Waterblogged.info plays the blame game! (And points fingers, too!)

It’s my deeply held conviction that BP is to blame for the ongoing destruction of life in the Gulf of Mexico and that every pointer digit of every person in the U.S. should be locked on the multinational behemoth—and its odious little weasel of a CEO, Tony Hayward. More moderate voices, such as Professor Noah Hall at the Great Lakes Law blog, for whom I generally have profound respect, counsel against such emotional and unproductive thinking. “We” need to stop playing the “blame game,” advises Hall, and instead heed President Obama’s call to “break our oil addiction.”

If I had Bill Maher’s power to establish new rules, my first one would be that nobody, particularly someone like Hall who is supposedly providing unbiased expert information, would be allowed to use the term “blame game.” Resorting to it is a lame game, a gotcha gambit that according to current rules, somehow establishes the superiority of the party that first flings it at his/her opponent or uses it to preemptively bolster his/her analysis. In Hall’s case, for those of us who rightfully blame BP, it’s an insult to nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah us with the notion that we are playing some kind of childish game. The reason people are aiming their index fingers at BP (another Noah no-no), is because BP is to blame. It isn’t a goddamn game.

BP is a criminal enterprise. It didn’t simply cut “. . .corners on safety and environmental regulations,” as Hall daintily suggests. As Jon Stewart shows in a laugh-so-as-not-to-cry segment, BP has committed 760 “egregious and willful” safety violations since 2007. A figure I hadn’t seen until today’s research is even more mind boggling: Per this article in the blog maintained by the Center for Public Integrity, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 862 citations to BP between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio. Of those, 760 were classified as “egregious willful” and 69 were classified as “willful.” I do not understand the distinction. If a decision to circumvent regulations is “willful,” it’s by definition “egregious,” right?

The reason that its key decision makers haven’t been (and, you heard it here first, won’t be) brought to justice is because of the massive resources the company wields to buy our legislators and to control the public narrative of the energy crisis and the solutions, all of which amazingly require the participation of BP.

Excerpts from a  May, 2010 article in the business section of the New York Times:

  • After BP’s Texas City, Tex., refinery blew up in 2005, killing 15 workers, the company vowed to address the safety shortfalls that caused the blast.
  • The next year, when a badly maintained oil pipeline ruptured and spilled 200,000 gallons of crude oil over Alaska’s North Slope, the oil giant once again promised to clean up its act.
  • In 2007, when Tony Hayward took over as chief executive, BP settled a series of criminal charges, including some related to Texas City, and agreed to pay $370 million in fines. The company pledged to improve its “risk management.”
  • Despite those repeated promises to reform, BP continues to lag other oil companies when it comes to safety, according to federal officials and industry analysts. Many problems still afflict its operations in Texas and Alaska, they say. Regulators are investigating a whistle-blower’s allegations of safety violations at the Atlantis, one of BP’s newest offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Alternet water story is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Hate to pick on Alternet, which I think is generally great, great, great, but I’m not sure why they chose to publish Yasha Levine’s article titled “Why Just About Everything You Hear About California’s Water Crisis Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong“. (Whoaa, that title is long, long, long!)

I don’t think the article is necessarily wrong X 3, but it’s misleading at best, irresponsible at worst. Levine’s central claim is that, essentially, California is not experiencing a drought. This amazing assertion seems to be based on Levine’s “fact-checking” at the Bureau of Reclamation’s site, which notes in a report about its Central Valley Project (CVP), that Northern California’s 2009 precipitation was 94 percent of the average. While Levine lauds the “power of simple fact-checking,” he (or she) neglects to point out that the report is careful to state that:

. . .runoff remained low at about 70 percent of normal due to the 3 years of dry conditions (based on the Sacramento River Index). In the CVP, runoff is a better indicator for water supply availability than precipitation.

Also, as the table below shows, the end-of-year storage stats for 2007–2009 are substantially (like 40- to 50-percent) lower than the previous two years.

There is a drought in California. Why do I think that? Well, I could just say that it’s because Dr. Peter Gleick, who unlike Levine is an actual expert on California water, says there’s a drought, that’s why. However, read Levine’s own article to see that this is not even a controversial issue. Everybody looking at the situation– except Levine–agrees that there is a drought, as even Levine points out in this article.

I don’t disagree with a lot of Levine’s conclusions. I think the drought is being used to create panic and convince people to support building dams and whatever the flavor-of-the-day name is for a peripheral canal. I believe that there are entrenched water interests working every angle to their advantage, particularly Central Valley corporate farmers. And yes, there’s a whole bunch of lying going on. What I object to is making an absurd claim and cherry-picking facts that support it, and–as characterizes the article in general–failing to link to sources for details and assertions, both to give real reporters credit and lend credence to your piece. And I think that if Alternet wants to be taken seriously as a news source, they won’t publish what is essentially a fact-challenged opinion piece as journalism.

The Asian carp are coming!

In yesterday’s post (January 3, 2010), my tongue-in-cheek list of New Year’s resolutions included a solid commitment to angle for Asian carp in the Great Lakes. The tongue-out-of-cheek fact is that there are–most likely–very few Asian carp in the Great Lakes–for now. That’s a good thing. If they manage to enter Lake Michigan in large numbers, they could devastate the Great Lakes’s ecosystem and destroy the region’s fishing industry.

I believe that this is a dramatization.

A highly prolific family of species with insatiable appetites and vacuum-cleaner-like eating systems, the giant carp were imported to the South in the 1970’s to clean up out-of-control pond algae, and have become a nightmarish infestation themselves. Somehow—some say because of the huge floods a couple of decades ago—they were able to enter the Mississippi River system, which they’ve found very hospitable indeed. So much so that they have completely dominated large stretches of the Mississippi and its tributaries by propagating like flies and hoovering up all of the available food, starving out natives species.

They’ve made their way north at a fifty-mile per year pace and now are very, very close to Lake Michigan.

I’ll let Great Lakes advocate and legal expert Noah Hall supply the details about why this is happening (Surprise–the EPA screwed up!)  and the legal moves being taken to block the gargantuan gobblers’ ingress to Lake Michigan. Also a good Scientific American article here and one from the NY Times here. Below is Part 1 of a two-part YouTube video about the situation.

Waterblogged.info’s New Year’s Resolutions!

Like the “Fifty things to do before you die” lists, New Year’s resolutions are driven by a nagging, narcissistic dissatisfaction that feels an awful lot like guilt. But the “fifty things” lists are more ambitious than the typical beginning-of-the-year vows to go to the gym five times a week and organize your iTunes library. They’re usually based on the premise that you’re, if not affluent, at least comfortably middle-class, and are convinced that no life is well lived until one has, for example, scaled K2, jammed on a violin over the Hungarian minor scale with a blown-away Yo Yo Ma, taught English to the grateful inhabitants of Lesotho, made perfect soft-boiled eggs at several different altitudes, and impressed residents of Beijing with flawless Mandarin.

Of course, the must-do lists of the billion or so poor of the planet are no doubt less ambitious but more immediate: Get access to clean water before I die, eat before I die, get decent medical care before I die, etc. Everything’s relative.

This year, I’ve decided to come up with a hybrid of the two sorts of list, water related of course: Ten New Year’s Resolutions to Do Before I Die. Rather than just bore the reader with my self-involved and possibly grandiose goals, I’ve linked each item to a compelling–and in some cases fascinating–bit of information about everyone’s favorite sugar-free beverage.

  1. Collaborate with Dr. Peter Gleick to put a stop to the gargantuan, insane, destined-to-fail desalination project moving relentlessly forward in Southern California.
  2. Help Matt Damon move mountains.
  3. Get myself appointed Obama’s special peace envoy to broker settlements to supposedly imminent water wars.
  4. Work feverishly with NASA scientists to figure out how to efficiently transport moon water to Earth.
  5. Save the salmon!
  6. Fish for Asian carp in the Great Lakes.
  7. Work with Willie Nelson to develop an iPhone app version of his home water-from-air system.
  8. Jet-ski the Golden Age Lake!
  9. Join up with Food & Water Watch. (This may be the only attainable goal on this list.)
  10. Not go for months without posting.

Waterblogged.info is slammed!

fandWWWhat does a water blog worthy of the name do when the editor-in-chief is slogging through the swamp of endless demands that constitutes an annoying yet relatively lucrative day gig? Why, said water blog links to a really great site like Food & Water Watch–and lets said really great site do the heavy lifting.

But Waterblogged.info, asks the intrigued reader, what is Food & Water Watch all about? Say, intrigued reader, isn’t that what About pages are for? So I don’t personally have to explain every little thing to you? I’m on deadline here.

I can say that, unlike the weepy whiners here at Waterblogged.info, the folks at F&WW are activists, and only to happy to help you be one, too.

Good stuff, with a pile of information about all sorts of water issues.

Water findings (apologies to Harper’s magazine)

findingsThe last page of every issue of the indispensable Harper’s Magazine—often referred to (by me) as the chronicle of the slow-motion apocalypse—features “Findings,” a disturbing presentation of scores of recent scientific discoveries. Deviously disguised as a quotidian article with sentences organized in paragraphs, it is really an artful and jarring arrangement of one- or two-sentence summaries of frightening, mind-boggling, and disorienting revelations, inventions, and breakthroughs. A small excerpt from the last issue:

Asia’s pangolins and Florida’s turtles were under threat from Chinese demand for pangolin fetuses and turtle parts. It was determined that every year 100,000 sleeping Bangladeshis are bitten by snakes. Ninety percent of the oysters in France and fifty Irish swans in the Lough of Cork died mysteriously. Body-temperature regulation was found responsible for the flamingo’s one-legged stance and the toucan’s giant beak. Most tomcats are southpaws. Engineers created a “95 percent accurate” thought-controlled wheelchair, a tongue-controlled wheelchair, and a dune buggy for the blind.

Hey, it’s a crazy, wonderful, terrifying, insane, mysterious universe, ain’t it?

The editorial staff of Waterblogged.info (myself and a team of what my therapist has convinced me are largely imaginary minions) have decided to create a water-oriented homage to “Findings.” While I can’t promise to recreate the subtle and surreal sophistication achieved each month by author Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, I can almost guarantee wonder, terror, and a deep desire to protect our dwindling water resources. And, links! Here goes:

A survey of the drinking water for more than 28 million Americans revealed widespread but low-level presence of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals, including Atrazine, an herbicide banned in the EU but used widely in the US, and psychotropics such as Carbamazepine, a mood-stabilizer prescribed for bipolar disorder. A study published by The British Journal of Psychiatry announced that a study of Japan’s Oita Prefecture shows that cities with higher levels of lithium in their drinking water experienced lower rates of suicide. Drinking heavy water may counter aging.

A bacteria was used to remove between 88 and 94 per cent of the salt from various salt-water solutions, including one that approximated sea water. New findings suggest that small amounts of frozen water permeate minerals across the moon’s surface and that there is liquid water on Mars. Synthetic trees could one day produce water in arid regions and counter climate change by absorbing CO2 1,000 times faster than their biologic counterparts. German engineers have created bionic penguins, and work has begun on bionic octopi.

Belgium scientists have levitated water, and UK researchers showed that spinning water droplets behave like black holes. Belgium has the dirtiest water in the world. Drought-plagued China plans to slash water consumption by 60 percent. Jets of water vapor are shooting at supersonic speed from Saturn’s moon Enceladus; smog is interrupting the Earth’s water cycle. A common artificial sweetener is helping Swiss engineers track the flow of waste water. A pair of U.S. and Indian researchers have developed an on-board hydrogen generator, suggesting that water may one day fuel zero emission automobiles. Physicists have only recently learned how water boils.

Until recently, the Starbuck’s chain had been wasting 23 million liters (6,076,000 gallons) of water daily. New data suggests that drip irrigation may use more water than conventional methods, and physicists have created a tiny boat that moves by taking advantage of water’s surface tension. Scientists are demystifying “dead water,” which significantly slows down ocean-going vessels. Oil and water may mix after all.

Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins do not drink water, and a troop of chacma baboons in the Namid Game Reserve have been observed going without water for 26 days. Challenging a commonly held belief, research by French scientists suggests that herds of African elephants apparently dominating water holes may be protecting rather than harming other thirsty herbivore species. Hydrothermal vents at the ocean floor spew the hottest water on Earth, measured at temperatures up to 464 degrees C. “It’s water,” says a geochemist, “but not as we know it.” Water-powered jetpacks will soon be available, starting at $145,000.