Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shareholders urge Nike to quit Chamber of Commerce over climate controversy

James Murray, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 30 September 2009 at 15:21:00

As Exelon becomes the latest energy firm to quit the business group over its anti-climate legislation stance, pressure mounts on Nike to follow suit

The US Chamber of Commerce's controversial calls to put the latest climate science "on trial" as part of its campaign to block proposed carbon legislation could yet prompt another high-profile walk out, after shareholder groups yesterday wrote to Nike calling on the sportswear giant to quit the trade group.

According to reports, three socially responsible investor groups - Green Century Funds, Newground Social Investment and the Basilian Fathers of Toronto - have written to the company arguing that it is no longer in the firm's interest to be associated with a group that is lobbying to block US climate change legislation.

In an open letter to Nike chief executive Mark Parker, Kristina Curtis, president of Green Century Equity Fund, said that the investment firm was "dismayed that Nike has not taken a more aggressive stance" against the Chamber, particularly given that it has been a vocal supporter of tighter climate change legislation through its position as a founding member of the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy group.

Curtis added that the decision last week by US energy firms Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG &E) and PNM Resources to leave the Chamber of Commerce over its climate change stance had set a "new standard for corporate responsibility in the face of profoundly unsustainable actions" that Nike should now follow. …

Nike reported to be quitting Chamber of Commerce post over climate controversy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

World's largest meat exporter says no more Amazon deforestation beef

cattle in brazil photo

photo: David Morimoto via flickr.

A little bit late to the game, but glad they've arrived... The world's largest exporter of meat products, Brazil's JBS-Frisboi has pledged to no longer buy cattle raised from areas of the deforested Amazon which were cleared after September 23rd of this year, Greenpeace reports. Additionally, they will not work with any farms found to be using slave labor (what year is it again?!?) or raising cattle in designated protected areas or on indigenous lands:

To ensure a modicum of transparency, JBS-Frisboi says it will implement a tracking system within six months -- the exact nature of which (ear tags, something else?) was not mentioned, other than that it will be based on maps from its cattle suppliers. Within two years, this system will extend farther down the distribution chain to include farms that raise young cattle and ranchers that directly supply its meat processing plants. …

World's Largest Meat Exporter Says No More Amazon Deforestation Beef

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Monday, September 28, 2009

CIA opens center for climate change

LANGLEY, Va., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The Central Intelligence Agency announced plans to launch a center on climate change to examine the potential security risks of environmental issues.

The CIA said it was working on its new Center on Climate Change and National Security to examine the national security impact of environmental issues such as population shifts, rising sea levels and increased competition for natural resources.

CIA Director Leon Panetta described the center as an effective support tool for U.S. lawmakers examining international agreements on the environment.

"Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security," said the director. "The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence."

The CIA will use the center to coordinate with other members of the intelligence community to review and declassify imagery and other data for use in environmental and climate-related issues.

CIA opens center for climate change

Strike three: Exelon leaves Chamber of Commerce over climate stance

Exelon Corporation.

Exelon CEO John Rowe announced today that his company will let its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lapse, citing the Chamber’s efforts to fight against efforts to curb global warming.

Exelon - the largest electric utility company in the United States - is the third energy company to sever ties with the Chamber of Commerce in the past week, joining Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources.

Rowe announced Exelon’s departure from the Chamber during his keynote address to the annual conference of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  Rowe explained to the nation’s largest association of energy efficiency experts that the Chamber’s multi-million-dollar campaign against clean energy legislation is incompatible with Exelon’s commitment to climate change leadership. 

“Inaction on climate is not an option,” said Rowe. …

Strike Three: Exelon Leaves Chamber of Commerce Over Climate Stance

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Citizens of the world call for tougher climate change targets

By Sarah McGinnis, Calgary Herald

Ottawa needs to push for stricter international climate change targets, say a cross-section of Canadians attending a two-day citizens forum on global warming in Calgary.

The 103 delegates attending the first World Wide Views on Global Warming conference were randomly selected from each of Canada's provinces and territories. The sessions were organized as a prelude to international climate change meetings in Copenhagen this December.

"This is the first ever global consultation of ordinary citizens on climate change," said Edna Einsiedel, project co-ordinator and University of Calgary professor of communications and culture.

"All the voices so far in Copenhagen or preceding Kyoto Protocol discussions have been organized groups. There has never been an instance where citizens voices can be heard at these discussions."

Participants debated how rapidly developing countries should be treated under new international climate change policies and the role Canada should play in setting global warming policies before delegates created their own recommendations.

"If we are to reduce emissions, we should be within the range of reducing emissions by 25 to 40 per cent in the short term. We need to use that range in order to keep temperatures at around two degrees Celsius over the short term," Einsiedel said of the group consensus. …

Citizens call for tougher climate change targets

Friday, September 25, 2009

Carbon fund assets grow 25 per cent and clear $16bn mark Staff, BusinessGreen, Friday 25 September 2009 at 13:11:00

Despite economic downturn and concerns over market outlook, interest in carbon investment continues to grow

The economic downturn may have claimed several funds as victims, but most investors in the carbon market have still enjoyed a bumper year as assets held by carbon funds grew.

in the carbon market have still enjoyed a bumper year as assets held by carbon funds grew 25 per cent to $16.11bn (£10bn).

That is according to new research from Environmental Finance Publications, which also found that the number of dedicated carbon funds that specialise in procuring carbon credits to sell at a profit or supply investors with pollution permits rose from 80 to 88 in the 12 months to August.

The growth in the market was despite plunging carbon prices brought about by the economic downturn and the closure or suspension of eight carbon funds.

The performance underlines the continuing attraction of the carbon market to investors, despite reduced demand for carbon credits as a result of reduced industrial output.


Carbon fund assets grow 25 per cent and clear $16bn mark

Thursday, September 24, 2009

13 great solar concepts inspired by plants (slideshow)

solar forest image

Photo via

Solar cells are a form of biomimicry of plants in that they convert sunlight into energy. The plant world offers up a vast array of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles from which designers can create their cool, crazy and creatively mimicked solar powered concepts. Check out some of the amazing solar power creations inspired by their flora counterparts. …

13 Great Solar Concepts Inspired By Plants (Slideshow)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PG&E quits US Chamber of Commerce over ‘dismaying’ climate stance

Hear no evil 

Long an organisation that promotes corporate interests over social or environmental ones, the US Chamber of Commerce has gone too far in its opposition to climate change action, according to one member that’s publicly quit the group.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Chairman and CEO Peter Darbee this week sent a letter to the chamber that said his company is withdrawing because of “fundamental differences” over climate change.

“We find it dismaying that the chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored,” Darbee wrote in the letter. “In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.” …

PG&E quits US Chamber over ‘dismaying’ climate stance

Senator of Katrina-ravaged Louisiana tries to block climate change response centers

So, whore-soiling douchebag Sen. David Vitter is also a climate-change denialist. Nice.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is trying to prevent the United States from being ready for the next Hurricane Katrina. Vitter, who denies the human influence on global warming, has submitted an amendment (S. Amdt. 2450) to the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) to block funding for centers that study and prepare for the impacts of climate change:


No funds made available by this Act may be used to develop Regional Climate Change offices within the Department of the Interior. …

Senator of Katrina-ravaged Louisiana tries to block climate change response centers via Climate Progress

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Business chiefs urge 'robust' climate change deal

Sir Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group speaks at at the UN headquarters in New York in 2008. The chiefs of more than 500 global companies called for an

LONDON (AFP) – The chiefs of more than 500 global companies called on Tuesday for an "ambitious, robust and equitable" climate change deal, in the spotlight in New York ahead of a landmark meeting in Copenhagen.

The business leaders from over 50 countries including Brazil, Britain, China, Japan, Russia and the United States said measures to spur recovery from the global downturn must be environmentally sustainable.

"Economic development will not be sustained in the longer term unless the climate is stabilised," they said in a Copenhagen Communique, organised as part of a project based at Britain's Cambridge University and backed by Prince Charles.

"It is critical that we exit this recession in a way that lays the foundation for low-carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high-carbon future," they added, calling for "an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crises facing the world today". …

Signatories of the Copenhagen Communique include Willie Walsh of British Airways, Richard Branson of Virgin, Nike boss Mark Parker, Shiro Kondo of Japan's Ricoh Company and Naguib Sawiris of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom.

"As a business leader I can only achieve my ambition if my actions are underpinned by the foundation of political intent and robust law. The bolder the political ambition the bolder I can be," said Branson. …

Business chiefs urge 'robust' climate change deal

Rally against shark fin trade opens in Singapore

Animal rights activists launched a campaign in Singapore Saturday against the consumption of shark fin, a status symbol when served at Chinese wedding banquets and dinners.
The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) held the rally at Speakers' Corner, Singapore's only venue for outdoor assemblies and demonstrations, subject to strict guidelines.

A large banner bearing the slogan "when sharks die, the oceans die" was displayed at a nearby park close to Singapore's business district.

Louis Ng, ACRES's executive director and founder, told 100 supporters that more than 3,800 sharks were caught every 20 minutes to meet global demand for shark fin, pushing many shark species towards extinction.

"Let us not only say no to shark fins but let us also be advocates for sharks and tell people why we do not, and will not, eat them," Ng said.

One of ACRES's supporters at the rally, physiotherapist Chng Chye Tuan, said he and his wife-to-be had decided against offering shark fin soup to guests at their wedding next month, despite opposition from both sets of parents.

"You can see the impact that humans are having on the ecosystem. The variety of fish is not as much as before," said Chng, referring to observations he had made during diving trips.

Rally against shark fin trade opens in Singapore

There is a lot of water on the Moon

Ooh, exciting!

Keith's note: Reliable sources report that there will be a press conference at NASA HQ at 2:00 pm this Thursday featuring lunar scientist Carle Pieters from Brown University.

The topic of the press briefing will be a paper that will appear in this week's issue of Science magazine wherein results from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard Chandrayaan-1 will be revealed.

The take home message: there is a lot of water on the Moon.

Stay tuned.

There is A Lot of Water on the Moon

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Monday, September 21, 2009

For car makers, it's suddenly all about electric

At the Frankfurt Auto Show, executives and engineers are burbling that it's the dawn of a new era: The electric car is here.

Trade fair visitors and journalists look at the Renault Fluence ZE electric car during the 63rd International Motor Show in the central German city of Frankfurt.

By Eric Reguly

A visitor to the Frankfurt Auto Show, the biggest event of its kind, might think all is well in the car world.

Outside the vast exhibition halls, auto makers may be firing tens of thousands of workers and losing billions. But inside, the cars gleam like polished gemstones, exhibitors swill champagne and executives and engineers burble enthusiastically about the dawn of a new era: The electric car is here.

Electric mobility – e-mobility to use the new buzzword – is the auto show's theme. Dozens of electric cars were rolled out at the start of the Frankfurt show last week. Many manufacturers, big and small, announced plans for electric car production or development.

Some were ambitious. France's Renault and Japanese partner Nissan plan mass production of a family of e-cars, among them the Nissan Leaf, starting in 2011. …

For car makers, it's suddenly all about electric

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bush-era EPA: Appeals court finds widespread failure to investigate civil rights complaints

"The city used EPA funding to improve affluent areas and neglected the disadvantaged neighborhoods."

U.S. EPA's Office of Civil Rights has shown a systemic refusal to address allegations of discrimination in the use of agency funds, according to a unanimous three-judge panel on the…

"What the district court initially classified as an 'isolated instance of untimeliness' has since bloomed into a consistent pattern of delay by the EPA," Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the court. "[Rosemere Neighborhood Association] has twice encountered that pattern whereby it files a complaint, hears nothing for months, and then only after filing a lawsuit does the EPA respond.

The decision stems from a 2003 Title VI environmental justice complaint filed with EPA's OCR by Rosemere, a nonprofit community organization. The complaint was filed against the city of Vancouver, Wash.

OCR is charged with enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from using that money in a way that has a discriminatory impact based on race, color or national origin. EPA has established an administrative process whereby local communities can file complaints to address discrimination in the use of federal funds.

Rosemere alleged that the city had discriminated against low-income and minority neighborhoods by refusing to address failing septic systems, the lack of a comprehensive sewer network, contaminated ground and surface waters, poor air quality and industrial pollutants.

"The city used EPA funding to improve affluent areas and neglected the disadvantaged neighborhoods," said Christopher Winter, an attorney with the Portland-based nonprofit Crag Law Center, which eventually represented Rosemere in its lawsuit against the agency.

EPA: Appeals court finds widespread failure to investigate civil rights complaints

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Lack of insurance causes more than 44,000 U.S. deaths annually, study says

By Katherine Harmon

Going without health insurance can delay when people obtain primary and preventative care, potentially resulting in poorer health. Even more gravely, a lack of private health insurance brings an increased risk of death; uninsurance is to blame for some 44,789 adult deaths across the U.S. every year, according to a new study published online today in the American Journal of Public Health.

The findings show that uninsured Americans—between the ages of 17 and 64—have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have private insurance. (Those enrolled in government insurance programs, such as Medicaid and Department of Veterans Affairs insurance, were excluded from the study.) About 46.3 million Americans didn't have health insurance as of 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the number is estimated to be higher now since the recession has forced many off of employer health plans.

Previous research by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) employing older data had put the risk of death due to uninsurance closer to 25 percent.

The authors analyzed information from surveys and health examinations of more than 9,000 people that was collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1986 and 2000 and checked against death records. Even after controlling for age, gender, race, income, education, employment, smoking, alcohol use, assessed health and BMI, the researchers found "lack of health insurance significantly increased the risk of mortality," they wrote in the paper. …

Lack of insurance causes more than 44,000 U.S. deaths annually, study says

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

What does 3.6 million pounds of thrust look like?

It looks like this (action starts at 1:44):

That was the full up test of the Ares-1 solid rocket motor from last week. Last I heard, everything went pretty well. Now all we need to do is figure out if NASA will have a rocket to put it in.

What does 3.6 million pounds of thrust look like?

Teen birth rates highest in most religious states

Link may be due to communities frowning on contraception, researchers say

By Jeanna Bryner

U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, a new study suggests.

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

Mississippi topped the list for conservative religious beliefs and teen birth rates, according to the study results, which will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the journal Reproductive Health. (See chart below.)

However, the results don't say anything about cause and effect, though study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh offers a speculation of the most probable explanation: "We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself." …

Teen birth rates highest in most religious states via Pharyngula

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Investors worth $13 trillion urge strong global climate treaty

NEW YORK, New York, September 16, 2009 (ENS) - The world's largest global investors today issued a joint call for strong action this year from U.S. and international policy makers to control global warming. Signed by 181 investors, who collectively manage more than $13 trillion in assets worldwide, the statement on the "urgent need for global agreement on climate change" was released at the International Investor Forum on Climate Change in New York.

Hosted by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and keynoted by British economist Lord Nicholas Stern, the forum comes in advance of key negotiations in Copenhagen this December to finalize a new international climate change treaty to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

"Unmitigated climate change poses a threat to the global economy," said Stern. "But building a low carbon economy creates opportunities for investment in new technologies that promise to transform our society in the same way as the introduction of electricity or railways did in the past."

Investors are already starting to invest in a low-carbon world that is "cleaner, quieter, safer and more biodiverse," said Stern, who chairs the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics and serves as special advisor to the group chairman of HSBC on economic development and climate change, "but these investments will be much more effective if the right climate policies are in place. Investments will drive the political process." …

"We must chart a new course toward long-term, sustainable business practices," said DiNapoli, who heads the $116.5 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund and its $500 million green strategic investment program. "We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change. I am deeply concerned about the investor risks climate change presents, and the human cost of inaction is unthinkable." …

Investors Worth $13 Trillion Urge Strong Global Climate Treaty

Hidden circles illusion

Richard Wiseman has another fantastic illusion on his site:

Hidden circles illusion

[Bad Astronomy]

Hidden circles illusion

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sushi lovers tense in Tokyo as bluefin tuna nears endangered listing

By Peter J Brown

A few European countries are taking steps to save the world's bluefin tuna population. This month, the European Commission (EC) announced its support for a formal listing of the species as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which would in effect ban any international trade in bluefin tuna.

Japan is the world's biggest importer of bluefin tuna, which can weigh as much as 300 kilograms or more. Considered a highly prized delicacy by the Japanese, the fish are often sold to customers in wafer-thin slices at sushi bars and restaurants. Whereas a fishing boat owner or captain might sell the fish to a buyer at the dock for $30 to $40 per kilo, that price could increase tenfold or more by the time it lands on someone's plate in Japan.

Prices tripled from 2007 to 2008. One bluefin tuna caught in Japanese waters sold at auction in Japan this year for over $100,000, well short of the all-time record which was set in 2001 at over $150,000.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan consumed 43,000 tons of bluefin tuna last year, and "a total ban on trade of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tunas would translate to a cut of about 20,000 tons". …

Sushi lovers tense in Tokyo

'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'

Contraception is almost five times cheaper as a means of preventing climate change than conventional green technologies, according to research by the London School of Economics.

By Richard Pindar

Every £4 spent on family planning over the next four decades would reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a ton, whereas a minimum of £19 would have to be spent on low-carbon technologies to achieve the same result, the research says.

The report, Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, concludes that family planning should be seen as one of the primary methods of emissions reduction. The UN estimates that 40 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended.

If these basic family planning needs were met, 34 gigatons (billion tonnes) of CO2 would be saved – equivalent to nearly 6 times the annual emissions of the US and almost 60 times the UK’s annual total.

Roger Martin, chairman of the Optimum Population Trust at the LSE, said: “It’s always been obviously that total emissions depend on the number of emitters as well as their individual emissions – the carbon tonnage can’t shoot down as we want, while the population keeps shooting up.”

UN data suggests that meeting unmet need for family planning would reduce unintended births by 72 per cent, reducing projected world population in 2050 by half a billion to 8.64 million. …

'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'

Monday, September 14, 2009

Waxman-Markey clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill creates $1.5 trillion in benefits

Other Side of the Coin

As award-winning journalist Eric Pooley concluded in a comprehensive study of the media’s mistakes and biases during the Lieberman-Warner climate bill debate, “The press failed to perform the basic service of making climate policy and its economic impact understandable to the reader and allowed opponents of climate action to set the terms of the cost debate. The argument centered on the short-term costs of taking action–i.e., higher electricity and gasoline prices–and sometimes assumed that doing nothing about climate change carried no cost.”  See How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics — “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress.” The following repost from guest blogger Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, looks at a new study that aims to help address the flaw in economics coverage.

Waxman-Markey clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill creates $1.5 trillion in benefits

At last, an LED bulb worth talking about

Other LEDs disappoint, but the new bulb from Philips has the power to drag low-carbon spotlights out of the shadows


I've tried everything to resist but I'm afraid this post is going to start with a cliche: I've seen the light. The shadows have receded. You get my drift. Last week incandescent lightbulbs began their long-awaited march out of existence and, at the same time, the next generation of ultra-low-power lightbulb has come a step closer to practicality.

I'm not talking about the compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) that everyone is busy replacing their energy-wasting incandescents with. Instead, I mean the bulb that is one technological step beyond CFL, the LED. Until now, LEDs have been a disappointment for everyday use but Philips has come up with a new bulb that will hopefully make the doubters shut up.

As part of my plans to green my house and, in preparation for the departure of the age of the incandescent bulb, I've been researching the best way to replace the lights in my home with low-energy alternatives. Some would say I've been quite boring and obsessive about this – but never let it be said that I'd let this research go to waste. …

This month, Philips unveiled its new range of LED bulbs. I was sceptical that they'd be any better than the several I had tried already but, well, something has definitely changed in this technology. The 3W Econic spotlight is a direct replacement for the ubiquitous 35W halogen bulb and claims to have the same light output. When I tried it out, I found that Philips wasn't exaggerating. This is brighter than any other LED I've come across. Putting two in our small shower room, after a while I forgot that the bulbs were not halogens. …

At last, an LED bulb worth talking about

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"Memphis takes first step in retrofitting shopping areas"

Raleigh Springs Mall has lost four anchor stores since Wolfchase Galleria opened in 1997, but the mall has redevelopment options. By Dave Darnell / The Commercial Appeal 

By Tom Bailey, Memphis Commercial Appeal

"Abandoned strip centers, malls can be reborn, says architecture professor Ellen Dunham-Jones"

Architecture professor Ellen Dunham-Jones comes to Memphis this week to speak on a topic she tackled in her new book, "Retrofitting Suburbia."

It includes 80 or so examples of communities nationwide turning dead malls, underperforming strip centers and pedestrian-repellant streets into more vibrant, walkable, livable and sustainable places.

None of the book's examples, however, come from Memphis suburbs.

"But we didn't have the most sophisticated" search of projects, said Dunham-Jones, who speaks at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Her appearance is among the Architecture Month events organized by AIA (American Institute of Architects) Memphis.

With no major database to tap into, the authors searched newspaper articles and contacted architects and developers looking for projects in which old suburban structures and infrastructure had been redeveloped in a new urbanism way.

There may not have been much retrofitting to find among Memphis suburbs, anyway.

Charles "Chooch" Pickard, executive director of the Memphis Regional Design Center, is unaware of any Memphis-area examples.

"I think bringing in Ellen Dunham-Jones is a great first step," he said. …

"Memphis takes first step in retrofitting shopping areas" via Dead Malls

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Global warming causes outbreak of rare algae associated with corals, study finds


Scientists have found a rare species of algae that is tolerant of stressful environmental conditions and that proliferated in Caribbean corals when the corals' more-sensitive algae were being expelled during the sea-temperature warming of 2005. The research is one of the first times that anyone has had the opportunity to conduct a community-wide study of corals and algae before, during and after a bleaching event.

The team, led by Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Todd LaJeunesse, found that a rare species of algae that is tolerant of stressful environmental conditions proliferated in corals as the more-sensitive algae were being expelled from corals. The results will be published in the online version of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 9 September 2009.

"Symbiodinium trenchi is normally a rare species of micro-alga in the Caribbean," said LaJeunesse. "Because the species is apparently tolerant of high or fluctuating temperatures, it was able to take advantage of the warming event and become more prolific. In this way, Symbiodinium trenchi appears to have saved certain colonies of coral from the damaging effects of unusually warm water. As ocean temperatures continue to rise as a result of global warming, we can expect this species to become more common and persistent. However, since it is not normally associated with corals in the Caribbean, we don't know if its increased presence will benefit or harm corals in the long term." …

Global Warming Causes Outbreak Of Rare Algae Associated With Corals, Study Finds

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Feds impose new limits on pesticides to protect salmon

Sockeye salmon in the Columbia River, Washington state. (Photo courtesy WDFW)

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2009 (ENS) - For the first time in 20 years, two federal government agencies that are required by law to consult together on how pesticides affect endangered species have completed a consultation on salmon exposure to pesticides.

As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to place additional limitations on the use of three organophosphate pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — to protect endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The limitations will apply to surface waters encompassing each of 28 salmon and steelhead species in the four states.

Changes to product labels will include the addition of pesticide buffer zones; application limitations based on wind speed, soil moisture and weather conditions; and fish mortality incident reporting requirements.

New, enforceable labels could be available as early as the 2010 spring growing season.

"These limitations, developed as a result of the Endangered Species Act formal consultation process, will protect Pacific salmon and steelhead while providing for appropriate pesticide use," said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

"These new limits are especially significant because they mark the first time that EPA and National Marine Fisheries Service have completed the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act in more than 20 years. This is a major step forward for both EPA and NMFS in meeting the requirements of the law. This process has been broken for too long." …

Feds Impose New Limits on Pesticides to Protect Salmon

Alan Turing gets an apology

The government of the UK has officially apologized for its past abuse of Alan Turing. Here is the full statement.

2009 has been a year of deep reflection - a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain's fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing. …

Alan Turing gets an apology

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Dirty coal group’s 14th forgery impersonated American veterans. Real vets support strong efforts to action on climate and clean energy — as does GOP Senator John Warner, former Armed Services Committee chair

American Legion forgery

Climate change is a major threat to U.S. Security.  The clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill would enhance our security by reducing oil dependence and environmental harm.  That’s why the conservative Virgina Republican, John Warner, is pushing hard to pass the bill — because he is a former Navy secretary and former Senate Armed Services Committee chair and because he is a former Forest Service firefighter now “just absolutely heartbroken” because “the old forest, the white pine forest in which I worked, was absolutely gone, devastated, standing there dead from the bark beetle” thanks in large part to global warming (see interview below).

So it’s no surprise the deniers and delayers spread disinformation to try to undercut this core message.  As Brad Johnson reports at Think Progress:

Congressional investigators have discovered that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s (ACCCE) astroturfing effort has impersonated American military veterans in a forged letter sent to Congress. Thirteen other forgeries purporting to be from organizations representing blacks, Hispanics, women and senior citizens. This latest letter, sent in June to influence a swing Democratic legislator on his vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, impersonates a local American Legion official in Rocky Mount, VA:

The letter, sent to the office of Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), asks Perriello to “make sure the Waxman-Markey bill includes provisions to promote American energy independence, while protecting already cash-strapped constituents from increases in electricity prices.” It concludes, “Thank you for listening to concerns of vets in your district.”

Yesterday, Alstom joined Duke Energy, Alcoa, and First Energy by abandoning the scandal-ridden organization, as “questions that have been raised about ACCCE’s support for climate legislation.”

Download the forged letter.

Real veterans of the  Iraq War explain their support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act in this new advertisement from

Yesterday, more than 150 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — real ones — visited the White House and the Congress to argue that “climate change legislation is absolutely critical.”   E&E Daily (subs. req’d) has the full story: …

Dirty coal group’s 14th forgery impersonated American veterans. Real vets support strong efforts to action on climate and clean energy — as does GOP Senator John Warner, former Armed Services Committee chair

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Japanese town in 'The Cove' setting dolphins free

In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009, a fishing boat sails to catch whales off Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan. The Japanese town chronicled in the award-winning film "The Cove" for its dolphin hunt that turns coastal waters red with blood will free much of the season's first catch, following an international outcry over the annual slaughter. The western Japanese town of Taiji will sell a handful of the animals to aquariums as it does every year, but the remainder of the 100 bottlenose dolphins that were caught early Wednesday are to be released. In the past, they were killed and sold for meat. (AP Photo/Minami Kishu Shimbun via Kyodo News)

By YURI KAGEYAMA (AP) – 10 hours ago

TOKYO — The Japanese town chronicled in the award-winning film "The Cove" for its annual dolphin hunt that turns coastal waters red with blood has suspended killing the animals — at least for this week's catch — following an international outcry.

The western Japanese town of Taiji will sell some of the animals to aquariums as it does every year, but the remainder of the 100 bottlenose dolphins that were caught early Wednesday in the first catch of the season are to be released. In the past, they were killed and sold for meat.

An official at the Taiji fisheries association, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the town abhors the publicity its dolphin-killing has drawn, said Thursday that the decision was made partly in response to the international outcry created by "The Cove."

He said about 50 of the dolphins will be hand-picked for aquariums and the rest will be set free, although a time for that has not been set. In Wednesday's hunt, the fishermen also caught 50 pilot whales, which were slain and sold as meat, he said.

He said it was unclear whether the town would stop killing dolphins. He said residents wanted to avoid trouble, but did not want to cave in to activists and give up what they see as a tradition.

Ric O'Barry, 69, the star of "The Cove" and dolphin trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV series, welcomed the news, saying it was a sign that overseas pressure had worked and expressing hope that the town would now institute a "no-slaughter policy."

"I am elated," O'Barry, who was in Tokyo, told The Associated Press. "When I heard that, I did a backflip off the bed here." …

Japanese town in 'The Cove' setting dolphins free

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Stunning image of ants wins international environmental photography prize

“Gradually I was drawn to a group which was climbing up a nearby dandelion. They would each pull out one seed and then parachute to the ground.”

'Talk About Stars' by Bolucevschi Vitali Nicolai, Moldova. Winner, Natural World. 

In just its third year, CIWEM's (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Mangagement) Environmental Photographer of the Year is one of the fastest growing photographic competitions in the world, with pictures entered from over 60 countries including Serbia, Jamaica, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Romania, India, South Africa, Australia, Israel, USA, China, Belgium, Vietnam and the UK. …

Stunning image of ants wins international environmental photography prize

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cells go fractal

Mathematical patterns rule the behaviour of molecules in the nucleus.
A cell displays chromatin (green) and a molecule used for tracking (red). J. ELLENBERG

By Claire Ainsworth

The maths behind the rugged beauty of a coastline may help to keep cell biology in order, say researchers in Germany. Fractals — rough shapes that look the same at all scales — could explain how the cell's nucleus holds molecules that manage our DNA in the right location.

In new experiments, Sebastien Huet and Aurélien Bancaud of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, tracked the movement of molecules within cells in a lab dish, then compared the pattern of movement against mathematical models. Large molecules, they found, moved according to the same rules as small molecules — suggesting that their environment was truly fractal. The team reported their findings this week at the EMBO meeting in Amsterdam.

"It's a really interesting approach," says Angus Lamond, a cell biologist at the University of Dundee, UK. "It's very promising that the fractal model appears to be able to describe the [molecular] behaviour in this way." ...

Cells go fractal

World Bank's IFC suspends lending to palm oil companies

Deforestation for a new oil palm plantation in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

The World Bank has agreed to suspend International Finance Corporation (IFC) funding of the oil palm sector pending the development of safeguards to ensure that lending doesn't cause social or environmental harm, according to a letter by World Bank President Robert Zoellick to NGOs. A recent internal audit found that IFC funding of the Wilmar Group, a plantation developer, violated the IFC's own procedures, allowing commercial concerns to trump environmental and social standards. The findings were championed by environmental and indigenous rights' groups who have criticized World Bank support for industrial oil palm development which they say has driven large-scale destruction of forests in Indonesia, boosting greenhouse gas emissions, endangering rare and charismatic species of wildlife, including the orangutan, and displacing forest communities. …

World Bank's IFC suspends lending to palm oil companies

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Electrical circuit runs entirely off power in trees

This custom circuit is able to store up enough voltage from trees to be able to run a low-power sensor. Credit: University of Washington

(University of Washington) For the first time researchers have run an electrical circuit entirely off power in trees. The findings suggest a new power source for wireless sensors -- and a way to monitor tree health.

You've heard about flower power. What about tree power? It turns out that it's there, in small but measurable quantities. There's enough power in trees for University of Washington researchers to run an electronic circuit, according to results to be published in an upcoming issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Transactions on Nanotechnology.

"As far as we know this is the first peer-reviewed paper of someone powering something entirely by sticking electrodes into a tree," said co-author Babak Parviz, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering.

A study last year from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that plants generate a voltage of up to 200 millivolts when one electrode is placed in a plant and the other in the surrounding soil. Those researchers have since started a company developing forest sensors that exploit this new power source.

The UW team sought to further academic research in the field of tree power by building circuits to run off that energy. They successfully ran a circuit solely off tree power for the first time. …

Electrical circuit runs entirely off power in trees

Europe unites in attempt to protect bluefin tuna

Compromise deal with opponents of fishing ban welcomed 

90per cent of Europe's bluefin tuna is exported to Japan where the demand for sushi is huge  

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Europe is to throw its weight behind a campaign to save the bluefin tuna from decades of over-fishing after a breakthrough in talks in Brussels.

The European Commission announced a compromise deal backing an attempt to list the Mediterranean fish as an endangered species while waiting for further scientific evidence on the latest population numbers after the EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg backed down.

Europe is now expected to vote as a bloc of 27 nations in favour of a proposal to protect bluefin tuna under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) which – if approved by a majority of 175 nations around the world – would ban all international trade in the fish.

Environmentalists expressed their delight at the issue, saying it represented the best chance of allowing the tuna to recover from intense demand in Japan, which imports 90 per cent of Europe's bluefin for sushi. …

Europe unites in attempt to protect bluefin tuna

Monday, September 7, 2009

'Liposuction leftovers' easily converted to IPS cells, Stanford study shows

I say, without irony, that liposuction is the future of regenerative medicine.

(Stanford University Medical Center) STANFORD, Calif. — Globs of human fat removed during liposuction conceal versatile cells that are more quickly and easily coaxed to become induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, than are the skin cells most often used by researchers, according to a new study from Stanford's School of Medicine.

"We've identified a great natural resource," said Stanford surgery professor and co-author of the research, Michael Longaker, MD, who has called the readily available liposuction leftovers "liquid gold." Reprogramming adult cells to function like embryonic stem cells is one way researchers hope to create patient-specific cell lines to regenerate tissue or to study specific diseases in the laboratory.

"Thirty to 40 percent of adults in this country are obese," agreed cardiologist Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, the paper's senior author. "Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently. Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away."

The fact that the cells can also be converted without the need for mouse-derived "feeder cells" may make them an ideal starting material for human therapies. Feeder cells are often used when growing human skin cells outside the body, but physicians worry that cross-species contamination could make them unsuitable for human use.

The findings will be published online Sept. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Longaker is the deputy director of Stanford's Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institute and director of children's surgical research at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Wu is an assistant professor of cardiology and radiology, and a member of Stanford's Cardiovascular Institute. …

'Liposuction leftovers' easily converted to IPS cells, Stanford study shows

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Political infighting threatens survival of the bluefin tuna

I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, in which he was at a high-end sushi bar, and the chef was naming each fish on the tray. I said out loud, “Please no bluefin tuna,   please no bluefin tuna…” Then he said, “This is the bluefin tuna,” and I shouted at the teevee, “NO! Goddamn you, Anthony Bourdain!”

A single bluefin tuna can fetch tens of thousands of pounds on Tokyo's fish markets, making the trade highly valuable for trawlers and ranches that fatten young specimens. Gavin Newman / Alamy

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

The last chance to save one of the most majestic fish in the sea is on the verge of collapse because of political jockeying in Europe.

A proposal to ban the sale of bluefin tuna is being fiercely opposed by Malta, the capital of the lucrative global business, and by its representative in Brussels, the fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg.

Spain and Italy are also believed to be resisting an application to bar trade in bluefin under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which would cut off exports to the main market, Japan.

The European Commission will decide next week whether the EU will submit the application to a Cites committee meeting in March.

Conservationists fear that support from Britain, France and other northerly European nations for decisive action is wavering amid the objections.

The Commission is divided, with Brussels sources saying Mr Borg is fighting his environment counterpart, Stavros Dimas, who supports a ban.

Japan has also been lobbying all EU states, telling them that the management of the stock is improving.

Britain describes Japan's approach as "not unexpected", though conservationists accuse Japan of interfering in the EU's internal decision-making. Such has been the controversy that the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, is set to take charge of the issue at his cabinet meeting on Thursday. …

Political infighting threatens survival of the bluefin tuna

Friday, September 4, 2009

Google web page ranking algorithm detects critical species in ecosystems

Google's algorithm for ranking web-pages can be used to determine which species are critical for sustaining ecosystems. Now researchers find that "PageRank" can be applied to the study of food webs, the complex networks describing who eats whom in an ecosystem.

The researchers, based at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara and at the University of Michigan, therefore adapt Google's PageRank algorithm, which efficiently ranks web-pages according to search criteria, for ecological purposes. Details are published September 4 in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology. …

Web Page Ranking Algorithm Detects Critical Species In Ecosystems

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Duke Energy quits controversial coal lobby front group

In a potentially devastating move for the Washington, DC coal lobby, Duke Energy has announced that it is canceling its membership with the controversial American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

You'll recall that ACCCE was the coal industry front group recently involved in the Bonner and Associates scandal where fake letters from influential organizations like the AARP were sent to members of Congress urging them to vote against the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill.

According to a report in the National Journal today, Duke Energy "left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy on Tuesday over differences with "influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010." …

Duke Energy Quits Controversial Coal Lobby Front Group

Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds

Arctic temperature anomaly

A Hockey Stick in Melting Ice

Arctic temperatures in the 1990s reached their warmest level of any decade in at least 2,000 years, new research indicates. The study, which incorporates geologic records and computer simulations, provides new evidence that the Arctic would be cooling if not for greenhouse gas emissions that are overpowering natural climate patterns.

So reports the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which coauthored the study to be published in Science Friday.  [I'll put the link up when it's posted.]  The Washington Post story notes:

The analysis, based on more than a dozen lake sediment cores as well as glacier ice and tree ring records from the Arctic, provides one of the broadest pictures to date of how industrial emissions have shifted the Arctic’s long-standing natural climate patterns. Coupled with a separate report on the region issued Wednesday by the World Wildlife Fund, the studies suggest human-induced changes could transform not only the Arctic but climate conditions across the globe.

It’s basically saying the greenhouse gas emissions are overwhelming the system,” said David Schneider, a visiting scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the Science article’s co-authors. …

Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds

Helicopters patrol fishing waters off southern Scotland

Bass can fetch a high price in the hotel and restaurant industry

Helicopter patrols have started over the waters off southern Scotland in a bid to tackle illegal fishing.

Fisheries groups are concerned at the use of gill nets on the northern Solway to capture bass which have a high value in the hotel and restaurant industry.

The nets are illegal and are often set close to river mouths, and catch other fish like salmon and sea trout.

Jamie Ribbens of the Galloway Fisheries Trust (GFT) said threatened species were being killed by the practice.

It is legal to catch and sell bass, but the problem is the use of gill nets, which are prohibited by law.

Mr Ribbens said: "We've been concerned about this issue for some time.

"These illegal nets are killing many threatened fish species which is such a waste."

The GFT is working with Marine Scotland Compliance and salmon fishery boards across Dumfries and Galloway to tackle the issue.

Mr Ribbens added: "Populations of salmon and sea trout are a concern and we need to do everything we can to protect existing stocks." …

Helicopters patrol fishing waters

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sustainable fertilizer: Urine and wood ash produce large harvest

Human urine and wood ash appear to make a potent, inexpensive fertilizer combination for boosting the productivity of food crops, scientists say.

(American Chemical Society) Results of the first study evaluating the use of human urine mixed with wood ash as a fertilizer for food crops has found that the combination can be substituted for costly synthetic fertilizers to produce bumper crops of tomatoes without introducing any risk of disease for consumers. The study appears in the current issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication. …

Sustainable fertilizer: Urine and wood ash produce large harvest

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Amazon deforestation to fall 30% in 2009

Deforestation is the Brazilian Amazon is likely to fall between 8,500 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) and 9,000 sq km (3,474 sq mi) for the 12 months ended July 31, 2009, a reduction of 29-37 percent from last year, reports Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. If the estimate is confirmed by high resolution satellite data to be published later this year, the rate of forest loss for 2008-2009 would be the lowest since annual record-keeping began in the 1980s. …

Amazon deforestation to fall 30% in 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today is a good day for dolphins!

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by guest contributor Richard O’Barry of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition.

As TakePart reported earlier this week, O’Barry is currently in Taiji, Japan with European and Japanese journalists in anticipation of the annual dolphin slaughter that usually takes place the first week of September.

Today is September 1st, the first day of the dolphin slaughter season in Japan. But when I arrived today by bus from Kansai Airport with media representatives from all over the world, the notorious Cove from the movie was empty. There were no dolphin killers in sight. So today is a very good day for dolphins!

I vowed to be back in Taiji when the dolphin killing began. I’ve often been here alone, or accompanied by a few environmentalists. Sometimes, I was able to talk a major media organization into sending someone.

But the people of Japan never learned about the dolphin slaughter, because none of the media in Japan (with the exception of the excellent Japan Times) have ever sent reporters to the killing Cove. Until today!

When I got off the bus at the Cove this afternoon, I was accompanied by my son Lincoln O’Barry’s film crew, a crew from Associated Press, Der Spiegel (the largest magazine in Germany), and the London Independent.

No dolphins and no dolphin killers. We would not have had a story at all, except for the police who were there, waiting all day for us to appear. Nine policemen came to talk to us.

Now, I have said this repeatedly: Unlike the Cove fishermen, the police from this Prefecture have always acted professionally, courteously, and fairly. I have never been mistreated or threatened by the police here. I think they are a microcosm of the people of Japan–the very people I am trying to reach about the dolphins!

And as I was talking with the police, as the international journalists stood around listening, suddenly a camera crew arrived from Japan! And then another! And then still another!

You have to understand that this is SO IMPORTANT. These TV stations have REFUSED to cover the story in Taiji for years and years. NOW, for the first time, they have shown up, with cameras rolling. The head policeman talking with me even said, for the cameras, that the police are not there to support the dolphin killing fishermen. We shook hands, and they left.

As I said, it is a good day for the dolphins. And for me personally, as the police only wanted to talk with me, not arrest me! ...

Urgent Update from Taiji: September 1, 2009, A Good Day for Dolphins

First global illegal fishing treaty agreed: UN

This 2007 photo shows fish seized at a port in western Africa, from two Chinese ships. A group of 91 countries have agreed on a treaty that will block ships involved in illegal fishing from entering signatory ports and thus help prevent the fish going to market, the UN said. (AFP / File / Kambou Sia)

ROME (AFP) – A group of 91 countries have agreed on a treaty that will block ships involved in illegal fishing from entering signatory ports and thus help prevent the fish going to market, the UN said on Tuesday.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) hailed the agreement to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as "the first ever global treaty focused specifically on the problem."

New measures include requiring foreign fishing vessels to request permission to enter port ahead of time, informing the authorities of their fish cargo, as well as committing signatories to regular inspections of foreign ships.

Illegal fishing accounts for 14 percent of all fish caught in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. …

First global illegal fishing treaty agreed: UN