Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Climate change is 'escalator to extinction' for mountain birds

[BBC] Researchers have long predicted many creatures will seek to escape a warmer world by moving towards higher ground.
However, those living at the highest levels cannot go any higher, and have been forecast to decline.
This study found that eight bird species that once lived near a Peruvian mountain peak have now disappeared.
Researchers are particularly concerned about tropical mountain ranges and the impacts of climate change.
"The tropical mountain areas are the hottest of biodiversity hotspots; they harbour more species than any other place on Earth," lead author Dr Benjamin Freeman from the University of British Columbia told BBC News.
"It's only got a little bit warmer in the tropics and tropical plants and animals seem to be living quite a bit higher now than they used to."
The species that live in these regions are also hugely vulnerable because the difference in temperatures between lower and higher elevations in tropical regions is not as great as it is in other parts of the world. This means that moving up the slopes may not be as much of a solution for species in the tropics as it is elsewhere.
To test these ideas, scientists carried out a survey in 2017 of bird species that lived on a remote Peruvian mountain peak.
The team covered the same ground, at the same time of year, and used the the same methods as a previous survey, carried out in 1985.
They found that on average, species' ranges had shifted up the slope between the two surveys. Most of the species that had been found at the highest elevations declined significantly in both range and abundance.
The researchers say that recent warming constitutes an "escalator to extinction" for some of these species with temperatures in the area increasing by almost half a degree Celsius between the two surveys.
Of 16 species that were restricted to the very top of the ridge, eight had disappeared completely in the most recent survey.
"These birds have moved up the mountain as much as you'd predict if temperature was this master switch that controlled where they live," said Dr Freeman.
"The ones that lived near the top 30 years ago are gone." Read More

The brilliant star at the center of our solar system still has untapped potential.

By finding new ways to harness power from the sun, scientists could turn windows of skyscrapers into solar panels that create electricity — without obstructing views. They could develop biodegradable plastics, cutting down on landfill waste. Bioengineers could even produce plants that flourish in severe environments, from deserts to the Arctic.
[Pangaea Builders] The sun, after all, has nearly limitless power: It sends more energy to Earth in an hour and a half than all 7.45 billion humans use in a year. Learning to capture it could change the world as we know it, says Richard Lunt, a Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “We have the potential to power the whole world with solar energy,” he says.
Lunt is among a team of Michigan State scientists who are building on the university’s legacy of pioneering solutions to global challenges. Amid a growing climate crisis, they’re developing technologies that could help wean people off of fossil fuels, feed the growing global population, protect the environment and create a more sustainable future for generations.
For Lunt, that future starts with a small, transparent pane of glass about the size of a greeting card. It doesn’t seem noteworthy when he holds it in his palm. Expose it to sunlight, though, and his invention reveals a hidden ability: It can turn invisible light into electricity and has the potential to be 21 percent efficient, a rate that would approach the efficiency of traditional solar panels.
The crucial elements to the material, which Lunt calls a “transparent solar cell,” are the small, organic molecules scattered inside. Together, they allow visible light to pass through but capture most frequencies of near infrared light, which are typically impossible for the human eye to see.
By extracting energy from this invisible spectrum, the device opens up a range of possibilities as a building material, Lunt says. If large panels made of these solar cells were installed inside existing windows, every high-rise could become a vertical solar farm generating much of its own energy.
More than just buildings could benefit from the technology. The transparent solar cells could be used to produce energy in an array of devices, Lunt says, from smartphones to electric automobiles. In fact, he’s betting big on it. Lunt is a co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy Inc., which develops and markets the technology. “I think we’re going to start to see applications in the next couple of years,” he says.
The sun’s power could be used to provide more than just electricity. It could also aid in the creation of new biodegradable plastics, says Danny Ducat, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University.
While an increasing number of cities and countries have placed bans on disposable plastic items like bags and drinking straws, a future without plastic isn’t likely. But chemistry may hold the answer to more efficient and sustainable ways of making better biodegradables.
To create the ingredients for certain bioplastics, manufacturers grow microbes designed to spit out specific component chemicals — such as biofuel, insulin or the elements of biodegradable plastics — in huge vats. It’s similar to how huge tanks of yeast are used to produce alcohol in the brewing of beer. The resulting chemicals are harvested and used to create a plastic that will degrade naturally.
“What other kinds of microbes can we pair together with the cyanobacteria … so that they can use more solar energy or require less nutrients?” Read More

Daytime Naps Help Us Acquire Information Not Consciously Perceived

[Sleep Review] The age-old adage “I’ll sleep on it” has proven to be scientifically sound advice, according to a new study that measured changes in people’s brain activity and responses before and after a nap. The findings, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, support the advice which suggests that a period of sleep may help weighing up pros and cons or gain insight before making a challenging decision.
The Medical Research Council-funded study, led by University of Bristol researchers, aimed to understand whether a short period of sleep can help us process unconscious information and how this might affect behavior and reaction time.
The findings further reveal the benefits of a short bout of sleep on cognitive brain function and found that even during short bouts of sleep we process information that we are not consciously aware of.
While previous evidence demonstrates that sleep helps problem solving, resulting in enhanced cognition upon awaking; it was not clear whether some form of conscious mental process was required before or during sleep to aid problem solving. In this study, researchers hid information by presenting it very briefly and “masking” it—so it was never consciously perceived—the masked prime task. The hidden information, however, was processed at a subliminal level within the brain and the extent to which it interferes with responses to consciously perceived information was measured.
Sixteen healthy participants across a range of ages were recruited to take part in an experiment. Participants carried out two tasks—the masked prime task and a control task where participants simply responded when they saw a red or blue square on a screen. Participants practiced the tasks and then either stayed awake or took a 90-minute nap before doing the tasks again.
Using an EEG, which records the electrical activity naturally produced in the brain, researchers measured the change in brain activity and response pre-and-post nap.
Sleep (but not wake) improved processing speed in the masked prime task—but not in the control task—suggesting sleep-specific improvements in processing of subconsciously presented primes.
The findings suggest that even a short bout of sleep may help improve our responses and process information. Therefore, the results here suggest a potentially sleep-dependent, task-specific enhancement of brain processing that could optimize human goal-directed behavior.
Importantly, while it is already known that the process of acquiring knowledge and information recall, memory, is strengthened during sleep. This study suggests that information acquired during wakefulness may potentially be processed in some deeper, qualitative way during sleep. Read More

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A super typhoon of historic proportions just cut thousands of U.S. citizens off from the world

[Popular Science] The core of Super Typhoon Yutu struck Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands today—the strongest storm on record to make landfall in this U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean.
The full force of the typhoon’s 180 MPH winds hit around 12:00 PM EDT on Wednesday. The islands likely suffered significant damage from the storm, and communications with the outside world will be sparse until crews from Guam can arrive and assess the extent of the damage. The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) became a territory of the United States in the years after World War II. Like residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 50,000 people living in the CNMI are American citizens.
Yutu quickly developed into the equivalent of a category five storm as it approached the Northern Marianas Islands this week. Strong winds to the north of the system helped the typhoon’s outflow—the exhaust of air above the storm in the upper levels of the atmosphere—thrive, clearing cooler air away and intensifying the storm even more quickly than predicted.
The eye of Super Typhoon Yutu made a direct landfall on the small island of Tinian, a rare feat for a typhoon of any size, let alone one of historic proportions. The eyes of intense tropical cyclones tend to wobble to the right and left as they move along their path, and Yutu’s eye wobbled to the right at just the wrong moment—putting Tinian and Saipan directly in the typhoon’s worst conditions.
Saipan’s Airport reported a wind gust of 97 MPH before the anemometer stopped reporting just after midnight local time. Few other reports have come out of the islands since the core of the storm made landfall. The calm eye of the storm engulfed all of Tinian and most of Saipan, giving residents a brief reprieve from the destructive winds before the back side of the eyewall moved over land. The National Weather Service office in Guam noted that there was intense lightning in the eyewall as it passed over the islands, a common characteristic of rapidly intensifying hurricanes.
Records dating back to 1950 show only three typhoons moving close to the Northern Marianas Islands with the equivalent strength of a category five on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. None of those previous storms came close to making landfall. Super Typhoon Yutu is the strongest storm to hit these islands on record, and the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall anywhere on Earth so far this year.
A tropical cyclone with 180 MPH winds is about as strong as these storms can get. Only one hurricane on record, the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys, has ever hit the mainland United States with winds of 180 MPH or stronger. It’s likely that many communities on Tinian and Saipan will be unrecognizable once the storm is over. Most, if not all, of the trees on the islands will be completely defoliated. Most structures will be damaged or leveled, perhaps except for those built to withstand strong storms or those shielded on the leeward side of Saipan’s mountains. Power and communications infrastructure will likely be down for weeks and possibly months in the hardest-hit areas, and recovery and rebuilding efforts will be difficult due to the islands’ isolated location in the middle of the western Pacific Ocean.

The mysterious purple ribbon in the sky that's confusing scientists

(Is this a form of the Violet Flame? - Lori)

[CNET] Look up at the Arctic night sky and you might spot it: a beautiful purple ribbon of mysterious lights floating overhead. Locals call it Steve. The brilliantly colored phenomenon can be spotted in Calgary, Canada, 280 miles (450 kilometers) above Earth's surface.
Canada-based photographer Chris Ratzlaff is thought to be behind the Steve nickname, borrowing from the 2006 animated film Over the Hedge, in which characters refer to "the unknown" as "Steve." 
NASA scientists are also getting in on the act, claiming "Steve" can also stand for "Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement."
But a new study has confirmed that Steve's origins are more unusual than previously suspected.
Steve looks similar to an aurora -- better known as the Northern Lights -- a colorful light display in the Earth's sky, spotted in high-latitude regions like the Arctic and Antarctic.
An aurora is created by charged particles produced and discharged by the sun during a solar flare. The particles crash into the atoms and molecules in the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in photons (tiny bursts of light) which form the colorful aurora.
However, a new study published Monday in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that Steve could be the result of a different process.
The study, headed by University of Calgary astronomer Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, uses data taken from a 2008 spotting of Steve by NASA's THEMIS mission (called All‐Sky Imagers) and NOAA's Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite (NOAA-17).
The study states there was no indication for any high-energy precipitation observed during the 2008 sighting of Steve and that the unusual occurrence "could be generated by a new and fundamentally different mechanism in the ionosphere".
"Probably the most important question to answer now is: if Steve is not produced by precipitating particles (like aurora), how is the structure being created?" Gallardo-Lacourt told Motherboard on Tuesday. "To answer this we need simulations (modeling the physics involved) that could help us understand all the dynamics that are playing a role."
While a flux of lower-energy particles were observed, that still doesn't scientifically explain the origins of Steve's dazzling colors in the sky. Hopefully, Gallardo-Lacourt and her fellow scientists will continue to decipher Steve's secrets with further research.
That's where you can help. Aurorasaurus, funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, is looking to crowdsource an answer to the Steve phenomenon. They want your photos and data about Steve, in order to learn more about the mystery.

The Spiritual Awakening America Needs Isn't What You Think It Is

[Daily Wire] One of the most common questions we hear in response to the decline of our culture and to the conflict that has ensued from that erosion is “How can Americans change?” “How do we avoid the ‘veritable civil war’ that might be coming to our country?”
In a recent article at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson gives several answers to these questions: we need to fix immigration issues, reform the university, grow the economy, deal with reactionary racialism, and experience a religious and spiritual awakening. I believe this last point takes priority because it lays the philosophical foundation for all the others.
Typically, when spiritually minded people—particularly those who hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview—discuss religious revival, they focus on the need to revive principles and values having to do with morality, objective truth, and divine authority. Religious and rational elements, not spirituality, are emphasized.
While religion and spirituality should always go together, sometimes we mistakenly separate them. Religion becomes a cold set of rules and other-imposed conformity. Spirituality becomes unhinged from reality. When divided, each creates some of the very problems we are trying to fix—loss of individualism and rampant subjectivism. So it is important to understand both.
I believe most of us understand the nature of religion, principles of morality, and reason, but I don’t think many of us grasp the depth and breadth of spirituality and why it is fundamental to pulling our society back from the brink of destruction and embarking on the many practical solutions we need to right the ship.
A lot of Americans believe in the spiritual realm, but they don’t often see how spirituality is key to relationships—and how society, politics, and culture are all about relationships. Fundamentally, our society is broken because the relationships are broken. Relationships are broken because we have lost the meaning of true spirituality.
Relationships begin with self-knowledge. If you don’t know yourself as God created you to be—not as you or others imagine yourself to be, but as you truly are—you don’t really know anyone else. If a society is filled with people who don’t know themselves, and thereby don’t know others or how they should live in this world, then that society is dysfunctional.
A human being is a spirit—a unique identity, or in the words of Soren Kierkegaard, a “self.” This individual “self” is known not by an objective list of truths, but through understanding how those truths relate to the individual. This isn’t relativism. This is truth known through relations, and that’s a key difference. Read More

Prepping for What’s Most Likely

[Prepper Journal] I live in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. I don’t even have half an acre of land to farm. I don’t have a cadre of prepper neighbors. I don’t have the income to buy or build a remote bug-out retreat, though I’d love to have one.
My income is limited and I have a family to support, whose needs never seem to go down. But I know that bad things can happen, and I know I’m responsible for the health and safety of those I love. With limited resources it only makes sense to plan for the most likely bad things because unless I win the lottery I’m not going to have a fully-prepped bug out retreat. What’s most likely, to my mind, are, first, some kind of natural disaster (hurricane, massive snow storm, tornado, flooding) and second, some kind of event that causes a severe economic dislocation like we’re seeing in Venezuela right now, or something of a more temporary nature that cuts us off from all the comforts of modern life (electric power, gasoline, wifi, cable, etc.).
This kind of prepping takes commitment and a sustained effort over a long period of time, with a dedicated budget for each project. I believe in layering my preps because in a real emergency we can’t have one point of failure. I prefer to have at least triple redundancy in critical areas. If triple-redundancy is good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for me.
So what do I do? Since my primary plan is not to bug out, I focus on securing my house and grounds and on stockpiling what I’m most likely to need. To me, there are two kinds of house security: the first is securing the house against weather events; the second is securing the house against human threats.
I’m lucky to have an older house that’s strongly built of concrete block and stone, with concrete window frames. A few years ago I put on a high-impact composite roof and took that opportunity to tie the roof into the frame with steel connectors so that it is less likely to blow off in high winds. I’ve covered some of the windows with security film to make them more impact resistant, and other windows have triple-track storm windows. I also have plywood pre-cut for some of the windows with bolts that fit into pre-drilled holes in the window frame. I have a store of sandbags for lower doorways and to divert natural water flows away from the house in a big storm. My house is high enough in a hillier area that I don’t worry about flooding. But because water does flow downhill, the lower areas have drains that connect to a sump pump that is powered by two pumps – one with direct electric power, and a smaller one that runs off a battery that’s hooked up to a trickle charger, so that I still have drainage even if power goes out. I had to buy a new garage door a few years ago, so I upgraded to a thick, insulated door that allows me to brace it to the frame to keep it closed and locked. My doors are either strong solid wood or steel, and the glass patio doors have exterior steel security doors that can have plywood inserted to protect the glass doors. Those are the main weather defenses, and of course I keep a supply of thick plastic sheeting, various sizes of tarps and a lot of duct tape in case of some failure.
Defense against a human threat is more complicated. I keep the exterior bushes low and trimmed so lurkers can be easily seen in the daylight or under exterior motion-activated lighting. The back half of my house is surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence with a deadbolt lock. I have a robust alarm system with door and window alarms and interior motion detectors. All the exterior doors have armored frames and keyed deadbolt locks. The windows are locked and have wood blocks to prevent opening if the lock is defeated. As mentioned above, the glass patio doors have deadbolt-locked steel security doors. Our bedroom door is solid wood with a lock and an armored frame, and our firearms are kept there for easy access. If someone breaks into my bedroom through an armored door frame, there won’t be much of an argument about self-defense.
The prepper trinity is food, water and shelter. If I’m staying in my house and it’s intact, the basic shelter piece is covered. If power goes out, I have a standby generator that runs off a natural gas line – so I would have power as long as the natural gas flows and the generator holds up. If that fails, I have a 4,500 Kw gasoline generator with a store of treated gasoline sufficient for several days at least – with more gasoline that can be taken from our cars’ gas tanks. Backup to that are battery-powered lanterns, propane heaters, a fireplace, flashlights and candles, and a few battery-powered fans if it’s a summer event. I always have three full tanks of propane and a deep store of rotated batteries, as well as a backup set of rechargeable batteries with an electric charger and solar panel charger. Read More

Seed diversity is disappearing — and 3 chemical companies own more than half

Ten thousand years after humans became less nomadic and learned how to cultivate crops, veteran investigative journalist Mark Schapiro plunges into the struggle already underway for control of seeds, the ground-zero ingredient for our food. Three-quarters of the seed varieties on Earth in 1900 had become extinct by 2015. In "Seeds of Resistance," Schapiro takes us to the front lines of a struggle over the seeds that remain — a struggle that will determine the long-term security of our food supply in the face of unprecedented climate volatility.
[Salon] A seed story, like life, starts small and gets bigger.
In the mid-1990s, a letter arrived at a simple adobe-style office on a dusty lot on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. The site, headquarters of Native Seeds/SEARCH, an organization which saves seeds native to the southwest, is little more than a couple of garden plots and a refrig­erator and freezer filled with indigenous seeds. Here you can find seeds that have inherited characteristics dating back as far as three-thousand years.
The letter came from a lawyer for the food company Frito Lay, known for its processed snack foods. It warned that one of Native Seeds/SEARCH’s best-selling products, Indian Parched Corn, was in violation of the Frito Lay trademark. Parched corn are chunky salted corn kernels that have been prepared for centuries by Hopi, Apache, and other tribes in Arizona and New Mexico. (A reminder to the non-botanical: kernels are in fact seeds, so when you eat corn you’re eating a corn seed.) The company lawyer demanded that Native Seeds/SEARCH immediately “cease and desist” using language equating the native corn with two words that had been trademarked by the company—Corn Nuts™.
The command arrived like a tragicomic bolt from the big-food universe. A multi-billion-dollar company was objecting to language used by a tiny seed saving enterprise promoting a seed that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, long before Frito Lay was a phantasm in the mind of the first mass marketer of the potato chip, Herman Lay, in 1932. The parched corn comes in four and eight-ounce bags with yellow, blue, and red kernels, reflecting the diversity of some eight hundred different corn varieties, cultivated from the American southwest down to southern Mexico. It’s not as if the inhab­itants of this region had to go to Frito Lay to figure out how to make the tasty morsels made from dried corn kernels. They’ve been doing it for centuries, through an age-old practice of boiling (“parching”) the kernels, drying them and adding salt.
The main supplier to Native Seeds/SEARCH is the Santa Ana Pueblo in neighboring New Mexico, located about twenty-five miles from Albuquerque, home to a federally recognized tribe which dates its presence in the area to at least the sixteenth century. Talavai Denipah-Cook, a twenty-three-year-old Hopi woman who works as an ecologist on tribal lands and grew up in the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, just north of Santa Fe, recalled to me in 2017 that she used to enjoy eating parched corn regularly as a kid. “They’re crunchy and delicious,” she said. They taste, well, like nuts made from corn.
No matter how well disguised the decorative packaging or how thoroughly they’ve been put through the additive grinder, the genes of the corn used by Frito Lay emanate from seeds that are relatives of the seeds that have been cultivated by indigenous Americans (North and South) for thousands of years. Generation upon generation of the region’s farmers ensured that the seeds’ genetic pool was preserved, and thus provided the foundational raw material for the company’s processed food concoctions.
The seed group could have responded by requesting that Frito Lay, itself a subsidiary of gigantic PepsiCo, express its gratitude for the centuries of corn cultivation by the peoples of what is now Mexico and the American Southwest.
That didn’t happen.
Without the resources to fight one of the world’s biggest food companies, Native Seeds/SEARCH changed the disputed wording. “Parched Corn” packets now state, simply and directly, “Parched without oil for a healthy, crunchy, and uniquely Southwestern snack.”
“They seemed to come from a different continent, a different world,” said Laura Jones, the group’s acting director, as she recalled the inci­dent in 2016, while ushering me into the group’s refrigerated seed vault one hot summer morning in Tucson. She opened a foot-thick steel door, and we walked into the refreshingly cold air. There, on steel shelves, I gazed upon the genetic history of the American south­west. Piled into plastic canisters were seeds of every description—small ragged-edged oblong seeds, square-ish, round and trapezoidal seeds, future beans, squash, peas, corn, a desert wheat, and many oth­ers in dark browns, light browns, blues, blacks, yellows and whites. “This is our palette of genetic diversity, our insurance that we’ll be able to survive and thrive here in the southwest,” Jones said. As the world comes to resemble Arizona—hot and dry—those seeds are becoming ever more invaluable. Read More

Saturday, October 27, 2018

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Q Anon Discloses Secret Space Program

[Divine Cosmos] On Wednesday, September 19th, 2018, the mysterious Q Anon revealed that we are not alone in the universe, and that we do indeed have a Secret Space Program.
This is arguably the single most exciting development we’ve had in the entire time we’ve been doing this research… which has been full-time since February 1993.
Q Anon is the only officially-sanctioned voice of the Alliance today… a high-level group diligently working to create mass arrests of the Cabal and disclosure.
Q has since gone silent for 17 days as of October 9th, 2018, suggesting that “something big” is in the works. A letter was posted that day, apologizing for the delays.
We may therefore be going through the final “crunch time” where complete silence is needed for operational security, before the Alliance finishes the job.
The very next day after the announcement, we saw the untimely death of Karl Wolfe on October 10th, followed by Bob Dean the day after, on October 11th.
Karl Wolfe reported on anomalous structures he saw on the moon at the original 2001 Disclosure Project, and Bob Dean was a veteran of the Secret Space Program.
Wilcock met Karl Wolfe at the original Disclosure Project in 2001, and had hoped to interview him if he ever decided to speak out again.
Karl Wolfe was riding his bicycle when he was struck by an 18-wheel truck in Lansing, NY, and later died from his injuries in the hospital.
[This sounded very similar to the incident in January where Emery Smith’s dog was struck by an 18-wheel truck that could have easily hit him instead.]
Bob Dean revealed a much greater involvement “off the record” to this author than he had shared publicly, as discussed in the second half of The Ascension Mysteries.
Each of these men would have had irreplaceable value as public witnesses in a post-Secret Space Program disclosure society, and now they are gone.
Furthermore, the legendary Montauk Project whistleblower Preston Nichols had just died less than a week before, on October 5th, 2018.
These deaths may suggest that the Cabal responsible for this cover-up is doing its best to “clean house” before any disclosure announcements occur.
Other signs that we may be on the threshold of major events include mega-hurricanes and a major economic collapse now in progress that could easily become the next 2008.
The Dow Jones has already lost 2,245 points, a total of 8.4 percent, since its high of October 3rd.
This is very likely a structured, intentional event created by the Cabal to try to create chaos as the Alliance makes its final moves.
The film “Above Majestic” sheds new light on the Secret Space Program, Q Anon and much more, and is scheduled for release on multiple platforms such as ITunes as of October 30th.
The author of this article has top billing in the film and appears for many minutes of airtime throughout the movie, revealing a variety of controversial subjects.
Mr. Wilcock’s portion of the film was completely re-shot in early August, making it significantly upgraded from sneak-preview versions aired at Disclosure Fest on June 23rd and Dimensions of Disclosure on August 19th.
This film is destined to become an “instant classic”, and will be very useful in the disclosure process as we move forward — particularly in light of this stunning new revelation from Q Anon. Read More

The Chemical-Free Food Movement Turning Dusty Land Into Fertile Paradise

[Huffpost] Kristof and Stacia Nordin’s 3.7-acre garden outside Lilongwe, in Malawi, is a food forest. Mango trees grow beside tall tamarinds, acacia, guavas, passion fruit and coconut palms. Below them are lemon and orange trees, tomatoes, blackjack, maize, and cassava. The ground is thick with pineapples and watermelon, and decomposing leaves and other plants cover a rich soil growing yams and sweet potatoes.
The contrast between their garden at Chitedze, where they grow over 200 crops, and much of the land beyond their property is stark. Where the Nordins’ land is fed with their own compost and organic wastes, the majority of Malawian farmers use chemical fertilizers.
Where the Nordins have a 10-month growing season, picking fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year, Malawian agriculture is dominated by maize, which is vulnerable to droughts, heat waves, floods and insect infestations.
The Nordins are permaculturalists, two of many thousands of people around the world who are achieving extraordinary yields by planting a huge diversity of foods in very small areas, without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides or mechanization.
Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature. By getting many different food crops to grow together, as they would in any natural forest or ecosystem, it seeks to avoid the negative ecological effects of conventional, large-scale farming, which tries to maximize the yield of a single crop, or monocrop. 
There is no one definition, says Pete Harper, author and an environment lecturer at the University of Bath in the U.K. But what unifies the permaculture movement is a desire for both sustainability and high productivity. “It is supposed to require little work to sustain, mimic the diversity and complexity of a forest or other natural system, and be heavily based upon perennial food plants, and be  self-perpetuating and permanent,” Harper says. 
Stacia, a registered dietician, and Kristof, a social worker, were U.S. Peace Corps volunteers sent to Malawi in 1997 to help with HIV prevention work. They quickly learned that the southern African country had some of the highest malnutrition and HIV levels in the world, and that modern drugs alone were not the answer.
Poor nutrition can contribute to the progression of HIV. “We couldn’t address a disease that attacks the immune system without addressing the fact that immune systems were already compromised by malnutrition,” says Stacia. “We couldn’t work on improving nutrition without working to improve the diversity of what was being grown. And we couldn’t improve the diversity of agricultural crops without working to improve soil fertility.”  Read More

Indonesia's double disaster exposes earthquake lessons not learned

[PRI] The young man standing atop a mound of grey mud and debris on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, waiting for an excavator he hoped would dig out the bodies of his parents, voiced the exasperation many feel in his earthquake-plagued country.
"This is something that happens all the time in Indonesia. Why aren't we getting better at handling it?" Bachtiar cried as the machine clanked through the ruins of someone's kitchen in the city of Palu.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake on Sept. 28 triggered a tsunami and extensive soil liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns soft soil into a seething mire, killing 2,073 people, according to the latest official estimate. Up to 5,000 more may be missing.
"In every disaster, there's always a lesson to be learned," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency, said this week.
Nugroho conceded that Indonesia's preparedness for disasters and capacity to respond still fall woefully short, not least because public funding is so low. He said the country's disaster response budget is currently 4 trillion rupiah ($262 million) a year, equivalent to 0.002 percent of the state budget.
"We should not forget that there will be many disasters to come. It needs budget," he said. "We need to learn from Japan as they are consistent in preparation."
Critics say that, despite improvements at a national level in disaster management since a devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, local authorities often lack know-how and equipment, and so rescue efforts are delayed until the military can reach the area.
Also, a lack of education and safety drills means people don't know how to protect themselves when an earthquake strikes.
Palu was Indonesia's second earthquake disaster of 2018. In August, the island of Lombok was rocked by quakes that flattened villages and killed more than 500 people.
It was also only the latest in a string of deadly tsunamis to hit the archipelago in 2005, 2006 and 2010. But none of those compare with the 2004 tsunami that killed some 226,000 people in 13 countries, more than 120,000 of them in Indonesia alone.
Indonesia straddles the southwestern reaches of the Pacific Ring of Fire and is practically defined by the tectonic plates that grind below its lush islands and blue seas. Read More

Friday, October 26, 2018

Quake split a tectonic plate in two, and geologists are shaken

[National Geographic] On September 7, 2017, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck southern Mexico, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. While earthquakes are common enough in the region, this powerful event wasn’t any run-of-the-mill tremor.
That’s because part of the roughly 37-mile-thick tectonic plate responsible for the quake completely split apart, as revealed by a new study in Nature Geoscience. This event took place in a matter of tens of seconds, and it coincided with a gargantuan release of energy.
“If you think of it as a huge slab of glass, this rupture made a big, gaping crack,” says lead author Diego Melgar, an assistant professor of earthquake seismology at the University of Oregon. “All indications are that it has broken through the entire width of the thing.”
Such colossal fragmentation events have been observed before in a handful of places around the world, and all these epic earthquakes have one thing in common: No one really knows how they happen. This information gap matters, because huge populations from the western seaboard of the Americas to the eastern shores of Japan could be threatened by these enigmatic earthquakes.
For one thing, the deep quakes can induce strong shaking over a wide area that can level plenty of multistory buildings. One that took place beneath the Chilean town of Chillán in 1939, for example, killed at least 30,000 people. And when they happen near an ocean coastline, their destructive potential could be magnified.
“My real worry over these kinds of events is the tsunami,” Melgar says. Read More  

How Spirituality Affects Mental Health Will Inspire You To Believe In Something Bigger

[Elite Daily] What do you believe in? It’s kind of a daunting question, isn’t it? Growing up, I was taught to have faith in the Catholic church, and God, but I think what people get wrong about spirituality is that being spiritual isn’t solely based on religion; it’s about believing in something greater than yourself. Somewhere out there, be it in the universe or above it, I trust that there exists a power bigger than me, bigger than life on Earth, and according to new research, that kind of spirituality affects mental health in a big way. Regardless of what it is, exactly, that you believe in, what really seems to matter most is that you find your faith — be it organized religion, your own prayer, or even a meditative practice on your commute home — and that you don’t stop believing in it.
See, religion implies that there is a community of people who invest their faith in an organized fashion. And while your spirituality might stem from organized religion, it also might not. It’s a complicated concept, I know, but to put it simply, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, explains that spirituality is the sum of your individual core values and beliefs, and how you honor them both in your everyday life and how you connect with others. “Spirituality is often associated with many key aspects of how people relate to one another,” Glatter tells Elite Daily. “It involves the willingness to embrace others and to assist them in good times and bad times. It’s an openness that defines who you truly are.”
So, no, you don’t necessarily have to go to synagogue every week to be spiritual, but if practicing in a house of worship is what’s going to deepen your faith, then that’s beautiful, too. Either way, science says your mental health will benefit: According to a 14-year study, performed by a team of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health and The Human Flourishing Program, children and young adults who are brought up in religious and/or spiritual environments are less likely to become depressed, experiment with drugs, and engage in unsafe sexual behavior.
According to the study’s press release, Harvard researchers analyzed health data from mothers and their children who had respectively been enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II and the Growing Up Today Study. More than 5,000 children and young adults were evaluated over the course of roughly eight to 14 years in order to figure out how, exactly, a spiritual upbringing can affect mental health. The results, which have been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that spirituality “can powerfully affect health behaviors, mental health and overall happiness and well-being," per the press release.
And, as I’ve said time and again, statistics don’t lie, people. According to the researchers' findings, children and young adults who attended religious services weekly were 18 percent more likely to report feeling happier later on in life than those who didn't attend such services. What’s more, 29 percent were more likely to sign up for volunteer work, 33 percent were less likely to use drugs, and those who didn’t necessarily attend service but, instead, prayed at home or practiced meditation on a daily basis, were 16 percent "more likely to report higher happiness as young adults," according to the study's press release. Read More

What Would We Realistically Do if a Massive Asteroid Was Headed Towards Earth?

There’s no precedent in the history of complex life on Earth, so we can only extrapolate.

[Quora] Earth has 20 years before the impact of a 20 mile wide asteroid. What would the timeline to save humanity look like?
The social and political results are really tough to predict. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Neal Stephenson’s SevenEves to see how a thoughtful SF writer imagines the world would react to a similar kind of global disaster (though Stephenson assumes an even more harrowing 2-year lead time).
It’s a lot easier to consider the scientific & technological issues, so I’ll focus on them instead.
First off, could there be an undiscovered 20-mile-wide asteroid headed our way in the foreseeable future? The answer is a qualified yes. The killer could not come from the asteroid belt. Astronomers have already plotted the orbit of every asteroid that size (and a lot smaller) in great detail. There is no object that size that could plausibly hit Earth any time in the next few thousand years—probably not in the next few million years.
There is one way that an object like that could be on its way without anyone knowing, however. If it were a giant comet or dislodged Kuiper Belt Object coming toward us on an extremely elliptical path (ie. falling almost straight toward the Sun), it would be very hard to detect. We plausibly might not spot it until it was somewhere between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. An object at that distance would, in fact, take about 20 years to reach us.
Keep in mind that 20-mile-wide objects are extremely rare, relatively speaking. There is no record of Earth being struck by anything that size in the past two billion years. The likelihood of it happening in the next few years is, well, astronomically small. But let’s play out the scenario.
OK, what would happen if the asteroid struck? We’re talking about an object that is 2–3 times the diameter of the asteroid that hit us at the end of the Cretaceous. Given its steep path toward the Sun, it would be moving at a high velocity as well. It might pack 100 times the energy of the impact that ushered the old dinosaurs off the scene. This would be a full-on extinction-level event. There’s no precedent in the history of complex life on Earth, so we can only extrapolate.
All of Earth’s surface would be set on fire. There would be tremendous earthquakes and tsunamis, followed by massive volcanism around the impact zone. The ozone layer would be destroyed. The oceans would turn acidic. The Sun would be blotted out, probably for decades. All surface infrastructure would be destroyed. Most complex species would surely perish in the aftermath. Read More

An intense storm has wiped out a remote Hawaiian island, and it's a sign of things to come

[My San Antonio] An 11-acre island in the Pacific Ocean has vanished after Hurricane Walaka, one of the most powerful storms to sweep through the area, struck the island in early October.
Satellite photos show that East Island, located roughly 550 miles northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, was wiped off the map during the hurricane.
East Island is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a 1,350-mile-long stretch of coral islands, banks, seamounts, and shoals. Until now, it supported a wide variety of coral, fish, birds, and marine mammals, many of which can't be found outside of the Hawaiian Islands.
The island was the second-largest in French Frigate Shoals, which are home to rare species like the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the threatened sea green turtle. In addition, about 14 million seabirds across 22 species breed and nest in the shoals.
According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, East Island was the nesting ground for 50% of the world's Hawaiian green sea turtles, and about one-seventh of the world's Hawaiian monk seals were born on the isle.
But the area that served as a home for these animals is nearly gone, with only bits of sand still proving it ever existed. Read More

Sea Level Rise: What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’?

[Rolling Stone] Hurricane Michael, the third most intense storm on record to make landfall in the U.S., has caused widespread destruction, turning places like Mexico Beach, Florida, into a hellscape of broken homes and overturned cars. It will be a while before we learn the full extent of the damage — and the human suffering and death — caused by the storm’s 155 mph winds and the 14-foot storm surge that swamped the coastline.
Bad as the hurricane was, imagine the damage and destruction if that storm surge had been 15 feet or so higher. And if instead of receding, that wall of water never went away. That is what we could be facing in the not-so-distant future if we don’t dramatically cut fossil-fuel pollution.
If that sounds alarmist, watch this short video. In it, you’ll see a scientist named Richard Alley in a Skype discussion with students at Bard College, as well as with Eban Goodstein, director of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard. It would be just another nerdy Skype chat except Alley is talking frankly about something that few scientists have the courage to say in public: As bad as you think climate change might be in the coming decades, reality could be far worse. Within the lifetime of the students he’s talking with, Alley says, there’s some risk — small but not as small as you might hope — that the seas could rise as much as 15-to-20 feet.
Let’s pause to think about what 15-to-20 feet of sea-level rise in the next 70 or so years looks like. I’ll put it bluntly: It means not just higher storm surges from hurricanes, but the permanent drowning of virtually every major coastal city in the world. Miami, New Orleans, large parts of Boston and New York City and Silicon Valley, not to mention Shanghai, Jakarta, Ho Chi Min City, Lagos, Mumbai — all gone. And I don’t mean “sunny day flooding,” where you get your feet wet on the way to the mall. I mean these cities, and many more, become scuba diving sites.
There are not enough economists in the world to calculate the trillions of dollars worth of real estate that would be lost in a scenario like this. Nor are there enough social scientists to count the hundreds of millions of people who would be displaced. You think the world is a chaotic place now? Just wait.
Richard Alley is not a fringe character in the world of climate change. In fact, he is widely viewed as one of the greatest climate scientists of our time. If there is anyone who understands the full complexity of the risks we face from climate change, it’s Alley. And far from being alarmist, Alley is known for his careful, rigorous science. He has spent most of his adult life deconstructing past Earth climates from the information in ice cores and rocks and ocean sediments. And what he has learned about the past, he has used to better understand the future. Read More and Go to Video

How Hunger Fuels Crime and Violence in Venezuela

[TIME] Desperate people in Venezuela don’t rob stores or banks. There would be no point; cash machines have been mostly empty since early this year, when hyperinflation transformed the bolívar into a worthless piece of paper.
But desperate people in Venezuela do rob restaurants.
As the country creaks into its fifth year of economic crisis, hunger is on everyone’s minds. Nine out of 10 households say they don’t have enough money to buy food. Nearly two-thirds go to sleep hungry at night. Catholic non-profit Cáritas calculates that a family would need 98 times the minimum wage to afford a basic food supply.
Locals call the lack of food, “The Maduro diet,” after President Nicolás Maduro, who since 2013 has led Venezuela’s increasingly authoritarian government and driven the country into humanitarian crisis.
Maduro took over the socialist model built by his late mentor, former President Hugo Chávez. Since the late 1990s, food, and other goods and utilities were subsidized by the state off the back of vast oil revenues. But after a steep drop in global fuel prices in 2014, the money stopped flowing. Price controls remained on goods, making them often cheaper than the cost of production. That forced many food producers out of business. Others were taken over by the state and then poorly managed. To make matters worse, the imploding value of the bolívar has made it impossible for either companies or the government to import goods.
Today, as Maduro refuses to lessen his grip on power, Venezuelans are facing brutal political repression, crippled health and education systems, and never-ending economic decline. But it is hunger that has most profoundly transformed daily life, says photographer Ignacio Marin, who traveled to the Venezuelan city of Caracas in May. “You can survive a week without school,” he says. “But you can’t survive a week without food.”
Marin spent a month in the city, documenting how Venezuelans are coping with their country’s painful collapse. Empty stomachs are driving people from all walks of life into crime and fueling an unprecedented wave of violence that claims 73 lives each day.
The average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds in 2017 and hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of death from malnutrition.
“We’re talking about families that had jobs, that were middle class, no longer being able to afford food,” Marin says. Many people spend hours each day in lines outside grocery stores, looking for the few products that have made it on to shelves and scraping together enough bolivars to pay their inflated prices. Those who can access dollars use them on a black market for food. Others look through bags of trash, or loot restaurants and grocery stores.
More than 87% of households receive boxes of subsidized food intermittently delivered by Local Committees for Supplies and Production (CLAP), a state food aid program, according to Cáritas. The opposition and NGOs say that the government is weaponizing its control of food access as a way to firm up support. Read More