James Cameron Completes Record-Breaking Mariana Trench Dive
Explorer and filmmaker James Cameron reached the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean at 7:52 am Monday local time (2152 GMT Sunday) in his specially designed submersible. He is the first person to dive there solo and reach a depth of 35,756 feet (10,898 meters), since it was initially explored in 1960.
The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, the submersible which Cameron helped design, is a “vertical torpedo” of sorts which already successfully completed an unpiloted dive on Friday. Cameron planned to spend up to six hours on the Pacific Ocean sea floor, collecting samples for scientific research and taking still photographs and moving images.
His goal was to become the first human to visit the ocean’s deepest point in more than 50 years, and to bring back data and specimens. He was expected to take 3D images that could help scientists better understand the unexplored part of the earth.
Cameron described his journey to the bottom of the Marianas Trench — nearly 7 miles down in a dark freezing and alien place: he says the last frontier on Earth looks an awful lot like another planet: desolate and foreboding.
Cameron says he worried about being too busy with exploration duties to take in just how amazing this place was. That happened to Apollo astronauts. So he says he took time to stare at the moon-like barren surface and to appreciate how alien it is. [Watch video]
Learn more about the expedition at the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE official site →
The United Nations has completed the first global assessment of the state of the planet’s land resources, finding in a report that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world’s growing population is to be fed.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that farmers will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world’s expected 9-billion-strong population. That amounts to 1bn tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200m more tonnes of beef and other livestock.
But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water.
This means that to meet the world’s future food needs, a major “sustainable intensification” of agricultural productivity on existing farmland will be necessary, the FAO said in its report, State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture.
The report found that climate change coupled with poor farming practices had contributed to a decrease in productivity of the world’s farmland following the boom years of the “green revolution”, when crop yields soared thanks to new technologies, pesticides and the introduction of high-yield crops.
Thanks to the green revolution, the world’s cropland grew by just 12% but food productivity increased by 150% between 1961 and 2009.
But the UN report found that rates of growth had been slowing down in many areas and today were only half of what they were at the peak of the green revolution.
It found that 25% of the world’s farmland was now “highly degraded” with soil erosion, water degradation and biodiversity loss. Another 8% was moderately degraded, while 36% was stable or slightly degraded and 10% was ranked as “improving”.
The report found that water around the world was becoming ever more scarce and salinated, while groundwater was becoming more polluted by agricultural runoff and other toxins.
In order to meet the world’s water needs in 2050, irrigation must become more efficient because most systems perform well below their capacity, the FAO said.
The agency called for new farming practices such as integrated irrigation and fish-farm systems, as well as overall investment in agricultural development.
The investment deemed necessary until 2050 is $1tn (£642bn) for irrigation water management for developing countries alone, with another $160bn for soil conservation and flood control.
BREAKING! Huge Chevron oil spill/leak off coast of Brazil. Looks like a blowout similar to last year’s BP Gulf spill. Transocean is involved(!). 18 emergency ships have been deployed to the site. Chevron originally reported the oil was seeping from cracks in the sea-floor, but has back-tracked and stopped drilling operations. More soon.
The murder of the Gulf of Mexico by BP shouldn’t surprise us. It is precisely what industrial capitalism does. Years ago I wrote of the catastrophe in Bhopal: when you intentionally fabricate bulk industrial chemicals, many of which are toxic, it should not qualify as an accident when some of these chemicals kill people. Likewise, the spill in the Gulf should not be considered an accident. There are 10,000 oil spills per year. Oil has devastated the Amazon. It has devastated the Niger Delta. It has devastated the Gulf of Mexico.
Likewise, after the catastrophe at Bhopal, it was discovered that there was no antidote for the poison. One advocate for the victims noted sensibly: “No one should be allowed to make poisons for which there is no antidote.” The same is true for the other destructive activities of this culture.
And corporations will not voluntarily rein themselves in. Limited liability corporations exist in order to limit liability. Their function is to privatize profits and to externalize costs.
And governments will not voluntarily rein in corporations. A primary function of governments is to provide subsidies and to provide muscle for that privatization of profits and that externalization of costs.
Corporations and governments are murdering the planet. They will not stop on their own. It is incumbent upon us to stop them, to force accountability onto those sociopaths who are killing the planet. And failure is not an option. We must stop them.
Alaska considers aerial wolf kills
State officials are considering the controversial plan in an effort to boost moose populations in one of the state’s top tourist and recreation areas.
According to the conservation group, a survey of the animal’s natural habitat has yielded no living specimens, leading to the assessment that the last members of the subspecies had died.
In its report, the IUCN blamed “a lack of political support and willpower for conservation efforts” as well as commercial poaching for the Western Black Rhino’s extinction.
It warned that two other rhino subspecies, the Northern White Rhino and the Javan Rhino, were either perilously close to disappearing, or already extinct as well.
A large scale effort by the WWF to save the remaining Black Rhinos is presently underway. Current estimates suggest that a mere 4,240 Black Rhinos remain in the wild.
Watch a black rhino being transported by helicopter to a new range in South Africa’s Limpopo province below:
Asteroid 2005 YU55
An aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will make a safe, close flyby of Earth on Nov. 8, 2011.
Recent Blast Impacts Earth
A substantial coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the Sun early on Oct. 22, traveled across space at a good clip, and impacted Earth on Oct. 24, 2011, causing brilliant auroras across much of the world. In the U.S., aurora reached as far as far south as Alabama.
The video clip from STEREO Ahead spacecraft (orbiting about the Sun, more than 90 degrees ahead of Earth) shows the large, Earth-directed CME cloud erupting early on Oct. 22. Earth is out of the frame but roughly to the left in the images shown. Several other CMEs followed over the next day and a half. In these coronagraph images the Sun is represented by the white circle and the black disk is blocking out the coronal area close to the Sun, so that the fainter structures beyond that can be seen.
On a more serious matter, Thailand is experiencing it’s most violent flood in more than 50 years. In some places, the height of the floods have reached 2 metres and have drowned most one story houses.
On top of this, aquariums, wild life sanctuaries, zoos and crocodile farms have over flown. More than 300 people have died because of these floods. Food is scarce and businesses have closed down.
Please help Thailand by donating to the Red Cross here:
Or the World Vision emergency aid here. The minimum donation is $2:
(Or to Shelter Box here:
If you can’t spare your money, take honestly one minute of your time to reblog this and help spread the word. Pass this along to people who can afford to donate, or have a credit/debit card and let them know that Thailand needs your help.
Guys, if you can donate, please do.
On a personal note, my family lives in Klong Toey, Bangkok’s largest slum.
As far as I know, it’s underwater right now. My family at least is safe. We’ve heard from them since the flooding started and they’re in a shelter.
Even if you can’t donate, just signal boosting would mean a lot.
2011 Van Earthquake News Update of the Day: In the midst of devastation and mounting casualty figures, a moment of necessary hope: Two-week-old Azra Karaduman was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Erciş.
Her mother, who had been holding on to her baby girl for the past two days, was pulled out a short while later. Azra’s father remains missing.
Watch raw footage of the rescue below:
The death toll from this weekend’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake now stands at 432, with many more still buried under debris. At least 1,300 were injured; tens of thousands more have been displaced. Google has launched a Person Finder app for friends and family members worried about their loved ones.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised for refusing aid from dozens of countries, accepting only offers from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Iran.
A scientist tried to disprove the findings of climate-change activists and his results ended up proving his hypothesis wrong. What does that tell you? This is the unbiased study that we've been waiting for.
Eugene Robinson writes:
For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there. The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.
Protesters force Bolivian president to cancel controversial Amazon highway. Huge win for environmentalists and Amazon protection.
- Brazilian funded highway would have sliced through pristine Amazonian jungle
- Would have displaced Aymara and Quechua highland Indians
- “Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia…bowed to public pressure after a two-month protest march by Amazon Indians.”
- Ironically, Evo Morales is an Aymara Indian, and is famously/controversially known as having been elected with landslide support of indigenous groups
- Highway is in Orange in the above map
- Morales had vigorously supported the highway for months, causing tremendous uproar among his supporters
Sources: Al Jazeera, Bolivia Diary, Latin America Bureau
- Indians marched all across Bolivia in zig zags to garner public support against the highway
This is how battles are won. Congratulations to our Bolivian brothers and sisters.
‘Huge’ shark massacre reported in Colombia
Divers find 10 fishing boats and 2,000 dead sharks inside a marine preserve.
Post-Apocalyptic Scene of the Day: Thailand is currently experiencing its worst flooding in over half a century, as monsoon rains refuse to let up.
Bangkok, which has been spared the worst so far, braces for the possibility of submersion, particularly in its low-lying downtown area. Newly elected prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered residents to seek higher ground, and the government has begun opening floodgates to reduce pressure on dams and levees.
Many of the city’s citizens have taken to parking on the city’s elevated express way to avoid floodwater damage. The Rapture-like scene was caught on camera by a local resident, and uploaded to YouTube.
The prime minster has declared natural disaster law, and floodwaters are expected to reach the capital city overnight.
So at one point of the Republican “debate” last night, the mutually-interrupting blatherings of the various candidates turned to the Republican shibboleth that the United States has vast untapped resources of oil and gas and that if we just drilled for them—often in environmentally sensitive areas—we would no longer be in the thrall of big oil and/or nations like Saudi Arabia. Drill, baby. Drill.
Whatever the technical merits of this argument—as a political science professor, I make no claims to any expertise on how much oil and gas lies under American territory—it is utterly and absolutely wrong in its business model. (Which is quite something from the party that claims to “get” business.)
There is simply no such thing as “American” oil.
Think about it: if we start drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, or in the deep(er) waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or your back yard, or mine, who, actually, will do the drilling? The United States?
Of course not. The oil or gas is drilled by corporations of various sizes ranging from wildcat, low-budget start up operations through Exxon/Mobil. If such companies wish to drill on land owned by the federal government, they have to pay the US a licensing fee. (And not much of one, as it happens—in order to encourage speculative drilling, fees are low since most wells don’t pay off.)
This, by the way, is exactly what these companies have to do if they want to drill on land owned by a state government—or by you and me. They pay us a fee and drill.
The thing is, the stuff that comes out of a successful well doesn’t belong to you and me. Or the state or federal government. It’s owned by the company that drilled for it, produced it, and shipped it to market. It’s not “America’s oil.” It’s Exxon’s. And BP’s. And Shell’s.
And believe me: Exxon doesn’t think of it as “American oil.” They think of it as a commodity sold on a hyper-competitive global market. If American refineries will pay an oil company $80 a barrel, but Chinese refineries will pay $100 a barrel, the oil gets shipped to China—regardless of where it is drilled. While increased US production might—might!—reduce prices by increasing the supply of oil available on the global market, it’s not because the oil was drilled in America. It’s because increases in supply led to decreases in prices.
(Note that major producers like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela can easily offset any price reductions on the global market related to increased American oil production simply by reducing the amount of oil they produce themselves. Ever heard of OPEC, anyone?)
At the end of the day, the “drill, baby, drill” people aren’t trying to make sure “American” oil stays in “America.” They’re trying to give oil companies more chances to extract oil to sell on the global market at a profit. “Drill, baby, drill” isn’t a “buy American” campaign. It’s a “make money for the oil companies campaign.”
The only “American” oil is the stuff in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Or what’s in your gas tank. And we only have that because we bought it on the global market—just like we will in “drill, baby, drill” America.
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