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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Highway Boondoggles Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future (US PIRG) [feedly]


Highway Boondoggles Wasted Money and America's Transportation Future (US PIRG)
// A post-automobile world?

Americans drive no more in total now than we did in 2005, and no more on average than we did at the end of Bill Clinton's first term as president. The recent stagnation in driving comes on the heels of a six decade-long Driving Boom that saw steady, rapid increases in driving and congestion across the United States, along with the investment of more than $1 trillion of public money in highways.

But even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities.

Eleven proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $13 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending. These projects, some of them originally proposed decades ago, either address problems that do not exist, or have serious negative impacts on surrounding communities that undercut their value. They are but a sampling of many questionable highway projects across the country that could cost taxpayers tens of billions more dollars to build, and many more billions over the course of upcoming decades to maintain.

With the federal Highway Trust Fund on life support, states struggling to meet basic infrastructure maintenance needs, and growing demands for investment in public transportation and other non-driving forms of transportation, America does not have the luxury of wasting tens of billions of dollars on new highways of questionable value. State and federal decision-makers should reevaluate the need for the projects profiled in this report and others that no longer make sense in an era of changing transportation priorities.

America's driving habits are changing, and those changes are likely to last.

Figure ES-1. Vehicle-Miles Traveled in the United States, 1946-2013

Figure ES-2. Vehicle-Miles Traveled per Capita in the United States, 1946-2013

The total number of miles Americans drive is lower than it was in 2005, while per-capita driving has fallen by 7 percent in the last nine years. (See Figures ES-1 and ES-2.) If old Driving Boom trends had continued, Americans would currently drive an average of about 11,300 miles annually instead of the current average which has fallen to just below 9,400. In fact, as Figure ES-1 shows, Americans are driving a total of about three hundred billion fewer annual miles today than if Driving Boom trends had continued. While the economic recession contributed to the fall in driving, the shift predates the recession by several years and many of the forces contributing to the fall in driving are likely to be lasting.

    • The number of cars and licensed drivers per household both peaked during the 2000s and have subsequently declined. The workforce participation rate, which also increased during the Driving Boom years, has been falling and is expected to fall farther as the Baby Boomers age.
    • Gasoline prices have been high for much of the last decade and government forecasters anticipate that they are unlikely to fall significantly in the foreseeable future.
    • The long-term trend toward suburbanization has stopped. In the early 2010s, central cities grew faster than their suburbs for the first time in 90 years.
    • The use of non-driving modes of transportation – transit, bicycling and walking – is on the rise. In addition, recent years have seen the emergence of new forms of mobility such as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing whose influence is just beginning to be felt.
    • Transportation behaviors have been changing fastest among members of the Millennial generation. Americans aged 16 to 34 drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than they did in 2001. Millennials are not only the largest generation in the United States, but they will be the primary users of transportation infrastructure we build today.

Despite the end of the Driving Boom, the United States continues to spend tens of billions of dollars each year on highway expansion.

    • U.S. federal, state and local governments spent roughly as much money on highway expansion projects in 2010 as they did a decade earlier, despite a dramatic change in anticipated future growth in driving. In 1999, the federal government anticipated that Americans would be driving 3.7 trillion miles per year by 2013 – 26 percent more miles than we actually did.
    • States continued to spend $20.4 billion a year constructing new roads or expanding the capacity of existing roads between 2009 and 2011, according to Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. During that same period, states spent just $16.5 billion repairing and preserving existing roads, even as those roads' surface conditions worsened.
    • If the states had spent their road expansion money on repairs instead, they could have halved the portion of road surfaces in poor condition by 2011. If that practice had continued, no state-owned roads would have surfaces in poor condition by the end of 2014.

States continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on new or expanded highways that are often not justified in terms of their benefits to the transportation system, or pose serious harm to surrounding communities. In some cases, officials are proposing to tack expensive highway expansions onto necessary repair and reconstruction projects, while other projects represent entirely new construction. Many of these projects began years or decades ago and have continued moving forward with no newer evaluation of whether their existence is justified. Questionable projects poised to absorb billions of scarce transportation dollars include:

    • Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, Washington, $3.1 billion to $4.1 billion – A cheaper transit-based alternative to an expensive highway tunnel has already been put in place as a stopgap during the much-delayed tunneling project. The stopgap's successes could be built upon in order to achieve nearly all the same goals as the tunnel project for far less money.
    • Tesoro Extension to Toll Road 241, California, $200 million – A proposed extension of a toll road already in danger of default because of lower-than-projected traffic.
    • Interstate 11, Arizona and Nevada, $2.5 billion – A long-distance Interstate highway would be built in a corridor already well served by a non-Interstate highway that is not projected to become congested in the foreseeable future.
    • Dallas Trinity Parkway, Texas, $1.5 billion – A nine-mile urban highway through the heart of Dallas would have a minimal impact on congestion while detracting from popular, ongoing efforts to make downtown Dallas an attractive place to live and work.
    • Tolled Express Lanes on Route 470, Colorado, $153 million – The state's own analysis assumes that the project won't deliver net benefits until at least the early 2030s.
    • Double-decking I-94 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, $800 million – Insisting on a wider road despite its own data showing feared traffic increases are not materializing, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to rebuild an existing highway as an eight-lane double-decker route through a narrow channel between three cemeteries, despite objections from local officials and citizen groups.
    • Widening I-94 through Detroit, Michigan, $2.7 billion – Motor City area residents say they would rather live with current traffic congestion than pay for road widening projects. Nevertheless, state highway planners want to expand a highway through Detroit, further disconnecting two rebounding neighborhoods and demolishing 11 pedestrian-usable bridges.
    • Illiana Expressway, Illinois and Indiana, $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion – A new privatized toll road proposed primarily to speed freight trucks across the Midwest may instead charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.
    • Cleveland Opportunity Corridor, Ohio, $331 million – A $100-million-a-mile road has been proposed for a community where driving has been stagnant for years, and where residents are calling instead for repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements.
    • Effingham Parkway, Georgia, $49 million to $100 million – A new road north and west of Savannah is intended to relieve the traffic burden from an existing state highway, where traffic is not keeping up with projections.
    • I-26 Connector, North Carolina, $400 million to $600 million – A large part of this massive project includes widening a highway that does not have enough use to justify the expansion, in the process destroying homes and businesses in a mature livable neighborhood.

The diversion of funds to these questionable projects is especially harmful given that there is an enormous need for investment in repairs to existing roads, as well as transit improvements and investments in bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, even as the federal Highway Trust Fund runs on empty. Federal and state governments should eliminate or downsize unnecessary or low-priority highway projects to free up resources for true transportation priorities.

Specifically, policy-makers should:

    • Reconsider all plans for new and expanded highways in light of new transportation trends and recent changes in traffic volumes. This includes projects proposed to be completed via public-private partnerships.
    • Reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and investment in other transportation options.
    • Encourage transportation investments that can reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects. Investments in public transportation, changes in land-use policy, road pricing measures, and technological measures that help drivers avoid peak-time traffic, for instance, can often reduce congestion more cheaply and effectively than highway expansion.
    • Reevaluate transportation forecasting models to ensure that they reflect changing preferences for housing and transportation among Millennials and others, and incorporate the availability of new transportation options such as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing.
    • Invest in research and data collection to more effectively track and react to ongoing shifts in how people travel.

FIND THE FULL REPORT AT: http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/highway-boondoggles

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"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Contrast: Virginia Mason and Salem Hospital

More Than 100 Wash. Businesses Urge State Action On Climate Change | KPLU News for Seattle and the Northwest
Virginia Mason wants climate realism; Salem Hospital wants more and more parking, and more obesity and inactivity related illness and auto infrastructure, including plumping for a gigantic Bridgeasaurus Boondogglus that would help worsen inequality, which worsens public health.

More Than 100 Wash. Businesses Urge State Action On Climate Change

More than 100 Washington businesses are calling for action on climate change and urging others to join them.

Companies including Microsoft, Foss Maritime, REI and Virginia Mason Medical Center have signed an open declaration, saying climate change is real and happening and that more action is needed to address it.

They say there are economic and social costs to doing nothing, but that tackling carbon pollution is one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century and simply "the right thing to do." They want the state legislature to adopt policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.




"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

No on 90! Don't privatize the general election to "open" primaries

Primaries are already open to all on a nondiscriminatory basis -- all anyone has to do is pick the party they like and participate.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nationally, as in Salem, our "leaders" priorities are insane

Feds Kill Funds for Most Successful Senior Housing Project | Alternet

Feds Kill Funds for Most Successful Senior Housing Project

Photo Credit: Retirement Housing Foundation

When construction started in mid-October on Heritage Park Senior Village in Taylor, Michigan, it marked the end of 55 years of effort by the federal government to make sure low-income elders can live out their years in decent housing.

The development getting underway 18 miles southwest of downtown Detroit is one of the very last to be constructed under a federal housing program that dates back to 1959.

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program produced 20,000 housing units per year at its peak in the 1970s. It provided public housing agencies and nonprofit groups with grants that covered the cost to build decent rental housing, as well as subsidies for people who were too poor to pay market-rate rents for comparable housing.

Obama's Rush to Cut Funds

But three years ago, at the height of the new congressional obsession with budget cutting, the Obama Administration stopped requesting money for new construction under the program. Funding continues at a reduced level to renew existing rental subsidies on existing properties, as well as for repairs and improvements to those properties.

But federal support for new Sec. 202 construction has ended, with little prospect it will ever be revived . . . ( much more at link)



"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

In case you thought climate realism was a commie libtard plot

Risky Business | The Economic Risk of Climate Change in the US
http://riskybusiness.org/


"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Already playing in the Northwest & in Theaters Everywhere!

The Scrambled Natural World of Global Warming, A Travelogue :: Winter 2014 :: Washington State Magazine
The Scrambled Natural World of Global Warming, A Travelogue :: 
Winter 2014 :: Washington State Magazine
http://wsm.wsu.edu/s/index.php?id=1161

Jesse A. Logan '77 PhD is hiking up a mountainside in Yellowstone National Park and walking back in time. He starts at 8,600 feet above sea level, in a forest thick with the scent of fir and lodgepole pine, and with almost every spry step, the scenery changes. There's an understory of grouse whortleberry, then accents of mountain bluebells and higher still, the whitebark pine, one of the oldest organisms of the Interior West.

Finally, the vegetation gives way to large swatches of scree. Logan's 70-year-old legs have gone up 2,000 feet and back more than 10,000 years, from the lush vegetation of the twenty-first century to the hardscrabble world of the Pleistocene Epoch, when glaciers scraped the earth and plants struggled to hang on.

The view east and north opens up, and Logan can peer into the Shoshone National Forest's Crow Creek drainage. It's a long trough fringed with peaks and mesas and vast groves of dead trees. One section of trees was burned in the spectacular fires of 1988. But even larger sections are forests of whitebark pine ravaged by the mountain pine beetle.

As a U.S. Forest Service entomologist in the 1990s, Logan developed a model that showed global warming could raise temperatures enough for the beetles to flourish and overwhelm the pine. His prediction came true beginning in 2003, when a beetle outbreak swept over much of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The trees turned a glowing red as their needles died, then became "ghost forests" of bleached skeletons.

"I've watched all of this happen," says Logan. "First the south-facing slopes went, naturally, then the north-facing slopes. It's just heartbreaking."

The view is a peek into a future of increasing global temperatures and rapidly changing natural relationships. For thousands of years, plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi have secured a tenuous foothold on the planet by adapting to specific niches and relationships. Now, a seemingly subtle rise in the average global temperature—1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—is prompting a cascade of ecological changes. They could only hasten as temperatures rise as much as 8 degrees more by the end of this century.

Earlier this year, the Third National Climate Assessment, an analysis by more than 300 experts, cited 30 observed and projected biological responses to climate change in the United States. Among them: the loss of habitat for nearly a dozen marine mammals, earlier salmon migrations that risk being out of synch with optimal spawning conditions, fewer trout in the West, earlier bird migrations, and dying western conifers. In general, the assessment's Climate Change Impacts in the United States says climate change can reduce the ability of ecosystems to improve water quality and regulate water flows. It can also overwhelm the ability of ecosystems to buffer extreme events like fire and floods. Some species may decline and even become extinct, "altering some regions so much that their mix of plant and animal life will become almost unrecognizable."

One need only look at the salamanders Rod Sayler traps at the edge of the Pullman campus. The creatures live and breed in small pools around the arboretum, metamorphosing from larvae to adults as the pools dry. But if the pools dry too quickly, the salamanders emerge smaller and less fit to make their way in the world.

"Salamanders are kind of a canary in the mine, as so many species are," says Sayler, who teaches conservation biology as an associate professor in Washington State University's School of the Environment. "They show us that we have these changes going on in the environment… This is just one tiny example of all these other multitudes of changes going on at the same time that are affecting our ecological communities."

Exactly how those communities will be affected, though, is subject to a lot of fine, as-yet-unwritten print. In a way, climate change is scrambling the natural world so much that it is sending ecologists back to the drawing board.

 "I always say that one of the products of climate change is uncertainty," says Ken Raffa '80 PhD and professor of forest entomology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. "We can say with certainty some products of climate change are rising ocean levels or changing insect ranges. But I think we have to be honest and say another product of climate change is more often we find ourselves answering intelligent questions by saying, 'I don't know' about things we used to know a lot about."

"The more we learn, the more complicated it starts to look to us," says Jesse Brunner, an assistant professor in the WSU School of Biological Sciences studying the effect of climate change on the blacklegged tick, carrier of several diseases, including Lyme disease.

"I remember when I was first hearing about climate change and disease, it was really simple relationships," Brunner says. "It was things like, warmer temperature, faster development, everything goes to hell. But the reality seems to be, the climate gets warmer and more variable and precipitation changes and certain types of organisms might do a little bit better, at least in certain stages of their life cycle. But others might do worse. Trying to figure out the net outcome of that is a messy business."

In a way, the term "global warming" confuses the issue. Just as some places might actually get colder, the effects of rising average temperatures will often be quite localized. To see this, we've arranged with several WSU faculty and alumni to take a virtual tour of the country, from a New Hampshire hillside to the tidal flats of San Francisco Bay, with stops in between.  Along the way, we'll see researchers observing and anticipating the effects of rising temperature on the natural world, a bewildering process that takes ecology's already complicated study of connections and activates a whole new set of circumstances.

Some are good, some are bad. Whatever the outcome, ecologists tend to agree that the warmer future will be profoundly different.

"This is a new game, no question," says Logan, who expects negative impacts to outweigh potential benefits. "It's really an interesting time to be an ecologist, but not a particularly happy time."

Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, North Woodstock, New Hampshire

In the fall of 2009, Michael Webster left a faculty appointment at WSU to take an endowed chair in ornithology at Cornell University. He moved, as the crow flies, 2,000 miles from Pullman to Ithaca, New York. The trip was as easy and risk free as for just about any other animal. And quite possibly easier than the move a black-throated warbler might make as global warming shifts its habitat up or down a hillside.

"We're very flexible animals," says Webster, who still collaborates with WSU faculty. "We have technology that helps us deal with a huge range of conditions. These birds don't necessarily have that technology and it's unclear how flexible they are and how well they can adapt to a changing climate. And that's what we're trying to figure out."

The black-throated blue warbler is a forest bird that migrates from the Caribbean to breed each summer in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. For years, Webster has studied the bird in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, one of more than two dozen long-term ecological study sites run by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies.

Like most creatures, the bird has evolved to breed in a specific niche. If average temperatures change and alter that niche, the bird could find itself in a bind, as would other birds, insects, and other animals.

"Basically there are three options for those species," says Webster. "One is to adapt to the changing conditions. Another is to move to where conditions are more favorable for you. And the third is to go extinct, at least locally." The creatures that go extinct are, in effect, fatally bound by their evolution. Unlike a human, they can't pack a moving truck and go to a new clime.

"They become trapped by their own ecology," says Webster.

As it happens, more is known about the Hubbard warblers than just about any other breeding population. With climate conditions changing, Webster and his colleagues saw a chance to ask, "Is this good or bad for the birds?"

Webster simulated a warming climate with more food, putting out meal worms and training the birds to eat them. He found that, to the extent a warming climate increases the abundance of food, the birds might fare better.

"They do modify what they are doing in a way that is at least partially adaptive for the changing conditions," he says. "They do OK and in fact, to a certain level, they do well. This is one of the birds that at least in the short term might benefit from changing conditions."

Indeed, if they have more food in the spring, they could breed as soon as they return from migration, and might make two broods. But a long-term warming trend could also affect the structure of the forest, shading out the understory so there is less food for insects. This is probably what's happening at lower elevations.

"So over the longer term, it may be not good for the birds," Webster says. "There's this complicated thing where, short term, it's probably good for them. Long term, possibly not."

Researchers have noticed that birds in Europe, where ecological conditions are more similar, are having young out of sync with the emergence of caterpillars, a major food source. In the United States, where forests are more varied, there are more varieties of caterpillars and a less predictible peak in food abundance.

Still, what's good for the warbler may not be good for the wren, and ecologists struggle to find an overarching theory for the effect of a rapidly changing climate.

"So far, I don't see a general rule of thumb emerging," says Webster. "It looks like it might be much more species by species."

San Francisco Bay

Back in the mid-'70s, while finishing his WSU doctorate in zoology, James Cloern saw an episode of NOVA featuring U.S. Geological Survey scientists studying the inner workings of San Francisco Bay's physics, chemistry, and biology.

"Wow," he recalls thinking. "Wouldn't that be a neat place to work?"

Six months later, he was in San Francisco as a USGS ecological modeler. That was 38 years ago. At the time, the USGS San Francisco Bay program was already looking at climate variability—cyclical changes in precipitation, river flow, wet years, and dry years. In the last 20 years, the changes have been more continuous. Their footprint has also been huge.

"In our long-term studies, we've detected large changes inside San Francisco Bay that we think are attributed to climate-driven changes that are operating across the entire North Pacific Ocean," he says. "In terms of everything being connected, in order to understand a place like Puget Sound or Willapa Bay or San Francisco Bay, we need to understand what's going on in the local watershed, in the far watershed and across the North Pacific Ocean basin."

In 2011, he was the lead author of a study in the online journal PLOS ONE projecting changes to the bay under two contrasting climate scenarios of fast and moderate warming. Aimed in part at helping resource managers plan for a warmer future, both scenarios anticipated a shrinking water supply, wetter winters and drier summers, rising sea levels, "reduced habitat quality for native aquatic species, and expanding envelopes of environmental variability into regimes we have not experienced." Salt water will intrude more into freshwater areas, hurting irrigation and supplies of drinking water. Four runs of native Chinook salmon will spawn in summer waters warmed to "lethal levels" for their eggs.

"Sea level rise in a sense is a straightforward problem," says Cloern, "whereas sustaining endangered, indigenous species is really challenging because it's not the response of just one thing. It's not just increasing water temperature. It's not just changes in salinity. It's changes in the food supply. It's changes in habitats that are required for spawning and for avoiding predators. It's changes in competition from invasive species that are going to find themselves in a habitat that's more favorable to them. So it's a multidimensional, complex, much more challenging problem."

Lyme, Connecticut, and Points West and North

When we think of ecology—the study of organisms and how they interact with each other and their environment—it's easy to forget that humans are one of those organisms. The blacklegged tick does a good job of driving that point home.

The tick transmits the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of Lyme disease, so named after it was seen in three communities centered around Lyme in 1975. At the time, outbreaks of the disease were confined to coastal southern New England. It has since spread through the Northeast and upper Midwest and become the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Now comes the era of climate change, creating what Jesse Brunner, a disease ecologist and assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences, calls "an interesting, natural experiment that's happening  right in front of us."

Here's a simplified form of one scenario. If temperatures go up, more ticks will survive, breed, and infect. Early on, it was widely thought the ticks required mild winters to survive, like those found near coastal areas, and that they were restricted from moving inland by cold, dry winters.

But the invasion of recent years negates that hypothesis, says Brunner. The ticks exist in lots of places without mild winters. Thinking that rare cold snaps might still kill the ticks off, Brunner one winter put some in the ground in mesh bags, digging them up every few weeks to see which survived. They seemed to be unaffected by the cold, finding places just warm enough in the ground to survive.

Still, Canadian researchers hypothesize the ticks might run through their life cycle faster with warmer temperatures. Going from eggs to larvae to nymphs to adults generally takes two or three years. The longer that takes, the more risks they face, says Brunner, leading to fewer progeny.

So the cold overwintering hypothesis gives way to the warmer, faster development, less risk hypothesis. As Brunner puts it, this can make more places "permissive" for ticks.

"The regions in North America that are permissive for ticks are probably expanding," he says. "At least on the northern edge it seems to be expanding, just because it's getting warmer in the northern regions and they're able to complete their life cycle quickly in the northern region. Those areas that could not have ticks before probably now can have ticks."

But a tick's survival also depends on its ability to get a blood meal, which it does by "questing." This involves climbing high up a piece of vegetation and sitting with arms extended to grab a passing creature—a deer, a mouse, opossum, a human. But elevated, open questing spots can be dry, and all that time above the humid leaf litter with arms extended dries a tick out. Meanwhile, with global warming, the Northeast summers are forecast to be hotter, with less frequent, larger rains between long dry spells.

"My suspicion is that there's going to be a lot more time that's basically bad for questing," says Brunner. "They're going to have a harder time finding a host. So all of a sudden, developmental times may not be the issue. The ability to complete your life cycle, that may be easier to do under future climate. But getting a host might be a lot more difficult."

No blood meal, no tick.

Then there's the effect that climate change has on the host themselves. Their populations may be sensitive to temperature, as well as their food sources. And remember the tick's pathogen, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Its ability to replicate is also affected by temperature.

"It could be that under warmer conditions, pathogens might replicate faster," says Brunner, "which means they might be more likely to get transmitted to a new host. In a lot of hosts, though, the immune system can be temperature-dependent as well. For a lot of arthropods, their immune system functions better at warmer temperatures."

At least for now, he said, "We don't know which one is going to end up winning the temperature race."

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

For thousands of years, the whitebark pine has flourished by going where no tree dares to go—the bitterly cold, windswept reaches high up on the western spine of the continent. It has colonized poor soils, enabling an ecosystem in which calving elk have cover and Clark's nutcrackers, squirrels, and bears can thrive on the tree's fat- and protein-laden nuts. As a friend of Logan's puts it, the trees "turn granite into grizzly bears."

But the tree also has the distinction of being, as Logan puts it, "one hell of a survivor, not a particularly good competitor." This has been borne out by the mountain pine beetle's ability to so utterly overwhelm the tree in what Logan has called a "perfect storm" of circumstances.

First, winters grew milder, letting more adult beetles survive. Some adults could overwinter and attack early in the year, while other adults attacked later.

Then there's the chemistry. Typically, the beetle has attacked lodgepole pine, which tends to grow at lower elevations than the whitebark. The lodgepole has a potent arsenal of resins to repel or kill adults and prevent eggs from hatching. The whitebark has some of the same chemicals, called monoterpenes, but not as many. Moreover, attacking female bark beetles can convert some of the tree's chemicals into pheromones used to attract males, rallying the troops.

"They use the tree's defense chemicals as precursors to the aggregation pheromone," says Raffa, the Wisconsin entomologist, who last year wrote about the whitebark chemistry in PLOS ONE. "So as long as the tree is fighting back, it's bringing in more and more beetles. It's kind of a multi-million-year-old version of jujitsu."

After burrowing through the tree's bark, the beetles make a J shape in the phloem, the bark layer that takes nutrients from the leaves to the roots. A year after an attack, the tree's needles turn red and eventually fall, leaving a ghost forest.

"Pretty soon, you just see bare skeletons," says Logan.

In 2009, Logan did an aerial survey of the Yellowstone ecosystem and found 95 percent of the whitebark pines had some level of mortality, with nearly half losing their ecosystem services like food for grizzlies and retained snowpack. Logan sees the damage most everywhere now, especially since much of his retirement—some 100 days a year—is spent back-country skiing in the park.

For scores of other species, the effect of global warming can be unclear, complicated, and subject to all manner of ifs. But as Logan said upon accepting a forest entomology award in 2010, the beetle outbreaks on the whitebark pine "are perhaps the clearest example to date of a predicted ecological response to global warming that was borne out by subsequent events."

He may well be the nation's biggest advocate of the whitebark pine, telling its story to the likes of High Country News and The New York Times. Encountering a group of hikers on the way to Avalanche Peak, he says, "You guys notice all the trees? Bark beetle." When a visitor suggested that the whitebark is not a particularly good looking tree, he politely said those could be construed as fighting words.

But he sees no quick fix. Pesticides are impractical. Replanting trees is prohibitively expensive and, like pesticides, outside the park's guiding principle of letting nature take its course.

So Logan takes the long view. Driving above the treeline one afternoon, he stops at the Rock Creek Vista Point. At 9,190 feet above sea level, it must be one of the highest rest areas in America, with fortress-like privies and expansive views of rock and stunted, twisted krummholz versions of whitebark pine.

"I just don't see much optimism in the current distribution of whitebark in this system," said Logan. "The way climate is going, I see massive disruption for grizzlies, for water retention. We're in for some serious times."

He recalls how his grandfather, who was born in 1856, told of seeing a fungus wipe out the American chestnut, an enormously valuable tree in the woodlands of the eastern United States. Logan expects that he too will explain to his own grandchildren how a major tree left the landscape.

But taking an even longer view, he says the whitebark's future may well be here among the krummholz. High enough to avoid the reach of the beetles, the trees can serve as a genetic repository, if and when the climate stabilizes or the tree develops some sort of adaptive response to the beetle. Meanwhile, it can hunker down in a forbidding redoubt of rock and snow, growing at a glacial pace, taking half a century to so much as put out its first pine cone, awaiting the day its time returns.

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"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Ebola versus Cars


Ebola versus Cars
// The Daily Score blog - Sightline Daily

I think this chart speaks for itself.

Original Sightline Institute chart, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute chart, available under our free use policy.

It's probably fair to say that we're in the midst of a full-blown media frenzy over the (admittedly worrisome) spread of the latest Ebola virus. Yet so far this year roughly 242 times as many people have died from traffic collisions—and I haven't yet heard anyone call for banning cars, making driving illegal, or quarantining motorists.

It's almost as if we're prone to focus on—and even overreact to—new and near-term problems and not very good at dealing with slower-moving "constant" threats even if they are wildly more dangerous. There's a lesson here for our wholly inadequate response to climate change, though it's not a case I can make with nearly as much alacrity as Jon Stewart.

 

Notes: Data on traffic related fatalities from the World Health Organization (WHO) here. Data on Ebola virus fatalities from WHO, CDC, and various recent media accounts such as this and this.

Sightline Institute researches the best practices in public policy for a sustainable Pacific Northwest. Read more at daily.sightline.org.


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"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A must-read: Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy [feedly]


What was once beautiful, secure, and seemingly permanent can change quickly, in Salem as everywhere else.


"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Abolish the Death Penalty!: Good thing he wasn't executed first

"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Wrongfully Convicted of Rape, Man Awarded $41.6M
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A New York man who was wrongfully convicted of the rape of a fellow high school student back in 1989 has been awarded $41,650,000. The lawsuit filed by the man named Putnam County and the sheriff's investigator as defendants. Back when the plaintiff was in high school, a 15-year-old fellow student was found having been beaten, raped and strangled to death. Investigators suspected the plaintiff because he had been late to school one day. During a six-hour interrogation and after three lie detector tests, the plaintiff confessed to the crime. He was convicted despite the fact that DNA evidence did not match his own. According to the plaintiff, he feared for his life during the interrogation. In 2006, the plaintiff's conviction was dropped after DNA evidence pointed to another man who confessed of the crime. The plaintiff was awarded the $41,650,000 on Thursday. 
Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News 10/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon
Read Article: New York Daily News    

Thursday, October 23, 2014

YES on 92! Great op-Ed on the Disinformation Campaign of Anti-M92 "Letter to Physicians."

The corporate-owned phood lobby is spending huge sums and getting increasingly hysterical about Measure 92 forcing them to give Oregonians truthful, accurate information about what's in our food.  If there was ever a measure that should unite all Oregonians on the YES side, Measure 92 is it.



As the battle heats up over this multi-million ballot measure, the proponent insists we do have the right to know what's in our food. 

OPINION -- Last week, physicians throughout Oregon received a letter from former Oregon Medical Association (OMA) leaders urging recipients to vote against Measure 92, which would require labeling for genetically engineered foods (GMO's). It was paid for by the No on 92 campaign.

In the first paragraph, the letter says "we know that facts matter, and facts should drive public policy."

Yes, they should. That's why it's so unfortunate that this letter is rife with half-truths, misrepresentations, and simply wrong statements.

Let's take a closer look at some of the sound bites and then go deeper, where the real story can be found:

Letter: "Measure 92 is a complex and costly food labeling scheme that would only exist in Oregon . . ."

The facts: Measure 92 was carefully crafted by a team of food experts and attorneys, including several from the Center for Food Safety, who have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on genetically engineered food issues. Its hallmark is consistency with current federal labeling laws and efforts in other states.

Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have already passed GMO labeling bills, although Connecticut and Maine don't go into effect until neighboring states do. In all, 24 states have introduced similar legislation. Although there can be minor differences state-to-state, the major provisions in Measure 92 are the same as most others.

Costly? The official estimate from the Oregon Secretary of State is that start-up costs for rule-making would be $550,000 - $600,000, a one-time cost of 15 cents for each Oregonian.

Letter: "Measure 92 would create huge new costs and complicated red tape for farmers . . ."

The facts: Out of about 220 agricultural products in Oregon, only four include genetically engineered varieties. The vast majority of Oregon farmers don't grow GMO crops and wouldn't be affected at all. For the few that do, all they have to do is inform their processors that their crops are genetically engineered, which costs nothing, or, if they're selling directly to grocery stores, mark their food containers as genetically engineered, which costs virtually nothing. The initiative also specifically protects farmers from lawsuits for inadvertent GMO contamination. That wheat farmer on TV saying it would cost farmers "millions?" There aren't any Oregon wheat farmers affected by Measure 92 because genetically engineered wheat has never been approved for commercial sale-it doesn't exist.

Letter: "Measure 92's flawed labeling requirements . . . conflict with existing, reliable nationwide standards,"(referring to) "products labeled 'organic' or non-GMO."

The facts: Measure 92 merely supplements national organic and non-GMO labeling with GMO labeling.

Oregon Tilth, the main organic certifying agency; Organically Grown Company, the main organic wholesaler; the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and the Organic Consumers Association ALL officially endorse Measure 92.  

Would they support the initiative if it actually conflicted with national organic standards? Of course not.

Letter: "The American Medical Association states, 'there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.'"

The Facts: This quote is actually accurate, although it omits that the AMA ". . . supports mandatory FDA pre-market systemic safety assessments of these (genetically engineered) foods as a preventive measure to ensure the health of the public." (http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/dining/chi-gmos-should-be-safety-tested-before-they-hit-the-market-says-ama-20120619-story.html). The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn't have mandatory safety testing. Instead, we have voluntary testing which is solely performed by the same corporations, like Monsanto and Dow Chemical, developing the genetically engineered crops. This is arguably the most serious conflict of interest in our entire food regulatory system. 

(Note: Regarding the supposed safety, benefits, etc. of genetically engineered crops, I highly recommend www.gmwatch.org to get the other side of the story – with complete, peer-reviewed scientific citations.)

The letter also omits health organizations that support GMO food labeling: American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and many more. In all, there are 20 health organizations formally endorsing Measure 92 (http://oregonrighttoknow.org/endorsements/).  There are zero opposed to it. (OMA had posted on its website that it had no position on the initiative. Marketing and Communications Director Ken Cole said the letter's authors "don't reflect the views of the current leadership.")

I worked 21 years for the American Cancer Society, the last five (1993-1998) as executive vice president of the Oregon chapter. In all our battles with the tobacco companies, I'll never forget the false and misleading statements they made, especially in TV ads and direct mail. I can say with certainty that the current campaign ads paid for by Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Coke, Pepsi, Kraft, etc. are even more deceptive.

Two final suggestions: Watch the Yes on 92's 30-second TV ad (http://oregonrighttoknow.org/) featuring Dr. Ray Seidler, former EPA scientist.

Then vote YES on Measure 92. No matter where you stand on health, environmental, religious and corporate influence questions of genetic engineering, you really do have the right to know what's in your food.  

Rick North is the former executive vice president of the Oregon American Cancer Society and former project director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility's Campaign for Safe Food. He retired in 2011 to address undue corporate influence on our elections, government and most aspects of our lives.