3/31/2010 2:05:04 PM
A frightening aspect of geoengineering—the attempts to counteract global warming by manipulating the climate—is that the actions of one country or even a single scientist could affect the entire world. “Done carelessly,” Jamais Casico writes for Momentum, “geonengineering could cause unintended environmental damage. It could also undermine the health and security of millions of people, and drive political wedges between powerful nations. Geoengineering could even push us to the brink of war.”
To avoid catastrophe, Casico proposes a few measures that must be taken before any individual or entity begins the work of manipulating the climate through science. He suggests that countries should adopt greater transparency and tough international laws and regulations. He also proposes an international “Ecoscientists Without Borders” organization to oversee the projects. The ideas can’t guarantee that geonengineering won’t destroy civilization as we know it, but they could make the end a little less likely.
Image by indigoprime, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/29/2010 2:42:53 PM
Producing beer or wine can leave a significant eco-footprint: Both require water-intensive processes and, as the Berkeley-based environmental magazine Terrain reports, “even mid-size breweries can generate tens of thousands of tons of solid waste each year.” But Terrain brings good tidings, too, of a handful of Northern California breweries and wine companies making sustainable strides, harnessing their waste and byproducts to power their own production processes. Here's just one example:
The view from atop Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company roof is breathtaking. Blue skies and sun—the first clear day the region has seen in weeks—shine on a dizzying quilt of 10,000 rectangular solar panels. The brewery’s 200,000 square feet of blue silicon plates make it one of the country’s largest private solar arrays, but a row of large silos off to the left offers another glimpse of the company’s attempts to operate off the grid.
Each of those silos contains almost 25,000 gallons of beer. To craft that beer, brewers boil the grains, filter out the solids, cool the product, then add yeast to the liquid. That slurry sits in fermenters—the silos—for ten to fourteen days. Yeast, a single-celled organism, eats sugars from the malt and hops. As it digests its food, the yeast exhales carbon dioxide and produces alcohol. But instead of releasing the greenhouse gas into the air, Sierra Nevada diverts it to a storage tank, where it is cleaned and pressurized. It later plays a vital role in the brewery’s operations, adding carbonation to some of the brews and pushing beer from one boiler to another via a labyrinthine series of tubes and pipes. “Our philosophy is a closed-loop approach,” says Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada’s sustainability coordinator. “We take the byproducts of brewing and use them for something we need.”
This both saves money and reduces greenhouse gasses, she says. “Carbon dioxide is usually a big purchase for carbonation and dispensing,” Chastain explains. “With the recovery system in place, we’re not releasing carbon dioxide and we’re supplying a hundred percent of what we need. It’s a free fuel source and we have it on-site, so we might as well use it.”
3/26/2010 11:54:55 AM
Green Mountain Coffee and Ashoka’s Changemakers launched Revelation to Action: Your Place. Your Idea. Your Change. Believing that real change starts at home, they will find and help fund the most innovative ideas that strengthen and improve communities across the Northeastern United States.
· 3 competition winners will each be awarded USD $5,000
· 7 state winners will each be awarded USD $5,000
· 2 early entry prize winners will receive a Keurig® Coffee Brewer and a 12-month coffee supply
· Recommend an organization and if it wins, your prize is a Keurig® Coffee Brewer and a 6-month supply of coffee
· Re-tweet about the competition and you will be eligible to enter a drawing for one bag of fresh Green Mountain Coffee® and fun competition items
1. Visit http://www.Changemakers.com/Revelation
2. If you are new to the site, create a profile, it only takes 5 minutes
3. Sign-in with your username and password
4. Download the entry form in a word document so that you can edit your entry and save changes before entering online – this ensures that your work is saved
5. Enter your idea or organization here: https://www.changemakers.com/en-us/node/69520/entryform
6. When you are finished make sure to click the “Publish” button to complete your entry
Deadline: April 21, 2010
Forward this post to other organizations or individuals that are strengthening communities across the Northeastern US. For complete rules and regulations for this competition, please visit their website at http://www.Changemakers.com/Revelation, and click on Eligibility, Criteria and Prizes.
3/24/2010 3:32:44 PM
Imagine a city transformed. High-rises become layers of indoor farms that grow produce all year long. Skeletons of old houses sheathed in plastic are now greenhouses. The goal is immediate access to food. That’s what investigative journalist Mark Dowie imagines for Detroit. But this isn’t some utopian vision. Dowie visited Detroit and traveled around with residents there who are transforming their city. He reported his findings in an article we reprinted in our November-December 2009 issue from the online art and politics magazine Guernica. The article was called Food Among the Ruins. Jeff Severns Guntzel spoke with Dowie about what he found in Detroit.
A conversation with Mark Dowie (13:58)
Or download the podcast at iTunes or the UtneCast blog.
3/24/2010 12:06:49 PM
Instead of using harmful pesticides to kill invasive species, scientists are trying to get invasive species to kill each other. In experiments on Argentine ants, chemists at the University of California, Irvine, have figured out a way to manipulate the scents that insects use to identify members of their colony. The scientists are using chemicals that would transform some of the ants from friends of their colony to foes, fomenting a civil war among the ants, and causing them to kill each other. According to Conservation Magazine, these chemicals could present a more “environmentally friendly alternative to insecticides.”
Source: Conservation Magazine
Image by Arkangel, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/19/2010 9:32:03 AM
For eight months, photographer Greg du Toit battled horrific tsetse flies, various parasites, and the sweltering heat of southern Kenya while trying to photograph an elusive wild lion. On his website, du Toit retells the harrowing tale, including how he made the decision to submerge himself in a small patch of water to both protect himself from the wildlife and to get the best angle to photograph them.
Greg du Toit
Image courtesy of Greg du Toit.
3/12/2010 2:21:26 PM
In 2007, the bald eagle was officially (and with plenty of pomp and circumstance) removed from the endangered species list. Now, High Country News reports, conservationists face a difficult question: What to do about the fact that these eagles are wreaking havoc on seabird populations along the coasts of Oregon and Washington?
The Oregon coast now supports over a million nesting seabirds, including common murres, storm petrels, western gulls, cormorants, and tufted puffins. While none are federally endangered, Washington regards common murres and tufted puffins as species of concern (along with bald eagles); the puffins are also considered “sensitive” in Oregon. After the bald eagle’s decline, these seabirds nested for generations without being harassed, says Isaacs: “I feel sorry for the seabirds.” These days, on the northern part of the coast, bald eagle predation has caused the collapse of entire murre colonies, once 300,000 birds strong. “Some of our rocks that were significant colony sites are now permanently abandoned,” Lowe says.
For now, scientists seem to be watching and waiting. Not much is known about the bald eagle’s historical population levels and interactions with murres and gulls—these "raids" on seabird colonies, High Country News notes, “may simply represent a shift towards balance.”
Researchers speculate that seabirds like murres were sometimes prey for eagles in the past, and could not breed in large colonies with such a predator in the picture. The eagles might also help bring gull numbers back down to historic levels. But for less robust species, such as cormorants and great blue herons, the raptor’s indiscriminate appetite could prove a problem.
Historically, bald eagles fed opportunistically on a wide variety of prey, including salmon and mammals, but decades of decline in wild salmon populations may have forced them to dine on other birds more frequently. “Predator-prey relationships are not a new threat,” says Steve Mashuda, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice. “It is only a threat in the context of an imbalance that is largely human-caused.” Many seabird populations are already impaired because of human activities, including oil spills, fishery by-catch, and loss of habitat to development.
Source: High Country News
3/5/2010 5:13:14 PM
A writer walks into London’s Natural History Museum, and leaves determined to transform herself from a “rank amateur” into a specimen-collecting, data-analyzing, jar-labeling citizen scientist. That’s because a veteran entomologist tells her something she can’t shake: “There is so much we don’t know! You could spend a week studying some obscure insect and you would then know more than anyone else on the planet.”
As she writes in the new issue of OnEarth, Sharman Apt Russell takes the comment as a challenge, setting out to become “a leading world authority” on Calligrapha serpentina, a beetle that’s taken up residence right in her backyard.
“This leaf beetle is a stunner,” Russell writes, “with shiny green-gold wings marked by a sinuous, symmetrical pattern of black dashes, swirls, and fillips. Even the name is beautiful, the name of the lover in a poem, “Oh, Calligrapha! Oh, Serpentina!”
Ultimately, she doesn’t make any earth-shattering discoveries about her beautiful beetle, but she does offer some hopeful observations about the promise and potential of citizen scientists, both in the scientific realm and in our personal relationships with nature:
The further job of the citizen scientist is to mesh the world of science with, well, the world of citizenry. We trumpet the beauty of Calligrapha serpentina to friends, co-workers, relatives, real estate developers, and politicians. The more we fall in love with our own backyard—with the marvel and complexity of life—the more committed we are to protecting its diversity.
In my case, once I started looking for one beautiful green and black beetle, I found so much more: many more eggs, brown or white, red or yellow, and many more larvae, some that deceive by looking like bird droppings and some that hide by rolling up in leaves. In a single morning, I might find a marbled orb weaver like some aproned, plump grandma, 1,675 ants, and the grace of a pipevine swallowtail. I saw that Dick Vane-Wright was truly right when he said, “There is so much we don't know,” and that lots of things I don't know are outside my front door, the theater of insects playing all summer long.
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