Humans needs to change course to stay within planetary boundaries

Scientists warn the 'Earth system' is deteriorating and people are to blame

Scientists warn the ‘Earth system’ is deteriorating and people are to blame

Humans are the prime driver of the deteriorating “Earth System,” says an international research team that is calling for a change in trajectory.

“The only state of the planet that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies is now being destabilized,” says the report, published Thursday by the journal Science.

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Mercury levels rising in expanse around Alberta oilsands

Environment Canada research scientist Jane Kirk collects snow samples near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The snow may look pristine but it can contain traces of toxins. PHOTO: RODNEY MCINNIS/ENVIRONMENT CANADA

Environment Canada research scientist Jane Kirk collects snow samples near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The snow may look pristine but it can contain traces of toxins.

Published December 29, 2013

Mercury wafting out of oilsands operations is impacting an area – or “bull’s-eye” — that extends for about 19,000 square kilometres in northeast Alberta, according to federal scientists.

Levels of the potent neurotoxin found near the massive industrial operation have been found to be up to 16 times higher than “background” levels for the region, says Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk, who recently reported the findings at an international toxicology conference.

Mercury can bioaccumulate in living creatures and chronic exposure can cause brain damage. It is such a concern that Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq signed an international treaty in October pledging Canada to further reduce releases to the environment. Continue reading

Plastic Planet _ Declare worst offenders hazardous

Stork in a plastic bag ~JOHNCANCALOSI/NATUREPL.COM

Stork in a plastic bag ~JOHNCANCALOSI/NATUREPL.COM

February 18, 2013

Despite efforts to reduce and recycle plastic, the planet is still awash with wayward wrappers, bottles and bags.

Almost half of the world’s marine animals and a fifth of its seabirds are at risk of becoming entangled or eating the stuff, prompting ecologists to call for the worst plastics to be declared hazardous materials.

Without action, the international group estimates, the planet could have another 33 billion tonnes of plastic by 2050. That would fill 2.75 billion garbage trucks, enough to wrap around the planet 800 times if lined up end to end, the researchers say in a commentaryin the current issue of the journal Nature.

“This could be reduced to just four billion tonnes if the most problematic plastics are classified as hazardous immediately and replaced with safer, reusable materials in the next decade,” they say.

Industry officials were quick to call the idea “neither justified nor helpful” saying plastic debris is better tackled through more research and “public-private partnerships.”

The ecologists say the physical dangers of plastic debris are “well enough established” and the chemical dangers “sufficiently worrying” to warrant regulatory action now. Continue reading

Lake Toxins Tied to Oilsands

oilsands - smol

Alberta’s oilsands operations ~ Queen’s/Environment Canada photo

Story published Jan 8, 2013, A1 Calgary Herald

Margaret Munro, Postmedia News; With Files From Dan Healing, Calgary Herald.

Leading federal and academic scientists have uncovered “compelling” evidence that Alberta’s oilsands operations have been sending toxins into the atmosphere for decades.

The team has found “striking” increases in contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the bottom of six lakes up to 90 kilometres from the massive oilsands operations in northeastern Alberta.

“Industry’s role as a decades-long contributor of PAHs to oilsands lake ecosystems is now clearly evident,” the team reports in a study published Monday in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Federal scientists uncover evidence that oilsands contaminants travel further than expected

Published November 13, 2012

Federal scientists report polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are building up in lake sediments up to 100 kilometres from the oilsands operations. PHOTO: POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

By Margaret Munro

Postmedia News

UNDATED – Federal scientists have uncovered evidence that contaminants wafting out Alberta’s oilsands operations are collecting on the bottom of remote lakes up to 100 kilometres away.

The chemical “legacy” in the lake sediments indicates that oilsands pollution is travelling further than expected and has been for decades.

“The footprint of the deposition is potentially larger than we might have anticipated,” says Derek Muir, a senior Environment Canada scientist, who will present the findings Wednesday at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. where the oilsands are a hot topic. Continue reading

Plenty of plastics in Canada’s Arctic birds

Mar 6 2011

By Margaret Munro
Postmedia News

When biologist Jennifer Provencher headed to the Arctic, she signed on to help assess how seabird diets are changing as temperatures climb in the North.

She never expected to find plastics on the menu. But she and her colleagues at the Canadian Wildlife Service are pulling remarkable amounts of trash from birds in some of the remotest spots on Earth.

Fulmars are strong flyers that skim the surface swallowing tasty tidbits, and 84 per cent of the ones the researchers examined from two Arctic colonies had plastics in their guts. Continue reading