Protests Against Extreme Fossil Fuel Extraction Continue into Fall with Global Frackdown
By Steve Horn
Global grassroots activism is heating up alongside a scarily ever-warming climate.
Since the beginning of 2012, we've seen the Arab Spring, Wisconsin Uprising, Tar Sands Action and the ongoing Keystone XL Blockade. In the climate justice movement, some have referred to the recently passed summer as the Climate Summer of Solidarity (SOS).
The SOS closed with an action organized by Protecting Our Waters called Shale Gas Outrage, which took place in the heart of the global fracking boom, Philadelphia, PA, home of the Marcellus Shale basin. Outrage was warranted, given that this year's Shale Gas Insight unfolded in the City of Brotherly Love. Insight was sponsored by Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Range Resources, EOG Resources, Aqua America (who stands to profit off of water as a scarce resource via fracking), and many others.
Speakers at the pre-march rally included the likes of Gasland producer and director Josh Fox, author and ecologist Sandra Steingraber, environmental journalist and activist Bill McKibben and Food and Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter; former Pittsburgh City Council member and writer of the ordinance that banned fracking in the city, Doug Shields, as well as members of the Pennsylvania community whose livelihoods have been deeply affected at the hands of the shale gas fracking industry.
Upon the rally's completion, activists zig-zagged up and down Philly's streets, making stops at the Obama for President campaign headquarters and Governor Tom Corbett's campaign headquaters.
"Since coming into office, President Obama has permitted every drop of water used to frack in northeast and central Pennsylvania with his vote on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission," the Shale Gas Outrage webpage explains. "The Global Shale Gas Initiative was established in his State Department and he has traveled to countries like India, Poland and China to sign agreements that the U.S. will assist them in drilling for shale gas."
Of Corbett, Outrage explained the reasons behind its march pit stop to his office this way:
Corbett maintains that Pennsylvania should not tax the natural gas industry. In February 2011, Corbett repealed a four month old policy regulating natural gas drilling in park land, deeming it “unnecessary and redundant.” In February 2012, Corbett signed Act 13, overriding all local zoning laws for the gas industry, and putting a gag order on doctors.
The first day of fall began where the SOS left off: with an action called the Global Frackdown, led in the forefront by Food and Water Watch.
Actions unfolded on five continents and as EcoWatch wrote, "united activists on five continents at more than 150 events calling for a ban on fracking in their communities and to advocate for the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions."
EcoWatch went on to depict the truly worldwide nature of the protests:
Major actions overseas included a rally on the steps of the European Parliament; demonstrations in front of Parliament buildings in South Africa, Bulgaria and the Czech republic; marches in Argentina; grassroots activities in Paris and the south of France, and screenings of the film Gasland in Spain.
A Frackivism Fall? It All Comes Back to Egypt
Egypt was one of the first hubs of the Arab Spring. Now, shale gas industry wildcatters see the country as a new possible home for fracking, as covered in a Sept. 19 blog post published by the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights (EIPR). Royal Dutch Shell and Apache have expressed interest in extracting Egypt's shale deposits.
“Fracking threatens Egypt's drinking water, but Shell and Apache's drilling is mired in secrecy. Egyptians have a right to know how their resources are managed and how that impacts their environment and life," said Reem Labib, environmental justice researcher at EIPR.
A year and a half after the Arab Spring, are we about to bear witness to a "Fracktivist Fall?" Well that's not likely.
Then again, neither was the Arab Spring.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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