Sunday, August 31, 2014

A New Frontier for Fracking: The Arctic Circle

A Conoco-Phillips shale oil fracking site in the Sahtu region of Canada's Northwest Territories

Hydraulic fracturing is about to move into the Canadian Arctic, with companies exploring the region's rich shale oil deposits. But many indigenous people and conservationists have serious concerns about the impact of fracking in more fragile northern environments.

Among the dozens of rivers that flow unfettered through the Canadian North, the Natla and the Keele may be the most picturesque and culturally important. They are especially significant to the Dene people of the Sahtu region, which straddles the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. Both of the rivers flow crystal clear out of the Mackenzie Mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border before coming together in their final course to the Mackenzie River.

For hundreds — if not thousands — of years, the Mountain Dene people have been traveling upstream to salt licks that draw caribou, moose, and mountain sheep down from the high country in the early fall. For the Dene, it is the best opportunity to stock up on wild game, fish, and berries for the long winter.

Many Dene people living in Sahtu and in other parts of the Canadian North are concerned that this way of life will be at risk now that two energy companies have been given the go-ahead to begin horizontal fracking in a region just south of the Arctic Circle. Conoco-Phillips has already fracked two test wells in the Sahtu, and the company has plans to frack several more in the future.
With several other companies ready with plans of their own, the stakes are high. No one knows yet exactly how much shale oil and gas there is in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and the territory of Nunavut. But the government of the Northwest Territories estimates that the Canol Shale underground deposit, which extends from the mountains along the Yukon border several hundred miles east towards Colville and Great Bear lakes, contains 2 to 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, as much or more than in the highly productive Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Such potential reserves have drawn significant interest and mark the first time that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas has moved this close to the Arctic Circle in Canada.

Critics fear that fracking could pollute groundwater and trigger gas releases and seismic activity. Scientists say that many sensitive ecosystems of northern Canada —which include tundra, peat bogs, fens, and permafrost zones — may be especially vulnerable to the large-scale disturbances that occur in areas of high fracking activity. Deborah Simmons, executive director of the Sahtu Renewable Resource Board, has expressed concerns about cleaning up oil and chemical spills in the region’s many wetlands.

Some also worry about the so-called “boomtown effect” that comes with rapid development in remote and unpopulated areas — a phenomenon that is swiftly changing parts of North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and other U.S. states affected by so-called “unconventional” drilling for oil and gas.

And residents of the Yukon and Northwest Territories residents fear, as a recent study has suggested, that these remote and sparsely populated territories have neither the governmental expertise nor the infrastructure to evaluate fracking initiatives or deal with the consequences.

Location of Canol Shale

Jim Tredger, a former high school principal who represents the largely aboriginal community of Mayo-Tatchun in the Yukon legislature, describes the future of fracking as a “defining moment in our history.” He and others successfully called for a moratorium on shallow fracking in the Yukon so that a full public review could assess the health and environmental risks. But the Northwest Territories is moving more swiftly to embrace fracking.
Conventional drilling for oil in the Sahtu region is nothing new; Imperial Oil, the Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has been extracting oil from the Mackenzie River for nearly 70 years.

But energy exploration has accelerated dramatically in recent years, in part because fracking has made it easier for companies to tap into reserves that were previously too difficult to exploit. To date, active licences in the Canol shale region cover 1.35 million hectares of wilderness.

John Hogg, vice-president of exploration and operations at Calgary-based MGM Energy Corp, recently told the Financial Post newspaper in Canada that this shale oil play is as big as any in Canada. In testimony before a Yukon select committee on fracking, Hogg said that shale resources can be exploited in a responsible manner provided environmental regulations are in place. Shale oil and gas, he suggested, may be the key to the Yukon attaining energy self-sufficiency.

An oil pipeline corridor that is already along the Mackenzie River could theoretically send this newfound energy south in the future. The National Energy Board, the chief regulator in Canada, has also approved plans by Trans Canada — the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. — to build a $16 billion natural gas pipeline from the Arctic coast to Alberta. Low natural gas prices and increased U.S. production have put that project on hold.

Husky Energy Inc., MGM Energy, and Shell Canada are also in the Sahtu region, building roads and conducting vertical tests in the oil-rich area. In June 2013, the Sahtu Land and Water Board reversed previous decisions that required a full environmental impact assessment for exploratory wells. One of the latest studies on hydraulic fracturing, published in the journal Science last year suggests that the environmental risks associated with fracking can be managed, but only if understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants is improved and if long-term monitoring and data dissemination is increased ( bullshit).  For both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon this would be difficult to do. Unlike many regions in the south, groundwater aquifers have not been mapped.
Opposition in northern Canada — which comes from aboriginal groups, environmental organizations, and a Parliament of Elders in the Northwest Territories — has recently called for a moratorium on fracking in the Northwest Territories. These actions come on the heels of a Council of Canadian Academies expert panel report that points to unassessed risks  and unknown impacts stemming from this controversial form of drilling.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has also vowed that they will not allow fracking on lands they control. In the face of this opposition, Conoco-Phillips and Husky have taken a pause for a year to address the concerns and questions that have been put forward.
“Fracking has the potential to affect everyone across the North,” says Doug Yallee, a Sahtu trapper, and former councilor for the local government in the Sahtu town of Tulita. “It is a new technique in the Northwest Territories and we do not have enough information about it. We know it is banned in many places around the world because of concerns similar to ours.”

Hydraulic fracturing has proven to be more controversial in Canada than in the United States, which has undergone a fracking boom in recent years. The government of Quebec has already banned fracking because of concerns about groundwater. The government of New Brunswick recently introduced regulations that put limits on the kind of water that fracking operations can use. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of sand, water and chemicals at high pressure into shale formations deep underground, shattering the rock and allowing small pockets of natural gas or oil to escape from the shale. Depending on geology and how deep a frack must be, several million gallons of water can be used to frack a single well. In many cases, energy companies inject the wastewater back into aquifers.

Scientists such as the University of Alberta’s Karlis Muehlenbachs, a geochemist, have pointed out that boreholes can and do leak when industry doesn’t follow the best practices or when cement casings fail. A 2011 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed “systematic evidence” of methane contamination of drinking water in aquifers in northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York associated with shale-gas extraction. Fears that groundwater and rivers like the Natla and the Keele may be polluted have been reinforced by fracking efforts that recently went wrong in Alberta. It took Canadian Natural Resources $50 million and more than nine months to cap a continuing series of spills that were caused by a form of fracking — steam injection in this case — at one of its wells last year. More than 12,000 barrels of bitumen seeped through to the surface in what has turned out to be the fourth largest spill in Alberta history.
Bob Bromley, who represents a district from Yellowknife in the government of the Northwest Territories, is calling for a transparent public review on fracking like the one currently underway in the Yukon. He and others have pointed out that the government may have violated its own legislation by failing to call for an environmental assessment before approvals were given to Conoco-Phillips and Husky.
“People from all across the Northwest Territories have contacted me expressing their concerns about what’s going on,” he said. “There’s a real fear for groundwater, for the health and safety of people who live in the region, and for how this will contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.” 
The Yukon government’s all-party committee on fracking has for the last 14 months heard from economists, toxicologists, medical experts, petroleum engineers, First Nations leaders, environmental organizations and industry experts.

The government of the Northwest Territories has made it clear that it intends to stay the course on fracking. “(Fracking) is not without risk,” concedes Michael Miltenberger, the Northwest Territories’ Minister of Finance, Environment, and Natural Resources, who has championed water issues for more than a decade. “That’s absolutely clear. The issue is whether we can manage this … I think we can protect the environment while expanding our economic base. ” (more bullshit)

Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University, says that the local economic benefits of fracking in the Yukon could outweigh the environmental risks. But that can only happen, he says, if the government establishes tough environmental regulations from the start, which has yet to be done.
"Better that industry not get started rather than make a mess," he told the Yukon select committee on fracking. He said what most concerns him is that Canadian energy developments, including Alberta’s tar sands, are proceeding rapidly without consideration for how emissions from these new fuel sources will affect the global climate. ( at least this guy has some concern).
Wake up Canada. Once you let fracking get rolling in the north, there will be no controlling it's growth. The ecology in those territories is fragile, at best, with the effects from global warming. Put a stop to this before petroleum conglomerates from all over the world steamroll right over the indigenous people and the habitats they are trying to protect. The Arctic is the only, relatively undefiled, territory left to us and we are entrusted with the protection of the people and wildlife there.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Rainbow Eucalyptus tree

The most colorful tree in the world: The Rainbow Eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus deglupta).
The Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) or 'MINDANAO GUM' looks almost like it's been spray painted, but the up to 70-m tall tree is colored this way completely naturally. Its bark can take on a yellow, green, orange and even purple shading.

If you want to spot a Rainbow Eucalyptus tree live and in all its glory, you’ll have to travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Philippines where the tree grows natively. However, it has been introduced worldwide as an exotic wood in South America, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and other countries.

courtesy of :I fucking love science

Teacher Arrested at JFK

I fucking love science's photo.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Hmmmm....I'm already re-thinking that

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I am a single  mother of  four  and  my  15-year-old  is out of  control . He lives with my  mother, has  been arrested  twice  in the past year  and is  currently  on probation for  a year. My  mother  does  not  discipline  him nor  does  she  make  him do  any chores . He is  hanging  out  with the  wrong  crowd   and every time  he  gets into trouble  I am the one to the  rescue . I am  getting tired  because I have  three other  children that  need  my attention . I need  my  mom to help raise  my son  because I really need  help  with him . Please  help .
Confused  and  Worried  Mom
Dear  Confused  and  Worried  Mom ,
You have  gotten yourself  into an unmanageable situation  for which  you are responsible  . After  all, you are the  mom to all these  children  . Since  your  mother  is not providing  enough guidance based  on  your  son's  needs,  you have  to make  a shift . Find  out  if  your  mother  would  feel more comfortable  helping  you take care  of one or two of  your younger children . She obviously cannot handle or discipline your son. Perhaps  the other children are less volatile  and would be  easier  for her  to manage.
I recommend that you talk honestly  with your  mother  about  your  predicament . And then bring  your  son home  so that you can actively  parent  him .  That is what he has needed all along. Use every moment  that  you can  to talk to  him  about his  choices  and encourage  him to make  smarter  ones . Do your  best  to get him into activities  that will keep him off  the streets  and away  from bad  influences . He needs emotional support and a firm guiding hand from his mother. Don't be shy about getting help from a professional who specializes in juvenile counseling. Ask your family doctor to refer you to one.

Dear  Maxy ,
I don't like my friend's boyfriend because we were involved romantically, briefly, several years ago ago and it  did not end well . She  keeps  gushing  about  him  and telling  me intimate details of their  relationship and sex life . I'm happy that she's  happy and I would  love to hear  all about  their  romance  if the  guy  was  anyone  else . Is there  any way  that I can  indicate  that I don't  want to hear  all of the  details  without  coming off  as unsupportive  or  jealous ?
Hard to Cosign
Dear Hard  to Cosign,
First of  all,  you do not have  to listen to  intimate  details of  anyone's sex life, even if the person is  your  best friend . Certain  information should be very private and most people keep it that way. I am going to assume  that your  friend  does  not  know that you once dated  this  guy . You do not  necessarily  have to tell her, especially  since it is long  over . You  most certainly, should  not spoil  her  fun either, by being  a Debbie  Downer . You can  change the  subject when she  goes  into details, making  it impossible  for  her to go on recounting intimacies. If she does not pick up on your hints, you may have to directly tell her  that  you  do  not want  to hear so much detail . It is usually the best way and  if she is a real friend, it won't affect your relationship.

Dear  Maxy,
We are  perplexed  as to  the actions of our  grown children . We are  not  perfect parents, but  consider  ourselves  to have  been pretty  good . Our  kids  grew up in a nice home where their  friends were welcome  and they were  involved  in church  and extracurricular  activities . Now that  they have their  own homes, my  wife  and I continue to help by  babysitting  and  lending  a hand  when needed .  But  as  we find  ourselves  aging  and occasionally  needing  help  from them, no help is forthcoming . Why ? What  makes adult  children  tune out the needs of aging  parents ? We  feel hurt  by their  lack of  caring,
Confused  Mom and  Dad
Dear Mom and Dad,
Have  you asked  your  children  for  specific  help ? Sometimes  parents  expect  the  children  to know  what they  need, but the  kids can be oblivious. They go on assuming  their parents  are as  competent  and capable  as they always  have  been . Also, some  parents  expect  children, who have family obligations of their own,  to do chores  that consume a lot of the weekends, rightly belonging to their own kids.  Often times the parents  are perfectly  able to hire someone to do the  work. Kids can come to resent this attitude of entitlement.
So, please  be direct . Say, ( for example )"we  are  finding  it  difficult  to change the  light  bulbs in our  house  because  we are unsteady on the  step-ladder  . Could  you come by one  day this week  and take  care of it  for us ? We'd truly  appreciate  it."  If you are specific,  kids will generally, gladly comply when asked .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brazil dismantles 'biggest destroyer' of Amazon rainforest

Man-made fires clear land for cattle or crops in Sao Felix Do Xingu Municipality, Para, Brazil, 12/08/2008 

The group is accused of logging and burning large areas of public land in the Amazon  

The authorities in Brazil say they have dismantled a criminal organization they believe was the "biggest destroyer" of the Amazon rainforest. The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.
In a statement, Brazilian Federal Police said the group committed crimes worth more than $220m. A federal judge has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged gang members. Twenty-two search warrants were also issued and four suspects are being called in for questioning.

The police operation covers four Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo. Five men and a woman have already been arrested in Para state in the north of the country, Globo news reported.  The correspondent also reported from Rio de Janeiro that details are still sketchy, partly because the police operation is focused on one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon region.
Political and police corruption is still rife in Brazil's interior, the correspondent added. That problem coupled with alleged ineptitude on the part of the federal government means that loggers and illegal miners are able to operate with impunity, he says.

The Amazon rainforest on June 15, 2012, near Altamira, Brazil.
  The Amazon rainforest is home to half of the planet's remaining tropical forests

The police announced the operation in a statement: "The Federal Police carried out today Operation Chestnut Tree designed to dismantle a criminal organization specializing in land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of Novo Progresso, in the south-western region of Para.

Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year

Last year, the Brazilian government said the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and July 2013, after years of decline. It made a commitment in 2009 to reduce Amazon deforestation by 80% by the year 2020. Brazil is home to the biggest area of Amazon rainforest, a vast region where one in 10 known species on Earth and half of the planet's remaining tropical forests are found, according to the leading conservation organization, WWF.

Brazil Environment minister Izabella Teixeira 
Minister Izabella Teixeira says she will tackle the problem with local authorities

The government is working to reverse this "crime", Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said.
Activists and environmentalists have blamed the increase in destruction on a controversial reform to Brazil's forest protection law in 2012. The changes reduced protected areas around farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008. The reform also made it easier for the land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of  Novo Progresso, as it opened up loopholes in the laws.
The 28% rise interrupts a period of declining deforestation which began in 2009. The worst year on record was 2004, when 27,000 sq km of forest was destroyed.

Aerial photograph of a tract of jungle cleared by loggers in the Xingu Indigenous Park on 19 November 2012 
Huge swathes of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon have been cleared by loggers

Global forest loss
Global map of forest change
  • The Earth lost 2.3 million sq km of tree cover in 2000-12, because of logging, fire, disease or storms
  • But the planet also gained 800,000 sq km of new forest, meaning a net loss of 1.5 million sq km, an area the size of Mongolia.
  • Brazil showed the best improvement of any country, cutting annual forest loss in half between 2003-04 and 2010-11

The reform, a long-standing demand of the country's farmers' lobby, known as the ruralists, was passed after several vetoes by President Dilma Rousseff.
"If you sleep with the ruralist lobby, you wake up with deforestation," Amazon expert Paulo Adario from Greenpeace wrote on Twitter.
Ms Teixeira said the destruction rate was "unacceptable" but denied President Dilma Rousseff's administration were to blame.
"This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement," she told reporters, adding that around 4,000 criminal actions have been taken against deforesters in the past year.
The majority of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions, believed to be one of the main causes of global warming, stem from deforestation.

9 Year Old Girl Accidentally Kills Shooting Instructor

 A 9 year old girl accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi.  Charles Vacca, a father and army veteran, was assisting the little girl at a shooting range just south of Las Vegas on Monday morning. She pulled the trigger of an automatic Uzi and the recoil sent the gun over her head, shooting Vacca. He was airlifted to hospital but died on Monday evening.
The original screen grab shows the split second before the nine-year-old girl shoots Charles Vacca in the head. In the frame, the girl can clearly be seen to have lost her double handed grip on the Uzi as it recoils after firing. Her left hand is prized free as bullets fire (seen hitting behind the target circled in red). The gun is in her right hand and is clearly moving towards Vacca.  Recorded at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. The shocking recording was taken by the girl's parents and released by police . His last words to the girl are: 'Alright, full auto.'
Why are American children being taught to handle and fire assault weapons ? Please explain.