Threatening Whales and Planet, US Opens Up Offshore Oil Exploration

Lauren McCauley | Commondreams

A critically endangered Southern Right Whale swims in the Atlantic. (Photo: Head Harbour Lightstation/ cc/ Flickr)

A critically endangered Southern Right Whale swims in the Atlantic. (Photo: Head Harbour Lightstation/ cc/ Flickr)

The Obama administration on Friday gave the greenlight for fossil fuel companies to begin exploring for oil in the waters off the east coast of the U.S., a move said to have a dire consequences for marine life in the short term and on our global climate for years to come.

“It’s an ugly turn of events,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Atlantic Ocean should be off limits to oil and gas drilling. It’s habitat that should be protected for endangered right whales and other wildlife, but instead the government is planning to let oil companies blast airguns, drill, and probably spill oil.”

Environmentalists are decrying the decision by the Department of the Interior to allow oil companies to use sonic canons to map the ocean floor, saying the explosive blasts threaten to kill or injure tens of thousands of marine mammals—including endangered right whales—and devastate coastal communities who depend on tourism, fishing, and coastal recreation.

The seismic blasting, which can reach over 250 decibels, causes hearing loss in marine mammals, disturbs essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding over vast distances, and can mask communications between individual whales and dolphins.

For more than 30 years drilling off the eastern seaboard has been prohibited. The decision now opens up the coastline from Delaware to Florida to a potentially devastating spill, says campaigners.

“Today, our government appears to be folding to the pressure of Big Oil and its big money,”  Oceana campaign director Claire Douglass told Fuel Fix.

“The use of seismic airguns is the first step to expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to the Atlantic Ocean,” Douglass continued, “bringing us one step closer to another disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The move helps pave the way for possible drilling off the East Coast in the 2020s, Fuel Fixreports, as the Obama administration has already begun assembling a five-year plan for selling offshore energy leases beginning in late 2017. Nine companies are already vying for the exploration work, according to the DOI Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.


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A Life of Activism Gives You Hope, Energy and Direction

Maude Barlow | Commondreams | June 22nd 2014

Climate activists at a rally in Copenhagen. (Photo: AinhoaGoma/Oxfam International)

Climate activists at a rally in Copenhagen. (Photo: AinhoaGoma/Oxfam International)

Maude Barlow received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from York University in Toronto yesterday morning. Here are her speaking notes for the Convocation ceremony.

Chancellor Gregory Sorbara, President Mamdouh Shoukri, the Senate of York University, and all the graduation students,

It is a great honour to share this convocation with you today. I am moved by your grace, energy and hope on this lovely June day.

In the few minutes I have to share with you I would like to urge you all, no matter what your education specialty, what vocation you choose, or where you live, to give some of your precious life energy to the great environmental challenges that face us today.

Every generation faces a unique political reality and set of concerns it needs to tackle together and yours is the multiple threats to the earth itself from over-exploitation, pollution and the growth imperative.

From the diminishing life in the oceans, and the destruction of old growth forests, to the clear limits of a fossil fuel economy, our Mother Earth is suffering, as are countless millions around the world.

Water is the issue I know best. Fresh water supplies are rapidly being destroyed due to a “perfect storm” of pollution, climate change, over-mining of groundwater, and watershed destruction where humans move massive amounts of water from lakes, rivers and aquifers to quench the thirst of cities, industry and mega farms.

When we are done with it, we dump that water (usually untreated) into the oceans as waste, leaving landscapes parched behind us. As a result, many parts of the world are literally running out of available fresh water — something we were taught as children could never happen — and almost three billion people do not have access to clean water within a kilometre of their homes.

Every three seconds a child of the Global South dies of dirty water. The lack of access to water kills more children worldwide than all forms of violence together, including war.

Even here in Canada, we have taken our water for granted and are among the worst water wasters in the world. We don’t protect or properly map our groundwater. Our Great Lakes are in crisis, with one study warning they could be “bone dry”in 80 years. Our national water act is forty five years old and in desperate need of updating.

Canadians consume about 3 billion plastic bottles of commercial water every year. Since we only recycle about 35 per cent of these bottles, we discard mountains of plastic garbage in our lakes, rivers, forests and landfills where they will take at least 500 years to break down.

Mining and heavy oil extractions are destroying many freshwater lakes and rivers in Canada, allowing giant dams of poisoned water to contaminate groundwater sources. Yet recent changes to freshwater regulations mean that 99 per cent of all our lakes and rivers are entirely unprotected by federal law.

Sadly there is still a water and santitation crisis on many First Nations communities, where residents are 90 per cent more likely to be without running water than other Canadians. Yet Canada was the last country in the world to ratify the UN General Assembly resolution recognizing the human right to water, an enormously important step for the global community to take.

We who are blessed to live in a water wealthy country have a special responsibility to find solutions to this global crisis and as well, to be good stewards of our own precious water resources by protecting our watersheds, wetlands and aquifers and ensuring safe, clean drinking water as a public trust and a human right. There is much work to do.

Do not listen to those who say there is nothing you can do to the very large and very real social and environmental problems that beset our world. I am not now talking about a false sense of optimism based on ignoring the several very real crises we face.

But there is so much room for hope and such a need to bring joy and excitement to our commitment to a different future. I swear to you that it is true — the life of an activist is a good life, because you get up in the morning caring about more than just yourself or how to make more money. A life of activism gives hope (a moral imperative in this work), energy and direction. You meet the best people. You help transform systems and ideas and you commit to leaving the earth in at least as whole a state as you inherited it because every generation has the right to breathe clean air and drink sweet clean water.

And you may very well find yourself inside an important fight for all humanity. Recently, I was part of a delegation to the United Nations, where we presented a new idea to the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, and the General Assembly.

Because our civil society movements believe that there are no human rights if there are no protections for the earth, air, water, forests, wetlands and other species, we presented the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which we hope will become, with time, the companion to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This concept was met with great enthusiasm from the Secretary General and many country delegates and I believe with my heart that it is only a matter of time before it becomes a cornerstone of public policy both at the United Nations and in every country and community in the world.

As Cormac Cullinan, a leading advocate for the rights of nature, explains: The day will come when the failure of our laws to recognize the right of a river to flow, to prohibit acts that destabilize the Earth’s climate, or to impose a duty to respect the intrinsic value and right to exist of all life will be as reprehensible as allowing people to be bought and sold. We will only flourish by changing these systems and claiming our identify, as well as assuming our responsibilities, as members of the Earth community.

I want to close with the words of the late, great American scientist and environmentalist, Carl Sagan, who said: Anything else you are interested in is not going to happen if you cannot breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out! Do something! You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.

Thank you York University, for this great honour.

© 2014 Maude Barlow

Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, chairperson of Food and Water Watch in the U.S., and co-founder of theBlue Planet Project, which is instrumental in the international community in working for the right to water for all people.

More from Commondreams

Good News: Scientists Detail Enormous Subterranean Water Reserves

Source: Newsy Science

Scientists say a layer of minerals in the mantle could hold three times the water present on Earth’s surface.


New Harvard Study Strengthens Link Between Neonicotinoids and Bee Colony Collapse

Marge Dwyer | Harvard School of Public Health | May 9 2014

Boston, MA — Two widely used neonicotinoids—a class of insecticide—appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative effect.

Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.

The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.

[Editor’s Note: Please consider signing this petition drawn by the Organic Consumers Association. Dow and Syngenta want the EPA to approve expansion and increased use of  two neonicotinoid insecticides.  TAKE ACTION: Deadline Midnight May 23: Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Don’t Let Dow and Syngenta Kill More Bees! ]

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.

Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups—one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.

There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter—typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost—thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive—with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.

Continue reading about the study

The Other Mother’s Day

Neil Rogin – Pachamama Alliance

The Oxford dictionary defines Mother’s Day as “a day of the year on which mothers are honored by their children.”  That would also be a good definition for Earth Day, would it not?

Which is why I often refer to Earth Day as the Other Mother’s Day.

Somehow, this year, as we honor everyone’s mother, it seems especially important that we also honor the Mother of everyone.  After all, our long suffering and infinitely patient planetary matriarch has done what all mothers are supposed to do — she birthed us, nurtured and protected us, given us food and shelter, and provided us with everything we need to survive and to thrive.  And how do we repay this complete and utter generosity?  Don’t get me started.

Given the destructive impact our gifted species has thus far had on the health and well being of our common Mother, it would be easy to embark on a well-deserved guilt trip. But that would not be useful.  And in a way, would be getting us off the hook.  Feeling bad is the price we pay for doing wrong, especially in the unique relationship we have with our own mothers.  I am reminded of the time when I forgot my mother’s birthday.  I called the next day to apologize.  I said, “Mom, I feel terrible about what happened.”  She responded, “Well, as long as you feel bad, that’s all I can ask.”  Hmmm.

What would be useful is to turn and face unflinchingly into the truth of what we are doing.  And to recognize that if present trends continue, there is a word for the impact we are having:  Matricide.  I don’t think it is possible to feel bad enough to balance that one.

If the story of our species were to be written today, it would be a Greek tragedy.  But that story is still unfinished.  We are at what in Hollywood would be called a “plot point” a moment of choice that takes the action into an entirely different direction. In this part of the story we are being asked to cast our vote on a kind of cosmological referendum on the human experiment.  The Future: Yes or No.  Are we destined to be Easter Island writ large? (Google it.)  Or will we take our place in the great community of life as we were intended, and become the caretakers, the stewards of this miraculous planetary being within whom we are so intimately embedded?

It would appear the human race really is a race — a race to get somewhere that no one seems to be able to define, a race between artificial intelligence on the one hand and artificial stupidity on the other.  Will we use our technical brilliance to choose between, as futurist Buckminster Fuller called it,  “Weaponry or Livingry”? Will we harness our genius in the service of our fear or of our connectedness?  Will we continue in our delusion of separation and suffering? Or will we see humanity as it truly is, the way our indigenous partners see us  — as an ethnic group, each members of the same family who live in gratitude for and service of the Mother of us all? Both Earth Day and Mother’s Day converge, as we at last honor the Mama in Pachamama, and become who we really are – not merely human beings, but Humankind.

Keep in touch with the work of the Pachamama Alliance


About Neal Rogin: Neal Rogin is a multi-award winning writer and filmmaker whose work has reached millions of people around the world. He is also the co-author of several critically acclaimed books, including The Trimtab Factor, with Harold Willens (Wm. Morrow & Company, New York), The Owner’s Manual for Your Life, and You Don’t Have to Rehearse to Be Yourself, both with Stewart Emery (Doubleday, New York). You can learn more about his work at The Awakening Universe.


Sea for Yourself: Livestream Video of the Deep Seafloor

Sierra Club | April 21 2014

This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research ship Okeanos Explorer is roaming the Gulf of Mexico, and its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is livestreaming video that any landlubber can enjoy. So far the expedition’s findings include tubeworms, crustaceans, chiton, brittle stars, urchins, small amphipods, and some corals. The very cool sea-bottom image at left is described by researchers as “chemosynthetic mussels and a few sea urchins residing next to a natural oil seep. Here you can see three active oil streams and several oil droplets caught in mucus of the mussels or a neighboring organism.”


The need to understand the Gulf should resonate this month, because the four-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion was Sunday, April 20. You can read about its legacy of damage to dolphins, tuna, and coastal marshes, as well as safety policies that languish and ongoing drilling plans here and here.

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, Fellow Humans!

Our beloved Mother Earth is precious to me, as I’m sure it is to you. I put together a little slideshow of some of my favorite Nature photos that I’ve taken over the past couple of years to share with you.

Lately I have realized just how much taking photographs feeds my soul. When I look through the lens of my camera (and yes, even my iPhone) my heart begins to race and I am transfixed by the abstraction and the beauty that I see before me. And then to get to see it all over again is just an added bonus! Please come on over to my website to view a special gift that I put together for you on Earth Day!

Click here to receive my special Earth Day gift to you!

Click here to receive my special Earth Day gift to you!

Much love,

Barbara Sinclair is a visual artist, AADP certified Holistic Health Counselor and Energy Healing Practitioner with a passion for Ayurveda.  Barbara was able to heal herself from fibromyalgia by learning and implementing ancient holistic practices, including Ayurveda. She is now pain-free and eager to share these methods with her readers and clients. You can contact her for an Ayurvedic consultation or energy healing session, or to read more articles on her blog, at barbarasinclair.com. Sign up HERE to receive Barbara’s monthly newsletters as well as weekly practical Ayurvedic tips.

Louie Schwartzberg: Hidden Miracles of the Natural World

Source: TED

We live in a world of unseeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. At TED2014, he shares highlights from his latest project, a 3D film titled “Mysteries of the Unseen World,” which slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the astonishing wonders of nature.

Citizen Solution for Saving the Bees – You Can Help

Open Source Beehives (OSBH) is working to solve the colony collapse issue by making it easier than ever to keep bees. Contribute now to become a beekeeper or support our research!

More information about the bee crisis: What is Colony Collapse Disorder?


Learn more, or make your own printable, smart beehive to track colony health and promote international bee recovery at the indiegogo campaign site.


The Magic of Pollination: Stunning Time-Lapse Photography

A wonderful look at nature and the beauty of pollination. Louie Schwartzberg is a Filmmaker who has been filming flowers for over 35 years using time lapse photography. He shows us the amazing world of pollen and pollinators with stunning high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life”, which is now streaming on Netflix. Louis was inspired by the vanishing of the honeybee, one of nature’s primary pollinators.