13 January 2018   Leave a comment

Science has published an article on the growth of low oxygen areas in the world’s oceans, a process that has happened in the earths past but which seems in the contemporary period to be caused by the runoff of fertilizers from major agricultural areas of the world in combination with global warming.  The planet has experienced what are called “oceanic axonic events” in the past and some of those events were associated with mass extinctions.  Peter Brannan has written an article for the Atlantic that summarizes our current understanding of the increase in oxygen-deprived areas in the oceans today:

“Compiling more than 50 years of disparate data, gathered on research cruises, from floating palaces of ice in the arctic to twilit coral reefs in the South Pacific, Schmidtko’s team calculated that the Earth’s oceans had lost 2 percent of their oxygen since 1960.”

Brannan summarizes the significance of the 2% decline:

“Two percent might not sound that dramatic, but small changes in the oxygen content of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere in the ancient past are thought to be responsible for some of the most profound events in the history of life. Some paleontologists have pointed to rising oxygen as the fuse for the supernova of biology at the Cambrian explosion 543 million years ago. Similarly, the fever-dream world of the later Carboniferous period is thought to be the product of an oxygen spike, which subsidized the lifestyles of preposterous animals, like dragonflies the size of seagulls. On the other hand, dramatically declining oxygen in the oceans like we see today is a feature of many of the worst mass extinctions in earth history.”

Oxygen-Deprived Areas in Red



The US has combat troops in 76 countries in the world, or in 40% of all the nation-states on the planet.  The Watson Institute at Brown University has just published a study of US military commitments abroad and has produced a map showing where US troops are currently deployed.  The deployments are all part of the US “war on terror” that started after the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.  It is difficult to argue that this activity has been successful in curbing terrorist activity or that the costs of these activities have been productive.  But it is also difficult to assert a counterfactual:  who knows what terrorist activity could have been like in the absence of the US commitments?  Nonetheless, the extraordinary commitments should raise the question of whether other responses to terrorist activity should be strongly considered.

Posted January 13, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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