26 October 2016

In the Shadows

In 1989 Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, published the following comic book: Shadowplay: The Secret Team. (He also published a companion piece which will follow shortly here.)

For those of you too young to remember, this concerns a so-called Shadow Government being run out of the "basement" of the Reagan White House that engaged in illegal deals with the Iranian revolutionary government, drug smuggling, and arms running—and included elements of the CIA and the National Security Council. If you think there are shenanigans going on in the current election cycle, this was a genuine conspiracy—no theory here. Pres. Reagan admitted it on national television. There were actual convictions (subsequently overturned on technicalities having to do with prior Congressional grants of immunity). This was ugly. People died.

Sometimes a dark comic book can be the best way of bringing home the reality of that era. Nothing about it, however, is funny.

[If the above embedded comic book is not fully functional, you can find the web archive here and even download it for free.]

21 October 2016

This Week in Water

I apologize for not posting regularly. I've been distracted by clamorous U.S. politics, the glimmer at the end of the tunnel of my second novel, Twitter, October baseball, inter alia. However, our home planet's most precious resource is still in peril and should lay claim to our attention.

Plastic pollution, virtually indestructible, is choking oceanic ecosystems and threatening coastal economies.

The presence of trillions of pieces of plastic garbage in Earth's oceans is a chief component of evidence for the argument by scientists that the planet has entered a new epoch, the Antropocene, defined by human meddling and spoilage. The Smithsonian looks at the global water shortages to identify truly stressed areas in the Anthropocene.

Tropical fish collectors in the Indian and Pacific Oceans are killing the coral reefs with cyanide and bleach used to stun the colorful aquarium dwellers.

High salt and arsenic concentrations are threatening one of the world's largest freshwater aquifers in South Asia which supplies some three-quarters of a billion people.

Unified Native American and First Nations tribal groups continue to protest a Dakota Access Pipeline on reservation land near Standing Rock, North Dakota, that will endanger freshwater sources. Keep up with the news here.

Flint, Michigan's drinking water crisis continues. News here.

Water has become a luxury for the people of the Indian state of Punjab, much of it shipped in from elsewhere as the drought there continues.

A large sinkhole sent contaminated water and fertilizer plant waste into Florida's main drinking-water aquifer.

An unknown but substantial amount of coal ash was discharged from Duke Energy storage ponds into the Neuse River as a result of flooding from Hurricane Matthew in Eastern North Carolina.

The largest recorded earthquake in East Texas was triggered by hydrofracking, the high-volume injection of wastewater from oil and gas activities deep underground.

The world is unprepared for the "truly staggering" effects of a warming ocean.

Iran's salty Lake Urmia turned from a deep green to blood red due to algae and bacteria blooms caused by drought, heat, and demand for irrigation water.

Greenland's ice is melting even faster than scientists previously calculated.

The island nation of Kiribati is doomed by rising seas and will soon be completely underwater.

Migrants seeking refuge in Europe continue to die in unprecedented numbers in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted evidence of water vapor plumes on Europa, one of Jupiter's moon. Meanwhile, NASA's Cassini space probe has found evidence of a global ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons.