Picher, Oklahoma, the most toxic, deadly place you never heard it

Like the subject of the Zombies’s 1965 hit, Picher, Oklahoma is not there

Place under mandatory evacuation in 2009, Picher OK is now a Superfund ghost town too toxic to clean up. Plundered by lead and zinc mining companies, the extraction industry provided jobs and left behind huge hills of grey mine slag laced with lead. They also left behind an environmental and health catastrophe.

And therein lies the inspiring tale of Toxic Apocalypse #3. Please join us for the whole story.


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The Scale of Ocean Plastic Pollution is Truly Mind Boggling

Pollution From Toxic Plastic Endangers Vast Swathes of the Ocean, Even the Deepest Trenches

It’s as if a new garbage truck dumped a load of plastic waste into the ocean every minute of every day. 12 million tons of new garbage a year, accumulating across the seas and at every level. Billions of tons of plastic fragments and trash now take up about 40% of the ocean’s area.

You have probably heard of vast “gyres” of decomposing plastic located in six places around the planet, concentrating plastic garbage into swirling marine cyclones of waste the size of Texas (as they like to say). These gyres don’t photograph well because they lie just below the surface, and the plastic pieces are tiny. Think of them as a semi-transparent toxic soup. But these “garbage patches” are just the tip of the toxic iceberg.

Plastic has now made its way to every part of the global oceans, from river estuaries to the deepest trenches in the middle of the sea.

What humans forget about plastic is that it started out as toxic substance and ends up that way. When plastic waste goes into the waters of the ocean, which support countless forms of sea life – from microscopic to blue whales – it kills the marine animals at all levels:

Plastic kills marine life several ways:

1. Chemical poisoning
2. Physical entanglement – drowning
3. Tainting the food supply


Whales, for example, succumb to all of these causes. They become entangled in plastic bags and other packaging and are unable to function. They ingest toxic chemicals generated by the breakdown of plastic trash, poisoning their milk and thus their calves.

A 2016 survey  in the Mediterranean showed extremely high concentrations of phthalates in the body tissue of beached whales and dolphins. Phthalates are found in packaging, shower curtains, medicines, perfume and household chemicals. but also in cosmetics like nail polish, hairspray, perfume. The centration was 1060 µg/kg, about three times the level considered “high”.

Phthalates are toxic for both humans and animals in several ways, especially in the areas of fertility and fetus development. Humans make about 3 million tons of it a year and a lot of it ends up in the ocean.

Other marine life, particularly birds, swallow debris thinking it is food. Enough of it fill their gullets and kills them.

In spite of “recycling” efforts in some parts of the world, an incredible amount of this waste ends up in waterways, whence to the seas. In Los Angeles it is estimated that 10  tons of plastic fragments from grocery bags and bottles are swept into the Pacific daily.

The oceans are enduring a slow death from warming temperatures as it is. Considering the rate at which water absorbs and retains heat, it is no actually possible for this trend to be reversed in our lifetimes. The addition of millions of tons of plastic is only hastening the total disruption of the web of life.

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Western Pacific Islands Sinking Ever Faster Beneath the Rising Seas

Nahlapenlohd Island And Dozens More Are Gone For Good As The Rate of Upsurging Seas Accelerates

A new report published in this year’s Journal of Coastal Conservation confirms that the island chains of Micronesia and the Solomon Islands are rapidly disappearing.  U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) reported in September 2017 that global sea level has risen about 3 inches since 1990. A similar study from the University of Queensland was published in 2016.

While the rate of increase for swelling seas is rapidly increasing around the planet, the speed of change in the Western Pacific is two to three times the average. Sea level has risen by 10 to 12 mm (0.39 to 0.47 of an inch) annually 1993 and 2012. The rate is faster in this part of the globe because of prevailing trade winds, but there is no place on the planet that is not experiencing rising waters

While melting land ice at the poles adds new water to the oceans that was never in the ocean before, the water in the seas is also expanding its volume due to rapidly warming. According to all three reports, the rate of change is increasing.

The Kepidau en Pehleng, Nahlap, Laiap, Nahtik, and Ros island chains disappeared between 2007 and 2014. Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are also threatened as incursions compromise farms and drinking water supplies.

Some islanders are planning to emigrate and some island governments have even purchased acreage in other island nations. But each year, the good possibilities are diminished. For several years already, islanders have been abandoning their homes on the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea and moving to the larger Bougainville Island.

They will not be the only climate refugees.

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Lighting Elephants on Fire and Having a Great Time Doing It

Villagers Merrily Toss Flaming Tar Balls and Firecrackers At Elephants

Here in East India, elephants appear to be in the way of something humans like to call civilization: what could be more civilized than this? 

The text below is taken from SantuaryAsia.com

Hell is Here:

The heat from the fire scorches their delicate skin as mother and child attempt to flee the mob. In the lead, the cow’s expansive ears are angled forward as she stoicly ignores the crowd of jeering men. Behind her, her calf screams in confusion and fear as the fire licks at her feet. Flaming tar balls and crackers fly through the air to a soundtrack of human laughter and shouts. In the Bankura district of West Bengal this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more. India is the world’s stronghold for the Asian elephant and boasts over 70 per cent of the global population of the species. But this achievement rings hollow as vital elephant habitats and routes continue to be ravaged, and human-elephant conflict escalates to a fatal degree. The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun, is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognise the crisis that is at hand. For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the sub-continent for centuries, hell is now and here.

Wildlife Photographer Of The Year: Biplab Hazra

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Intensifying Antarctic Winds Blow No Good For Humankind

The Totten Glacier in East Antarctica Locks Up 11+ Feet of Sea Level Rise.
The Ice Shelf That Holds It Back Is Melting From Below.

The huge Totten Glacier is accelerating its advance as powerful South Ocean surface winds drive warm water underneath coastal ice shelves, melting them from below. Global warming is pushing wind speeds higher; the more powerful winds are changing atmospheric patterns, driving colder water away from the coasts, allowing warmer water from below to get at the ice shelves.

The Totten Glacier flows from the interior of East Antartica into the ocean. A new study published in Science Advances magazine estimates that the Totten ice sheet contains enough frozen fresh water to raise global sea levels by more than 11 feet if it all melted. Only a small fraction of that, when added to other sources of sea level rise, will be enough to tip humankind into panic mode.

Up until a few years ago, the East Antarctic ice sheet was called a sleeping giant, considered the one stable region at the two poles in terms of rapid ice melt. But that has changed. The latest study from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics suggests that increases in winds over the region speeds up ice flow into the ocean.

Read our previous coverage on East Antarctica here.

West Antarctic ice shelves have been in a state of increasing collapse for two decades.

Read our previous coverage on the Larsen Ice Shelves and an explanation of how that all works here.

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Global Insect Decline Has Alarming Consequences

HoneyBee Colony Collapse? Monarch Extinction?

Here’s Something That Will Really Bug You.

New Studies Reveal Crashing Insect Populations 

Etymologists and environmentalist are beginning to sound the alarm about the planet’s disappearing bug population, a phenomenon that has particularly manifested itself over the past generation. While global warming can account for migrations of bug species northward, it does not account for the actual disappearance of large numbers across a wide range of species. While this field of research is just beginning to gather momentum, scientists strongly suspect pesticides combined with monoculture agriculture combined with habitat loss – all part of the same continuum.*

[ According to Jeff Skevington of Agriculture Canada “Insect numbers are way down. It’s a little under the radar from the public perspective, but it’s really high on the radar in terms of research.” ]

Although hard numbers are not available yet, there is simply no doubt that insect populations are way down across Europe and North America. Truly global research will take longer and will be resisted by powerful agriculture interests.

ALARMING STUDY FROM GERMANY: The most recent study flipping the lids of biologists comes from a just-released German report, which confirms a 75% insect population drop over three decades. The data was supplied by Krefeld Entomological Society and covered a wide range of insects, including, wasps, hoverflies and wild bees. The authors suggest that the 82% decline on overall insect biomass must also affect other species, especially birds that feed on them.

In 2012, the Zoological Society of London published a survey indicating significant insect population declines globally. In the US, the survey showed a 30 to 40% drop for honeybees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. The Monarch butterfly has seen a decrease of up to 80% since the Nineties, demonstrably because of herbicide driven usage that kills off milkweed, the butterfly’s only food source.

A 2014 study in Science also documented a steep drop in insect and invertebrate populations worldwide. According to lead author Rodolfo Dirzo (Stanford University), the global index showed 45% declines in invertebrate populations.

“Although invertebrates are the least well-evaluated faunal groups within the IUCN database, the available information suggests a dire situation in many parts of the world,” – Rudolfo Dirzo.


If these trends hold, we are in even deeper trouble than we already know we are in due to global warming, water scarcity, pollution and over-population.

When the insects die off, so do the birds that eat them, and that trend is already well documented.  In Canada, populations of many insect-eaters have crashed, with such species as Swifts, swallows, nighthawks, martins and flycatchers declining to small fractions of their 20th century populations. Bats are also in steep decline in North America.

Insects including flies, moths and butterflies (not just bees) also pollinate flowering plants and crops. Less obvious for the well being of the planet is their role as predators: they control pests and generate decomposition.

*PREDICTION: As this latest evidence of the overall collapse of planetary ecosystems becomes more newsworthy, we predict the following: the same fools who claim that they “wouldn’t mind a little global warming” will applaud the decline of mosquitoes, flies and other “pests”. “I hate mosquitoes!”

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Red Snow: Swelling algae incursion is red-lining glacial ice melt

“Watch out where the Huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow!”
F. Zappa (Don’t You Eat the Yellow Snow 1974)

The accuracy of the original set of global warming predictions from more than 40 years ago was shocking when you consider the complexity of the science involved. But there is one caveat: the early researchers now believe they were too conservative in their global warming estimates, both in terms of scale and speed. Global warming has begun and it is going to be worse, sooner, than first predicted.

The primary effects of change are currently found in the polar regions, particularly the Arctic, a region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. As the ice sheets and ocean ice break apart, they drive related events that serve to reinforce and accelerate global warming. Meanwhile, the melting permafrost is releasing increasing quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

We have documented those feedback effects here. Bu there are other drivers that are less obvious.

Red snow or watermelon snow is a less well known global warming factor that is both a cause and an effect of the deteriorating situation in the Arctic. The phenomenon is caused by an exploding population of red/pink algae on the snowfields of Alaska and Greenland and elsewhere in the region.

This bizarre phenomenon makes it appear as if someone has sprinkled red dye on the snow fields, but the actual cause is two algae species Chlamydomonas nivalis and C. nivalis. Other than the startling visual effects, the blanket of microbes serves to accelerate ice melt on the glacier by decreasing snow reflectivity and increasing sunlight absorption. Published in a September issue of Nature Geoscience, the latest research shows that the algae cover accounts for 10% – 15% of total snow melt.

In this sense, watermelon snow is related to Frank Zappa’s admonition: “Watch out where the huskies go and don’t you eat that yellow snow.” Different cause, same effect.

Algae blooms are not new to the region, but warming temperatures are causing larger incursions from year to year. This in turn generates another positive feedback loop because more algae grows as the quantity of ice water increases and the range of the algae expands.

When increased algae cover melts the snow off the ice field, it also serves to accelerate  melting because ice reflects less sunlight than clean snow. More warming.

The overall effect is similar to that of black soot deposits, which are also increasing the rate of melt in the Arctic.

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Wildfires Consume Napa & Sonoma Counties As Thousands Flee

21 dead and 150 missing as multiple wildfires race across freeways, farmland and forests in famous wine region

21 Die Over 150 Missing As Fast Moving Wildfires Consume Napa & Sonoma Counties

20,000 evacuated their homes and businesses burned as wildfires consumed upwards of 100,000 acres and 2500 structures in Napa and Sonoma Counties, CA. The pre-dawn skies were filled with flame and smoke as citizens fled multiple, out-of-control fires, driven by winds up to 70 MPH.

A number of wineries have been torched, although many of the grape crops had already been harvested.

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Rising CO2 Levels Are Depleting Plant Nutrients

As Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Increases, Plants Produce More Carbohydrates But Fewer Vitamins and Minerals

Global warming, ocean acidification and rising seas levels are well known effects of rapidly rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, tracking the elevation of carbon dioxide levels from 280 PPM to 410 PPM over the past 250 years.

Less well known at this point is the effect higher CO2 levels are having on plants: the carbon junk food effect if you will. According to a growing body of research, more CO2 in the atmosphere shifts glucose production into overdrive, but at the expense of nutritional components. That means food is less nutritious – marginally at this point, but with ominous possibilities for the future of people who eat.

Ironically, this phenomenon is the real world scientific manifestation of a bogus climate denier argument: “well, I thought trees breathed CO2 and produce oxygen, so global warming should be a good thing.”

This nonsense is from the same school of stupid as “I wouldn’t mind a little more warmer weather.” In reality, that kind of smirky reasoning is driven by millions of dollars of campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests. Ain’t that true, Lamar?

On Earth, every thing with leaves on is producing increased levels of sugars (carbohydrates, glucose) as CO2 levels go up, an outcome expected by our knowledge of photosynthesis. In a sense, more CO2 is overfeeding green vegetation and accelerating photosynthesis. But as carbohydrate production increases, other nutrients in the food supply are diluted. This is similar to the “empty calories” alarm that has already been sounded about the fast food nation we live in: plenty of calories but fewer nutrients create the treadmill of obesity.

Agricultural researchers have noted for decades that foods consumed by humans have been getting less nutritious. Ongoing commercial and academic studies of fruits and vegetable production for the past half century prove without a doubt that calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin C and protein content has been dropping. Until recently, the assumption among scientists was that higher yield agricultural practices were the cause (it is expected that higher yield crops will be less nutritious).

At present levels, the estimated drop is a seemingly unalarming 2-4%, depending what part of the plant is consumed. However, we also know that the decadeslong forced trend toward more sugar in foods is responsible for the epidemic of diabetes and obesity in America and, increasingly, the world as a whole.

It should also be noted that atmospheric CO2 levels are accelerating quickly and will reach 550 PPM within the next several decades (AKA the hockey stick). At that point, the nutritional content of food with be an issue.

If any food is growing at all at that point.

This post distills content from the Guardian, Politico, and the Genetic Literacy Project and the original article published in Science.

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110,000 Displaced By Nigeria Floods

August – September Rains/Floods Devastate Benue State In Nigeria

Over 110,000 Nigerians fled their homes because of major flooding in the central state of Benue. The flooding follows two weeks of record rains.

At least three people are dead, but the process of tallying casualties and damage has not yet begun.

Nigeria’s economy has not yet fully recovered from a nationwide inundation across 30 of its 36 states in 2011. The dead numbered in the hundreds and two million people were left homeless.

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