90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers | World Economic Forum

Workers clear garbage at the bank of Yangtze River in Taicang, Jiangsu province, China, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. - RC1EC841D900

The world has become increasingly alarmed at the amount of plastic in its oceans. But where does all this plastic waste come from?

Source: 90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers | World Economic Forum

Here’s a hint: not from us.

Not if by “us” is meant the United States, or the West in general.

Plastic in the ocean is a major problem. As this article points out, “more than 8 million tons of it ends up in the ocean every year. If we continue to pollute at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.”

That is not just hype, and it is not something we should take lightly, especially if we care at all about this good Earth and its future (not to mention our future, on it). But here’s the thing: plastic straws in California – or anywhere else in the U.S. – are not the problem. We are not, by and large, the problem.

That’s not to say we couldn’t be doing a better job of disposing of (or, preferably, recycling) our plastic waste than we are; but for the most part, we’re not doing badly. So where does all that plastic waste come from?

Asia, primarily, and Africa.

According to the World Economic Forum, and recounted in the linked article and elsewhere, 80% of the plastic waste that makes it into the world’s oceans gets there via ten rivers: eight of them in Asia (including the storied Ganges and the Indus in India, and the Yangtze and Yellow in China), and two (the Nile and Tiber) in Africa.

Interestingly, this story came out this past summer. But how much attention has it received from the mainstream press? Little to none. Continue reading “90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers | World Economic Forum”

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Diminishing solar activity may bring new Ice Age by 2030 – Astronomy Now

In this 1677 painting by Abraham Hondius, "The Frozen Thames, looking Eastwards towards Old London Bridge," people are shown enjoying themselves on the ice. In 17th century there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40-50 thousand recorded. Image credit: Museum of London.
In this 1677 painting by Abraham Hondius, “The Frozen Thames, looking Eastwards towards Old London Bridge,” people are shown enjoying themselves on the ice. In the 17th century there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots recorded instead of the usual 40-50 thousand. Image credit: Museum of London.

The arrival of intense cold similar to the one that raged during the “Little Ice Age”, which froze the world during the 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century, is expected in the years 2030—2040.

Source: Diminishing solar activity may bring new Ice Age by 2030 – Astronomy Now

Note: that’s the arrival! It may last a good bit longer. Here’s a fuller excerpt:

“The arrival of intense cold similar to the one that raged during the ‘Little Ice Age,’ which froze the world during the 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century, is expected in the years 2030—2040. These conclusions were presented by Professor V. Zharkova (Northumbria University) during the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno in Wales by the international group of scientists, which also includes Dr Helen Popova of the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics and of the Faculty of Physics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, Professor Simon Shepherd of Bradford University and Dr Sergei Zharkov of Hull University.”

That the climate is changing is obvious. That it is also warming, at least for now – despite cold snaps such as the one we’re currently going through! – and at least in some areas, is also obvious to those who consider, for example, the recession of glaciers that revealed “Otzi, the Iceman” in the Alps, or the dramatic shrinking of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, just in the 35 or so years since I was there with my parents in the early 1980s. And of course, we have – I believe – both an ethical and a religious obligation to care for this good Earth which God has given us, to the best of our ability.

That said, there is a clearly political agenda driving a lot of the climate change / global warming hysteria these days, which causes me to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye in that direction. And it is not, regardless of what its proponents say, “settled science”: for one thing, there is no such thing! It may be (currently) the majority opinion, but so was the Ptolemaic cosmology, for a couple of thousand years – to cite but one example, among many. Science, if it is doing its job correctly, is always open to new information, and new interpretations.

Secondly, there are competent scientists who hold a contrary view, even if they are fewer in number than the global warming proponents, at the present time. One of those is the aforementioned Dr. Helen Popova, who writes,

“There is no strong evidence, that global warming is caused by human activity. The study of deuterium in the Antarctic showed that there were five global warmings and four Ice Ages for the past 400 thousand years. People [e.g., anatomically modern humans] first appeared on the Earth about 60 thousand years ago. However, even if human activities influence the climate, we can say, that the Sun with the new minimum gives humanity more time or a second chance to reduce their industrial emissions and to prepare, when the Sun will return to normal activity.”

This does not mean we should be careless, complacent, or inconsiderate to our fellow-creatures or the planetary home we share! Even if we are only contributing, to some extent, to what is primarily a process that’s much bigger than us, we should be cautious and considerate in our actions, and many of the proposed remedies for global warming can be defended on other grounds. But it does suggest that we should be a bit more reticent about claiming either credit or blame for the whole thing! Despite human hubris, this may be another example of a truth of which it is salutary to remind ourselves, from time to time: it’s not all about us.

Note: the “Little Ice Age” actually began around 1450, and lasted until around 1850, peaking (naturally) at c. 1650. But we have been warming from it for only a bit over 150 years. It’s not surprising, therefore, that temperatures have been climbing during that period! Also the first thermometers were invented between 1593 (a rudimentary water thermometer, by Galileo Galilei) and 1714 (the mercury thermometer, by Gabriel Fahrenheit) – again, right around the peak of the “Little Ice Age,” or Maunder Minimum. So it has literally been warming pretty much ever since the thermometer has existed! The psychological effects of this should not be underestimated.