Monday, March 4, 2013

A Walk in the Dying Woods

To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

~ Marilyn Vos Savant
Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke University, gets extremely high readings as researchers investigate natural gas leaks around the city as part of an ongoing study.
Once again a story has surfaced about urban trees dying, purportedly from leaking natural gas pipelines around their roots.  Some folks are hoping to win awards or settlements from energy companies.  Bob Ackley, a self-described "gas leakage specialist" started out in Boston and has since apparently managed to receive enough support to expand to a six-person team funded by Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.  He has moved on down to Washington, DC, as pictured above.  This transparent scam conveniently ignores the fact that trees which are not anywhere near gas lines, leaky or intact, are in just as poor health as those that are.  But, I guess people notice trees dying in those areas first, because they are developed, and it costs the municpality money to remove them, and so they look for the most proximate cause.  The only part of the article that doesn't miss the point is this sentence:  "Gas leaks contribute to smog".  Methane is an ozone precursor.
Fortunately, readers of Wit's End have exceptional powers of observation.  These pictures of leaves and bark were shared by Chet, who is finding injured foliage around Seattle.  I'm always grateful to find that there are at least a few who aren't taken in by the usual rogues' gallery of blame - chemtrails, Fukushima, Deepwater Horizon, road salt, cell tower radiation, invasive insects, disease, and fungus...oh, and the Second Coming of Christ.  There is so much irrefutable research about how air pollution is particularly toxic to plants - and there's absolutely no question that the invisible but highly toxic background level of tropospheric ozone is inexorably rising - it boggles the mind that people cling to improbable, if not impossible, sources of weakened immunities and premature mortality.
I suppose I shall have to write to the gas companies and the researchers and the litigants about the gas leaks...AGAIN.  This has become a tiresome game of whack-a-mole.  I already contacted all the interested parties and reporters in 2010 upon first learning about the lawsuit, and posted one chronicle of our correspondence here.
I got nowhere with that so I wrote to the various newpaper editors and town officials.
Nobody replied to that either, even though the motives of Ackley and his lawyer are barely disguised...as I observed:

He was quoted as saying "Statewide, there could be somewhere between $15 billion - $30 billion in damages." Hmmm...according to the terms of the Trust, it (it being Ackley and Schlichtmann, remember) retains 40% of anything they help the towns to recover from National Grid. So, if they held National Grid fully accountable that means a potential of billions in legal fees for the "Trust".  Billions!!
The following video, so kindly made to share with readers of Wit's End, was made in Virginia.
Oddly, the forest there looks quite like the woods around Wit's End in the picture above, which I took last week, when the moon was rising.
 
I finally got around to writing the scientist who produced this map, taken from NASA satellite data, which documents the decline in vegetation in the Eastern US from 2000 to 2010.  Unsurprisingly, they corrolate this decline with drought from climate change, even though according to numerous studies, the northeast has become wetter, not drier.
 Do we see any corrolation - ANY AT ALL - with this 2007 map of ozone levels?
What follows are photos from the "25 most polluted places on Earth" (frankly I think they should have included a human body, each one of which is the repository of countless noxious chemicals) and the contents of the letter to the lead author of that NASA research:
Norilsk, Russia 
Dear Dr. Potter,

I am writing because I came across your paperDeclining Vegetation Growth Rates in the Eastern United States from 2000 to 2010.
Citarum River, Indonesia
I have been observing premature mortality in trees for several years, which appears to be accelerating at an exponential rate.  I have seen this around my home in New Jersey, and in my travels along the East and West coasts.  From news reports and other scientific research, it appears to be a gobal trend.
Ahvaz, Iran
Because trees are dying in every location - even young trees in nurseries that are being watered - the explanation that drought from climate change is the primary reason is insufficient to explain the trees that are dying just as fast in places that have become wetter from climate change, such as the UK.
Chernobyl, Ukraine
I wonder if you considered tropospheric ozone as the underlying factor?

I apologize if you are already familiar with this information:  The persistent background levels are inexorably increasing, and it is a well-known phytotoxin.  Furthermore, it is also well-documented that plants that absorb ozone become more vulnerable to pathogens, including insects, disease and fungus, which are running rampant.  In repairing damage to foliage, less energy is allocated to roots, exacerbating the effects of drought.  (See attached photo of potatoes from fumigation experiment - left grown in filtered, clean air; center is ambient polluted air; and right with additional added ozone

cumulative damage over seasons is even worse for trees).  Classic symptoms of ozone injury are found on leaves and needles everywhere, including on tropical plants being grown in watered pots in the summertime, and trees that are growing along rivers and lakes.
Port-au-Prince Haiti
I also attached your map for comparison to one of US counties designated as ozone non-attainment (which is from 2007).

A long-term Forest Service study showed that:

"...in a number of cities where emerald ash borer has killed all the ash trees, heart attack rates and lung disease deaths are higher than before the ash died. With 10-25% of their urban canopy gone, air pollution is more prevalent.[9]
Earth's orbit - NASA tracking of 4 million pounds of debris
"In an analysis of 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 states, researchers found that Americans living in areas infested by the emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees, suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease when compared to uninfected areas. When emerald ash borer comes into a community, city streets lined with ash trees become treeless."
Dares Salaam, Tanzania
As I pointed out in a post on my blog Wit's End, the research doesn't bring up the question of what happens to all the trees that are so obligingly soaking up pollution and saving humans from lethal illnesses.

One book, An Appalachian Tragedy, was published in 1998 and delineates the ways in which air pollution is causing forest decline from Georgia to Maine.  From what I have seen, the process has been greatly exacerbated and is now a world-wide threat, probably due to the phenomenal increase in precursors from Asia.  I recently wrote an update incorporating newer research which was published at Greg Laden's Science Blog.
Sukinda, India
I would greatly appreciate hearing any thoughts you have on this topic.  Because pollution is killing trees and other plants, climate change will be greatly intensified, and as far as I can tell, not one single model is factoring in this very significant impact.  The fact is, that if we stopped emitting precursors, or at least greatly reduced them, the air would clear quickly, and not only could we continue to have trees but annual crop quality and quantity would be improved.
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Does your group do any work with ozone?  Are you going to do an update to your map incorporating data from 2011 on?

Thank you so much for your attention.

Gail
Incredibly, the list of polluted places doesn't include Fukushima - which will probably be uninhabitable, approximately, forever.  It did include places in China, but I saved that for the following film version, parts One and Two below - and/or, you could click on this link to an article in the Atlantic that has the unspeakably cynical scene above, as well as interactive photos showing before and after images.  Some of them fade in and out, from times of reasonably good visibility...
 ...to murky.
It makes me wonder why so few people understand that ozone precursors are flowing across the globe like a tsunami of highly reactive poison, leaving dead trees in its wake.


I highly recommend watching this film, because what happens in China isn't staying in China.



8 comments:

  1. michele/montrealMarch 4, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    hi gail,
    just saw this on DES: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/february/china-nitrogen-pollution-022513.html

    last paragraph: «China's nitrogen deposition problem could be brought under control, the study's authors state, if the country's environmental policy focused on improving efficiency in agricultural use of nitrogen and reducing nitrogen emissions from all sources, including industry and transit.»

    problem could be brought under control, but is not and will not be.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Disturbing videos of China. Yikes! Thanks for posting these.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, Michele:

    "...nitrogen (from industry, cars and fertilizer) deposited on land and water in China by way of rain, dust and other carriers increased by 60 percent annually from the 1980s to the 2000s, with profound consequences for the country's people and ecosystems."

    That could explain a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Everything released into the atmosphere blows everywhere around the planet. Not only toxins, but microbiota:

    "“It’s a small world. Global wind circulation can move Earth’s smallest types of life to just about anywhere,” Smith said… “I was very surprised at the concentrations. One might expect the concentrations of cells to decrease with altitude based on fallout and dilution,” Smith said. “But during these plume events, the atmosphere was pooling these cells just as it does with other kinds of air pollution."

    http://optimalprediction.com/wp/fungi-from-japan-transported-into-usa-in-spring-2011/

    ReplyDelete
  5. wit's end

    You have made negative, disparaging comments about my background and work in your latest post, indicating that I am a conducting a scam:

    "Once again a story has surfaced about urban trees dying, purportedly from leaking natural gas pipelines around their roots. Some folks are hoping to win awards or settlements from energy companies. Bob Ackley, a self-described "gas leakage specialist" started out in Boston and has since apparently managed to receive enough support to expand to a six-person team funded by Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. He has moved on down to Washington, DC, as pictured above. This transparent scam conveniently ignores the fact that trees which are not anywhere near gas lines, leaky or intact, are in just as poor health as those that are. But, I guess people notice trees dying in those areas first, because they are developed, and it costs the municpality money to remove them, and so they look for the most proximate cause. The only part of the article that doesn't miss the point is this sentence: "Gas leaks contribute to smog". Methane is an ozone precursor."

    Let me state that I have over thirty years experience detecting natural gas leaks by observing vegetation abnormalities. I conducted government compliance leakage surveys for natural gas operators for over thirty years and have trained well over 100 people to detect natural gas leaks by observing vegetation and through instrument use. Natural gas leaks do kill trees and other vegetation whether you believe it or not. Natural gas companies stopped repairing these leaks about 15 years ago, most likely due to deregulation, as repairing leaks became a money loser. The work in Washington, DC is more about methane release into the atmosphere than about trees.

    To call my work a scam is both untrue and offensive. I have worked the last 6 years of my life to expose this nationwide problem of leaking gas infrastructure that is both a safety hazard and an environmental hazard.

    Please do a little more research before you continue to disparage work that I am extremely proud of.

    Regards,
    Bob Ackley
    Gas Safety Inc.
    508-344-9321
    www.gassafetyusa.com
    bobackley@gassafetyusa.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Bob,

    Perhaps you forgot about the conversation we had on the phone back in 2010 which I documented here:

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/06/always-look-on-bright-side-of-life.html

    Where I wrote (and I stand by this absent any scientific research indicating natural gas leaks are killing trees):

    Initially I was hopeful that I would find some allies in my effort to warn the world that we must transition to clean energy before the ecosystem suffers a total collapse. I learned that a couple of guys - Bob Ackley, a former gas company employee and Jan Schlichtmann, a lawyer - had founded the "public" Massachusetts Shade Tree Trust in 2007. That sounds like a charitable organization but is actually just the two of them, who are peddling the notion to municipalities that by joining the trust they can recover millions of dollars each from National Grid, the major local utility, for damages.

    I was a bit surprised to see that they are still at it since I wrote to both of them after I first read the article in the Patriot Ledger and saw the Boston.com television report, to inform them that trees are dying everywhere, not just in proximity to gas lines...because the ozone that forms from toxic greenhouse gas emissions interferes with the ability of leaves to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll.

    Ackley called me within an hour after I emailed him that message, and I realized then that he wasn't involved out of some altruistic love for trees. He was quoted as saying "Statewide, there could be somewhere between $15 billion - $30 billion in damages." Hmmm...according to the terms of the Trust, it (it being Ackley and Schlichtmann, remember) retains 40% of anything they help the towns to recover from National Grid. So, if they held National Grid fully accountable that means a potential of billions in legal fees for the "Trust". Billions!!

    No wonder they don't want to hear that ozone - from a variety of sources - is the principle culprit! Of course, it is possible that gas leaks from pipes do damage root systems as well, so when Ackley called I asked if he had any scientific research that indicated gas leaks from pipes are killing trees on a massive scale, and he assured me it was available on the trust website. Guess what I found? ONE pdf from the "Journal of Arboriculture" written in 1977. Yes, that is Nineteen Seventy-seven AND it is based on research done in the '60's! Compare that to the peer-reviewed publications about ozone killing trees compiled on this page! (http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html)

    I also wrote to State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, was was reported to be sponsoring legislation to force National Grid to repair all leaks within six months, but of course I never heard back from her either. Another curiosity I just noticed: the website says, "With a team of certified and highly regarded arborists, professionally trained gas leak inspectors...the Trust is already delivering valuable services...". As far as I can tell, there IS no "team" and only one "inspector." And on their "newsroom" page, exactly one link out of twelve media stories actually connected to an article about the Trust, all the rest are expired or error pages. The amazing thing is that a number of towns have signed onto this ridiculous sham. I guess the local governments are blinded by the dollar signs.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I did not forget our conversation. I noticed your comment on the Washington Post article and felt compelled to respond.

    A few clarifications

    I estimated tree damage in Massachusetts from natural gas leaks at 15-20 million dollars...not billion.

    Environmental attorney Jan Schlichtmann is one of the most altruistic people I have ever met. Yes we have to make a living and the trust was one mechanism to make it work. You are just incorrect on the numbers.

    The Journal of Arboriculture article from 1977 was written by Spencer Davis, a noted plant pathologist from Rutgers University. I believe Spencer Davis would take offense of your indication that there is no scientific evidence to support that natural gas leaks are killing trees. Please read the article and pay attention to comments made by Milton Heath of Heath Consultants. There was also extensive work done by plant pathologist Pascal Pirone of the NY Botanical Gardens. We have hired our own independent plant pathologist and he has conducted his own study that concludes the same.

    All of our tree damage appraisals were conducted by independent consulting arborists from Massachusetts.

    Our client communities are all towns that care deeply about their trees and have suffered extensive damage from leaking gas. We have open contracts with our clients that allow them to leave at any time. Some communities are negotiating with National Grid on their own.

    The fact that natural gas leaks are killing trees is widely known in the gas industry, just check out any gas leak awareness section of operator websites and you will see "dead or dying vegetation for no apparent reason" as an indication of a gas leak.

    For you to say that all trees are dying due to air pollution may very well be true but trees on my property or my neighborhood do not appear to be dead or dying. We are surrounded by mostly healthy looking trees and when we discover a gas leak near a tree it is either dead or in decline.

    Our tree case presses on and we will prevail because we are right.

    In the course of my tree work I stumbled into Nathan Phillips from Boston University and we have been gathering data on fugitive methane emissions from gas distributions systems. Is is coming to light that the industry is putting massive amounts of raw methane into the atmosphere.

    As far as my team, I have led the gas leak identification utilizing several employees over the last few years. I have three consulting arborists and an independent plant pathologist who have analyzed all of the tree work.

    I am now working on fugitive emissions from natural gas extraction procedures with Bryce Payne Phd. utilizing instrumentation that detect methane in parts per billion.

    I cannot insure that links on my blog will not be taken down....

    I appreciate that you posted my response and expect you will post this as well. I take great offense of your characterization of my tree work as a "ridiculous sham" as I know that I am correct on this issue and that you are misinformed.

    Regards

    Bob Ackley

    ReplyDelete
  8. Bob - I concede I may have gotten the numbers wrong - it was a while ago so I don't recall where I saw them originally. It was likely the video from boston.com which doesn't exist anymore.

    Nevertheless despite your great offence, I KNOW that trees EVERYWHERE are dying and the fact that foresters don't acknowledge it is nothing new, nor is the fact that most people refuse to see what is quite plainly occurring. There is a huge tendency, when the admission is made that trees are dying, to blame it on something other than essential processes of industrial civilization - gas leaks are just one. There are also chemtrail conspiracies, cell tower radiation, nuclear radiation, salt, the Gulf Oil Spill, and the Second Coming.

    There really is only ONE factor that can explain the global decline, a source which is global in reach, which has been proven from decades of published research, including controlled fumigation experiments, to damage vegetation - and that is ozone.

    ReplyDelete

Blog Archive

My Blog List

Search This Blog

Loading...

Followers

counter