A breath of fresh air for Earth Day: Pristine, pure air discovered over the Amazon Rain Basin.

Earth Day beckons. The worldwide Extinction Rebellion protests continue, despite concerted efforts to silence them. Sir David Attenborough, 92, and Greta Thunberg, 16, have been passionate, and prominent, speakers for our threatened and increasingly fragile natural world, and the endangered species who cannot speak for themselves.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the powers-that-be — the world’s major financial institutions, the oil- and gas industry and government policymakers — are going to pay lip service, and no more than that, to the idea that our children and grandchildren’s future is finished unless something is done, and done now, about our increasingly evident climate emergency.

These past few days, on the same weekend an exhausted, disoriented polar bear wandered into the isolated village of Tilichiki on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsular, having floated some 700 km (450 miles) away from its home in the Arctic Circle on an ice floe, there was a remarkable discovery in the faraway Amazon rainforest.

©Leonid Shelapugin/Moscow Times

©Leonid Shelapugin/Moscow Times

The discovery was actually made a while ago, but has only now come to light following reports on BBC’s World News service and PBS News Hour in the US: Researchers from Washington State’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found a baseline of pure, pristine air over the Amazon, and is using it to show how we’re messing with climate, by comparing the pristine air to samples of “dirtied” air taken not so far away, over remote jungle towns and logging camps that are expanding rapidly throughout an area dubbed “the lungs of the Earth.”

A team of researchers discovered the pristine air — air that dates back to pre-Industrial times — by flying a specially fitted Gulfstream jet with specialized instruments designed to identify and record particles of air virtually unchanged since before Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Lost World.

©Popular Science

©Popular Science

The Amazon rainforest covers some 6 million square km (2 million square miles) of the South American landmass. It produces so much carbon — and produces so much life-giving oxygen — that it is truly the last, best hope for humankind, and for planet Earth.

And yet, the city of Manaus, Brazil — population 2 million — lies in the heart of the rainforest, with all the overcrowding, environmental destruction and deleted natural resources that come with a city of that size.

This is the classic good-news/bad-news story. The good news is that, on this Earth Day, there remains at least one place on Earth where the air survives as if the human footprint had never happened. The bad news is that the researchers have discovered that human pollution is driving the acceleration of climate-changing particles — aerosols — much more quickly than previously thought. These particles are not just a driver of climate change. They can cause heart disease and damage our lungs and other organs, not just in the immediate area but halfway around the world.



The researchers’ results were published in the journal Nature Communications.

If there’s any good news in all this, it’s that science now has a baseline to create a new standard of what clean, pure air on Earth is supposed to be, and can be if we apply enough effort, energy and human brain power to solving our climate crisis.

As one of the lead researchers told PBS’s Seattle TV affiliate KCTS-9, “We can (now) look back at the Amazon and see how much we’ve been changing it, and how much we will continue to change it (if we don’t do something soon).”

The die is not cast — yet. But it’s getting closer. The  urgency is real, and people need to know the truth.



“Gross worm creatures,” manatees and climate watchdogs — the Week that Was.

It was a Demophis donaldtrumpi kind of week. What was up one minute was down the next.

A newly discovered amphibian that buries its head in the sand joined a growing list of creatures named after the self-styled leader of the free world. Ridicule ensued.

A climate conference ended with a watered-down resolution that vowed to recommit to resolutions promised in the 2015 Paris Agreement and stay the course. The conference ended in a kind of mutual, uncomfortable muted silence, followed quickly by protests that point out that “good enough” is no longer good enough: Climate change is no longer climate change per se but a full-on climate emergency. Not for future generations. Now.

A new civil-disobedience group, Extinction Rebellion, aka XR, renewed calls to take to the streets. The UK-based group has blocked bridges, bolted themselves to government offices and closed roads, all in the name of blocking climate change. Extinction Rebellion’s include zero net carbon emissions by 2025 and a citizens’ advisory panel — a national Citizens’ Assembly — to monitor environmental policy. The movement is not just limited to the UK: Since the group’s inception in October, it has spread to 35 countries. A “national day of protest” is planned for New York on Jan. 26. The group is planning an international week of rebellion in April, timed to coincide with 2019 Earth Day. During this past weekend’s second wave of civil disobedience, thousands of ordinary, everyday people in towns and villages across the UK staged peaceful direct action protests. A demonstration is planned Friday outside the London headquarters of the BBC.

Google Images

Google Images

During UN climate talks in Poland this month, David Attenborough — representing citizens’ voices — warned that unless action is taken soon, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is already on the horizon.”

Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student from Sweden, seized the spotlight at the UN climate conference with a defiant call to action, coupled with accusations that world leaders are “stealing” children’s futures. They’re not the only ones, to borrow a line from John Lennon.


There were glimmers of hope. Florida’s embattled manatee population appears to have stabilized, if not entirely recovered: Population estimates, based on a two-year study published this past week, pegs the state’s manatee population at 7,500 to 10,000 animals, up from the 5,700 to 8,000 found in a 2011-’12 study, the last time manatees were counted in a proper population survey. Even that news comes with a caveat, however: Scientists found that more than 700 manatees died in the past year alone, mostly from Red Tide and collisions with boats.


©Pixabay/COO Creative Commons

©Pixabay/COO Creative Commons

Nepal’s tiger population has increased as well, despite a worsening crisis in neighbouring India, brought on not so much by poaching and trafficking in body parts as big-picture concerns like climate change, environmental degradation, habitat loss and human overpopulation.

For sheer wackiness, though, few events this past week topped the recently discovered earthworm named after planet Earth’s most notorious destroyer.

EnviroBuild, a green-minded sustainable building materials company headquartered in London, paid $25,000 for the privilege of naming the blind, limbless, newly discovered worm, which buries its head in sand and exhibits behaviour that bears “striking resemblance” to the U.S. Commander-in-Chief’s attitude toward climate change. The money is being put toward a fundraiser for the Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit group dedicated, as the name suggests, to preserving and protecting the world’s remaining rain forests.

EnviroBuild co-found Aidan Bell insisted his company is not overtly political, he said in a prepared statement. “But we do feel strongly that everyone should do everything they can to leave the world in a better way than they found it. . . . As Demorphis donaldtrumpi is an amphibian, it is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and is therefore in danger of becoming extinct as a direct result of its namesake’s climate policies.”

That namesake famously bragged about his “very high levels of intelligence” and how thinking bigly with his giant brain led him to not believe in climate change.

He rejected the findings of his own administration’s climate change report.

EnviroBuild’s Bell told The Guardian that the worm’s name is “perfect.”

Caecillian, you see, is taken from the Latin caecus, meaning “blind,” perfectly mirroring the, erm, strategic vision (DJT) has consistently shown toward climate change.

It’s been that kind of a week.

Google Images

Google Images