Two months in, Porter Ranch [California] gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill: More than 1,800 families have been relocated by the gas company and more than 1,000 remain on a waiting list. Some say they can’t remember a displacement of residents this large since the Northridge earthquake in 1994, when 20,000 people were left homeless. Two local elementary schools have been impacted, with nearly 2,000 schoolchildren and staff slated to be moved to other schools in January. Enough methane gas is being released to fill the Empire State building each day, state officials have said, and the concern has even reached the Federal Aviation Administration, which issued temporary flight restrictions over the area for small aircraft and helicopters. [more inside]
Bangladesh is struggling to clean up an oil spill that threatens environmental damage in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to rare Bengal tigers and river dolphins. [more inside]
24 million gallons of jet fuel have been leaking from Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base for 60 some years. And nobody seems very concerned about it.
For several months, bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands has been leaching out of the ground near Cold Lake, Alberta, so far amounting to roughly half of the oil leaked in the Enbridge-caused disaster in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Nearby sites of high-pressure steam injection used to extract the bitumen (and which is already associated with violent seismic activity in natural gas fracking operations) are suspected to have caused fractures that push bitumen "sideways" and out to the surface. As Vice reporter Sarah Berman notes, "The oozing leaks will continue until the underground pressure subsides. How long that will take is anybody’s guess." While tons of contaminated vegetation and dead animals have been removed from the sites, access to the region and to government data by First Nation representatives has been repeatedly denied.
Australia is copping another pounding from natural disasters. After the floods across Brisbane (previously) in South-east Queensland, North Queensland is in the firing line for a Category 5 cyclone called Yasi. The official warning: THIS IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE MORE LIFE THREATENING THAN ANY EXPERIENCED DURING RECENT GENERATIONS. [more inside]
How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
Dystopian storytelling is pillar of Western narrative tradition, but this decade has seen a significant shift in the way our apocalypse is told. Orthodox tales of government tyranny are giving way to visions of humans running helpless in the wake of environmental meltdown. From the plausible to the fantastic, most of this fiction remains hauntingly real while the non-fiction can get downright scary. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of climatologist James Hansen's landmark speech before Congress, popular art is beginning to reflect an increasingly bleak public sentiment on the future, playing out some of our worst nightmares. It may be that these writers and directors are wishing for the end of the world, but even so, they are certainly giving voice to the creeping feeling that indeed, we might not make it.
Salt: Not just a condiment, salt is a major force shaping our world. In Australia, what do you get when you combine ancient salt-pans with European farming practices? In one state alone, we're losing a football field an hour to the salinity crisis. What do you farm when all you have is salt?
Left Behind: Bush's Holy War on Nature. Chip Ward enumerates the bizarro-world logic and Orwellian language of current American environmental policy. Even as Katrina's aftermath is focusing attention on links between global warming and more severe hurricanes, and studies of arctic sea-ice suggest that we may be 'past the point of no return' of climate change, the Department of "Justice" seems intent on blaming the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups. This War on Terra may not end in our lifetimes (despite the number of lives it will end...)
We're overdue for a big disaster. "Two years without a harvest? It would probably bust civilisation. People would survive all right. It really would cut us back, and that is the sort of thing nobody really prepares for. It's not some ecological poison or GM foods or nuclear that is going to get us, it is going to be some perfectly ordinary natural event." Almost enough to make me stock canned goods again.