Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Microbiologist Dr. Yuri Gorbi warns fracking brings up buried life forms. Film-maker Kip Anderson's "Cowspiracy" asks why big green groups are afraid to tackle the biggest single cause of global warming: the meat industry. Radio Ecoshock 150528


I used to get 2,000 views a week reading this blog. While I wasn't paying attention, that shot up over the past month to about 10,000 views a week! Almost 40,000 views this past month. This is getting to be like a small newspaper audience. My thanks to all those who Tweet and Facebook about this blog, passing the word out. It's working.

Probably the other reason my blog readership of growing is more people realize climate change is really happening. It's possible I've broadcast more climate science than any other show on the planet. Certainly, Radio Ecoshock is right up there as one of the largest green radio shows anywhere.


Welcome to another shocking show about the state of nature and the world. For those paying attention, my two guests on this program should blow your mind.

We discover another whole side to the fracking debate, with Dr. Yuri Gorby. He's a microbiologist with a specialty in life deep underground. Gorby tells us fracking is dredging up organisms encased in the earth for the past hundreds of millions of years. Some of them have the potential to change chemistry and life on the surface in ways as yet unknown. It's sounds like sci fi, but it's truth-fi - and that's just the start, as we explore the tiny world, including toxic rain.

Then we introduce a film that dares to question the whole green movement, and your preconceptions about climate change. Maybe we should protest less about the Keystone Pipeline and Arctic drilling, and more about what's on our dinner plate? Does our vast herd of meat slaves cause more greenhouse gases than our cars, boats, trains, and planes combined? A few small voices, often silenced by laws suits and government harassment, say we have to save the world by changing what we eat. Are you brave enough to hear the awful truth?

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show (1 hour) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or listen on SoundCloud right now.


Fracking is the wonder-child of the energy industry these days. It's the miracle recovery tool promised by many national governments. One of the early people to question fracking was Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University. He came under intense pressure, including criticism from other faculty there. Then EPA studies showed he was absolutely correct about methane leaking out of the natural gas system.

Why is fracking a long-term threat? Why is underground water so polluted? Is rainwater safe to drink anymore? All of this and more - as we meet a remarkable mind in Dr. Yuri Gorby.

He's an expert in geo-microbiology - the organisms that live underground, often deep underground. He's the Howard N. Blitman Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Gorby worked for 15 years at the Hanford Nuclear site, studying micro-organisms that can "breath" radioactive materials just as we breath oxygen. He then spent 5 years at the iconic J. Craig Venter Institute.

Dr. Gorby has studied ways of using bacteria to remediate contaminated water, as a possible source of alternative energy, and the ways microbes can cause corrosion. All of that comes to bear in the important issues Yuri Gorby raises. He surprised me. He may challenge your confidence in the environment around us.

Yuri Gorby studied microbial life in geologic deposits. I wonder if that underground network nobody sees, and few know about, be affected by this new wave of toxic chemicals arriving from the surface? What could happen to those life forms, and would it matter to us?

Yuri Gorby, from this Radio Ecoshock interview:

"My interest in ... hyrdaulic fracturing really came from these organisms that we were working with in the deep subsurface - organisms that might impact the migration of things like uranium and technisium in contaminated groundwater. I saw that there was something happening back in my home state of West Virginia that I just thought that I could help contribute to.

....There was something traumatic happening in the sub-surface. The insults that we see to those deep formations and the amount of fluids that are used and the types of chemicals that we suspected are being used, and now are coming back up out of those formations. For me it was just unbelievable that it was happening in these very sensitive ecosystems where I grew up.

I mean I worked out in the semi-arid area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for those 15 years, and there was problems out there with nuclear materials and uranium moving in the groundwater. But nothing of the magnitude of what I saw happening in West Virginia. And I have to say over the last few years the magnitude of that problem has increased and the serious ecological and health impacts are manifesting in front of our eyes


Another quote from this Gorby interview:

"Now the shale formations that we are currently drilling into in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio are 350 million year-old formations. We may think that they are devoid of life but in fact they are teeming with life. There are some efforts now to characterize that life. But some of that life can actually do some pretty damaging things to overlying strata if they are brought up from those depths in large volumes.

One of them being the sulphate-reducing bacteria generating hydrogen sulphide, and tremendous amounts of hydrogen sulphide forever - from these deep formations that are now communicating with the overlying strata. Those are like putting little sulphur burners in our water supplies and generating, if and when those sulphides reach our water resources, will generate hydrogen sulphide, and the sulphuric acid as it starts to de-oxidize and be transformed by bacteria.

These are things we have to take seriously because I don't think those that are driven by removing or extracting wealth from those materials - are motivated more by their ability to do so and the profits and the economic growth that it will yield. But they are not considering the long-term implications, or the long and short-term implications, of stimulating those microbial populations, and then allowing those microbial populations to be stimulated forever

Nothing to worry about? I remind Radio Ecoshock listeners of the research by Dr. Peter Ward at Washington State University. In his book "Under A Green Sky" (still an excellent read) - Ward expounded his theory that a switch to hydrogen sulphide producing organisms in the ocean were responsible for wiping out about 90% of all life on both land and oceans millions of years ago. It's still one of the best explanations for a mass extinction event that lasted for at least 10 million years.

Try this Radio Ecoshock You tube version of my previous 8 minute interview with Peter Ward about rising seas.

Here is my classic radio interview with Dr. Peter Ward, where he explains the role of sulfide-producing bacteria killing off life.

Lo-Fi 6 MB 26 min

And now we are bringing up swarms of those very same micro-organisms from ancient sea beds being drilled under the Marcellus Shale and other shale-beds in America. Nobody has thought this through, and nobody by Dr. Gorby has raised this problem with fracking.


Gorby and I have a wide-ranging interview. For example, he explains how micro-organisms can set up electronic nano-chains which cause the well casing of fracking operations to deteriorate relatively rapidly. These are the pipes which are supposed to protect groundwater from fracking pollution.

There is also a lot of air pollution from fracking, and that moves over heavily populated areas, causing health problems. It also falls as "toxic rain" into drinking water rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ecosystems. For example, when some West Virginians lost their drinking water supply due to a massive industrial accident, they turned to collecting rainwater. That's not a good idea says Yuri Gorby, as that rainwater is also laden with toxic chemicals.

In fact, Gory says we now have "chemical rain" in many parts of the world. Nobody is testing that rainwater. Yuri is proposing a citizen scientist project where people collect rainwater in a scientifically sound way, and send in samples to a central testing site. Let's find out what is really falling from the sky!

Yuri suggests we check out Dr. David Brown from Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. Search for "How's the Weather" on their site to find out the big role of weather on air quality. He also agrees people in cities should probably shelter in place by running HEPA quality air cleaners inside their homes. Folks who live in shale-drilling areas may really need to wear masks outdoors to prevent entry to their lungs by damaging silica particles used in fracking.

There's plenty more about air pollution and your lungs in past Radio Ecoshock shows, including my 2008 special Highway to Hell, How Smog Kills.


Gorby also reveals the flaws in the crazy mess of pipes heading away from fracking sites. Unlike the larger collection pipes, these temporary networks are not really regulated or inspected. Leaks of very toxic materials is a given, putting people living nearby in needless danger. Even the large pipes are carrying enough abrasive materials, including silica used in drilling, that more spectacular and damaging leaks is just a given. They will continue to happen.

Oh, and this nuclear materials expert points out the same ancient sea beds that are being drilled as shale accumulated uranium big-time. That comes up and re-enters our ecosystems and drinking water at the surface. Some fracking waste is really radioactive waste. It often gets dumped in land-fills. Nobody talks about this.

Yuri Gorby adds that his concerns are his own as a person and a scientist, and not an official statement by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

There's a lot more in the interview, and it all leads to the health of your body, and the survival of our ecosystems.

Download/listen to this 32 minute feature interview with Yuri Gorby here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Or listen right now on SoundCloud


What is the single biggest cause of global warming, water depletion, deforestation, species extinction and ocean dead zones? If you answered over-population of the planet by humans, you are only slightly right. It's over-population, yes, but the problem species is cows.

That's according to a new and daring documentary film by the team of Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn. They call it "Cowspiracy" and we're going to find out why.

We already know it's common for industry hacks to write the laws that are passed, without even being read, by our elected repesentatives. There's plenty of proof that's true, it's common knowldege inside the Beltway. Do you think that's how people who object to our abuse of animals ended up being lumped in with Al Queda as terrorists?

I suppose the best-known story about being sued for talking about the nastiness behind hamburgers and red meat has to be the Texas cattlemen suing Oprah Winfrey. She won that case, but she has a billion dollars for lawyers if need be. I'll be you don't. How do you protect against legal SLAP suits?

This "Cowspiracy" film was funded partly by an Indiegogo campaign. It had another major non-profit sponsor, but they pulled out during the project, saying it was too controversial. The first filming was done in secret, before announcing the film, to get the hard-to-get footage they wanted.

The film is also about the failure of mainstream environmental groups to face up to the huge role of livestock in climate change. You can read this acidic commentary on the failure of big green groups here in this article by co-producer Keegan Kuhn.

As a person who worked for a large environmental organization, it's true they have to work on issues their members support. Otherwise they collapse. So maybe the real problem isn't the green groups, but a public that doesn't want to hear about the damage their diets cause. Maybe it's us.

But I totally agree with Kuhn and Anderson that we can't hope to limit climate damage without addressing the livestock industry and the whole issue of eating meat. Should we risk extinction of other species, and maybe ourselves, because we don't want to take on a controversial subject? Will we die of timidity and being polite?

Keegan Kuhn's web site is at First Spark Media.

Kip Anderson's web place is here at Animals United Movement.

You can educate yourself, and the public, at

Download/listen to this 20 minute Radio Ecoshock interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi, or listen to it here on SoundCloud.


I want to add just a couple of notes about that interview with Kip Anderson.

During the interview, Kip mis-spoke about the amount of the Amazon destroyed, saying 91% of that great rainforest was destroyed for animal pasture. What he meant was 91% of the land deforested since 1970 was for livestock. Only 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. "Only"!!

The 2006 FAO report "Livestock's Long Shadow" found the livestock sector was responsible for 18 percent of human-made climate emissions, far more than all cars, boats, planes and trains combined. Livestock produces even more of the most powerful greenhouse gases, like 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more damaging than simple CO2.

The World Watch Study "Livestock and Climate Change" added up all the emissions of the meat industry, cradle to grave, and concluded a stunning 51% of our greenhouse gases are attributable to that industry. Wow! They say, quote:

"If this argument is right, it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations - and thus on the rate the climate is warming - than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy."

Chew on that. We'd rather die, or sentence future generations to die, than stop eating meat. It's even worse than our addiction to fossil electricity or driving around. It drives co-producer Keegan Kuhn nuts that big environmental groups don't even want to talk about it.

Meanwhile, Cowspiracy is trending into from a movie to a movement. Check it out.


I hope you caught last week's show about Antarctic glaciers melting. It's huge. We now know that over the next century or two, most of the world's coastal cities will flood, starting now. NASA says that process is now unstoppable.

Studies on Antarctica melting and sea level rise are just pouring out of science right now. In just one example, an international team partly funded by the National Science Foundation discovered that during the most recent big melt of Antarctica (within human times) "the sea level on a global basis rose about 50 feet in just 350 years – or about 20 times faster than sea level rise over the last century." That's very fast, and it could happen to us.

That study was published this week in the journal Nature. It was conducted by researchers at University of Cologne, Oregon State University, the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Lapland, University of New South Wales, and University of Bonn.

Get my program on Antarctica melting from this blog , from our web site at and from our new Soundcloud page. Just search for Radio Ecoshock on Sound cloud. In just the first three weeks, thousands have tuned in there for recent shows.

Meanwhile, make sure you help your local non-profit community or college radio station keep going. It's one of the last free places on the air waves, or in any media. Call them or Google the station web page to find out how to support commercial free, and corporate free radio.

We'll go out with a quick sample of how the free Radio Ecoshock climate quotes can be woven into a new and necessary genre of sound: climate music. Write me, or contact me through the web site, to get details on how you can download the package of quotes, and make your own climate music, podcast, or climate microphone on social media.

I'm Alex Smith, saying thank you for listening and caring about your world.

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