Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.

Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.

Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.

In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade.

“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher,” the authors write. “It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”

Source: Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.

Source: U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times

On its 60th anniversary, the civilian age of nuclear power in America appears to be almost over. But with the country awash in radioactive waste and plutonium stockpiled for warheads, the task of managing this atomic legacy grows ever more urgent. Opening a long-delayed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is imperative.

President Dwight Eisenhower formally opened America’s first commercial nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on May 26, 1958. He declared it would “put the atom to work for the good of mankind, not his destruction.” His nuclear cheerleader, Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had promised power “too cheap to meter.”

Today, with cheap gas and falling prices for wind and solar energy, nuclear power is often now too expensive to sell. Six plants closed from 2013 to 2017. At least seven more — from the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey to the Diablo Canyon plant in California — have been earmarked for final shutdown, often years before their operating licenses expire. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants don’t cover their operating costs, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Source: Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times


Callan report can be found here. [PDF]

Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

Repair cafes. What a brilliant idea!

We were at a “repair cafe” inside the Elkridge Library in Howard County, Maryland. Instead of silence, we were surrounded by the buzzing of power drills and the whirring of sewing machines. Goedeke was one of the “master fixers” there. He doesn’t like the term, though; he says it should be reserved for the professionals. “We’re all just amateurs at this, and we’re just having fun, mostly,” the 67-year-old retired engineer said.

Around the room, 10 others were helping residents repair everything from tables and lamps to jewelry and clothing. In one corner, a handful of vacuums had begun to accumulate. These were things people normally threw away when they malfunction. “[Our society] has been inculcated in the last 50 years with this disposable concept and to buy the best and the latest,” Goedeke said. “We just don’t expect to keeps things around.”

Source: Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

Terrifying accounts of escape from the California Camp Fire.

The fire caught up to Jolly on Pearson Road, blasting her car with heat. She reached for the stethoscope slung around her neck and flinched as the metal burned. Her steering wheel was melting — the plastic stuck to her hands.

As her car caught fire and began to fill with black smoke, she called her husband. “Run,” he told her.

Jolly fled for safety to the car ahead of hers, but it too was abandoned. She ran on.The rubber on her shoes melted into the asphalt. The back of her scrubs caught fire, blistering her legs. She tried another car, but it wasn’t moving.

“I can’t die like this,” she told herself. “There’s no way I’m going to die sitting in a car. I have to run.”

Source: California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

Source: ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

Jailbirds: Scooters and Sidewalks

Bird Scooter


As most residents are now aware, a few weeks ago the city of Raleigh become one of the few lucky (?) municipalities to get rentable electric scooters. These scooters (mostly of the Bird brand at this point) have been zipping merry residents from one end of town to the other for a small fee. While many are pleased that this new mobility choice has possibly decreased the number of car trips, others have pointed to the dockless nature of the scooters and how this inevitably leads to the scooters blocking sidewalks.

The City Council has not yet weighed in on the legality of scooters making their home on the sidewalks without having first been given official permission. Thus, they are operating in kind of a gray area. I decided to look into the Raleigh Municipal Code to see what laws we have on the books regarding sidewalks and motor vehicles.

It didn’t take long to find the relevant section in the Raleigh Municipal Code (and conveniently linked to from the links page of my EastRaleigh.Org website – I am awesome). Emphasis is mine:

Sec. 11-2171. – PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES.

(a) Obstructing traffic.

It shall be unlawful for any person to stop, stand or park any motor vehicle upon a street , or alley, in such manner or under such conditions as to obstruct the free movement of vehicular traffic, except that a driver may stop temporarily during the actual unloading of passengers or when necessary to obey traffic regulations or signs or signals, or signals of a police officer .

(b) Designated places.

No person shall stop, stand or park a motor vehicle (attended or unattended) except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device in any of the following places:

(1) On a sidewalk, in the area between the roadway and the sidewalk, in the area between the right-of-way line and the roadway or in the median area of a divided roadway

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Accelerating the throw-away society

Massive insulated bag for a bag of candy

Watched as a UPS driver wrestled with a heavy “meal delivery” box last week. Then today this bag of candy got delivered to the office. I was aghast. In both cases, 99% is wasteful packaging, ice packs and insulation blankets that go in the trash so here’s what I suggest:

1. Want a fancy meal? Cook it or eat out.
2. Want candy? Buy it at your local store.

Convenience is killing us, y’all.

Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

According to these numbers, a single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as thirty-one U.S. households use in one day. Insanity.

Bitcoin electricty consumption

The continuous block mining cycle incentivizes people all over the world to mine Bitcoin. As mining can provide a solid stream of revenue, people are very willing to run power-hungry machines to get a piece of it. Over the years this has caused the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin network to grow to epic proportions, as the price of the currency reached new highs. The entire Bitcoin network now consumes more energy than a number of countries, based on a report published by the International Energy Agency. If Bitcoin was a country, it would rank as shown below.

Source: Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

Raleigh charities signed off on Simple Recycling deal

I’m still poking through all the meeting notes, but I thought it notable that the local Salvation Army signed off on the deal when it was presented to Raleigh City Council at its 3 January 2017 meeting. From Council minutes: [PDF]

Lisa Rivers, Salvation Army Advisory Board, told about herself, work she has done and stated she and the Salvation Army Advisory Board are huge advocates of the proposed program. They feel it would be cost efficient, provide positive environmental impacts, etc. Ms. Rivers pointed out she is on the committee which looks for/receives donations and feels the proposed program will actually increase the donations many nonprofits receive. She stated most people who donate do not consider their donations “trash.” She feels the proposed program is a great opportunity for all and feels it will create a lot of awareness related to needs, donations, be a great thing, and
be much more effective and provide a return for all. It is a great opportunity and will provide a great partnership.

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