Forecast of heavy rain could complicate Thai cave rescue
By TASSANEE VEJPONGSA
Tuesday, July 3
MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — Heavy rains forecast for northern Thailand could worsen flooding in a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach are waiting to be extracted by rescuers, possibly forcing authorities to have them swim out through a narrow, underwater passage in the cavern, a top official said Tuesday.
The 13, who disappeared when flooding trapped them in the cave they were exploring on June 23 after a soccer game, were found by rescue divers late Monday night in the cavern in northern Chiang Rai province during a desperate search. The effort drew international help and has riveted Thailand.
The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach were described as healthy and being looked after by seven members of the Thai navy SEALs, including medics, who were staying with them inside the cave. They were mostly in stable condition and have received high-protein drinks.
While efforts to pump out floodwaters are continuing, it’s clear that some areas of the sprawling cavern cannot be drained, said Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, a member of Thailand’s ruling military junta. In order to get them out ahead of the bad weather forecast for later in the week, they might need to use diving gear while being guided by professional divers, he said.
Anupong said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered, and he conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous.
“Diving is not easy. For people who have never done it, it will be difficult, unlike diving in a swimming pool, because the cave’s features have small channels,” he said. “If something happens midway, it could be life-threatening.”
Video released by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting in a dry area inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave above the water as a light held by a rescuer was shone on their faces.
Cave rescue experts have said it could be safer to simply supply them where they are for now, rather than trying to have the boys dive out. That could take months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through October.
SEAL commander Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew said there was no rush to bring them out, since they’re safe where they are.
A doctor and a nurse were with them in the cave.
“We have given the boys food, starting from easily digested and high-powered food with enough minerals,” Arpakorn told a news conference.
Having them dive out of the cave was one of several options being considered, “but if we are using this plan, we have to be certain that it will work and have to have a drill to make sure that it’s 100 percent safe,” he said.
Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the health of the boys and coach were checked using a field assessment in which red is critical condition, yellow is serious and green is stable.
“We found that most of the boys are in green condition,” he said. “Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition. But no one is in red condition.”
Relatives keeping vigil at the mouth of the cave since the ordeal began rejoiced at the news that their boys and their coach had been found.
“I want to give him a hug. I miss him very much,” said Tham Chanthawong, an aunt of the coach. “In these 10 days, how many million seconds have there been? I’ve missed him every second.”
Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate them, efforts that had been hampered by flooding that made it difficult to move through the tight passageways of muddy water.
A pair of expert cave divers from Britain found the group about 300-400 meters (yards) past a section of the cave on higher ground that was believed to be where they might have taken shelter.
In the 5-minute navy video, the boys were seen wearing their soccer uniforms and were calm, curious and polite. They also were keen to get some food.
After an initial exchange in which a rescuer determines that all 13 are present, one of the boys asked what day it was, and a rescuer replied: “Monday. Monday. You have been here — 10 days.”
The rescuer told them “you are very strong.” The traditional reserve of Thai children toward adults broke slightly after a while, and one boy told another in Thai, “Tell them we are hungry.”
“We haven’t eaten,” a boy said in Thai, then in English: “We have to eat, eat, eat!”
A rescuer assured them that “navy SEALs will come tomorrow, with food and doctors and everything.” At the end of the video, a boy asked in English, “Where do you come from?” The rescue diver replied, “England, UK.”
Besides the protein drink, Narongsak said they were given painkillers and antibiotics, which doctors had advised as a precaution.
He said officials had met and agreed on the need to “ensure 100 percent safety for the boys when we bring them out.”
“We worked so hard to find them and we will not lose them,” he said.
Cave diver Ben Reymenants, part of the team assisting the rescue effort, told NBC’s “Today” show that he was “very surprised obviously that they are all alive and actually mentally also healthy.”
While they appear responsive, “they are very weak and very skinny,” he added.
Reymenants said the easiest option would be to “keep pumping the water out of the cave. They need another 3 or 4 feet so they can literally float them out with life jackets.”
“But time is not on their side,” he noted, because of the heavy rain forecast.
He added that two Thai navy doctors have volunteered to stay with them for months, if needed.
The British Cave Rescue Council, which has members taking part in the operation, said in a statement that “although water levels have dropped, the diving conditions remain difficult and any attempt to dive the boys and their coach out will not be taken lightly because there are significant technical challenges and risks to consider.”
Joining the British are other experts from around the world and teams from the U.S., Australia, China and elsewhere.
Authorities said efforts would continue outside the cave, where teams have been scouring the mountainside for other entrances to the caverns. Several fissures have been found and teams have explored some, although so far, none lead to the trapped boys.
Associated Press journalists Grant Peck, Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Jason Corben in Bangkok contributed.
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Fossil Fuels — Curse or Blessing?
April 20, 2018 by Marlo Lewis
Earth Day turns 48 this year and thousands of activists will “recycle” their calls for greater government control over energy resources and infrastructure. Is that a cause we should support or oppose?
The question is important because abundant, affordable and reliable energy is vital to human flourishing, and government regulations put this resource at risk. On the other hand, Earth Day protesters claim our fossil-fueled civilization is “unsustainable” and headed for a climate catastrophe. Are they correct?
Prediction is difficult — especially about the future! Nonetheless, an abundance of information from high-quality sources, like Our World in Data, reveals that the state of the world is improving. The long-term trends in human health and welfare are strongly positive.
Since 1950, annual global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 500 percent, and the world warmed about 0.8 degree Centigrade. And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each of the last 17 years ranks among the warmest since the 1880s. Anthropogenic global warming is real. However, that doesn’t mean the planet, and more important the people who inhabit it, are in peril.
Globally, life expectancy increased by 54 percent, from 48 years in 1950 to 74 years in 2015. All regions made substantial gains, including Africa, the poorest continent, where life expectancy increased by 68 percent.
Many activists claim global warming will make diseases like malaria more prevalent by extending mosquito breeding seasons. However, global malaria infections and deaths are down 22 percent and 44 percent, respectively, since 2000.
Some scientists claim warming will depress crop yields. Yet global yields for wheat, rice and soy were higher in 2014 than in 2000, and U.S. corn yields increased by 26 percent.
During that time frame, improved yields contributed to a 5 percent increase in food availability per person even though the global population grew by 21 percent. Similarly, the global percentage of undernourished people declined from 15 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2015.
What about quality of life? From 2000 to 2015, per capita GDP increased by 47 percent in Africa, and by much larger percentages in Asia and Latin America. As a consequence, the share of world population living in absolute poverty — people who earn less than $1.90 per day — declined from 29 percent to 9.5 percent. Life years lost due to disability and disease also declined for all age categories, especially young children and the elderly.
To be sure, hundreds of millions of people are still hungry and poor, and millions die each year from preventable diseases. But the trends are moving in the right direction — despite climate change. Why is that?
For starters, the warming rate is gradual and fairly constant, not rapid and accelerating, as it’s often claimed. Climate change is not “worse than we thought,” it’s better than they told us.
More important, increasing wealth and technological innovation make societies less vulnerable to the effects of weather and climate. For example, since 1990, weather-related losses as a share of global GDP declined by about one-third. Since the 1920s, global deaths and death rates related to extreme weather decreased by 93 percent and 98 percent, respectively.
As fossil fuel consumption increased, the environment became more livable and human civilization more sustainable. That’s not a coincidence. Energy scholar Alex Epstein explains: human beings using fossil fuels did not take a safe climate and make it dangerous; they took a dangerous climate and made it safer.
For example, drought, historically the most lethal form of extreme weather, is far less dangerous today than it was before the advent of global warming thanks largely to fossil fuel-supported technologies and capabilities: mechanized agriculture, synthetic fertilizers, refrigeration, plastic packaging, motorized transport and modern communications.
In addition, by making agriculture more productive, fossil fuels helped rescue nature from humanity. Climate economist Indur Goklany estimates that maintaining the current level of food production without fossil fuels would require converting billions of acres of wildlife habitat into cropland. Farmland expansion is expected to peak during 2020-2040, which means a growing humanity should be able to feed itself and co-exist with other species.
Thanks in no small part to fossil fuels, the world today is healthier, wealthier and safer than ever before in history. And there’s no evidence the economic and social progress is about to stop.
Unfortunately, most Earth Day protesters won’t see it this way — even though the results are right in front of them.
About the Author
Marlo Lewis is a senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
This Earth Day, Pledge to Recycle All That You Can
April 20, 2018 by Jason Pelz
As Americans celebrate Earth Day with tree plantings, community cleanups and other eco-friendly activities, support for recycling has never been stronger, yet there remains a lot of room for improvement.
The Recycling Partnership estimates that if every U.S. family recycled properly, we would double the current recycling rate and capture 22 million more tons of recyclables each year. This would save 50 million metric tons of greenhouse gas annually, the equivalent of removing 10.5 million cars off the road every year.
So, how do we try to achieve this? An easy first step is ensuring that we are recycling all that we can. That includes food and beverage cartons — the kind that package milk, juice, water, soup and other products found in grocery stores.
Europeans have been recycling their cartons for decades but only recently have Americans followed their lead. Today, cartons are considered a mainstream recyclable material, much like newspaper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans. People across the country are placing their cartons in recycling bins, rather than tossing them in the trash.
New research by the Carton Council of North America offers proof. A survey of 6,900 U.S. adults showed that 61 percent of people said they always recycle their cartons, up 11 percent from a similar survey done two years ago. Overall, enthusiasm for recycling runs high. Ninety-four percent agreed that recycling is important and that people should do whatever they can to recycle.
As recycling has evolved, so too have recycling logos and information on packaging, which can boost the chances of a product being recycled. The Carton Council’s survey found that people look to a product’s packaging first to figure out if an item is recyclable.
However, just because a package doesn’t have a recycling symbol, people shouldn’t assume that it can’t be recycled. What can and can’t be recycled varies by community and is primarily dependent on the recycling facilities where the materials go. To find out for sure, consumers should check with their local community and its website.
Another way to improve recycling is by attacking persisting myths. For example, unless your local program says otherwise, people shouldn’t bag recyclables before putting them in their recycling bin. Plastic bags get jammed in recycling equipment. Instead, put recyclables loosely in bins or carts.
There’s no need to crush containers or remove caps, either. Empty the contents and put them in the bin and let the recycling professionals handle the rest.
Cartons come in two types: shelf-stable cartons for soup, water, juice, beans, wine and other products; and gable-top cartons for milk, juice, cream and other items found in the refrigerated section. It’s important to know that there’s no such thing as a “waxy” carton. What some people think is wax, is a plastic coating. Cartons are light weight by design. Most average 93 percent product and just 7 percent packaging, which helps preserve the Earth’s resources.
Once recycled cartons are collected and hauled to a sorting center, they are separated from other materials, baled and shipped to facilities where they get a second life. At paper mills, cartons are made into new products, such as printing and writing paper, tissues and paper towels.
Alternatively, cartons go to a manufacturing company in Des Moines, Iowa, that converts them into green construction materials for homes and buildings. The ReWall Company incorporates the entire carton, caps and all, to make building materials using no water, formaldehyde glues or hazardous chemicals. Imagine a giant panini press fusing the cartons together into big sheets of roofing, flooring and wallboard material. The finished product is strong, durable and resistant to mold and moisture.
As with many eco-friendly products, demand for these building materials is growing. ReWall recently expanded its operations, increasing its appetite for even more recycled cartons.
So as Americans look for ways to protect the planet this Earth Day, they should look at recycling and whether they are doing everything they can to recycle the right materials and recycle more of them. Recycling does make a difference and still is the simplest way one person can help the environment.
About the Author
Jason Pelz is vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment, for Tetra Pak Americas.