In 2012 Scientific American asked:
Are Wind Turbines Getting More Bird and Bat-Friendly?
In case you weren’t aware, wind energy has an ecological downside that’s hasn’t yet been smoothed out. As AP reporter Dina Cappiello wrote earlier this year, “the green industry is allowed to do not so green things”:
It kills protected species with impunity and conceals the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.
More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country’s wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Now, before I go any further, it’s important to note that cats are way bigger bird killers than wind turbines (taking out an estimated 2.4 billion birds per year in the U.S.). That said, the question of whether the wind industry is being kinder to wildlife is a pertinent one. And one answer, according to research published in the December issue of Bioscience is no. A new study concludes that in 2012 “over 600,000 bats may have died as a result of interactions with wind turbines.” Why is this important and how are the bats dying? From the Bioscience press release:
Bats, although not widely loved, play an important role in the ecosystem as insect-eaters, and also pollinate some plants. They are killed at wind turbines not only by collisions with moving turbine blades, but also by the trauma resulting from sudden changes in air pressure that occur near a fast-moving blade.
By now, the pattern is pretty well established. If there is a famine, drought, catastrophic flood, wildfire, a major hurricane or typhoon, then you can be sure that trailing behind these disasters, like ambulance chasers, is a brigade of climate-concerned activists, scientists and their enablers in the media.
And trailing behind them is an Anthony Watts/Marc Morano led brigade of chortling denialists, whose main objective is to exploit, for ideological/political purposes, the exploitation of disasters by the climate ambulance chasers.
Much of this plays out like a game of charades. Read More
An opinion piece in Al Jazeera repeats many of the tropes one frequently hears about GMOs. The accompanying photo (also displayed in this post) is an apt illustration.
At the center is a person holding a sign that connects Monsanto and Agenda 21, which is an innocuous U.N. sustainability initiative that has been turned into a feverish conspiracy theory by the likes of Glenn Beck and embraced by Tea Party conservatives. They think Agenda 21 is part of a larger plot to install one-world government and take away individual gun and private property rights. This loony idea, which has spread to local municipalities, is evidently now part of the anti-GMO landscape. Judging by the sign in the picture, it it has been grafted onto Monsanto Derangement Syndrome. This disorder has sufferers convinced that Monsanto is out to control/poison the world’s food supply.
Speaking of which, to the left in the photo is a sign that equates GMOs with Agent Orange, the name given to the herbicide sprayed indiscriminately by the U.S. military over Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, Monsanto was one of several companies that manufactured the herbicide. The notorious legacy of Agent Orange is now commonly invoked by anti-GMO activists, who want to link the misused government spraying campaign from decades ago to Monsanto and it’s biotechnology products, which actually have considerable benefits to the environment and farmers.
The message at the right of the photograph has an apparent double meaning. It suggests that the sign-holder is personally disgusted by GMOs and that they are also perhaps responsible for sickening him. (Notice the familar skull and crossbone image.) There is, of course, no evidence whatsoever that genetically modified foods are harmful, but anti-GMO activists continue to willfully deny this scientific consensus, which top scientific bodies and organizations from around the world have confirmed.
Lastly, note the sign at the top that reads, “Farmer suicides in India.” This is another zombie myth in the anti-GMO movement–that the introduction of Monsanto’s GMO cotton in India has led to the suicides of hundreds of thousands of farmers in India. It’s false. I’ve devoted numerous posts (see here and here) to this urban legend, and am currently working on a longer article on it.
Now you might say that the people who believe such things, that Monsanto is the embodiment of corporate evil and that GMOs have caused a genocide, are just a bunch of naive conspiracists. But there is a reason why these myths have gained traction and continue to build on themselves. Read More
we should thank global warming for making hurricanes less frequent and less severe. Indeed, Hurricane Sandy may well have been much more deadly in the absence of global warming.
This led climatologist Ryan Maue (who was mentioned in the piece) to tweet:
This article is complete bullsh*t & clearly meant to be provocative. I don’t want to be associated with it. http://t.co/IGWhENiBIj
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) October 29, 2013
As it happens, Maue is someone who regularly calls out overstated–yes, alarmist–claims by climate advocates, and I’d venture to say that climate skeptics think of him as one of their own. So kudos to Maue for calling BS on the extremists in his camp. This kind of straight talk is necessary to keep the flame-throwers on both sides in check. We’ve seen, for example, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, push back repeatedly on the silly Arctic methane bomb proponents.
After the Heartland staffer’s piece in the Chicago Tribune was published, I had some mild fun on twitter: Read More
Connecticut College students and a professor of psychology have found “America’s favorite cookie” is just as addictive as cocaine – at least for lab rats. And just like most humans, rats go for the middle first.
While this is still preliminary research, I will tell you that I have sampled a certain faux Oreo and have not clawed the bag open with the same junkie-like behavior.
shot to fame in 2001 with his first book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, a broad critique of the environmental movement that infuriated many ecologists and greens. The notoriety transformed the little-known Danish statistician into a globe-trotting public intellectual.
Since then, he has courted controversy in the climate debate and embraced his role as a provocateur. In my piece, I write: Read More
Earlier this week, ABC News asked:
Can wind power be hazardous to your health?
Some residents of a Cape Cod town have complained about headaches, nausea and other symptoms that they attribute to noise from wind turbines near their homes. I’ve written about “wind turbine syndrome” a bunch of times, including here at Discover and over at Slate. I’ve also chided a journalist who’s become obsessed by it, and who after seeing the ABC piece, tweeted:
— Robert Bryce (@pwrhungry) October 24, 2013
This is of course not true. I think these people are sincere. In fact, I think believers in wind turbine syndrome are just as sincere as those who believe they are being sickened from power lines and WiFi signals and cell phones. Similarly, I’m certain that some people truly believe that GMOs cause 1) cancer, 2) autism, 3) Parkinson’s disease, 4) obesity, and 5) Alzheimer’s.
I won’t question the motives or sincerity of people who fall into any of the above categories. But the cause and effect they assert is not backed by scientific evidence. Read More
I knew I could count on Michael Pollan for this tweet:
“No scientific consensus on GMO safety”: statement by European Network of Scientists for S and E responsibility http://t.co/2p3hqerMtV
— Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan) October 21, 2013
One of biotechnology’s most articulate allies has laid down the gauntlet:
My challenge to the biotechnology industry – the whole food industry in general in fact – is very clear. You have to stop opposing labelling. Instead, you have to embrace the consumer right to know.
To lose this entire debate to a motley coalition of anti-vaccine quacks, organic food charlatans, naturopathic nutjobs and magic soap manufacturers would not just be a tragedy for humanity, it would be frankly rather embarrassing. This cannot be allowed to happen.
As one political scientist recently noted, a “fundamental difficulty” for counterterrorist operations in collapsed states like Somalia is the ever-shifting landscape of loyalties:
Local authorities collaborate with the insurgents that they fight. Armed groups unify and then suddenly split.
This is a treacherous environment for outsiders to navigate, particularly someone who poses as a humanitarian do-gooder/ intelligence operative. But if you are someone also looking to profit off of the instability of a place like Somalia, then you are accustomed to a duplicitous world of murky alliances. Michele Ballarin, a Virginia businesswoman who is the subject of my Washington Post magazine profile, comfortably inhabits all these roles.
As I wrote in my piece, in the late 2000s Ballarin became a confidant of Somali pirates, warlords and politicians, who refer to her as Amira (which means princess in Arabic). In 2009 she became friendly with Somalia’s then-incoming President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former schoolteacher who has cunningly navigated the volatile politics of his country–and its relations with the United States. Shortly after meeting with her, he issued a proclamation appointing Ballarin his “presidential advisor for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.”
It was a meaningless title that never amounted to anything, but it’s the sort of document Ballarin likes to wave around as proof of her bonafides. I’ve seen a bunch of others she obtained from various local politicians across Somalia, naming her as an advisor. An East Africa expert who worked in the Pentagon until a few years ago once scoffed when I told him about her collection of official proclamations. He compared them to crackerjack prizes. “The way these people have survived is by handshakes,” he said. “It’s all about relationships and these things ebb and flow all the time.”
Nonetheless, as I reported in my piece, Sharif (now an ex-President) and Ballarin have recently co-founded a Virginia-based nonprofit called the Oasis Foundation for Hope. Its objective, they told me earlier this summer at her opulent “headquarters” in Warrenton, Virginia, is the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees, many who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Sharif and Ballarin estimate it will cost several hundred million dollars to build the initial resettlement villages in Somalia. Each village is expected to house roughly 1,000 people; as Ballarin describes it, there will be new schools, medical clinics, and job-training centers. It’s an enormous undertaking for a country that is still dominated by warlords and Islamic militants. Indeed, Somalia remains so treacherous that Doctors without Borders, one of the bravest humanitarian organizations, decided this past summer to pull out of the country, because it could no longer guarantee the safety of its staff.
Despite these challenging circumstances, Sharif insisted to me that “Al-shabaab is defeated” and security had improved enough for the refugees to “come back.” Ballarin was sanguine: Read More