31 December 2014

15 December 2014

This Week in Water

The Maldives has run out of fresh water.

Super Typhoon Hagupit slammed into the Philippines.

Despite some much-needed rains (albeit a flooding deluge in some parts), the California drought is the worst in 1200 years and the recent rains have barely put a dent in the dire conditions.

The biggest water agencies in the U.S. West are finalizing an agreement to boost water levels in Lake Mead. The Colorado River is in its 15th year of drought. Lake Powell likewise is at an all-time low.

As confirmed by satellite imagery, Mexico City continues to sink as it continues to deplete its aquifer. The process is called 'subsidence', and some areas of the city are sinking by as much as one inch per month.

Helium travels to the surface of the Earth through its underground aquifers.

This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded, including El Nino years.

Antarctic glaciers are melting at the rate of a Mount Everest's worth of ice every two years, contributing to rising sea levels.

Melting tropical glaciers in Peru threaten that country's towns and cities.

In 30 years the namesakes of Glacier National Park may be completely melted.

There is an estimated average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter afloat in every single kilometer of ocean according to the United Nations Environment Programme. This only accounts for plastic on the surface of the ocean.

A morbillivirus has killed over 1500 dolphins along the U.S. East Coast according to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The FBI filed fraud charges against and arrested Gary Southern, president of Freedom Industries, following a massive chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia.

Activists in Mora County, New Mexico, are fighting to preserve its anti-fracking ordinance and prevent Swepi, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, from hydro-fracking it unspoiled landscapes. (h/t Frances Madeson)

Researchers have discovered an ancient settlement in the waters off the coast of Delos, Greece, dating back to the first century B.C.E.

The Rosetta spacecraft has discovered that the water vapor on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is chemically vastly different from that found on Earth. 67P is a Kuiper Belt comet. This finding rules this entire class out as a source for Earth's oceans and implicates asteroids in initially delivering water to our planet.

In a related story, Czech chemists claim that an asteroid impact on ancient Earth triggered a cascade of chemical reactions that ultimately led to the formation of the four RNA nucleobases that form the building blocks of life. They claim to have replicated this process by firing a super powerful laser at a specially prepared plasma for a fraction of a second.

03 December 2014

Devolution: Opening Shots

A few weeks back, I commented on what I take to be the world-historical trend of devolution, namely the decentralization of political power from empire and crown and potentially authoritarian central command governments to regional and local authorities. This in the context of the Scottish referendum in which a majority voted against independence from the United Kingdom. In my opinion, for regional, ethnic, and historical reasons, this vote did not signal a counter trend.

I appended a discussion of an apparent anomaly involving U.S. conservatives' promotion of devolution of power to the States. This is contrary to the historical meaning of conservatism. The conclusion I drew was that U.S. conservatives, in the wake of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, favor a concentration of economic power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate powers. This explains the privatization mania so endemic to both U.S. and British conservatism and marks the central fault lines for future political divides: centralized political power vs. concentrated corporate economic hegemony: Big Government vs. Big Corporate, in short.

This is our new world, the 21st Century landscape with which political theory must contend. Analysis of world conflict in terms of political power which omit consideration of corporate influence on the process are antiquated and, accordingly, inadequate.

The future of war will be different, as well. We get a hint of battles to come in the news this week. There is increasing suspicion that North Korea launched a massive cyberattack against SONY Pictures, a subsidiary of a Japanese multinational corporation. [Follow the story here.] This comes shortly before SONY Pictures's release of The Interview, a comedic film—clearly a farce—starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a couple of bumbling U.S. TV personalities are recruited by the CIA to attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. This is either the first skirmish in the oncoming war of Big Gov't vs. Big Corp, or it's one helluva (let's call it) 'guerilla' marketing campaign by SONY.

How will SONY respond? Will it recruit the U.S. and Japanese governments to investigate and retaliate politically against the reclusive, repressive mysterious Asian State? Will it launch further, more serious filmic attacks on N. Korea's pudgy dictator? Will it bask in the glory of its FREE! FREE! FREE! international publicity?

Then what will be North Korea's next move? Will it fire some missiles to fizzle out in the ocean? Will it encroach South Korea's territory on some God-forsaken island? Will it call on its Chinese and possibly Russian benefactors to forestall international sanctions?

Pass the popcorn and watch this space.