B.C. wildfires threaten thousands of cattle

Small livestock and horses can be saved, but cattle too difficult to move, says B.C. Cattlemen’s Association

By Cory Correia, CBC News Posted: Jul 11, 2017 2:45 PM PT Last Updated: Jul 11, 2017 3:22 PM PT

Cattle at the Tatton Springs Ranch in 100 Mile House sift through the burnt grass in search of food. (Ryan Maljaars )

 

While wildfires in the B.C. Interior have forced thousands of people to flee their homes, attention is now turning to how ranchers can save their livestock.

The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association is connecting ranchers who need to move their livestock with people who can help get horses and smaller animals out of evacuation areas with trailers. But the association says thousands of cattle can’t be helped.

According to general manager Kevin Boon, the challenge with most cattle is they are often spread out over thousands of acres of land, making it onerous to round them up.

“You might have a thousand head out on 40 or 50-thousand acres of land, and you have no way of pinpointing exactly where they are,” said Boon.

Ryan and Esther Maljaars were forced from their ranch in 100 Mile House in a hurry last Thursday due to the aggressive wildfire closing in on the town.

They left with their four children, three dogs, and two cats, but had to leave their cattle — their livelihood.

“When we left the fire was bearing down pretty hard, and we chased [the cattle] down into a swamp area,” said Ryan Maljaars.

The fire stopped just short of Maljaars’ farmhouse. (Ryan Maljaars)

Maljaars managed to get back to his place on Saturday to get a look at his ranch.

“Everything was scorched until we came to our place … most of the fields were burnt up around near the house. I came around the corner and there were all my cows just standing there.

“So that was the most welcome sight I’ve ever seen,” said Maljaars.

Checkpoints restricting access

Maljaars is among the lucky ones. His house is safe and his cows still have a week or two of grass to eat, but some of his neighbours lost their homes and grassland, leaving their cattle with little food.

Maljaars still wants to get back to his ranch to tend to his livestock, but like many ranchers, he is being refused re-entry by the RCMP.

Scorched earth lines the roads in 100 Mile House. (Ryan Maljaars)

“The RCMP have a job to do, too. They can’t just let anybody in. There’s a lot of vacant houses out there, there’s opportunity for looting,” said Boon.

Boon says the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association is liaising with the RCMP to get people access at the checkpoints so they can transport or tend to their livestock.

He estimates that 10,000 cattle are affected, and only a small portion have been moved.

While Boon expects some cattle won’t survive, he is confident many can endure the harsh conditions.

He does worry cattle will start to range on their own and enter the highways as fences burn.

“We’ve already had an incident of animals being hit by traffic. We want to make sure that people are aware they’re still out there,” said Boon.

If you have livestock in need of evacuation, or you can help haul cattle for other people, send an email with details to wild…@cattlemen.bc.ca.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/wildfires-livestock-cattle-ranchers-1.4199339

To Be or Not to Be?: Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

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Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

For four decades I have been speaking about the sixth mass extinction and the threat that we have become to our own future and the future of most species on this planet.

Now at last the mainstream media is beginning to notice.

For decades my concerns have been ridiculed and criticized for being an alarmist and a doomsday prophet.

When it comes to ecological threats, humans always seem to do very little too late.

There are solutions but for the majority of humanity all the real solutions are unacceptable. They want solutions without sacrificing their life styles.

We have to understand that farmlands will nor survive if we kill the bacteria in the soil. We have to understand that 7.5 billion meat eating, fish eating primates are rapidly destroying entire eco-systems.

The life support systems of the Earth, our Ocean, our rainforests, the biosphere are all being rapidly diminished.

If humanity does not reject anthropocentrism and if we refuse to abide by the laws of ecology we will not survive as a species.

We will be the victims of our own ignorance and our own arrogance. Homo sapiens have devolved into Homo arrogantus ignoramus.

We have become trapped within a matrix of our own creation, living in a world of anthropocentric fantasies and ignoring ecological realities.

Diminishment is escalating much faster than we seem to realize. Fisheries have been collapsing for years, climate change is accelerating, species extinction is accelerating, plastic, noise, chemical and radiation pollutants are poisoning the sea.

And less that 3% of humanity understands that if bees and trees, worms and phytoplankton are diminished we are diminished and if these species go extinct so do we.

Since 1950 we have had a 40% diminishment of phytoplankton in the sea and phytoplankton supplies over 70% of the oxygen we breathe. No phytoplankton = no humanity.

And despite these facts, Norway and Japan are building fleets to mass harvest krill to provide a cheap protein source for livestock.

We slaughter 65 billion animals a year and remove tens of billions more animals from the sea creating more greenhouse gases in the process than produced by the entire transportation industry.

And yet most people choose to be unaware, to be willfully ignorant or they simply don’t care.

Why is it that the late wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber was fined $150,000 for freeing a wolf from a trap but a man from a prep school in Hawaii received only $1,000 fine and 45 days in jail for viciously killing 17 endangered Laysan albatross and causing $200,000 worth of damage to a conservation project?

Why is it that over a thousand conservationists and environmentalists have been murdered and rarely have the killers been brought to justice.

The human race is terrorizing the entire living world and blaming everything but ourselves. Why do we allow sick people like Walter Palmer to practice their perverted ‘sport’ and call it conservation? Big game hunters are simply sexually and emotionally inadequate people given a license to kill by governments that value profits over life.

A few years ago a ranger in Zimbabwe was severely criticized for killing a poacher who was about to kill a black rhino. Human rights groups were appalled asking how killing a man to protect an animal can ever be justified.

The ranger responded by saying that if a man ran out of Barclay’s bank in Harare with a bag of money and if he was a policeman and shot the man in the head, he would not have been criticized. They would have given him a medal for the deed.

“How is it,” he said, “that a bag of paper has more value than the future heritage of Zimbabwe?”

Our values are dictated by anthropocentric desires without any recognition of the ultimate importance of bio-diversity.

The choice for us, if we are to survive is to embrace the laws of ecology and learn to live in harmony and with respect for all other species and to accept that we are part of and not dominant over nature.

Many scientists say it’s clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.
CNN.COM|BY JOHN SUTTER

Sixth mass extinction: The era of ‘biological annihilation’

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/11/world/sutter-mass-extinction-ceballos-study/index.html

Story highlights

  • Scientists have said it’s clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event
  • Study: A third of the 27,600 species are shrinking in terms of numbers and territorial range
  • “What is at stake is really the state of humanity,” study author says

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN who focuses on climate change and social justice. Follow him on SnapchatTwitter and Facebook or subscribe to his email newsletter.

(CNN)Many scientists say it’s abundantly clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.

That’s terrifying, especially since humans are contributing to this shift.
But that’s not even the full picture of the “biological annihilation” people are inflicting on the natural world, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and his co-authors, including well-known Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, cite striking new evidence that populations of species we thought were common are suffering in unseen ways.
“What is at stake is really the state of humanity,” Ceballos told CNN.
Their key findings: Nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile species studied are shrinking in terms of their numbers and territorial range. The researchers called that an “extremely high degree of population decay.”
The scientists also looked at a well-studied group of 177 mammal species and found that all of them had lost at least 30% of their territory between 1900 and 2015; more than 40% of those species “experienced severe population declines,” meaning they lost at least 80% of their geographic range during that time.
Looking at the extinction crisis not only in terms of species that are on the brink but also those whose populations and ranges are shrinking helps show that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe” than previously thought, the authors write. They say a major extinction event is “ongoing.”
“It’s the most comprehensive study of this sort to date that I’m aware of,” said Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study. Its value, Barnosky said, is that it makes visible a phenomenon typically unseen by scientists and the public: that even populations of relatively common species are crashing.
“We’ve got this stuff going on that we can’t really see because we’re not constantly counting numbers of individuals,” he said. “But when you realize that we’ve wiped out 50% of the Earth’s wildlife in the last 40 years, it doesn’t take complicated math to figure out that, if we keep cutting by half every 40 years, pretty soon there’s going to be nothing left.”
Stuart Pimm, chair of conservation ecology at Duke University in North Carolina, summed up the the concept this way: “When I look out over the woods that constitute my view from my window here, I know we no longer have wolves or panthers or black bears wandering around. We have eliminated a lot of species from a lot of areas. So we no longer have a functional set of species across large parts of the planet.”
This is an important point to emphasize, Pimm said. But the new paper’s analysis risks overstating the degree to which extinction events already are occurring, he said, and the research methodology does not have the level of granularity needed to be particularly useful for conservationists.
“What good mapping does is to tell you where you need to act,” Pimm said. “The value of the Ceballos paper is a sense of the problem. But given there’s a problem, what the bloody hell are we going to do about it?”
Often, scientists who study crisis in the natural world focus on species that are at high and short-term risk for extinction. These plants and animals tend to be odd and unfamiliar, often restricted to one island or forest. You probably didn’t notice, for example, that the Catarina pupfish, native to Mexico, went extinct in 2014, according to the paper. Or that a bat called the Christmas Island pipistrelle is thought to have vanished in 2009.
Meanwhile, as this research shows, entire populationsof other plants and animals are crashing, even if they’re not yet on the brink of extinction. Some of these are well-known.
Consider the African elephant. “On the one hand, you can say, ‘All right, we still have around 400,000 elephants in Africa, and that seems like a really big number,’ ” Barnosky said. “But then, if you step back, that’s cut by more than half of what their populations were in the early part of last century. There were well over 1 million elephants (then).
“And if you look at what’s happened in the last decade, we have been culling their numbers so fast that if we kept up with that pace, there would be no more wild elephants in Africa in 20 years.”
Twenty years. No more African elephants. Think about that.
Barn swallows and jaguars are two other examples, according to Ceballos, the lead author of the paper. Both are somewhat common in terms of their total numbers, he said, but their decline is troubling in some places.
Such population crashes can, of course, lead to inevitable extinctions. And currently, scientists say that species are going extinct at roughly 100 times what would be considered normal — perhaps considerably more.
There has been some dispute lately about whether the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event already has begun or is simply on the horizon, but there is little disagreement among scientists that humans are driving an unprecedented ecological crisis.
And the causes are well-known. People are burning fossil fuels, contributing to climate change. They’re chopping down forests and other habitat for agriculture, to the point 37% of Earth’s land surface now is farmland or pasture, according to the World Bank. The global population of people continues to rise, along with our thirst for land and consumption. And finally, but not exclusively, poachers are driving numbers of elephantspangolins, rhinos, giraffes and other creatures with body parts valuable on the black market to worryingly low levels.
All of this is contributing to a rapid decline in wild creatures, both on land and in the ocean.
Ceballos’ paper highlights the urgency of this crisis — and the need for change.
“The good news is, we still have time,” he said. “These results show it is time to act. The window of opportunity is small, but we can still do something to save species and populations.”
Otherwise, “biological annihilation” continues.

POLAR BEARS TO BE FOCUS IN NEW MANAGEMENT PLAN

Polar bears were listed on the Species at Risk Act in 2011.

On June 27th, the Northwest Territories Conference of Management Authorities (CMA) released the Inuvialuit Settlement Region Polar Bear Joint Management Plan and the Framework for Action for Management of Polar Bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

The documents were released by Environment and Natural Resources Minister Robert C. McLeod, acting on behalf of the CMA.

The release of the documents comes after an agreement by the CMA to adopt both documents and fulfills responsibilities under the NWT’s Species at Risk Act to complete a management plan for polar bears in the territory.

McLeod says the documents are a great start to restoring the polar bears numbers:

Management of polar bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region is complex and [this] will help facilitate an integrated and common approach to polar bear management across all jurisdictions, including Nunavut and Yukon, by outlining recommended areas where further action should be taken.

The CMA now has until March 27, 2018 to develop a consensus agreement on the implementation of the newly released documents.

http://www.myyellowknifenow.com/24722/polar-bears-focus-new-management-plan/

There are Diseases in the Ice and they are Waking Up

Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.

We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) migrating (Credit: Eric Baccega/naturepl.com)

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) migrating (Credit: Eric Baccega/naturepl.com)

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases.

The fear is that this will not be an isolated case.

Permafrost in Svalbard (Credit: Wild Wonders of Europe/de la L/naturepl.com)

Permafrost in Svalbard (Credit: Wild Wonders of Europe/de la L/naturepl.com)

As the Earth warms, more permafrost will melt. Under normal circumstances, superficial permafrost layers about 50cm deep melt every summer. But now global warming is gradually exposing older permafrost layers.

Frozen permafrost soil is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time, perhaps as long as a million years. That means melting ice could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases.

Scientists have discovered intact 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra

The temperature in the Arctic Circle is rising quickly, about three times faster than in the rest of the world. As the ice and permafrost melt, other infectious agents may be released.

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie at Aix-Marseille University in France. “Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.”

In the early 20th Century alone, more than a million reindeer died from anthrax. It is not easy to dig deep graves, so most of these carcasses are buried close to the surface, scattered among 7,000 burial grounds in northern Russia.

However, the big fear is what else is lurking beneath the frozen soil.

Anthrax spores can survive for decades (Credit: Cultura RM/Alamy)

Anthrax spores can survive for decades (Credit: Cultura RM/Alamy)

People and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries, so it is conceivable that other infectious agents could be unleashed. For instance, scientists have discovered intact 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.

In a 2011 study, Boris Revich and Marina Podolnaya wrote: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th Centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years

For instance, in the 1890s there was a major epidemic of smallpox in Siberia. One town lost up to 40% of its population. Their bodies were buried under the upper layer of permafrost on the banks of the Kolyma River. 120 years later, Kolyma’s floodwaters have started eroding the banks, and the melting of the permafrost has speeded up this erosion process.

In a project that began in the 1990s, scientists from the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk have tested the remains of Stone Age people that had been found in southern Siberia, in the region of Gorny Altai. They have also tested samples from the corpses of men who had died during viral epidemics in the 19th Century and were buried in the Russian permafrost.

The researchers say they have found bodies with sores characteristic of the marks left by smallpox. While they did not find the smallpox virus itself, they have detected fragments of its DNA.

Certainly it is not the first time that bacteria frozen in ice have come back to life.

Bacteria have been found dormant in Antarctic ice (Credit: Colin Harris/Era Images/Alamy)

Bacteria have been found dormant in Antarctic ice (Credit: Colin Harris/Era Images/Alamy)

In a 2005 study, NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. The microbes, called Carnobacterium pleistocenium, had been frozen since the Pleistocene period, when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth. Once the ice melted, they began swimming around, seemingly unaffected.

Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious

Two years later, scientists managed to revive an 8-million-year-old bacterium that had been lying dormant in ice, beneath the surface of a glacier in the Beacon and Mullins valleys of Antarctica. In the same study, bacteria were also revived from ice that was over 100,000 years old.

However, not all bacteria can come back to life after being frozen in permafrost. Anthrax bacteria can do so because they form spores, which are extremely hardy and can survive frozen for longer than a century.

Other bacteria that can form spores, and so could survive in permafrost, include tetanus and Clostridium botulinum, the pathogen responsible for botulism: a rare illness that can cause paralysis and even prove fatal. Some fungi can also survive in permafrost for a long time.

Some viruses can also survive for lengthy periods.

Mimivirus, an example of a giant virus (Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy)

Mimivirus, an example of a giant virus (Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy)

In a 2014 study, a team led by Claverie revived two viruses that had been trapped in Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years. Known as Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirus sibericum, they are both “giant viruses”, because unlike most viruses they are so big they can be seen under a regular microscope. They were discovered 100ft underground in coastal tundra.

Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious. Fortunately for us, these particular viruses only infect single-celled amoebas. Still, the study suggests that other viruses, which really could infect humans, might be revived in the same way.

The giant viruses tend to be very tough and almost impossible to break open

What’s more, global warming does not have to directly melt permafrost to pose a threat. Because the Arctic sea ice is melting, the north shore of Siberia has become more easily accessible by sea. As a result, industrial exploitation, including mining for gold and minerals, and drilling for oil and natural gas, is now becoming profitable.

“At the moment, these regions are deserted and the deep permafrost layers are left alone,” says Claverie. “However, these ancient layers could be exposed by the digging involved in mining and drilling operations. If viable virions are still there, this could spell disaster.”

Giant viruses may be the most likely culprits for any such viral outbreak.

“Most viruses are rapidly inactivated outside host cells, due to light, desiccation, or spontaneous biochemical degradation,” says Claverie. “For instance, if their DNA is damaged beyond possible repair, the virions will no longer be infectious. However, among known viruses, the giant viruses tend to be very tough and almost impossible to break open.”

Neanderthals once lived in Siberia (Credit: The Natural History Museum/Alamy)

Neanderthals once lived in Siberia (Credit: The Natural History Museum/Alamy)

Claverie says viruses from the very first humans to populate the Arctic could emerge. We could even see viruses from long-extinct hominin species like Neanderthals and Denisovans, both of which settled in Siberia and were riddled with various viral diseases. Remains of Neanderthals from 30-40,000 years ago have been spotted in Russia. Human populations have lived there, sickened and died for thousands of years.

NASA scientists found 10-50,000-year-old microbes inside crystals in a Mexican mine

“The possibility that we could catch a virus from a long-extinct Neanderthal suggests that the idea that a virus could be ‘eradicated’ from the planet is wrong, and gives us a false sense of security,” says Claverie. “This is why stocks of vaccine should be kept, just in case.”

Since 2014, Claverie has been analysing the DNA content of permafrost layers, searching for the genetic signature of viruses and bacteria that could infect humans. He has found evidence of many bacteria that are probably dangerous to humans. The bacteria have DNA that encodes virulence factors: molecules that pathogenic bacteria and viruses produce, which increase their ability to infect a host.

Claverie’s team has also found a few DNA sequences that seem to come from viruses, including herpes. However, they have not as yet found any trace of smallpox. For obvious reasons, they have not attempted to revive any of the pathogens.

It now seems that pathogens cut off from humans will emerge from other places too, not just ice or permafrost.

The crystals in the Naica cave (Credit: SOTK2011/Alamy)

The crystals in the Naica cave (Credit: SOTK2011/Alamy)

In February 2017, NASA scientists announced that they had found 10-50,000-year-old microbes inside crystals in a Mexican mine.

The bacteria have somehow become resistant to 18 types of antibiotics

The bacteria were located in the Cave of the Crystals, part of a mine in Naica in northern Mexico. The cave contains many milky-white crystals of the mineral selenite, which formed over hundreds of thousands of years.

The bacteria were trapped inside small, fluid pockets of the crystals, but once they were removed they revived and began multiplying. The microbes are genetically unique and may well be new species, but the researchers are yet to publish their work.

Even older bacteria have been found in the Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, 1,000ft underground. These microbes have not seen the surface for over 4 million years.

Selenite formations in Lechuguilla Cave (Credit: Paul D. Stewart/naturepl.com)

Selenite formations in Lechuguilla Cave (Credit: Paul D. Stewart/naturepl.com)

The cave never sees sunlight, and it is so isolated that it takes about 10,000 years for water from the surface to get into the cave.

Antibiotic resistance has been around for millions or even billions of years

Despite this, the bacteria have somehow become resistant to 18 types of antibiotics, including drugs considered to be a “last resort” for fighting infections. In a study published in December 2016, researchers found that the bacteria, known as Paenibacillus sp. LC231, was resistant to 70% of antibiotics and was able to totally inactivate many of them.

As the bacteria have remained completely isolated in the cave for four million years, they have not come into contact with people or the antibiotic drugs used to treat human infections. That means its antibiotic resistance must have arisen in some other way.

The scientists involved believe that the bacteria, which does not harm humans, is one of many that have naturally evolved resistance to antibiotics. This suggests that antibiotic resistance has been around for millions or even billions of years.

Permafrost on the Tibetan plateau (Credit: Gertrud & Helmut Denzau/naturepl.com)

Permafrost on the Tibetan plateau (Credit: Gertrud & Helmut Denzau/naturepl.com)

Obviously, such ancient antibiotic resistance cannot have evolved in the clinic as a result of antibiotic use.

The reason for this is that many types of fungi, and even other bacteria, naturally produce antibiotics to gain a competitive advantage over other microbes. That is how Fleming first discovered penicillin: bacteria in a petri dish died after one became contaminated with an antibiotic-excreting mould.

As Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of “southern” diseases like malaria

In caves, where there is little food, organisms must be ruthless if they are to survive. Bacteria like Paenibacillus may have had to evolve antibiotic resistance in order to avoid being killed by rival organisms.

This would explain why the bacteria are only resistance to natural antibiotics, which come from bacteria and fungi, and make up about 99.9% of all the antibiotics we use. The bacteria have never come across man-made antibiotics, so do not have a resistance to them.

“Our work, and the work of others, suggests that antibiotic resistance is not a novel concept,” says microbiologist Hazel Barton of the University of Akron, Ohio, who led the study. “Our organisms have been isolated from surface species from 4-7 million years, yet the resistance that they have is genetically identical to that found in surface species. This means that these genes are at least that old, and didn’t emerge from the human use of antibiotics for treatment.”

Although Paenibacillus itself is not harmful to humans, it could in theory pass on its antibiotic resistance to other pathogens. However, as it is isolated beneath 400m of rock, this seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, natural antibiotic resistance is probably so prevalent that many of the bacteria emerging from melting permafrost may already have it. In line with that, in a 2011 study scientists extracted DNA from bacteria found in 30,000-year-old permafrost in the Beringian region between Russia and Canada. They found genes encoding resistance to beta-lactam, tetracycline and glycopeptide antibiotics.

Permafrost tundra in Siberia (Credit: Staffan Widstrand/naturepl.com)

Permafrost tundra in Siberia (Credit: Staffan Widstrand/naturepl.com)

How much should we be concerned about all this?

One argument is that the risk from permafrost pathogens is inherently unknowable, so they should not overtly concern us. Instead, we should focus on more established threats from climate change. For instance, as Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of “southern” diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.

The alternative perspective is that we should not ignore risks just because we cannot quantify them.

“Following our work and that of others, there is now a non-zero probability that pathogenic microbes could be revived, and infect us,” says Claverie. “How likely that is is not known, but it’s a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn’t been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared. So yes, that could be dangerous.”

Sorry Nerds, But Colonizing Other Planets Is Not A Good Plan

by Adam Ozimek, Contributor

In November, Stephen Hawking warned that humans needed to colonize another planet within 1,000 years. Now, six months later, he’s saying we have to do it within 100 years in order to avoid extinction. There’s a problem with this plan: under almost no circumstances does is colonizing another planet the best way to adapt to a problem on earth.

Shutterstock

Let’s start with Mars, which is a favorite planet for colonization scenarios, including for Elon Musk who thinks we should colonize Mars because earth will eventually face a “doomsday scenario”. The problem with this is that there is almost nothing that could happen to earth that would make it less hospitable than Mars. Whether it’s nuclear war or massive global warming, post disaster earth would be way more habitable than Mars.

For example, we worry that the oceans on earth will get too polluted, or too acidified, or rise up too high. It’s true that could make life on earth very hard. But on Mars the only surface water is frozen in the polar ice caps. We would be hard pressed to ruin the water on earth so badly that it’s worse than what’s available on Mars.

We also worry about the level of carbon dioxide we humans are creating. But there’s nothing we could do to earth’s atmosphere to make it as bad as Mars, which is both extremely thin and also 96% carbon dioxide. Not to mention a significantly lower level of gravity. Whatever we’d have to do on Mars to make the atmosphere habitable would be more easily done on a very very ruined earth.

Even if an asteroid were to strike earth it would remain more habitable than mars. For example, consider the asteroid that struck the earth 66 million years ago creating the Chicxulub crater and wiping out 75% of plant and animal species on earth, including the dinosaurs. Well that disaster still left 25% of species that survived, all of whom would die instantly on the surface of Mars.

If an asteroid like this was heading for the earth here’s what we would do instead of abandoning the planet. First, we’d try to deflect it. If we didn’t know how to do that, everyone who lived on the part of the planet where it was going to land would move to safer parts of the planet. If need be we’d create biodomes and move into them, maybe even at the bottom of the ocean. “Impossible!” you say? “Technology and human behavior would never allow this!” you insist? It’s true it would be extremely hard and today’s technology wouldn’t allow it. And yet it would still be way, way easier than colonizing another planet. If you think getting humans to abandon a continent peacefully is hard, try getting them to abandon the planet.

Perhaps we could focus on colonizing another planet then. One with an atmosphere closer to ours than Mars. This may be possible, but the technology required to do this is a far smaller life than the technology required to build habitable ecosystems on the bottom of the ocean, deflect asteroids, reverse global warming, or cure pandemics. The closest star system to us is Alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light years away. At a max speed of around 17,000 mph would take existing space shuttles 165,000 years to reach this. Even the faster New Horizon probe, the first to visit Pluto, would take 78,000 years.

The technology required to travel fast enough to get to other planets makes geoengineering to reverse climate change seem quaint.

It is hard to come up with a scenario where evacuating the earth makes the most sense. So why do so many smart people obsess about it? I think the issue is that nerds find space travel and colonizing other planets extremely appealing because they love science fiction and space exploration exciting. That’s fine, and if some billionaires want to colonize Mars for fun I say go for it. But unfortunately, their nerd desires are biasing their assessment of how humanity should prepare for doomsday threats. Sorry nerds, we won’t be evacuating earth. If we are underestimating the risks of doomsday threats, lets instead invest in the technologies that will help protect earth from them. Even though I am not an expert on space, physical sciences, or basically any relevant field, I can tell that this is obviously true. Maybe just it takes an economist to see through the nerd fantasies.

ADDENDUM: The goal of colonizing to preserve the species rather than evacuate doesn’t make sense either. If there are habitable planets within reach, then there must be many, many habitable planets that aren’t within reach. In this case the Drake Equation implies humans are not alone in the universe, and therefore our existence is far less special, lowering the benefit of preserving humanity. In a world of other habitable planets, saving the actual life on earth grows in importance compared to preserving the species somewhere in the universe.

23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump’s First 100 Days

President Trump, with help from his administration and Republicans in Congress, has reversed course on nearly two dozen environmental rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office.

Citing federal overreach and burdensome regulations, Mr. Trump has prioritized domestic fossil fuel interests and undone measures aimed at protecting the environment and limiting global warming.

OVERTURNED

1. Approved the Dakota Access pipeline. Feb. 7

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress criticized President Barack Obama for delaying construction of the pipeline — which they argued would create jobs and stimulate the economy — after protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Mr. Trump ordered an expedited review of the pipeline, and the Army approved it.

2. Revoked a rule that prevented coal mining companies from dumping debris into local streams. Feb. 16

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The coal industry said the rule was overly burdensome, calling it part of the war on coal. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

3. Canceled a requirement for reporting methane emissions. March 2

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republican officials from 11 states wrote a letter to Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the rule added costs and paperwork for oil and gas companies. The next day, Mr. Pruitt revoked the rule.

4. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline. March 24

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans, along with oil, gas and steel industry groups, opposed Mr. Obama’s decision to block the pipeline, arguing that the project would create jobs and support North American energy independence. After the pipeline company reapplied for a permit, the Trump administration approved it.

5. Revoked an update to public land use planningprocess. March 27

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the updated planning rule for public lands, arguing that it gave the federal government too much power at the expense of local and business interests. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

6. Lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands.March 29

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies weren’t thrilled about the Obama administration’s three-year freeze on new leases on public lands pending an environmental review. Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, revoked the freeze and review, though he promised to set up a new advisory committee to review coal royalties.

7. Rejected a ban on a potentially harmful insecticide.March 29

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The company that sells the insecticide, Dow Agrosciences, strongly opposed a risk analysis by the Obama-era E.P.A., which found that the insecticide Chlorpyrifos poses a risk to fetal brain and nervous system development. Mr. Pruitt rejected the E.P.A.’s previous analysis and denied the ban, saying that the chemical needed further study.

8. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. April 3

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Alaskan politicians opposed the law, which prevented hunters from shooting wolves and grizzly bears on wildlife refuges, arguing that the state, not the federal government, has authority over those lands. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

9. Withdrew guidance for federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. April 5

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress opposed the guidelines, which advised federal agencies to account for greenhouse gas emissions and potential climate effects in environmental impact reviews. They argued that the government lacked the authority to make such recommendations, and that it would be impossible to plan for the uncertain effects of climate change.

UNDER REVIEW

10. Ordered review and “elimination” of rule that protected tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Feb. 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Farmers, real estate developers, golf course owners and many Republicans opposed this clarification of the Clean Water Act, arguing that it created regulatory burdens. Mr. Trump called it a “massive power grab” by the federal government and instructed the E.P.A. and the Army to conduct a review.

11. Reopened a review of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Automakers said it would be difficult and costly to meet fuel economy goals they had agreed upon with the Obama administration and noted rising consumer demand for sport utility vehicles and trucks. A standards review had been completed by the Obama administration before Mr. Trump took office, but the auto industry argued that it was rushed. The E.P.A. and Department of Transportation have reopened the review.

12. Ordered “immediate re-evaluation” of the Clean Power Plan. March 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies and Republican officials in many states strongly opposed the plan, which set strict limits for carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. Republicans argued the plan — Mr. Obama’s signature climate change policy — posed a threat to the coal industry, and had mounted a legal challenge. Mr. Trump signed an executive order instructing the E.P.A. to review and re-evaluate the rule. An appeals court recently approved the Trump administration’s request to put the lawsuit on hold during the review process.

13. Rolled back limits on toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways. April 12

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Utility and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the rule, which limited the amount of toxic metals — arsenic, lead, and mercury, among others — power plants could release into public waterways. Industry representatives said complying with the guidelines would be extremely expensive. The E.P.A. has delayed compliance deadlines while it reconsiders the rule, which had been challenged in court.

14. Ordered review of rule limiting methane emissions at new oil and gas drilling sites. April 18

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the oil and gas industries petitioned Mr. Pruitt to reconsider the rule, which went into effect last August, limiting emissions of methane, smog-forming compounds and other toxic pollutants from new and modified oil and gas wells. They argued the rule was technologically infeasible.

15. Ordered review of national monuments created since 1996. April 26

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Congressional Republicans said the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate national monuments on federal land, had been abused by previous administrations. Mr. Obama used the law to set aside more than 4 million acres of land and several million square miles of ocean for protection.

16. Ordered review of offshore drilling policies and regulations. April 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the oil industry were opposed to Mr. Obama’s use of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently ban offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast and much of the ocean around Alaska, as well as regulations around oil rig safety.

IN LIMBO

17. Withdrew a rule that would help consumers buy more fuel-efficient tires. Jan. 26

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The rule required tire manufacturers and retailers to provide consumers with information about replacement car tires. The tire industry opposed several aspects of the rule, but had been working with the government to refine it. The Trump administration withdrew the proposed rule from consideration, but has not confirmed whether it may be reinstated.

18. Voted to revoke limits on methane emissions on public lands. Feb. 3

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The oil and gas industry said that the rule, which required companies to control methane emissions on federal or tribal land by capturing rather than burning or venting excess gas, would have curbed energy development. The House voted to revoke the rule under the Congressional Review Act, and Senate Republicans have until May 8 to take action.

19. Postponed changes to how oil, gas and coal from federal lands are priced. Feb. 22

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry said the changes, meant to ensure fair pricing on oil, gas and coal on federal or tribal land and to reduce costs, were redundant since the government already has the power to impose penalties. They also argued that it created a lot of uncertainty in the market.

20. Delayed a rule aiming to increase safety at facilities that use hazardous chemicals. March 13

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Chemical, agricultural and power industry groups said that the new rule, a response to a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, did not increase safety and would have undermined oversight. The rule is delayed until June 19, and industry groups have said that they may sue.

21. Delayed rules increasing energy efficiency standardsfor some appliances and some federal buildings. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress opposed the rules, which applied to ceiling fans, heating and cooling appliances and other devices, as well as residential buildings owned by the federal government, saying that they would place an unfair cost on consumers.

22. Delayed rules modernizing the federal highway system, including environmental standards. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The trucking industry supported the changes for bridge and pavement condition guidelines, but strongly opposed measures aimed at environmental sustainability and mitigating climate change.

23. Delayed a lawsuit over a rule regulating airborne mercury emissions from power plants. April 27

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies, along with Republican officials in several states, sued the government over this rule, which regulated the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that fossil fuel-fired power plants can emit into the air. They argued that the rule helped shutter coal plants, many of which are already compliant. Oral arguments in the case have been delayed while the E.P.A. reviews the rule.

Any regulations we missed? Tweet @nytclimate.

Stephen Hawking says we have 100 years to colonize a new planet—or die. Could we do it?

http://www.popsci.com/stephen-hawking-human-extinction-colonize-mars

Here’s what it would take to survive this particular doomsday prophecy

human on Mars

Living on Mars would arguably be harder than fixing up our own planet.

NASA

Stephen Hawking is making apocalyptic predictions again. The respected theoretical physicist warns that humanity needs to become a multi-planetary species within the next century if we don’t want to go extinct. Last year, he prophesied that we had maybe 1,000 years left on Earth, and the inspiration for this newly-urgent timeline is unclear—except for the fact that Hawking’s new documentary about colonizing Mars is coming out soon.

To be sure, Earth is facing some big problems, including climate change, overpopulation, epidemics, and asteroid strikes. But before we flee this planet like an action hero jumping out of an explosion, let’s think about this for a second. Sure, it’d be great to have a backup civilization somewhere in case asteroids wipe out all life on Earth. And it would be one of the most exciting things humankind has ever done. But what would it actually require.

Finding a second home for humanity

Mars is a somewhat obvious choice because it’s nearby, but it’s not exactly Earth 2.0. In fact, it’s arguably a lot worse off than Earth. It has toxic soil, it’s freezing cold, and the air is unbreathable. Any Martian colony would likely rely on regular care packages from home, which would not work well if Earth was done-zo.

If we really want to find the perfect home away from home, we could look to other star systems: with billions of planets in the Milky Way, there’s a good chance some will have water, land, and breathable air. But so far we haven’t found Earth’s twin, and our telescopes don’t have the kind of resolution that could tell us in detail what an exoplanet is like. Also, it would take hundreds of years to get there, and if those passengers don’t die along the way, they’d likely evolve into a new species before they even got to their new planet.

Bringing enough people

We would need to send significant numbers of people to other worlds in order to ensure the survival of the human species. Small colonies are subject to genetic anomalies from inbreeding, and vulnerable to getting wiped out in accidents.

NASA’s missions to Mars will likely only carry as many as six people at a time to the red planet. SpaceX wants to develop an Interplanetary Transport System to deliver 100 Martian settlers at a time, but at the moment it is nothing more than an imaginary behemoth.

The interstellar route is even more challenging, because we don’t even have an imaginary spacecraft capable of supporting thousands of people for hundreds of years on an interstellar journey.

And in either case, there’s always the politically charged question of: who goes and who stays? Do poor and disadvantaged people get left behind on a hellish world?

mars

Could we make Mars look like Earth?

Making ourselves at home

If we really want to thrive on another planet, we’ll probably have to adapt the environment to suit our needs. Sure, we might be able to terraform Mars, but it would take about 100,000 years for its atmosphere to become breathable. Hope you’re not in a rush to go outdoors without a gas mask anytime soon.

Paying for it

NASA’s Journey to Mars is expected to cost up to $1.5 trillion. And that’s just for the first crews. Later on, launches bringing settlers and supplies to the colony would probably still cost hundreds of millions of dollars each.

And SpaceX’s plan to build the Interplanetary Transport System sounds great, but CEO Elon Musk has been very open about saying the company has no idea how it would pay for such a vessel.

And exactly who would pay to colonize Mars? Why would the U.S. government spend all that money to sustain a colony? What would we get out of it, besides better chances for the survival of our species? Will the Martian colony produce valuable exports, besides the (obviously awesome) scientific discoveries that would come out of it?

Surely there are a few wealthy Earthlings willing to pay millions of dollars each for a ride to and a habitat on an alien world, but the majority of folks who want to go to the red planet hope to come home afterwards.

Solving the problems that are killing Earth

History has a tendency to repeat itself. Even if we do successfully colonize another planet, we’ll still have to solve all the problems that Earth currently faces. Our technologies are just as likely to destroy the environment on other planets, and epidemics and asteroids could wipe out a Martian settlement much easier than they could obliterate the entire population of Earth.

The television show that Stephen Hawking is promoting is all about how human ingenuity is solving the challenges of colonizing Mars. Well, surely if we can figure out how to survive on a completely alien world, then we can figure out how to survive in our own home—possibly a lot more easily and cheaply than the alternative.

Stephen Hawking says humans must flee Earth within century

Stephen Hawking in London on March 6, 2017.

Stephen Hawking in London on March 6, 2017.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Stephen Hawking is giving humanity a tall order: Colonize Mars in the next century or watch as life on Earth fizzles out. After last year claiming that humans have 1,000 years left on Earth, Hawking says in a new documentary that we instead have about 100 years until we’ll need to jump ship as Earth is overwhelmed by overpopulation, climate change, disease, and artificial intelligence.

It might be a bit premature to start packing, but the BBC’s Expedition New Earth will explore technological and scientific advances that will enable life in space or a colony on another planet, reports the Telegraph.

It will show “Hawking’s ambition isn’t as fantastical as it sounds—that science fact is closer to science fiction than we ever thought,” the BBC says, per Newsweek.

Elon Musk of SpaceX is already planning to send humans to Mars in the next decade. But while a Mars colony is a good idea, bringing new scientific discoveries, columnist Eric Mack says Hawking needs to give his head a shake if he honestly believes Mars, the moon, or anywhere else in our solar system will be more hospitable than Earth even after a host of disasters.

“Just cleaning up our own mess and starting over by rising from the rubble seems more practical” and more affordable than figuring out how to grow food or survive radiation poisoning on Mars, he writes at Forbes.

The solution to all of our problems is here on Earth, he adds. “Yet somehow, the grass is always greener for some people, even when it’s on a dead Red Planet.” (For some much funnier Hawking news, check out this skit.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Hawking: Actually, We Have 100 Years to Escape Earth