Stone curlew drinking in Spain

This video shows a stone curlew drinking in Spain.

Amazon rainforest burning, update

This 24 August 2014 video says about itself:

From the South: As the Amazon continues to burn we’re joined live by social and environmental policy specialist Adriana Ramos – who works in an advocacy team focusing on Amazon conservation – to discuss the situation and what can be done to both bring the blaze under control and mitigate its consequences.

Satellite imagery reveals that at least a quarter of the Amazon rainforest is on fire or covered in soot and ash across the four Brazilian Amazonian states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará: here.

Brazil’s far-right president facing international backlash over devastating Amazon fire: here.

Environmentalists demand Bolsonaro halt the Amazon’s destruction. Extinction Rebellion leads protest outside Brazil’s London embassy: here.

Extinction Rebellion activists protest outside the Brazilian Embassy in London, England against President Jair Bolsonaro's inaction on the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 23 August 2019:

Editorial: It’s capitalism that has set the Amazon alight

FRENCH and Irish threats to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal unless Brazil takes action on accelerating deforestation demonstrate the power of protest to deliver positive change.

President Emmanuel Macron might sniff that Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro lied to him at the G20 in June, when he apparently expressed concerns for the environment.

If so, Macron is easily hoodwinked. That Bolsonaro’s government would be an environmental disaster has been obvious since before it came to power.

This is a man who revels in the name “the tropical Trump”, taking his inspiration from the world’s most powerful climate change denier; who has transferred decisions on the demarcation of indigenous lands from the National Indigenous Affairs Ministry to the agribusiness-dominated Ministry of Agriculture; who appointed a man who claims climate change is a Marxist plot to empower China as foreign minister.

Even from a president with a better record, the idea that a few verbal commitments would neutralise the threat posed to the environment by the EU-Mercosur deal is untenable. A treaty known informally as the “cows for cars” agreement was condemned by environmental campaigners as soon as its terms were known.

As eco-activist group Fern’s Perrine Fournier said when it was signed: “This trade deal is a double whammy for the planet: it will exacerbate deforestation and encourage the production of big, dirty cars.”

Well before his victory in a travesty of an election in which the frontrunner, socialist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was barred from standing and thrown into jail on charges so flimsy they have provoked international derision, Bolsonaro had sought to exploit resentment of wealthy Westerners whose environmental protection fad was denying Brazilians the right to develop their own land.

His response to Macron’s criticisms this week is in that vein, saying his French counterpart has a “colonial mindset”.

But for all his nationalist rhetoric, Bolsonaro’s economic programme represents a step back towards semi-colonial servitude when compared with that of Workers Party leaders Lula and Dilma Rousseff, whose stress on co-operation between global South countries to resist exploitation by the main capitalist powers gave Brazil a genuinely independent foreign policy.

One that contrasts to today’s fawning on Washington and connivance at US attempts to break other Latin American countries such as Venezuela which refuse to bend the knee.

If deforestation is being driven by the home-grown agribusiness industry, the so-called “ruralistas”, these Brazilian suppliers are at the bottom of the global food chain. Tearing up regulations to facilitate the supply of raw materials to Western corporations recreates the colonial relationship.

This does not mean that Macron or Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should be congratulated on their belated panic over images of the Brazilian rainforest in flames. Growing climate protest by people who have woken up to the scale of the threat is forcing politicians to act.

Macron’s fear for the planet didn’t trouble his conscience when “liberalising” the French transport system to remove restrictions on unnecessary duplication of routes by multiple companies as part of bids to deregulate and privatise the railway system.

The Amazon on fire may be more eyecatching than a green light for privateer coach travel but, like the EU-Mercosur deal itself, Macron’s transport deregulation points to a deeper problem.

The rallies demanding “system change not climate change” have grasped something the French president has not: a world economy driven by capitalism’s constant need to maximise profit is behind the unsustainable assault on the planet’s natural resources.

Treaties and institutions promoting the “free market” rights of corporations and impeding the democratic rights of peoples to stand in their way will only accelerate the destruction of the environment, even if they include supposed safeguards. This applies to the EU itself, not just the agreements it signs with other trading blocs or nations.

London fire near Grenfell Tower disaster area

This 23 August 2019 video from England is about fire next to Grenfell Tower on 14th floor of Markland House in London.

By Steve James in Britain:

UK: Fire breaks out in tower block near Grenfell Tower

24 August 2019

Fire broke out Friday morning on the 12th floor of Markland House, a 21-storey tower block in the Silchester Estate, in North Kensington, London.

The fire was first reported at 11:39 a.m., with smoke pouring from the flat and visible from all around the local area. Fortunately, firefighters had the blaze under control in less than two hours. No injuries were reported, although many residents were terrified by the experience.

The fire appears to have taken hold on the balcony of one of the flats and was therefore in close proximity to the building’s external surfaces. Images taken after the fire was extinguished show brickwork covered in soot around and immediately above the damaged flat. The fire, however, did not spread, as brick and concrete does not burn at such temperatures. Even the windows of the flat above appear to be intact.

Markland House stands only a few hundred yards from another high rise, Grenfell Tower in the working-class area. Twitter user Georgie Prodromou, a Special Correspondent for an entertainment media network, uploaded footage showing just how close to each other the blocks are.

The neighbouring blocks were built within a year of each other. Although of different designs, both stood uneventfully for decades, as host to occasional domestic fires.

Yet on June 14, 2017, a small internal kitchen fire in a fourth floor flat in Grenfell Tower, developed within minutes into a catastrophic fire which killed 72 people and blazed for days. Over two years later, Grenfell Tower remains covered in plastic sheeting shrouding the hideously charred and blackened building in which flames burned so fiercely that some victims’ bodies were fused together.

The external walls of Markland House remain as they were built. But fatefully, Grenfell Tower was subject to a criminally reckless “refurbishment” programme, under the control of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which included covering the building’s external surface with highly flammable cladding and insulation. As a consequence, when Grenfell’s fire shattered a window and reached the building’s outside walls, the tower was transformed into a blazing death trap with an inferno rapidly destroying the entire structure. No person or organisation has yet been charged by the police with playing any role in the deaths of so many people and it’s set to be years before the governments’ cover-up inquiry [will] publish any findings.

The Grenfell blaze exposed the fact that the “compartmentation” as the basis of fire safety in tower blocks was largely discarded by the authorities in recent decades.

Britain’s tower blocks, particularly those built as social housing in the 1960s and 1970s, rely on the principle that a fire could not spread from one flat to its neighbour, or from one floor to another, because of the non-flammable walls and lack of vectors through [which] fire could travel. This was the basis of the “stay put” advice given to hundreds of terrified Grenfell residents by the London Fire Brigade, even as the fire rapidly consumed the external walls of their building before shattering windows and entering ever higher floors.

By installing dangerous cladding, as well as introducing new cabling and pipework around and between floors without adequate fire stopping, an unknown numbers of lucrative refurbishment schemes have transformed basic but relatively safe tower blocks into firetraps.

The dangers were known long before Grenfell. In 2009, a fire at Lakanal House in south London killed six people and injured many more when it spread internally and externally across a number of flats and floors in a refurbished 14-storey block. That nothing was done—despite clear recommendations being made about not using dangerous cladding—reflected the systematic erosion of building regulations and fire safety oversight under successive Labour and Conservative administrations. They did this to satisfy the insatiable demands of the building companies and banks for greater profits, at the expense of elementary safety.

The same profit interests lie behind the fact that that no full and comprehensive figure has been reached regarding the number of high-rise flats, student accommodation blocks, offices, hospitals and public buildings that remain at serious risk of fire spreading in a manner similar to the Grenfell and Lakanal fires. Only a handful of towers with the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding used in Grenfell have been stripped. Many more blocks covered in such cladding remain protected only by fire wardens and the most elementary fire safety measures such as improved fire door checks. There are no plans to comprehensively upgrade social housing blocks to include basic sprinkler systems.

Even low-rise blocks are dangerous. Earlier this year, a week after the second anniversary of Grenfell, 20 flats across six floors were destroyed or damaged in De Pass Gardens in Barking, Essex. Wooden external balconies in a complex of private and social housing flats caught fire after a domestic barbecue set fire to one balcony.

Yesterday’s fire exposed another concern. The fire was attended by as many as 70 firefighters from 10 fire stations around London and rapidly dealt with. Pictures of the scene however, showed fire hoses spraying water many floors below the burning balcony to no apparent purpose. The Grenfell disaster revealed that fire services in London, drastically reduced by austerity measures over recent years, had no aerial ladder capable of reaching beyond the 10th floor of the burning building. Although longer ladders have subsequently been purchased, none appears to have been deployed yesterday.

One Markham House resident, Billy Hunt, was asleep when the fire started after doing a night shift. He said he was not woken up by any alarm in the building but by the smell. Hunt said as he rushed out of the building he knocked on neighbours’ doors to alert them. Stating that he did not feel safe living in a tower block, due to the lack of a central alarm system, “They should be going off all over the place, especially after Grenfell.” He told the media that he had been informed that the fire brigades’ hose had only reached the fifth floor, describing it as “ridiculous”.

Another resident, Samantha Findley, summed up the response of many to the Grenfell fire. Refusing to wait for any advice from the authorities, after smelling what she understood was burning plastic in the tower, Samantha immediately fled—not waiting to be told to remain in her flat. “I smelled it. So I thought ‘let me get out, I’m out.’ I grabbed my keys, my phone. I’m out. I’m not seeing where it is or anything. I’m out.”

The BBC reported the comments of Grenfell Tower survivor Miguel Alves, who is among hundreds of people still demanding justice for the atrocity. He was in the area when he “saw fire engines and police,” reported the broadcaster. He said, “I feel shocked because it’s only 200 metres or 300 or 400 metres anyway from Grenfell Tower. It’s on the same area. It’s difficult to believe something happened again on the same area.”

Fire in high-rise next to Grenfell Tower: here.

American mule deer migration, new research

This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

A Deer Migration You Have to See to Believe | National Geographic

Researchers have only recently found the longest large mammal migration in the continental United States: Mule deer migrate 150 miles (241 kilometers) in western Wyoming each year. And it’s no easy task for them—barriers include highways, fences, tough terrain, and bodies of water. In this video by Joe Riis, a National Geographic grantee and regular contributor, see the modern-day obstacles mule deer overcome to make the migratory trek that they likely have been making for generations.

From the University of Wyoming in the USA:

Migrating mule deer don’t need directions, study finds

August 23, 2019

Summary: Mule deer navigate in spring and fall mostly by using their knowledge of past migration routes and seasonal ranges, according to a new study.

How do big-game animals know where to migrate across hundreds of miles of vast Wyoming landscapes year after year?

Among scientists, there are two camps of thought. First is that animals use local cues within their vicinity to determine where to migrate. Animals might move up to areas with greener forage — often termed green-wave surfing — or move down from mountains with deeper snow. The second idea is that animals develop memory of the landscape where they live and then use that information to guide their movements.

Recent research from the University of Wyoming has found that memory explains much of deer behavior during migration: Mule deer navigate in spring and fall mostly by using their knowledge of past migration routes and seasonal ranges.

The study found that the location of past years’ migratory route and summer range had 2-28 times more influence on a deer’s choice of a migration path than environmental factors such as tracking spring green-up, autumn snow depth or topography.

“These animals appear to have a cognitive map of their migration routes and seasonal ranges, which helps them navigate tens to hundreds of miles between seasonal ranges,” says the lead author of the paper, Jerod Merkle, assistant professor and Knobloch Professor in Migration Ecology and Conservation in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at UW.

The findings recently were published in Ecology Letters, a leading journal within the field of ecology. Co-authors of the paper included Hall Sawyer, with Western EcoSystems Technology Inc.; Kevin Monteith and Samantha Dwinnell, with UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources; Matthew Kauffman, with the U.S. Geological Survey Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UW; and Gary Fralick, with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Scientists had long presumed that migratory behavior was dictated by availability of food resources and other external factors. Where you find resources, you will find species that exploit them, the theory went.

The UW team found it is not that simple. Without the intrinsic factor of landscape memory to guide deer between seasonal ranges, the long-distance corridors of western Wyoming’s Green River Basin, for example — exceeding 300 miles round-trip in some cases — would not exist in their present form.

“It appears that green-wave surfing helps them determine when to move within a kind of ‘map’ in their brain,” Merkle says. “The timing of spring green-up determines when an animal should migrate, but spatial memory determines where to migrate.”

The finding has important conservation implications. Because landscape memory so strongly underlies mule deer migratory behavior, the loss of a migratory population also will destroy the herd’s collective mental map of how to move within a landscape, making it very difficult to restore lost migration routes. Patches of potential habitat likely will go unused.

“This is yet another study that makes clear that animals must learn and remember how to make these incredible journeys,” say Kauffman, who leads the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, where the research was conducted. “This is critical for conservation, because it tells us that, to conserve a migration corridor, we need to conserve the specific animals who have the knowledge necessary to make the journey.”

The study bolsters the findings of a 2018 paper in the journal Science by a UW-led team that found translocated bighorn sheep and moose with no knowledge of the landscape can take anywhere from several decades to a century to learn how to migrate to vacant habitats.

Similarly, strategies such as off-site restoration or mitigation may be unsuccessful if restored habitats are not “discovered” and integrated into the memory of individuals.

The study further makes a case that biologists will not be able to successfully predict migration corridors — or optimally manage populations — based on environmental information or range quality alone. Managers will find it difficult to evaluate potential conservation actions without directly gathering movement data, crucial information that reveals the migration knowledge that animals carry around in their heads.

Moreover, the research shows that migrants can obtain greater forage benefits during spring migration using memory of a vast landscape, compared to migrants that rely simply on foraging cues in their local area.

This suggests that the migratory routes we see today are optimized across generations for green-wave surfing in large landscapes. These learned migration corridors are not readily discoverable by animals if they cannot access the memories established by past generations.