Archive for February 11, 2008

Brazil’s Deforestation Laws a Flop

As deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest declined over the past three years, the country’s leaders crowed that they had found the recipe for stopping the destruction of the world’s most diverse ecosystem.By expanding the area of protected rain forest by more than 60 percent while allowing controlled logging, Brazil’s government said it had cracked down on the illegal clearing that’s consumed a fifth of the rain forest.

The celebration ended cold last month, however, when satellite images revealed that deforestation had exploded late last year in areas that regulators thought were under control.

As much as 2,700 square miles of the forest were cleared over the last five months of 2007, an area bigger than the state of Delaware and equal to more than 60 percent of the total deforestation registered over the previous 12 months.

Even more worrisome, the deforestation intensified in November and December, a period usually marked by heavy rains and a drop in forest clearing.

Now, Brazilian officials are going back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong and how to tackle monumental problems like endemic lawlessness and land disputes, which have long stymied governments.

After releasing the numbers, the federal government launched emergency measures that have included banning logging and possibly cutting government farm credits in 36 cities whose boundaries stretch far into the jungle. The cities accounted for more than half of the total area confirmed lost during the last five months of last year.

The country’s environment minister, Marina Silva, has blamed agriculture for the spike in deforestation and challenged farmers to halt all jungle clearing.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the federal government needed to enlist the help of cities, governors and civil society to reverse the trend.

”Ending deforestation is a very complicated goal,” said Jose Heder Benatti, president of the land management agency of the northern Brazilian state of Para, where much of the deforestation has taken place. “I would say reducing deforestation to zero is impossible. So we have to look at what we can do.”

Whether Brazil succeeds will have global consequences.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cleared and burned tropical forest worldwide are a quarter of all such emissions.

Brazil is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, almost solely on the strength of emissions from deforestation, according to the World Resources Institute of Washington.

”This demonstrates that the government has less control than they realized,” said Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington. “They underestimated the market forces and overestimated the effectiveness of enforcement.”

Critics ranging from environmentalists to ranchers said regulators couldn’t monitor a wilderness the size of the entire western United States.

Other economic factors, including a slump in commodity prices, explain why deforestation dropped in previous years, said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher for the Brazilian environmental group Imazon.

”The government took some good actions, but the economics have more power,” Barreto said.

Source:  Miami Herald

What?  People will completely ignore the government in order to maximize their income?  Who would have ever guessed?

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More Horses Being Abandoned

A press release from the Unwanted Horse Coalition says economic factors, including high hay costs, are among the reasons cited in news reports for a growing number of unwanted and abandoned horses in the U.S. Over the last month, articles in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have reported on an apparent increase in the numbers of unwanted horses. A recent headline in The Wall Street Journal read,”Leaner Pastures: As Horses Multiply, Neglect Cases Rise.”Regional newspapers and television stations have also reported that state agencies and horse rescue groups are seeing a growing number of horses that can no longer be cared for by owners. Some of the reports suggest that rescue groups are about to be overwhelmed and may have to start turning horses away. The articles blame the problem on factors such as sharply rising hay costs, the drought in many parts of the U.S., over-breeding, the downturn in the economy, the costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal and the closing of the nation’s three slaughter facilities, which removed the floor on the value of horses.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition, which operates under the auspices of the American Horse Council, includes over 20 national organizations. It was created to educate horse owners and potential horse owners about what it means to “own responsibly.” Learn more about the coalition at, or call the American Horse Council at 202-296-4031.

Source:  Hay and Forage Grower

I could have a pasture FULL of horses, good ones, if I had the forage for them.  People are giving away horses because they simply cannot afford to feed them and even then they may not be able to find a home.  I have a friend that is divorced with 7 horses and nowhere to put them and no one will take them.

There used to be a value to horses when there were slaughter facilities.  Now horses are valueless, and I don’t see the people that were so concerned about the “inhumanity” of slaughtering unwanted horses stepping forward to assume the feed bill to keep them from starving.

I always thought slaughter was more humane than slowly starving an animal to death.

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Finding the Missing Ice Age

Maureen Raymo puts what looks like a pinch of sand on a glass slide and powers up her microscope. Under magnification, the grains are revealed to be fossilized shells of tiny ocean creatures that existed millions of years ago. Raymo, a College of Arts and Sciences earth sciences research professor, is a paleoclimatologist, and these remains are to her what dinosaur bones are to paleontologists: keys to the past.

Raymo studies these shells to better understand the ice ages that have waxed and waned over millions of years on our planet. At the moment, she’s searching for evidence to support a theory she and several colleagues recently proposed to explain a conundrum that has puzzled researchers for years: why the timing of ice growth and decay was different between one million and three million years ago compared to the pattern observed for the last million years.

Scientists know that irregularities in the Earth’s orbit, which occur every 23,000, 41,000, and 100,000 years, affect global climate cycles. Those deviations can nudge the northern hemisphere farther from the sun, causing ice to remain through the summer and auguring a new ice age, like the one that ended 10,000 years ago in North America. But starting in the late Pliocene era, some three million years ago, evidence of the 23,000-year cycle of climate change disappeared from the climate record.

Read the rest at BU Today.

Good grief. People are finding microscopic fossils to confirm the existence of ice ages millions of years ago. In the meantime, I can’t find car keys, glasses, watches, or books that I had the previous evening. I feel so inadequate now. Thanks a lot.

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No Shortage of Rescue Units at Sugar Plant

WAYCROSS, GA — As rescuers pulled survivors from the wreckage of the Imperial Sugar refinery, crews from our area raced to the scene, ready to help.“Oh… the scene was unreal!” Ware County paramedic David Kirton said, remembering the armada of ambulances he joined up with outside Savannah on Thursday night.

His ambulance was assigned to a line of more than a dozen others that idled along the edge of the main road in front of the refinery. Another even larger group of ambulances lined the road that led down into the complex.

It was like nothing he’d seen in 24 years on the job. “To see the emergency services come together as quick as they did was unreal. I’ve never seen that anywhere to happen as quick as it did” outside the sugar plant that night, he said.

When the Georgia Emergency Management Agency put out the call for aid, Kirton’s ambulance was already just 40 miles outside of Savannah. His team was taking a trauma patient from Waycross to a Savannah hospital. The crew delivered that patient to the hospital, then rushed toward the refinery.

Ware County — 150 miles away — sent two ambulances to the scene. Glynn County — based 100 miles from the site — sent three rescue units and a supervisor. Camden County sent two, plus a search and rescue squad. In all, emergency managers say 36 crews from 18 counties responded. It was more than enough.

“To know that you could get that many ambulances there that quick — there was probably 18 or 20 of us sitting on that one road that was waiting to go in to help. We never did get a chance to have to haul anybody, and I’m glad we didn’t,” Kirton said.

Even though they were dismissed without treating anyone, Kirton says it was clearly not a wasted trip because it built upon the bonds that link rescue crews together. Last summer, it was Ware County that needed help. Wildfires tearing through the Okefenokee Swamp skirted the edge of the city of Waycross.

When firefighters in that danger zone called for help, it came. So, for Kirton’s supervisors, the decision Thursday to race to the side of strangers 150 miles away was a simple one. “I think that’s what the emergency services is all about,” Kirton said.

Source:  First Coast News

With an unknown number of injured after a big explosion like that, it was better to have far too many emergency responders than far too few. 

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HemCon Bandages (Update)

There is a new bandage currently being used on the battlefields in Iraq called a HemCon® Bandage that is made from the shells of shrimp. I queried our allergist as to the safety of this Bandage for the shellfish allergic, because the product is now being marketed to local EMTs across the USA. The response that our allergist received from the company is as follows:There have been no known allergic reactions as a result of using the HemCon Bandage since distribution began in 2003 and there have been no adverse effects reported in over 500,000 bandages shipped. HemCon Medical Technologies, Inc. has results from a shellfish allergy study conducted by its chitosan supplier which demonstrates that, out of 221 individuals with suspected hypersensitivity, including 8 individuals with known shellfish allergies, none demonstrated any dermal sensitivity when pricked with a chitosan test solution. However, since chitosan is extracted from the shells of shrimp, other shellfish and fungi, individuals with known shellfish allergies should exercise caution in the use of products containing chitosan. 


I was wondering as well whether those chitosan bandages would cause a reaction/anaphylactic shock in those unfortunate individuals with a severe shellfish allergy.  Supposedly not, but it might be a good idea to wear one of those medical allergy alert  bracelets in the event of an accident.

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