Deep Sea Mining: An Invisible Land Grab – Mission Blue

DEEP SEA MINING: AN INVISIBLE LAND GRAB
July 20, 2016  
By Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue
Thousands of meters beneath the azure ocean waters in places like the South Pacific, down through a water column saturated with life and to the ocean floor carpeted in undiscovered ecosystems, machines the size of small buildings are poised to begin a campaign of wholesale destruction. I wish this assessment was hyperbole, but it is the reality we find ourselves in today.

A deep sea mining machine.

After decades of being on the back burner owing to costs far outweighing benefits, deep sea mining is now emerging as a serious threat to the stability of ocean systems and processes that have yet to be understood well enough to sanction in good conscience their large-scale destruction. Machines tear up the seabed producing minerals sent up to a capture boat.

Critical to evaluating what is at stake are technologies needed to access the deep sea. The mining company, Nautilus Minerals, has invested heavily in mining machinery. However, resources needed for independent scientific assessment at those depths are essentially non-existent.

The layout of a mining operation.

China is investing heavily in submersibles, manned and robotic, that are able to at least provide superficial documentation of what is in the deep ocean. Imagine aliens with an appetite for minerals flying low over New York City taking photographs and occasional samples and using them to evaluate the relative importance of the streets and buildings with no capacity to understand (or interest) in the importance of Wall Street, the New York Times, Lincoln Center, Columbia University or even the role of taxi cabs and traffic signals. They might even wonder whether or not those little two-legged things running around would be useful for something.

The International Seabed Authority, located in Jamaica and created under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is currently issuing permits for mining exploration. At the very least, might there be ways to issue something like “restraining orders” owing to the lack of proof that no harm will be done to systems critical to human needs? Or also at the very least protecting very (very, very) large areas where no mining will be allowed?

Do you see life in this picture? I do.

The role of life in the deep sea relating to the carbon cycle is vaguely understood, and the influence of the microbial systems (only recently discovered) and the diverse ecosystems in the water column and sea bed have yet to be thoughtfully analyzed. If a doctor could only see the skin of a patient, or sample what is underneath with tiny probes, how could internal functions be understood?

The rationale for exploiting minerals in the deep sea is based on their perceived current monetary value. The living systems that will be destroyed are perceived to have no monetary value. Will decisions about use of the natural world continue to be based on the financial advantage for a small number of people despite risks to systems that underpin planetary stability – systems that support human survival?

Please read more at the link below.

Source: Deep Sea Mining: An Invisible Land Grab – Mission Blue

Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048 – Boris Warm, Dalhousie University. CBS News

 

The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.”I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.”This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.”If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.”A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.”It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”Worm and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 3 issue of Science.

Source: Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048 – CBS News

Your Toothpaste May Be Loaded With Tiny Plastic Beads That Never Go Away | Mother Jones

What’s the environmental impact of microbeads?

Microbeads are so small that they aren’t caught by most water treatment plants, so they wind up in lakes, streams, and oceans. According to a report by New York’s attorney general, as many as 19 tons of microbeads could be discharged into the state’s waterways each year. Assuming all Americans are dumping microbeads at that rate, 300 tons per year end up in US waterways.

The beads, which can resemble fish eggs, are mistaken for food and ingested by fish and other marine animals. The plastic also acts as a sponge for toxins, soaking up pesticides, phthalates, and heavy metals and carrying them through the food chain. Tuna and swordfish are turning up with microbeads in their stomachs.

What’s the health impact of microbeads?

The movement to ban microbeads has really gathered steam because of concerns about their effects on human health. In March 2014, dental hygienist and blogger Trish Walraven sounded the alarm with an article about how she was finding “bits of blue plastic in my patients’ mouths every single day.” The plastic, she wrote, came from Crest toothpaste, and it was getting stuck in patients’ gums. Now, dentists are concerned that the microbeads trap bacteria, possibly causing gingivitis. Procter and Gamble, which makes the toothpaste, insists that microbeads are safe, but has pledged to rid Crest products of plastic microbeads by next March.

There are other concerns about ingesting microbeads—both from using products like toothpaste and from eating fish containing the plastic bits. The Environmental Working Group notes that the plastics that make up some microbeads are suspected to be hormone disruptors, so “eating them at your fish fry would not only lend an unpleasant texture to your beer-battered fish but could also add an unhealthy dose of estrogen-mimicking chemicals.”

How do I tell if my products contain microbeads?

via Your Toothpaste May Be Loaded With Tiny Plastic Beads That Never Go Away | Mother Jones.

Irreversible Damage Seen From Climate Change in UN Leak – Bloomberg

Humans risk causing irreversible and widespread damage to the planet unless there’s faster action to limit the fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change, according to a leaked draft United Nations report.Global warming already is affecting “all continents and across the oceans,” and further pollution from heat-trapping gases will raise the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” according to the document obtained by Bloomberg.“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in the draft.

via Irreversible Damage Seen From Climate Change in UN Leak – Bloomberg.

World Bank Flash: Turn Down the Heat II: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience

BackgroundTurn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience builds on a World Bank report released late last year, which warned the world would warm by 4 degrees Celsius 4°C or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if we did not take concerted action now, with dire consequences. This new report looks at the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia:Under current levels of warming, significant climate and development impacts are already being felt.  With temperatures at 0.8°C 1.4 ºF above pre-industrial levels, the last decade has seen extreme weather events resulting in widespread human suffering and increasing economic damage across all regions. Sea levels have been rising more rapidly than previously projected. A rise of as much as 50 cm by the 2050s may already be unavoidable as a result of past emissions. Impacts could be felt much earlier. A rise of 15 cm, coupled with more intense cyclones, threatens to inundate much of Bangkok by the 2030s.A warming of 2°C 3.6 °F above pre-industrial levels, may be reached in 20 to 30 years. In Sub-Saharan Africa, food shortages will become more common. In South Asia, shifting rain patterns will leave some areas under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or drinking. In South East Asia, the degradation and loss of reefs would diminish tourism, reduce fish stocks, and leave coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to increasingly violent storms and landslides.As warming goes from 2ºC 3.6ºF to 4°C 7.2 ºF, multiple threats of more extreme heat waves, rising sea–levels, more severe storms, droughts and floods will have severe implications for the poorest and most vulnerable. In Sub-Saharan Africa, by the 2030s droughts and heat will leave 40% of the land now growing maize unable to support the crop. Rising temperatures could cause major loss of savanna grasslands threatening pastoral livelihoods. In South Asia, a potential change in the regularity and impact of the monsoon could precipitate a major crisis in the region. Events like the devastating Pakistan floods of 2010, which affected more than 20 million people, could become common place. Across South East Asia, rural livelihoods are faced with mounting pressures as sea levels rise, tropical cyclones increase in intensity and important marine ecosystem services are lost as warming approaches 4°C. Across all regions, the growing movement of impacted communities into cities could lead to higher numbers of people in slums and other informal settlements being exposed to heat waves, flooding, mudslides and diseases.

via World Bank Flash: Turn Down the Heat II: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience.