Earth Matters - Melting glaciers risk freeing viruses; a land defender is murdered every two days - VIDEO -

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Earth Matters - Melting glaciers risk freeing viruses; a land defender is murdered every two days - VIDEO

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Nearly four years ago, an analysis published in the journal Science found that the oceans were warming 40% faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had reported in its fifth climate assessment in 2014. This week that acceleration was confirmed in a paper published in the journal Nature Reviews. It found that the top 2,000 meters of the oceans have been undergoing an accelerated warming, especially in the past decade, and the heat is reaching ever deeper. The authors say this most probably is not reversible through 2100. 
As previous studies have shown, warmer water is melting the Arctic sea ice from beneath and doing likewise to the ice that extends into the sea from land-based glaciers. The most prominent impact of this melting on Greenland and Antarctica is sea-level rise.
But in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Wednesday, scientists warned that glacial melting in the Arctic—where temperature increases at sea and on land are outpacing global warming elsewhere on the planet—could have another effect potentially far worse than several feet of higher seas: the unleashing of dormant viruses.
That prospect is not new. Ancient viruses have already been found in the permafrost, and there have been a number of seriously bad movies dramatizing the risk.
In the latest study, scientists from the University of Ottawa took soil samples of glacial meltwaters from Lake Hazen, the largest lake in the High Arctic. They were hunting for viral spillover, the transmission of a virus from one host species to another. They found that "spillover risk increases with runoff from glacier melt, a proxy for climate change. Should climate change also shift species’ range of potential viral vectors and reservoirs northwards, the High Arctic could become fertile ground for emerging pandemics."
No assertions are being made that this will definitely occur. A co-author in the study, Stéphane Aris-Brosou told The Guardian that "the only take-home that we can confidently put forward is that as temperatures are rising, the risk of spillover in this particular environment is increasing. Will this lead to pandemics? We absolutely don't know."
However, the study points out that, "as climate change leads to shifts in species ranges and distributions, new associations can emerge, bringing in vectors that can mediate viral spillovers, as simulations recently highlight."
Last month, a study in California found 65% of tested produce contained pesticide residues. In the past three decades, the use of pesticides around the planet has risen by 80%. According to Pesticide Atlas, pesticides poison 385 million people a year and kill 11,000 of them. Humans aren’t the only unintended victims. The populations of field birds and grassland butterflies have fallen by 30% since 1990.
That’s just a sprinkling of pesticides’ negative effects, which are prevalent everywhere, 60 years since Rachel Carson drew attention to the dangers in her book Silent Spring. At Civil Eats, Anna Lappé writes:
With pesticides still so rampant, what is the legacy of Silent Spring? How far have we come and how much farther do we have to go to realize the human right to healthy food, and to protect the rights of the farmers and farmworkers growing that food?
To explore these questions, Civil Eats hosted a roundtable with some of the field’s leading voices. They include Mas Masumoto, a California organic peach farmer and author; his forthcoming memoir Secret Harvests is a tale of family farms and a history of secrets. Marcia Ishii is Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network of North America, where she has worked for 26 years as a senior scientist.
Anne Frederick is a community organizer in Hawaii, working with communities impacted by agrochemical companies’ expansion. Sharon Lerner is an investigative journalist who has reported on pesticides, chemical regulation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Sandra Steingraber is a biologist and author, who blends her gifts as a writer, storyteller, and scientist with advocacy.
In a report late last month, Global Witness concluded that between 2011 and 2021, at least 342 land defenders were murdered in Brazil alone. In 2021, worldwide, 200 more defenders were killed, the report states. These are almost certainly an undercount, given constraints on a free press and the lack of independent monitors in many regions of the world. The report states, “We know that beyond killings, many defenders and communities also experience attempts to silence them, with tactics like death threats, surveillance, sexual violence, or criminalization—and that these kinds of attacks are even less well reported.”
Indigenous people and environmental activists are in the front lines of the fight against the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity. That makes them targets of violence by loggers, ranchers, miners, factory farmers, and repressive governments. 
Six months ago, another report, this one from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, tracked 3,800 attacks since January 2015. These included murders, beatings, and death threats. But, as Grist reports, even those numbers don’t describe the full measure of the violence. “We know the problem is much more severe than these figures indicate,” said Christen Dobson, senior program manager for the BHRRC and an author of the report, when it was released. 
Global Witness includes a list of the names of all 200 land defenders who were murdered in 2021.

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