As your humble scribe, I welcome you all to another edition of Overnight News Digest.
I am most pleased to share this platform with jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, JLM9999 and side pocket. Additionally, I wish to recognize our alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb along with annetteboardman as our guest editor.
Neon Vincent is our editor-in-chief.
Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Pacific Islands Fighting For Survival As Sea Levels Rise
LONDON – Pacific islanders challenged world leaders this week to act on climate change, warning that their low-lying atolls are close to becoming uninhabitable because of rising seas and increasingly severe floods, droughts and storm surges.
“The Pacific is fighting for its survival. Climate change has already arrived,” said Christopher Loeak, president of the Marshall Islands, which host the Pacific islands’ annual summit, attended by most of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, including the United States, China and the European Union.
The Marshall Islands, a group of 29 atolls and coral islands standing on average only two meters above sea level, and lying halfway between Australia and Hawaii, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this year the president declared a state of emergency following a simultaneous drought and some of the worst floods ever experienced. A freak tide nearly destroyed the capital Majuro, breaching its sea walls and flooding the airport runway. The drought left 6,000 people surviving on less than 1 liter of water per day.
Many other small island Pacific “microstates,” including the Solomons, Tuvalu and the Carteret Islands, have all suffered rapid erosion, higher tides, storm surges and inundation of wells with seawater. Earlier this year Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, predicted his country was likely to become uninhabitable between 30 and 60 years from now because of inundation and contamination of its freshwater supplies. Many of its outer islands are being invaded by the sea and people are flocking to the capital, South Tarawa. The state has plans to buy 2,000 hectares of land in Fiji to grow food for itself and possibly to act as a new island home.
Wasted Food Around The World Takes Heavy Toll On Environment
It's one of the great paradoxes of our time: Hundreds of millions of people go hungry, and yet we waste a whopping 1.43 billion tons of food — one third of what we produce. Food waste is a problem in rich countries and poor countries alike, and it's happening throughout the supply chain — from the farm to the truck to the warehouse to the store to your refrigerator.
And, as we've reported before, not only are we missing the opportunity to feed hungry people with this food, we're also exacerbating the impact of food production on the environment.
A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization out Wednesday brings these impacts into sharper focus. And the message is clear: All that food we're allowing to rot is creating billions of tons of greenhouse gases, and costing us precious water and land. According to the FAO, each year, we lose a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River in all the food we throw away.
To figure out the world's food waste hot spots, the FAO created pairs of regions and commodities. When they crunched the numbers, they found that 6 out of the 10 pairs with the highest waste were in Asia. At the top was vegetables from industrialized Asia (China, Japan and Korea), followed by cereals (including rice) from those three countries. In all, 6 out of 10 pairs were Asian.
Obama Said to Ban New Coal Plants Without Carbon Controls
New coal plants would need to install expensive equipment to limit climate-change emissions under a proposal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is close to issuing, according to people familiar with the plan.
The EPA agreed to revise a similar proposal from last year in response to opposition by utilities and mining companies that said it would effectively kill new coal generation. The new version will be structured differently, though it offers little solace to them, according to the people who have been briefed and who asked not to be identified before the public release.
Carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the Earth’s temperature in the past 50 years, worsening forest fires, drought and coastal flooding, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
To deal with the threat, President Barack Obama directed the EPA to cap carbon pollution from power plants, which account for 40 percent of U.S. emissions. The first step is for the agency to issue rules for new plants. The more contentious rules would govern emissions from existing plants, and those aren’t scheduled to be issued until next year.
What Is This? Mysterious Amazon Web Baffles Scientists
A bizarre-looking web structure has been found in the Peruvian Amazon, and apparently nobody knows what it is, not even scientists.
The strange formation resembles a tiny spire surrounded by a webby picket fence and is about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) wide. Georgia Tech graduate student Troy Alexander first spotted one of these on the underside of a tarp near the Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon. At first he thought it might have been an aborted moth cocoon, he wrote on Reddit. But then he found several more, all of which looked quite similar.
If whatever produces this structure turns out to be a new species, it should come as no surprise — the world's rain forests are expected to perhaps contain millions of new species of arthropods (a group of animals with hard exoskeletons, which includes spiders and insects), according to various scientific estimates. One survey of arthropods in Panama's jungle, in an area about the size of Manhattan, found 25,000 species of insects, spiders and other arthropods, 70 percent of which were new to science. That study also found that there were 300 arthropod species for every one mammal species.
James Turrell Experiments With The 'Thingness Of Light Itself'
textThis is the year of American artist James Turrell. Three major museums collaborated to give this one man thousands of square feet of exhibition space. Turrell's work is all about space, and light and perception. Indeed, the three big shows in New York, Los Angeles and Houston are kind of a tease for his major life's work — the open air spaces at a volcano crater in Arizona.
[...at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art] He and a visitor slowly ascend ziggurat-shaped steps, as though walking up into an ancient temple — entering what he calls a light-filled void. From the outside, it looks like a rectangular space large enough for 20 people, but once inside, the ways Turrell has hidden the light sources and cast light of uniform color and brightness all around, makes the walls, floor and ceiling seem to disappear in subtly shifting fuchsias, aquas and pinks. It's the light you see inside closed eyelids.
"We know light like this, but we just don't generally see it with our eyes open," Turrell says. "However, everyone that talks about the near-death experience, or enlightenment or samatha, always does this in a vocabulary of light. "
Forty years ago, Turrell flew over the American West, spied an extinct volcanic crater in northern Arizona and bought it. He's spent more than 30 years moving earth to create light-filled spaces and a naked eye observatory to convey the vastness of the universe. It's called Roden Crater and could be a contemporary Stone Henge or Machu Picchu. Christine Kim, co-curator of the LACMA show, hopes that Turrell, who just turned 70, can see it completed.
Perspective Researchers can accurately estimate a person's economic status just by learning which environmental toxins are in his body, concluded a University of Exeter (England) research team recently, using U.S. data. Although "both rich and poor Americans are walking waste dumps," wrote the website Quartz, reporting the conclusions, poorer people's typical food leaves lead, cadmium and the banned bisphenol-A, whereas richer people more likely accumulate heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, thallium) from aquatic lean protein (and acquire oxybenzone from the active ingredient in sunscreens). Previous research was thought to show that richer Americans ate healthier (for example, eating fruits and vegetables instead of canned foods), but the Exeter research shows they merely house different toxins.
Bill Moyers and Company:
Guest Host Phil Donahue
-O- Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos
Historian and Analyst Andrew Bacevich