Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A new idea to save tropical forests takes flight

By John O. Niles, special to mongabay.com

…in 2005, a small group of countries changed everything. Papua New Guinea teamed up with Costa Rica and a handful of other countries to make a formal plea to the United Nations. Their request was simple—if developing countries can credibly reduce rates of deforestation and the associated CO2 emissions, the countries should get paid. This band of countries, organized as the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, was even more specific. They asserted that tropical nations should get lucrative carbon credits for each ton of CO2 that otherwise would have been emitted because of deforestation. The global market for carbon credits was worth tens of billions of dollars, so tying rainforest protection to carbon finance would raise vast new sums to conserve tropical forests. Since almost 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from tropical land-use change, and with growing concern about global warming, other countries began to listen.

Since 2005, the concept of paying countries to conserve their forests and reduce global warming has been dubbed by diplomats as reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, or REDD. REDD is a bold and evolving plan to radically slow the pace of CO2 emissions by offering hefty incentives for developing countries to stem deforestation. Instead of a couple hundred million dollars per year in conservation charity, billions of dollars in carbon credits could be spent to curtail logging, stop agriculture expansion, or in other ways prevent forests from getting knocked down or set on fire. …

A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight

The Ache Guayaki Project: How cultivation under native woods can help indigenous communities

Man harvesting Sustainable Yerba Mate Ache Guayaki Photo Photos: Courtesy of Guayaki.

Keeping native communities and woods untouched may seem like a beautiful idea, but it is -in most cases- an unrealistic goal. Many communities of indigenous people want to develop and grow, and work their lands. The real question is, then, Can that happen in a truly sustainable way? Is there a way for them to get revenue without harming the environment and encountering sustainable growth (not just a few years of richness to leave burned ground behind)? The Ache Guayaki Kue-Tuvy project in Paraguay might be a good example that this is possible. Guided by the folks of Guayaki, a company which we've talked about a few times, a group of 45 families that wanted to start laboring their lands learnt a technique to cultivate crops under native woods and found a way to get profit while maintaining vegetation and opening new business opportunities. …

The Ache Guayaki Project, or How Cultivation under Native Woods can Help Indigenous Communities

Monday, June 29, 2009

“Suppressed” Carlin report based on Pat Michaels attack on EPA

From Deep Climate:

A couple of days ago, I posted about economist Alan Carlin’s “suppressed” report on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Not only was the report a pastiche of warmed over contrarian talking points attacking the scientific consensus on climate change, but at least one entire section had been lifted almost whole from longtime disinformation specialist Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report (WCR).

Now further study reveals an even more shocking connection: the “suppressed” Carlin report appears to have been inspired by, and largely based on, an attack on the EPA published last November in climate science disinformation specialist Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report.

“Suppressed” Carlin report based on Pat Michaels attack on EPA

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Robin Chase on the birth of Zipcar and the future of transportation

 Robin Chase TreeHugger image

To Robin Chase, parked cars and solo drivers just look like a great big mess of wasted capacity. It’s this kind of thinking that inspired her to start Zipcar (now the world’s largest carsharing company), and GoLoco, the Facebook of ridesharing. It’s also the kind of thinking that got her invited to speak at TED and put her on TIME’s 100 list for 2009. Chase took some time from her frenetic life to tell us about the birth of Zipcar, the progress of GoLoco, and where she’s headed next (hint: cars that talk to each other).

Listen to the podcast of this interview via iTunes, or just click here to listen, right-click to download. Music comes from Nightmares on Wax.

TreeHugger: Since starting Zipcar you've moved on to other things, but for the uninitiated, how do you describe Zipcar?

Robin Chase: This is the elevator pitch that I have probably given close to 1, 000 times, so here we go: Zipcar parks cars throughout dense metropolitan areas and university towns for people to use by the hour and by the day instead of driving their own cars. You make a reservation online or by telephone for a very specific car in a specific location and that reservation gets sent wirelessly to the car. You walk up to a car and you hold your membership card on a spot in the windshield and that unlocks the door, enables the ignition, and opens the billing record.

People drive round trip and park back in that same reserved parking space when they are done. The billing record is closed and you are all done. …

Robin Chase on the Birth of Zipcar and the Future of Transportation (Part One)

Technorati Tags:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brazilian cattle giant declares moratorium on Amazon deforestation

Marfrig, the world's fourth largest beef trader, will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon, reports Greenpeace. The announcement is a direct response to Greenpeace's Slaughtering the Amazon report, which linked illegal Amazon forest clearing to the cattle producers that supply raw materials to some of the world's most prominent consumer products companies. Marfrig was one several cattle firms named in the investigative report. …

Brazilian cattle giant declares moratorium on Amazon deforestation

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Canadian first for sustainable community design


GLOBE-Net (June 18, 2009) - From an industrial beginning to a greener future, one Vancouver inner-city area is being transformed using state-of-the art concepts and technologies that will establish a number of Canadian firsts in sustainable design and urban planning. Millennium Water, tagged as "Vancouver's last waterfront community", is about to become the first LEED® Gold multi-unit residential neighbourhood in Canada.

The development also sets high standards for future Olympic host cities since the community's first residents will be the 2,800 athletes, coaches, and officials of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The Millennium Water 17-acre land parcel is centrally located within the 80-acre Southeast False Creek (SEFC) area in downtown Vancouver. Included in this phase-one development are 1,122 residential units with a mix of market, rental, and affordable housing for seniors, singles, and families. There is also approximately 70,000 square-feet of commercial space available. …

A Canadian First for Sustainable Community Design

Climate scientist James Hansen arrested in mountaintop removal protest

SUNDIAL, West Virginia, June 23, 2009 (ENS) - West Virginia State Police today arrested at least 29 demonstrators, including government climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and 94 year-old former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler, for tresspassing on the property of a mountaintop removal coal mining company to protest the destructive practice.

The protesters deliberately entered the Goals Coal plant owned by coal giant Massey Energy to draw public attention to the destruction of mountains immediately above the Coal River Valley community of Sundial in Raleigh County.

The demonstrators attempted to deliver a letter of demands to the company regarding this facility, which they say threatens the students at Marsh Fork Elementary School.

"I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen," said Hansen, who is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

"Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient," Hansen told a crowd of about 350 people gathered at Marsh Fork Elementary. "Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished."

Also arrested were Michael Brune, executive director of the nonprofit Rainforest Action Network; and Goldman Prize winner Judy Bonds, co-director of the nonprofit Coal River Mountain Watch, along with dozens of Coal River Valley residents and allies. …

Climate Scientist James Hansen Arrested in Mountaintop Removal Protest

Technorati Tags: ,,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Amazon deforestation in 2009 declines to lowest on record

Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. Yesterday Minc said preliminary data from the country's satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Faling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation rates. …

Amazon deforestation in 2009 declines to lowest on record

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Destroying levees in a state usually clamoring for them

A project is under way to restore Mollicy Farms, on the left, to a form that will make it look more like the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, on the right. Steve Haase / Nature Conservancy


In the 1960s, a group of businessmen bought 16,000 acres of swampy bottomland along the Ouachita River in northern Louisiana and built miles of levee around it. They bulldozed its oak and cypress trees and, when the land dried out, turned it into a soybean farm.

Now two brothers who grew up nearby are undoing all that work. In what experts are calling the biggest levee-busting operation ever in North America, the brothers plan to return the muddy river to its ancient floodplain, coaxing back plants and animals that flourished there when President Thomas Jefferson first had the land surveyed in 1804.

“I really did not know if I would ever see it,” said Kelby Ouchley, who retired last year as manager of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, which owns the land. He pursues the project as a volunteer consultant in coordination with his brother Keith, who heads Louisiana operations for the Nature Conservancy, which helped organize and finance the levee-busting effort. …

The parcel that the Ouchley brothers plan to restore, known as Mollicy Farms, was added in the 1990s to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service’s Upper Ouachita (pronounced WASH-it-tah) holdings in a series of purchases assisted by the Nature Conservancy and totaling $6.6 million. The brothers and their organizations have since worked on several environmental projects there, including a 10,000-acre tree-planting operation, Kelby Ouchley said.

The workers replanted cypress and tupelo in low areas, then oaks and green ash, and then sweetgum and pecans — “life-sustaining, system-supporting diversity,” as Kelby Ouchley called it in an essay.

Eventually, he predicted, the restored landscape would be home to black bear cubs, largemouth bass, fireflies, crawfish and “gobbling wild turkeys and cottonmouths with attitudes.”

Still, the brothers felt dissatisfied. A few years ago, Keith Ouchley said, “I was standing on the giant levees with my brother and I said, ‘Well, there is one thing missing here. The big challenge is restoring this floodplain.’ ”

Environmental scientists say the very notion of undoing levee construction may be the most important aspect of the Ouachita project. “The idea that we can take levees down — that’s a good thing,” said Denise J. Reed, a coastal scientist at the University of New Orleans. ...

Destroying Levees in a State Usually Clamoring for Them

Technorati Tags:

CBO stunner: Waxman-Markey cuts U.S. GHGs sharply but costs only a postage stamp a day — without counting the efficiency savings

A June 5 Congressional Budget Office analysis found under the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, greenhouse gas emissions in capped sectors would be cut nearly 12% in 2020. And I’ve argued we would actually achieve even deeper U.S. reductions in 2020 thanks in part to soaring production of unconventional natural gas.  On Friday, CBO released a new analysis showing just how little it would cost American families to start down this path of averting catastrophic global warming — and another new study found that accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy would generate 1.7 million jobs.  Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, discusses the latest CBO analysis in a post for CP.

The opponents of ACES, H.R. 2454, keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.  These wild estimates were based on either perversions or distortions of independent government or university studies, or partisan studies with rigged assumptions designed to produce an outlandish estimate.

On June 19, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the average household would spend a miniscule amount to reduce global warming pollution under H.R. 2454.  This independent analysis determined “that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household.”  This is 48 cents per day – about one-third the cost of a tall (really small) Starbucks coffee.

The least well off households — those “in the lowest income quintile — would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020.” These households had an income under $20,292 in 2007. …

CBO stunner: Waxman-Markey cuts U.S. GHGs sharply but costs only a postage stamp a day — without counting the efficiency savings

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Backyard wind turbine by wind simplicity mirrors art and nature

 Wind Dancer Turbine by Wind Simplicity Photo

Image via: Wind Simplicity

Backyard wind turbines are becoming more aesthetically pleasing and still completely functional, and one of the latest on the market is the Wind Dancer - a copper-colored, 8-bladed fancy-schmancy residential wind turbine. Created by father and daughter duo, Sharolyn Vettese and Alfred Matheiu, the WInd Dancer offers residential applications and a "pretty" option, particularly in areas with low wind speeds, reports the Globe and Mail. …

Backyard Wind Turbine by Wind Simplicity Mirrors Art and Nature

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising

Peru's Congress revoked two controversial land laws that sparked violent conflicts between indigenous protesters and police in the country's Amazon region. The move temporarily defuses a two-week crisis, with protestors agreeing to stand down by removing blockades from roads and rivers. Congress voted 82-14 Thursday to overturn legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, which would have facilitated foreign development of Amazon land. Indigenous groups said the decrees threatened millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest and undermined their traditional land use rights. …

Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising

Canadian seal hunt 'collapsing'

The market price for a seal pelt has plummeted in recent years

By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Canada's fishermen catch only 25% of this year's seal quota, blaming falling prices for seal pelts and an expected EU ban on seal products.

Canada's annual seal hunt has ended with only a quarter of the quota of seals being caught.

The quota had been set at 273,000, but fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador, eastern Canada, took some 70,000 seals.

They blame plummeting prices for seal pelts and an impending European Union ban on seal products, which is expected to come into effect in October.

Some local fishermen are wondering if this could be the beginning of the end for the centuries-old practice.

Many hunters from fishing communities in eastern Canada, did not even bother taking their boats out for this year's seal hunt.

The market price for a seal pelt is about $12, a steep decline from a peak of $100 a pelt a few years ago. …

Canadian seal hunt 'collapsing'

Technorati Tags:

Thornton Creek breathes again at Northgate

A new channel south of Northgate Mall in Seattle will filter sediment and clean the water of Thornton Creek. A parking lot used to cover this 2.7-acre creek channel.

Covered for decades by pavement, Thornton Creek is again exposed in a new development at Northgate. Holding ponds, foreground, filter stormwater runoff. In this view northeast, the creek flows under Fifth Avenue Northeast and into the trees in the distance.

By Michelle Ma, Seattle Times staff reporter

Dragonflies alight and swoop delicately from plant to plant. For biologists and project managers alike, the presence of these insects, which are sensitive to pollution, indicates a healthy ecosystem.

That wasn't always so across the stark, paved grounds of Northgate Mall. Polluted runoff from the parking lots and neighborhood streets had nowhere to go except directly into Thornton Creek, a stream that weaves through Shoreline and North Seattle and empties into Lake Washington at Matthews Beach Park.

But with enough community pressure and compromise, change can happen.

A large, paved lot once devoted to overflow mall traffic and RV parking has been replaced with a landscaped, open space that allows the beginnings of Thornton Creek to flow above ground for the first time in decades. Before, a large underground pipe diverted the water to an outfall several blocks away.

This project now lets water in the creek's south fork flow as it should above ground and nourish its new stream bed before exiting under Fifth Avenue Northeast into the existing creek.

"If you look at it 10 years from now, it will be the defining development that helped transform the whole neighborhood into a different place," said John Lombard, a Northgate resident with Thornton Creek Alliance. …

Thornton Creek breathes again at Northgate

Technorati Tags:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Same-sex behavior seen in nearly all animals, review finds

Next time somebody calls being gay “unnatural,” you can cite this study!

A female-female pair of Laysan Albatross. Females cooperatively build nests and rear young when males are scarce. (Credit: Eric VanderWerf)

"It's clear that same-sex sexual behavior extends far beyond the well-known examples that dominate both the scientific and popular literature: for example, bonobos, dolphins, penguins and fruit flies," said Nathan Bailey, the first author of the review paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology at UC Riverside.

There is a caveat, however. The review also reports that same-sex behaviors are not the same across species, and that researchers may be calling qualitatively different phenomena by the same name.

"For example, male fruit flies may court other males because they are lacking a gene that enables them to discriminate between the sexes," Bailey said. "But that is very different from male bottlenose dolphins, who engage in same-sex interactions to facilitate group bonding, or female Laysan Albatross that can remain pair-bonded for life and cooperatively rear young."

Published June 16 in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, the review by Bailey and Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology at UCR, also finds that although many studies are performed in the context of understanding the evolutionary origins of same-sex sexual behavior, almost none have considered its evolutionary consequences. …

Same-sex Behavior Seen In Nearly All Animals, Review Finds

Technorati Tags:

Fusion falters under soaring costs

Jet tokamak (EFDA) Plasma in a tokamak - a fusion reactor device - can reach millions of degrees

By Matt McGrath, Science reporter, BBC World Service

An international plan to build a nuclear fusion reactor is being threatened by rising costs, delays and technical challenges.

Emails leaked to the BBC indicate that construction costs for the experimental fusion project called Iter have more than doubled.

Some scientists also believe that the technical hurdles to fusion have become more difficult to overcome and that the development of fusion as a commercial power source is still at least 100 years away.

At a meeting in Japan on Wednesday, members of the governing Iter council will review the plans and may agree to scale back the project. …

Fusion falters under soaring costs

Technorati Tags: ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Delta IV Heavy is cheaper than Ares 1. Wow. Who knew.

Well, that’s just great.

Study Finds Human-rated Delta IV Cheaper

"A NASA-funded study found that a human-rated Delta IV heavy rocket could be a cheaper route to the International Space Station than NASA's Ares I crew launch vehicle. But the human-rated United Launch Alliance rocket would be less expensive only if the Ares V heavy-lift moon rocket development is deferred, the Aerospace Corp. study reports. And the Delta IV alternative could add two years or more to the "gap" in U.S. human access to orbit if it starts this year, according to the unreleased study obtained by Aviation Week." …

Delta IV Heavy is Cheaper Than Ares 1. Wow. Who Knew.

Technorati Tags:

Social media allows reports despite Tehran's curbs

by David Folkenflik

All Things Considered, June 16, 2009 · Iranian authorities are seeking to exercise a stranglehold on press coverage of mass unrest after the disputed election results there, but they're having trouble stopping a combination of old-fashioned, shoe-leather journalism and new social media platforms.

On Tuesday, officials ordered journalists in Tehran from foreign outlets, including NPR, to stay away from protests. They could file stories only from their homes or offices.

"When we go to our reporter on the ground, we talk the audience through what the restrictions are," says Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International. He oversees all the networks' foreign channels and its coverage abroad.

CNN's most well-known international reporter, Christiane Amanpour, had to leave the country Tuesday as her visa was expiring. The regime is refusing to renew visas for those reporters who arrived ahead of last week's elections.

Farnaz Fassihi, the Iranian-American senior foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, says Iranian news agencies with links to the ruling regime are seeking to whip up support by blaming foreign media for the unrest. And, she says, many of her sources are being arrested.

Yet because she spent much of her childhood in Iran and speaks Farsi fluently, Fassihi has been able to slip out and witness rioting and protests firsthand.

There's another aid to her reporting:

"Thankfully, due to technology, what's happening in Iran is being documented by Iranians," she says by phone from Tehran. Iranians equipped with digital cameras or even just camera phones are creating and sharing footage of developments. Social media sites such as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook have become saturated with material from Iran.

"Information is flowing very quickly, and I don't think they can really seriously censor it in any way," Fassihi says.

Not that the authorities aren't trying. The BBC's satellite Persian TV channel is among those being jammed inside Iran, for example. The Voice of America's rival Persian News Network took steps to avoid that, according to the channel's acting managing director, Alex Belida, by beaming its programming from two additional satellites.

Technorati Tags: ,

Munich Re touts Sahara in solar energy push


FRANKFURT, June 16 (Reuters) - German reinsurer Munich Re (MUVGn.DE), facing billions of euros in claims for damage caused by climate change in coming years, is seeking to drum up support for an ambitious plan to build solar parks in the Sahara desert.

The reinsurer wants backing from other leading European companies for a feasibility study on generating a significant proportion of Europe's power needs in northern Africa -- at a cost potentially running into hundreds of billions of euros.

The project is the brainchild the Club of Rome, an association of social leaders who aim to foster sustainable development best known for its 1972 book 'Limits to Growth'.

Munich Re has invited several companies, including Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), Siemens (SIEGn.DE), E.ON (EONGn.DE) and RWE (RWEG.DE), to meet on July 13 to agree on a joint project, said a foundation organised by members of the Club of Rome.

"We have approached Munich Re to get industrial companies on board and Munich Re organised the meeting with the other companies," said a spokesman for the Desertec foundation, which is fostering the idea to generate solar power in Africa.

The 20 companies and Desertec aim to sign a memorandum of understanding to found the Desertec Industrial Initiative which would commission studies on possible projects, he said.

A first power station with a capacity of 2 gigawatts in Tunisia with power lines to Italy would take five years to build once it gets regulatory approval, the spokesman said.

A possible long-term project could be a 100 gigawatt solar thermal power station in northern Africa and the Middle East. It could be finalised by 2050 with power lines connecting it to central Europe and would cost an estimated 400 billion euros ($555.8 billion), he said. …

Munich Re touts Sahara in solar energy push

Technorati Tags: ,

Algorithm can get most pollution control for the money

image There may be thousands of things large and small that can be done to better control pollution on even the smallest waterways, and a new tool may help sort out how to choose the best ones.

Indrajeet Chaubey, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, combined a best management practices tool with a complex genetic algorithm that can search out the best solutions for non-point source pollution control in a watershed. By analyzing data from an area, in just a few hours the tool can compute the most cost-effective pollution-control strategies for water resources affected by agriculture, a process that currently takes weeks or months.

A paper on the work appeared this past week in the journal Water Resources Research.

"When you have got limited resources to control non-point pollution in an area, you have to decide where to best use your resources," Chaubey said. "At the same time, you want to be sure you don't disrupt the agricultural production in an area."

Chaubey has spent the last several years developing a best management practices tool that takes into consideration all feasible solutions for decreasing non-point source pollution, or pollution that gets into water through runoff. The tool determines the best solution - such as changes in tillage practices, grass coverage and structural changes on the land - based on the amount of pollution that can be eliminated, the economic impact to agricultural land and other factors. The calculations used include soil, water, topography and other data usually collected by governmental agencies. …

Algorithm Can Get Most Pollution Control For The Money

Technorati Tags:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Supermarket generates piezoelectric power in parking lot


Remember that piezoelectric road prototype we saw late last year? Looks like someone (besides us) thought it was a good idea. According to The Daily Mail, a Sainsbury's supermarket in Gloucester, UK (you've never been there), has installed kinetic plates in the parking lot that use the weight of shopper's cars to pump a series of hydraulic pipes, which in turn drive a generator. The system is said to generate up to 30kw of green energy an hour -- or enough to power the store's checkouts. And if that weren't enough, the store is also harvesting rainwater and heating it (during the summer, at least) with solar panels. …

Supermarket generates piezoelectric power in parking lot

Wong's challenge to Australia farmers

Water and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong

By Stuart Rintoul

WATER and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has told Victorian farmers there is "no escaping the scale of adjustment" that needs to be made in the Murray-Darling Basin food bowl.

Senator Wong said at a Victorian Farmers Federation meeting in Melbourne that unprecedented action was needed to restore the river system's health and that the federal government's accelerated water purchase program was "smoothing the transition" to new, lower limits on water use in the basin.

She said it would be "simply irresponsible" to ignore the possibility that climate change had already caused a "step-change" and regardless of whether or when the drought broke, farmers would be prudent to prepare for lower diversion limits.

"The challenge for irrigation operators is to modernise, rationalise and consolidate irrigation delivery systems to reduce system losses and ensure their ongoing financial viability in a future where there will be less water," she said.

Senator Wong's comments yesterday came as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority issued the key elements of the Basin Plan, which authority chairman Mike Taylor described as planning "at a scale and complexity that has never been undertaken anywhere else in the world". …

Wong's challenge to Murray farmers

Sunday, June 14, 2009

UC Berkeley: Shrinking Cities Group

image Today, every 6th city in the world can be defined as a “shrinking city.”  This is a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing cities, parts of cities, or metropolitan areas that are experiencing a dramatic decline in their economic and social bases.  The causes of this urban decline are many and complex, though one common denominator is that each “shrinking city” has been significantly impacted by the forces of globalization.  Marked by a loss of employment opportunities and the attendant out-migration of population, many shrinking cities have suffered from the post-industrial shift from manufacturing to service industries (e.g., Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Manchester/UK).  Other factors contributing to this decline are the so-called “second generation” transformations in the high-tech sector (e.g., the collapse of the dot-com industry in California) and economic changes wrought by the dissolution of socialist systems (e.g., in eastern Germany).  These processes, among others, have drained essential investment and resources from many urban areas, leaving the remaining cities with an ever-diminishing fiscal base.

The Shrinking Cities Group's work is carried out under the aegis of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development. The work draws upon the Institute's long-standing research experience in regional development and its vital worldwide networking activities with experts in research and policymaking.

Shrinking Cities Group

The End of the Line is getting good reviews

People are calling it the Inconvenient Truth of ocean overfishing. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at 88%.

The End of the Line

Synopsis: The End of the Line is the first feature length doc to explore the dire state of overfishing which, if not severely curtailed, will mean the end of most seafood as an eating consideration within forty years. Director Rupert Murray combines mesmerizing photography above and below water with the story of the indefatigable investigative reporter Charles Clover as he confronts politicians and celebrity restaurateurs. The near extinction of cod is examined and the now imminent extinction of bluefin tuna – brought on by the increasing western demand for sushi, governments unwilling to follow the scientists suggestions of catch limits and a flourishing illegal trade. The impact on marine life from the overfishing of large fish species results in a huge overpopulation of algae and jellyfish as well as mass poverty in rural areas where fish is running out yet large commercial boats equipped with radar still impinge on local fishermen’s livelihoods. The myth of farmed fishing as a solution is also exploded.

Filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market – featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world offering real solutions that all consumers can take part in. --© Official Site

“After watching this you may think twice before consuming another mouthful of tuna.” -- Allan Hunter, Daily Express

The End of the Line (2009)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama calls for ocean protection

Environmentalists were delighted today by President Obama’s designation of this month as National Oceans Month and his pledge to set a comprehensive ocean-protection policy.

The oceans are getting crowded and polluted, Obama said. Sea levels are rising. Fish are depleted. Some species are endangered.

And there’s no clear national policy to sort out the best ways to make good use of ocean resources.

So he called for a task force of senior officials to recommend within 90 days a national oceans policy.

``This policy will incorporate ecosystem-based science and management and emphasize our public-stewardship responsibilities,’’ Obama said.

A White House memo spelled out creation of the task force, and a presidential proclamation designated June as National Oceans Month.

The action coincided with Capitol Hill Ocean Week, a conference of scientists, environmentalists and government leaders from around the country. This year the conference focused on how the oceans affect the economy.

``For Florida, it’s especially important because so many people live in coastal areas and oceans are important to things like tourism and fisheries,’’ said Amy Wright, director of biomedical research at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce.

The Florida Keys alone attract about 4 million tourists a year who spend $1.2 billion, said Billy Causey of Key West, regional director of the U.S. Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

``It’s critical to keep the Keys healthy to preserve these precious resources for the future,’’ Causey said. ``More and more people are paying attention to the economic significance of these areas.’’

Here’s Obama’s proclamation: …

Obama calls for ocean protection

Coal: DOE revives FutureGen, reversing Bush-era decision


The Obama administration gave conditional support today for a federal-industry partnership that would build an advanced coal-burning power plant in Illinois to trap and store carbon dioxide emissions, reversing a Bush-era decision to abandon the FutureGen project.

The Energy Department plans to contribute slightly more than $1 billion to the project. The announcement follows pressure from Illinois lawmakers -- including Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat -- who had savaged former Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman's decision to abandon the plan early last year.

With a former Illinois senator now in the White House, DOE has changed directions on FutureGen. President Obama's Energy secretary, Steven Chu, today announced a "provisional agreement" with the FutureGen Alliance, a consortium of major coal and utility companies such as American Electric Power Co. Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp.

"This important step forward for FutureGen reflects this Administration's commitment to rapidly developing carbon capture and sequestration technology as part of a comprehensive plan to create jobs, develop clean energy and reduce climate change pollution," Chu said in a prepared statement.

DOE said FutureGen would be the first commercial-scale, "fully integrated" carbon capture and sequestration project in the country. The plant would marry the use of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology with greenhouse gas emission controls. …

COAL: DOE revives FutureGen, reversing Bush-era decision

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wal-Mart bans beef illegally produced in the Amazon rainforest

Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, will suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, reports O Globo. The decision, announced at a meeting of the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras) this week, comes less than two weeks after Greenpeace's exposé of the Amazon cattle industry. The report, titled Slaughtering the Amazon, linked some of the world's most prominent brands — including Nike, Toyota, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson, among dozens of others — to destruction of the Amazon rainforest for cattle pasture. …

Wal-Mart bans beef illegally produced in the Amazon rainforest

Technorati Tags: ,

Amazon deforestation leads to development 'boom-and-bust'

Aerial view of cattle farm in Amazonian deforested jungle close to Maraba

By Alok Jha

Chopping down the Amazon rainforest to make way for crops or cattle has no economic or social benefit for local people in the long term, according to a major new study.

The finding undercuts the argument that deforestation, which causes 20% of the globe's greenhouse gas emissions, leads to long-term development.

Conservationists showed communities develop rapidly but temporarily when forests are cleared. But rates of development quickly fall back below national average levels when the loggers move on and local resources near depletion.

More than 155,000 square kilometres of Amazonian rainforest in Brazil have been cleared for timber or burned to make way for agricultural land since 2000. Every year, around 1.8m hectares are destroyed — a rate of four football fields every minute. The Amazonian rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, guarding against climate change by absorbing CO2 and maintaining geochemical cycles.

But some argue that local communities, which are among the poorest in Brazil, should be able to benefit from the local resources by creating farms or logging the trees. To calculate these potential benefits of deforestation for local communities, a team of international scientists analysed the life expectancy, literacy and income of people living in 286 areas around the Brazilian Amazon.

Their results, published today in Science, showed that the quality of life for local communities improved rapidly when a forest first cleared. "The monthly average income started out at 74 Reals per month," said Rob Ewers of the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, a member of the study team. "Then it went up to as much as 196 Reals per month in the middle [of the deforested area] and then to 82 once the resource is gone. Literacy went from 68% at the frontier [of the forest] up to a maximum of 83% then dropped down to 69%." …

Amazon deforestation leads to development 'boom-and-bust.'

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who killed the hydrogen-powered car?

Energy density or transportation problems didn’t kill hydrogen. What killed it is the deliverable amount of energy to the wheels of a vehicle compared to a battery solution. This is why we won't be seeing hydrogen-powered cars from Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), or Ford (F).

The table below needs a little explanation. It starts with 100 kilowatts of electricity from renewable sources -- solar or wind for example. It then compares the steps required to get the electrical energy stored on a vehicle as either hydrogen or batteries. During each step, energy is lost -- generally as heat -- until electric power is driving the electric motors on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle or a battery-powered vehicle. Each step shows the percentage efficiency and the remaining energy left after each step. …

Who Killed the Hydrogen-Powered Car?

Technorati Tags:

China launches green power revolution to catch up on west

• Plan to hit 20% renewable target by 2020
• $30bn for low-carbon projects

Windfarm in China. China’s ambitious wind and solar plans represent a direct challenge to Europe’s claims of world leadership on cutting carbon emissions. Photograph: Keren Su/Getty

By Julian Borger and Jonathan Watts in Beijing

China is planning a vast increase in its use of wind and solar power over the next ­decade and believes it can match Europe by 2020, producing a fifth of its energy needs from renewable sources, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.

Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China's national development and reform commission, told the Guardian that Beijing would easily surpass current 2020 targets for the use of wind and solar power and was now contemplating targets that were more than three times higher.

In the current development plan, the goal for wind energy is 30 gigawatts. Zhang said the new goal could be 100GW by 2020.

"Similarly, by 2020 the total installed capacity for solar power will be at least three times that of the original target [3GW]," Zhang said in an interview in London. China generates only 120 megawatts of its electricity from solar power, so the goal represents a 75-fold expansion in just over a decade.

"We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy. We can be sure we will exceed the 15% target. We will at least reach 18%. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20% of total energy consumption." …

China launches green power revolution to catch up on west

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pret A Manger to stop selling tuna sandwiches

Pret A Manger the high street food outlet is to stop stocking tuna sandwiches amid environmental concerns about intensive fishing methods.

Pret A Manger to stop selling tuna sandwiches Photo: PHILIP HOLLIS

By Chris Irvine

Julian Metcalfe, the chain's co-founder, has removed tuna and cucumber sandwiches, while he has also banned endangered bluefin tuna from sushi boxes sold at Pret and its sister outlet Itsu.

His ban comes after watching environmental documentary The End of the Line, which describes how modern fishing is destroying the oceans' ecosystems.

Julian Metcalfe, the chain's co-founder, has removed tuna and cucumber sandwiches, while he has also banned endangered bluefin tuna from sushi boxes sold at Pret and its sister outlet Itsu.

His ban comes after watching environmental documentary The End of the Line, which describes how modern fishing is destroying the oceans' ecosystems. …

Pret A Manger to stop selling tuna sandwiches

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New data confirm UK will double Kyoto emission targets

James Murray, BusinessGreen, Friday 5 June 2009 at 00:15:00

Government hails 23 per cent cut in emissions since 1990 as evidence "there is an alternative" to a high carbon society

The UK will today mark World Environment Day with the release of new data showing the country is on track to deliver emission cuts that are almost double its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

According to a new UN report, UK greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be 23 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010, far exceeding its official target of a 12.5 per cent reduction in emissions.

Climate change minister Joan Ruddock insisted that while there was plenty of work still to be done, the cuts delivered so far provided evidence that economies could continue to grow while delivering rapid cuts in carbon emissions.

"Our latest report to the UN shows what can be achieved when government, communities and business work together to reduce emissions," she said. "Our progress report tells those who claim there is no alternative to a high-carbon society: there is an alternative. We're creating an alternative." …

New data confirms UK will double Kyoto emission targets

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Phosphorus famine: the threat to our food supply

This underappreciated resource--a key component of fertilizers--is still decades from running out. But we must act now to conserve it, or future agriculture could collapse

Jen Christiansen

By David A. Vaccari   

As complex as the chemistry of life may be, the conditions for the vigorous growth of plants often boil down to three numbers, say, 19-12-5. Those are the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, prominently displayed on every package of fertilizer. In the 20th century the three nutrients enabled agriculture to increase its productivity and the world’s population to grow more than sixfold. But what is their source? We obtain nitrogen from the air, but we must mine phosphorus and potassium. The world has enough potassium to last several centuries. But phosphorus is a different story. Readily available global supplies may start running out by the end of this century. By then our population may have reached a peak that some say is beyond what the planet can sustainably feed.

Moreover, trouble may surface much sooner. As last year’s oil price swings have shown, markets can tighten long before a given resource is anywhere near its end. And reserves of phosphorus are even less evenly distributed than oil’s, raising additional supply concerns. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest producer of phosphorus (after China), at 19 percent of the total, but 65 percent of that amount comes from a single source: pit mines near Tampa, Fla., which may not last more than a few decades. Meanwhile nearly 40 percent of global reserves are controlled by a single country, Morocco, sometimes referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of phosphorus.” Although Morocco is a stable, friendly nation, the imbalance makes phosphorus a geostrategic ticking time bomb.

In addition, fertilizers take an environmental toll. Modern agricultural practices have tripled the natural rate of phosphorus depletion from the land, and excessive runoff into waterways is feeding uncontrolled algal blooms and throwing aquatic ecosystems off-kilter. While little attention has been paid to it as compared with other elements such as carbon or nitrogen, phosphorus has become one of the most significant sustainability issues of our time. ...

Phosphorus Famine: The Threat to Our Food Supply

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Water wars in Wild West over rainwater catchment

Rainwater barrel system 

Photo via fireballsedai

Colorado is seeing dust stirred up over water rights and water catchment systems. While homeowners want the ability to catch the moisture from the snow and rain that lands on their roof, others, including Native Americans, want to protect their water rights and access to water by making rainwater catchment a no-go. ...

Water Wars in Wild West Over Rainwater Catchment

Technorati Tags: ,

Advanced Plasma Power touts international expansion plans

James Murray, BusinessGreen, Tuesday 2 June 2009 at 00:15:00

Waste-to-energy firms secures $10m for innovative gasification technology

UK-based waste-to-energy firm Advanced Plasma Power (APP) is set to roll out its technology at a number of sites in Canada and south-east Europe after entering into a joint venture with clean tech private equity fund Leveraged Green Energy (LGE).

Under the terms of the deal, announced last week, the companies have agreed to expand APP's presence in new global markets with a particular focus on Canada and central and eastern Europe.

They claim to already be in talks with a number of interested parties about installing the company’s waste-to-energy technology.

APP is one of a number of firms working on waste-to-energy technologies capable of turning a wide variety of municipal and commercial wastes into synthetic gases, or syngas, that can then be burnt off to generate heat and power.

It says it has developed a highly efficient "Gasplasma" technology that uses gasification technologies and a plasma converter to heat the waste to extremely high temperatures. The process breaks down the waste to produce a hydrogen-rich gas largely free of impurities and an inert aggregate that can be used in building materials. …

Advanced Plasma Power touts international expansion plans

Technorati Tags:

India to invest $22bn in bid to become world solar leader

Yvonne Chan in Hong Kong, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 3 June 2009 at 12:30:00

New strategy outlines mandatory use of solar technologies for government and commercial buildings

The Indian government is working on ambitious plans designed to make the country a world leader in solar energy, boasting 200GW of installed solar capacity by 2050. …

India to invest $22bn in bid to become world solar leader

Technorati Tags: ,

UN: Global renewables investment up despite financial crisis

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 3 June 2009 at 14:00:00

Investment in renewables rose five per cent in 2008 – proving new methods of power generation are now firmly established

Four out of every 10GW of new energy capacity built last year came from the renewables sector, according to a major new report commissioned by the UN Environment Programme…

UN: Global renewables investment up despite financial crisis

Africa's 'green corridors' can save climate-stressed birds

A globally-threatened Shoebill stork, Balaeniceps rex, in Uganda's Mabamba Bay wetland (Photo courtesy Ramsar)

DURHAM, UK, June 2, 2009 (ENS) - A network of wildlife conservation areas across Africa will be vital in helping to save up to 90 percent of bird species on the African continent affected by climate change, according to new research released today.

Led by biologists at Durham University, the computer modeling study probed the effects of "moderate" climate change on 815 bird species of conservation concern in sub-Saharan Africa and on the network of sites designated for them, known as Important Bird Areas.

The findings suggest that it is up to African legislators to protect ecosystems that can serve as what the scientists call "green corridors" to help wildlife find new, more comfortable areas when their habitat heats up. More than 40 percent of African Important Bird Areas lack any form of legal protection under national or international law.

"Important Bird Areas will provide new habitats for birds that are forced to move as temperatures and rainfall change and food sources become scarce in the areas where they currently occur," said Dr. Stephen Willis from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham.

Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study found that over the next 75 years, climate change will affect the species of some regions more than others.

"The central regions of Africa should maintain many of their current species as long as the protected areas remain intact," Willis said. "By contrast, areas of the Afrotropical Highlands, which occur in countries such as Cameroon, South Africa and Ethiopia, will see enormous change with more than 40 percent of species leaving." …

Africa's 'Green Corridors' Can Save Climate-Stressed Birds

Technorati Tags: ,