Category Archives: Environmental News

West African Black Rhinoceros Declared Extinct

The West African Black Rhinoceros or Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) is declared extinct by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) after a recent survey failed to spot any individuals. As per the global assessment by IUCN there are no Wild Black Rhinos remaining in West Africa.

The West African Black Rhinoceros once widespread in the savanna of central-west Africa but declined from poaching. According to IUCN a subspecies of white rhino in central Africa is also listed as possibly extinct.

The IUCN reports that despite conservation efforts, 25% of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction. As part of its latest work it has reassessed several rhinoceros groups.

Read more

California’s First Molten Salt Solar Energy Project

A variety of fluids have been tested to transport the sun’s heat, including water, air, oil, and sodium, but molten salt was selected as best. Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it is liquid at atmosphere pressure, it provides an efficient, low-cost medium in which to store thermal energy, its operating temperatures are compatible with today’s high-pressure and high-temperature steam turbines, and it is non-flammable and nontoxic. In addition, molten salt is used in the chemical and metals industries as a heat-transport fluid, so experience with molten-salt systems exists in non-solar settings. [Source Wikipedia]

California has approved a new solar project that could revolutionize how we use energy from the sun – namely because it will be able to keep producing electricity even after night falls.
SolarReserve‘s Rice Solar Energy Project uses molten salt to store solar thermal energy. Since the salt will be able to reach temperatures over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and retain most of the heat it collects during the day, the plant will have the ability to keep churning out heat long after the sun goes down.

California has approved a new solar project that could revolutionize how we use energy from the sun – namely because it will be able to keep producing electricity even after night falls. SolarReserve‘s Rice Solar Energy Project uses molten salt to store solar thermal energy. Since the salt will be able to reach temperatures over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and retain most of the heat it collects during the day, the plant will have the ability to keep churning out heat long after the sun goes down.

Read More at Inhabitat.

United Nations Climate Change Conference Cancun 2010

The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. The conference is officially referred to as the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP 6) to the Kyoto Protocol.

For Updates: http://cc2010.mx/en/

Municipal Solid Waste To fuel from Green Power Inc

Energy from WasteThanks to a recent EPA ruling, Green Power Inc. will be commencing the building of municipal solid waste (MSW) to fuel plants for clients around the world, with $2 billion in contracts.

The US Department of Energy reports that in 2006 the US land filled 140 million tons of residual biomass (total MSW including inorganic was 170 million tons). According to Green Power Inc (GPI) this 140 million ton biomass resource has the potential of becoming 13 billion gallons per year (BGPY) of Fossil Free Fuel®, and offsetting 7% (nearly one month’s worth) of our imported crude.

In August of 2009, GPI was shut down by Washington state’s Ecology Department who said GPI had “not provided adequate compliance with the environmental air quality regulations.”  This was cleared on September 8, 2010 by an EPA ruling that support’s GPI’s claim and reverses Washington state’s Ecology Department’s claim that placed the GPI process in the class of incinerators, which it is not.

Sources:

Green Power Inc.

Pure Energy Systems News

S.O.S on Biodiversity from The UN

Today is Monday, the 18th of October 2010. Delegates from world over are in Nagoya, Japan for the 10th meeting (COP10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Their intention is to agree on a 20-point plan for the next decade following the comprehensive failure of any government to meet previous targets set out in 2002.

The intention is to come together to shape and agree on a global strategy and instruments to protect biodiversity that would make the value of biodiversity central all human initiatives and development. The meeting lasts from today the 18th of October to the 29th of October 2010. Over 15,000 participants representing the 193 countries and their partners, the highest number ever recorded for such a meeting, will meet to finalize the negotiation on a new Strategic Plan on biodiversity for the period 2011-2020 with a biodiversity vision for 2050. The adoption of a new protocol on access and benefit sharing will be a key instrument at the service of this new biodiversity vision. The agreement will be submitted to the high-level segment of the Conference, to be held with the participation of five Heads of State and 130 ministers of the environment.

In launching the International Year of Biodiversity the United Nations Secretary General stated earlier this year, that business as usual is no longer an option,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. “The time to act is now and the place to act is here at the Aichi-Nagoya Biodiversity Summit.”

You can find the list of participants Here

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?

The U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a legally-binding treaty consisting of 193 members or “Parties” (192 governments plus the European Union) (168 signatures).

It was set up at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and came into force in December 1993.

The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community.

Message from Misia Honorary Ambassador for the COP10

Good luck Earth! I do hope the world’s leaders are paying heed to your S.O.S and there will be concrete decisions & actions as a result of this meeting. After all one reality that we all can agree on is, there is but one Earth…

Sources:

BBC

CNN

The CBD Website

Why Biodiversity Matters?

I read this interesting article in the Financial Times by Fiona Harvey titled “Bad for Biodiversity is Bad for Business”. It gave an interesting perspective to the argument in favor of development at any cost. United Nations has set aside this year as the International year for Biodiversity. The article says biodiversity is not an animal or plant issue, it is a human survival issue. Businesses in general tend to overlook the value of nature apart from Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals and food.

The article talk about 3 species which would not even capture our eye in any positive way.

The first one is the Gribble – teeny water dwelling wood boring insect, which was the scourge of many a sailor in his wooden ships of yore. No w scientists are hoping this insect could save the world! Wondering how? Enzymes from the gribble which help to digest wood are being investigated as a source for producing biofuels. If replicated scientists believe they can convert waste into biofuel!

The second one in the list is the Rosy periwinkle found only on the island of Madagascar. Locals believe it can cure diabetes, but scientists have found that it has substances which can help in fighting cancers, including childhood leukemia! Sad reality is that the plant is endangered in the wild though wildly cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The third one is Pyrethrum, from the family of the common daisies. Pyrethrum native to the Balkans and surrounding areas have been found to possess the extraordinary quality of being toxic to mosquitoes and other insects! Now it is being grown commercially to make insect repellants.

The writer says these insects and plants are just a very small bit of what nature holds as answers to many of humankinds pressing problems. “They are living examples of the worth of biodiversity” says Peter Seligmann, Chief executive of Conservation International. He says “If nature gets cooked, we get cooked”.

The TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity) study conducted in India by led by the Deutsche Bank’s global market business to estimate the cost of degradation and neglect of natural environments found that preserving biodiversity in some areas most at risk of species loss would yield about $4000 Billion to $5000 Billion a year in benefits!

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Nature’s benefits often provide the most sustainable, cost-effective solutions to meet human needs. Considering ecosystem services in policy making can save on future municipal costs, boost local economies, enhance quality of life and secure livelihoods. This approach also helps tackle poverty by revealing the distribution of scarce and essential resources and services.

In 2006 the 61st UN General assembly had taken a pledge to do everything possible to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and they have fallen behind. In this year’s meeting they will have to reset the goal and amp up the actions to make sure biodiversity loss is curtailed.

Some facts and thoughts on biodiversity and its importance:

  • For the first time since the Dinosaurs disappeared Humans are driving species to extinction faster than they can evolve say experts.
  • Just last year in the forests of Papau New Guinea the researchers from Conservation International identified 100 new species!
  • We took 10,000 years to turn from hunter gathers to farmers on land, now we wont need 10 years to do the same in the sea.
  • We cannot manage what we do not measure.
  • Humankind has still a lot to learn about the nature of value, and the Value of Nature.
  • Biodiversity is not just a luxury of the rich: but a necessity for the poor.
  • Investment in a functioning environment is often considered a luxury rather than life insurance. Why is it so?
  • The insights provided by a careful examination of the benefits of ecosystem services can significantly contribute to improved management in the realms of forestry, fisheries, agriculture, nature tourism and protection against natural hazards.

I am reminded of the John Muir quote “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” To me that is how the world is, all interconnected by invisible threads- we never understand the depth of impact when one thread is broken until it is too late.

Species on the brink of being declared extinct

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 208 species as “possibly extinct”, more than half of which are amphibians. They are defined as species which are “on the balance of evidence likely to be extinct, but for which there is a small chance that they may still be extant”.

Kouprey (or Grey ox; Bos sauveli)

What: Wild cattle with horns that live in small herds

Domain: Mostly Cambodia; also Laos, Vietnam, Thailand

Population: No first-hand sightings since 1969

Main threats: hunting for meat and trade, livestock diseases and habitat destruction

Webbed-footed coqui (or stream coqui; Eleutherodactylus karlschmidti)

What: Large black frog living in mountain streams

Domain: East and west Puerto Rico

Population: Not seen since 1976

Main threats: Disease (chytridiomycosis), climate change and invasive predators

Golden coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus jasperi)

What: Small orange frog living in forest or open rocky areas

Domain: Sierra de Cayey, Puerto Rico

Population: No sightings since 1981

Main threats: Unknown but suspected habitat destruction, climate change, disease (chytridiomycosis) and invasive predators

Spix’s macaw (or little blue macaw; Cyanopsitta spixii)

What: Bright blue birds with long tails and grey/white heads

Domain: Brazil

Population: The last known wild bird disappeared in 2000; there are 78 in captivity

Main threats: Destruction of the birds’ favoured Tabebuia caraiba trees for nesting, and trapping

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii)

What: White flowering shrub related to the coffee plant family

Domain: Island of Rodrigues, Republic of Mauritius

Population: A single wild plant is known

Main threats: Habitat loss, introduced grazing animals and alien plants

Source: IUCN and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. To mark the International Year of Biodiversity, the IUCN is running a daily profile of a threatened species throughout 2010. See iucn.org.

Will do a detailed write up on TEEB tomorrow.

Sources –

Financial Times

TEEB

UN Convention on Biological Diversity

UN International Year of Biodiversity

More Effort Needed to Save the World’s Forests

On the 4th of October 2010 the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United nations (FAO) released the Forest Resources Assessment 2010 at the start of the latest Biennial meeting of the FAO committee on forestry and World Forest Week. It is by far the most comprehensive report about the forests of the world with inputs from 233 countries worldwide and studies spread over a 20 year period from 1990 to 2010. Representatives from 100 plus countries have assembled at the FAO head quarters in Rome.

Documentation for FRA 2010 includes 233 country reports, available online. Complementing the main report will be a series of special studies on topical issues as well as a global remote sensing survey of changes on forest biomes between 1990 and 2005, scheduled for completion in 2011.

Most of the losses of forest happen in countries in the tropical region, while most of the gains take place in temperate and boreal zones. Furthermore, many emerging economies have moved from net loss to net gain of forest area. These results highlight the key role of economic development in reversing global deforestation.

Check out the percentage of forests worldwide:

The study concludes that the rate of deforestation, while still alarming in many countries, is slowing down at the global level, and that afforestation and natural expansion in some countries and regions have further reduced the net loss of forests.

In the main section of this report, results are presented according to the seven thematic elements of sustainable forest management:
• extent of forest resources;
• forest biological diversity;
• forest health and vitality;
• productive functions of forest resources;
• protective functions of forest resources;
• socio-economic functions of forests;
• legal, policy and institutional framework.

Key Findings:

  • Forests cover 31 percent of total land area i.e 4 billion hectares. The five most forest-rich countries (the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China) account for more than half of the total forest area.
  • Deforestation – mainly the conversion of tropical forest to agricultural land – shows signs of decreasing in several countries but continues at a high rate in others. In the last decade 13million hectares of forest was converted into agricultural land, which is lower than 16million hectares per year in the 1990’s (much higher than earlier estimates).
  • Large Scale Planting of trees has significantly reduced net loss of forest area world over.
  • South America and Africa have the largest net loss of forest.
  • An increase in forest area can also happen in two ways: either through afforestation (i.e. planting of trees on land that was not previously forested) or through natural expansion of forests (e.g. on abandoned agricultural land, a process which is quite common in some European countries).
  • Estimates made for FRA 2010 show that the world’s forests store 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in their biomass alone!!
  • On a global average, more than one-third of all forest is primary forest, i.e. forest of native species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes have not been significantly disturbed.
  • Close to 1.2 billion hectares of forest are managed primarily for the production of wood and non-wood forest products.
  • At the global level, reported wood removals amounted to 3.4 billion cubic metres annually in the period 2003–2007, similar to the volume recorded for 1990 and equivalent to 0.7 percent of the total growing stock. (In reality the numbers must be higher as firewood is not a monitored commodity).
  • Around 330 million hectares of forest are designated for soil and water conservation, avalanche control, sand dune stabilization, desertification control or coastal protection.

The FAO wants the world to take more action to preserve the existing forests, which means more awareness against logging and other human interferences in the remaining primary forests, planting more trees etc.

Source – If you have the time do check out the detailed FRA2010 Report HERE

Solar Makes It’s Way Back to The White House!

By Spring of 2011 The White House will have Solar Panels heating water, keeping up with the president’s executive order that called on the federal government buildings to lead in the establishment of a clean energy economy.

It was just 4 weeks back that 350.org’s Bill Mckibben and a team of students from the Unity College Maine made a trip to the White house to put Solar back on the White House roofs where Jimmy Carter put it in 1979! They were also carrying one of the solar panels which was installed on the White House roof with them.We covered it here

Today Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that Solar panels and a solar hot water heater will soon be installed at the White House, at the 2010 GreenGov Symposium in Washington, accompanied by Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council of Environmental Quality.

What better way to put alternative energy on the front page  and highlight our need to let go of fossil fuel as a source of energy than putting the most powerful home in the world go Solar! Live Green!

Source –

Article on CNN – Solar Power Coming to the White House

350.org and their road trip to the White house in early September of 2010 – Big Victory White House Goes Solar!

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Tianjin China

The 2010 UN Climate change conference starts today in Tianjin China. Last years summit in Copenhagen was for all practical purposes a failure, for it did not reach a consensus on how to work together to reduce the human impact on global climate.

45,000 people traveled from around the world convinced of the need for new global agreement on climate change.  After a week of talk and more talk, every one left with nothing concrete decided.Environmental groups hoping for something substantial were left wanting and wondering what went wrong.

Last year it was estimated that between 2009 and 2020, global emissions are likely to rise by 10-20%, and the chances of temperatures rising by 3C by 2100 are greater than 50%.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this implies a range of serious impacts for the world, including

  • significant falls in crop yields across most of the world
  • damage to most coral reefs
  • likely disruption to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.

This year’s meeting again aims for the following:

  • Industrialized nations’ commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, including further emission reductions after 2012, when the current period ends.
  • Preparation of a draft negotiating text for the Cancun summit. (Focusing on what is achievable in Cancun and muster political compromises that will deliver what needs to be done)

Ratifying the Kyoto protocol would mean reduction of emissions substantially by the developed nations, developing nations will not step up and take charge unless the developed nations lead the way in action not talk.

We are the ones who contribute to climate change and it is up to us to make sure we take the steps to make a positive impact. The Climate change conference is a coming together of the leaders of all nations large and small to sit down and discuss ways we can as one world start healing what we created. The onus falls on the developed nations to take the first step and show by example that a change in ways is possible.

I quote Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” One can not say for sure what will be the out come of this summit either, yet we hope like always that one day the people of the world will come together and make amends for what they have done to the earth. Hoping it will happen sooner than later. Change is a must and it will have to happen.

You can follow the UN Climate change Conference in Tianjin HERE

BBC Article about the conference HERE

Reuters Article – Climate talks put top emitter China in hot seat

Recycling Plastic Bottles to Build A Home!

I received an email today with pictures of a home being constructed, wondering why that warrants a mention here? Well the home had walls made of mud and recycled plastic bottles! I remembered seeing it somewhere long time back, think it was either on Discovery or on Natgeo, not sure. Anyways the pictures had no  details and the finished homes kind of had an adobe like South American flair, so thought the best way would be to do a web search. On searching I came across this website Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientes based in Latinamerica.

 

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Eco-Tec is the brainchild of Andreas Froese a German construction engineer who found his calling in helping the poor and disadvantaged build homes out of waste materials.  Froese began to develop his technique in 2001 in Honduras and since then has made over 50 different bottle construction projects around the world. One article about him starts with the liens Andreas Froese is in love with trash! it could not be more simply put.

How is it built?

The method includes filling the bottles with sand and stacking them in rows on top of each other. On the walls, every bottle is tied to one another to create a network, with one tie at the neck and another tie at the base of the bottle. Agricultural twine (sisal or nylon) is widely available. Bottles are first cleaned out and the labels etc removed.

A mesh screen is used to screen rubble, earth, or foundry castings into usable grades.  They always use local materials.  In cities, they use rubble, while in rural areas river sand or earth is used.  Clean plastic debris and plastic bags may be used to fill the bottle bricks. A funnel, made from the top half cut from a plastic PET bottle is used to fill the bottles. The drier the materials the easier it is to fill the bottles.

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On the walls they typically use a clay soil mix similar to adobe, however rice husk or grass may be added. To strengthen the structure in wet climates, every 4-6 rows a mixture of lime and cement is used to avoid problems. If one does not have sand, a soil mixture may be used with up to 1 part cement, 10 parts soil, and 0.5 part lime.

Eco-Tec says their PET-bottle buildings are very much like an adobe. In general, they say PET-bottle houses are bioclimatic in design, which means that when it’s cold outside is warm inside and vice versa.

SV-AS10 ImageData

 

The Positives:

  • Makes use of plastic bottles which mostly end up in land fills.
  • Reduces CO2 emissions from the non-usage of bricks (bricks need to be baked there by release a large amount of CO2 into the air).
  • Looks unique and being bio-climatic will help in reducing power consumption.

Check out the Eco-tec videos below
1. Why Eco-tec?

2. How to make a bottle brick – starring Andreas Froese:

Live Green!
For More details visit – http://eco-tecnologia.com