Talk about plastic accumulating in the North Pacific gyre has popped up on and off for quite a while now. Vice is running a series on the state of the gyre, as part of their "Toxic Series". Given the fact that most plastics are not biodegradable, we need to start looking more carefully at how much damage we are doing to ourselves through our use of plastic, and what we can do about it. [more inside]
Pond scum saves the planet? In the beginning, there were algae, but there was no oil. Then, from algae came oil. Now, the algae are still there, but oil is fast depleting. In future, there will be no oil, but there will still be algae. ^ Power your ride with pond scum. In some iterations you don't even need light. (we have talked about this before and the fact that CO2 powers the algae production is not insignificant) More details here.
The antidote to LOLbushsuxx0rs. Over the course of the past week, Slate ran a ten (10!)-piece series, "Fixin' It", in which various writers postulated how the course of various aspects of the United States' military, culture, and policies could be redirected for the better. Although the articles are not entirely devoid of Bush criticism, there's mostly a fairly rare focus on the positive actions to be taken from here onward by the next President (whether it be McCain or Obama or Clinton).
Greening the Ghetto. A TED talk (also on YouTube) on environmental justice and urban renewal by Majora Carter, the founder of Sustainable South Bronx organization. She spoke recently at the Aspen Environment Forum. [more inside]
New maps show US fossil fuel emissions aren't where we thought they were. The Vulcan Project collects more accurate data at a higher resolution than previous studies. Explanatory video. via [more inside]
Spread of Prosperity Brings Supply Woes: Slaking China's Thirst Malthusian catastrophe does appear to be at hand, as foreseen by the Club of Rome in 1972 publication of "The Limits of Growth"
Ferocious-looking mystery creature in Tahoe National Forest confirmed to be a California wolverine, thought to be extinct since 1922. A motion-detecting camera snapped a compelling photo behind the beast last month, and the California Department of Fish and Game just confirmed the discovery with a clear profile shot. Notably, both photos appear to show the same animal.
Enjoy life while you can. Because we're doomed. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable. James Lovelock is still at it. (Previously.)
Biofuels worsen global warming, according to two studies published in Science last week. Current US biofuel policies would double carbon emissions over the gasoline alternative. More details: ScienceExpress fulltext pdf of study #1, powerpoint summary of study #1, abstract of study #2, summary of both, policy recommendations pdf (via: 1, 2). [more inside]
Villagers in the mountains of northern India and Pakistan have been growing their own glaciers for centuries. They're small domesticated glaciers, cultivated by hand, and they provide a reliable source of water for agriculture. Legend has it that they made glaciers to block mountain passes and keep the Mongol Hordes out! More detail in New Scientist - subscription required, but you can probably see this instruction sheet.
Shifting Sands. A great series from the Globe and Mail on the Alberta Tar Sands: An Empire Made of Goo, Black gold, Texas tea, The hollowing out of small Atlantic towns, Where rich and poor Albertas collide, Norway the gold standard for managing oil wealth, The climatic costs of rapid growth.
"It's like having a gun held on you with the hammer back and not knowing when the man's gonna pull the trigger," is the dramatic introduction to Appalachian Voices' coverage on mountaintop removal. The on-line journal is an environmental advocate for the Appalachian mountains, covering topics from air pollution to forest restoration, but also subjects like box turtles, coyotes, poison ivy and timber thieves. They also have a blog.
Each year the world makes about 5 trillion plastic bags(art exhibit) using about 20 billion barrels of oil, each bag able to last thousands of years. In 2007 cities began legislating against plastic bags from outright bans to mandatory surcharges, starting in San Francisco, then Hong Kong, Melbourne and now some countries in Africa, Israel and even the entire country of China are taking similar strides to cut down on the worlds bag obsession. Who's next in 2008?
A complex situation has arisen in the Southern Ocean where the Japanese Whaling fleet run by The Institute of Cetacean Research is attempting to slaughter nearly a thousand whales for the much scoffed at purpose of scientific research. Greenpeace located the fleet and claims to have chased the whalers out of hunting grounds. An Australian Federal Court judgement meanwhile has ruled the expedition illegal and imposed an injunction against the illegal whaling in Australian waters. The Japanese do not recognise Australia's claim. The Japanese responded by ignoring the judgement. Now Sea Shephard an activist group have put two of their members aboard a Japanese Ship and claims they were tied to the mast. Despite the Japanese Government saying the activists would be released the ships captain refuses to do so. Recent related post.
By September, President Warren Harding had sent in Federal troops and bombers under war hero Billy Mitchell to put down the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. Short video. Podcast. That was then. Now a second battle of Blair Mountain continues to preserve the history and the environment of the first. [more inside]
Dr. President: "The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century." With the coming election, the AAAS has created a new website and devoted a section of their journal Science to the Democratic and Republican candidates' positions on science and technology issues. But to help further clarify their positions, some people are calling for the candidates to have a presidential debate on science and technology. [Via The Intersection and Wired Science.]
This guy saved all his trash for an entire year. It amounted to 96 cubic feet. Perhaps not surprisingly, his message is conservation.
"So by this analysis dead-tree magazines have a smaller net carbon footprint than web media. We cut down trees and put them in the ground. From a climate change perspective, this is a good thing" explains Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine's editor-in-chief. While some decry this type of carbon footprint accounting as "cheating", the paper industry has lately been eager to convince the public that they are carbon-neutral.
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
Nestle claims that it now puts it's water in ecobottles. "But how much lighter is the bottle?" Fiji also claims a commitment to the environment, but it's still "Bottled in Fiji. Shipped to you". Couldn't we just drink from the tap? Previously.
...you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely. The story of stuff.
No wonder why Canada won't meet their Kyoto targets A University of Alberta researcher is calling on Canadian beer drinkers to go green and toss their energy-guzzling beer fridges, found in one of three households across the country.
DIY activists have been using human hair mats to soak up the carcinogenic bunker oil that's been washing onto Bay Area beaches since the spill. Now they're inoculating the oil-soaked mats with mushrooms that will break down the oil into harmless compost. See also: fungi breaking down plastics, synthetic dyes and organopollutants generally. A bit more from mushroom guru Paul Stamets. (If you're so inclined, here's a link to donate to the non-profit that coordinated the hair mats.) [more inside]
Thirsty Dragon at the Olympics Dai Qing on China's environmental crisis and the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
A two-ton 21-mpg 8-passenger V8 Chevy Tahoe? America, meet your 2008 Green Car of the Year!
Ecoble, an environment design and living site includes some interesting stories and info: Man (Re)Builds Mexican Island Paradise on 250,000 Recycled Floating Bottles l Who Has the Oil? Geography of the World’s Most Contentious Resource l BituBlock - The Sustainable Building Block Built from Trash and Sewage [more inside]
These Come From Trees "Testing shows a 'These Come From Trees' sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces paper towel consumption by ~15%"
"The vast tar sands of Alberta in Canada hold oil reserves six times the size of Saudi Arabia's. But this 'black gold' is proving a mixed blessing for the frontier town of Fort McMurray, fuelling both prosperity and misery. As the social and environmental toll mounts, Aida Edemariam reports on the dark side of a boom town" - Mud, Sweat and Tears.
Look at that tail! Stephen Nash has illustrated the most endangered primates (image gallery: part 1, part 2) -- so faithfully over the years that one now bears his name. The just-released "Primates in Peril" report has full profiles of each animal, along with all of Nash's illustrations (including those replaced by photos in the gallery above -- don't miss the sumatran orangutan!).
Don Berto’s Garden. "The plants of the ancient Maya whisper their secrets to those who speak a shared language."
In what it calls "the final wake-up call to the international community," a UN report (press release, website, 21 MB PDF) warns that damage to the environment is reaching a "point of no return" and now threatens "humanity's very survival." Oh, c'mon, tell us what you really think.
Proposition 1 - Sound Transit & RTID: Dan Savage is for it ("I want 50 miles of light rail so bad, I don’t give a shit if they pave 180 miles with baby mice," sorta), while the Sierra Club is against ("It wants to support the Sound Transit/light rail portion of the ballot issue, but not the Regional Transportation Improvement District part, which seeks more money to expand and repair roads and highways"). On November 6, voters in Washington's King, Pierce and Snohomish counties will decide.
What do you know? Just when I thought ships were the way to go, I learned that global emissions of carbon dioxide from shipping are twice the level of aviation, one of the maritime industry's key bodies has said It came out on the BBC News this week.
Earth, 2100 AD. Atmospheric CO2 has doubled to 1000 ppm. From shore to the horizon, there is but an unending purple color -- a vast, flat, oily purple. No fish break its surface, no birds. We are under a pale green sky, and it has the smell of death and poison. Paleontologist Peter Ward's new book links past mass extinctions to global warming and shows, absent major changes, "Our world is hurtling toward carbon dioxide levels not seen since 60 million years ago, right after a greenhouse extinction." Maybe it's time for a heresy: nuclear energy's green, and renewables aren't.
An interview with Lebbeus Woods -- designer and illustrator of speculative futuristic landscapes and buildings. Woods just set up his own website, which has an amazing quantity of drawings, photographs, and text focusing on his lesser known projects [for those willing to deal with a frustrating flash interface and sound. It's better in IE than Firefox.] [more inside]
The Right Livelihood Award "celebrates and supports people of vision. People who have ideas and apply them in concrete initiatives for the public good. They give hope for tomorrow, for a world in peace and balance. They demonstrate how we can overcome oppression, war, poverty, the destruction of our environment, and a widespread sense of meaninglessness and fear."
Superfund365 is an online data visualization application by Brooke Singer. Each day for the next year, Superfund365 will visit one of the EPA’s Superfund sites and collect data on contaminants, corporate responsibility, photos of the sites, and stats on local inhabitants. In the end, it will have 365 visualizations of some of the worst toxic sites in the U.S. [Via The Underwire.]
The North Pacific Trash Vortex - Researchers have discovered a Texas-sized area of (mostly plastic) rubbish floating in the Pacific Ocean. [more inside]
Not ones for subtlety, the Death of Environmentalism guys (previously) are at it again with a Manifesto for a New Environmentalism. Their Apollo Alliance is getting early support from both Clinton and Obama. But it's not the only "new environmentalism" out there. There's this New Environmentalism, while others would include both market-based approaches among the the idols of old environmentalism.
"California has a decision to make. We either brace ourselves for long-term [water] cuts that threaten our economy and our very way of way of life, or we invest in a solution to fix the [San Francisco Bay] Delta and expand our water toolbox so we can meet future challenges head-on.” [more inside]
Navarre now generates more than 50% of its energy needs by wind power: a profile of the small autonomous region in northern Spain that is leading the way in renewable energy. This is one of many free access articles in this special supplement on energy issues to the journal Nature.
The US Clean Air Act makes it illegal to sell highly environmentally-friendly cars in 42 states. Apparently.
Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin. This Saturday will mark this article's four year anniversary. Frankly, I was mildly surprised not to have found it mentioned before in MeFi. It's a good read about a sad state of affairs; how our government is turning its own people into outlaws, because freedom has been traded in for an illusion of security. ...but then we already knew that. Don't we?
Appalachian Apocalypse. Mountaintop removal mining (previously) has a devastating effect on the environment and local populations. The Bush administration wants to loosen regulations and expand the practice. [Via Wired Science.]
Kerr Magee had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to call their waste an "experimental fertilizer" and just spread it over the top of the land.
Depleted uranium is now understood to have many medical consequences unique to its modern application as munitions, due to its incendiary, aerosolizing behavior when pulverized. (Rosalie Bertell explains, youtube) It has become a leading candidate for the cause of Gulf War syndrome, and was associated with massive increases in cancer and birth defects in Basra. The EU has called for a moratorium on its use four times, and WHO is deeply concerned with its consequences, but the USA (with Canadian complicity) and Russia continue to use it in Iraq and elsewhere. (prev: 1 2 3 4 5)