Groups from around the world  have joined together to denounce the US government for allowing the first genetically modified tree, a loblolly pine, to be legalized with no government or public oversight, with no assessment of their risks to the public or the environment, and without regard to overwhelming public opposition to genetically modified (GM) trees.
A top scientist and “risk engineering” expert is now publicly warning that GMOs pose a dire, genuine threat to the continuation of life on Earth. Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, says that GMOs have the potential to cause “an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be the planet.”
His full explanation is presented in this public paper which describes how even a small risk per crop species can still result in global ecocide if pursued with abandon. As Taleb explains, “The risk of ruin is not sustainable, like a resource that gets depleted in the long term (even in the short term). By the ruin theorems, if you incur a tiny probability of ruin, as a “one-off” risk, survive it, then repeat the exposure, you will eventually
go bust with probability 1.” (Where “probability 1″ means a 100% chance.)
Rational thinking automatically leads to skepticism of GMO safety
Baobab trees, like this giant in Tanzania, are under threat from land clearing, droughts, fungal pathogens, and overharvesting of their bark for matweaving by local villagers. (Credit: Photo by Bill Laurance)
The largest living organisms on the planet, the big, old trees that harbour and sustain countless birds and other wildlife, are dying.
A report by three of the world’s leading ecologists in today’s issue of the journal Science warns of an alarming increase in deathrates among trees 100-300 years old in many of the world’s forests, woodlands, savannahs, farming areas and even in cities.
“It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” says lead author Professor David Lindenmayer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Australian National University.
“Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments. Studies of ecosystems around the world suggest populations of these trees are declining rapidly,” he and colleagues Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University, Australia, and Professor Jerry Franklin of Washington University, USA, say in their Science report. Continue reading »
In today’s world of high-tech portable gadgets, iPods and cell phones, we’ve become dependent upon readily accessible electric outlets to power our devices and charge our batteries. But now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered nature’s alternative to the power outlet: living trees.
That’s right, living trees. UW engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis have invented an electrical device that can be plugged directly into any tree for power. “As far as we know this is the first peer-reviewed paper of someone powering something entirely by sticking electrodes into a tree,” said Parviz.
The research was based upon a breakthrough study last year out of MIT, when scientists found that plants generate a voltage of up to 200 millivolts when one electrode is placed in a plant and the other in the surrounding soil. Those researchers are already designing devices which act as forest sensors powered entirely by this new method. But until now, no one has applied these findings to the development of tree power.
Genetically modified food is certainly a well known issue, but genetically modified trees? Not so much. But nevertheless they are being developed, and at the UN Convention of Biodiversity, in Hyderabad, India, a coalition of green groups is urging a global ban on them.
The forestry industry is developing GM trees for use in its industrial plantations, in order to achieve trees that can grow faster, have reduced lignin content for production of paper or agrofuels, are insect or fertilizer resistant, or can grow in colder temperatures. This research is aimed at increasing their own profits while exacerbating the already known and very serious impacts of large scale tree plantations on local communities and biodiversity.
The Ghirardi Compton Oak has been a piece of League City’s history for over 100 years. The tree stands 56 feet tall, has a canopy that is over 100 feet wide, and is 135 inches around. It also weighs an incredible 518,000 pounds. A county road widening project put the future of the Ghirardi Oak in jeopardy. Council voted to use park dedication funds to hire Hess Landscaping Construction to move the majestic oak. A project that took them just under a month to complete. Watch the incredible process from start to finish in this video.
“One of the big things in my life was to try to make a living at something that I liked…on that I didn’t sell out on.” …Mike Garnier
I have a gem for you today folks. Mike Garnier moved to Oregon to put down roots after Vietnam but his desire to make a living working with wood initially ran into one disappointment after another.
Eventually, he raised his sights, literally, to the trees on his property. The rest is now history. He’s the king of Tree House mountain.
Mike owns more tree houses than anyone on the planet. And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, watch the video.
As I began watching the video for the first time myself, I knew right away I was going to feature it on VT just for the great treehouse story alone.
The first bullet quote that had me diving for a notebook was,
“I had to figure out how to make a living off the trees without cutting them down.”
I said to myself maybe we have the spirit of Will Rogerslurking is this old vet. But as I got further into it I saw a gleaming example of what a man looks like who is doing exactly what he wants to do.
The video was a gift from heaven because to use the term ‘looks like’ you have to be able see him and hear the story from the horse’s mouth. We should all be so lucky, and fortunately some of us are.
So tonight we have an adjusted version of VT Weekend Movies in the genre I have used already a few times, climbing into someone else’s shoes and life for a few minutes.
We had a lot of fun doing the one with the UFO Welcome Center in South Carolina. Jody Pendarvis and Mike are both characters, in different ways…but they share a sparkle in their eyes as they take you on their respective magical mystery tours, and never seem bored by it. Mike still serves Fantasy Flakes for breakfast and entertains his guests with his early mechanical psychedelic trip contraption.
But building his own world in the trees involved more than the money, labor and the heart to do it. Mike had to fight the local government for almost ten years before gaining the right to house guests in his nine treehouses. Josephine County building inspectors didn’t believe that it was structurally sound, so he gathered 66 people, two dogs and a cat (collectively weighing 10,847 pounds) in a single treehouse.
Despite this convincing neighborhood test the county demanded that he tear the treehouses down. Mike ignored them, and when they objected to him charging money to stay in the treehouses, Garnier then allowed visitors to stay for free, with the requirement that they buy a $75 t-shirt first.
The resulting legal battle lasted ten years, with Garnier attaching a steel cable zip line to his bedroom window in case of the need for a midnight escape. In 2001, the county relented and granted Garnier his building permits.
The old saying goes, “You can’t keep a good man down”, and that was literally the case for brother Mike. Our thanks go out to the people that made the video. Print does not do this story justice. Multimedia was invented to serve the internet audience. I hope to be talking to Mike about doing some radio on our VT affiliates.
If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing…Will Rogers
In 1974, fresh out of the army (as a Green Beret medic), Michael Garnier went to rural Oregon to try to make a living off the woods. He tried making furniture, fences, pole barns and selling organic, psychedelic picture propellers (to see Fantasy Flakes), but finally it was a treehouse that got him all the attention.
A chance for grownups to be kids again
Modeled after the treehouse he had once built for his kids, his first treehouse B&B was completed in 1990 and people began paying to stay…
…Today he has 9 treehouses for rent, 20 staircases, 5 or 6 bridges, several platforms and zip lines for rapid descent and at least one fireman’s pole. Some of his treehouses even have toilets, running water and showers, though he warns guests to “stand when they flush”.
Garnier claims to have the tallest treehouse in the world. His Treezebo stands 37 feet, or 6 stories, above the ground (He also claims that his personal home is the largest treehouse in the world).
STOCKHOLM, May 29, 2012 (IPS) – The home furnishing giant Ikea, founded in Sweden in 1943, is facing heavy criticism for the logging and clear-cutting of old-growth forests in the north of Russian Karelia by its wholly owned subsidiary Swedwood.
According to leading environmental organisations, such logging is destroying ancient and unique forests that have a high conservation value.
Dr. Satoshi Mori of Tokyo University has a radioautograph of Japanese cypress leaves that he took from Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture last year in his blog. He says he cannot help feeling pity for the tree:
This picture of Japanese cypress cultivated in Komiya District of Iitate-murawas was taken in the fall of last year. I also took the leaves and female cones at the height I was able to reach. Continue reading »
The solitary pine was the only tree out of a forest of 70,000 to survive the impact of powerful tsunami waves as they swept across Takata Matsubara forest in Rikuzentakata, northeast Japan.
The tree, which is 30m tall, subsequently became renowned nationwide as a poignant symbol of the nation’s tenacity in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.
However, conservationists have now concluded that efforts to save the single tree are futile as its roots are heavily rotted by seawater, according to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper.
Local civic groups have been working over the past nine months to save the tree using a variety of methods, ranging from putting up protective iron sheeting to pumping seawater out of the surrounding soil.
Most of the radioactive cesium emitted by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has piled up within two centimeters of the soil surface, the government has announced.
The Cabinet Office’s Team in Charge of the Lives of Disaster Victims announced on Nov. 16 the detailed results of its survey on cesium dosage and accumulations in the soil, forests, buildings, rivers and other environments. Based on the results, the Cabinet Office has concluded that “most of the cesium can be removed if the top two centimeters of the soil is scraped away from its surface.”
The survey, conducted between July and September, covered the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka, which is designated as a no-go zone, and the town of Namie, which has both a no-go zone and an evacuation preparation zone. Officials said 80 to 97 percent of cesium detected in those areas’ schools, parks, rice paddies and other locations was found within two centimeters of the soil surface.
In forests and orchards, cesium tended to penetrate deeper into the soil, but 68 to 88 percent of cesium still accumulated within two centimeters of the topsoil, according to the survey.
In the leaves of deciduous trees that have grown following the onset of the nuclear disaster in March, 60 to 26,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram was detected, while the leaves of evergreen trees that have existed since before the March 11 disasters contained levels of cesium about 10 times higher than that, at 18,000 to 220,000 becquerels per kilogram. Meanwhile, fruits of trees that have grown in places with high cesium concentrations in the soil hardly bore cesium, the survey has found. Continue reading »
After destroying millions of oaks in California, the infection spread to Britain – then suddenly jumped species
Jason Hill among larches he is cutting down in Afan Valley: “I was due to be coming here to thin this lot, but now we’re flattening them all; it’s shocking.” Photograph: Gareth Phillips for the Observer
Through the mist and mud, Jason Hill reaches the forestry machine and climbs in to start the engine. “It’s really something I don’t want to be doing,” he says. “But if I don’t do it, somebody else will. It’s devastating.”
Seated at the computer controls, he operates a mechanical arm which grips a 30ft tall larch and slits through its base. Swinging it to the horizontal, the arm strips the tree down to a denuded trunk and slices it into even lengths of log that drop heavily into a pile. The process takes only minutes before the machine turns to the next tree.
In woodlands around the UK, just as here in Afan Valley, south Wales, the race is on to fell thousands of trees in a desperate effort to contain a new disease which poses a threat to British forests on a scale not seen since Dutch elm disease wiped out millions of trees, changing the landscape of the country for ever.
Already 3,000 hectares of larch forest – one hectare is about the size of a football pitch – in Wales, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Northern Ireland are known to be infected by Phytophthora ramorum – sudden oak death – whichcomes from the same family as the potato blight organism that caused the Irish famines in the 19th century.
Named in the United States, where it has killed millions of oak trees in California, the strain now in the UK had never been seen before by science before it was detected in imported shrubs in a Sussex nursery in 2002.
In 2003, it turned up in a handful of oaks, but they seemed to have resistance and the outbreak did not seem to be too worrying. Then last year, taking everyone by surprise, the phytophthora jumped species and rapidly began infecting and killing the commercially important Japanese and European larch trees. It has also been found in several conifer species, including Douglas fir. Now the battle is on to stop it.
“I don’t want to scaremonger, but we are very worried,” said Roddie Burgess, the head of plant health at the Forestry Commission.
A deadly disease described as the “foot and mouth” of trees is wiping out forests across the country.
Trees are under threat from the fungal disease for which there is no known cure Photo: ALAMY
Sudden oak death arrived in Britain from America, where it decimated the oak population, just under a decade ago via imported plants.
In Britain the disease, officially known as phytophthora ramorum, spared oaks and jumped to rhododendrons and Japanese larch trees. In the last year it has taken hold along the west of the country in larch plantations, including more than 120 Forestry Commission sites, 20 National Trust properties and two Woodland Trust reserves.
Already 4 million trees have been felled or marked for destruction.
DURANGO, Colo., Jan. 7 (UPI) — A recent die-off of aspen trees in the U.S. West has swelled the population of rodents that carry a virus that can be deadly to humans, researchers say.
A tree-killing syndrome called sudden aspen decline, which has wiped out swaths of trees across the West in the past decade, has changed the numbers of creatures living around the trees, including some carriers of human disease, ScienceNews.org reported.
Deer mice at hard-hit sites in 2009 were almost three times as likely to carry sin nombre virus, which can be fatal to humans, compared with mice in less-ravaged aspen stands, researchers from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., said.
A leading scientist has come up with a new theory for why leaves produce stunning autumnal colour and then drop.
The leaf is an excretophore, a means of consigning unwanted wastes to the void. This is why plants all drop leaves Photo: ALAMY
Traditional thinking believes that leaves fall as temperatures drop during the autumn, allowing the plant to enter a resting phase and save energy.
But Professor Brian Ford, a scientist, writer and broadcaster, believes leaf drop occurs in order to excrete waste products from the tree.
The president of the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research said: We have long understood the importance of the leaf as the organ of energy capture, through photosynthesis, and of homeostasis, via transpiration.
But the leaf is also an excretophore a means of consigning unwanted wastes to the void. This is why plants all drop leaves.
He found that, shortly before they are shed, levels of potentially harmful components such as tannins and oxalates in leaves increase.
“The levels of heavy metals in abscised leaves are also raised, and they are clearly there to be excreted rather than stored.”
Prof Ford argues that leaves do not simply die when plants run low on water, as plants which live in water, such as water lilies, also shed leaves.
The New York Botanical Garden may be best known for its orchid shows and colorful blossoms, but its researchers are about to lead a global effort to capture DNA from thousands of tree species from around the world.
The Bronx garden is hosting a meeting this week where participants from various countries will lay the groundwork for how the two-year undertaking to catalog some of the Earth’s vast biodiversity will proceed.
The project is known as TreeBOL, or tree barcode of life. As in a similar project under way focusing on the world’s fish species, participants would gather genetic material from trees around the world.
A section of the DNA would be used as a barcode, similar to way a product at the grocery store is scanned to bring up its price. But with plants and animals, the scanners look at the specific order of the four basic building blocks of DNA to identify the species.
The resulting database will help identify many of the world’s existing plant species, where they are located and whether they are endangered. The results are crucial for conservation and protecting the environment as population and development increases, said Damon Little, assistant curator of bioinformatics at the Botanical Garden and coordinator of the project.
(No way that this is only about identifying the species and finding out weather they are endangered or not.
What could a scientist possibly do with DNA?
Why have massive, high level security ‘Doomsday’ Seed Vaults been built just recently?
Just in case you have missed these articles:
African seed collection first to arrive in Norway on route to Arctic seed vault
Maybe, just maybe, could it be that this is more than a coincidence? …and there are no coincidences.
Maybe some of the – socially accepted – most powerful people in the world are expecting a catastrophe of epic proportions. – The Infinite Unknown)Continue reading »