Global Frackdown Calls for a Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing
The global grassroots movement to protect public health and the environment from the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing intensified today as concerned citizens in Brussels came together for an action as part of the Global Frackdown. As the European Parliament votes on two reports on the environmental and energy impacts of shale, Food & Water Europe, together with Friends of the Earth and The Greens—European Free Alliance, called on the oil and gas industry to “Stop the Propaganda” and on the European Parliament to recognize that the potential of shale gas has been hyped, while the risks and impacts of shale gas have been downplayed.
“The dubious benefits and poor environmental record of shale gas development in the U.S. serve as a cautionary tale for Europe,” said Food and Water Watch's executive director Wenonah Hauter. “It is worrying that European policymakers have bought into the myth, propagated by the gas industry, that shale gas can serve as a viable bridge to a low carbon future.”
The first coordinated international day of action against fracking on Sept. 22—Global Frackdown—will unite activists on five continents through more than 100 events to call for a ban on fracking in their communities, and to advocate for the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions. Initiated by Food & Water Watch, more than 150 consumer, environmental and public health organizations worldwide including No Fracking Ireland, Friends of the Earth UK, STOPHF of the Czech Republic, Ecologistas en Accion from Spain, numerous anti-fracking associations across France, 350.org and many more are expected to participate in the Global Frackdown.
Worldwide, opposition to drilling and fracking has escalated dramatically over the last year, and the oil and gas industry has intensified its public relations campaign to obscure the dangers of fracking from the public. Earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute launched its Vote 4 Energy campaign, an astroturf effort to promote drilling and fracking during the 2012 election. A similar campaign is underway in the European Union (EU), where the fossil fuel lobby has been presenting natural gas, including unconventional gas extraction, as a cheap “no regrets option” and painting renewable energy sources as unaffordable. Seeking support from the EU for shale gas is an integral part of oil and has companies to turn natural gas into a destination fuel in Europe.
To date, more than 270 municipalities in the U.S. have taken action against fracking, and Vermont State, France and Bulgaria have banned the use of hydraulic fracturing. There is a moratorium on fracking in the Czech Republic, Romania, the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, New Jersey and New York. This week, it was also announced that the oil and gas company OMV would also halt drilling in Austria, due to the protests of local communities.
More than 140 events are planned for the Global Frackdown, and each will challenge local decision makers to oppose fracking. Major actions include a rally on the steps of the European Parliament, demonstrations in front of Parliament buildings in South Africa, Bulgaria and the Czech republic, several marches in cities in Argentina, grassroots activities in Paris and the south of France, screenings of Gasland in Spain, a ‘Dash for gas’ day of action at the Lib Dem party conference, flyering at the airport of Knock in Ireland, a street theater action in Chicago promoting a statewide fracking ban … the list goes on.
An increasingly controversial form of energy extraction, fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of water mixed with carcinogenic chemicals underground to release natural gas and oil from tight rock formations. Drilling and fracking have been linked to water contamination and climate change, and the process has been responsible for industrializing rural areas, destroying property values and undermining local economies.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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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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