International coordinated actions shut it down for Gaza

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Original article republished from peoples dispatch under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA) license.

Across the United States, Australia, and the UK, Palestine solidarity activists took action on April 15 as part of global call to strike for Gaza

Protesters blockade the entrance to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago (Photo: Dissenters)

April 15 marked yet another global day of solidarity with Palestine, in which activists across the globe in countries such as the United States, Australia, and the UK took action for Gaza. Activists were responding to a global call to strike for Gaza, which originated within Palestinian civil society.

In the United States, the global strike for Gaza also coincided with the day that taxes are due in the country (Tax Day). Activists used this as an opportunity to highlight how much of taxpayer money goes to the weapons industry.

In several cities, activists strategically targeted sectors of the war machine, including the offices of Lockheed Martin in Arlington, Virginia, the largest weapons manufacturer in the world. Activists who occupied the Arlington office highlighted that Lockheed Martin receives billions of dollars in taxpayer money each year, which is used to produce the arms that Israel uses to kill Palestinians.

While activists occupied the building, protesters outside marched up to the office doors, staging a rally and shouting at employees inside the building to quit their jobs. 

Activists also blockaded the entrance to a facility belonging to Boeing, another massive weapons manufacturer that supplies Israel, in St. Charles, Missouri.

A facility of weapons manufacturer Pratt and Whitney was also targeted in Connecticut, where organizers blocked the entrance to the factory to impede production. 

On the same day, several activists blockaded the road going to the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, blocking Terminals 1 through 3. Over 40 protesters were arrested after taking this action, who have as of now all been released.

Several bridge blockades took place in the Bay Area. Protesters first stopped traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, holding banners that read “Stop the world for Gaza” and “End the siege on Gaza now!”

Protesters later took further action and shut down the Interstate 880 in Oakland. Altogether, the California Highway Patrol announced the arrests of 38 people. 

In London, activists with Palestine Action targeted the office of BNY Mellon, demanding that the bank divest with Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company. BNY Mellon offices in Manchester were also targeted. 

In Adelaide, Australia, pro-Palestine activists occupied the office of Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office. Activists said this action had been undertaken to “protest the government’s ongoing complicity in, and facilitation of, the genocide occurring in Gaza—a genocide which has been enabled by international forces, like Australia, to continue for over six months.”

In Melbourne, hundreds gathered in front of the parliament building, demanding that the Australian government stop cutting deals with Elbit systems. 

Original article republished from peoples dispatch under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA) license.

Continue ReadingInternational coordinated actions shut it down for Gaza

Great Barrier Reef Suffering Record Coral Bleaching With Damage 59 Feet Below the Surface

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New video footage released on April 11, 2024 shows that bleached corals on the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef extend to greater depths than has been reported during the current mass bleaching event. Australian Marine Conservation Society / Facebook screenshot

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has released video footage showing that the southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from deep-sea coral bleaching, reported The Guardian.

The footage shows that the bleaching extends at least as far down as 59.1 feet — the deepest reported during this mass bleaching event, a press release from AMCS said. Some of the corals have begun to die in the face of record marine heat waves.

“I feel devastated. This bleaching event is the worst I have seen. It’s a severe bleaching event,” said Dr. Selina Ward, University of Queensland’s former academic director of the Heron Island Research Station, in the press release.

Ward reported extensive coral bleaching at all 16 southern Great Barrier Reef sites she had visited, saying it was the worst she had seen in three decades.

“I’ve been working on the Reef since 1992 but this [mass coral bleaching event], I’m really struggling with. The diversity of species involved has been hard to deal with. Look at bleached areas, there are many different species that are bleached – many of which are pretty resistant to bleaching so it’s not a pleasant one,” Ward added.

Last week, aerial survey data showed that 75 percent of the reef had experienced bleaching during the current bleaching event, with much of it classed as “high to extreme bleaching.”

During climate change-driven marine heat waves, extended periods of warmer ocean temperatures cause corals to become stressed, which leads them to expel the algae that live in a symbiotic relationship with them. These algae not only give corals their colorful appearance, but they are also their main source of energy, so long periods without them can lead to starvation.

“This new footage shows extensive coral bleaching in southern reefs, but there are images from the central and northern parts that show bleaching is extensive and severe in some of those areas too. Although in-water surveys will take months, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has completed the aerial surveys but only released the data. The authority must urgently release the maps to show to the public the extent and severity of this bleaching event,” said Dr. Lissa Schindler, campaign manager with AMCS, in the press release.

Continue ReadingGreat Barrier Reef Suffering Record Coral Bleaching With Damage 59 Feet Below the Surface

On a climate rollercoaster: how Australia’s environment fared in the world’s hottest year

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An endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby. Joshua Bergmark

Albert Van Dijk, Australian National University; Shoshana Rapley, Australian National University, and Tayla Lawrie, The University of Queensland

Global climate records were shattered in 2023, from air and sea temperatures to sea-level rise and sea-ice extent. Scores of countries recorded their hottest year and numerous weather disasters occurred as climate change reared its head.

How did Australia’s environment fare against this onslaught? In short, 2023 was a year of opposites.

For the past nine years, we have trawled through huge volumes of data collected by satellites, measurement stations and surveys by individuals and agencies. We include data on global change, oceans, people, weather, water, soils, vegetation, fire and biodiversity.

Each year, we analyse those data, summarising them in an annual report that includes an overall Environmental Condition Score and regional scorecards. These scores provide a relative measure of conditions for agriculture and ecosystems. Scores declined across the country, except in the Northern Territory, but were still relatively good.

However, the updated Threatened Species Index shows the abundance of listed bird, mammal and plant species has continued to decline at a rate of about 3% a year since the turn of the century.

Environmental condition indicators for 2023, showing the changes from 2000–2022 average values. Such differences can be part of a long-term trend or within normal variability.
Australia’s Environment 2023 Report.

Riding a climate rollercoaster in 2023

Worldwide, 77 countries broke temperature records. Australia was not one of them. Our annual average temperature was 0.53°C below the horror year 2019. Temperatures in the seas around us were below the records of 2022.

Even so, 2023 was among Australia’s eight warmest years in both cases. All eight came after 2005.

However, those numbers are averaged over the year. Dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear 2023 was a climate rollercoaster.

The year started as wet as the previous year ended, but dry and unseasonably warm weather set in from May to October. Soils and wetlands across much of the country started drying rapidly. In the eastern states, the fire season started as early as August.

Nonetheless, there was generally still enough water to support good vegetation growth throughout the unusually warm and sunny winter months.

Fears of a severe fire season were not realised as El Niño’s influence waned in November and rainfall returned, in part due to the warm oceans. Combined with relatively high temperatures, it made for a hot and humid summer. A tropical cyclone and several severe storms caused flooding in Queensland and Victoria in December.

As always, there were regional differences. Northern Australia experienced the best rainfall and growth conditions in several years. This contributed to more grass fires than average during the dry season. On the other hand, the rain did not return to Western Australia and Tasmania, which ended the year dry.

So how did scores change?

Every year we calculate an Environmental Condition Score that combines weather, water and vegetation data.

The national score was 7.5 (out of 10). That was 1.2 points lower than for 2022, but still the second-highest score since 2011.

Scores declined across the country except for the Northern Territory, which chalked up a score of 8.8 thanks to a strong monsoon season. With signs of drought developing in parts of Western Australia, it had the lowest score of 5.5.

The Environmental Condition Score reflects environmental conditions, but does not measure the long-term health of natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

Firstly, it relates only to the land and not our oceans. Marine heatwaves damaged ecosystems along the eastern coast. Surveys in the first half of 2023 suggested the recovery of the Great Barrier Reef plateaued.

However, a cyclone and rising ocean temperatures occurred later in the year. In early 2024, another mass coral bleaching event developed.

Secondly, the score does not capture important processes affecting our many threatened species. Among the greatest dangers are invasive pests and diseases, habitat destruction and damage from severe weather events such as heatwaves and megafires.

Threatened species’ declines continued

The Threatened Species Index captures data from long-term threatened species monitoring. The index is updated annually with a three-year lag, largely due to delays in data processing and sharing. This means the 2023 index includes data up to 2020.

The index showed an unrelenting decline of about 3% in the abundance of Australia’s threatened bird, mammal and plant species each year. This amounts to an overall decline of 61% from 2000 to 2020.

Line graph of Threatened Species Index
Threatened Species Index showing the abundance of different categories of species listed under the EPBC Act relative to 2000.
Australia’s Environment 2023 Report

The index for birds in 2023 revealed declines were most severe for terrestrial birds (62%), followed by migratory shorebirds (47%) and marine birds (24%).

A record 130 species were added to Australia’s threatened species lists in 2023. That’s many more than the annual average of 29 species over previous years. The 2019–2020 Black Summer bushfires had direct impacts on half the newly listed species.

Population boom adds to pressures

Australia’s population passed 27 million in 2023, a stunning increase of 8 million, or 41%, since 2000. Those extra people all needed living space, food, electricity and transport.

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 18% since 2000. Despite small declines in the previous four years, emissions increased again in 2023, mostly due to air travel rebounding after COVID-19.

Our emissions per person are the tenth-highest in the world and more than three times those of the average global citizen. The main reasons are our coal-fired power stations, inefficient road vehicles and large cattle herd.

Nonetheless, there are reasons to be optimistic. Many other countries have dramatically reduced emissions without compromising economic growth or quality of life. All we have to do is to finally follow their lead.

Our governments have an obvious role to play, but we can do a lot as individuals. We can even save money, by switching to renewable energy and electric vehicles and by eating less beef.

Changing our behaviour will not stop climate change in its tracks, but will slow it down over the next decades and ultimately reverse it. We cannot reverse or even stop all damage to our environment, but we can certainly do much better.The Conversation

Albert Van Dijk, Professor, Water and Landscape Dynamics, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University; Shoshana Rapley, Research Assistant, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University, and Tayla Lawrie, Project Manager, Threatened Species Index, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingOn a climate rollercoaster: how Australia’s environment fared in the world’s hottest year

Tennis anyone? Bad news for skiers as snow season could shrink by 78% this century

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Adrian McCallum, University of the Sunshine Coast

As the days shorten, many of us, particularly in Australia’s south-east, are looking forward to cooler times, and perhaps the allure of snow on the horizon. In the past week many in this region experienced their warmest days for over a century. What does this bode for times to come?

Research released overnight suggests ski areas in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand will soon have much less snow due to climate change. German researcher Veronika Mitterwallner and her colleagues show average annual snow-cover days may decline by 78% in the Australian Alps and 51% in the Southern Alps of Aotearoa New Zealand (under a high-emissions scenario) by 2071–2100. Worldwide, they found 13% of ski areas will lose all natural snow cover by the end of the century.

It’s often said Australia gets more snow than Switzerland, though the evidence says otherwise. The fact remains that the Australian Alps cover a large area, more than 12,000km, with a third or more covered in snow at peak times. So these changes will have a broad impact on local economies and threaten fragile alpine ecosystems.

a panoramic view of the Australian Alps covered in snow
If Australia loses three-quarters of its snow-cover days, a surprisingly big area will be affected.
Greg Brave/Shutterstock

How did the study make these findings?

Mitterwallner’s team used a high-resolution climate data set for the global land surface area to identify the annual number of natural snow-cover days. Then, they projected those data under three emissions scenarios, and looked at historical (1950-2010), present (2011-2040), immediate future (2041-2070) and near future (2071-2100) data to examine changes over time.

Under most modelled emission scenarios, they found the annual number of snow-cover days will greatly decrease worldwide. For Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, in particular, they found the average number will decrease by 78% and 51% respectively. These were the two regions with the greatest losses of snow.

However, under a low-emissions scenario, the good news is no regions will fall below an average of 100 snow-cover days a year. This is historically the minimum number of days a ski resort needs in seven out of ten winters to remain viable (cover must be at least 30–50cm).

How will we adapt to the loss of snow?

Will the way we use our alpine areas have to change permanently? Many resorts have already pivoted to activities such as mountain biking that don’t rely on snow. Skiing may be off the agenda – tennis anyone?

The prognosis of such research has driven the formation of groups such as Protect Our Winters. The mission of the Australian section is to help Australia’s outdoor community protect the integrity of our unique alpine environment and lifestyle from climate change.

Beyond Australia, New York recently had its highest snowfall in two years. Across the United States in general, though, they just experienced the warmest winter ever.

What is going on? And what might this new research mean, particularly for Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand?

These predictions, for almost all emissions scenarios, do not bode well for the skiers among us. More importantly, as many communities in the Himalaya are finding out, snow is not just a recreational “nice to have”. It’s a life-source for alpine communities, both human and non-human, and all those that depend on rivers sustained by snow melt around the globe.

Perhaps a greater concern in our region is the potential for ecological damage as resorts seek to increase ski slope metreage in areas that remain snow-covered. Expanding resort footprints is not a sustainable approach to a problem that probably won’t be going away.

A snow machine shoots out a plume of snow in the Snowy Mountains
Resorts can make artificial snow, but that doesn’t solve the problem of it melting if the alps get warmer.
Edward Atkin/Shutterstock

Is artificial snow an option?

So how might we support the goals of Protect Our Winters? What alternatives do we have? How about artificial snow, would that work?

As part of my PhD studies many years ago, at the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, I made masses of “polar snow” in a cold room (while effectively destroying the air-conditioning units at the same time). Artificial snow can be created quite readily, assuming enough water is at hand.

Artificial snow will have a different form and its density and microstructure will differ, potentially affecting longevity. (You can read more about snow mechanics here.)

But once on the ground, artificial snow, like natural snow, is subject to the vagaries of our weather. If the sun is shining and the day is hot, snow won’t last long, regardless of whether it’s natural or artificial.

There’s a lot to think on here as we contemplate what our world and our region might look like when skiing and snow-covered ground become no more than a memory in some areas. Yes, our recreational activities might change as we wonder whether it’s worth waxing up the skis this year – or is it time to break out the racquets? The ongoing survival of many communities might be jeopardised as a result.The Conversation

Adrian McCallum, Discipline Lead – Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingTennis anyone? Bad news for skiers as snow season could shrink by 78% this century

Australia Restores UNRWA Funding as Israel Kills Aid Workers, Starving Gazans

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Original article by BRETT WILKINS republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong speaks in Canberra on August 8, 2023. (Photo: Penny Wong/Facebook)

“Restoring UNRWA funding is the bare minimum,” said one Australian Green senator. “The Labor government must publicly pressure Israel to allow aid into all parts of Gaza.”

Australia said Friday that it would reinstate funding for the United Nations United Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in international financing due to unsubstantiated Israeli claims that UNRWA staff participated in the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

“The best available current advice from agencies and the Australian government lawyers is that UNRWA is not a terrorist organization,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in Adelaide while announcing a new funding package for the agency, which works to aid Palestinians forcibly displaced during the Nakba, or “catastrophe” through which the modern state of Israel was established in 1948, as well as their descendants.

In addition to restoring $6 million in UNRWA funding, Wong said Australia would contribute another $2 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund and would deploy a C-17 Globemaster transport plane to assist humanitarian airdrops over Gaza.

Sen. Mehreen Faruqi of New South Wales and the Australian Greens welcomed the shift, asserting that “restoring UNRWA funding is the bare minimum” Australia should do.

“The Labor government must publicly pressure Israel to allow aid into all parts of Gaza,” Faruqi stressed. “Starvation is a weapon of war, and Israel is blocking aid to reach the people of Gaza in brazen contravention of the [International Court of Justice’s] ruling” ordering Israel to prevent genocidal acts.

“I hope this is the start of the Labor government breaking away from their unquestioning and immoral support for Israel,” the senator added.

Simon Birmingham, leader of the center-right Liberal opposition in the Senate, said his party does not support the Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese “acting without and ahead of the United States in terms of decisions around this funding.”

Following Israeli claims—reportedly extracted from Palestinian prisoners in an interrogation regime rife with torture and abuse—that 12 of the more than 13,000 UNRWA workers in Gaza were involved in the October 7 attack, Australia and nine other nations including the United States cut off funding to the largest humanitarian aid organization operating in the besieged coastal enclave.

UNRWA subsequently terminated nine employees in response to the unfounded Israeli claims, without any evidence to support their firing. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini later called the move an act of “reverse due process.”

The European Union and nations including Canada and Sweden have also reinstated funding for UNRWA, which Lazzarini said “is facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations.” The agency has been struggling to provide shelter, aid, and other lifesaving services to Gazans facing not only Israeli bombs and bullets but also a genocidal siege and blockade that are starving Palestinians to death.

Australia’s decision came as Israeli attacks on aid convoys, food distribution centers, and desperate, starving Palestinians in Gaza continued. On Thursday, Israeli forces killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 150 others as they awaited delivery of humanitarian aid at the Kuwait Roundabout in Gaza City. The previous day, a UNRWA staffer was among five people killed and more than 20 wounded in an attack on a food distribution center in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. Israeli officials claimed the slain man was a Hamas commander.

According to UNRWA, at least 165 of the agency’s staff members have been killed since October 7. Over 150 UNRWA facilities have been attacked by Israeli forces, while more than 400 Palestinians have been slain while seeking shelter under the United Nations flag.

UNRWA also says its workers have been tortured by Israeli troops trying to force them to falsely confess to participating in the October 7 attacks.

Gaza officials said earlier this week that at least 400 Palestinians seeking humanitarian aid have been killed by Israeli forces since the February 29 “Flour Massacre,” in which at least 118 people were killed and more than 760 others wounded while waiting for an aid convoy in Gaza City.

More than 112,000 Palestinians have been killed or wounded in Gaza since October 7, including people missing and presumed dead and buried beneath the rubble of the strip’s hundreds of thousands of bombed-out buildings. The majority of the dead are women and children. Around 90% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been forcibly displaced. Disease and starvation are rampant, and a growing number of Palestinians—mostly children but also elders and other vulnerable people—are starving to death.

After 161 days of near-constant slaughter, there is still no cease-fire in sight.

Original article by BRETT WILKINS republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue ReadingAustralia Restores UNRWA Funding as Israel Kills Aid Workers, Starving Gazans