California to cut water deliveries to cities, farms

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California said Thursday that it plans to cut water deliveries to their second-lowest level ever next year, raising the prospect of rationing for cities and less planting by farmers.

The Department of Water Resources projects that it will deliver just 15 percent of the amount that local water agencies throughout California request every year.

Since the first State Water Project deliveries were made in 1962, the only time less water was promised was in 1993, but heavy precipitation that year ultimately allowed agencies to receive their full requests.

The reservoirs that are most crucial to the state’s water delivery system are at their lowest levels since 1977, after two years of dry weather and court-ordered restrictions on water pumping out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This year, water agencies received just 35 percent of the water they requested.

Farmers in the Central Valley say they’ll be forced to fallow fields, while cities from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego might have to require residents to ration water.

Read moreCalifornia to cut water deliveries to cities, farms

World is facing a natural resources crisis worse than financial crunch

• Two planets need by 2030 at this rate, warns report
• Humans using 30% more resources than sustainable

The world is heading for an “ecological credit crunch” far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.

The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. As a result, we are running up an ecological debt of $4tr (£2.5tr) to $4.5tr every year – double the estimated losses made by the world’s financial institutions as a result of the credit crisis – say the report’s authors, led by the conservation group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund. The figure is based on a UN report which calculated the economic value of services provided by ecosystems destroyed annually, such as diminished rainfall for crops or reduced flood protection.

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Thousands Still Without Power in Upstate New York After Snow Storm


Oct. 28: A snow plow clears a highway in Westerlo, N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y. – Nearly 40,000 utility customers remain without power in eastern New York a day after more than a foot of snow fell on some areas.

National Grid has about 25,000 customers without power Wednesday morning, most in the Mohawk Valley and Adirondacks.

New York State Electric & Gas reports about 13,300 outages, most in the Catskills. Power is expected to be restored to most customers on Wednesday.

The storm dumped wet, heavy snow on trees still covered in leaves, bringing limbs down on power lines.

The National Weather Service reports snowfall totals ranging from 13 inches in northern New York to 15 inches along the northwestern edge of the Catskill Mountains.

Read moreThousands Still Without Power in Upstate New York After Snow Storm

London suffered its first October snowfall in 74 years as a winter chill set in across England

Snow covers parts of England as winter weather sets in


A blizzard hit Stevenage as temperatures fell across the country Photo: Gary Dowson

Thousands of homes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire were left without power after the cold weather damaged high voltage cables.

Supplier EDF Energy said the bad weather has prevented engineers from fixing the problem.

Luton Airport was forced to divert a number of its flights on Tuesday evening while airport workers cleared snow from the runway.

Read moreLondon suffered its first October snowfall in 74 years as a winter chill set in across England

Europe’s secret plan to boost GM crop production

Gordon Brown and other EU leaders in campaign to promote modified foods

GM corn growing in France, which has since suspended cultivation of modified cropsAFP/Getty Images
GM corn growing in France, which has since suspended cultivation of modified crops

Gordon Brown and other European leaders are secretly preparing an unprecedented campaign to spread GM crops and foods in Britain and throughout the continent, confidential documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal.

The documents – minutes of a series of private meetings of representatives of 27 governments – disclose plans to “speed up” the introduction of the modified crops and foods and to “deal with” public resistance to them.

And they show that the leaders want “agricultural representatives” and “industry” – presumably including giant biotech firms such as Monsanto – to be more vocal to counteract the “vested interests” of environmentalists.

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News of the secret plans is bound to create a storm of protest at a time when popular concern about GM technology is increasing, even in countries that have so far accepted it.

Public opposition has prevented any modified crops from being grown in Britain. France, one of only three countries in Europe to have grown them in any amounts, has suspended their cultivation, and resistance to them is rising rapidly in the other two, Spain and Portugal.

The embattled biotech industry has been conducting a public relations campaign based round the highly contested assertion that genetic modification is needed to feed the world. It has had some success in the Government, where ministers have been increasingly speaking out in favour of the technology, and in the European Commission, with which its lobbyists have boasted of having “excellent working relations”.

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Eruption of 3 volcanoes has scientists asking questions

PUZZLE: Is there a common thread or were events just coincidence?

How likely is it that three neighboring volcanoes would all erupt at the same time — as the Kasatochi, Okmok and Cleveland volcanoes in the Aleutians did this summer?

About as likely as a storm that only appears once in a thousand years, says Anchorage volcanologist Peter Cervelli, who’ll deliver a paper on the subject this winter to the American Geophysical Union.

In other words, seldom enough that Cervelli is now exploring the question of whether Alaska’s triple eruption was only a coincidence involving three independent volcanoes or whether it was triggered by some common mechanism.

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Longest, hottest drought on record, says Bureau of Meteorology

THE long drought affecting southern Australia is officially the worst on record.

Bureau of Meteorology head of climate analysis David Jones said the 12-year drought that was devastating southwest Western Australia, southeast South Australia, Victoria and northern Tasmania was “very severe and without historical precedent”.

Drought has gripped the Murray-Darling Basin since late 2001. It has worsened this year, as rainfall totals for the past three years have set record lows in many regions, including many critical to the Murray River.

Dr Jones said the rainfall figures were similar to the severe drought that lasted from 1939 to 1945, and the Federation drought, which ran from 1895 to 1903.

“Those three droughts, in terms of rainfall, are comparable,” he said. “But this drought is a lot hotter than those two previous droughts. And those two droughts finished, whereas this one is continuing.”

Read moreLongest, hottest drought on record, says Bureau of Meteorology

The Next Collapsing Industry: Fishing

Unsustainable practices cost the global fishing industry $50 billion every year, and have wasted some $2 trillion in the last three decades, says a joint report from the World Bank and United Nations.

The numbers might not seem like much when compared to the ongoing economic crisis or the cost of deforestation — $1.5 trillion lost from Wall Street in weeks, between $2 trillion and $5 trillion of forests cut down annually.

But the losses, calculated in terms of declining productivity, are a troubling warning sign. Despite better equipment, larger fleets and ever-growing markets, the industry is catching the same amount of fish now as it did 30 years ago.

The reason: oceanic fish populations have been decimated. Some researchers say that the world will run out of wild seafood within 40 years. There will still be farm-raised fish – which now account for 50 percent of all fish production – but the $80 billion global fishing industry, which employs some 200 million people, will be as depleted as North Atlantic cod.

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With Spotlight on Pirates, Somalis on Land Waste Away in the Shadows


Above, a severely malnourished baby lay unresponsive on Thursday as the mother and father sat nearby in a feeding center in Afgooye, Somalia.

AFGOOYE, Somalia – Just step into a feeding center here, and the sense of hopelessness is overwhelming.

Dozens of women sit with listless babies in their laps, snapping their fingers, trying to get a flicker of life out of their dying children.

Little eyes close. Wizened 1-year-olds struggle to breathe. This is the place where help is supposed to be on its way. But the nurses in the filthy smocks are besieged. From the doorway, you can see the future of Somalia fading away.

While the audacity of a band of Somali pirates who hijacked a ship full of weapons has grabbed the world’s attention, it is the slow-burn suffering of millions of Somalis that seems to go almost unnoticed.

The suffering is not new. Or especially surprising. This country on the edge of Africa has been slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward an abyss for the past year and a half – or, some would argue, for the past 17. United Nations officials have called Somalia “the forgotten crisis.”

Read moreWith Spotlight on Pirates, Somalis on Land Waste Away in the Shadows

Mexican Marijuana Cartels Sully US Forests, Parks

Mexican marijuana cartels use pesticides, herbicides that pollute US parks, forest lands


A member of Kentucky’s state marijuana strike force cuts down marijuana in rural Breathitt County, Ky. (AP Photo)

National forests and parks – long popular with Mexican marijuana-growing cartels – have become home to some of the most polluted pockets of wilderness in America because of the toxic chemicals needed to eke lucrative harvests from rocky mountainsides, federal officials said.

The grow sites have taken hold from the West Coast’s Cascade Mountains, as well as on federal lands in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Seven hundred grow sites were discovered on U.S. Forest Service land in California alone in 2007 and 2008 – and authorities say the 1,800-square-mile Sequoia National Forest is the hardest hit.

Weed and bug sprays, some long banned in the U.S., have been smuggled to the marijuana farms. Plant growth hormones have been dumped into streams, and the water has then been diverted for miles in PVC pipes.

Rat poison has been sprinkled over the landscape to keep animals away from tender plants. And many sites are strewn with the carcasses of deer and bears poached by workers during the five-month growing season that is now ending.

“What’s going on on public lands is a crisis at every level,” said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. “These are America’s most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals. It is a huge mess.”

Read moreMexican Marijuana Cartels Sully US Forests, Parks