May 24, 2011

Where is Away: Solving Plastic Pollution in 4 minutes (Featuring Jack Johnson)

Don't use single use plastic!

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 8, 2011

Spirare Surfboards: Surfboards Constructed of Ocean Garbage

The ocean is amass with litter, with both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans containing garbage gyres. Spirare Surfboards has a unique solution of making surfboards from ocean garbage. Treehugger explains:

Cunningham's idea is to first produce a limited series of boards made from reclaimed debris that will be featured in galleries around the country, to be followed by a line of 100 boards that will be sold as custom orders. But before any trash can become the eco-conscious surfer's dream board, Cunningham needs some financial support.

To that end, he has started a Kickstart campaign, looking for $3,500 by mid-April (he's about halfway there). And pledges come with rewards, from Spirare t-shirts, stickers and tote bags to a surfboard itself (for the grand $2,000 pledge).

Photo:  AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Fathzer
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 3, 2011

Natural Gas Drilling, aka Hydraulic Fracking, Contaminates US Water

Natural gas has been touted by some wealthy individuals, such as T. Boone Pickens, as a solution to the US energy crisis. Like any non-renewable resource extraction, there is environmental degradation. In the case of natural gas drilling, aka hydraulic fracking, the process leaves behind highly toxic waste water. The Guardian explains:

A controversial new method of natural-gas drilling, embraced rapidly across the US, has contaminated water supplies with radioactive waste, according to an investigation by the New York Times. The paper said internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators showed that the dangers to the public from the drilling method - hydraulic fracturing - were greater than previously understood.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses huge volumes of water, chemicals and sand injected into rock at high pressure to release natural gas. Its development has unleashed a natural gas boom in the US and around the world. But the NYT said the waste water contained dangerously high levels of radioactivity. It was being sent to treatment plants that were not designed to deal with or being discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.

Photo:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Purple_Mecha

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

January 27, 2011

Warming Temperatures May Cause Loss of 30% of Species

An increase of 3.6 degrees does not sound like much to humans, but to small species, even the slightest increase could be catastrophic. Species typically respond to warming temperatures by moving to a colder climate by traveling north or to a higher elevation; however, some species may not be able to respond to climate change with this method warn scientists.

The New York Times explains:

Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict, 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent, according to the United Nations climate change panel.

Polar bears have become the icons of this climate threat. But scientists say that tens of thousands of smaller species that live in the tropics or on or near mountaintops are equally, if not more, vulnerable...

"It's a really simple story that at some point you can't go further north or higher up, so there's no doubt that species will go extinct," said Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, whose research last year predicted that a third of the 1,000 mountain birds he studied, or 300 species, would be threatened because warming temperatures would decimate their habitats.


Attribution Some rights reserved by ori2uru
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

January 13, 2011

Wal*Mart Greenwashes Consumers Committing Environmental and Human Rights Violations with Love, Earth Jewelry Line

I've always been suspicious of any green claims by Wal*Mart. I just don't trust a company whose business model is based entirely on mass consumption of cheap Chinese-made goods and driving out competition from local shops (see How Walmart Is Destroying America (And the World): And What You Can Do about It). It is contrary to eco-friendly shopping in all regards!

Three years ago, I exposed Wal*Mart's Earth, Love jewelry line as greenwashing. Now, there is further evidence against the company that it has committed environmental and human rights violations in the Bolivian production of the jewelry line. Alternet reports:

The mines also rely on a controversial process called cyanide heap-leaching, which can result in one of the most toxic substances on Earth entering local water supplies. Indeed, the process is so problematic that it's been banned in Montana, and the European Union is considering a similar prohibition...

The story is a must-read--there's way more in it than I can explain here. But I asked Friedman-Rudovsky about pieces she wasn't able to include in the article--she talked about the impact of U.S. mining on surrounding communities, that the Love, Earth line promises to be community-friendly and engage with populations living on the territories or near the mines, but "there is a lot of documented evidence about how that's not necessarily true."

She added that workers in subcontracted factories don't receive aguinaldo, which she explained is like a Christmas bonus in Bolivia, except that it's legally mandated and should be ten percent of yearly earnings. She said one worker told her that she and friends are "so ashamed to be working in jobs where they don't get aguinaldo, they pull together to buy baskets with treats to bring home to pretend they did get the bonus."

Photo:  Attribution Some rights reserved by J from the UK

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

December 22, 2010

City Lights Exacerbate Air Pollution

We all know that city lights cause light pollution, but a new study has discovered they actually "boost" air pollution. According to the BBC:

Nature uses a special form of nitrogen oxide, called the nitrate radical, to break down chemicals that would otherwise go on to form the smog and ozone that can make city air such an irritant on the chest.

This cleansing normally occurs in the hours of darkness because the radical is destroyed by sunlight; it only shows up at night.

But new measurements taken from aircraft over Los Angeles indicate the energy from all the night-time light thrown out by this huge urban centre is also suppressing the radical. The lights may be 10,000 times dimmer than the Sun, but the effect is still significant.

"Our first results indicate that city lights can slow down the night-time cleansing by up to 7% and they can also increase the starting chemicals for ozone pollution the next day by up to 5%," said Harald Stark from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

Perhaps cities should pass ordinances to limit the amount of lighting left on all night long in areas where safety is not a concern. Perhaps motion sensor lighting could mitigate the effects.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

October 12, 2010

Shrinking Chinese Glaciers: 27 Percent by 2050

Chinese glacier.jpg
It's really become an old story now, the world's glaciers are shrinking. Last year, we reported on how Antarctica's glaciers is melting four times faster than a decade ago, now ChinaTimes of India reports:

The average area of glaciers in western China might shrink by 27.2 percent by 2050 because of global warming, damaging crop production and worsening droughts, according to a report released at the UN climate talks in north China's Tianjin Municipality...

Xinhua quoted the report as saying that forecasts of glacier recession patterns, summer temperatures and precipitation showed that the average glacier area in western China might be reduced by 27.2 percent by 2050. Ocean glaciers, affected by wet airflow from the oceans, would shrink by 52.5 percent, and Asian continental glaciers, formed in the continental climate would shrink by 24.4 percent.

The ramifications are far reaching for this heavily populated country. From drought to reducing crop production, it is not good news.

Photo:  Attribution Some rights reserved by lwtt93

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

August 19, 2010

Lake Mead Drops 40% of Capacity Approaching First-Ever Official Water Shortage

Lake Mead.jpg

Lake Mead provides water for 30 million residents of the arid desert regions of the west. The reservoir is only 12 feet below the level in which "allocations on the river would be cut by more than 100 billion gallons under the terms of a 2007 agreement struck by seven Western states and Mexico". The New York Times explains how Las Vegas is preparing:
Las Vegas, which draws about 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, is particularly vulnerable to dropping lake levels. Were levels to fall to 1,050 feet, or 26 percent capacity, one of the city's two water intake pipes on the lake would cease functioning. In anticipation of such an event, water managers have developed a highly controversial plan to tap groundwater in northeast Nevada and transport it to the city via a multibillion-dollar pipeline.

Image:   Some rights reserved by kyle simourd

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

August 17, 2010

Schoolhouse Rock Parody: The Energy Bill and the Oil Spill

Remember this classic from Schoolhouse Rock! about how a bill becomes a law?

Check out this parody off the BP oil spill and the energy bill:

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

August 10, 2010

Threatened Elkhorn Coral Colony Discovered for 1st Time in 100 Years

Scientists have not discovered a new colony of the endangered Pacific elkhorn coral in over 100 years! Considered one of the "world's rarest coral", the threatened species resembles antlers. The new colony was found near the Marshall Islands in the Arno Atoll. Live Science reports:

The Pacific elkhorn coral colony was a rare find, but it may not be an entirely new species. Corals fitting the description of the Pacific elkhorn were first described in 1898 near Fiji in the South Pacific, but scientists don't have enough genetic information from this earlier find to say if the corals are a match, Richards said.

The Atlantic relative, A. palmata is regarded by most marine researchers as the outstanding symbol of the plight of Caribbean corals. It is rated as critically endangered after vanishing from most of its Caribbean reef habitat in recent decades.

"When Zoe showed me pictures of the Pacific elkhorn, I was shocked," said coral geneticist David Miller of CoECRS and James Cook University, also in Queensland. "The colonies look just like the critically endangered Caribbean species A. palmata, one of the most distinctive of all corals. The fact that these colonies might represent a species that has not been seen for over a hundred years (A. rotumana) says something about how much we know about the remote reefs of the North Pacific," Miller said.

There has been debate as to whether the Pacific elkhorn should be listed as threatened or endangered.  In 2006, it was listed as threatened. 

Image: USGS

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

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