I haven't written about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline for a while, except to try and rally support for the brave people blockading construction along its southern portion. After more than two weeks in the trees of Texas, their dramatic action is drawing more and more attention, as they reveal the recklessness and heartlessness of a company like TransCanada—the kind that will call the cops to get a great-grandmother and arrest her for "trespassing" on her own land when she protests the pipeline crossing it.
The larger part of the Keystone pipeline project—the northern leg to Canada—has been on the political back-burner since last year's massive protests. Since that northern leg would have been a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet, we counted that as a temporary victory.
The State Department is supposedly figuring out how to calculate the climate risk from the tar sands, something they failed to do last time round—but so far there's no sign they have a real plan. Neither candidate for President has expressed any opposition to building the pipeline, so it may be just a matter of weeks before we need your help again, and in a big way.
And in the meantime, we have a piece of truly good news. Our friends in Canada have done a remarkable job of organizing opposition to the so-called Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry tar sands gunk to the Pacific. As this article in Canada's leading paper put it last week, that plan is effectively dead, dashed against the rock-solid opposition of Indigenous groups, and Canadian climate activists both. With it goes the favorite talking point of Keystone backers, that "they'll just send it to China anyway."
So the Keystone fight will continue, with the stakes raised again—now Keystone is the last, best chance to export tar sands oil from Alberta.
I’ve taken two big lessons from this fight so far. The first is that when we band together, we're truly a match for the fossil fuel industry—and however the battle comes out we've already done far more than almost anyone thought possible. The second is that we can't stop global warming one pipeline at a time—even as we bottled up the tar sands, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere just kept going up, bringing us the scorching, drought plagued summer of 2012.
We have to go at the industry as a whole and persuade our fellow residents of this planet that coal and oil and gas must be kept in the ground. That's why I wrote the article for Rolling Stone about the new climate math that went viral this summer, and that's why we're turning that article into a big new campaign—the Do the Math Tour.
Some of the stops along our Do the Math tour are sold out already, but some have tickets remaining, and we hope to see you there. But only, really, if you're ready to go to work. Because we've got so much work to do. Click here to be a part of the Tour.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL 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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