Monday 27 January 2014

Lifeboat Hour - 01/26/2014

Divas of Doom

Carolyn Baker interviews Gail Zawacki

Gail Zawacki lives in New Jersey, She is an environmental activist who writes her own blog, Wits End and also communicates through Near Term Extinction Support Group on Facebook. Her approach to this is through an awareness of the decline of the ecosystem, in particular trees that are stressed and dying because of the presence of ozone pollution in the atmosphere.

She has written a book on the subject, Plunder and Pollute

Carolyn Baker, filling in for Mike Ruppert, spent the hour with Gail

From Gail's blogsite, Wit's End

"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist, and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone." - C.B. Fox, 1873

Another, even MORE Inconvenient Truth

"The U.S. soybean crop is suffering nearly $2 billion in damage a year due to rising surface ozone concentrations harming plants and reducing the crop’s yield potential," a NASA-led study has concluded.

Since the mid-20th century, scientific research has demonstrated conclusively that tropospheric ozone is toxic to vegetation, entering plants through stomates in foliage as they photosynthesize. Naturally occurring stratospheric ozone is beneficial, it protects the earth's surface from too much solar radiation. By contrast ground-level ozone is formed through complex chemical reactions when volatile organic compounds from burning fuel interact with UV radiation from the sun...and it's poisonous to all forms of life.

Government agencies such as NASA and the US Department of Agriculture measure annual losses of essential crops such as wheat, rice and soybeans in the billions of dollars from stunted growth and reduced production due to ozone.But does anybody stop to think what ozone must be doing to long-lived species - trees and shrubs and even lowly mosses - that suffer from cumulative exposure, season after season?

Answer: it's killing them incrementally - and most tragically, imperceptibly to most people.

The preindustrial level of ground-level ozone was in essence, zero. When it became obvious over fifty years ago that inversions and high spikes downwind of polluting sources were killing vegetation and sickening people, industries very cleverly learned to disburse the precursors. They built tall stacks and restricted some auto emissions, thus reducing much visible smog, and reined in locally extreme peaks of ozone concentration. Because the VOC's travel across continents and oceans, over decades the global background concentration has been inexorably rising - damaging trees everywhere on earth at a rapidly accelerating rate. Virtually no one is asking what role ethanol emissions might play in the most recent increase in dying trees.

That trees are dying is empirically verifiable by a cursory inventory. Characteristic symptoms you can readily locate in any woods, suburban yard, park or mall include stippled, singed foliage; yellowing coniferous needles; thinning, transparent crowns; cracking, splitting, corroded, oozing and stained bark; early leaf senescence; loss of autumn radiance; holes; cankers; absence of terminal growth; breaking branches; and ultimately, death. Why isn't this simply due to climate change and/or drought? Because, the identical foliar damage is to be found on plants growing in pots with enriched soil and regular watering - and even aquatic plants that are always in water.

The causality is well-documented in published research and just as well understood as the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer. The reticence preventing scientists and foresters from raising the obviously commensurate degree of alarm is suicidal denial of an existential threat. As if the damage to vegetation weren't enough, according to the WHO, ozone also kills more Americans every year than breast and prostate cancer combined - more than automobile accidents.

When you hear weather reports advising an ozone alert in a heat wave, followed by estimates of deaths attributed to the temperature, it is just another distraction. Ozone kills people, especially those most vulnerable with asthma, emphysema, respiratory illnesses - even athletes exercising outdoors! - and is linked to diabetes and cancers.

When foresters in a revolving door with the lumber industry blame bark beetles for killing trees, that is as inaccurate and misleading as to claim pneumonia killed an AIDS victim. Controlled experiments have proven that ozone weakens the immune system of trees, and debilitates their natural defenses against insects, disease, and fungus. Their wood loses flexibility and makes their branches more likely to break from wind, ice and snow. Their roots deteriorate from acid rain, which leaches essential nutrients from the soil, and makes them more likely to fall over. Mudslides are becoming more commonplace as root systems of perennial plants shrivel, and wildfires are proliferating at an unprecedented rate.

When foresters say that trees are dying from old age, that is a convenient lie. Left undisturbed, most varieties have evolved to live for centuries. When foresters describe forests as in decline, that is a euphemism. They are dying.

What are the implications of a world without trees? Much the same as the parallel acidification of the ocean, which is destroying coral reefs that will lead to a collapse of the entire ecosystem.

Imagine a world without lumber, or paper...without shade, shelter, or habitat for birds and other wildlife...without walnuts, almonds, avocados, apples, pears and say nothing of losing the splendid primeval magnificence of beautiful maples, oaks, hemlocks, tupelo, ash and sycamore. All of the species that depend upon trees - including humans - will ultimately go extinct without them.

As billions of trees expire, they are already turning from an essential carbon sink to carbon emitters, driving climate change to become even worse than the worst predictions. And how we will replace the oxygen they produce, to breathe? There is evidence that phytoplankton, the other major producer of oxygen and the base of the food chain in the ocean, has been reduced by 40% - and that they are absorbing ozone as well.Earth is a closed system, like a closed garage - with a car running inside. The invisible but deadly exhaust fumes are building up and up. If we don't turn off the engine everything will die, sooner or later.

Everyone is familiar with the corporate-funded climate change denial machine. They have waged an even more effective campaign to hide the effects of ozone.Absolutely, there should be a very high price on carbon. But to focus single-mindedly on climate change from CO2 is a failed strategy. It's not working! Emissions have not slowed at all! It's time for those who know better to scare the wits out of people and tell them that what is most urgently at risk is not merely polar bears and exotic butterflies and cities threatened by sea level rise a hundred years off - but dinner on the table and oxygen to breathe, NOW! It's time not just to tax carbon, but to ration dirty fuel on an emergency basis.

It's past time that the climate change scientists and activists align wholeheartedly with the environmental activists. The exact same industrial processes and materialistic culture that are causing climate change mainly from CO2 emissions, are also polluting the air, water, and soil...extracting and depleting resources at an unsustainable level...and destroying habitats.

The corporations making obscene profits are united in their efforts to inhibit regulatory intervention, and to control media coverage. We need a movement that is united to remove their influence from all three branches of government, and hold them accountable for climate chaos, environmental destruction and human health costs.

I have been looking into tree sensitivity to pollution ever since I realized that the trees are not only growing more slowly, they are actually dying at a rapidly accelerating rate. This is being reported from all over the world, not just around my farm in New Jersey. Every species of every age is in decline, as is the understory of the woods. It is well documented that ozone interferes with the ability of vegetation to photosynthesize by damaging the stomata of foliage and needles.

Because the recent decline is proceeding at a truly astonishing pace, it is possible that some wide-spread change in the composition of the atmosphere is responsible, perhaps from biofuel emissions, or a disruption of the nitrogen cycle, or hydroflurocarbons, or heavy metal contamination such as mercury, reacting to increased UV radiation. It is critically important to determine what is killing trees, because they are the foundation of the ecosystem and without them it will collapse.

There are photographs and links to scientific research scattered around this blog. Click HERE for a link to my profile in the World Wildlife Fund Climate Witness program.

To see the list of resources GO HERE

To download Gail's book Plunder & Pollute GO HERE

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