The international research team that conducted the study, led by Craig Downs, found the highest concentrations of oxybenzone around coral reefs popular with tourists, particularly those in Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Downs, of the non-profit scientific organisation Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, said the study helped explain why scientists aren’t seeing baby corals in many established reefs in resort areas.
Oxybenzone alters coral DNA, makes coral more susceptible to potentially fatal bleaching and acts as an endocrine disruptor, causing baby coral to encase itself in its own skeleton and die, according to the findings.
Between 6,000 and 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen lotion winds up in coral reef areas each year, much of which contains oxybenzone.
The damaging effects were seen in coral in concentrations of oxybenzone as low as 62 parts per trillion, which is equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the researchers.
In Hawaii and the Caribbean, concentrations were 12 times higher, according to the sea water testing.
Outside of coral toxins, the Environmental Working Group had previously raised concerns about the chemical, saying that it may penetrate the skin and cause hormonal and cellular changes.
The American Academy of Dermatology, says there is no data showing oxybenzone is a health hazard and notes that it is one of the few ingredients in sunscreen that effectively protects skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
A great tract of Earth is on fire and threatened species are being driven out of their habitats. This is a crime against humanity and nature.
‘Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate.’ Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.
A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far.
And the media? It’s talking about the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?
What I’m discussing is a barbecue on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5,000km length of Indonesia. It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page. It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.
But that doesn’t really capture it. This catastrophe cannot be measured only in parts per million. The fires are destroying treasures as precious and irreplaceable as the archaeological remains being levelled by Isis. Orangutans, clouded leopards, sun bears, gibbons, the Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran tiger, these are among the threatened species being driven from much of their range by the flames. But there are thousands, perhaps millions, more.
One of the burning provinces is West Papua, a nation that has been illegally occupied by Indonesia since 1963. I spent six months there when I was 24, investigating some of the factors that have led to this disaster. At the time it was a wonderland, rich with endemic species in every swamp and valley. Who knows how many of those have vanished in the past few weeks? This week I have pored and wept over photos of places I loved that have now been reduced to ash.
Nor do the greenhouse gas emissions capture the impact on the people of these lands. After the last great conflagration, in 1997, there was a missing cohort in Indonesia of 15,000 children under the age of three, attributed to air pollution. This, it seems, is worse. The surgical masks being distributed across the nation will do almost nothing to protect those living in a sunless smog. Members of parliament in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) have had to wear face masks during debates. The chamber is so foggy that they must have difficulty recognising one another.
It’s not just the trees that are burning. It is the land itself. Much of the forest sits on great domes of peat. When the fires penetrate the earth, they smoulder for weeks, sometimes months, releasing clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone and exotic gases such as ammonium cyanide. The plumes extend for hundreds of miles, causing diplomatic conflicts with neighbouring countries.
Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.
The president, Joko Widodo, is – or wants to be – a democrat. But he presides over a nation in which fascism and corruption flourish. As Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing shows, leaders of the death squads that helped murder a million people during Suharto’s terror in the 1960s, with the approval of the west, have since prospered through other forms of organised crime, including illegal deforestation.
They are supported by a paramilitary organisation with three million members, called Pancasila Youth. With its orange camo-print uniforms, scarlet berets, sentimental gatherings and schmaltzy music, it looks like a fascist militia as imagined by JG Ballard. There has been no truth, no reconciliation; the mass killers are still treated as heroes and feted on television. In some places, especially West Papua, the political murders continue.
Those who commit crimes against humanity don’t hesitate to commit crimes against nature. Though Joko Widodo seems to want to stop the burning, his reach is limited. His government’s policies are contradictory: among them are new subsidies for palm oil production that make further burning almost inevitable. Some plantation companies, prompted by their customers, have promised to stop destroying the rainforest. Government officials have responded angrily, arguing that such restraint impedes the country’s development. That smoke blotting out the nation, which has already cost it some $30bn? That, apparently, is development.
Our leverage is weak, but there are some things we can do. Some companies using palm oil have made visible efforts to reform their supply chains; but others seem to move more slowly and opaquely. Starbucks, PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz are examples. Don’t buy their products until you see results.
On Monday, Widodo was in Washington, meeting Barack Obama. Obama, the official communiqué recorded, “welcomed President Widodo’s recent policy actions to combat and prevent forest fires”. The eco-apocalypse taking place as they conferred, which makes a mockery of these commitments, wasn’t mentioned.
Governments ignore issues when the media ignores them. And the media ignores them because … well, there’s a question with a thousand answers, many of which involve power. But one reason is the complete failure of perspective in a de-skilled industry dominated by corporate press releases, photo ops and fashion shoots, where everyone seems to be waiting for everyone else to take a lead. The media makes a collective non-decision to treat this catastrophe as a non-issue, and we all carry on as if it’s not happening.
At the climate summit in Paris in December the media, trapped within the intergovernmental bubble of abstract diplomacy and manufactured drama, will cover the negotiations almost without reference to what is happening elsewhere. The talks will be removed to a realm with which we have no moral contact. And, when the circus moves on, the silence will resume. Is there any other industry that serves its customers so badly?
A fully linked version of this article can be found at monbiot.com
I want to start off this post by making it clear that I’m not remotely anti-vaccine. Personally, I chose to receive a Hepatitis A shot prior to my Asia travels last winter, and I also recently received a TDAP booster in order to reduce the risk of transferring pertussis to my newborn son, which can be quite dangerous if contracted by babies.
While I’m not anti-vaccine, I am anti-ignorance, and there’s a lot of ignorance and bluster out there when it comes to this subject. I know this, because I spent a lot of time researching the topic over the past nine months, after finding out that my wife was pregnant. It’s a complicated topic, which is why this is the first time I’ve ever written about it.
I came to realize that what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote in an Alternet article earlier this year is undoubtably true. He noted:
Vaccines are big business. Pharma is a trillion dollar industry (1) with vaccines accounting for $25 billion in annual sales. (2) CDC’s decision to add a vaccine to the schedule can guarantee its manufacturer millions of customers and billions in revenue (3) with minimal advertising or marketing costs and complete immunity from lawsuits. High stakes and the seamless marriage between Big Pharma and government agencies have spawned an opaque and crooked regulatory system. Merck, one of America’s leading vaccine outfits, is currently under criminal investigation for fraudulently deceiving FDA regulators about the effectiveness of its MMR vaccine. Two whistleblowers say Merck ginned up sham studies to maintain Merck’s MMR monopoly. (4)
Big money has fueled the exponential expansion of CDC’s vaccine schedule since 1988, when Congress’ grant of immunity from lawsuits (5) suddenly transformed vaccines into paydirt. CDC recommended five pediatric vaccines when I was a boy in 1954. Today’s children cannot attend school without at least 56 doses of 14 vaccines by the time they’re 18. (6)
An insatiable pharmaceutical industry has 271 new vaccines under development in CDC’s bureaucratic pipeline (7) in hopes of boosting vaccine revenues to $100 billion by 2025. (8)The industry’s principle spokesperson, Dr. Paul Offit, says that he believes children can take as many as 10,000 vaccines. (9)
Big Pharma is among the nation’s largest political donors giving $31 million last year to national political candidates. (37) It spends more on political lobbying than any other industry, $3.0 billion from 1998 to 2014 (38) – double the amount spent by oil and gas and four times as much as defense and aerospace lobbyists. (39) By February, state legislators in 36 states were pushing through over one hundred new laws to end philosophical and religious vaccine exemptions. Many of those state lawmakers are also on the industry payroll. (40) You can see how much money bill sponsors from your state took from Big Pharma on http://www.maplight.org.
Neil Bush didn’t seem to flinch when his pal the Rev. Moon schemed to drill from Alaska to Siberia.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Neil Bush.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon had a grand idea: the World Peace King Tunnel. It would be 53 miles long, cost $400 billion, and stretch underneath the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. It would take three years to build. When completed, it would link up with the eight-lane International Peace Highway that Moon had also proposed. That road would be bordered on both sides by one kilometer of land that would not belong to any nation. When both projects were completed, traffic could pass unimpeded from the Cape of Good Hope to New York City. And if travelers wanted to get married in the tunnel, there’d be places to do that, too.
A multinational construction project that had no funding stream or historical precedent and that was proposed by a self-described messiah who believed he had posthumously healed Adolf Hitler might strike some people as a bit ambitious. But in 2005, when Moon, the late South Korean-born conservative media mogul and founder of the Unification Church, embarked on a world tour to promote his idea, he brought along an unusual companion—Neil Bush, the younger brother of President George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
As Jeb Bush now aims to become the third member of his family to be elected president, he’ll have to navigate the legacy not just of his polarizing older brother, but also that of his younger brother, whose business exploits have dogged—if not tainted—the family for decades. In 1988, Neil Bush was embroiled in the savings and loan scandal after his business went belly-up and cost US taxpayers $1 billion.
His recent investments have dovetailed neatly with his brothers’ work. In 1999, Neil, backed by “junk bond king” Michael Milken and a Saudi prince, pushed a for-profit education tech venture called Ignite! Learning that sold “curriculum on wheels” consoles to schools. Much of the money for those purchases would come from W.’s No Child Left Behind law, which mandated a new testing regime in public schools. (Neil has said his focus on education was inspired by his own dyslexia.) When his mother, Barbara, wrote a check to assist students who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, she stipulated that the money be spent on her son’s curriculum on wheels, according to the Houston Chronicle. Neil also got a big hand from his friend, the Rev. Moon. The Washington Times Foundation, which was at the time operated by Moon’s Unification Church, spent $1 million to promote Ignite products in Northern Virginia.
None of Neil Bush’s business exploits were as pie-in-the-sky as Moon’s extreme transportation makeover. Moon proposed his idea in September 2005 as a means of uniting the world and confronting the demonic forces that supposedly controlled its bodies of water. “For thousands of years, Satan used the Bering Strait to separate East and West, North and South, as well as North America and Russia geographically,” he explained at the time.
The Bering Strait is frozen eight months a year; temperatures can drop to more than 80 degrees below freezing. The region is basically empty. And the US and Russia haven’t been on great terms for a few dozen decades. But Moon was undeterred. “Some may doubt such a project can be completed,” he said in a 2005 speech to the Universal Peace Federation in New York. “But where there is a will, there is always a way—especially if it is the will of God. The science and technology of the 21st century render it possible to construct a tunnel under the Bering Strait.” This wasn’t Moon’s first proposal for a world-historical engineering venture. In 1981, he’d convened a group of scientists to unveil a plan for a bridge that would connect Japan and China.
Neil Bush, an investor with no political ambitions, joined Moon on several stops on his yearlong tunnel-promoting tour. He traveled with him to Manila, where they visited with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Malacañang Palace, and he followed along to Taipei, where he watched Moon make his pitch to an audience that included the vice president of the Republic of China. In an email to Mother Jones, Neil Bush said he did not support the tunnel plan but had traveled with Moon because he supported “efforts by faith leaders to call their flock into service to others.” Moon’s proposal never picked up much political momentum, though, and he died in 2012.
Evidently, Neil Bush remained a fan of Moon. “As controversial as Rev. Moon was in the United States, I got to know him as a man whose heart was focused on bringing together people of different faiths to bridge divides,” he told the Washington Times when Moon died. “His call on people of faith to serve others is an important legacy.”
Findings from Rosetta spacecraft’s Rosina instrument appear to suggest previously held theory is simplistic.
The Rosetta spacecraft has detected water coming off comet 67P, the rubber duck-shaped lump of ice and dust that it placed the Philae robotic lander on last month.
The presence of water is not a surprise, but what has wrong-footed researchers is the makeup of the water, which is nothing like that seen on Earth.
Measurements from Rosetta’s Rosina instrument found that water on comet 67P /Churyumov-Gerasimenko contains about three times more deuterium – a heavy form of hydrogen – than water on Earth.
The discovery seems to overturn the theory that Earth got its water, and so its ability to harbour life, from water-bearing comets that slammed into the planet during its early history.
Comet 67P is thought to have come from what is called the Kuiper belt, a broad band of frozen bodies that begins beyond the orbit of Neptune. The main asteroid belt contains more rocky objects that circle the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Kathrin Altwegg at the University of Bern said that rather than comets ferrying water to Earth, it may have arrived onboard asteroids instead. Details of the discovery are reported in the journal, Science.
“Today asteroids have very limited water, that’s clear. But that was probably not always the case, said Altwegg. In the earliest period of the solar system, 3.8bn years ago, asteroids are thought to have crashed into Earth regularly in what is called the late heavy bombardment. “At that time, asteroids could well have had much more water than they have today,” Altwegg said.
The Rosina instrument measured water coming off the comet as it flew around the body. Scientists plan to take more measurements as the comet nears the sun and its begins to spew more water vapour and dust out into space.
Measurements from other comets have found water with similar deuterium contents to that on Earth. But the strange composition of comet 67P’s water suggests that the picture of comets bringing water to Earth is too simplistic. “In the end, Earth’s oceans are probably a mix of many things,” Altwegg told New Scientist magazine.
Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist, said that teams at the European Space Agency were still looking for the Philae lander, which ran out of battery power soon after it bounced down onto the comet’s surface.
“Once we get the identification of where the lander is, it will give us a better fix on what we believe the illumination conditions are and a better idea of when we would expect the lander to have sufficient illumination to be able to start charging its batteries and come back online,” he said.
If the Philae lander can summon enough power from the feeble sunlight to come out of hibernation, a British instrument called Ptolemy could help to verify whether the water measurements from Rosetta are accurate. But another option is for Rosetta to fly through the jets of debris that will grow as the comet closes in on the sun.
“Part of our future plan is to do this,” said Taylor. “We’re focusing on what is known as an activity campaign to try and fly directly through a jet and we aim to do that hopefully around summertime next year.”
Would you eat the newly approved genetically modified potato now set for commercial planting in the US? Studies suggest that most would not (though you won’t even be told thanks to the lack of GMO labeling), and now major food scientists are speaking out over the reality that the Franken potato may come with ‘worrisome’ and unknown consequences.
Upon breaking the news of the first GM potato approved by the U.S. Agriculture Department to hit your dinner table, it was quite clear that the last thing the safety commission within the department seems to care about is public health. We already have a host of genetically modified crops contaminating the food supply, such as corn (over 98%) and soy (over 94%). And with this genetic manipulation of our crops, we also have a host of studies demonstrating that Monsanto’s GMOs and Roundup herbicide (an integral part of these ‘Roundup ready’ GMO crops) have been linked to:
Yet the US government still thinks it’s perfectly fine to leave Roundup-doused GMO crops unlabeled on the shelves of your local grocery stores, and even inside your child’s baby formula. It’s no wonder that scientists are now speaking out following the news. More and more, professionals in the medical and agricultural industry are beginning to take a stand against what has become the international issue of food contamination and manipulation — from Monsanto’s GMOs to the host of synthetic additives that we are consuming on a daily basis.
That’s why, according to both a decent understanding of the issue and food scientists alike, we are about to face yet another wave of biological attack under the new GM potato commercialization. Here’s what Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., director of sustainable agriculture and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), had to say on the issue:
“We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment. If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the U.S. regulation of GE crops. These approvals are riddled with holes and are extremely worrisome… We need answers to these questions before these potatoes are commercialized”
Gurian-Sherman’s statements were further expanded upon by Elizabeth Kucinich, policy director at CFS:
“In light of the obesity crisis, there has been an important national push to discourage children and adults from eating large quantities of fried foods like french fries or chips. In creating the false illusion that fried potatoes are now healthy, the Simplot potato sends the absolute opposite message… Claims of health benefits by USDA and Simplot are short sighted, misleading, and in the light of the science, could actually be potentially dangerous.”
The time is now to share this information with friends, family, strangers, activists, and the apathetic. As we approach the latest ‘genetic time bomb’ sitting within our fields, experts are warning that the time is now to get serious about regaining our food supply through legislation and the spreading of key news.