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Black Sea drone incident highlights lack of rules to avoid ‘accidental’ war



A Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumps fuel as it approaches the rear of a US Air Force MQ-9 in what the Pentagon says was an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” over the Black Sea. Credit: US European Command video.

V extraordinary personnel The interception by a Russian aircraft of a US drone over the Black Sea earlier this week demonstrates how potentially catastrophic such encounters can be outside actual war zones.

In a drone video released by the Pentagon, a Russian jet appears to have sprayed the drone with fuel and then deliberately collided with it. The incident coincides with similar aggressive manifestations of the Russian Air Force in the region, the Pentagon said.

But apart from such acts of brinkmanship linked to the war in Ukraine, the confrontation in the Black Sea highlights how easily these military interactions can lead to “accidental outbreaks” of war.

Increasingly, we are seeing these close clashes of a military, naval and aviation nature. In 2021, Russian aircraft and two Coast Guard ships were reported. spying on a british warship near Crimea.

And last year in Australia the defense ministry said A Chinese fighter jet attacked one of its military aircraft in international airspace over the South China Sea. The risk that these dangerous “games” will provoke something more serious is obvious, but there are several rules or regulations that prevent this.

reckless behavior

All armed forces must abide by basic international security law, but there are big exceptions and occasional agreements that fill in the gaps.

Historically the United States and the Soviet Union walked ahead in the creation of some rules for the control of incidents on and over the high seas during the Cold War. The basic rule was that both sides should avoid risky maneuvers and “remain at a sufficient distance from each other to avoid the risk of collision”.

To reduce the risk of collisions, ships in close proximity should be able to communicate and, if possible, be visible. They should not simulate attacks on each other.

Later, Russia copied this agreement with 11 NATO countries, and the Indo-Pacific version – Code for unscheduled meetings at sea— was added in 2014. While mostly between the US and China, at least half a dozen other countries have pledged to abide by it.

Additional rules for combat skirmishes in the air followed. It was helpful to add in them that “military aircrew should refrain from using impolite language or unfriendly physical gestures.” Other rules emphasized professional conduct, safe speed and avoidance of reckless behavior, “aerobatics and simulated attacks” or “dropping missiles, weapons, or other objects”.

The US and Russia have added a more specific agreement to Flight safety in Syria while they were operating in close proximity, and when close calls in the air reported.

But these are all “soft” rules. They are not contractual obligations with compliance mechanisms and are only voluntarily accepted by some countries.

Also, there are no precise definitions of “safe” speeds or distances. New technologies such as drones and other interception techniques add another layer of unmanaged complexity.

missile tests

Few things are as scary as flying rockets. to the side or over another country without consent or warning. original Soviet rule provided for mutual notification of planned missile launches. But this has always only applied to ICBMs or submarine-launched missiles, not to short-range weapons or missile defense systems.

Apart from some voluntary UN codesthe only other binding agreement on missile notification is between Russia and China. China and the US do not directly exchange information about launch notifications, nor do other nuclear powers.

Some, like North Korea and Iran, have even violated missile bans expressly imposed on them by the UN Security Council.

War games and hotlines

The military needs to train. But it becomes risky when the sham can look very much like a real attack, especially when fear and paranoia are added to the mix.

North Korea is a modern example of this, but there have been incidents of large-scale wargames in the past. almost provoked a nuclear exchange. In 1983, for example, misinterpreted military intelligence led the US to move to DEFCON 1—the highest category of nuclear threat—during a tense period of the Cold War.

There were agreements on Notice of Major Strategic Exercises between the US and the Soviet Union, but without prior warning, even they failed to determine what best practice actually looks like (such as allowing observers or preventing exercises from looking identical to a full-scale attack).

More importantly, there is no international law governing such matters – and perhaps most importantly, how leaders should be able to communicate directly, quickly and continuously.

“Hot line” first agreed in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis. While a direct link does not guarantee that the phone will be answered or that the subsequent conversation will be sincere, it does at least offer a channel to avoid confusion and reduce tension quickly.

A second-level hotline that allows commanders on the ground to communicate directly is also useful, such as the one that now links the Russian and US military with avoid accidental collision over Ukraine.

But such binary systems are the exception, not the rule. Hotlines are also not particularly stable – the one between North and South Korea, for example, have been carved and restored many times. And they are not provided for by international law, which symbolizes a broader situation where the risk of being wrong is indeed very real.

Contributed by The Conversation

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What is climate change? Very simple guide



parched earth

World temperatures are rising due to human activity, and climate change is threatening all aspects of human life.

If left unchecked, humans and nature will face catastrophic warming, increased droughts, rising sea levels and mass extinctions.

The world is facing a huge challenge, but there are potential solutions.

What is climate change?

Climate is the average weather in a place over many years. Climate change is a shift in these average conditions.

The rapid climate change that we are now seeing is caused by people using oil, gas and coal for their homes, factories and transportation.

When these fossil fuels burn, they release greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). These gases absorb solar heat and cause the planet’s temperature to rise.

The world is about 1.1 degrees warmer now than it was in the 19th century. the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by 50%.

A bar chart showing how the world got warmer between 1850 and 2020.

Temperature rise must slow down if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to climate scientists. They say global warming must be held at 1.5°C by 2100.

However, if no further action is taken, The planet could still warm up by more than 2C Then. A 2021 report by the independent group Climate Action Tracker estimates that the world is moving towards 2.4C warming by the end of the century.

If nothing is done Scientists believe that global warming could exceed 4 degrees Celsius in the future, leading to devastating heatwaves, millions of people losing their homes due to rising sea levels, and irreversible loss of plant and animal species.

What are the consequences of climate change?

extreme weather events already more intense around the world, threatening lives and livelihoods.

With further warming, some regions may become uninhabitable, because. farmlands turn into desert. East Africa has just experienced its fifth bad rainy season, which This is reported by the UN World Food Program. put up to 22 million people at risk of severe famine.

Temperature extremes can also increase the risk of wildfires, as was seen in Europe last summer. France and Germany recorded between January and mid-July 2022, about seven times more land burned than the average.

Warmer temperatures also mean that in places like Siberia, previously frozen ground will melt, releasing greenhouse gases that have been trapped for centuries into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change.

Elsewhere, extreme rainfall caused historic flooding last year, such as in China, Pakistan and Nigeria.

People living in developing countries are expected to be the hardest hit as they have fewer resources to adapt to climate change. But there is disappointment from these nations as they produced the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.

Information graphics

Information graphics

The planet’s oceans and their habitats are also under threat. The study was published in April 2022.funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that 10% to 15% of marine species are already threatened with extinction.

In a warmer world, it will also be harder for land animals to find the food and water they need to live. For example, polar bears could become extinct when the ice they rely on melts and elephants find it hard to find the 150-300 liters of water a day they need.

Scientists believe at least 550 species could become extinct this century if no action is taken.

coral reef

If temperatures continue to rise, nearly all warm water coral reefs could be destroyed.

How will climate change affect the world?

Climate change will have different consequences for the whole world. According to the UN climate body, the IPCCif the global temperature rise cannot be kept within 1.5C:

  • V Great Britain another Europe will be vulnerable to flooding caused by extreme rainfall

  • Countries in Middle East will face intense heat and widespread drought

  • Icelandic peoples in Pacific may disappear under the rising sea

  • A lot of African countries may be affected by drought and food shortages

  • Dry conditions are likely in the west. USwhile other areas will experience stronger storms

  • Australia likely to suffer from extreme heat and increased deaths from wildfires.

Internally displaced Somali woman Habiba Bile and her children stood near the carcasses of their dead cattle after a severe drought near Dollow, Somalia.

Habiba Bile and her children stood near the carcasses of their dead cattle after a severe drought near Dollow, Somalia, in 2022.

What are governments doing?

Countries agree that climate change can only be tackled by working together, and in landmark agreement in Paris in 2015they pledged to try to keep global warming at 1.5°C.

In November 2022, Egypt hosted a summit of world leaders called COP27, where countries came together to make new commitments to combat climate change.

Many countries have pledged to achieve net zero by 2050. This means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and balancing the remaining emissions by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

Experts agree that it is still achievablebut requires governments, businesses and individuals to make significant changes now.

What can individuals do?

Big changes must come from governments and businesses, but scientists say small changes in our lives can limit our impact on the climate:

Learn more about the climate change tether

Learn more about the climate change tether

Top image from Getty Images. Visualization of climatic bands provided by Professor Ed Hawkins and the University of Reading.

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Government program hopes to find important minerals right under our feet



In a remote and densely forested area of ​​northern Maine, trees hide a critical resource for combating climate change. In November, scientists from the United States Geological Survey, or USGS, announced the opening rocks rich in rare earth elements near Mount Pennington. A category of metals that play an important role in technologies ranging from smartphones to wind turbines to electric vehicle engines, rare earths are currently only mined in the only site in the US. Researchers now say a location that has been geologically ignored for decades may be at the next big deposit, although more research will be needed to confirm this.

While the US government Annoying deficiency metals and minerals needed to make the transition from fossil fuels, it also lacks the basic geological knowledge needed to tell where many of these resources are. Less than 40 percent of the country has been mapped in sufficient detail to confirm the discovery of new mineral deposits, hindering the Biden administration’s plan to increase internal mining energy transition metals such as rare earths and lithium, which are an important component in electric vehicle batteries. But the administration and Congress are now trying to fill the cards, increased funding for the USGS Earth Resource Mapping Initiative, or Earth MRI.

Geologists Chunzeng Wang and Preston Bass in a field near Mount Pennington. Bass carries a portable gamma spectrometer. USGS

A partnership between the federal government and the State Geological Surveys, Earth MRI was established in 2019 with target improving America’s knowledge of its “critical mineral” resources, list of dozens of minerals considered vital to energy, defense and other sectors. The initiative hummed quietly, providing about $11 million a year until 2022, when Earth MRI received approval. additional inflow of $320 million., for five years, under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021. Since then, magnetic resonance imaging of the Earth has gained momentum, and the USGS has launched dozens of critical new mapping efforts from Alaska to the Great Plains.

The USGS will look for minerals both in the ground and in abandoned mines, where there may be valuable metals found in piles of toxic waste. The deposits they discover could eventually be mined by mining companies, though experts say lawmakers and regulators will need to carefully weigh the benefits of mining against its social and environmental costs.

For now, says Earth MRI science coordinator Warren Day, the goal is to do something that has never been done before. “No one has ever mapped all of the nation’s critical minerals,” Day Grist said. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

Indeed, the process of mapping the Earth is laborious and time consuming: geologists must be sent to the field to record observations and locate geological features such as faults, make measurements, and interpret the landscape in detail. These interpretations can be supplemented by laboratory analyzes of soil and rock samples, as well as data collected from aircraft and other remote sensing instruments. It may take researchers several years to synthesize all this information into a map with a resolution of one inch to 2,000 feet, the standard scale at which government geological surveys operate. economical in my opinion. But they often serve as a starting point for private companies to conduct more detailed research work.

“Our part is to determine the geological basis in which deposits can be,” Day said. “Private business is taking that and trying to identify resources.”

This industry-led exploration could take several more years, after which it could take up to ten years to get a permit and build a mine, says Allan Restauro, metals and mining analyst at energy consultancy BloombergNEF. The discrepancy between the time from exploration to production and expected short-term growth demand for energy transition metals has led many experts to predict that we will see a shortage of resources like lithium over the course of a decade.

“Even if something is discovered right this very moment, it may not become a real mine until after 2030, when demand will skyrocket,” said Restauro Gristu.

To help close the gap between mineral discovery and future demand, Earth MRI scientists are aiming to gather as much raw geological data as possible. The federal government is contracting private companies to conduct airborne geophysical surveys—launching special instruments over a region to measure specific properties of the rocks underfoot. The main USGS approach is to use what is called airborne magnetic surveying to measure small changes in the Earth’s magnetic field that are related to the magnetic properties of local rocks. In some cases, the agency also conducts radiometric surveys that detect naturally occurring radioactive releases from rocks and soils containing elements such as thorium and uranium. These elements may indicate the presence of specific mineral types of interest: for example, thorium is often found together with rare earth elements.

A helicopter with a boom carrying sensitive equipment for airborne geophysical research.
The boom of this Earth MRI helicopter contains sensitive equipment for conducting airborne geophysical surveys.

While the USGS conducts aerial reconnaissance, state geologists are sent into the field for detailed surface mapping and sampling.

Earth MRI scientists have identified over 800 destinations nationwide – regions with at least some potential to host critical minerals. Thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the overall budget for the initiative has increased to $74 million per year From 2022 to 2026, efforts to survey all of them “intensified significantly,” says Jim Faulds, president of the American Association of Government Geologists. About twice as many states are now involved in mapping projects than they were before the law was passed, and individual projects receive three times as much funding as they used to. This is expected to be a big boon for western states such as Nevada and Arizona, which have only a quarter to a third of the country mapped in detail and are among the most promising places in the country to find energy transition metals.

“Many western states are rich in minerals,” Faulds said. “But we don’t necessarily know where these minerals are.”

Even in places where large mineral deposits have already been discovered, we do not always have detailed maps of the region. This is the case in the Tucker Pass region near the Oregon border, which has some of the largest lithium resources in North America, as well as area of ​​west-central Nevada with large deposits of lithium. Research work in these areas, funded by New Earth MRI, will help determine the extent of these resources, says Faulds, who runs the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

In the eastern US, where some states are relatively well mapped, there is still potential for new discoveries. For example, geologists had no idea that the Pennington Mountain region in northern Maine contained rocks rich in rare earth elements: Earth MRI funded the project in the area because elements such as copper and manganese were previously mined in it. Anji ShahUSGS geophysicist who participated in the study.

“When we chose this area, we were thinking about these particular mineral resources,” Shah said. “Only when we got [airborne survey] data, and we noticed some anomalies, to which we said: “Hey, this could be a high content of rare earth elements.” Subsequent work in the field and in the laboratory confirmed not only elevated levels of rare earth niobium another zirconiumminerals used in jet engine components and nuclear control rods.

A fine-grained volcanic rock found on Mount Pennington in Maine containing rare earth elements, niobium and zirconium. USGS/Chunzheng Wang, University of Maine-Presque Isle

Discoveries like these could eventually lead to the creation of new mines and new domestic supply chains for critical minerals. key policy objective the Biden administration. But as companies begin to demand that these rocks be dug out of the ground, the administration will have to think carefully about how to balance its climate and national security priorities with the potential harm from mining that could degrade local ecosystems, cause air and water pollution, and transform rural communities. Projects that are not carefully sited are likely to meet local resistance, as evidenced by the proposed lithium mine at Tucker Pass, which recently began construction despite fierce opposition from conservationists, a local rancher, and Native American tribes.

“We are going to discover many more deposits” using magnetic resonance imaging of the Earth, said Thea Riofrancos, a political scientist at Providence College in Rhode Island who studies the relationship between resource extraction and green energy. But the benefits of extracting these minerals, according to Riofrancos, “should not be assumed.”

Riofrancos would like the government to think holistically about the best and worst places for mining, perhaps integrating maps of mineral deposits with maps showing biodiversity, water resources, historically marginalized communities and indigenous lands where most transition metal mining takes place today . , according to recent training. (Day says the USGS always gets tribal consent before it maps reservation lands.) Keeping all of these factors in mind when deciding where to allow new mining will help minimize harm, Riofrancos says.

One of the most attractive places for the extraction of energy transition metals may be abandoned mines that have already degraded. For example, coal mining waste can be enriched in rare earth elements; Scientists at the Department of Energy are currently developing the best ways to extract them. A few years ago, Shah and her colleagues discovered that mining waste from abandoned 19th and 20th century iron mines in the eastern Adirondacks of New York is also enriched in rare earths, in particular the so-called heavy rare earths, which are more valuable from an economic point of view.

Riofrancos sees the USGS’ inclusion of mine waste in its mapping work as a positive sign. “The more industrialized an area is, the less new damage mining causes,” she said, adding that it is possible to recover new metals from mine waste in tandem with environmental cleanup efforts.

But ultimately, it will be up to private companies to decide, based on the array of new information the government is gathering, which areas it wants to explore for possible mining. And right now, Faulds says, “there’s a lot of interest at all levels” in Earth MRI data.

“I would say that companies are under pressure,” he said.

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Recycling American Chicken Dung Sounds Great, Unless You Live Next Door | pollution



TueWhen Emani Dorival moved to Seaford, Delaware, she was greeted with a terrible stench. The smell came from the rows and rows of chicken coops that house thousands of birds and are located next to mobile home parks, churches and single-family homes in this predominantly rural area.

“It’s like feces mixed with rotten eggs,” said the Haitian native. “It’s part of the environment. People get used to it. I can’t get used to it.”

Seaford is located on the Delmarva Peninsula, a region that annually produces billions of pounds of chicken meat for America’s dinner tables. But all this meat production has a dirty legacy, represented not only by the pairs of ammonia storage dumped by poultry farms, but also by the hundreds of thousands of tons of bird droppings, sludge, eggshells and other detritus generated annually.

Perdue Poultry Farm in Bridgeville, Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula, a region that annually produces billions of pounds of chicken for America’s dinner tables.

A new industrial use for chicken waste is currently being considered, but this could create new problems for the working rural region: a planned large-scale biogas plant will convert 250,000 tons of chicken waste into methane and other by-products annually. Environmental and human rights groups have disputed the plan, saying it would increase air and water pollution and pose a significant health risk to nearby residents, many of whom are black or immigrants from Haiti and Latin America who speak little English.

Dorival, a family nurse practitioner who runs two clinics in the region that cater mostly to immigrant poultry workers, questioned why the proposed biogas system was planned close to home. “In my opinion, every person should have the right to clean air, water and food, and he does not need to fight for this right,” she said.

Emani Dorival at the regional clinic she runs, which primarily serves immigrant poultry workers.
Saturday service at Ebenezer Haitian Church, a mile and a half from the planned biogas plant.
Above: Emani Dorival, a family nurse, said she saw many people in her clinic with chronic conditions, including childhood and adult asthma. Below: Sabbath service at Ebenezer Haitian Church, a mile and a half from the planned biogas plant.

The planned Seaford Bioenergy Innovation Center will be built on a 225-acre site where Bioenergy Devco, a potential biogas plant owner, is currently composting. The hotel is surrounded by wetlands, freshwater ponds and residential areas, including a mobile home park within walking distance.

The question of what to do with all the poultry waste in the region is already facing the local population. Currently, manure is often applied to fields as fertilizer, but this creates environmental problems because manure contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which can drain into waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, and are harmful to fish and crabs.

Ducks swim in the Nantikoke River, which flows through the towns of Blades and Seaford.
Surplus wastewater from the proposed biogas plant will be treated and discharged into the Nantikoke River, which flows through the towns of Blades and Seaford.

The proposed biogas plant’s proximity to the region’s waterways, as well as black and immigrant communities, also worries local environmentalists. The Delaware chapters of the ACLU and NAACP were among those who applied. complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year, alleging that the local government discriminated against residents of color by not translating educational materials, not offering opportunities for public participation, and not accepting residents who do not have internet access. The complaint was initiated by the Socially Responsible Agriculture project.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control declined to comment. A Sussex County spokesperson said the county does not comment on pending or active legal issues. In response to questions about its plans at Seaford, Bioenergy Devco, which is not named in the EPA complaint, said it was “committed to keeping our community informed about the site,” citing a public document it submitted during the permit process. . He also encouraged residents to attend his events.

According to the American Biogas Council, an industry trade association, there are about 2,300 biogas systems in operation in the US. While most systems recycle wastewater or operate in landfills, about 300 are located on farms. In North Carolina, residents filed a civil rights complaint against one such project, arguing that a plan to convert pig waste into biogas would pose a pollution risk to nearby black and Hispanic communities. And in California, groups are fighting biogas production at industrial dairy waste plants near low-income, predominantly Hispanic communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

Biogas plants present various potential risks to the environment. Such systems can emit greenhouse gases and threaten water supplies. Biogas is also potentially explosive.

Bioenergy Devco estimates that the new biogas system at Seaford will result in chicken waste being trucked to the plant nearly 200 times a day. The methane produced at these facilities will also then be transported as compressed gas to a regional gas pipeline, and excess wastewater will be diverted for treatment and discharge into a nearby river. Residents are concerned about this near-constant flow of heavy vehicles.

Maria Celios, 32, plays outside at the Sussex Manor mobile home park with her son and daughter.
Maria Celios, 32, lives with her family in the Sussex Manor mobile home park, a mile from the planned biogas plant.

“They’re trying to put them in places where they think people don’t care,” said Leon Lofland, 71, a black truck driver who lived in Sussex Manor, a mobile home park that spanned dozens of trailers about half a mile away. from the proposed biogas system within a decade.

Lofland opposes the biogas plant. “They don’t show us any respect,” he said.

His neighbor Maria Celios, 32, lives with her four children and her husband in a three-room mobile home in the park. Outside her trailer, a pink toy car was parked by a tree, and a pink scooter lay on the lawn. Her husband has been fixing a tire on a car he uses to transport workers to and from a nearby poultry farm, the Mexican immigrant said, speaking in a mixture of Spanish and English. She said she was particularly concerned about the increase in truck traffic.

“I don’t want trucks on my street because of my kids,” Celios said, recalling a child being hit by a car a few years ago on a busy street next to a park. She said government officials were disrespectful by not meeting with the public to explain the plan. “We are immigrants, but we have rights,” she said.

Maria Celios, 32, with her son at the Sussex Manor mobile home park.  She is concerned about increased pollution and truck traffic in the area due to the proposed project.
Maria Celios, 32, with her son at the Sussex Manor mobile home park. She is concerned about increased pollution and truck traffic in the area due to the proposed project.

On a nearby street, Sharon Smith, a black woman, 48, who works in a container manufacturing plant, wondered if the new facility would pollute the water. “I don’t think I want it because I don’t want them to spoil my water,” she said, noting that she wants to learn more about this plant.

IN environmental assessment The paid Bioenergy Devco found that the facility would not cause significant air or water pollution. Environmental groups, however, say the company’s application for the permit is incomplete, inconsistent, incoherent and legally dubious. They say anaerobic digesters have been shown to contribute to nitrate pollution, which can seep into groundwater; that converting biogas to methane will lead to emissions that will affect air quality and contribute to the climate crisis; and that the approximately 60,000 gallons of sewage generated each year would add to the pollution of an already distressed river.

Michael J. Kliman, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis, who has researched the air quality implications of biogas production and use, said after examining the plans that they appear to “appropriately address all air-related issues.” and water pollution.

“Obviously it will be an industrial facility, but I see no immediate reason to be concerned that it will worsen air or water pollution in the nearby region,” he added.

The Perdue AgriBusiness grain complex is visible in the distance in the Seaford, Delaware area.
The Perdue AgriBusiness grain complex is visible in the distance in the Seaford, Delaware area.

“It can be done with minimal environmental impact if it is designed and operated correctly,” he said in an email. “But with a better planning process, this facility could have been placed further away from residential areas.”

The surrounding community is within 5 miles of various identified sources of pollution, including hazardous waste and abandoned mines, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. V Blades groundwater superfund website runs along Seaford. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the population is at high risk of chronic disease and vulnerable to environmental risks.

Other residents of the Sussex Manor mobile home park said no government agency or Bioenergy Devco came to explain the plan to them. It was only in recent months that activists learned about this, although the plan was proposed back in 2020.

Sharon Smith, 48, and Rich Ames, who live in the Sussex Manor mobile home park, say they only recently learned about the project.  Smith wondered if the new venture would lead to water pollution.
Sharon Smith, 48, and Rich Ames, who live in the Sussex Manor mobile home park, say they only recently learned about the project. Smith wondered if the new venture would lead to water pollution.

Dorival, a medical practitioner, said she has seen many people in her clinic with chronic conditions, including asthma among children and adults. She said patients who worked in poultry farms had already inhaled toxic fumes at work.

She argued that any new pollution caused by the new biogas system would simply exacerbate the environmental hazards that the people of Seaford were already exposed to. “These people are already in a vulnerable state,” she said.

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