The Green Revolution made is possible for agriculture to increase yields exponentially, saving millions of people from starvation. Part of the Green Revolution of the 60s and 70s was the introduction of widespread irrigation that allowed crops to be grown in areas previously thought too dry.
In the American west, a huge underground aquifer known as the Ogallala Aquifer or the High Plains Aquifer, has provided water to eight states and supported extensive farming activities. Land once considered too dry to farm has become a major producer of grains to the world. The US crops in 2014 were valued at around USD 125 billion.
While the money associated with the sale of agricultural products is an important addition to the US economy, many people in developing countries depend on the generosity of that government in the form of food aid. That aid may be tapering off over the next few years as drought and the drawing down of water sources becomes more acute.
The Ogallala Aquifer is becoming depleted. It is estimated that the reservoir may have filled 15 000 years ago. Some of it is replenished in the rainy season, but states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas lack enough rainfall to balance the water withdrawal. The US Department of Agriculture is taking steps to educate and support those in the dry land states to slow the depletion of the resource.
The depletion of ground water is not confined to the USA. Aquifers in S. America and N. Europe and Russia are in good shape. Those in Mexico, North Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Upper Ganges Valley and the N. China Plain are being drawn down faster than they are being replenished.
A find of fossil water in Libya has allowed for extensive agriculture in what was once desert. Using fossil water is much like mining for a valuable ore. It will not be replenished.
With the combination of a rapidly increasing population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2040, the demands on water supplies will continue to increase whether it is for agriculture, energy production, drinking.
[Fossil water or paleowater is groundwater that has remained sealed in an aquifer for a long period of time. Water can rest underground in “fossil aquifers” for thousands or even millions of years.18 Oct 2010]
Canada’s health watchdog has declared that the GM salmon, AquaAdvantage, is safe for human consumption. This will allow the owner of the patented fish AquaBounty, to commercially produce and sell for human consumption their manufactured salmon. The AquaAdvantage fish was approved by the FDA last year.
The AquaAdvantage fish will not have to be labelled to alert consumers that it is a construct of Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon and the ocean pout.
To manufacture this new type of fish eggs from Atlantic salmon have genes from chinook salmon and from the ocean or eel pout. The chinook contributes the ability to continuously produce growth hormone and the eel pout produces a protein that acts as an anti-freeze which allows the fish to continue growing in very cold water.
The manufactured fish reach marketable size six to eight months faster than the farmed Atlantic salmon.
Currently the altered salmon eggs are manufactured in Canada but are moved to Panama where the fish are grown to marketable size in a dry land operation. This is to ensure that the genetically engineered fish do not escape to compete with wild salmon stock or other ocean life.
The manufacture of the GM fish eggs renders the eggs sterile, according to the AquaBounty information.
There are still many questions about the future of this product. Chinook salmon are a wild variety found in the Pacific Ocean. Many people have eaten them for centuries. They are safe to eat. The eel pout is not normally used as a food fish.
Atlantic salmon swimming wild are safe to eat. The jury is out with regard to “farmed” Atlantic salmon. They are usually raised in cold water, open net operations. Because they are crowded, disease both viral and bacterial, is an ongoing problem.
The argument that having a quick growing super sized salmon will help to feed the world’s hungry is without merit. Salmon has become a luxury item. Salmon are carnivores and fish stock is being mined from the oceans to make food for commercial fish farms.
The ability of technology to produce new, novel forms of life has coined a new phrase – synthetic biology. The following is from BIO explaining the difference between old fashioned genetic engineering and synthetic biology:
Genetic engineering usually involves the transfer of individual genes from one microbe or cell to another; synthetic biology envisions the assembly of novel microbial genomes from a set of standardized genetic parts that are then inserted into a microbe or cell. Bio
Hippocrates Health Institute
The massive Fort McMurray wildfire is eating through the northern boreal forest of Alberta. It rages out of control. It is now an estimated 432 000 hectares(4230 square kilometres) in size and growing. Gusty winds are pushing the flames toward the Saskatchewan border. Fire fighters are hoping that the Athabasca River will serve as a sufficient firebreak to stop its eastward progress.
The fire also threatens some suburbs of Ft. McMurray again but emergency workers there are confident that they can prevent another incursion. The emergency workers had two explosions today that remain unexplained. It is as yet unexplained but some speculation names the resumption of the natural gas service.
The companies in the Oil Sands were starting to resume operations, but have been forced to shut down again as the fire spread north to threaten the residences of the oil workers. One lodge that had accommodation for 655 was burned. Others were threatened.
Spokespersons for the oil companies have reassured the public that they have sufficient firebreaks, personnel and equipment to prevent the flames from reaching the open pit operations.
The losses to the northern oil operations are mounting. Suncor routinely produces 591 000 barrels per day, Syncrude 350 000 barrels. The losses are being counted in the billions.
To date there are over 90 000 people displaced. The optimistic view is that some resident of Ft. McMurray will be allowed back starting June 1st. There is a great deal of uncertainty for the residents as many work directly in the oil sands and many work in jobs that support the industry.
Human services are trying to mitigate the situation by handing out loaded debit cards. To date $65.7 million has been handed to people. Schools in Edmonton and Calgary have opened their classrooms to the children so they may continue their school year. Youngsters who are in grade 12 will be excused the need to write the provincial government exams.
There are agencies working to care for and reunite pets with their families.
The federal government has pledged to match private donations to the Red Cross Ft. McMurray relief fund. As of six days ago private donations added up to $67 million.
Photos L to R:Skunk cabbages and ferns, Arbutus trees, view towards lake. Bottom: mixed forest.
Wildwood is located on the south eastern edge of Vancouver Island. It is not a park, but it looks like one. It is a forested area of about 55 hectares(77 acres) that has been logged since the 1930’s. The reason that it looks like a park is because of the unusual, at least for much of BC, way that it has been logged.
Merv Wilkinson bought this plot of land in 1938 planning to farm it. As life often turns out, it was not very suitable for farming, but was good for growing trees. He embarked on a lifetime of harvesting trees that was different from the normal practice at the time which was clear cutting.
Mr. Wilkinson has passed away but his heritage has lived on. His method of harvesting less than the maximum growth each year has resulted in many large trees on the property after 60 years of selective cutting. More than a million board feet have been harvested in that time. Harvesting selected trees with an eye to sustainability has meant that the lumber produced from these trees is close grained and with fewer knots. This served to support Mr. Wilkinson and his family over the years.
Some would say that single tree selection, protecting smaller trees when felling the big ones and leaving some to rot to provide habitat for birds and small mammals is not an economical way to log as the 77 acres only supported one family. The usual logging practice sweeps the land clear of marketable timber and often results in erosion and extirpation of non-commercial species.
It can make a lot of money in a short time for the logging company but leaves the land unproductive for many years. Many of our large logging companies in BC are multinationals and answer only to their shareholders. Some have found the best way to make money after harvesting the marketable timber is to sell the land to speculators who try to sell it for housing.
During his lifetime Merv Wilkinson was recognized as a leader in sustainable forestry. He received many awards and accolades including the Order of BC and the Order of Canada.
After his death the property was controlled by the Land Conservancy who had agreed to maintain it, but due to overwhelming debts they considered selling it to private interests. The Friends of Wildwood stepped in to fundraise and generally make the public aware of the situation. There is a core of dedicated volunteers that are working hard to maintain the forest.
Sunday they held an open house and the following photos are some that I took while there.
Following is a quote of Merv’s:
“We need to understand our relationship with the planet on which we live,” says Merv. “We have to live with the earth. The earth does not have to live with us.” Take 5 Publications
Take 5 Publications
BC Forest Service
Friends of Wildwood
Whales in the North Sea have been beaching themselves. Since the beginning of the year 30 whales have been found on beaches in the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany. Thirteen of them washed up on Germany’s northern coast.
Necropsies to try to determine the cause of death for these leviathans were inconclusive but biologists were shocked to find so much plastic garbage in their stomachs. One whale had a 13 metre(43 ft.) fishing net in its stomach. These large whales depend on squid for their diet.
While there was a great deal of plastic garbage in the dead whales’ stomachs, it did not appear to be the cause of death. The whales, all males between 10 and 15 years, were in generally good condition. The best guess is that the whales during their migration north took a wrong turning and found themselves in shallow water. Once they were stuck on the sand, their great weight doomed them.
Whales can die from a variety of human causes. Collisions with freighters, disorientation from loud sonic booms, toxic pollution, hunting are a few. A large study looking at beached baby dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico which compared beached neonates in an area hard hit by the massive oil spill with some found in areas not affected by the oil. Those found in the affected area showed many more defects both externally and internally.
Those of us on the west coast of Canada have developed an affection for our resident Orca whales. The Southern resident group ranges into the US waters as well. A tagging project under the auspices of NOAA has come under suspicion as being at least partly to blame for the death of one or more of the Orcas. A 20 year old male was found washed up on the west coast of Vancouver Island with its dart still sticking out of it. The questionable practice of darting was supposed to see the dart break off leaving telemetry inside. Two other whales have gone missing.
Reports of infections around the wound sites have also been reported.
Canada Fisheries and Oceans does not use this method for tracking the endangered animals. A series of underwater listening posts track the individuals.
On a brighter note, humpback whales normally confined to the Pacific Ocean are increasingly finding their way to the Atlantic via the Arctic Ocean, meeting their long lost Atlantic cousins for the first time in about 5 000 years.
Blogger, gardener, farmer. Working toward food security and a 30 foot
diet. Addicted to reading. Love this planet, especially my little corner
on Vancouver Island, Canada