Fracking California Videos Show Huge Impact of Drilling on Communities
While politicians, pundits and "experts" are all over the media giving us their opinions, ordinary citizens are frequently unheard. When it comes to the impacts of fracking and drilling on average people, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has made them visible in a series of three videos depicting how fossil fuel energy extraction has radically changed the quality of life for the worse for three families in very different parts of California.
In one, 12-year-old Nalleli Cobo, who lives in South Los Angeles, relates the health issues she and her family have suffered since an oil well site opened across the street from her apartment in 2010. She flyers, protests and speaks at public meetings. Dressed in her Catholic school uniform, she talks about how she is in a video appealing to the Pope to shut down the wells—and reveals that the drilling site is owned by the Roman Catholic archdiocese.
In another, ranchers Joe and Kathy Spencer in rural San Benito County near the San Francisco metro area worry that the company that owns the mineral rights under their land and much of their neighbors' will consume the area's already scarce water supply, draining their aquifers and making their property worthless.
In the third, Walt and Marilee Desatoff relate how they had to leave their family home in the Bakersfield area because of the noise and smell of oil drilling and fracking operations, as well as their fears about drinking water contamination. Their county includes about 80 percent of the state's oil drilling and more than 95 percent of the fracking operations.
"These come in the wake of a failed attempt to pass a statewide fracking moratorium this spring, leaving communities across the state (like much of the U.S.) more dependent than ever on efforts to take matters into their own hands while the state and federal leaders continue to let them down," said NRDC's Kate Kiely. "Indeed, there are local battles underway in each of these three regions to do just that."
These videos give a human face to those efforts.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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