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Sunday, August 25, 2019

dx for the planet: global COPD

The Amazon Basin rainforest, often called "the lungs of the planet" and reportedly the source of a disproportionate percentage of our atmospheric oxygen, is ablaze at an unprecedented pace.

The bulk of the Amazon Basin lies within the nation of Brazil. #

From The Real News Network:


Interview transcript at Naked Capitalism. Does not bode well.

The Horrifying Science of the Deforestation Fueling Amazon Fires

BEING A RAINFOREST, the Amazon isn’t supposed to burn out of control, unlike California’s drier landscape, which is built to burn and burn explosively. Yet here we are, watching swaths of the Amazon go up in flames. And we can easily nail down the cause: humans. Deforestation is what’s driving these blazes, and there is some horrifying science behind that.

Since the 1970s, 20 percent of the Amazon has been deforested, totaling about twice the area of California. But deforestation isn’t an organized shrinking of the rainforest, paring it down from the edges in. Humans carve out farmlands, sometimes leaving a neat edge where the forest meets the fields, or even creating islands of forest surrounded by crops or grazing fields for cattle. Indeed, agriculture is far and away the primary driver of deforestation in Brazil…
Global COPD coming?  More from WIRED:
"The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is methodical and self-perpetuating. When all those trees burn, they release CO2 into the atmosphere, cutting down on a critical carbon sink. In the Amazon, this is particularly problematic because it can turn into a net carbon emitter even when it’s not on fire. Rivers and lakes in the tropics are filled with algae and other life-forms that respire CO2 just like we humans do. Without trees, the Amazon loses its sequestering power and instead becomes a belcher of carbon.
It’s subtle ecological quirks like these that can turn a burning Amazon into a global catastrophe."
The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It’s Gone
The fires blazing in Brazil are part of a larger deforestation crisis, accelerated by President Jair Bolsonaro.

The Amazon is burning. There have been more than 74,000 fires across Brazil this year, and nearly 40,000 fires across the Amazon, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. That’s the fastest rate of burning since record-keeping began, in 2013. Toxic smoke from the fires is so intense that darkness now falls hours before the sun sets in São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital and the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.

…the Amazonian fires—which have been blazing for weeks and notoriously received less coverage than Notre Dame’s burning roof— seem like a potent symbol of humanity’s indifference to environmental disorder, including climate change.

But climate change is not the primary cause of the wildfires. Unlike, say, most California blazes—which are sparked by accident and then intensified by climate change—the Amazonian fires are not wildfires at all. These fires did not start by lightning strike or power line: They were ignited. And while they largely affect land already cleared for ranching and farming, they can and do spread into old-growth forest…

…The Amazon rainforest does, in some sense, belong to Brazilians and the indigenous people who live there. But as a store of carbon, it is fundamental to the survival of every person. If destroyed or degraded, the Amazon, as a system, is simply beyond humanity’s ability to get back: Even if people were to replant half a continent’s worth of trees, the diversity of creatures across Amazonia, once lost, will not be replenished for roughly 10 million years. And that is 33 times longer than Homo sapiens, as a species, has existed.

From Naked Capitalism again:
It’s Raining Plastic, From the Pyrenees to the Rockies to the Arctic
They mention this WHO report (pdf):

Fouling our nest at every turn. If it's in the air and in the water, it'll be in the food chain and in our bodies.



The harmful chemicals associated with plastics can be divided into three categories: ingredients of the plastic material, byproducts of manufacturing and chemicals adsorbed from the environment. The possible toxicological responses caused by plastic can thus be a combination of all of these chemicals. Some of these chemicals are defined as priority pollutants, which are regulated by governmental agencies because of their toxicity or persistence in organisms and food webs. These chemicals include heavy metals, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can disrupt important physiological processes of animals causing for example diseases and problems in reproduction. It has been found that at least 78 % of priority pollutants listed by EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) and 61 % listed by EU are associated with plastic litter either deriving from the manufacturing or from the environment.
All plastic, from macro- to nanoscale are concerned to leach and adsorb hazardous substances. The loss of additives by leaching can have an effect on the polymers’ fragmentation behavior in the marine environment on a longer time scale, and this fragmentation might further facilitate the leaching or adsorption of hazardous substances from the environment. The size and surface area are important factors influencing the leaching and adsorption behavior: the smaller the particle the larger the surface-volume ratio is, and therefore also the capacity to release or bind compounds is higher for smaller particles compared to larger ones. It can sometimes be hard to determine whether a compound has been in the plastic since manufacturing or adsorbed from the environment. For example polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be formed during polystyrene production or be adsorbed to the plastic from the environment.
Since different chemicals are present in the marine environment, such as in the sediments, water column, plastics and biota, in different concentrations, their interactions and possible synergic effects have to be taken into account when assessing the impacts to marine life. Up to date most of the studies have assessed the fate and impacts of plastics and their leachates or adsorbed contaminants as a whole without being able to separate the effects caused by individual substances, or on the contrary, examined only the influences of one specific substance without taking into account the chemical cocktail present in the material...

Will we need to expand the Labs sections of EHRs to include broad environmental toxins assay analytics? Complex chemical tox screens do not come cheap.


Donald Trump "responds" to a reporter's climate change policy question during his post-G7 Conference presser in France:
“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive. We are now the No. 1 energy producer in the world, and soon it will be by far. I’m not going to lose that wealth, I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well.”
Is it too early to start drinking?

The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs
Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply.
As tongues of flame lapped the planet’s largest tract of rainforest over the past few weeks, it has rightfully inspired the world’s horror. The entire Amazon could be nearing the edge of a desiccating feedback loop, one that could end in catastrophic collapse. This collapse would threaten millions of species, from every branch of the tree of life, each of them—their idiosyncratic splendor, their subjective animal perception of the world—irretrievable once it’s gone. This arson has been tacitly encouraged by a Brazilian administration that is determined to develop the rainforest, over the objections of its indigenous inhabitants and the world at large. Losing the Amazon, beyond representing a planetary historic tragedy beyond measure, would also make meeting the ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement all but impossible. World leaders need to marshal all their political and diplomatic might to save it.

The Amazon is a vast ineffable, vital, living wonder. It does not, however, supply the planet with 20 percent of its oxygen.

As the biochemist Nick Lane wrote in his 2003 book Oxygen, “Even the most foolhardy destruction of world forests could hardly dint our oxygen supply, though in other respects such short-sighted idiocy is an unspeakable tragedy.”…
Interesting. Once "lungs of the planet" becomes a meme, complicated detail need not apply.
"Nevertheless, our geological bonfire illustrates just how unusual the project of humanity is. We are trying to retrieve, burn down, and metabolize all the forests and sea life ever buried, from alien worlds long past. We’re not merely lighting a match to the Amazon and imperiling everything that lives in it with extinction, but also summoning creatures long-dead to return to Earth’s surface and give up the ancient energy they took to the grave. This global industrial metabolism, this heedless combustion of the life at the planet’s surface and throughout its history, is a new phenomenon on the face of the Earth. It is a forest fire of the eons."

More to come... #AnthropoceneDenial

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