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A couple of updates

I wrote a couple of bits across the last year related to worrying news stories; this last fortnight has seen further happenings in both stories, and I’ve been a lazy bugger writing-wise, so I’ve done a joint update.

In April, animal researchers broke into a psychiatric animal facility in Milan, and, because Italy is a ridiculous place sometimes, part of the deal allowing them to walk away scot-free (having caused several million Euros of taxpayer-funded damage) was to take some of the animals with them. Some of these animals were immuo-compromised, and as such required careful treatment to make sure they didn’t die; as such, their enclosures were specially designed, and their handling precisely controlled. Below is a picture of where animals from the lab were kept after their liberation:

Image

 Source: Nature News Blog

Fan-bloody-tastic. The compassionate liberators showing such care for the animals they’ve saved, by putting them in a load of tubs in a bathroom. Certainly, the animals will be suffering far less crammed together in someone’s bog than they did in their individual cages in a controlled atmosphere. The lady who posted this on Facebook ensured she contacted Nature News, having seen this plastered on their blog, to assure them that this was a temporary step, before movement to more suitable accommodation. So that’s alright, then. Viruses and bacteria are well-known for their honourable respect of temporary weakness, and never exploit it.

So things in Italy remain such that they resemble the scientific equivalent of the drunken pervy uncle at a wedding. They should have elected that clown bloke, he’d personify their country’s current world status perfectly. However, in the USA, some brighter flowers bloom, science-wise at least (this isn’t the forum to discuss possible gross miscarriages of justice). A year ago, I wrote a piece condemning the top-dog nation in the world for allowing anti-intelligent views to persist in the face of evidence, with the pathetic excuse that mentally-deficient rednecks should have as much right to decide what is true as evidence-based investigations. In particular, I was irked by the passage of anti-evolutionary laws by the Tennessee legislature. This month, the Next Generation Science Standards, a programme of science education reform across the States (for which I am taking all credit) has started kicking in. Five state education boards – Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland and Vermont – have accepted the standards, with several more to vote in the next few months. The battle to stop lying to American children about evolution and climate change is far from over, with other states to be won over, and legal challenges to be defeated in those states that have accepted already. There are powerful people, including Kentuckian Senator Mike Wilson (R – of course), who are opposed to teaching children established scientific opinion, and these are not foes to be written off lightly. The passage of 11 anti-evolution/climate change bills in the States in 2013 alone shows that this has become a war for the minds of American children; both sides have fired their opening volleys long ago, but the bloodiest battles are just beginning…

Terrestrial aquifers contribute to sea level rise – out of sight/out of mind?

Recently, i remembered a piece of work i completed in my 3rd year of my undergraduate degree, examining the detrimental effects a sudden draining of Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes in USA and Canada, could have on the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift. Although possibly a little far-fetched, but definately plausible, this memory was jogged this morning by an article published recently by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) (2013) showing that, over the last 100 years, USA has depleted enough of its underground freshwater supply to fill up Lake Erie twice.

Lake Erie is the 4th largest of the 5 Great Lakes in North America, and the 10th largest globally, containing 116 cubic miles of water. To look at that another way, between 2001 and 2008, Americans brought enough groundwater above ground to contribute to 2.3% of worldwide ocean level rise (USGS, 2013).

The article continues, explaining that lowering aquifer levels can result in springs and wetlands (a huge carbon sink) turning dry, and are also removing a dependable source of water for local communities. Ultimately, in agriculture, this will result in an essential movement from water intensive crops such as corn, towards a different agricultural practice, so land owners can continue to turn revenue.

continental-us-aquifers525 This map of major aquifers in the U.S. highlights the High Plains Aquifer (green) and the Dakota Aquifer (white, outlined in black), both depleted over the past century (L.F. Konikow, U.S. Geological Survey)

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