PLASTIC FREE NEWS: Fukushima, Polls, and Weird Dinosaur

Plastic Free News is a weekly round up of environmental news from the local to the global. From the state of the climate emergency, to animal matters, to interesting stuff that makes living on Earth cool, Plastic Free News is here with all the details. So what’s going on this week?

State of the Emergency

Fukushima Making Nuclear Dump in the Pacific?

Nearly nine years after a tsunami prompted the worst nuclear disaster in Japanese history, the country is facing a new dilemma in dealing with the Fukushima power plant. CNN is reporting that storage tanks filled with contaminated water used to cool the reactor are at critical levels, and that its the plan of the Japanese government to dump that water into the ocean in order to make more room in the tanks. Japan’s neighbours, especially South Korea, who shares a sea with Japan, have expressed concern that the contaminated water will have a negative effect on area wildlife and the long-term health of people living in coastal areas. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has added though that no final course of action has been chosen.

The Incredible Shrining Arctic

Researchers from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, or SAMS, are reaffirming the already established science that the Arctic is warming faster than any other area of the planet. After studying the glaciers of the Svalbard archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic for 20 years, the SAMS team can put a number to how fast the ice is disappearing: 300 metres per year. In an interview with the BBC, team leader Dr. John Howe said that the rapid melt isn’t just because of the warming air. “The warm water is there because of the shape of the seabed,” he explained. “Water is able to get into the fjords, and that warmer water is promoting the collapse and therefore the retreat of this ice.”

The Environment Top Priority in Election

Researchers at the Université de Montréal and University of California Santa Barbara say that the majority of Canadians in every single riding feel that the climate is changing, not just that they believe in climate change, but that they actively believe that the climate is presently changing. Further the majority of Canadians in all but three ridings from coast to coast to coast believe that we’re already experiencing the effects of the changing climate. “In other words, the path to a majority government (or even a minority government) goes through many ridings where Canadians are worried about climate change and want the government to take aggressive action,” according to piece about the research at The Conversation.

Saving the Animals

“Deep Sea Life Was Just Absent”

It’s been almost 10 years since the explosion on the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, but marine life has still not returned to normal, according to the CBC. “Hard substrates like all the wreckage of the rig itself should have had things growing on it, like sea anemones and sponges and corals that would be typical of other spots of the deep sea — and we saw none of that,” Craig McClain, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, told CBC’s As It Happens.

However, there is still life in the area, but it’s mostly shrimp and red deep sea crabs with blackened shells covered in parasites. Apparently, the decomposing oil resembles some of the properties of a sex hormone that lures the crabs in, but instead of finding a mate they find the oil field, and that oil covers their shells and prevents them from molting and purging the naturally accumulating parasites. McClain called his exploration of the area jarring. “It was the equivalent of walking around in a tropical rainforest and the next day walking around on a cement parking lot,” he said.

Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, and spilled 650 million litres of oil over 87 days.

Wind Turbines Supporting New Marine Life

While the area around Deepwater Horizon continues to suffer from environmental denigration, other areas are seeing new marine life, and these surprising locations are in the area of off-shore wind farms. According to the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research in Germany (and reported here) wind farms are creating new habitats for mussels that are equal to 20 per cent of the natural habitat for mussels who usually make their colonies along the coast line.

Mussels are food to other species in the ocean too, so they’re attracting other aquatic life to the areas around wind farms, and since fishing is not allowed near turbines for safety reasons, these areas have become a kind of biological preserve by accident. There may be some negative impacts though, and one of them is that marine splash midge, a kind of insect native to Australia that attaches itself to the hull of ships, is finding a life of its own in off-shore wind farms along the Baltic coast.

“Many of the ecosystem feedbacks and hence changes to ecosystem services are yet unknown and need to be studied both in situ and in future system-wide synoptic studies,” the study says.

The Activists


Drone Protest Averted in UK

London Metropolitan Police have arrested 10 people associated with the an environmental group that was planning on protesting at Heathrow Airport using drones. Like most airports, Heathrow has a 5 kilometre “no fly zone” around the airport that includes drone use, but a group called Heathrow Pause said that they had organized up to 200 people to fly their drones in the “no fly zone” around the airport as a protest against a planned third runway at one of the world’s busiest airport.

Heathrow officials, in the press release (via this link), said that they were sympathetic to the group’s dedication to ceasing climate change, but were unsympathetic about their methods. “We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people, is not the answer. The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do.”


Al Gore Says Think About Children

In the recent all climate change edition of Time magazine, former U.S. Vice-President and OG climate activist Al Gore penned an op-ed discussing his efforts make climate action a priority, and his renewed hope springing from activist youth like Greta Thunberg. Here’s an excerpt:

My hope stems largely from the recent, unprecedented groundswell of youth activism that has raised public consciousness to new levels and is pushing political leaders to develop bold and ambitious ideas to confront this challenge. Harking back to the great social movements in history—women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay and lesbian rights—youth activists are taking the lead. They are staging sit-ins at congressional offices, marching in the streets and protesting on college campuses. Above all, a growing number of students in many nations have been striking from school every Friday for more than a year to demand action on the climate crisis.

You can read the full article here.

The Earth is So Cool

Full Moon Friday the 13th

Today is a Friday, today is the 13th day of the month, and if all that isn’t ominous enough, Friday September 13 is also going to be a Harvest Moon. According to the Weather Network, this is the first time since 1935 that a Harvest Moon and a Friday the 13th have aligned, and we won’t see it again until Friday August 13, 2049. A Harvest Moon is the full moon phase that happens closest to the Autumnal Equinox, aka: the First Day of Fall. This Harvest Moon is happening nine days before the equinox, which is 3:50 am on Monday September 23 this year.

“Giant Flying Murder Head”

Also known as the “frozen dragon of the north wind,” the world was introduced to a brand new, previously undiscovered dinosaur this week, the pterosaur, or Cryodrakon boreas. Discovered in Alberta’s seemingly endless repository of dinosaur remains, the pterosaur was 4 metres tall, and most of that was head and neck, hence the name in quote marks above. The pterosaur is about 77 million years old, and is believed to be the largest flying reptile to have ever existed with a wing span of about 10 metres. Another interesting fact about the pterosaur is that it was unable to chew, so it fed on small lizards, mammals, and baby dinosaurs that it was able to swallow whole.

Close to Home

Singing Our Way Out of Climate Despair

Ward 2 Councillor James Gordon has been making news for something other than his deliberations and decisions around the horseshoe. Gordon has been touring his new project Climate Emergency Musical, which he debuted earlier this month at a house concert in Barrie. Gordon appeared on Rabble Radio to talk about his latest musical endeavour and lifting the mood on climate action.

Local Candidates will Debate Climate

Guelph will be hosting its one of 100 Debates on the Environment on Thursday October 3 at 7 pm. The venue will be Centennial C.V.I., 289 College Ave W., and the debate is being hosted by eMERGE and other other local groups as well as GreenPAC. You can check out the Facebook event page here.

A Full Calendar of Climate Action Week Events

Keep in mind that there will be a whole host of activities starting next week if you’re interested in getting active and get involved. The Guelph Wellington Climate Coalition made this handy calendar.

Plastic Free News is posted on Guelph Politico every Friday.

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