Poem of the moment: William Cullen Bryant on the summer of 2011

July 31, 2011

He did not write specifically for this year, of course.

Here’s one more reason you should subscribe to the Academy of American PoetsPoem-A-Day:

Click banner to go to American Academy of Poets; you may subscribe to Poem a Day

Click banner to go to American Academy of Poets; you may subscribe to Poem-A-Day

Midsummer
by William Cullen Bryant

A power is on the earth and in the air,
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth—her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird hath sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sunstroke in the populous town:
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.

July 31, 2011 – Today’s poem appears in Poems, published by University of Michigan.  Read more about this book.


Encore post: “Don’t play chicken with the debt ceiling!”

July 30, 2011

If only they had listened last April when I first posted this!

A blast from the past:

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy

Not every one of the Bloomberg Businessweek covers has been a hit, but a lot of them are — vastly more entertaining since Bloomberg took over the old workhorse magazine.

This one packs a political punch along with visual excitement.

And it’s right. Do any Republicans pay attention to the finance and business worlds anymore?

Articles inside are informative, too — see Peter Coy’s article, and did you see the article on the debt ceiling issue and the views of past Treasury secretaries?

Hey! Republicans! Stop playing chicken with the nation’s credit, will you?

Graphic - dangerous game on debt ceiling -- Businessweek

Businessweek graphic from April 18-24, 2011 issue - click for larger view at Businessweek site; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy


Wind power, more than just talk

July 30, 2011

I missed Global Wind Day on June 15 — too much static from the ironically long-winded anti-winders.

Voice of America claims wind power offers great potential.  Climate denialists, used to denying all facts especially if they are hopeful, will deny it any way they think they can.*

These posts are for examples only, and should not be interpreted to mean that the blogs sampled are composed entirely of denials, or that the blog authors and editors are themselves pure denialists — certainly they will deny that.  We will gladly post links to posts at those blogs that promote benefits of harnassing wind energy, if anyone can find them.


Somalia crisis partly caused by global warming?

July 30, 2011

Is the Somalia drought caused by global warming, even partly? Voice of America reports, with Rebecca Ward (can’t find the “non-autoplay” button in the HTML; see the thing below the fold):

Read the rest of this entry »


History and economics of energy use and conservation – a more accurate version

July 30, 2011

Our memorial to George Washington neared completion in the 1880s.  For an obelisk more than 550 feet tall to honor the Father of Our Country, planners decided to top it with a “capstone” made of the what was, then the most precious metal known on Earth.  The top is a pyramid, and the top of the pyramid is a one-pound block of this precious metal.

What was the most precious metal known to humans in 1880?  Gold?  Platinum?  Tungsten, perhaps, not yet chosen to be filaments in the yet-to-be-perfected Edison “A” lightbulb?

Washington’s Monument is topped with aluminum.

Yeah, aluminum.

“But,” you begin to sputter in protest, “aluminum is almost ubiquitous in soils, and it’s cheap — we use it in soda cans because it’s cheaper than steel or glass, for FSM’s sake!”

Today, yes.  In 1880, no.  Aluminum requires massive amounts of energy to refine the stuff from ore.  Aluminum is common in soils and rocks, but it couldn’t be refined out easily for use.

That problem’s solution was electricity, generated from coal or especially falling water.  For a while, our nation’s biggest aluminum refining plants resided in the state of Washington, not because they were close to aluminum ore deposits, but because there was a lot of cheap electricity available from the Grand Coulee and other dams on the mighty Columbia River.  It was cheaper to transport the ore long distances for refining than to transport the electricity.

This history reveals a lot about science, history, energy use, resource conservation and economics — areas in which most climate denialists appear to me to lack knowledge and productive experience.

Peter Sinclair more often explains why climate denialists get things wrong.  In this video, the first of what could be a significant series, Sinclair explains how we got to where we are today in energy use and conservation — or energy overuse and lack of conservation, if the Tea Party and Rand Paul get their way.  (Notice the ingots of aluminum shown in the historic film footage.)

This is history which has been largely covered up, partly because so much critical stuff happened in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, a time the internet doesn’t cover well.

5,842

Tribute to the Space Shuttle — video of every mission

July 29, 2011

From the good folks at Nature:

Nature said:

NASA’s 30-year Space Transportation System (STS) program came to an end on 21st July 2011. The Space Shuttle fleet delivered the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and dozens of satellites, space probes, crew and supplies. Two Shuttles were lost: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. The touchdown of Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center marked the end of an era, after 135 missions. This video shows all of them in chronological order. http://www.nature.com/spaceshuttle

Soundtrack: ‘PX3′ and ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ by 65daysofstatic.

Frank Swain at Sciencepunk added:

No sooner than the smell of low Earth orbit had worn off the space shuttle Atlantis, Nature editor Adam Rutherford was stitching together footage of its final mission into this wonderful tribute to the golden age of manned spaceflight.

So long, Space Shuttle.  We miss you already.

(75,535)


Poisoning the children: Study shows mothers give DDT to their children from breastmilk

July 29, 2011

Too many in the U.S. bury their heads in the sands about the issues, but researchers in Spain and Mozambique wondered whether indoor residual spraying (IRS) with DDT, to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes, might produce harms to children in those homes.  They studied the issue in homes sprayed with DDT in Mozambique.

It turns out that young mothers ingest DDT and pass a significant amount of it to their children when the children breast feed.

The study itself is behind Elsevier’s mighty paywall, but the abstract from Chemosphere is available at no cost:

Concentration of DDT compounds in breast milk from African women (Manhiça, Mozambique) at the early stages of domestic indoor spraying with this insecticide

Maria N. Manacaa, b, c, Joan O. Grimaltb, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Jordi Sunyerd, e, Inacio Mandomandoa, f, Raquel Gonzaleza, c, e, Jahit Sacarlala, Carlota Dobañoa, c, e, Pedro L. Alonsoa, c, e and Clara Menendeza, c, e

a Centro de Investigação em Saúde da Manhiça (CISM), Maputo, Mozambique

b Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDÆA-CSIC), Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

c Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), Hospital Clínic, Universitat de Barcelona, Rosselló 132, 4a, 08036 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

d Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

e Ciber Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Spain

f Instituto Nacional de Saúde, Ministerio de Saúde, Maputo, Mozambique

Received 6 November 2010;

revised 19 March 2011;

accepted 1 June 2011.

Available online 20 July 2011.

Abstract

Breast milk concentrations of 4,4′-DDT and its related compounds were studied in samples collected in 2002 and 2006 from two populations of mothers in Manhiça, Mozambique. The 2006 samples were obtained several months after implementation of indoor residual spraying (IRS) with DDT for malaria vector control in dwellings and those from 2002 were taken as reference prior to DDT use. A significant increase in 4,4′-DDT and its main metabolite, 4,4′-DDE, was observed between the 2002 (median values 2.4 and 0.9 ng/ml, respectively) and the 2006 samples (7.3 and 2.6 ng/ml, respectively, p < 0.001 and 0.019, respectively). This observation identifies higher body burden intakes of these compounds in pregnant women already in these initial stages of the IRS program. The increase in both 4,4′-DDT and 4,4′-DDE suggest a rapid transformation of DDT into DDE after incorporation of the insecticide residues. The median baseline concentrations in breast milk in 2002 were low, and the median concentrations in 2006 (280 ng/g lipid) were still lower than in other world populations. However, the observed increases were not uniform and in some individuals high values (5100 ng/g lipid) were determined. Significant differences were found between the concentrations of DDT and related compounds in breast milk according to parity, with higher concentrations in primiparae than multiparae women. These differences overcome the age effect in DDT accumulation between the two groups and evidence that women transfer a significant proportion of their body burden of DDT and its metabolites to their infants.

Highlights

► DDT increases in pregnant women at the start of indoor spraying with this compound. ► Rapid transformation of DDT into DDE occurs in women after intake of this insecticide. ► The DDT increases in breast milk of women due to indoor spraying are not uniform. ► Breast milk DDT content in primiparae women is higher than in multiparae women. ► Women transfer a high proportion of their DDT and DDE body burden to their infants.

“Primiparae” women are those with one child, their first; “multiparae” women are those who have delivered more than one child.

Without having read the study, I suggest there are a few key points this research makes:

  1. Claims that DDT has been “banned” from Africa and is not in use, are patently false.
  2. Spraying poisons in homes cannot be considered to have no consequences; poisons in in very small concentrations get into the bodies of the people who live in those homes.
  3. We should not cavalierly dismiss fears of harms to humans from DDT, because it appears that use of even tiny amounts of the stuff exposes our youngest and most vulnerable children.
  4. Beating malaria has no easy, simple formula.

Women, even poor women in malaria-endemic areas, should not have to worry about passing poisonous DDT or its breakdown products to their children, through breastfeeding.  The national Academy of Sciences was right in 1970:  DDT use should be stopped, and work should be hurried to find alternatives to DDT.

Resources: 


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