News roundup for Fri, Jun 03, 2022

In short:
  • June is officially the start of the North Atlantic and Central Pacific hurricane season
  • A hepatitis A outbreak is linked to fresh organic strawberries from FreshKampo or HEB
  • Southern California started rationing water
  • Climate change is making fresh water saltier
Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricanes have a few days warning before making landfall, making it easier to anticipate and prepare for them. Here is our guide on how to prepare for, and survive hurricanes. Or, if you prefer to break down the prepping process, or just review your preps, you can follow our weekly prepping tips from this year’s Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Here’s the latest on hurricanes, as well as some past useful coverage: 

Hepatitis A outbreak

FDA is investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to fresh organic strawberries sold in the US and Canada:

  • The outbreak seems to be linked to FreshKampo or HEB fresh organic strawberries purchased between March 5 and April 25. Although the strawberries wouldn’t be fresh anymore, they could have been frozen.
  • If someone ate those strawberries in the past two weeks and has not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, they should consult a healthcare professional immediately to determine if they need post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
  • Vaccination can prevent a hepatitis A infection if given within 14 days of exposure.
  • Those with evidence of previous hepatitis A vaccination or previous hepatitis A infection do not require PEP.
  • No deaths have been reported.
Economy, food security, and supply chain

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that investors should brace for an economic ‘hurricane’: ‘We don’t know [yet] if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy.” But he admits there are “bright clouds” in the economy: the strength of the consumer, rising wages, and plentiful jobs.

Gas prices are hitting record highs—but it seems that the US government doesn’t have many tools left in its arsenal:

Study shows people in US and UK will suffer big financial losses if fossil fuels lose value. Climate action could wipe out $756 billion from the retirement plans and other investments of individuals in wealthy nations.

Operation Fly Formula is now bringing baby formula from AustraliaBubs will send 27.6 million 8-oz bottles of a variety of infant formulas, from goat’s milk that’s easy to digest to organic cow’s milk and specialty formulas like Bubs Supreme A2 beta-casein protein. While some of this product is in stock and ready for delivery, other items will be produced in the coming weeks and months.

Following a historically slow start, corn and soybean planting progress has reached an average pace. USDA reports that US corn planting was 86% complete on May 29. This is in line with the five-year average of 87% planted by late May.

Australia is not doing bad, either:

The US is boosting economic ties with Taiwan. As tensions grow with China, the Biden administration is forging closer ties with Taiwan in areas such as trade, supply chains, and technology-export controls. Taiwan supplies 92% of the world’s advanced semiconductors.

As disruptions in China continue, Apple will start making iPads in Vietnam.

Climate and environment

Southern California started rationing water. Each agency involved has a slightly different approach to achieving the required reduction, but the majority of restrictions are targeting outdoor watering since it accounts for half of all urban water use:

  • LADWP will increase patrols to catch people who waste water.
  • Watering isn’t allowed between 9 am and 4 pm regardless of the watering days.
  • Violations will be punished with warnings, then fines, which will increase every time.
  • Most agencies make exceptions for hand-watering and drip irrigation that supplies water to a food source.
  • California officials last month urged residents to take shorter showers and avoid baths, which can use up to 2.5 times as much water.

100 people have been killed by flooding and landslides in Recife, northeast Brazil. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has labeled Recife as one of the most vulnerable metropolitan areas in the world. Less affluent urban areas with no capacity to adapt to climate change will face the most risks as the planet warms.

Here’s an explainer of why is it so cold in Australia right now, and how long will it last.

‘Apocalypse Papers’: Scientists call for a paradigm shift due to increasing biodiversity loss. A growing chorus of scientists worldwide is calling for a change in the way humans travel, produce energy, grow their food, and consume goods. Such a shift is not only necessary to tackle climate change but it’s also critical to mitigate the threat of mass extinction. “Apocalypse papers” refers to a folder at the Center for Biological Diversity that keeps growing with reports of biodiversity loss and such.

The 2022 Environmental Performance Index finds that the US, China, India, and Russia will fall far short of the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target set by the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact. These countries are actually expected to emit over 50% of global emissions by 2050. Denmark, the UK, and Finland are among the most sustainable nations, according to the Index.

And speaking of Europe, a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that the EU overshoots its 2020 climate target with greenhouse gas emissions cut 34% below 1990 levels. The UK and Germany accounted for 47% of the total net reductions over the past 30 years.

Climate change is increasing salinity and altering the balance between saline and fresh water. Since the early 1990s, one-third of US rivers have become saltier. A federal government audit of Australia’s drylands predicts a threefold increase in soil salinity by 2050. Salty drinking water is already a major public health problem in many regions. And in a hotter, drier world, more crops will need more irrigation water, aggravating the buildup of salt. Researchers are working to develop salt-tolerant crops through genetic engineering or by searching among existing crop varieties.

Energy and clean tech

California’s hydropower could be cut in half this summer, a new report from the US Energy Information Administration shows. Natural gas will likely make up some of the shortfalls, but that will send more carbon dioxide and pollution into the air. Summer electricity prices are likely to go up too.

During the summer of 2021, hydropower from Lake Oroville had to go offline for the first time since the plant started operations in the 1940s. drought.ca.gov Via Grist

The US will lower the cost of building wind and solar energy projects on federal lands to help spur renewable energy development and combat climate change. Rents and fees will fall by about 50%. The move will also increase the number of people handling renewable energy reviews and permit applications.

Wind farms across the UK are producing more electricity than the grid is able to cope with. Britain has placed a big bet on renewable energy to curb carbon emissions, but this leaves it at the mercy of the weather, and without the ability to store electricity in batteries or turn it into green hydrogen it is harder for grids to cope.

Japan has successfully tested a giant deep ocean turbine that could generate up to 200 gigawatts of power–about 60% of Japan’s current generating power. One advantage of ocean currents is their stability. With little fluctuation in speed and direction, they have a capacity factor–a measure of how often the system generates energy—of 50-70%, compared with around 29% for onshore wind and 15% for solar.

A team at the University of Texas at Austin developed a low-cost way to harvest water from the air even in the desert using something like a gel film that releases water when heated. In areas with less than 15% relative humidity, the prototype can produce more than six liters (1.6 gal) of clean drinking water each day and 13 liters (3.4 gal) in areas with up to 30% relative humidity. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense is interested in using it to make water for soldiers in deserts.

The University of Texas at Austin/Cockrell School of Engineering via Fast Company

Germany will offer regional rail, bus, and subway travel for just €9 per month in an effort to reduce fuel consumption and accelerate decarbonization.

Online privacy and cybersecurity

Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) was hit by ransomware on Tuesday. CCSS said at least 30 out of 1,500 government servers were affected, but payroll and pension databases were not impacted. The attack comes weeks after Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves declared a state of emergency in the country in response to cyberattacks.

Twitter was fined $150M in the US for selling users’ data. Twitter had vowed to not give personal information like phone numbers and email addresses to advertisers. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice say Twitter violated the agreement:

The rest

A new study shows pulse oximeters aren’t accurate for measuring oxygen levels in darker skin tones. The study also shows that undetected low oxygen levels delayed lifesaving treatment in Black and Hispanic patients.

Shanghai is lifting its two-month-long Covid lockdown. Residents will no longer need passes to leave their buildings for a few hours, and public transportation will resume.

Scientists discovered the world’s largest known plant, and it’s over 100 miles long.

European cities are turning rooftops into community and sustainability hubs.

From the past: The day a tsunami-like flood struck a landlocked mountain town.

Neighbor saves a four-year-old from drowning. See the rescue here.


  • 9 Comments

    • Hardened

      Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown

      Exclusive: Oil and gas majors are planning scores of vast projects that threaten to shatter the 1.5C climate goal. If governments do not act, these firms will continue to cash in as the world burns

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2022/may/11/fossil-fuel-carbon-bombs-climate-breakdown-oil-gas

      3 |
    • Hardened

      From the past: The day a tsunami-like flood struck a landlocked mountain town.

      Wow!

      Relevant:

      Below Aging U.S. Dams, a Potential Toxic Calamity

      Documents suggest that in more than 80 U.S. locations, the failure of an aging dam could flood a major toxic waste site.

      4 |
      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Hardened

        Very tangentially related: If anyone fancies watching a movie about a tsunami hitting a mountain town, I’d recommend The Wave (2015) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3616916/.

        Good disaster movie about a landslide triggering a huge wave in a Norwegian fjord and hitting a town. I’ve watched it some times ago so my memory is not that fresh, but I seem to recall that there wasn’t a ton of specific prepping value apart from getting you to think about the scenario, what you would have done differently, etc. But the movie is good.

        1 |
    • Eric

      Putin is very sick, possibly dying, and survived an assassination attempt. I am by no means a fan of Putin, but his replacement could easily be worse. This is one more reason to be concerned about what Russia will do next.

      https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-putin-treated-cancer-april-us-intelligence-report-says-1710357

      1 |
    • Eric

      “‘Apocalypse Papers’: Scientists call for a paradigm shift due to increasing biodiversity loss.”

      The loss of biodiversity is alarming. Once these species have been killed off, they’re never coming back. We’re witnessing a mass extinction event. Previous similar events were caused by meteors, volcanic eruptions… This may be the first time that any animal species created a mass extinction. Whether or not our species survives (I have a feeling we will) we’ve already destroyed many others.

      6 |
    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      • Keep saving, budgeting, and/or job hunting
      • Keep building your pantry. Real, shelf-stable foods that you will eat anyway can be a good investment against inflation.
      • Consider walking or riding a bike, if it allows you to travel without using gas.
      • Plan your trips and batch errands together. Try to make the most of your vehicle driving.
      • Consider which parts and items need maintenance, or may break. If there is something that you use a lot and may be difficult to get, can you buy it now?
      • Store some water in your home
      • Consider a rain barrel water collection project.
      • Review your water use. Do you have any faucets where you could install low-flow (0.5 GPM) aerators? A low-flow showerhead? Anywhere you could use grey water to flush a toilet or water your garden?
      • Plant some flowers. What native, drought-hardy, plants grow in your area that are friendly to pollinators and other animals? If you plant some you can help to sustain diversity and create a welcoming environment.
      • Consider what supplies you could get locally. Are there any farmer’s markets, butcher shops, soap makers, etc. that you can make contact with in your community? This may help to not only meet great people but find a good source for items.
      • Consider a solar charger and battery bank to deal with power outages
      • Back up your documents. You never know when trouble may strike
      • Secure your online accounts. Use a good password manager and Two-Factor Authentication.
      • Get some exercise
      • Take some time to relax and recharge.

      Have a productive weekend.

      8 |
    • Karl Winterling

      The context of Tesla cutting 10% of its salaried workforce or converting it to hourly is probably that Tesla already had a bloated workforce (IIRC, Tesla’s workforce doubled over the past few years and I doubt each and every one of those jobs is necessary if you hire that fast). Combine that with lower-than-expected demand for overly-expensive cars, lockdowns in China disrupting the automotive industry, producer cost inflation, possible unionization efforts at Tesla, and questions about whether Musk can effectively run multiple companies.

      Layoffs make your company look bad, so companies usually want to find a pretext for them.

      So yes, stay alert about what’s going on in the economy. You probably don’t need to worry about layoff notices within the next few weeks or take this as a scientifically rigorous prediction of exactly how bad the next recession will be, though.

      2 |
      • I hope what you are saying is true and is not a sign that electric vehicle demand is going down. I hope that we can move that way as a society in time because it will reduce our dependence on gasoline hopefully. 

        Wouldn’t that be great if one day every home had solar panels on their roofs and electric vehicles powered by said panels and everyone can drive around practically for free? I think that would be pretty neat to see.

        2 |
      • Elon said there won’t be cuts for people who actually physically make cars, solar panels, batteries, etc. I haven’t seen anything about a slowdown in demand for solar energy.

        2 |