Saturday, August 19, 2006


Sometimes what is not said can be very interesting. The journal abstract below is a case in point. It is allegedly an attempt to explain the increase in wildfires in the USA in recent times. The authors looked at various possible causes but overlooked the really obvious cause -- the onset of Greenie opposition to conventional forestry management techniques -- small preventive burns during winter in particular. Stopping managed burns has simply caused huge uncontrolled summer burns

Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity

By: A. L. Westerling, H. G. Hidalgo, D. R. Cayan, T. W. Swetnam

Western United States forest wildfire activity is widely thought to have increased in recent decades, yet neither the extent of recent changes nor the degree to which climate may be driving regional changes in wildfire has been systematically documented. Much of the public and scientific discussion of changes in western United States wildfire has focused instead on the effects of 19th- and 20th-century land-use history. We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.



But will it get past the Greenies? They routinely oppose crop improvements on one pretext or another

As lifeguards say: If you're in trouble in the water, don't panic -- you'll tire yourself out. Turns out, the same advice works for rice. If submerged, the staple crop for half the world's population will use up energy reserves trying to grow above the water and die in a matter of days. That's a big problem in many parts of Asia, where deep flooding damages an estimated 25 million acres of rice each year.

Now, a team of scientists, including several researchers at the University of California, Davis, has bred a rice that "knows" to save its energy when underwater. It can wait out floods of two weeks or longer. The new breed's special ability also could prove useful in California by giving rice farmers another tool for killing weeds without using herbicide. Most weeds, like most standard varieties of rice, can't survive for long underwater. With the new flood-tolerant rice variety, farmers could drown their weeds without killing their crop.

The submersible rice marks one of the first successful uses of a new plant-breeding method that may someday allow researchers to develop food crops able to withstand not only flooding, but also cold weather, drought, disease and salty soil -- without the use of controversial genetic engineering techniques.

Here's how the flood-tolerant rice knows to stay calm under water: When rice is submerged, the gas ethylene builds up around the plant. In most varieties of rice, ethylene triggers a series of reactions that cause the plant to grow rapidly toward the surface. But if the water is too deep, the rice will exhaust its energy reserves and die before it can reach the water surface. Being underwater inhibits photosynthesis, meaning that the rice plant has a hard time generating more energy for itself.

The new rice variety contains genes that keep the plant from responding to the buildup of ethylene. Instead of growing rapidly, it shuts down for two weeks or more, conserving energy until -- it is hoped -- the water subsides and photosynthesis can start up again. The idea to develop a flood-tolerant rice sprouted about 50 years ago, when researchers realized that a variety grown by farmers in eastern India could survive long periods under water. But it tended to yield only a small amount of poor-quality grain. So plant breeders tried to cross it with higher-yielding rice varieties to create a new, best-of-both-worlds strain.

For decades, though, scientists couldn't manage to breed in the submersible trait without also bringing along the eastern Indian rice's undesirable traits. That's a common problem in plant breeding, said Pam Ronald, a UC Davis plant pathologist who began working on the problem a decade ago. A paper she co-authored describing the rice research appears in the Aug. 10 issue of the scientific journal Nature. "Using traditional breeding, it takes a long time to get rid of the traits that you don't want," she said. Enter the new technique: marker-assisted breeding.

With this method, pioneered by a Cornell University plant scientist, researchers first identify the genetic "fingerprint" of the genes that they'd like to bring from one variety to another. Then, just as in traditional plant breeding, the two varieties are cross-pollinated, producing many offspring. Next, the breeder identifies which of the offspring appears to have the desirable trait, but not the undesirable ones, and then the process is repeated, over and over.

Without the genetic fingerprint, selecting for complex traits is extremely difficult. With the new technique, though, researchers look directly at the DNA of the offspring to determine exactly what has been inherited. "If you can do that in the lab, it's very helpful -- instead of having to flood a rice field 4 feet deep" to see if the offspring resist flooding, said Kent McKenzie, director of the nonprofit Rice Experiment Station in Biggs in Butte County. McKenzie did not work on the submersible rice project. It's similar to what viewers see on the television show "CSI," he said, "where you can apply a (test) and tell how people are related," he said.

Marker-assisted breeding is important because it is considered by most countries to be an extension of conventional plant breeding. So-called genetic engineering is much more controversial. While researchers have used genetic engineering to develop many rice varieties, none is widely planted.

The flood-tolerant genes have been bred into two varieties of rice, one popular with California farmers, the other grown in south Asia. It will likely take several more years of testing before California farmers adopt the new rice, Ronald said. But farmers in India and Bangladesh already are using the Indian variety, said David Mackill, a plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and a former UC Davis professor. Its ultimate success, Mackill said, will depend primarily on whether farmers find its special ability useful, and, of course, whether it tastes good. "When you release a new variety, you just cross your fingers and hope that the farmers will like it," he said.


How Green Is Your Church?

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are commanded to "tend and keep" the Garden of Eden, as well as to "fill the Earth", and "subdue" and "have dominion" over the creation. It is clear that mankind is given a dominant role in the biblical creation, with God's permission to use the Earth's natural resources to serve our needs.

Yet, we now know that it is possible to damage the creation in ways that makes portions of it unfit for further use for many years. Some chemicals we have developed are very hazardous to humans. For instance, the generation and safe storage of nuclear waste from power plants remain challenges. The Earth is marvelously resilient, constantly cleansing our air and water, yet we know from experience that there are limits to this resiliency.

The tension over what constitutes environmental "stewardship" has led to a wide range of opinions within the Christian church on the subject. Some churches have been actively involved in the environmental movement since the 1970's. The concern has been expressed in ways as small as recycling waste, to what can only be called "Earth worship", elevating the value of the creation to a position above that of mankind.

The past several months have had considerable activity in the Christian church on the subject of climate change. On February 1st of this year, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) announced that they would not adopt a position statement on global warming that they had been considering since 2004. The NAE, which claims to represent 30 million church members, noted that there is considerable disagreement within the church regarding the causes and severity of, as well as the responses to, the global warming threat. The NAE decision greatly disappointed environmentalists. Then, later in the month, 86 evangelical leaders calling themselves the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) issued a statement at a press conference that called for action to fight global warming. The ECI claimed that the threat from global warming was greatest for the world's poor, and so Christians must be involved in the issue. The diverse approaches represented by the positions of the NAE and ECI illustrate the wide range of views within the church on the subject of global warming.

Meanwhile, a new group calling itself the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) has joined the fray by calling for prudence in how the global warming threat is approached. The ISA, in which I participate, tries to point out that the biggest threat to the poor is, not surprisingly, poverty. Inexpensive forms of energy are required for the poor of the world to have just the basic necessities of life (clean water, refrigerated food, etc.). The ISA believes that approaches to fighting global warming that end up making energy more expensive will actually hurt the poor before the poor ever become aware of climate change. We adhere to the "Cornwall Declaration", which folds in the economic realities that must be considered before one can truly 'help the poor' without doing more harm than good.

Indeed, the developed world has made itself relatively immune from most of nature's threats through advanced technologies in home construction, heating and cooling, refrigeration, medicines, transportation, agriculture, and a wide variety of modern amenities that we take for granted. Would you rather live where the women spend most of their day walking great distances to carry water, firewood, and dung home so that food can be prepared in a smoke-filled hut, where everyone then breathes in a variety of life-threatening contaminants? This is how much of the undeveloped world lives.

Now, as a result of the recent heat wave in the eastern U.S., Pat Robertson has joined those who consider manmade global warming to be a serious problem, even though the country has experienced higher temperatures in the 1920's and 1930's. It seems to be human nature for people that experience some perceived weather change over their lifetime to think that the change is not only real, but is part of a long-term trend. Even James Hansen has admitted that the global warming signal is still not big enough to reliably discern in the presence of natural climate variability.

All Christians are united in the belief that the poor should be helped. But in today's world, with a global economy, what constitutes 'help' can be muddy. Sending millions of dollars in aid to an African country where most of the funds are siphoned off to help keep a tyrant in power is one illustration of the complexities involved in simple applications of Christian charity. Farm subsidies in the United States have the unintended consequence of making the price of produce in poor countries uncompetitive, perpetuating poverty in those countries.

Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining -- given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions -- what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the "Copenhagen Consensus", with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.

As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to "help the world's poor", it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.


Australian farmers campaign to reverse knee-jerk Greenie bans

Farmers in the Nyngan, Cobar and Tottenham districts of western NSW are celebrating a win in their campaign to sway public opinion about the clearing of native invasive scrub in order to have native vegetation regulations changed. A national current affairs television program aired a story filmed in the far west yesterday morning which challenged claims by green groups that land clearing is damaging the environment.

The chairman of the Regional Community Survival Group, Doug Menzies, says it was a real victory for farmers. "I think it should go a long way to debunking the myth that western New South Wales or the so-called hot spot for clearing in western New South Wales is not tearing the environment apart or anything and quite the contrary, in fact," Mr Menzies said.

The Opposition spokesman on Natural Resources, Adrian Piccoli, says he is hoping the revelations about flaws in land clearing policy will mean a return to science-based decisions. He says locking up land that is now being invaded by woody weeds was driven by emotion because the Labor Government has had to mould policy to secure Green preferences. Mr Piccoli says the story on the Sunday program has now taken the debate to a wide metropolitan audience. "Farmers have had a lot of difficulty getting the message across to the media about the good things that some of those farm practices achieve and what are some of the negative consequences of current government policy," he said. "I think the Sunday program illustrated that this sentimental notion that you can just lock up areas of land and it will return to some sort of pristine environment is not in fact correct."

Mr Menzies says his group will maintain its community-funded PR campaign until next year's state election. "I think it's going to take us a little while, the Greenies have been working on this for 30 years so we're not going to catch up overnight," he said. "But we've got to keep plugging, keep telling the truth, you know, we've got problems that we can demonstrate but that's something the other side doesn't have, they've got to rely on rhetoric and nonsense."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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