Conservation Ecology: First Issue On-line
Fred Hoyle to Win Crafoord Prize
HMS Beagle: An On-line Science Newsletter
Greenpeace Threatens British Columbia Loggers
British Columbia Loggers Threaten Woodland Caribou
Normandy Coast: The Nuclear Industry and Leukemia
Are We Having Warming Yet?
Hungry Zaïrians Are Eating Our Closest Relatives: Not Many Left
We Ain't Getting No Smarter, Nohow: Say Telephone Engineers
Conservation Ecology: First Issue On-line
June 15, 1997: The first issue of the free, peer-reviewed journal, Conservation Ecology, was published on the World Wide Web today. A publication of the Ecological Society of America, Conservation Ecology is funded by donations from the Governments of Canada and Ontario, Ottawa's Carleton University, and various private foundations. Edited by C.S. Holling, the first issues includes 7 articles, an editorial, and a forum on Science Policy, and Advocacy.
Fred Hoyle to Win Crafoord Prize
June 6, 1997: Sir Fred Hoyle, novelist, astrophysicist, and proponent of the theory of panspermia, will share with Edwin Salpeter of Cornell University the $500,000 US Crafoord Prize. Both scientists contributed to the development of modern ideas on the history and structure of the Universe, including the process of stellar nucleosynthesis, whereby heavier atoms are formed through fusion of hydrogen, helium and other lighter elements. Independently, both predicted the energy level that the nucleus of the carbon atom must have in order for it to be synthesized in stars. The Crafoord prize is administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is intended to cover areas excluded by the Nobel Prize. An article by Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe appeared recently in naturalSCIENCE.
June 02, 1997: Published by Biomednet, in a relatively graphics intensive, newsletter format, HMS Beagle provides links to abstracts of what it deems to be newsworthy, mainly medical, articles in such publications as Nature, and the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, it includes essays, Web site, CD-ROM and software reviews, a forum, poetry and, currently, a link to a collection of "interactive inflatable works from the sculptor Jim Pallas, and the wonderful world of protists."
Greenpeace Threatens British Columbia Loggers
April 30, 1997: “We’ve stopped the chop. We’ve changed practices dramatically,” said British Columbia’s then Premier Michael Harcourt in 1994 during an international tour to promote British Columbia’s claim to have inaugurated an era of environment-friendly management of the Province’s 47 million hectares of publicly-owned commercial forest. But according to Broken Promises, a Greenpeace publication released last week, clearcutting remains the designated logging method for 92% of cutblocks approved by the Ministry of Forests since June 1995, the year British Columbia’s Forest Practices Code was enacted. In the coastal temperate rainforests, says the Greenpeace report, more than 97% of approved cutblocks are to be clearcut, and hundreds of approved cutblocks are in excess of 100 hectares (about 225 acres), even though the law restricts cutblocks to 40-60 hectares. Eighty-three percent of streams in 1996 cutblocks were clearcut to their banks, says Greenpeace, and clearcutting is still taking place on steep, unstable slopes, where landslides are likely, and on 92.5% of cutblocks planned for “Special Resource Development Zones,” where wildlife is supposed to be protected and clear-cutting limited. Furthermore, says Greenpeace, less than 6% of British Columbia’s low-elevation old-growth forests, on which the preservation of much biodiversity depends, have been protected by parks; the Province has no endangered species act; and logging proceeds at a rate that exceeds by one-fifth the Province's own estimate of the long-term sustainable forest yield.
Premier Glen Clark, Michael Harcourt’s successor, responded angrily to the report calling Greenpeace “enemies of the province” who are, he said, engaged in a “misinformation campaign.” “We don’t intend to take this kind of thing lying down.” However, the Government’s credibility has been attacked by the Sierra Legal Defense Fund whose spokesman, lawyer Greg McDade, was quoted, following publication of the Greenpeace report, as saying that “The B.C. public has been seriously misled about changes in our forest and as a result we are into a kind of newspeak where 92 per cent clearcutting becomes ‘sensitive ecologically appropriate harvesting,’ where streams clearcut to the banks are designated ‘riparian management zones,’ where new clearcuts are described as ‘old growth reserves,’ and liquidation of the primary forest becomes ‘sustainable harvesting.’”
Following release of the Greenpeace report, Joe Foy, Director of British Columbia’s Western Wilderness Committee, stated that the government’s target of 12% for the proportion of the provincial land base to be placed a wilderness reserves should be increased to 40%. The Premier denounced the demand, saying that the Wilderness Committee had “moved the goal posts.” Apparently in support of the Wilderness committee, a coalition of environmental organizations from around the world will be campaigning this summer against logging in British Columbia’s old growth temperate rain forest. One group, The Forest Action Network, has prepared for the campaign with a field camp to train participants in tree climbing and other techniques to obstruct logging.
The labor movement in British Columbia appears to stand behind the Premier. Ken Georgetti, Director of the B.C. Federation of Labor, said that to protect jobs “we will have to become a little browner;” while Jack Monro, former President of the IWA Canada, a forestry-sector union, claimed that protecting 40% of the forest from timber harvesting would shut down the forest industry, and “B.C. doesn’t have a second industry.”
According to Alan Waters of the Forest Action Network, at the current rate of harvest, all of B.C.'s old growth forests will be gone within 12 years and 11 months and with them a large though undetermined fraction of Canada's biodiversity.
April 12: The North America caribou, like its close relative the reindeer, roams the tundra during the summer but moves for the winter into wooded areas, where tree-borne lichens provide accessible feed whatever the depth of snow. The great northern caribou herds migrate horizontally between the Arctic tundra and the boreal forest, whereas, further south, the woodland caribou migrate over a range of elevations between the alpine tundra and the subalpine forests. Because the lichens on which the caribou depend for winter feed are abundant only in forests more than 150 years old, clearcut logging destroys caribou habitat. In the United States, where woodland caribou used to be found in every state contiguous with the Canadian border, there survives only a single small herd. In southern British Columbia, the largest remaining woodland caribou population, a herd of 1,500 animals, resides in the Itcha Mountains, located within the 50,000 square kilometer Cariboo-Chilcotin forest management unit. Currently, logging within this publicly owned forest region exceeds the long-range sustainable yield by over 50%. Unemployment in the forest industry is high and the government of British Columbia is committed to increasing forestry jobs. Scientists with B.C.'s Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Environment have made concessions to forest companies and developed plans that allow clearcutting 35% of the caribou habitat over a period of 140 years. This, according to the government scientists, poses a "moderate risk" to the animals. However, forest companies oppose the plan and are seeking through a lobby group to persuade the provincial government to allow 35% of the caribou winter habitat to be clearcut within just 20 years.
March 15, 1997: La Hague, Normandy is the site of the world's largest nuclear fuels reprocessing plant. In addition, Normandy has a low level nuclear waste depository, a nuclear power plant and a nuclear submarine base. A paper just published in the British Medical Journal,1 which reports an investigation into 27 cases of childhood leukemia between 1978 and 1993, concludes that visiting the beach and eating locally caught fish within a 35 kilometer radius of the La Hague plant increased the risk of leukemia threefold. The French radioactivity protection office (OPRI) issued a statement denying any possible connection between leukemia in children and radiation at La Hague, on the grounds that any radiation hazard would have been detected by the thousands of environmental radiation measurements that have been made. Jean-Pierre Laurent, director of environmental safety for Cogéma, the state-owned operator of the nuclear fuels plant, rejected the cancer study's conclusion, saying that Jean-Francoise Viel, one of the authors, "is an anti-nuclear campaigner." He also stated that "even if he (Viel) has made a causal link between going to the beach and leukemia, he has... not proved that this is because of nuclear waste." Less reassuring, however, Bruno Chareyon, director of the Commission of Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity, last week reported that tourists collecting seashells near a pipe carrying nuclear waste out to sea were exposed to 3000 times background radiation. Cogéma moved quickly to block off the area around the pipe, which had been exposed by unusually low tides.
1 Pobel D, Viel J F. 1997. Case-control study of leukaemia among young people near La Hague reprocessing plans; the environmental hypothesis revisited. British Medical Journal 314:101-6.
Additional information: Alexander Dorozynski. 1997. French media reaction to BMJ paper linking leukaemia with a French nuclear reprocessing plant. BMJ No 7075 Volume 314 Medicine & the Media.Are We Having Warming Yet?
March 4, 1997: Temperatures were rising last week at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Long Beach, CA, over results presented that seemingly negate the theory of global warming. According to John Christy, a professor and atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama, and Dr. Roy Spencer, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Earth’s climate is not warming, as ground-based observations suggest, but cooling at a rate of 0.035 Celsius each decade. They base their conclusion on temperature-dependent microwave emissions from molecular oxygen monitored continuously since 1979 by two polar orbiting satellites. Their conclusion came under strong criticism by those who maintained that the 0.1-0.15 Celsius increase in world temperature recorded by means of thousands of ground- and ship-based measurements, more reliably indicates the direction of climate change. The accuracy of satellites as thermometers was seriously debated, critics arguing the likelihood of bias in the data both because of drift in the satellites’ orbits and the fact that the time at which the satellites pass over particular locations changes from day to day. Spencer and Christy defended their data by pointing to a strong correlation (94%) between temperature data collected from the satellites and data gathered by a weather balloon control. Moreover they indicated that every attempt to compensate for possible bias in the data strengthened the evidence that cooling has occurred. This was not accepted by Kevin Trenberth who, as he has set forth in a paper with James Hurrell to be published in Nature, argues that Christy and Spencer are insufficiently aware of errors that arise when data from different satellites are stitched together. Until the issue is resolved, we should not rule out the possibility of either flood or ice.
Christy, J.R. and R.W. Spencer. 1997. Global Atmospheric Temperatures of the Lower Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere from the Microwave Sounding UnitsHungry Zaïrians Are Eating Our Closest Relatives: Not Many Left
February 10, 1997: The Bonobo, or pigmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), humanity's closest relative, faces imminent extinction at the hands of hunters armed with poison-tipped arrows. Bonobos have a complex social life, and considerable intelligence. In captivity, they have been found capable of learning both sign language and how to make and use stone tools. Native to a small region of the Zaïre River Basin, and numbering less than 20,000, bonobos were protected until recently by a local taboo against hunting and by government patrols of habitat reserves. Now, because of civil strife, the guards have left, food shortages are widespread and the region has received an influx of refugees from urban areas. Not surprisingly, there has been a sharp increase in the killing of bonobos for food. Researchers, it is said, fear the worst.
February 4, 1997: British Telecom scientists investigating the information processing capacity of the human brain have concluded that greater capacity is possible only with faster signalling (New Scientist, January 18, 1997). Faster propagation of nerve impulses can be achieved with larger diameter neurons. However, larger diameter neurons mean a larger brain. A larger brain means longer signal path lengths, which negate the advantage of faster impulse propagation. To quote Peter Cochrane, a member of the Advanced Applications and Technologies Section of BT Laboratories, Ipswich, England, "There is no incremental improvement path available to the brain."
Parallel processing, could that be the way ahead? (Editor)