it ultimately releases in fresh oil. So while the process reduces the emissions associated with oil, it doesn’t balance the books.

Though there are other uses that may become more commercially viable. Another direct air capture company, Climeworks, has 14 smaller scale units in operation sequestering 900 tonnes of CO2 a year, which it sells to a greenhouse to enhance the growth of pickles. It’s now working on a longer-term solution: a plant under construction in Iceland will mix captured CO2 with water and pump it 500-600m (1,600-2,000ft) underground, where the gas will react with the surrounding basalt and turn to stone. To finance this, it offers businesses and citizens the ability to buy carbon offsets, starting at a mere €7 (£6) per month. Can the rest of the world be convinced to buy in?Enhancing the growth of vegetables in greenhouses is one application for the CO2 captured from the air by DAC (Credit: Alamy)

Enhancing the growth of vegetables in greenhouses is one application for the CO2 captured from the air by DAC (Credit: Alamy)

“DAC is always going to cost money, and unless you’re paid to do it, there is no financial incentive,” says Chris Goodall, author of What We Need To Do Now: For A Zero Carbon Future. “Climeworks can sell credits to virtuous people, write contracts with Microsoft and Stripe to take a few hundred tonnes a year out of the atmosphere, but this needs to be scaled up a millionfold, and that requires someone to pay for it.

“There are subsidies for electric cars, cheap financing for solar plants, but you don’t see these for DAC,” says Oldham. “There is so much focus on emission reduction, but there isn’t the same degree of focus on the rest of the problem, the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere. The big impediment for DAC is that thinking isn’t in policy.”

Zelikova believes that DAC will follow a similar path to other climate technologies, and become more affordable. “We have well-developed cost curves showing how technology can go down in cost really quickly,” says Zelikova. “We surmounted similar hurdles with wind and solar. The biggest thing is to deploy them as much as possible. It’s important for government to support commercialisation – it has a role as a first customer, and a customer with very deep pockets.”

Goodall advocates for a global carbon tax, which would make it expensive to emit carbon unless offsets were purchased. But he recognises this is still a politically unpalatable option. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, especially if the externalities of our high-energy lifestyles – increasing wildfires, droughts, floods, sea level rise – are seen as being shouldered by somebody else.

Zelikova adds we also need broader conversation in society about how much these efforts should cost. “There is an enormous cost in climate change, in induced or exacerbated natural disasters. We need to do away with idea that DAC should be cheap.”

Risk and reward

Even if we agree to build 30,000 industrial scale DAC plants, find the chemical materials to run them, and the money to pay for it all, we won’t be out of the woods yet. In fact, we might end up in a worse position than before, thanks to a phenomenon known as mitigation deterrence.Facilities in Iceland are among those aiming to mineralise CO2, to lock it out of circulation in the atmosphere as a long-term solution (Credit: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir)

Facilities in Iceland are among those aiming to mineralise CO2, to lock it out of circulation in the atmosphere as a long-term solution (Credit: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir)

“If you think DAC is going to be there in the medium- to long-term, you will not do as much near-term emissions reduction,” explains Gambhir. “If the scale-up goes wrong – if it turns out to be difficult to produce the sorbent, or that it degrades more quickly, if it’s trickier technologically, if turns out to be more expensive than expected, then in a sense by not acting quickly in the near-term, you’ve effectively locked yourself into a higher temperature pathway.”

Critics of DAC point out that much of its appeal lies in the promise of a hypothetical technology that allows us to continue living our carbon-rich lifestyles. Yet Oldham argues that for some hard-to-decarbonise industries, such as aviation, offsets that fund DAC might be the most viable option. “If it’s cheaper and easier to pull carbon out of air than to stop going up in the air, maybe that is what DAC plays in emission control.”

Gambhir argues that it’s not an “either-or” situation. “We need to rapidly reduce emissions in the near-term, but at same time, determinedly develop DAC to work out for sure if it’s going to be there for us in the future.” Zelikova agrees: “It’s a ‘yes, and’ situation,” she says. “DAC is a critical tool to balance out the carbon budget, so what we can’t eliminate today can be removed later.”

As Oldham seeks to scale up Carbon Engineering, the biggest fundamental factor is proving large scale DAC is “feasible, affordable and available”. If he’s successful, the future of our planet’s climate may once again be decided in the oil fields of Texas.

The emissions from travel it took to report this story were 0kg CO2. The digital emissions from this story are an estimated 1.2g to 3.6g CO2 per page view. Find out more about how we calculated this figure here.

Nothing to do with climate change

( sic ) March 19th 2021

Why it’s so cold: The science behind Britain’s big chill

By David Derbyshire Environment Editor Updated: 07:58, 7 January 2010

15 View comments

The earth’s magnetic field has shifted dramatically. Again we are supposed to believe its all normal and won’t affect the weather or climate. HAARP also has nothing to do with it, that’s just conspiracy theory. R.J Cook

The Big Chill is being blamed on a change in the position of the jet stream – the current of air that moves from west to east.

In a normal British winter – when conditions are mild and soggy – the jet stream lies over northern Europe, at an altitude of between 35,000 to 50,000 feet.

During these grey winters, Britain’s prevailing winds come from the west and south west, and bring with them warm and moist air from the sub-tropical Atlantic.

A farmer and his tractor in Denshaw, near Oldham, struggle in the heavy snow

A farmer and his tractor in Denshaw, near Oldham, struggle in the heavy snow

But since mid December, the weather patterns high in the atmosphere have changed.

The jet stream has shifted south hundreds of miles and is now positioned over North Africa.

The warm westerlies that usually keep away the snow are instead giving the Mediterranean an unusually mild winter.

What wind the UK has experienced has blasted in from the Arctic, orfrom across the cold land masses of Siberia and Eastern Europe.

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Helen Chivers, of the Met Office, said: ‘Because the jet stream isso far south, we have now got two areas of high pressure bringing coldweather to Britain.

‘One is over Greenland, and the other is over Russia. We are stuckin an area of low pressure between them and we are getting northerlywinds from the Arctic and northern Scandinavia.’

No one knows why the jet stream has shifted so far south. Somebelieve its location may be linked to the emerging El Nino weatherphenomena – where the surface temperatures of the Pacific periodicallyget warmer.

The Met Office said yesterday that the cold snap has nothing to dowith climate change – but is part of the normal ebb and flow of normallocal weather.

Comment These days we are told only to believe trusted sources. So this is just nomal, like rolling wars in the Middle East, rampant nuclear testing, massive BAME population growth with consequent pollution, disease, rising expectations, and elite greed with serious propaganda. R.J Cook

Taking the Heat out of Climate Change R.J Cook March 8th 2021

The following article is meant to make climate change seem inevitable. We mustn’t connect it in the first instance with massive Third World overpopulation and pollution . We are not supposed to call it the Third World, officially it is developing. It is developing , into a nightmare. Globalisation is bringing it to working peoples’s doorsteps in the west, hence the lockdown and speech control laws. The nothern hemisphere is this, ever more crowded and polluting, with language control driven by women in politics, so we can’t talk about it withouth causing offence.

The climate change deniers were the sensible ones back when I taught geopgraphy. I was a pariah for saying it was a problem in the 1980s. Nonsense. Plenty of room. You could stand every Chinese person on the tiny Isle of Wight, shoulder to shoulder, I was told, Food issues were going to be sorted by the likes of a new rice seed , IR35. What a joke. Disease flourishes in high density populated areas. Over breeding is good for the elite who want cheap labour, religious bigotry, lower class in fighting and ignorance which makes people easy to control.

In Lebanon, the price of a loaf of bread is 3000 Lebanese pounds. In Brazil, Covid 19 is out of control in a country of over 140 million , with 120 million in dire poverty and overcrowded conditions. Meanwhile , in Britain it is International ‘Woman’s Week’ , because here liberated women are the people who matter. The clarion call is for them to grab more power. White Working class men are their only obstacle. It is not the 1000 top British who have ‘known’ wealth of £750 billion who are the problem. Every lower class white is privileged.

Two privilged whites, my nephew Angus full of life, now dying of bowel cancer because working class people are badly educated and Covid 19 meant he received no cancer csre. My mother, right, died because she went in to hospital with pneumonia , caught c difficile in the filthy Milton Keynes hospital and was discharged without diagnosis. Britain is a pompous pretentious class ridden hell hole for the lower classes. The elite are the descendants of an empire built on white as well as black slavery , with Royalty at the top of the pile of beneficiaries. It is they who should be villified. R.J Cook

Meanwhile, more people want more goods , more space and more food. It is impossible for this to carry on without more war, disease, famine and poverty. But the rich know all about smokescreens. More people equals more carbon dioxide by means of their breathing and less green space to recycle it back into oxygen. Farming now gets the blame. One could go on, What’s the point ? Only the experts, the elite and their police matter now. We of the underclass are the scapegoats, watching our children destroyed by rich parasites using media propaganda.

R.J Cook

Atlantic currents seem to have started fading last century March 8th 2021

Another predicted impact of climate change may be here.

John Timmer – 2/27/2021, 2:10 PM

Image of a white, meandering band separating purple areas from grey ones.
Enlarge / The Gulf Stream, as imaged from space.NASA images courtesy Norman Kuring, MODIS Ocean Team.

143 with 73 posters participating

The major currents in the Atlantic Ocean help control the climate by moving warm surface waters north and south from the equator, with colder deep water pushing back toward the equator from the poles. The presence of that warm surface water plays a key role in moderating the climate in the North Atlantic, giving places like the UK a far more moderate climate than its location—the equivalent of northern Ontario—would otherwise dictate.

But the temperature differences that drive that flow are expected to fade as our climate continues to warm. A bit over a decade ago, measurements of the currents seemed to be indicating that temperatures were dropping, suggesting that we might be seeing these predictions come to pass. But a few years later, it became clear that there was just too much year-to-year variation for us to tell.

Over time, however, researchers have figured out ways of getting indirect measures of the currents, using material that is influenced by the strengths of the water’s flow. These measures have now let us look back on the current’s behavior over the past several centuries. And the results confirm that the strength of the currents has dropped dramatically over the last century.

On the conveyor

The most famous of the currents at issue is probably the Gulf Stream, which runs up the east coast of the US and Canada, taking warm water from the tropics toward Europe. But the Gulf Stream is just one part of a far larger ocean conveyor system, which redistributes heat in all the major ocean basins outside of the Arctic. And while its reach is global, a lot of the force that drives the system develops in the polar regions. That’s where surface waters cool off, increase in density, sink to the ocean floor, and begin to flow south. It’s that process that helps draw warmer water north to replace what has sunk. Advertisement

It’s the density of the cold, salty water that is key to the whole process—and that’s where climate change can intervene to slow down or halt the water’s turnover. The Arctic is warming faster than any other area on Earth, which means that the surface waters are starting to take longer to cool off. The Arctic warming is also melting off a lot of the ice, both on land and in the floating ice sheets that have typically covered the Arctic Ocean. This process can form a layer of fresher water over the surface of the ocean nearby that, even after it cools, won’t be as dense as the salt water beneath it.

If this process has kicked in, we should be able to detect it by measuring the strength of the currents flowing north. But that has turned out to be less informative than we might want. While we have detected significant drops in some years, they were often countered by large rises in others. This internal variability in the system is so large that it would take decades for any trend to reach the point of statistical significance.

The alternative would be to extend our records back in time. But since we can’t retroactively place buoys in the North Atlantic early last century, researchers have to identify other ways of figuring out how strong the flow of water was before we had accurate measurements.

Current by proxy

The research community as a whole has identified a number of ways to figure out what was going on in the oceans in the past. Some are pretty direct. For example, stronger ocean currents can keep larger particles of sediment flowing in the water for longer. So examining the average particle size deposited in sediments on the ocean floor can tell us something about the currents that flowed past that site. Other measures are a bit less direct, like nitrogen isotope ratios in corals, which tell us something about the productivity of the ocean in that area. Advertisement

Overall, there are about a half-dozen different ways of understanding past ocean conditions used in the new study. Each has different levels of uncertainty, and many don’t provide an exact measure of conditions in a single year, instead giving a sense of what the average conditions were over a period of several decades.

Complicating matters further, the measures don’t all come from the same locations. Samples taken from deeper waters will capture the equator-directed cold water flow, while shallow sites will yield data on the warm waters flowing north. The Gulf Stream also breaks up into multiple individual currents in the North Atlantic so that some sites only capture a small part of the total picture.

Given all this, it’s not possible to build a complete picture of the Atlantic currents in the past. But with enough sites covered, it’s possible to get a sense of whether there have been any general changes at any point over the last 1,600 years based on the overlaps of the different records.

To identify any major transitions, a research team did change-point analysis, essentially searching for points in the history where the mean behavior before and after are significantly different. They found two change points that show up consistently in the data from multiple proxies. One occurred in the late 1800s, and the second happened around 1960, when the current period of warming really started to take off.

Of the 11 different records examined in the researchers’ work, 10 show that the current’s lowest strength has been within the past century. And that identification is statistically significant in nine of them. “Together, these data consistently show that the modern [current] slowdown is unprecedented in over a thousand years,” the paper’s authors conclude.

Obviously, we’d like to build up better records that more fully capture the dynamics of what has been going on and, if possible, give us more direct measures of the currents’ actual strengths. It’s also important to emphasize that this doesn’t necessarily portend a sudden, radical shift to a completely new climate. Europe might see a little less warming from ocean currents, but it’s also going to be seeing a lot more warming due to rising atmospheric temperatures. However, the drop in this current will have wide-reaching effects, both on the land surrounding the North Atlantic and the ecosystems within it. So getting more data should be a high priority.

Earth’s magnetic field broke down 42,000 years ago and caused massive sudden climate change

February 18, 2021 8.20pm GMT

Introduction by R.J Cook March 3rd 2021

The magnetic field has shifted with inevitable climate change impact. This is being presented as if it is a natural event because BAME population growth, massive industrial pollution, overproduction, killing species to make room for more humans and deforestation removing trees that would have been producing oxygen by absorbing carbon dioxide have wrecked the planet, has gone too far.

The nasty greedy all powerful elite blame and divide the masses with religion, race and gender politics while they go on wrecking, indulging and dream of an ultimate escape route to Mars. If they can’t get regime change in Russia and Chuna, they will do a ‘limited’ first nuke strike . They are that mad and have their luxury bunkers ready. R.J Cook
R.J Cook

Authors

  1. Chris Fogwill Professor of Glaciology and Palaeoclimatology, Head of School Geography, Geology and the Environment and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Keele University
  2. Alan Hogg Professor, Director, Carbon Dating Laboratory, University of Waikato
  3. Chris Turney Professor of Earth Science and Climate Change, Director of the Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre, Director of Chronos 14Carbon-Cycle Facility, and UNSW Director of ARC Centre for Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, UNSW
  4. Zoë Thomas Zoë Thomas is a Friend of The Conversation. ARC DECRA Fellow, UNSW

Disclosure statement

Chris Fogwill receives funding from UKRI and the Australian Research Council. A huge thanks to Professor Alan Cooper, Honorary Researcher at the South Australian Museum, who co-led this study, Adjunct Professor Ken McCracken and Dr Jonathan Palmer at the University of New South Wales, Drew Lorrey at the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Dr Janet Willmshurst at Landcare Research and our co-authors on the published article.

Professor Alan Hogg works for University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. He is an Associate Investigator in a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant – MFP-NIW1803: Dr Andrew Lorrey, NIWA, Auckland, Principal Investigator.

Chris Turney receives funding fromthe Australian Research Council and is a scientific advisor to cleantech graphite company, CarbonScape (https://www.carbonscape.com).

Zoë Thomas receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Partners

University of Waikato
UNSW
Keele University

University of Waikato provides funding as a member of The Conversation NZ.

University of Waikato and UNSW provide funding as members of The Conversation AU.

Keele University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

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The world experienced a few centuries of apocalyptic conditions 42,000 years ago, triggered by a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles combined with changes in the Sun’s behaviour. That’s the key finding of our new multidisciplinary study, published in Science.

This last major geomagnetic reversal triggered a series of dramatic events that have far-reaching consequences for our planet. They read like the plot of a horror movie: the ozone layer was destroyed, electrical storms raged across the tropics, solar winds generated spectacular light shows (auroras), Arctic air poured across North America, ice sheets and glaciers surged and weather patterns shifted violently.

During these events, life on earth was exposed to intense ultraviolet light, Neanderthals and giant animals known as megafauna went extinct, while modern humans sought protection in caves.

The magnetic north pole – where a compass needle points to – does not have a permanent location. Instead, it usually wobbles around close to the geographic north pole – the point around which the Earth spins – over time due to movements within the Earth’s core.

Expertise is crucial. It’s why our articles are written by academics

For reasons still not entirely clear, magnetic pole movements can sometimes be more extreme than a wobble. One of the most dramatic of these pole migrations took place some 42,000 years ago and is known as the Laschamps Excursion – named after the village where it was discovered in the French Massif Central.

The Laschamps Excursion has been recognised around the world, including most recently in Tasmania, Australia. But up until now, it has not been clear whether such magnetic changes had any impacts on climate and life on the planet. Our new work draws together multiple lines of evidence that strongly suggest the effects were indeed global and far-reaching.

Ancient trees

To investigate what happened, we analysed ancient New Zealand kauri trees that had been preserved in peat bogs and other sediments for more than 40,000 years. Using the annual growth rings in the kauri trees, we have been able to create a detailed timescale of how Earth’s atmosphere changed over this time. The trees revealed a prolonged spike in atmospheric radiocarbon levels caused by the collapse of Earth’s magnetic field as the poles switched, providing a way of precisely linking widely geographically dispersed records.

“The kauri trees are like the Rosetta Stone, helping us tie together records of environmental change in caves, ice cores, and peat bogs around the world,” says professor Alan Cooper, who co-lead this research project.

Using the newly-created timescale, we were able to show that tropical Pacific rain belts and the Southern Ocean westerly winds abruptly shifted at the same time, bringing arid conditions to places like Australia at the same time as a range of megafauna, including giant kangaroos and giant wombats went extinct. Further north, the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet rapidly grew across the eastern US and Canada, while in Europe the Neanderthals spiralled into extinction.

Climate modelling

Working with a computer programme that simulated the global interactions between chemistry and the climate, we investigated the impact of a weaker magnetic field and changes in the Sun’s strength. Importantly, during the magnetic switch, the strength of the magnetic field plummeted to less than 6% of what it is today. A compass back then would struggle to even find north.

A large tree trunk
An ancient kauri tree log from Ngāwhā, New Zealand. Nelson Parker, Author provided

With essentially no magnetic field, our planet totally lost its very effective shield against cosmic radiation, and many more of these very penetrating particles from space could access the top of the atmosphere. On top of this, the Sun experienced several “grand solar minima” throughout this period, during which the overall solar activity was generally much lower but also more unstable, sending out numerous massive solar flares that allowed more powerful ionising cosmic rays to reach Earth.

Our models showed that this combination of factors had an amplifying effect. The high energy cosmic rays from the galaxy and also enormous bursts of cosmic rays from solar flares were able to penetrate the upper atmosphere, charging the particles in the air and causing chemical changes that drove the loss of stratospheric ozone.

The modelled chemistry-climate simulations are consistent with the environmental shifts observed in many natural climate and environmental change archives. These conditions would have also extended the dazzling light shows of the aurora across the world – at times, nights would have been as bright as daytime. We suggest the dramatic changes and unprecedented high UV levels caused early humans to seek shelter in caves, explaining the apparent sudden flowering of cave art across the world 42,000 years ago.

It must have seemed like the end of days.

The Adams Event

Because of the coincidence of seemingly random cosmic events and the extreme environmental changes found around the world 42,000 years ago, we have called this period the “Adams Event” – a tribute to the great science fiction writer Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and identified “42” as the answer to life, the universe and everything. Douglas Adams really was onto something big, and the remaining mystery is how he knew?

Ice Road Posted March 2nd 2021

Will Covid 19 Lockdown Cause Population Decline ? February 24th 2021

Humphrey Southall

Professor of Historical Geography, University of Portsmouth

The purpose of a city is to allow people to live and work close together, so social distancing has the potential to threaten cities’ very existence.

A recent report by audit and consultancy firm PwC predicts that the impact of COVID-19 will lead London to see its first population decline in decades. Is this set to be a blip, quickly reversed – or a turning point which will mark the start of long-term population decline in the city?

Steady population change is normally easy to forecast by projecting forward existing trends, but identifying turning points is much harder. However, we can gain insight by looking at past turning points in London’s population.

Time series graph showing total population for Greater London, and its sub-divisions into inner and outer London
Greater London population 1851-2019. 1961-2019: Office of National Statistics mid-year population estimates; 1851-1951: calculations by author from GB Historical GIS, Author provided

The graph shows that from 1850 the population of Greater London grew steadily, before declining between 1951 and 1988. This was then followed by new expansion.

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By 1900, inner London was almost completely built up, and improved public transport let people live further from work, so expansion moved outward. The population decline in the city after 1950 was the product of government policy. The green belt limited London’s sprawl, and bombed inner city areas were rebuilt at lower densities. Inner city residents moved to new and expanded towns built beyond the green belt.

Table showing percentage change in total population of local government wards in each ten-year period 1951 to 2011
Inter censal population change 1951-2011, by distance from central London. Calculations by author from 1961 census report and later Census Small Area Statistics., Author provided

This table shows the impact of these policies. Together with colleagues, I used detailed statistics from every census between 1951 and 2011 to estimate the populations of each local government ward, as defined in 2011. We then grouped the wards into rings by their distance from the centre of London, and calculated rates of change for each decade. The ring with fastest growth is shown in green, and the most rapid decline (or slowest growth) in blue.

In all decades from 1951 to 1991, the innermost ring, within five miles of Nelson’s Column, shrank fastest. The band between 15 and 20 miles out roughly corresponds to the green belt, and in the 1950s the next ring out, containing the original new towns, grew fastest. After this, the fastest growth took place far outside any definition of Greater London, but was still based on workers commuting into London or otherwise serving London’s economy.

The second turning point is emphatic: from 1991, the innermost ring went directly from decline to being the fastest growing part of the city. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, 1980s dock closures and manufacturing decline freed up large areas for new housing, often apartment complexes clustered around transport links.

Secondly, the deregulation of London’s financial markets in 1986 – known as the “Big Bang” – boosted London’s financial services, while pre-internet computer networks allowed London to dominate financial markets globally. This resulted in longer working hours, discouraging long commutes from outside the city.

More broadly, increased population density in inner London was a result of the rise of the “creative city”. Cultural industries are hard to identify in employment statistics, but London is clearly a dominant world city not just in finance but in sectors such as fashion and video production.

These sectors do not need large or specialised factories, but do need easy interaction between many small firms, and a flexible, often freelance workforce – so they gravitated not to science parks but to old workshops in central districts like Soho and Shoreditch.

The impact of lockdown

The immediate consequences of the pandemic are clear: after a year confined to their homes, city dwellers are looking for more space. Upmarket estate agent Knight Frank has described 2020 as “dominated by the escape to the country trend”. A particularly high proportion of London’s workers normally sit at computer screens, allowing for a rapid shift to home working. If any London residents have second homes in the country – something that does not show up in existing census data – they may have been spending more time there.

These trends are real, and maybe permanent. However, the counter-argument is that once social distancing ends, the gravitational pull of the city will reassert itself. Inner London’s post-1990 resurgence was driven by creative sectors that now appear well suited to home working, so we need to understand what more they need from a location than a computer and a network connection.

View of street and shops
Creative industries have flocked to locations like Soho in central London. JJFarq/Shutterstock

London’s gravitational pull is partly lifestyle. A young and educated workforce prefers nightclubs and theatres to large gardens, so long as they are not closed. The ease of international travel from London – before quarantine – is also a draw. But for businesses, too, the higher costs of operating from a city are accompanied by real economic benefits.

Creativity is far harder in isolation: many of us are learning that we can write, compose or even perform from home, but this is not always enjoyable or inspiring. Sustaining creative industries needs cities. In financial services, traders can beat the financial markets only if they know something the other guy does not, so need access to to less formal information circuits – to gossip.

The networks that led to London’s dominance of financial services from the early 1990s promoted a division of labour around the globe, with routine back office work moving from towns like Worthing to locations such as India. However, the dealmakers, and elite workforces in many other globalised sectors, did not disperse – despite inner London’s higher costs.

As long as the pandemic is brought to an end, then, it is unlikely to lead to a turning point in London’s population. While the internet allows for remote working, the past 30 years has shown that the value of working in close proximity with others can outweigh this benefit.

Bill Gates: ‘Carbon neutrality in a decade is a fairytale. Why peddle fantasies?’ Posted February 23rd 2021

After putting $100m into Covid research, the billionaire is taking on the climate crisis. And first he has some bones to pick with his fellow campaigners…

Bill Gates: ‘The Green New Deal is a fairytale. Why peddle fantasies?’

Bill Gates appears via video conference – Microsoft Teams, not Zoom, obviously – from his office in Seattle, a large space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Washington. It’s a gloomy day outside and Gates is, somewhat eccentrically, positioned a long way from the camera, behind a large, kidney-shaped desk; his communications manager sits off to one side. If one had to stage, for the purposes of symbolism, a tableau of a man for whom a distance of 3,000 miles between callers still constitutes too intimate a setting, it might be this. “As a way to start,” says Gates’ aide, “would it be helpful for Bill to make a couple of comments about why he wrote his new book?” It is helpful, and I’m not ungrateful, but this is not how interviews typically commence.

There is an urge towards deference, when speaking to Gates, which attends few other people of commensurate fame. Celebrity is one thing, but wealth – true, former-richest-man-in-the-world wealth – is something else entirely; one has a sense of being granted an audience with the Great Man, a fact made more surreal by his famously muted persona.

The 65-year-old has the lofty, mildly longsuffering air of a man accustomed to being the smartest guy in the room, leavened by wry amusement and interrupted, on the evidence of past interviews, by the occasional peevish outburst – most memorably in 2014, when Jeremy Paxman questioned him about Microsoft’s alleged tax avoidance. (“I think that’s about as incorrect a characterisation of anything I’ve ever heard,” he said, practically squirming in his seat with annoyance.)

Gates loves private jets; he calls them his ‘guilty pleasure’. He loves hamburgers and eating grapes year-round

Unlike the Elon Musks or Larry Ellisons of this world, however, Gates is perceived to be sensible, uxorious, modest, vowing not to ruin his children with boundless inheritance or to waste energy trying to send things to Mars. In the late 1990s, the US government brought an antitrust suit against Microsoft, accusing it of maintaining a monopoly in the PC market; a final settlement in 2001 overturned an earlier order for the company to be broken up. Since then, Gates has enjoyed a reputation as the Good Billionaire, dispensing a fortune through his foundation and overshadowing what his detractors would say is his biggest shortcoming: his unquestioning belief in progress as a function of capitalist growth.

Extracted from The Guardian Emma Brockes

Ugly Truth February 18th 2021

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Climate change: US needs to brace itself for more deadly storms, experts say; Power outages linger for millions as another icy storm looms

People seemed surprised. News footage featured an hysterical young woman who seemed shocked that heavy snow had taken her house roof away. Women and blacks are brainwashed by the ruling elite into believing their only problem is working class white men. They don’t see the bigger picture.

They are brainwashed from an early age not to see the biiger picture or develop dangerous individuality. The ruling elite and toadying lackey police have to be able to profile, predict and control the masses. Ultimately , this little global clique are incompetent because they are preoccupied with their power, pleasure , privilege and underlying wealth.
R.J Cook

Deadly weather will be battering the United States more often and America needs to get better at dealing with it, experts said as Texas and other states battled winter storms that blew past the worst-case planning of utilities and governments, leaving millions to shiver.

The storms fit a pattern of worsening extremes under climate change and demonstrated anew that local, state and federal officials have failed to do enough to prepare for more dangerous weather, Matthew Daly and Ellen Knickmeyer report.

The crisis sounded an alarm for power systems throughout the country to plan for severe conditions even beyond historical trends. Experts say a lot needs to be done to prepare better for the future storms sure to come.

All of this comes on top of Covid restrictions, massively increased unemployment and shortened life span.

The Storm & Fallout: Millions of Americans endured another frigid day without electricity or heat after the deadly winter storm. The situation put pressure on utility crews to restore power before another blast of snow and ice sowed more chaos. Nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. were still without electricity, and some also had no water service, Paul J. Weber in Austin and Jill Bleed in Little Rock report.

All it needs is fairy lights in this politically correct wonderland.

Texas officials ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes. That’s a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state. The latest storm was certain to complicate recovery efforts, especially in states unaccustomed to such weather. 

Whatever next ? Don’t worry Batty Man Biden and Wonder Woman Harris will sort eveerything out. Biden promised more windmills. In this big freeze , they have all frtozen up like Biden’s expression..

VIDEO: Thousands still without power, water in Texas.

VIDEO: 3,500 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Texas.

EXPLAINER: Why the power grid failed in Texas and beyond.

What Canada can learn from Germany’s mass, unplanned migration Posted February 14th 2021

Five years ago, more than a million refugees arrived in Germany. Today, many are working full-time. Here are the lessons Canada can learn from what went right—and wrong—in Germany.

By Sadiya Ansari February 2, 2021 Shmayess (right) left Syria for Görlitz, Germany, in 2015; his wife, Ammar, joined him a year later and the couple recently opened a restaurant (Photograph by Sadiya Ansari)

Shmayess (right) left Syria for Görlitz, Germany, in 2015; his wife, Ammar, joined him a year later and the couple recently opened a restaurant (Photograph by Sadiya Ansari)

When Sami Shmayess was visiting his parents in his hometown of Latakia, Syria, in 2008, he met a German family who were on a year-long trip in their van. Long stretches of beach on the Mediterranean coast made the port city a popular holiday destination, and it was on a walk by the water where Shmayess’s parents spotted the Germans and invited them over for dinner and a hot shower. Shmayess quickly became friends with them. Eight years later, it was their turn to invite Shmayess to stay with them in Görlitz, a small city in the eastern part of Germany. But the circumstances of his travel were quite different—and likely permanent.

In 2015, as the civil war in Syria stretched into its fifth year, Shmayess decided to leave. “I had to give up everything and start over,” he tells me on a fall afternoon, sitting in the restaurant he and his wife had opened in Görlitz’s city centre just over a week earlier. Now 38, Shmayess is soft-spoken with bright brown eyes behind square glasses, maintaining calm in his voice even as he describes the most difficult decision he will likely make in his life.

“I didn’t want to spend the next [few] years fleeing from one place to another,” says Shmayess. That’s why he chose Germany—Chancellor Angela Merkel had just opened the borders, it was booming economically and his skills as an IT specialist were in high demand. He began learning German five days after arriving, found a job in his field within six months, and after a year, brought his wife, Etab Ammar, over.

READ: Why race and immigration are a gathering storm in Canadian politics

Germany’s economy and sustained support from civil society are just two of the factors that helped the country manage the arrival of over one million asylum seekers between 2014 and 2016, the largest number the country has seen since the end of the Second World War. Ramping up its capacity to process asylum claims and increasing access to language and integration courses were also important to Germany’s success. Some Germans had especially high hopes that newcomers would counteract the country’s low birth rate, which, similar to Canada’s, poses the dual threat of labour shortages and an inability to fund growing social security costs. In 2015, Dieter Zetsche, then-head of Daimler, went as far as to propose that refugees may be “Germany’s next economic miracle.”

But not everyone in Germany was optimistic about mass migration. Many warned that the influx would create a crisis in the form of dependence on welfare and long-term poverty as migrants got stuck in precarious jobs.

The federal Institute for Employment Research (IAB) examined the claim that the migration would “overstrain” the capacity of both the German economy and society. “The empirical evidence has—contrary to the expectations—given no indications that the influx of refugees in 2015 led to a ‘refugee crisis’ in Germany,” reads the 2020 study, published in the journal Soziale Welt. Looking at a detailed survey of a representative group of refugees who arrived between 2013 and 2016, the authors found that the demographic profile—69 per cent were under 35—was “likely to facilitate, rather than hinder, labour market integration.”

A separate report by the IAB based on the same survey of refugees found that within five years of arriving, half of asylum seekers were employed, and by the end of 2018, 23 per cent had enrolled in education or training opportunities and 57 per cent were working in skilled professions. This is remarkable, considering that in 2017, Aydan Özoğuz, Germany’s commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, predicted up to three-quarters of refugees would still be unemployed in five years. It’s also impressive given not only the barriers immigrants face, but also that this was a high-needs population that didn’t plan or prepare for such a move—only one per cent of those surveyed who arrived between 2013 and 2016 spoke German.

The perception that “too much” immigration will strain a country’s ability to absorb migrants is certainly not unique to Germany. Canada is seen as managing this concern through its focus on economic migration. Part of why the Canadian system is lauded internationally is that it primarily targets economic migrants, who are hand-picked based on a points system that assesses applicants according to their language abilities, education level and work experience.

The underlying assumption of the points system is that it eases the transition into Canada, and particularly into the labour market. And yet, Canada has an underemployment problem. A 2020 report from Public Policy Forum, for instance, notes that immigrants are overrepresented in lower-paying jobs, such as those in accommodation and food services “where the average pay is $383 per week compared to $976 per week across all industries.” Unrecognized foreign credentials, devalued work experience and individual discrimination all contribute to this.

But what about those who arrive under different circumstances, who are admitted based on what they need, rather than how they might benefit a country’s GDP? Refugees are a small proportion of those that Canada takes in, and the economic integration of this group is understudied. Germany—which also carefully targets economic migrants (2015’s open border policy was an aberration)—offers a window into what can happen when a wealthy Western country undergoes a mass migration without assessing the migrants’ potential for the labour market.

The last decade has shown that the number of people migrating is growing. Globally, there were 79.5 million people forcibly displaced at the end of 2019. War, famine and persecution are among the reasons behind this movement. More than 13 million have fled their homes in Syria since 2011. And climate change will certainly be a factor—it could force 143 million from their home countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa by 2050, according to a 2018 World Bank report.

In a world where migration, especially unplanned movement, is on the rise, what lessons can countries like Canada draw from what went well—and what didn’t—in the German case?

***

Görlitz sits on Germany’s border with Poland, the Neisse river separating the two countries. It’s home to 55,000, with cobblestone streets, centuries-old churches and charming heritage buildings—4,000 of them—the result of being one of the few cities that wasn’t blown apart in the Second World War. If it sounds quintessentially European, it’s because Hollywood has imprinted this image in North Americans’ minds; films like The Reader, Inglourious Basterds and The Grand Budapest Hotel were all shot here. It has advantages over a big city in appealing to young families looking for a place to settle down: less congestion, better and cheaper housing options and more green space. But the city has challenges, too: the loss of a quarter of its population since reunification, a high unemployment rate and one of the country’s highest rates of support for anti-immigrant political party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Despite the city’s high unemployment rate, there is still a need to attract workers. In the early ’90s, industry collapsed in eastern Germany as a result of the fall of the socialist regime. “Everyone was oriented westwards,” says Eva Wittig, head of marketing at a city-owned organization. Mass migration out of the east continues, she adds, with parents and grandparents still encouraging young people to leave, leading to a hollowing out of the labour market.

Malek Alnajem is exactly the kind of person the city wants to attract, arriving in Görlitz at age 34 from Homs, Syria, with his wife, eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. But unlike Shmayess, Alnajem didn’t choose this city. Since the 1970s, the federal government has had a system called Königsteiner Schlüssel, which assigns asylum seekers to each state in proportion to their populations, and the states further assign asylum seekers to regions and municipalities. Görlitz received 1,200 asylum seekers in 2015 as a result. While Canada has a similar system of assigning government-assisted refugees, it’s far less stringent.

Alnajem was nervous when he was assigned to Görlitz because he heard it was home to “many Nazis” as part of the former East Germany, which historically had a dearth of in-bound migration. What has kept him there is a training program with the local Red Cross to become certified as a child care worker and educator.

In Syria, Alnajem worked as a gym teacher for 14 years, but in Germany his diploma wasn’t recognized. He was advised by a career counsellor that he would have to go back to school for eight years in order to earn equivalent qualifications. Alnajem’s counsellor tapped a personal connection to help him secure a spot in the Red Cross program, which guarantees him a small income; now, he’s set to finish in 2023. Three days a week he works at a daycare centre with school-aged children, and the other two days he attends classes.

The dual vocational program is one of 330 in the country. The system pays trainees—908 euros a month on average—and combines in-class experience in a publicly funded institution with apprenticeships. Training typically takes two to 3½ years. Unlike in Canada, where professions are regulated at the provincial level, these programs are standardized across the country, providing national recognition.

Alnajem’s eventual qualification as a child care worker lands him in one of the most in-demand careers in Germany. But he would much rather be teaching at school. “I’m doing [this] out of necessity,” says Alnajem.

READ: Canada’s uncomfortable reliance on migrant workers

Etab Ammar also trained as a teacher in Syria, but she hasn’t been able to qualify as one in Germany. “Although it is the same [profession], it is very different here,” she says. “I had a hope to continue, but not anymore.” A tough pregnancy and the birth of her son Andreas in 2017 meant Ammar wasn’t able to keep up with the requisite language and integration courses to retrain as a teacher in Germany.

Unfortunately, Ammar’s experience is common among women who arrive in Germany as mothers to preschool children. An IAB study found that, compared to men, women “enter their first job in German significantly more slowly.” There is a lag in language acquisition, which then turns into a lag in finding work, one notable enough that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the IAB have both flagged it as a structural issue that needs to be addressed.

Similar to Canada, Germany’s poor recognition of foreign credentials is known to create major obstacles for people like Alnajem and Ammar. “The research shows occupational recognition is very important for labour market success—it increases the probability of job entry, and increases wages significantly,” says Yuliya Kosyakova, a senior researcher specializing in migration at the IAB. Germany has invested to rectify this problem, resulting in a growing number of qualifications being recognized in the last few years, especially in medical fields.

But there remains the problem of experience not being recognized. This is evident in occupations that are part of Germany’s dual vocational system, particularly where formal certification is required for jobs like housekeeper, tailor or gardener. This system “barely exists” anywhere else, says Kosyakova, which means it’s hard to prove equivalent credentials.

Ultimately, the system “makes it really difficult to enter many jobs,” says Kosyakova. As a new immigrant, and especially as a refugee, spending two to three years forgoing a full-time income after doing months of language classes is a tough choice to make. For many, this situation is a barrier to applying their skills in the German labour market.

One of the challenges both for migrants and governments in evolving economies is matching labour market needs to qualifications. That’s what one federally funded pilot project in Nuremberg aimed to do—provide focused, individual help to mid-career refugees to find positions matching their skills and experience. The project, called Enter, ran from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2018, working with 50 refugees and 10 companies and eventually placing 31 people in jobs. Project managers first sat with refugees to understand their experience, education and hopes for the future. Then they helped in many ways, including calling up potential employers to help the refugee learn what the job would be like and introducing the candidate to the employer.

“That was very good, actually, because we found out whether there are companies that are not really open-minded for foreign employees,” said Marion Bradl, who designed and ran the project. She sees the pilot as a success, and says one thing is clear: “The more support and contact the refugees had to German society, the more successful their integration.”

***

Sitting outside a shisha café on a warm autumn evening, Ramadan Alzaher tells me about settling in Berlin, arriving from Syria via Turkey. He came in 2015 at age 23, alone. But he had a bit of a network in the city—a friend’s address to hand to a taxi driver after making the long journey by boat and train, and another friend to share an apartment. He was even able to train for a new career as a lifeguard with five other refugees who also spoke Arabic.

Berlin is seen as a haven for immigrants. As an extremely diverse city of 3.6 million, it often offers a built-in community and the chance to speak your language and eat familiar food while trying to adjust to a new culture. And yet, research on the benefits of immigrants having an ethnic network is mixed. Kosyakova and Klarita Gërxhani at the IAB examined labour market outcomes for those arriving in Germany between 2009 and 2013, and found that if a migrant used their network to find work, it helped them land a job faster (though having a network alone was not enough). At the same time, it didn’t improve the quality of jobs held by respondents, which was measured by hourly wage.

Diversifying the network you rely on can help. And one way to do that is through “integration mentors,” says Michael Haas-Busch from Caritas Berlin, a national social service organization of the Catholic Church.

Integration mentors are both paid and voluntary, and provide the kind of one-on-one assistance that social service agencies can’t: accompanying people to appointments with various authorities, helping them apply for school and connecting them to jobs. “Through these people, refugees have access to society—they get to know people, they have a network, they can get support for housing,” says Haas-Busch, who coordinates volunteers for this kind of work among 20 or so parishes in Berlin.Alzaher in Berlin; after getting a job offer, he waited two months for his approval to work (Gordon Welters)

Alzaher in Berlin; after getting a job offer, he waited two months for his approval to work (Gordon Welters)

There’s some evidence in Canada that having access to a network boosts integration prospects. Privately sponsored refugees were found to do better than government-assisted refugees in terms of income over time in a 2019 Statistics Canada study looking at refugee labour-market integration from 1980 to 2009. “Privately sponsored refugees have a closer relationship with their Canadian sponsors immediately after entry,” write Garnett Picot, Yan Zhang and Feng Hou. “This may assist in job searches, training and language acquisition and provide them with an earnings advantage.”

In 2019, the Canadian government released a report examining the integration of the 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived between November 2015 and March 2016. It found that in 2016, 40 per cent of the privately sponsored refugees were working, compared to 15 per cent of government-assisted refugees. But it’s hard to make direct comparisons between these groups since they have different profiles, says Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, noting that privately sponsored refugees tend to be better educated.

READ: How Syrian refugees to Canada have fared since 2015

The Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) launched a study to examine the impact of a mentorship between a refugee and a German. They partnered with a non-profit organization called Start With a Friend (SWaF) that pairs refugees with locals who commit to meeting for two to three hours a week for at least six months. The researchers randomized invitations to refugees who had arrived between 2014 and 2016 and then compared the results to a control group.

After one year, there were two encouraging findings: first, the program improved refugees’ German by the equivalent of an additional year; and second, refugees who had mentors were more socially active—more likely to join a sports team or go to the movies, for instance, than those who didn’t. Magdalena Krieger, a researcher at DIW, notes that while it appears one year isn’t enough to see results on labour market outcomes, these findings are significant indicators of integration. “The programs really do have an impact on refugees’ lives,” says Krieger. “Also, the mentors report that they find the relationship enriching. Many say ‘this [person] has become my friend,’ which I find very beautiful.”

***

Nuremberg mirrors Görlitz in its quaint beauty. The city was rebuilt after the war in its signature red sandstone, and despite its small-town feel, has about 10 times the population of Görlitz. It has a high proportion of foreign-born residents, is home to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) field office in Germany and sits in the state of Bavaria, which has one of the country’s strongest economies. But the state is facing a projected skilled-worker shortage as large as Nuremberg—542,000 people—by 2030.

Rebaz Rizgar left Iraq with his uncle when he was 16, but ended up in Nuremberg alone. His uncle went on to England while Rizgar stayed in Germany, where he believed there would be a better opportunity to be educated. The 21-year-old is Kurdish from Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a territory that has been disputed for decades and was further destabilized by an ISIS takeover in 2014.

Rizgar is one of 50,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived in Germany between 2015 and 2016. The paradox of unaccompanied minors is that their age makes them more likely to take advantage of educational opportunities than older migrants, but their lack of family support makes them incredibly vulnerable.

Organizations across Germany help connect youth like Rizgar with guardians, and one in Nuremberg facilitated a meeting between him and Heike Wieland, a 58-year-old mediation expert living in the city with her husband and daughter, who is about Rizgar’s age. Even with a massive language barrier, Wieland could immediately tell how bright he was. After an initial meeting, Wieland and her husband had Rizgar over during the holidays for dinner and a sleigh ride. As she got to know him better and saw his living situation, Wieland decided to ask him to live with her family. “We were more or less complete strangers,” says Wieland. “[But] in my heart, I felt more or less like a mother.”Rizgar (left) with Wieland at home; ‘They’re also my family. They’ve accepted me,’ he says. (Sonja Och)

Rizgar (left) with Wieland at home; ‘They’re also my family. They’ve accepted me,’ he says. (Sonja Och)

Rizgar wasn’t looking for a second family; he just wanted to get out of his shared apartment. So he agreed. Both Rizgar and Wieland describe the beginning of the arrangement as “difficult.” Wieland would spend an hour with him every evening doing his schoolwork. Rizgar laughs at the awkwardness he felt at the breakfast table on account of his teenage appetite. It’s been three years since he moved in, and he no longer worries about how much he eats. “They’re also my family. They’ve accepted me. I am very happy to have lived with them,” he says. “They helped me a lot, also in my professional life.”

After language courses, Rizgar completed a bridging program for youth aged 16 to 21. He’s now completing a vocational training course in electrical engineering and metal construction, and has done practicums with Siemens and the energy company N-ERGIE. Wieland helped with his applications, knowing how particular German employers are about the format of cover letters and CVs. The end of his training program is in sight now. In July, Rizgar will complete the program and expects to stay on with N-ERGIE.

***

Kerstin Althaus works with asylum seekers who are in refugee housing in Nuremberg. The first thing she is often asked is how to find work, which sets her off on “detective work” to find out what she can about their experience, qualifications, hopes and, of course, their status.

When asked what would make it easier for them to find employment, she was unequivocal: “The first thing that ought to change is that in general everyone [should] receive permission to work—if refugees were allowed to work from the beginning, it would eliminate many problems.”

Insecure residence status is a major barrier to being able to work. And it’s all too common among refugees in Germany. Eighty per cent of those granted protection status—which amounts to permission to remain in the country—by the end of 2019 nevertheless faced a time limit. There are a dizzying number of different statuses held by refugees in Germany, and most of them leave people in some kind of economic limbo.

Perhaps the biggest advantage Shmayess had over Alnajem, Alzaher and Rizgar was that he received asylum status almost immediately, granting him permission to work.

While waiting for asylum status to be approved, asylum seekers can’t work for the first three months. Upon receiving a job offer, they require approval to work from an immigration office, or Ausländerbehörde. Alzaher waited two months for that approval after receiving an offer of employment. Those like Alnajem, who are given subsidiary protection status and not asylum, have a renewable residence permit, initially for one year only. The proportion of applications receiving this status rose from one per cent in 2015 to 35 per cent in 2016. “It is very difficult for foreigners who only have subsidiary protection to find a job, because employers want them to stay here as long as possible,” says Joachim Trauboth, a retiree who works with refugees in Görlitz.

And if you make an asylum claim and are from what’s considered a safe country, you can’t work legally at all.

Shmayess’s job gave him more than economic security. It provided another layer of belonging, it gave him more contact with Germans, it helped him learn about the country’s working culture and, most importantly, it cemented his identity in Germany.

He thinks his story isn’t typical in part because of the unwavering support he received from his friends. But in a sense, his story is typical for those who have been able to secure a job and build a life in Germany. Because even when you are armed with motivation and an education, trying to solve bureaucratic puzzles, acquire a new language and crack foreign cultural codes all require help.

The German case of mass unplanned migration confirmed what research already showed—a strong economy, language and integration courses, and classic settlement counselling help newcomers find education or work opportunities. These factors are already taken into account by most immigrant-receiving countries, including Canada. What happened in Germany also confirmed what is known to not work well in many countries—lack of recognition of qualifications and experience, a gender gap in labour market participation and uncertainty in residence status acting as a barrier to entering the labour market.

But the standout lesson from Germany is seeing “two-way” integration in action. The swell of support from German civil society—a survey in 2016 showed 30 per cent reported providing donations, while 10 per cent said they personally helped refugees—is evidence of how well a two-way process can work. While there was similar support when the majority of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada between 2015 and 2016, the country simply has not seen migration at this scale. Canada took in 40,000 Syrian refugees; Germany took five times that number in November 2015 alone. And in recent history, no other country has opened its borders the way Germany did.

In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel famously said, “I’ll put it simply: Germany is a strong country . . . We can do this.”

And five years on, it appears Germany has.


Travel and translation costs for this story were supported by the IJP/ICFJ through the Richard Holbrooke Grant as part of the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship.

This article appears in print in the February 2021 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “The open border effect.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

Related There’s been no flood of Americans heading north. Well, not U.S. citizens at least. Why the b-word—bankruptcy—popped up in the Newfoundland election campaign COVID-19 in Canada: How our battle against the second wave is going 338Canada: Even Quebec’s heavy pandemic measures haven’t dented Legault’s lead How much of a ‘vaccine hole’ is Canada currently in?Powered by CanadaEditor’s PicksGermanyimmigrationrefugees

Mark Carney Warns of Global Disaster Posted February 6th 2021

The world is heading for mortality rates equivalent to the Covid crisis every year by mid-century unless action is taken, according to Mark Carney.

The former central banker said the investment needed to avert millions of deaths was double current rates.

But with governments ploughing billions into keeping economies afloat, a question mark hangs over whether the recovery will be green enough.

The answer lies in smarter investment, Mr Carney said.

‘We cannot retreat’

Mr Carney, who was the Bank of England governor up until last year, and the head of the Bank of Canada before that, is now the United Nations envoy for climate action and finance.

Just Look Posted February 4th 2021

Just look at what’s happening in Western Australia this week, one person working at a quarantine centre tested positive for covid, so the entire south west of the state, with an area much larger than Great Britain, with a population of 2,000,000 are forced into hard lockdown, (house arrest) with only four reasons to leave the house, shopping for essentials (only large chain stores allowed to open), medical appointments, 1 hour of exercise in your immediate area only, providing care for a disabled/elderly relative. Masks are mandatory every where outside your front door, with very few exemptions, (under 12 yo, or swimming, the government want the privilege of water boarding us), non compliance is $1,000 fine. Temperatures are around 37C that’s around 100F.

Australia’s Bushfires February 2021

So you can imagine how comfy that is walking around the streets with a mask on. All pubs, cafe’s and small shops closed, everyone is working from home that can. All kids playgrounds have been sealed off and closed, at this time of year with the intense sunlight every day the temperature of most play equipment can leave you with first degree burns, I doubt there are many viruses that would last more than a few seconds in that environment. In four days and tens of thousands of tests not a single extra case. On top of that, mandatory registration (track and trace) was introduced this week, applying to all shops, venues, churches, brothels, etc, actually everywhere outside of a private house. With a $50,000 /12 months jail for non compliance.

This tyrannical masterpiece doesn’t even mention covid in its name it’s just the SafeWA app, so it’s obviously intended to be a permanent way of life now for West Aussies, and don’t think the excuse of not having a smart phone will get you out of it, there is a pen and log book at every entrance. I wonder how hard it is to get residency in Tanzania. SF Global Correspondent for RCONB/Planet Eaters

Locusts; or A Tale of Monstrous Foolishness

Catte Black

One day in a land far away and a time long gone a Priest came to where the Many were tending their crops and livestock and said…

“There are locusts coming and we must prepare!”

“But locusts come every year and all the years gone by”, the Many replied, “It is always so, why must we prepare?”

“These are not the locusts of all the years gone by,” the Priest said, “these are new and terrible locusts that I call by a New Name. We must prepare.”

“What do these new and terrible locusts with the New Name do?” the Many asked in great fear.

“Why,” said the Priest, “they consume a portion of our crops and then move on.”

The Many trembled in dread.

“But this is what locusts always do”, one man of the Many said, “why must we prepare this year when we never have before?”

The Priest regarded the one man of the Many.

“Did you not hear me?” he said. “These are not the old locusts of years gone by, these are new and terrible locusts and they have a New Name. We MUST PREPARE.”

“But what do the new and terrible locusts with the New Name do that is worse than the old locusts of years gone by?” the one man said.

“Why, are you a fool?” the priest cried. “Did I not tell you they consume our crops and then move on. We MUST PREPARE!”

“Yes, we must prepare!” cried the many in unison, though they did not know what this required.

“I do not understand”, the one man of the Many persisted, “do these new and terrible locusts look different from the old locusts of years gone by?”

“I have not said that,” the Priest replied.

“Do they consume more of our crops than did the old locusts of years gone by?”

“I have made no such claim,” the Priest replied.

“Then if the new and terrible locusts do not look different from the old locusts of years gone by and do not consume any more of our crops than the old locusts of years gone by, how are they new and terrible?”

At this the Priest grew wrathful with a priestly wrath.

“Who are you little man to put others at risk with these questions? Have I not told you these are new and terrible locusts and HAVE A NEW NAME?”

And the Many turned to the one man and said “Yes, fool, do not put others at risk with these questions. The Priest has told you – the new and terrible locusts HAVE A NEW NAME! Be silent in your foolishness and let the Priest tell us how we should prepare.”

And then they turned as one to the Priest and knelt before him and begged: “Oh wise one, tell us how we must prepare against the new and terrible locusts.”

So the Priest stood before them and said…

“I have spoken with great minds and with the gods, and they have told me the only way to prepare against the new and terrible locusts is to wear these hats of Monstrous Foolishness…”

…and he held a hat aloft of such exceeding monstrous foolishness that the Many were dismayed…

“Oh great one, how will the wearing of these hats of Monstrous Foolishness save us from the new and terrible locusts?” they cried.

“The great minds and the gods have studied the question and that is sufficient”, the Priest replied. “All those who have care for others will wear these hats and together we will save ourselves from the new and terrible locusts.”

The Many looked at one another and saw the wisdom of the Priest’s words, and willingly placed the hats of Monstrous Foolishness upon their heads and went back to tending their crops and their livestock, happy that they had been saved.

~ * ~

The next day the Priest came back to where the Many were tending their crops and livestock and wearing their hats of Monstrous Foolishness and said…

“Alas, I have spoken further with great minds and with the gods and they tell me the wearing of the hats of Monstrous Foolishness is not enough to save us from the new and terrible locusts. More is needed”.

The Many turned to the Priest in great alarm and cried, “oh wise one, tell us what we must do! to save us from the new and terrible locusts”

“It is this”, the Priest said, “to save us from the new and terrible locusts you must burn your crops to the ground before they can be eaten!”

“Thank you oh wise one!” the Many cried.

“Wait”, the one man of the Many said, “how will burning our crops to the ground before they can be eaten save them from the new and terrible locusts?”

“Foolish one,” the Priest answered, ” do you not understand the new and terrible locusts will pass us by if our crops are all gone?”

“But”, said the man, “you said to me that the new and terrible locusts will eat no more than the old locusts of years gone by.”

“That is true”, said the Priest.

“So, if we let the new and terrible locusts eat their fill and move on we will still have most of our crops as in years gone by, but if we burn them to the ground we will have none”.

The Priest sighed and the Many sighed also, following his example.

“Do you care nothing for those whose crops will be eaten if we do nothing?” the Priest asked in indignation.

“Do you care NOTHING for the crops that will be eaten?” echoed the Many, in great indignation for the callousness of the man.

And they went into their fields and burned all their crops to the ground so that a portion would not be eaten by the new and terrible locusts.

“But what will we do for bread,” asked the man, “now all our crops are burned to the ground?”

The Many looked troubled at this, for truly that question had not occurred to them. They turned to the Priest for answer.

“Sacrifices must be made, in times of need”, the Priest said.

“Yes”, the Many agreed, finding he spoke the very words they had in their own minds, “sacrifices must be made – and at least we are now safe from the new and terrible locusts!”

“I see the Priest has not burned HIS crops to the ground,” said the one man of the Many, “why is this?”

The Many turned to him at this and said “be silent, fool, enough of your nonsense, the Priest has spoken with great minds and with the gods and he knows best how to save us from the new and terrible locusts. All praise to our Priest and his wisdom.”

~ * ~

Next day the Priest came back to where the people were wearing their hats of Monstrous Foolishness standing in their burned fields and tending their livestock and said…

“Alas, I have spoken further with the gods and great minds and they tell me wearing the hats of Monstrous Foolishness and burning the crops to the ground is not enough to save us from the new and terrible locusts! We must also slaughter all our livestock and let their blood water the earth”.

“How will slaughtering livestock and letting their blood water the earth save us from locusts?” the one man of the Many asked.

The Many were indeed somewhat troubled by this new question and they turned to the Priest for answer.

“Do you not hear me say these are new and terrible locusts?”, the Priest said in his kindly voice. “Do you not understand that new ways must be found to save us from them?”

The Many looked relieved at this and found, once again, the Priest had spoken the very thoughts in their own minds. And so they willingly slaughtered their livestock and let the blood water the earth and rejoiced that they were now finally saved from the new and terrible locusts.

~ * ~

The Priest came a fourth time to where the people were sitting in their burned fields newly watered with the blood of their livestock, wearing their hats of Monstrous Foolishness, and he saw some were dead or dying.

“Alas,”, he said, “because of the incursions of the new and terrible locusts, we now have no bread and no meat and no milk, and even the wearing of the hats of Monstrous Foolishness, the burning of the crops and the slaying of the livestock has not been enough to save us, for see how many are dying.”

At this there was great fear and despair among the Many.

“Oh woe,” they cried, “truly these new and terrible locusts are a deadly scourge for look how many people are now dying despite all that we have done!”

And they turned to the Priest and begged “tell us oh wise one what must be done to save us from the new and terrible locusts that are killing us despite all we have done!”

“Truly”, said the Priest in great sadness, “this land is so scorched and devoured by the new and terrible locusts that nothing remains to be done but to leave our old lives behind and begin again in a new state of equity. You must come to my compound where I will protect you. I have a little food in my own storehouses, which you may have a portion of if you work for the common good by cleaning my house and tending my crops and livestock”.

“Thank you oh wise one!” the Many cried, and prepared to follow the Priest to the safety of his compound.

“Wait”, cried the one man of the Many, “it was not the new and terrible locusts that took away our food, it was us at your command, and now you want to make us your slaves?”

The Priest shook his head in pity, and the Many followed his example.

“What must be done with such persistent ignorance?” he demanded.

“Terrible persistent ignorance”, agreed the Many in unison.

And the Priest said:

“Do you not understand, that if we had NOT worn the hats of Monstrous Foolishness and burned down our crops and killed our livestock the new and terrible locusts would have made things far, far worse than they are now?”

“How?” asked the one man of the Many.

The priest chuckled and the Many followed his example.

“Why, simple fool, because the new and terrible locusts are new and terrible and have a NEW NAME!”

“A new name!” the Many echoed looking in disbelief at the one man who did not understand what this meant.

And then they turned and filed into the Priest’s compound in their hats of Monstrous Foolishness, to work for the common good by tending the Priest’s crops and livestock and cleaning the Priest’s house and singing songs of hope for their new beginning that the Priest’s scribes had written for them to sing.

Meanwhile, the one man left alone in the barren and bloody fields set out alone to find another path and sing his own songs.

~ * ~