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  • in reply to: Global warming is well underway #4319
    Satellite imagery from the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that a 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) ice shelf has begun to collapse because of rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica.

    The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad plate of permanent floating ice on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula, about 1,000 miles south of South America. In the past 50 years, the western Antarctic Peninsula has experienced the biggest temperature increase on Earth, rising by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) per decade. NSIDC Lead Scientist Ted Scambos, who first spotted the disintegration in March, said, “We believe the Wilkins has been in place for at least a few hundred years. But warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing a break-up.”

    Satellite images indicate that the Wilkins began its collapse on February 28; data revealed that a large iceberg, 41 by 2.5 kilometers (25.5 by 1.5 miles), fell away from the ice shelf’s southwestern front, triggering a runaway disintegration of 405 square kilometers (160 square miles) of the shelf interior. The edge of the shelf crumbled into the sky-blue pattern of exposed deep glacial ice that has become characteristic of climate-induced ice shelf break-ups such as the Larsen B in 2002. A narrow beam of intact ice, just 6 kilometers wide (3.7 miles) was protecting the remaining shelf from further breakup as of March 23.

    Scientists track ice shelves and study collapses carefully because some of them hold back glaciers, which if unleashed, can accelerate and raise sea level. Scambos said, “The Wilkins disintegration won’t raise sea level because it already floats in the ocean, and few glaciers flow into it. However, the collapse underscores that the Wilkins region has experienced an intense melt season. Regional sea ice has all but vanished, leaving the ice shelf exposed to the action of waves.”

    With Antarctica’s summer melt season drawing to a close, scientists do not expect the Wilkins to further disintegrate in the next several months. “This unusual show is over for this season,” Scambos said. “But come January, we’ll be watching to see if the Wilkins continues to fall apart.”

    Antarctic Ice Shelf Disintegration Underscores a Warming World
    there’s video clip showing the disintegration at:

    in reply to: Urgent Korean rivers petition march 2008 #4519

    From Ecological Internet (I helped initiate this) South Korea must be convinced not to sacrifice its natural river ecosystems for a cross-country concrete canal that will severely damage the nation’s water security

    South Korea’s new President Lee Myung-bak has proposed a project to connect with canals South Korea’s four major rivers (the Yeongsan, Geum, Nakdong and Han). The "Grand Canal" is intended to accommodate 5,000 ton cargo ships and would require dredging, deepening, widening and laying concrete along approximately two thousand kilometers of shallow river courses in South Korea, and perhaps more in North Korea. Such massive canalization of rivers will severely damage the hydrology of whole river systems and have enormous negative impacts upon South Korea’s water resources, wetland ecosystems, and riparian biodiversity. Join Korean environmentalists in highlighting the importance of natural ecosystems for national well-being.

    in reply to: Birds inc magpie robin in Hong Kong w H5N1 #4056

    Had a bit of correspondence w HK food n hygiene bureau, after I sent missive complaining re latest Mai Po Nature Reserve closure [after a dead egret/heron w h5n1 was found nearby], saying it was knee jerk reaction.

    Joyce Kok replied, inc:

    the fact that HPAI virus can be transmitted from wild birds to humans directly or indirectly through contaminatedmaterials.

    I replied:

    “HPAI virus can be transmitted from wild birds to humans directly or indirectly through contaminated materials.”

    – any evidence for this.


    thought not

    – and eventually received:

    Thank you for your two emails dated 10 March 2008 and thanks again for your
    concern on the control of avian influenza measures.

    The H5N1 virus we isolated from wild birds in Hong Kong has so far proved
    to be highly pathogenic avian influenza virus which can be lethal. As we
    could not ignore the possibility that the virus could be transmitted from
    wild birds to humans directly or indirectly through contaminated materials,
    it would be necessary for the administration to introduce measures to
    reduce such risk.

    We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to you during the closure of Mai
    Po Nature Reserve.

    to which, I’ve just responded:

    Thank you for your email, in which you support my belief there is no scientific basis for closing Mai Po because a dead bird or two with H5N1 has been found nearby.

    “we could not ignore the possibility that the virus could be transmitted from wild birds to humans directly or indirectly through contaminated materials”
    – this is vague and woolly minded. Not remotely scientific.

    As is clear from evidence worldwide, the H5N1 variant of concern is primarily a poultry disease. And whilst the administration has done much to reduce the incidence in local poultry, and associated markets (such as the bird market), we have not lately seen such draconian measures as closure taken recently.

    As you should be aware, no wild bird species is known to be capable of surviving, sustaining and spreading H5N1 poultry flu.
    It is highly lethal to wild birds, so an infected bird soon sickens, and dies, swiftly ending a potential chain of transmission.

    Despite extensive testing, not one apparently healthy wild bird has tested positive for H5N1 poultry flu in Hong Kong.
    The dead wild (and “wild” – for some individuals surely or probably from captivity) birds found in Hong Kong that tested positive for h5n1 have been from scattered locations. Despite the bird concentrations at Mai Po, and surveillance there, is it just one case from Mai Po over the years? – in turn, suggesting H5N1 is rare in wild birds, but overwhelmingly outside the reserve.
    You might wish to consider just how and where these birds may have contracted the virus – scavenging dead, dumped poultry (smuggled in, so with chance of h5n1), or infected songbirds from captivity?

    Especially with birdwatching not involving contact with wild birds, and no case worldwide (that I’m aware of) of a person thought to have contracted h5n1 from a wild bird, there is and was no discernible risk to Mai Po visitors.

    Thus, knee-jerk reaction would indeed seem an appropriate description for the Mai Po closures.

    I’ve also sent Joyce a copy of my article on the Tooth Fairy Bird: the much mooted yet never discovered bird species that can survive and sustain and spread h5n1 poultry flu.

    Updated: received this from Joyce on 8 April:

    Thank you for your emails dated 21 and 25 March 2008.

    As mentioned in my email dated 18 March 2008, the H5N1 virus isolated from
    wild birds in Hong Kong have been proved to be lethal. It was similar to
    the type of virus that have infected people and caused fatality in
    different countries. This is the scientific basis for the in-house experts
    to assess the situation for the development of different measures to
    prevent avian influenza outbreak in Hong Kong.

    We hope you would appreciate that, being a responsible Government, we have
    the responsibility to introduce appropriate measures to reduce the risk of
    avian influenza outbreak in Hong Kong. The Agriculture, Fisheries and
    Conservation Department (AFCD) are responsible for providing opinions in
    mapping out preventive and control measures against the spread of the avian
    influenza. We understand that the AFCD has met with the representatives of
    the World Wide Fund Hong Kong (WWFHK) in March 2008 and exchanged views on
    the existing precautionary measures against avian influenza with regard to
    the Mai Po Natural Reserve.

    – and only just responded (now 27 May):

    Thank you for your latest email, in our somewhat erratic correspondence.

    Isn’t it true that the virus from wild birds in HK is similar to a virus proven to be lethal to humans: no one has (I hope!) injected the actual virus into humans to see how it affects them?

    Anyway, even if virus in dead wild birds can indeed prove lethal to humans, this in itself is flimsy as basis for closing Mai Po.

    Has H5N1 even been found at Mai Po, despite extensive monitoring for dead birds, testing in healthy wild birds there? If not, surely science would say Mai Po is one of the safest places in Hong Kong.
    Safer, by far, than a place like Tuen Mun.

    I trust the “in-house experts” make regular visits to places like Mai Po, observing wild birds in bid to understand the situation. I greatly hope they are indeed expert on the issues, having read information such as I have sent you, and presented – at length – on my H5N1 and wild birds forum; I hope these experts publish in respected academic journals, showing their extensive knowledge of viruses, wild birds, and evolution – which, as these experts appreciate, are all important when considering H5N1 and wild birds.
    I hope the “in-house experts” do not simply remain in house, shunning debate.

    Indeed, AFCD officials have met Mai Po staff regarding H5N1 and wild birds; however, they could be no more than intermediaries for the “in-house experts” – who perhaps seem rather fond of using intermediaries to interact with the world.
    It remains deeply sad that there have not been direct discussions between FHB and Mai Po staff.

    You know, some folk might feel a little cynical here, and suggest Mai Po is just an easy target – easily closed, by FHB seeking to take some action in response to H5N1: action that does not target poultry industry, which as we all know is the source of the H5N1 poultry flu viruses.

    At least now, we’re seeing H5N1 does not look to be a threat to humanity. As your “in-house experts” will readily explain, this follows from science, predictable from theories on evolution and flu, which also explain why wild bird flus are mild, and lethal flus aren’t sustained by wild birds, as dead ducks don’t fly – and don’t transmit diseases to anyone who simply looks at them.

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