Posts Tagged ‘disaster’

How We are Going to Pay

We talk a lot.

We do little.

We talk about pollution, about global warming, we talk about toxins, contaminants, about water, about plastic… talk, talk, talk.

The deniers of global warming say it isn’t happening, that it’s a fraud. But all the evidence points to global warming as a fact.

Global warming doesn’t just mean the sea levels rise; sure that’s bad for those who live in coastal cities. Sea food chains in the oceans are changing with a resulting effect on man’s food supply. But there is something more sinister, much more sinister to consider.

As icecaps melt, permafrost thaws…

30,000-year-old giant virus ‘comes back to life’

The virus was inactive for more than 30,000 years until it was revived in a laboratory in France

An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say.

It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.

The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”

Biggest virus

The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground.

Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.

The virus infects amoebas but does not attack human or animal cells

These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.

The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again.

Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals.

Co-author Dr Chantal Abergel, also from the CNRS, said: “It comes into the cell, multiplies and finally kills the cell. It is able to kill the amoeba – but it won’t infect a human cell.”

However, the researchers believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia’s permafrost.

“We are addressing this issue by sequencing the DNA that is present in those layers,” said Dr Abergel.

“This would be the best way to work out what is dangerous in there.”

‘Recipe for disaster’

The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further.

It has also become more accessible, and is being eyed for its natural resources.

Prof Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.

He said: “It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from.”

He told BBC News that ancient strains of the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated 30 years ago, could pose a risk.

“If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet – only the surface,” he said.

“By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times.”

He said: “It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from.”

He told BBC News that ancient strains of the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated 30 years ago, could pose a risk.

“If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet – only the surface,” he said.

“By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times.”

However, it is not yet clear whether all viruses could become active again after being frozen for thousands or even millions of years.

“That’s the six million dollar question,” said Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham, who was commenting on the research.

“Finding a virus still capable of infecting its host after such a long time is still pretty astounding – but just how long other viruses could remain viable in permafrost is anyone’s guess. It will depend a lot on the actual virus. I doubt they are all as robust as this one.”

He added: “We freeze viruses in the laboratory to preserve them for the future. If they have a lipid envelope – like flu or HIV, for example – then they are a bit more fragile, but the viruses with an external protein shell – like foot and mouth and common cold viruses – survive better.

“But it’s the freezing-thawing that poses the problems, because as the ice forms then melts there’s a physical damaging effect. If they do survive this, then they need to find a host to infect and they need to find them pretty fast.”

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Opinion:

Drilling into the permafrost

Drilling into the permafrost

Once again, man has no idea what he is doing. It doesn’t matter if it is climate change, global warming; what matters is our exploration deep into the permafrost for oil and gas.

Once you penetrate and disturb the permafrost it melts. Once it melts it becomes the above scenario.

We have no idea of the ancient threats that may lurk beneath.

We just want to get our dirty little hands on the oil, gas and mineral resources.

Currently, the discovered virus doesn’t effect humans, but who knows what other viruses or bacteria lie hidden, just waiting their chance to wreck havoc.

Have you any idea how much of the planet is covered in permafrost? I would guess not. Look at this…

2012_Map_globalPermafrost_dt_HLantuit_p

That’s a lot of the planet. Too much of the planet to ignore. Too much to be left to the corporations without conscience, too much to be entrusted to governments.

There has to be a total moratorium over these vast areas that prohibits any form of penetrating the ground.

Because if we don’t we have no idea of the possible devastation we could release prematurely on mankind.

If they do, do we have the tools to combat them, or will it be another race against time like HIV?

 

 

 

Nature Ramble

The chances are that for this week’s Nature Ramble the Brits need go no further than their garden.

Can science stop invasion of the giant killer slugs?

Experts seek help from the public to monitor the spread of a voracious Spanish slug that poses a major threat to Britain’s plants

Experts fear that the Spanish slug, above, could breed with native varieties to form a hybrid combining the worst of the Spanish slug with tolerance to frosts and cold from British species.  Photograph: Steffen Hauser/Alamy

The gardens and fields of Britain were saved from a grim invasion this spring. Thanks to the sharp, late frosts of May, millions of giant Spanish slugs – which threatened to devastate plants across the country – were killed. Never has so much been owed to such a poor spring.

But now experts fear that Arion vulgaris – which was first spotted in East Anglia a year ago – may soon make an unwelcome return to our shores. They have decided to seek public help to spot a menace which one expert described as “a disaster waiting to happen”.

A group of scientists led by Dr Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, have created a “slugwatch” website – slugwatch.co.uk – so people can report where and when they have seen Spanish slugs. There will also be instructions on building traps to catch them. The project will be launched to coincide with UK Biology Week, which started this weekend.

“The Spanish slug is a voracious predator that can survive eating many of the slug pellets that are supposed to kill them. It eats crops spared by our native slugs, tolerates drier conditions, reproduces in greater numbers and even eats dead animals and excrement,” said Bedford. “We want photos and sightings from members of the public to help build a picture of how widespread the Spanish slug is. The reports may also give us an idea of whether it is breeding with native species to form a hybrid combining the worst of the Spanish slug with tolerance to frosts and cold from our own species.”

The Spanish slug was first spotted in Britain by Bedford in his Norfolk garden. “Every day there seemed to be more of them. One day I counted 350. I decided to send samples to check their identity and they turned out to be Spanish slugs.”

 

The species appeared in Scandinavia a few years ago, where they bred so quickly that squashed slugs on roads became a serious traffic hazard. Very soon, it looked as if Britain would follow suit. “In early spring, numbers of the slugs began to appear and it looked as if we were in trouble,” said Bedford. “But the late spring frosts seemed to have killed off baby Spanish slugs and saved us – for the time being.”

Scientists stress that slugs play an important role in the ecosystem: they are natural composters, breaking down vegetation, and provide food for our hedgehogs, toads and some garden birds. Of the 30 native species in the UK, only four are classed as pests: the netted or grey field slug, the garden slug, the keeled slug and the large black slug. However, the Spanish slug could prove to be an even greater threat.

“We need to know exactly how they are distributed and that is why we have set up this website,” said Bedford. “We need public help, badly.”

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