Bare Bones Biology 114 – Great Aridness

Formula books, I have called them; I don’t read them. Sometimes I buy them, if I think the cause is worthy, and I skim through, or even give them to other people, but I do not sit down and read, like I would with a serious book, written well to illustrate factually and emotionally accurate truths.

Formula books may not lie, but they do not tell you the whole circle of truth, and of course that’s one reason they are so popular. Just like the rest of the corposystem, they tell you something that you want to hear, and try not to think about the parts you would rather believe don’t exist. For example there are formula books about organic farming that pretend we could save ourselves, very simply, if everyone would turn his or her hand to a backyard organic garden. Very simply, that is not true. And even though I believe strongly in organic gardening, and I do wish everyone would turn his or her hand and pocket book and political will to promoting organic gardening – I also think we need to hear the whole sorry truth about our human tragedy and our current biological dilemma. Otherwise, how can we deal with it?

The solutions are not simple, and even though the modern formula book may be meticulously honest and accurate, it cannot tell the true story if it is so closely focused on setting down facts in simple, precise, decisive, linear outline, in words of few syllables, that it fails to discuss background, repercussions, and long-term implications from the point of view both of human realities, comparative emotional perspectives, and of unchangeable facts. If I could do that – I can see it, but I can’t say it — but I don’t need to do it for this case study, nor could I do it as well as it has been done by William deBuys.

Recently I told you of a book that I have read cover to cover (or at least I will have by the time you read this. If all goes well.). A Great Aridness, by William deBuys.

Wm deBuys is an author and historian who addresses the reality of climate change without rancor, bias or hyperbole, as though it were just what it is, a complex story of human kind. A sad story of human compassion and frailty as well as heroism, dedication and responsibility. A story that has much to teach us. I heard his excellent talk at Upaya, and I thought: “This guy really gets it.” I mean both the human and the biological dilemmas.

And so, a few days later – I’m telling you a true story here — Bitsy and I really did climb into our old pickup to chug to the top of one of the highest occupied places in North America, and I really did take the above picture along the way, to interview Wm duBuys.

Following is an excerpt from our conversation. Someone else should interview this man, someone who has more than five minutes for talking. Oh, yes, fortunately Mrs. Green has done that, and the podcast is available. In Mrs. Green’s opinion:

“When you put (climate change) in the political arena I don’t understand why it polarizes people. It’s the one thing that could unite our country to focus on the planet and the health of the earth. There’s no down side to that, and it’s not political. Why are we fighting about this?” (www.MrsGreensWorld podcast 05-12-12_DuBuysMiraval.mp3)

I hope Alise will also catch Bill for an interview on Rethinking Green KEOS FM, 98.1 before he leaves the country to begin research on his next book. Here is Bare Bones Biology’s KEOS interview:

“(LL) The research in your book shows that there’s evidence of the impact of humans on the ecosystem for thousands of years in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. People have been influencing the climate for as long as we know about. So now we have a big deal about climate change. My question is, what’s the big deal?

“(WD) Well the big deal is that civilization has only known one climate, and that’s the climate that we’re losing now. The amount of temperature change predicted for this century is roughly equal to the temperature changes between the ice ages and the present. But when the transition from the ice ages took thousands of years to accomplish, we’re now embarking into a century that’s going to see the same amount of change in a tiny period of time. Basically, human civilization has only known the climate of the Holocene, the climate that has nourished earth for the past several thousand years. We’re on the verge of losing that bracket of conditions, and plunging into a new epoch which many geologists have termed the anthropocene because it is man shaped. So that’s a very, very scary prospect, if you value our way of life today, if you value the dependence of human society on existing agriculture and the systems that keep us going.

“(LL) Why is it scary?

“(WD) Well if you rachet up the heat, basically if people in Texas, say, didn’t feel that the intense heat wave and drought of last summer, if they didn’t feel that was a wakeup call, then they’re really not paying attention. What we’re talking about with climate change is moving into a period of time when that kind of heat wave, that kind of drought, becomes normal, and additional heat waves and additional droughts are superimposed on it. The drought in Texas and Oklahoma last summer was unprecedentedly severe. Climate scientists are now saying that drought, because it doesn’t have in its intensity, clear precedents in recent centuries, that drought was by all indications caused by anthropogenic climate change. So if you don’t mind living under those conditions, and watching what those conditions do to the landscape around you, climate change shouldn’t be scary for you, but if you didn’t like it that way, you should be concerned. The Texas Department of Forestry estimates that between 2% and 10% of all the trees in Texas died last summer. The range is pretty wide because the count is imprecise, but if dry conditions persist through this year, the cumulative effect of the drought will probably lead to an even greater die-off. So this is a very large portion of the ecosystem of the State of Texas that died off in one year.

“(LL) So what should be our take-away message if we want to react positively to this serious situation?

“(WD) Well, the take-away message is that we need to begin, with all the energy we can muster, to shift from a carbon based, fossil fuel economy. We probably need to have a carbon tax. Although that’s politically a very, very tall order, and we need to change how we structure the use of energy in our society. This will be a great transformation, and actually encompasses a lot of economic opportunities. It could be a positive thing. It would be a positive thing for the United States, and for the rest of the world.”

That’s the end of the transcript. Five minutes is so short, at least two questions remain to be explained. First, what has the carbon tax and the carbon-based economy got to do with climate change? If you want to understand why carbon is important, you will need to understand some basic biology that you might find in previous editions of Bare Bones Biology. You can read them by flipping back on this blog, or listen to them at The climate change series begins with Bare Bones Biology 093 and ends at Bare Bones Biology 100. Or for a small donation to cover costs I will send you a CD containing both the podcasts and the blog posts for each of these BBBs.

If you don’t want to do that, here’s the shortest possible version of the carbon message to all of life on earth. We can’t live without energy, because energy is the ability to do work. Work is basically anything that moves, and without that, of course, there would be no life and no us. On this earth, all of our energy for food and everything else that living things use to stay alive comes from burning organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and all those organic molecules found in foods. Organic molecules are made on a base of carbon atoms. The plants make them using energy from the sun, we can’t do this, so we eat plants to get the energy for life. The energy for life on earth comes from eating plants. Or something else that ate plants. Then we burn (metabolize) the organic molecules, and the organic molecules release their metabolic energy in a form our bodies can use — and so we stay alive. When we burn anything (including in our metabolism) the organic molecules are taken apart, the energy is released, and the carbon (and other atoms) are released as waste products of the burning process. The whole earth ecosystem is a living thing, and to stay alive it needs to stay balanced. So it recycles the waste products (carbon dioxide in this case) by using them as ingredients to make more carbon-based organic molecules. The plants can do this, we cannot. Life has been doing this for millenia – life is based on this cycle staying in balance – but today we have unbalanced the life of the whole earth by burning more organic molecules than it can recycle.

The living earth is trying to rebalance, but we are also reducing the plants it needs to do this, so the earth is unbalanced. There is too much carbon dioxide in the air (and other places). Everything in the ecosystem is connected, so this imbalance has some effect on the other processes of life. In this case the effect is to raise the temperature by changing the interaction between the sun and our earth atmosphere.

The result is that the more people are breathing out carbon dioxide and the more machines also are breathing out more carbon dioxide as a waste product of burning carbon-based fuel – the harder the living earth must work to try to stay in balance. Now, after all these centuries – it has come to the time that it can’t keep up.

That’s the basic link between climate change and carbon compounds. As is true of everything it is a lot more complicated than that, but I do think it’s important to understand that there is an unchangeable, life-giving link, so we don’t fall for corposystem propaganda to the contrary. Check my facts – please.

The second question is about people who do NOT care what the climate change does to the environment because they live in cities and they honestly believe that the corposystem is providing everything they need to stay cool, well fed and clothed. This is just too sad to be real, but I think it is real. These people do not know that everything we need to stay alive comes from the healthy ecosystem. The corposystem cannot make earth, air, water or food for us without destroying the energy cycle of the ecosystem. The miracle behind life on earth is that it CAN do this process. People cannot. Not without using more energy than they generate and throwing us more out of balance. And there is no other source for life in the whole universe so far as we know.

If God made this beautiful living earth ecosystem, then he made it here. Not on the moon or Mars or anyplace else that we can reach. And he expected us to fulfill our responsibilities to not trash His Creation.

But we are trashing it, and so the outlook does look very grim. Here’s what Wm deBuys has to say about that.

“The outlook may be grim but the sunrise is always beautiful, and if you think about this blessed planet that we’re on – – – it is heartbreakingly beautiful, and there is so much beauty in the planet itself and in its creatures, and among its creatures are human beings, and our fellow human beings, that there is always and there will always be beauty to protect and defend, and the defense of beauty is a very high calling, and it’s great work, and great work is inherently optimistic. And so as long as there is that work to do, I think we should all be inspired to do it and all derive a lot of meaning for our lives from the act of doing it.” Wm deBuys, spoken at Upaya. (Look under dharma talks dp642_debuys_great-aridness-perspectives-on-environment_may-2012_dt.mp3)

Please read the book. It’s a good read and interesting, and it helps to answer the most common questions about what we can do to help ourselves and the living earth. The most important thing that we can do is to learn more about how the ecosystem functions to stay alive — including all the interacting stories that make up “A Great Aridness” — so we can discuss solutions that make good sense, and so that we will not be fooled by self-serving money-making schemers, who always abound in every crisis.

Bare Bones Biology 114 – A Great Aridness
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
You can download the audio portion of this post here
Or at

Recommended References:
A Great Aridness, Wm. deBuys:
Upaya Zen Center:
Mrs. Green’s World: http://www.MrsGreensWorld podcast 05-12-12_DuBuysMiraval.mp3

Climate Change – What can we Do with No Money?

This question keeps coming up. What can we do with no money? The very most important things we can do, especially if we can afford a computer and internet access and transportation and a phone, are otherwise pretty much free, at least at the community level.

“We have to work at every level and we have to work both at mitigation (prevention) and at adaptation. We’ve got to work at the local level to make our communities more resilient for the changes that are coming no matter what we do.” William deBuys

“When you put it in the political arena, I don’t understand why it polarizes people. It’s the one thing that could unite our country to focus on the planet and the health of the earth. There’s no down side to that, and it’s not political. Why are we fighting about this?” (Mrs. Green statement when interviewing William DeBuys – podcast 05-12-12_DuBuysMiraval.mp3 on MrsGreensWorld contains both these quotes).

Now I am back here, and I will tell you why I THINK we are fighting about this. I think it is very clear the corposystem is in direct competition with the ecosystem, and in this effort the corposystem sucks up our power; the more we fight over any issue, the more it grows. The corposystem knows this. The corposystem grows its power by initiating these fights. It also teaches us,using its media and its school system, that competition will get us what we want and need. This is not true. If you study how life functions — it is not by competition, it is by BALANCE of the myriad of factors that keep life alive. Nevertheless, we, living in these false beliefs, we are feeding the power of the corposystem by our fighting, from the local level to the community level to health of the whole earth.

There is no reason to fight about any of these biological questions because whoever wins cannot change the biology. Except of course in the normal sense of rule of law. We do need to control how we behave. We do need to prevent what one attorney is characterizing as ecocide. As is always the case, it is the responsibility of the community to control the crooks, but biology is what it is, and our only hope is in conforming to our ecological biology.

To do that, we MUST understand that the ecosystem is not human; that it needs what IT NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY, and then we must conform to its needs.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication

Today we’ll hear from Elizabeth Daut, who is a PhD candidate with the Applied Biodiversity Science program at Texas A&M University. She and several other students are working on a project to improve scientific communication.

I am part of a program called Applied Biodiversity Sciences. As part of this program we are working on this project to really integrate different components of the biodiversity conservation community, and help foster communication and collaboration across the different disciplines that are directly involved with conservation or even somewhat remotely involved. The objective is to provide the information that scientists may need that the public may need, foster those links to help develop interdisciplinary projects.

It’s an interesting problem that we have. The communication issues between scientists and nonscientists; but then also between scientists and other scientists. And there are many reasons. One is that scientists are innately drawn to nuances, the details of their research, the nitty-gritty information. They’re searching for discrete answers. And when they try to explain their results to the public, they go straight to the small nuances, versus painting the big pictures in broad strokes, which is easier to understand.

Another issue is that scientists are often reluctant to promote their research. One of the axioms of science is that of maintaining your objectivity, and once you put in opinions or subjectivity, then it’s almost as if that scientist will lose credibility within the scientific community. So there’s this real reluctance to speak out and to speak directly with the public. So it’s a combination of problems of why there is such poor communication between scientists and the public, but it’s not only problems between scientists and the public, but between scientists and other scientists of different disciplines.

This is a real issue, particularly when you are looking at big problems that are affecting society, that are affecting the globe, like climate change or conservation issues. These are problems that need scientists from all different disciplines to try to solve some of these problems. What we’re finding is that scientists in one discipline, for example conservation biologists or conservation scientists, don’t communicate with social scientists, who may be able to understand the public and society and give insight as to why some of these conservation problems exist at the social level.

What we’re trying to promote, is this increased communication and collaboration among different scientific disciplines. It’s almost as if they need to learn the language of the other scientific discipline.

The best medium to do such communication is on the internet, and what we’re suggesting is to host an on-line platform, a hub, that can foster communication between different disciplines for the benefit of the environment, of biodiversity conservation, and really encourage collaboration and understanding among different scientific disciplines and nurture collaboration in the conservation community.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication
KEOS 89.1 FM
Audio may be downloaded here
Or at

Peach Clubhouse Flashletter

1- Letter from the Benicia arm of our Peach Clubhouse.
2- And then stay tuned below the letter and commentary is my answer to Ellen’s question about technical reports that claim “safe levels.” Of course you know EVERYTHING can be harmful if it upsets the balance of your body or of the ecosystem. What is safe?

Howdy readers: As life proceeds, I find that I cannot make a Peach Clubhouse Newsletter every month and do justice to the background information that is the core of the Peach Clubhouse Newsletter. So I have switched to every other month. Next is due first of July or thereafter. However, there are times when it seems important to publish some short bit of news, and today is one of those times, so see below.

I want also to say that nobody is required to live a lifestyle of “fixing” things. In fact, there are strong arguments for just loving life, as one person said “right down to the last molecule” — and not fixing. Most of the modern human ills arise from human fixing. All that is required of us in life is to appreciate what we have been given, which is – life – and not to cause harm or suffering, if we can avoid it. However, if you are not a fixer, please do not be an excuser or a blamer because it interferes with the work of those who are trying to help, and some people just can’t stop trying to help.

If you are a fixer PLEASE be very careful of what you fix and whom you believe in this modern world. Most people mean well, but we must remember that it is what we do that makes up our collective future, not our intention. That’s why we are responsible to act on good information and consider the long-term results of what we do. I would say that the good intentions of many or most fixers are now being manipulated by our culture into harmful channels of behavior.

James Hansen is not. He is one of our entirely credible witnesses on the subject of climate change. This I know. President Obama, I believe, is doing as well as can be expected in the clutches of the corposystem, and better than most, but he does make excuses. Blaming Canada for our plan to build a pipeline to Texas is one of the worst excuses I have ever heard. High-school level. No. Actually grammar school. Well, you who have children and grandchildren know better than I.


1 – Global Warming is not a Prediction (Also it is not a theory).

TO: Loved Ones All,
You’ve heard my concerns before about what we humans are doing to the Earth ecosystem.
Here I go again.
This recent article by James Hansen is plain and simple.
I think he is a credible witness, and we can well afford to pay attention to what he says.
FROM: Larry, Dad, Poppy, Grandpa, etc.

May 9, 2012
Game Over for the Climate
GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.

The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events – they were caused by human-induced climate change.

We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high. This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising – and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon – 240 gigatons – to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. – a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.

We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course. Our leaders must speak candidly to the public – which yearns for open, honest discussion – explaining that our continued technological leadership and economic well-being demand a reasoned change of our energy course. History has shown that the American public can rise to the challenge, but leadership is essential.

The science of the situation is clear – it’s time for the politics to follow. This is a plan that can unify conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and business. Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait – we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.
James Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and is the author of “Storms of My Grandchildren.”


2 – From Janis and Ellen
The question was how to evaluate technical reports that claim levels of exposure are safe. Here is my answer. Most of these difficult questions come from believing false premises. The false premise of the entire corposystem is that growth is good. Not true – balance is good. The primary false premise of most technical evaluations is that nothing else is happening except what they are measuring. If they say, for example, that the level of carbon dioxide, or gas emissions, or pollution of our waters is “safe” – well, the short answer is they don’t know. Why they don’t know? They are assuming that nothing else is going on in the same space (let’s say the Brazos Valley), and the fact is that everything is going on at the same time in the ecosystem. The second false assumption is that they do not give a time frame. If you do this for a week it is OK? If you do it for a year, does the exposure go away or does it stay until it is no longer a safe level? No it does not go away. Everything that happens in the ecosystem stays in the ecosystem.

This, my dear friends, has already happened both in the Brazos Valley and in the world. There is no longer ANY safe level of adding foreign chemicals to our environment. If there were, I would not have been forced out of my home. And do not be confused by the term “natural,” that the corposystem applies to unsafe chemicals. Natural means, really, anything that exists on earth. When I say foreign, I refer to substances that were manipulated by humans and therefore have the potential (whether or not we understand it) to unbalance the ecosystem that has evolved as a healthy life form. Just as these fracking chemicals added to your water might not kill you, just as the sick air might not kill the children, that does not mean we are healthy. I am still taking antihistamines from time to time to counteract the symptoms – not of any illness, but of pollution. I never saw asthma among my childhood playmates. You see the cycle. The corposystem does something they may honestly believe is helpful; a) first destroying the earth to get energy; b) this reduces the available clean water and food; c) and then we treat the human symptoms that result from the destruction and claim there are technologies to deal with food production. We fixers must be very careful not to “fix” in that way, without at the same time reducing the root cause of the cycle. There is no debate about how much is safe. If you want to be healthy do not expose yourself to ANY foreign substances (and of course many natural substances are poisonous as well). The third false assumption that I find in every level of human endeavor, even sometimes in basic science (and always of course in technology) is that we humans know how to fix (anything). We do not, and what I see from this article below is the obvious result of acting as though we do by making assumptions based in human data without regard to the fact that we do NOT know what is going on underground and we have made no effort to find out before messing up the reality.

At the root of this spiral of suffering is overpopulation of humans on this earth. This too, is a fact, not an opinion or a hypothesis. To deny this fact does not solve the problem, even as we compassionately try to treat the symptoms. The earth cannot grow. That is the relevant fact.

The challenge we face is to fix our overpopulation problem without causing more suffering piled on top of all the other causes of suffering. Nothing goes away in the ecosystem. To fix any problem we must recognize and deal with the cause, or the symptoms will simply pile higher and deeper. If you are not a fixer, do not moan and groan and blame – appreciate what you have been given. If you are a fixer do not moan and groan and blame – but do not make it worse by treating the symptoms while ignoring the root cause. It is not possible for humans to “fix” the ecosystem. It was already incredible before we arrived. What we CAN do is to let the ecosystem fix itself by not behaving in ways that unbalance it.

Below is one of the references from Janis that generated the above teaching.
Check for a summary of publications being collected at

New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years
Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 by ProPublica

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.

More than 5,000 wells were drilled in the Marcellus between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to the study, which was published in the journal Ground Water two weeks ago. Operators inject up to 4 million gallons of fluid, under more than 10,000 pounds of pressure, to drill and frack each well.

Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth’s underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry’s argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment. But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”

“Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said the study’s author, Tom Myers, an independent hydrogeologist whose clients include the federal government and environmental groups. (of course they are not impermeable, and there are things living down there – anyone should know that before assuming otherwise – LL) “The Marcellus shale is being fracked into a very high permeability,” he said. “Fluids could move from most any injection process.”

The research for the study was paid for by Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Park Foundation, two upstate New York organizations that have opposed gas drilling and fracking in the Marcellus.
Much of the debate about the environmental risks of gas drilling has centered on the risk that spills could pollute surface water or that structural failures would cause wells to leak. Though some scientists believed it was possible for fracking to contaminate underground water supplies, those risks have been considered secondary. The study in Ground Water is the first peer-reviewed research evaluating this possibility. The study did not use sampling or case histories to assess contamination risks. Rather, it used software and computer modeling to predict how fracking fluids would move over time. The simulations sought to account for the natural fractures and faults in the underground rock formations and the effects of fracking.

The models predict that fracking will dramatically speed up the movement of chemicals injected into the ground. Fluids traveled distances within 100 years that would take tens of thousands of years under natural conditions. And when the models factored in the Marcellus’ natural faults and fractures, fluids could move 10 times as fast as that.
Where man-made fractures intersect with natural faults, or break out of the Marcellus layer into the stone layer above it, the study found, “contaminants could reach the surface areas in tens of years, or less.” The study also concluded that the force that fracking exerts does not immediately let up when the process ends. It can take nearly a year to ease. As a result, chemicals left underground are still being pushed away from the drill site long after drilling is finished. It can take five or six years before the natural balance of pressure in the underground system is fully restored, the study found.

Myers’ research focused exclusively on the Marcellus, but he said his findings may have broader relevance. Many regions where oil and gas is being drilled have more permeable underground environments than the one he analyzed, he said.

“One would have to say that the possible travel times for a similar thing in Arkansas or Northeast Texas is probably faster than what I’ve come up with,” Myers said.

Ground Water is the journal of the National Ground Water Association, a non-profit group that represents scientists, engineers and businesses in the groundwater industry. Several scientists called Myers’ approach unsophisticated and said that the assumptions he used for his models didn’t reflect what they knew about the geology of the Marcellus Shale. If fluids could flow as quickly as Myers asserts, said Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University who has been a proponent of shale development, fracking wouldn’t be necessary to open up the gas deposits.

“This would be a huge fracture porosity,” Engelder said. “So I read this and I say, ‘Golly, does this guy really understand anything about what these shales look like?’ The concern then arises from using a model rather than observations.”

Myers likened the shale to a cracked window, saying that samples showing it didn’t contain fractures were small in size and were akin to only examining an intact section of glass, while a broader, scaled out view would capture the faults and fractures that could leak. Both scientists agreed that direct evidence of fluid migration is needed, but little sampling has been done to analyze where fracking fluids go after being injected underground. Myers says monitoring systems could be installed around gas well sites to measure for changes in water quality, a measure required for some gold mines, for example. Until that happens, Myers said, theoretical modeling has to substitute for hard data.
“We were trying to use the basic concepts of groundwater and hydrology and geology and say can this happen?” he said. “And that had basically never been done.” © 2012 ProPublica

Comment by Glenn, regarding his method for fixing (Oh, oops, words are important the definition of carbon fixation would be in this case to get the carbon dioxide out of the air and converted into proteins in the bodies of living things) excess carbon and other compounds in the living earth: “I am very encouraged. It’s not just what we are emitting or will emit, but what has already been emitted that is already damaging and will escalate due to warming that is built-in, unless a lot of atmospheric carbon finds a new home as life in and on the earth.” Because the carbon cycle is well understood, this kind of work it can reasonably be expected to be helpful; this is NOT similar to the fracking technology which any biologist could reasonably expect to be harmful, and nobody should do because the relevant information is unknown.


My search for a smog-free environment-

It aint Santa Fe, that is already apparent, although I am not actually sick from pollution here, and that is a huge relief. But I don’t expect it will get better over the next ten years.

If you thought Texans were polite, I told you already about the lady who moved her car so Bitsy could park in the shade. Yesterday a woman pulled out a little too far on a difficult corner, so I stopped to wait for her to get organized, then we both moved into the traffic stream and when I came alongside she rolled down her window and apologized. There are all kinds of environment, but the one that makes us sick is the one tells us to move on as soon as our lease is up. Where should I try next?

Bare Bones Biology 106 – Richard Heinberg

Bare Bones Biology for this coming week is entirely taken up with an interview with Richard Heinberg, who also gave the keynote introductory lecture at the conference of The Economics of Happiness. I’m pretty sure that talk will be posted on the web site of The Economics of Happiness. If not, I can give you my personal copy, just let me know. Later that day, Richard took five minutes out of his busy schedule to give an interview for us in Texans and former Texans. Because he introduced himself so well, I have given the entire program to his words.

“My name is Richard Heinberg. I’m Senior Fellow at the PostCarbon Institute and the author of a recent book called The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality.

“The book is based on quite a lot of recent research that shows that we’re really entering into a new economic era, particularly in the US but I think around the world as well, and that new economic era is one where growth in GDP, growth in the total amount of money we’re spending in the economy on an annual basis, is going to be a lot harder to achieve. There are a number of reasons for that.

“One reason is that we are reaching a number of limits to debt. We’ve used debt to grow consumption and to grow GDP for the last several decades. And here I’m not just talking about government debt. I’m talking about consumer debt. Debt has grown faster than GDP in just about every year. People want bigger homes, and bigger cars, and we’re constantly being advertised at and talked into wanting this stuff, but real inflation-adjusted hourly wages for American workers haven’t been going up for three decades or so. So how we financed all this consumption is with more debt. You can only do that so long, because people get loaned up to their eyeballs, and they can’t afford to make payments on the debt they have, and banks don’t want to lend them even more money, so we’ve reached the end of that particular strategy for increasing the scale of our economic activity.

“Another problem that’s impinging on economic growth is energy costs, and of course here we’re talking primarily about the price of oil. That’s being driven by speculation and other things, but a lot of it is that we’ve already harvested the low-hanging fruit. I’m not suggesting that we’re running out of oil. Obviously, in this country, our real oil production has actually increased in the last few years, but where it’s increased is in the production of much lower quality resources. We’re talking about the shale deposits in North Dakota, and the Eagle Ford Play in Texas” (you can download maps of the Eagle Ford Shale and the Texas Aquifers from the lower right side of this page) “shale gas. The costs of production are higher, and with gas of course, we had very high natural gas prices a few years ago, and that drove up a glut of supply. We look at that and say: “Oh, well now we’ll have natural gas for 100 years and it’s always going to be cheap.” But actually most of the producers are losing money on production right now, because their production costs are so high and the natural gas prices are so low. The same thing will happen with the shale industry, if price of the oil goes down, if we do get gas prices down, well that’ll just mean that the industry will have to consolidate, and instead of seeing increasing rates of production in the US it will go back down again.

“So once again, the problem is not that we’re running out, the problem is that we’ve used all the low-hanging fruit, and that means we will be paying more for energy. We’ve got to get used to that. That will be a drag on economic growth.

“The third factor is increased incidence of weird weather. You can call that climate change, you can call it anything you want. You can attribute it to cow farts or volcanoes, or to CO2 emissions. If you’re an insurance company and you’re looking at the costs of what you are having to pay out for droughts, floods, fires, and other events like that, the costs are increasing. There’s no getting around it, and they’re increasing exponentially. So that is another drag on growth.

“So take the drought situation in Texas as an example of that. That kind of thing is happening around the world, and it’s getting worse. So economic growth as we’ve known it is coming to an end. Well, how do we adapt to that? What do we do instead?

“Well it turns out that actually we could make life better for people and for communities without necessarily having to have the kind of economic growth we’ve had in the past. But we will have to pay attention to different things. We’ll have to pay attention to what really makes our communities work better; we’ll have to pay attention to what makes our environment more livable.

“If we do that, I think we can have a better quality of life even as our economy changes. We live in a time of rapid change, and the intelligent path is to see where that change is going and adapt sooner than later.”

Bare Bones Biology 106 – Richard Heinberg
KEOS 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
You can download the audio here or at:

Recommended Reference: The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality

Bare Bones Biology 099 – What Can Conscientious Scientists Do?

My fellow basic scientists and I have known from the very beginning of this Climate Change debacle that I have been discussing — from Bare Bones Biology 092, forward in time, every week until Bare Bones Biology 100, which will be next week — that the so-called Climate Change Debate is a Corposystem Con Job.

There are quite a few references in this BBB and I’ll put links in this blog and below. I have talked before about fake debates (for example and and) and other corposystem con games, for example in BBB 072.

So, how did we know it was a con? First let me say that scientists – mostly – I’m talking about basic scientists now, not technologists – mostly became scientists because we have some idealism about helping the world. Just as you do. We do not publicly lie about facts, partly because facts have a way of proving themselves and we can’t change them. Airplanes wouldn’t fly if we got the facts wrong; we couldn’t have a space program or iThings or any kind of modern technology, because all modern technologies are based in facts that were first understood by research scientists; and global warming would keep getting worse and worse. As it has. And the other scientists would know we were lying.

Second – well maybe I should give you an example. I’ve been out of the field for twelve years, but last week I was asked to review a paper. I realized the author was a young person just entering the field and I would probably have to recommend the paper not be published. Why not published? Because my career is intertwined with my reputation among my fellow scientists. Even though I know exactly how the young scientist feels, because I have been rejected myself by other conscientious scientists. Many of them then offered to help me improve. That kind of practical compassion grows a group of experienced scientists sharing and at the same time openly demonstrating their own expertise, or lack of expertise.

Basic scientists SHARE a body of knowledge. We know the difference between a fact, an opinion and a hypothesis, and we don’t claim that our opinions are facts unless we can open the drawer or pull out someone’s publication and demonstrate the measurable and measured data, and then we are willing discuss interpretations of the data. We do not go on television or any place else and publish lies. If we are biological scientists, we also know that life changes, and we know that the ecosystem is the source of life. If you believe I just described an ideal that isn’t real, well, yes, nobody is perfect. But we do try, and we wouldn’t trade our mutual respect for a seat behind Rush Limbaugh’s microphone.

That’s why we knew the so-called global warming “debate” (climate change “debate”) was a con job. Because there is no debate about the basic fact that climate changes, and changes that happen more rapidly than evolution will have a negative effect on both the sustainability (for a description see BBB 088, or and the resilience of life on earth. That’s why I make these BBBs. So you too will have more information to evaluate the corposystem con games.

The so-called debate is political propaganda, and the purpose is obvious. Powerful political entities in our country are making a lot of money by CAUSING global warming, and they know it, and science knows it. So their purpose is to smear science and scientists.

So now, I am happy to tell you of two proofs of corposystem gamesmanship that appeared just last week. In the first, an investigative journalist “outed” internal documents that describe Heartland Institute’s plan to find people they can bribe to be climate deniers.

The second is the upcoming publication of a book by Michael E. Mann “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines,” a prominent climatologist, describing the professional threats and death threats that he received because he wouldn’t stop informing the public about his concerns.

Climate change is a man-made crisis, only man can stop the behaviors that cause it, and that’s your responsibility. You could start by rereading this series on my blog, beginning with BBB 092, and continue by discussing the issue with knowledgeable people who understand it. Discuss I said. Debate is worse than useless, because it implies that there are only two sides to every issue and only one “winner.”

If we choose to work together on this problem, we are all winners; if not, we are all losers.

Bare Bones Biology 099 – What Can Conscientious Scientists Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Links: BBB092, beginning of climate change and Fakc Debates Corposystem Con Games, BBB 072 BBB 088, Sustainability Sustainaiblity and Resilience

Bare Bones Biology 098-Climate Change-What Can We Do?

The ecosystem is not a democracy. Neither is it a matter of opinion, nor can we match its power. Not in our wildest dreams. The ecosystem – whatever it is – it is a factual reality. Just look at the veins in your hand. Then look out the window. Then remember where your food, water and air are created – no, not in the supermarket – the ecosystem. It’s a fact that the ecosystem is constantly changing in response to its interactions among all the factors that make up its existence. My critics and their grandchildren will not be at all happy about our choice to continue destroying the climate that the ecosystem created, that has been our cornucopia of life.

So to round out this series on climate change, I want to play some quotes. Here is a short one from an activist at the climate talks that recently took place in Durban, South Africa. Amy Goodman is interviewing Kumi Naidoo on Democracy Now (the only good coverage of the talks that I know about, see dates 12/05/2011 and 12/06/2011 as part of the series).

“the problem is that the level of ambition and the level of urgency in these talks do not match what the science is telling us to do.” He means the science tells us the problem is urgent.

Climate change is just as real as overpopulation, and if you know a few facts (facts are realities that aren’t about people and people can’t change them, like gravity for example) if you know a few facts, then climate change will be as common-sense as my story about overpopulation. The one about putting a cow and a bull in a pasture with plenty of water, and never feeding them any hay and see if they eventually have a population problem. Or a resource problem, which is nearly the same thing. Common sense.

“The greatest challenge for Burma and the countries of the Arab Spring, as well as all peoples who hope to enjoy the flowers and fruits of their endeavors in 2012, will be to bring wisdom to bear on passion and power, and to create a blend of the two that is both effective and wholesome.” Aung San Suu Kyi

This is Harvard Professor E. O. Wilson on Earth/Sky

“Biology is going to be crucial also in feeding the world. We’re about to run out of water, and we’re running low on arable land. And we’re just now reaching 7 billion people on earth, and we’re not going to slow down or peak until somewhere in the vicinity of 10 billion, the most recent projections indicate. We don’t have enough water in enough countries to feed all those people and to restore soil to arable condition. And then there comes the matter of saving the rest of life, which is a major concern of mine. We’ll have to do a better job of exploring the natural world and figuring out how to carry it through what I like to call the bottleneck of the 21st century, when we go through the population crunch and use every bit of information – science based — that we can get, to make that journey through with the least amount of damage to the world.”

So what can we do to help? Number one, find a way to provide birth control for every person who wants it on earth. Number two, work to provide a reasonable standard of living for those who are living. This will require dethroning the corposystem and the growth ethic in favor of a sustainable economic system. Number three, join together with other countries of the world and let them help us do these things. How do we do those things? In any way we can, so long as what we do does not cause more long-term harm than help. That’s practical, self-serving compassion.

Bare Bones Biology 098 – Climate Change-What Can We Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Trackbacks and Recommended References:
Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook downloadable on lower right of this blog.