Warming climate disrupts Alaska natives' lives

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
By Yereth Rosen, Reuters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anyone who doubts the gravity of global warming should ask Alaska's Eskimo, Indian and Aleut elders about the dramatic changes to their land and the animals on which they depend.

Native leaders say that salmon are increasingly susceptible to warm-water parasites and suffer from lesions and strange behavior. Salmon and moose meat have developed odd tastes and the marrow in moose bones is weirdly runny, they say.

Arctic pack ice is disappearing, making food scarce for sea animals and causing difficulties for the Natives who hunt them. It is feared that polar bears, to name one species, may disappear from the Northern hemisphere by mid-century.

As trees and bushes march north over what was once tundra, so do beavers, and they are damming new rivers and lakes to the detriment of water quality and possibly salmon eggs.

Still, to the frustration of Alaska Natives, many politicians in the lower 48 U.S. states deny that global warming is occurring or that a warmer climate could cause problems.

"They obviously don't live in the Arctic," said Patricia Cochran, executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission. The Anchorage-based commission, funded by the National Science Foundation, has been gathering information for years on Alaska's thawing conditions.

The climate changes are disrupting traditional food gathering and cultures, said Larry Merculieff, an Aleut leader from the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.

Indigenous residents of the far north are finding it increasingly difficult to explain the natural world to younger generations. "As species go down, the levels of connection between older and younger go down along with that," Merculieff said at a recent Anchorage conference.

Safety Affected

Climate and weather changes even affect human safety, said Orville Huntington, vice chairman of the Alaska Native Science Commission.

"It looks like winter out there, but if you've really been around a long time like me, it's not winter," said Huntington, an Athabascan Indian from the interior Alaska village of Huslia. "If you travel that ice, it's not the ice that we traveled 40 years ago."

River ice, long used for travel in enterior Alaska, is thinner and less dependable than it used to be.

Global warming is believed to result from pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, which trap the Earth's radiant heat and create a greenhouse effect. The warming is more dramatic in polar latitudes because cold air is dry, allowing greenhouse gases to trap more solar radiation. Even a modest rise in temperature can thaw the glaciers and permafrost that cover much of Alaska.

There is no question that global warming is having pronounced effects in Alaska, said Gunter Weller, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research.

Average temperatures in Alaska are up about 5 degrees Fahrenheit from three decades ago, and about twice that during winter, said Weller, who also heads the Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the university.

That causes serious problems not only for rural Natives who live off the land but for major industries and for public structures, he said.

Most of Alaska's highways run over permafrost that is now rapidly thawing, meaning maintenance headaches for state officials. The thaw has already caused increased maintenance costs for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which uses special vertical supports for suspension over the tundra.

If the plight of Alaska Natives does not get politicians' attention, then the economic toll should, Weller said.

He cited the cost — estimated at over $100 million — of moving Shishmaref, an Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's northwestern coastline, to more stable ground. The village of 600 is on the verge of tumbling into the Bering Sea because of severe erosion resulting from thawed permafrost and the absence of sea ice to protect the coastline from high storm waves.

Along with Shishmaref, there are about 20 Alaska villages that are candidates for relocation because of severe erosion, with similar costs, Weller said.

Alaska's economy has already suffered from the permafrost thaw, said Robert Corell, chairman of the international Arctic Climate Impact Assessment committee.

The hard-frozen conditions needed to support ice roads around the North Slope oil fields now exist for only about 100 days a year, he pointed out. Thirty years ago, oil companies could use ice roads for about 200 days of the year, he said.

Source: Reuters


Erfolgsbedingungen Neuer Sozialer Bewegungen heute


"Erfolgsbedingungen Neuer Sozialer Bewegungen heute"
mit Prof. Roland Roth (Berlin/Magdeburg)

Bremen, Gästehaus der Universität Bremen, Am Teerhof 58
Samstag, 8. Mai von 14.30 bis 18.00 Uhr

Tausende bei den Castor-Transporten nach Gorleben, Hunderttausende in Genua, Florenz, Porto Allegre oder Mumbay bei den Demonstrationen und Versammlungen der GlobalisierungskritikerInnen, Millionen weltweit auf den Straßen gegen den Irak-Krieg, Gründung von Sozialforen in vielen Städten, RentnerInnen-Demos gegen Sozialabbau und Ziviler Ungehorsam gegen Gentechnik - wir erleben derzeit eine neue Welle sozialer Bewegungen: viele Menschen sehen ihre Interessen von den etablierten Formen der Politik nicht mehr vertreten und suchen nach Formen des Protests und der politischen Artikulation. Soziale Bewegungen waren schon immer ein Motor gesellschaftlichen und politischen Wandels.

Ob BürgerInnenrechte, Umweltschutz oder Frieden - es waren soziale Bewegungen, die diese Anliegen oftmals gegen große Widerstände auf die Tagesordnung setzten und gesellschaftliche Veränderungen bewirkt haben. Das bedeutet aber nicht, dass ihre Geschichte eine durchgängige Erfolgsstory ist. Auch wenn soziale Bewegungen gelegentlich schnelle und spektakuläre Erfolge erzielen, scheitern sie mindestens ebenso oft beim Erreichen ihrer Ziele. So stellt sich die Frage, wann und warum soziale Bewegungen besonders erfolgreich waren oder sind.

Wir haben den Bewegungsforscher Prof. Roland Roth von der FH Magdeburg-Stendal gebeten, uns zur Frage nach den "Erfolgsbedingungen Neuer Sozialer Bewegungen heute" im Rahmen einer Theorie-Praxis-Werkstatt aktuelle Erkenntnisse und Thesen aus der Sozialen Bewegungsforschung vorzustellen.

Exemplarisch werden im Anschluss einige Aktive aus Sozialen Bewegungen über Gründe von Erfolgen und Misserfolgen berichten und damit einen lebendigen gemeinsamen Austausch über und zwischen Theorie und Praxis sozialer Bewegungen einleiten.

Die Theorie-Praxis-Werkstatt findet am Samstag 8. Mai von 14.30 bis 18.00 Uhr im Gästehaus "Teerhof" der Universität Bremen, statt.
//www.gaestehaus.uni-bremen.de/ght.html .

Am Abend laden wir zu einem gemütlichen Ausklang mit den Veranstaltern im Centre Pertho, Am Schwarzen Meer 16-18 in Bremen ein.


Archiv Aktiv e.V.

Auswertungen und Anregungen für gewaltfreie Bewegungen
Sternschanze 1, 20357 Hamburg, Tel. 040-430 20 46,
info@archiv-aktiv.org, //www.archiv-aktiv.de

Das Archiv Aktiv verfügt über eine in Deutschland einzigartige Quellensammlung zur Geschichte organisierter gewaltfreier Aktion. Das Archiv Aktiv versteht sich als Bewegungsgedächtnis und will konstruktive Impulse zur Fortentwicklung der gewaltfreien Bewegung geben.

Bewegungsakademie e.V., Artilleriestr. 6, 27283 Verden an der Aller
Tel: 04231/957-595, Fax: -400
info@bewegungsakademie.de //www.bewegungsakademie.de

Die Bewegungsakademie versteht sich als Ideengeber für soziale Bewegungen und will diese durch Seminare, Workshops und Tagungen unterstützen. Sie ist in Verden (Aller) bei Bremen ansässig und wird getragen von einem Team, das selbst in zahlreichen Kampagnen, Aktionen und Projekten engagiert ist bzw. diese mit aufgebaut und unterstützt hat. Dazu zählen Attac Deutschland,die Kampagnen " X-tausendmal quer", "resist - Sich dem Irak-Krieg widersetzen!" oder "Gewaltspirale durchbrechen".

Prof. Dr. Roland Roth, geb. 1949, lehrt Politikwissenschaft an der FH Magdeburg-Stendal, Mitarbeit im Arbeitsausschuss des "Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie", langjähriges Mitglied der "links"-Redaktion und des Archiv Aktiv in Hamburg. Aktuelle Forschungsschwerpunkte: Soziale Proteste, Neue Soziale Bewegungen, Citizenship, Kommunen im Globalisierungsprozess.

In Kooperation mit Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier und Dr. Lothar Probst, Institut für Politikwissenschaft an der Universität Bremen.

Administration Censorship and Manipulation of Science Ongoing

April 20, 2004

Scientists Rebut Administration Response to Report on Its Abuse of Scientific Integrity

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) //www.ucsusa.org released a point-by-point rebuttal yesterday to an April 2 White House statement defending the Bush Administration against claims of widespread manipulation of science and egregious conflicts of interest in policymaking.

The White House statement, issued by John H. Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, came in response to a February 18 UCS report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, signed by 62 of the nation's preeminent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates. But the Marburger statement, according to UCS, lacked any substantive arguments, included inaccurate statements, and sidestepped several important issues.

"The White House document fails to refute the serious allegations that the Bush Administration has engaged in activities that undermine scientific integrity in policy making," concludes the 13-page UCS analysis. "It is unfortunate that the administration is not taking the concerns of the scientific community seriously, as these issues have significant consequences for the public's health and well-being."[1]

The UCS document analyzes the White House defense of charges that it is manipulating science in areas such as climate change; mercury emissions; air pollution; abstinence-only education; breast cancer; HIV/AIDS; airborne bacteria; Iraq's aluminum tubes; endangered species; forest management; peer review; workplace safety and childhood lead exposure. A full copy of the report can be seen at //www.ucsusa.org .

"UCS stands by the findings and conclusions of its report," the analysis states, repeating the scientists' initial conclusion that the White House "frequently attempted to undermine scientific integrity" when "scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals."

For example, the White House document simply dismisses as "false" a UCS allegation that the Bush Administration tried to "force revisions to the climate change section of the Environmental Protection Agency's draft Report on the Environment," a document designed to explain government decision-making to the American public.

But the UCS has ample evidence of the administration's efforts to do so, including a leaked EPA memo, published statements by then-EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman (who opted to remove the climate change section entirely rather than print the distorted version), and a front-page story that ran in the New York Times.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly tried to introduce uncertainty into the area of climate change science, the UCS analysis found, even though the world's leading scientists long ago agreed that human activities -- notably those that produce greenhouse gas emissions -- are largely responsible for the recent warming of Earth's surface temperature. In fact, the analysis points out, President Bush himself explained the process of human-caused climate change in great detail during a June 11, 2001 Rose Garden speech -- but has repeatedly backed away from those statements since then.

"In the absence of a constructive, and candid response from this administration, it is left to scientific associations and scientists, members of Congress, the media, and others to further pursue these allegations of abuse of scientific input to policymaking, and to press for institutional and legislative reforms aimed at preventing such abuses by future administrations," the analysis concludes.

[1] "Analysis of White House Claims," Union of Concerned Scientists, Apr. 19, 2004.


By Debora MacKenzie
New Scientist
April 19, 2004


For years, apparent increases in illness among marine creatures, from whales to coral, have left marine scientists with the uneasy suspicion that the seas are increasingly plagued by disease. Now, US researchers have uncovered the first good evidence that they are right.

In 1998, a dozen of the world's top experts on diseases of marine animals warned that sea creatures seemed to be getting sick more often, with more diseases.

New viruses had appeared in whales and seals, while corals were dying of fungal and algal infections. Pilchards succumbed to viruses and an aggressive parasite expanded its range to attack commercial oysters, scallops and clams. In the Caribbean, some unknown bacteria wiped out what had been the dominant sea urchin.

But there was no way to tell if the apparent increase was simply due to more scientists paying more attention to marine disease. There was no baseline, as no one had ever measured disease incidence in any of these species decades ago.

Now, Jessica Ward, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has shed important new light on the problem by looking at how the number of reports of marine diseases in nine different groups of marine creatures has changed in the scientific literature since 1970.

"We wanted to find out if something was actually happening," Ward told New Scientist. "For most groups of organisms, we found that yes, there is something going on out there. Now we hope more people will try and figure out where it is coming from."

True incidence

Ward, with Kevin Lafferty, of the University of California in Santa Barbara, first tested whether changing numbers of scientific reports of rabies in US raccoons matched the true incidence of the disease, which is known independently. They matched, suggesting more scientific reports really do mean more disease.

The pair further tested the relationship by removing the most prolific laboratory from the publications they collected for each group of marine creatures -- just in case increased reporting reflected only one scientist's funding success. This did not change any apparent disease trends. Neither did taking out multiple papers on one well-reported disease event, such as the Caribbean urchin die-off.

So using scientific reports as a measure, Ward and Lafferty found that disease has increased in turtles, corals, marine mammals, urchins, and molluscs such as oysters.

Illness seems to have remained steady in the shark and shrimp families, and in seagrasses. Surprisingly, disease reports have diminished for fish.

Easy prey

There are numerous possible reasons for rising disease. One, Ward suggests, is increasing sea surface temperatures due to global warming. This can cause corals to bleach, making them easier prey for infections.

Warming has also led to the northward spread of the oyster parasite Perkinsus. And warming is thought to accelerate the growth of tumours in turtles caused by a herpes virus.

Another possible factor is that human over-fishing has destabilised marine ecosystems. For example, when the urchins in the Caribbean died, corals were overwhelmed by the algae the urchins used to eat. "Normally fish would have eaten the algae instead, but they weren't there," says Ward.

Other suggested causes include:
  • new pathogens from domestic animals, such as dog distemper virus and the parasite Toxoplasma
  • bioaccumulation of toxins weakening marine mammals' immunity
  • new species carried across oceans in ships' ballast tanks introducing new diseases
In the face of all this, the apparent health of fish is intriguing. Ward says this could be because the fish are simply fewer in number. Many pathogens die out among animals that are not packed densely enough to pass the infection on. But it is also possible, she says, that the frequency of disease is just as bad or worse -- but fewer fish mean fewer observations, and fewer reports.

Journal reference: PLoS Biology (vol 2, p 542)

Informant: NHNE


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