Cats are cats, briefly put, and their world is the world of cats through and through. They look at us, you say? But can you ever really know if they deign to hold your insignificant image for even a moment at the back of their retinas. Fixating on us, might they in fact be magically erasing us from their already full pupils? It is true that some of us let ourselves be taken in by their insistent and electric caresses. But these people should remember the strange, abrupt manner in which their favorite animal, distracted, turns off these effusions, which they’d presumed to be reciprocal. Even the privileged few, allowed close to cats, are rejected and disavowed many times.
Rainer Maria Rilke

I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009. Plastics of every description, from toothbrushes to tires to unidentifiable fragments too numerous to count floated past our marine research vessel Alguita for hundreds of miles without end. We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.

The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities.

Scientists have discovered methane gas bubbling from the seafloor in an unexpected place: off the East Coast of the United States where the continental shelf meets the deeper Atlantic Ocean. The methane is emanating from at least 570 locations, called seeps, from near Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Georges Bank southeast of Nantucket, Mass.

Despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse emissions. As with the recent national shift on gay marriage, feelings on climate change will eventually move more decisively — we hope in time to spare the world unnecessary expense and suffering. And the United States is reaching a put-up-or-shut-up moment.
peachtreepandeiro

Increased effort is needed to protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, which is in serious decline and will likely deteriorate further in the future, according to a new report.

“Greater reductions of all threats at all levels, reef-wide, regional and local, are required to prevent the projected declines,” said an outlook report by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the government agency responsible for protecting the reef.

However, the same agency recently approved the dumping of five million tons of dredging spoil in the reef region. Scientists and coral reef experts universally condemned the decision.

Documents obtained by Australia’s ABC TV investigative program this week revealed scientists inside the Park Authority also opposed the dumping inside the UNESCO World Heritage Area.

“That decision has to be a political decision. It is not supported by science at all, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when I heard,” Charlie Veron, a renowned coral reef scientist, told ABC. Veron is the former chief scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

A terrible trend: Aid workers take great risks only to help others:

The NYT reports:

Attacks on international aid workers have risen sharply over the past year and a half, with spikes in the numbers of killings, injuries and abductions, according to the updated figures of a database compiled by a humanitarian advisory group.

The updates, released on Monday, reflect the surge in conflict zones around the world, mostly in chronically unstable countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. Over all, aid workers have been attacked in 30 countries.

The advisory group, Humanitarian Outcomes, said the number of attacks on aid workers in 2013 set an annual record, at 460, the most since the group began compiling its database, which goes back to 1997. Known as the Aid Worker Security Database, it is widely regarded as an authoritative reference for aid organizations and governments in assessing trends in security threats.

The New York Times reports:

"Doctors Without Borders began accepting patients on Sunday at what is intended to be the organization’s largest-ever Ebola treatment center, near Liberia’s capital, Monrovia."

Yes, there are a lot of great causes to donate to, but Doctors Without Borders is among them best. I give to them regularly and hope you will too.

Just want to commend the Emory University Hospital again for stepping up in the fight against ebola:

From today’s New York Times:

Emory’s containment unit is one of only four in the country designed to house patients with dangerous infectious diseases. Dr. Ribner said it was built 12 years ago at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is less than a mile away. Officials from the C.D.C. wanted a facility ready in case their scientists contracted dangerous infections in the lab or when deployed to outbreaks like the one in West Africa … .