Hinterland Green

Monday, August 31, 2009

Study in Kerala, India: Cellphone Towers Can Pose a Threat to Honey Bee Population

According to a study conducted by Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone towers and cellphones can pose a threat to honey bees. The experiment found that a sudden drop in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cellphone companies to increase their networks.

Dr. Pattazhy said the electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the "navigational skills" of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies. He also found that when a cellphone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, abandoning the hives with only the queen and eggs, leading to a collapse of the colony within 10 days.

This latest development could adversely affect the more than 100,000 people in Kerala who are engaged in apiculture because the dwindling worker bee population poses a threat to their livelihood. Additionally, the bees also play an integral role in pollination to sustain vegetation. Pattazhy sounded the alarm by saying if  towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years. Though I am a little skeptical of the "gloom and doom" theory, I do believe that it is paramount that we ascertain what is really happening to the honey bees.

Photo credit:  Dark Honey Bee, Ron Hemberger

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watermelon Juice -- A New Source of Renewable Energy

Is watermelon juice a new fuel? The watermelon has long been a staple of backyard barbecues and summer time snacks, but it is n ow also a promising new source of renewable energy.  According to a new study, leftover watermelons from farms' harvests could be converted into up to 9.4 million liters (2.5 million gallons) of clean, renewable ethanol fuel every year destined for your car, truck, or airplane's gas tank.

Wayne Fish of the United States Department of Agriculture in Lane, Oklahoma, estimated that 360,000 tons of watermelons spoil in fields every year. Some local growers wondered whether the waste melons could be turned into ethanol, which is the clean-burning fuel derived from plant sugars. Fish and his team have proven through a series of new experiments, which were published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels,  they can, indeed, be turned into ethanol.

Watermelon juice is about 10 percent sugar by volume, about half the concentration that manufacturers consider right for producing ethanol. It is also full of amino acids that provide a crucial source of nitrogen for yeast to feed on during fermentation. The team calculated that they could make about 2.5 million gallons of ethanol each year from waste melons. The team suggests that watermelon juice from reject melons (which is about 20 to 40 percent of watermelon farmers' crops) could drastically cut down on water usage, supply needed nitrogen, and even add some sugar to the mix, cutting the amount of corn or molasses by up to 15 percent.

Photo credit: Discovery News

NOAA Study Shows Nitrous Oxide Tops Ozone-Depleting Emissions

Layers of Earth's atmosphere
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

According to a study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), nitrous oxide has become the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activities and it is expected to remain the largest throughout the 21st century. The study, which was authored by A.R. Ravishankara, J.S. Daniel and Robert W. Portmann of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) chemical sciences division, evaluated nitrous oxide emissions from human activities, specifically as they relate to their potential impact on the Earth's ozone layer. The study found that as chlorofluorocarbon, or CFCs, which have been phased out by international agreement, ebb in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide will remain a significant ozone-destroyer. Nitrous oxide emissions from human activities are now more than twice as high as the next leading ozone-depleting gas.

How is nitrous oxide emitted? It is emitted from natural sources and as a byproduct of agricultural fertilization and other industrial processes. The researchers found when calculating the effect on the ozone layer now and in the future, that emissions of nitrous oxide from human activities erode the ozone layer and will continue to do so for many decades.

The ozone layer serves to shield plants, animals and people from excessive ultraviolet light from the sun. The thinning of the ozone layer allows more ultraviolet light to reach the Earth’s surface where it can damage crops and aquatic life and harm human health.
Nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas, so reducing its emission from manmade sources would be good for both the ozone layer and climate, the scientists said. In addition to soil fertilization, nitrous oxide is emitted from livestock manure, sewage treatment, combustion and certain other industrial processes. Dentists use it as a sedative (so-called “laughing gas”).

In nature, bacteria in soil and the oceans break down nitrogen-containing compounds, releasing nitrous oxide. About one-third of global nitrous oxide emissions are from human activities. Nitrous oxide, like CFCs, is stable when emitted at ground level, but breaks down when it reaches the stratosphere to form other gases, called nitrogen oxides, that trigger ozone-destroying reactions. Source: NOAA
This latest study is very revealing and though the role of nitrous oxide in ozone depletion has been known for several decades, it is the first study that explicitly calculated that role using the same measures that have been applied to CFCs, halons and other chlorine- and bromine-containing ozone-depleting substances.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Study: Warmer Sea Temperatures Whet Krill Appetite, Put World's Seafood Supply at Risk

The warming oceans are causing a rise in appetites among marine life and has highlighted the risks climate change has on the world's seafood supply. According to a study published by the Public Library of Science, the milder water temperatures increase the importance of zooplankton, including krill which is eaten by whales and has put undue pressure on phytoplankton that will be less plentiful as the seas grow warmer.

Research has shown that humans rely on marine ecosystems for 16 percent of their animal protein consumption.  The study states that increased temperatures of up to four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) have already happened in some of the world’s seas; climate models predict that sea temperatures may increase a further seven degrees over the next 100 years. The study has also said that rising consumption by larger marine animals of smaller plankton will result in a loss of biomass even with increased production with higher temperatures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said the world’s ocean surface temperature in June rose to 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), the warmest since 1880, topping the record set in 2005.

Photo credit:  Antarctic krill (Euphasia superba) Green Warriors of Norway

SHOCK: Killing and Dismemberment of Ultra Rare Sumatran Tiger in Indonesian Zoo by Poachers Draws Condemnation

SHOCK:  The killing and dismemberment of an ultra rare Sumatran tiger in an Indonesian zoo by poachers have drawn condemnation by the Zoological Society of London, which had called for tougher enforcement against trading in wildlife areas.  The society said that the female Sumatran tiger, which ZSL used in 2003 to train Indonesians in veterinary care, was drugged and skinned at a zoo in Sumatra on August 22. The body parts were likely sold on the black market as there is “high demand for their use in Chinese medicine,” the London zoo said.
“It is shocking that this tiger, who has contributed to tiger conservation via her role in training young Indonesian wildlife biologists and vets, should fuel the trade in wildlife parts which threatens her kind with extinction,” said Sarah Christie, tiger conservation manager for ZSL.

The Sumatran tiger is listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and is Indonesia’s last remaining subspecies of the big cat after hunting and habitat destruction killed off the other two, the Javan and Bali varieties. As few as 400 are left in the wild, and the cat is being “sold into extinction,” wildlife monitoring network Traffic said last year in a study that documented sales of claws, whiskers and teeth across Indonesia.

“This tragic incident highlights the need for improved law enforcement at a local level,” Christie said. Police investigating the slaying are questioning a veterinarian and five workers at the Taman Rimbo zoo in Jambi, the Jakarta Post reported. Source:  Bloomberg
This is a real tragedy and I agree that the enforcement efforts must be intensified. Surely the government can step up its efforts in eradicating the poaching of its wildlife.

Photo credit:  My Opera

US Navy Unveils The Hull BUG, Underwater Robot That Can Reduce Navy's Fuel Consumption

Hull BUG (Source:  US Navy)

The US Navy said barnacles and biofilms can slow ships by an average of 10% due to added drag, which can reportedly add as much as a 40% increase in fuel consumption to counteract that drag. A new underwater robot can alleviate much of those problems. The Hull BUG -- Robotic Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool -- can clean Navy ships in the hope of reducing fuel consumption.

The  Hull BUG is a new autonomous robot that can sense where a ship is and isn't clean, and clean up soiled spots. The robot can help keep barnacles, oysters and other biofilm from settling on ship hulls and therefore reduce drag and fuel consumption.

Office of Naval Research (ONR) Program Officer Steve McElvany estimates that "the Navy will save millions of dollars per year in fuel. Using less fuel also means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are really trying to look very far forward to get the ultimate solution." The Navy spends an estimated $500 million annually in extra maintenance and fuel costs associated with biofouling. This is definitely a whole lot better than using toxic substances to clean these ships which are not environmentally safe.

Partners in ONR´s development of the Hull BUG include NSWCCD, SeaRobotics and the Florida Institute of Technology. Since 1946, ONR has funded revolutionary research through academia, universities, government laboratories, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and nearly 60 Nobel Laureates.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Sea Worm Species Found: The Green Bomber Release Glowing Green Appendages when Threatened

Karen Osborn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Calif. and colleagues have identified seven species of creatures who make bioluminescing "bombs" -- sea worms. These tiny worms wiggle through the darkness thousands of meters below the sea and when a predator attacks, the worms release a glowing green sac throwing off its chasers. The worms are relatives of earthworms and leeches and belong to the annelid phylum. They have been given the group designation Swima. Researchers have dubbed the newly discovered critters "green bombers."
Team member Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California, first saw one of these annelids flit across the camera viewfinder of a remotely operated submersible in 2001. Since then he, Osborn, and others have come across dozens more individuals. Most were spotted in canyons off the coasts of California and Oregon, but a few lived in the Philippines. They ranged in size from 18 to 93 millimeters and were between 1863 meters and 3793 meters below the surface, sometimes along the sea floor and other times in mid-ocean.

About two millimeters across, the glowing bombs are actually modified gills that consist of four chambers, likely holding apart fluids that react when they come into contact with each other to create light. Each worm has eight appendages for holding the sacs. When released, the sacs glow green for about a minute, Osborn reports. "It's a different chemistry than has been found in other polychaete worms in the same phylum," she says. She presumes the worms drop the bombs as a way of distracting predators.

Although some worms drop appendages during reproduction and others use bio-luminescence, "these two features were never found in combination [in annelids] until now," says Struck. The find drives home that even "simple" worms have sophisticated behavior, he says. And given that the researchers have found these creatures on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, Struck says, there are probably many more varieties out there, lighting up the sea as they go. Source: Science Now
The discovery has proven that we know so little about the ocean and the marine life. The research was funded by the Scripps Institution, University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the National Geographic Society.

Tyson Foods to Pay $2 Million for Pumping Animal Waste into Missouri River

Tyson Fresh Meats, the world's largest supplier of beef and pork, will pay a hefty $2 million fine for pumping animal waste into the Missouri River, the Justice Department said.

The DOJ said the company, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, Ark., violated a 2002 agreement with the government to limit its discharges into the river from a beef processing facility in Dakota City, Neb. The government said the company did not adequately treat the wastewater it discharges into the river, and as a result, fecal coliform and nitrates were discharged. The DOJ said that the discharges caused high levels of toxicity to aquatic life in the river.

Regulators said Tyson discharges an average of 5 million gallons of treated wastewater from the facility into the river each day. Tyson Foods said the wastewater issues at the plant had been resolved and the water treatment system there was operating effectively.

Greenpeace's Solar Generation Activists, Local Youth Organizers Install Solar Panels in Home of President Obama's Paternal Grandmother "Mama Sarah" in Kenya

Thanks to Greenpeace's Solar Generation Activists and local youth organizers, President Barack Obama's paternal grandmother, affectionately known as "Mama Sarah," got the present of a lifetime -- solar panels on her home. Solar panels were also installed on the Senator Barack Obama School in Kogelo, Kenya. According to Greenpeace, the solar installations are part of a 20 day renewable energy workshop hosted by Solar Generation with 25 participants from the Kibera Community Youth Program and community members of Nyang’oma Kogelo. The program helps young Kenyans learn how solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity, about their installation and maintenance and the fabrication of self-assembling solar lamps and their marketing potential.

Mama Sarah  was understandably happy and said, “I am very pleased that my home has been improved thanks to solar energy and I'll make sure my grandson hears about it. Solar power is clean, reliable and affordable, unlike paraffin that is widely used in the area. Also, we now have qualified youth in the village who can help with the upkeep of the systems.”

Climate impacts reach Kenya

Kenya, like many other countries in Africa, is on the climate impacts frontline. It has seen a drastic reduction in rainfall in recent years. Drought is amplifying problems in agriculture caused by poor land use and desertification, making Kenya’s large scale hydro power unreliable.

Faced with these challenges, investing in solar energy technologies is a win-win strategy. It strengthens the economy and protects the environment, while ensuring a reliable and clean energy supply. The solar industry is ready and able to deliver the needed capacity. There is no technical impediment to doing this, just a political barrier to overcome as we rebuild the global energy sector. Source: Greenpeace
There is so much work to do in so many other countries across our globe. If each person with the means and the skills would make a conscious effort to help our less fortunate and impoverished brothers and sisters in other countries, then the world would be in better shape environmentally.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama Administration Moves To Block Building Roads In National Forests, Defends 2001 Rule Imposed by former President Bill Clinton

The Obama administration says that it will defend a 2001 rule, which was imposed by former President Bill Clinton, that blocked road construction and other development on millions of acres of remote national forests.  Conflicting court opinions have variously upheld and blocked the so-called Roadless Rule, which prohibited commercial logging, mining and other development on about 58 million acres of national forest in 38 states and Puerto Rico, but no surprise, a subsequent Bush administration rule had cleared the way for more commercial activity there.
A federal appeals court threw out the 2005 Bush roadless rule last week, saying the rule "had the effect of permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were afforded to inventoried roadless areas" in national forests. The California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the 2001 rule offered greater protection to remote forests than the 2005 rule. The Aug. 5 ruling, one of dozens in recent years related to roadless forests, was not the final word on the issue.

The Wyoming case is pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where environmental groups are appealing a ruling by a federal judge repealing the Clinton roadless rule. Arguments are expected this fall before an appeals panel in Denver. Source: Huffington Post
The latest move by the Obama administration is a step in the right direction.

Tuna Processors Commit to Tracing Tuna "From Capture to Plate"

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation has passed a mandate, the ISSF Product Traceability Resolution, to set global standards for tracing tuna from capture to the plate. This latest mandate will help keep illegal, unreported and unregulated tuna fish off store shelves and ultimately off our plates.
“Being able to trace a product back to its source benefits the environment, industry and consumers,” ISSF president Susan Jackson said. “Traceability is critical to conservation since poaching tuna creates a gap in information which negatively impacts meaningful, science-based management measures.”

The ISSF Board of Directors voted to require processors to keep detailed records documenting the name and flag of catcher and transshipping vessels, fish species, ocean of capture corresponding to tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) area, fishing trip dates, fishing gear employed, date the company took ownership of the fish and each species by weight.

“One of the most powerful tools against illegal or pirate fishing is the adoption of catch documentation schemes to provide traceability for seafood,” said Miguel Jorge, Director of WWF’s Marine Program and ISSF Board member. “We're particularly pleased that ISSF participants have adopted a comprehensive program tracing tuna from capture to plate.” Source: ISSF
Participating processors will be required to keep detailed records documenting the name and flag of catcher and transshipping vessels, fish species, ocean of capture corresponding to tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) area, fishing trip dates, fishing gear employed, date the company took ownership of the fish and each species by weight. Miguel Jorge, Director of WWF’s Marine Program and ISSF Board member had this to say about the new resolution:

Participants have also committed to the withdrawal of any product from shelves if it is found to be in violation of the new mandate. The ISSF's founding members include Bolton Alimentari; Bumble Bee Foods, LLC / Clover Leaf Seafoods; MW Brands; Princes Ltd.; Sea Value Co., Ltd.; StarKist Co.; Thai Union Manufacturing Co. Ltd / Chicken of the Sea Intl.; TriMarine International; and WWF. This is a step in the right direction.

Photo credit: Arts Journal/Greenpeace

Monday, August 10, 2009

Prius Sales Surge in Japan: 392% More than a Year Ago in July

Unlike the literal implosion of the US auto markets, according to the Japan Automotive Dealers Association, Toyota’s Prius was the top-seller in Japan in July, with 27,712 units sold—almost quadruple the 7,058 units sold in July 2008.

This marks the third month in a row that Prius was the top-selling car in Japan. According to media reports, for the first seven months of the year, Prius sales in Japan total 79,122 units. The Honda Fit is still the volume leader from January-July, with 82,592 units total. The Fit came in a distant second to the Prius in July, with 17,003 units sold, followed by the Toyota Vitz (12,366 units) and the Honda Insight (10,210 units).

The Daily Green's Brian Clark Howard Says the New .eco Domain Would "Ghettoize" Green

A battle is raging in the green blogosphere on competing plans to launch a new top level domain named .eco. Former vice president Al Gore, the Sierra Club and the California group Dot Eco are on one side of the issue, while Canadian environmental group Big Room, WWF International and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross in on the other side of the issue. According to The Daily Green's Brian Clark Howard, both groups say they will apply to Icann -- the regulatory body that oversees domain names -- for the creation of .eco early in 2010. For example, Al Gore's group maintains that they want to grant the domains to green groups, then donate 57% of its profits from sales to support environmental causes. There nothing wrong with that proposal. The problem I have is with Howard's position that the .eco domain would "ghettoize" green because it amounts to nothing more than a gimmick. Why does he have to use a racial stereotype to denote a probable outcome of this new push? It seems rather discriminatory to me.
At the risk of sounding like an online fuddy-duddy, I'm skeptical that we need a bunch more domains. Supposedly Icann is working toward radically opening the field up, so every person or business could conceivably create their own top level domain -- ".michaelvick" anyone? On one hand it might not really matter what the domain says, but on the other it is nice to have some basic organization in the .com, .org, .edu, .gov system we currently enjoy. Still, there are many ways for environmental groups to raise money, some of them quite innovative, so I'm not sure why banking on Internet architecture is so important. Call me crazy, but I don't see the purpose of domain registrations as raising money so much as providing a smooth and fair platform for people to build their own innovations on. Source: Urth Guy
I do agree that .eco could relegate green stuff further to the extremes, the fringes, of the global conversation. There has been some concrete evidence of "green fatigue" and "green backlash" lately and this would, undoubtedly, make matters worse, but interjecting racial stereotypes in the equation is dangerous and just plain wrong. I also find it abhorrent that Mr. Clark would pick disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to make a point in his article. What does Vick have to do with the .eco debate and hasn't he served his time and paid his debt to society?

Photo credit: Urth Guy