February 4, 2010

Vertical Farming Sustainably Optimizes Growing Space

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We have a problem: the world's population is growing rapidly putting pressure on agriculture to feed all those people. One solution is vertical farming, which has just won the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Valcent, developers of Verticrop, explains the benefits of vertical farming:

Vertical growing is a new idea currently emerging in the sustainability discourse which offers great promise for increasing urban production. Vertical growing systems have been proposed as possible solutions for increasing urban food supplies while decreasing the ecological impact of farming. The primary advantage of vertical growing is the high density production it allows using a much reduced physical footprint and fewer resources relative to conventional agriculture. Vertical growing, hydroponics and greenhouse production have now been combined into an integrated commercial production system, a system that has major potential for the realization of environmentally sustainable urban food and fuel production.

Treehugger further addresses some of the criticisms of vertical farming:
Of course criticisms of vertical and urban farming still shave some merit--namely that urban real estate is generally expensive, and best used for high-density residential and commercial use, with the surrounding farmland being used to feed the city. But such criticisms ignore the fact that formerly industrial sites in cities like Detroit are now lying derelict and are being eyed-up by potential urban farming operations.

I don't see that vertical farming has to be limited to urban locations, as it could also be used by farmers in order to maximize their crop land for food products that require more space.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

January 26, 2010

2000-2009 Warmest Decade Since Records Began in 1880

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Technically, there is still one more year to complete in this decade; however, it is already the warmest decade since 1880, when "reliable modern" records began. Live Science reports:

According to NASA's Earth Observatory, 2008 was the coolest year of the decade, and 2009 saw a return to near-record global temperatures (despite that frigid December, which was unseasonably cool for much of North America, Europe, and Asia).

2009 was only a fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, which is the warmest year on record.

James Hansen warns the current El NiƱo cycle causing big storms in the western US could create unusually high temperatures this summer, like it did in 1998.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

January 19, 2010

Arizona to Close Most State Parks

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First California proposed closing state parks due to budge cuts, now Arizona has actually done it. 21 out of 30 Arizona state parks will be closed as a result of a unanimous vote by the Arizona State Parks Board. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Wrestling with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, Arizona decided Friday to close nearly all of its state parks, including the famed Tombstone Courthouse and Yuma Territorial Prison.

The State Parks Board unanimously voted to close 13 parks by June 3. Eight others had already been closed, and the decision would leave nine open -- but only if the board can raise $3 million this year.

The action represents the largest closure of state parks in the nation, although several other states are considering similar moves.


What happens to closed state parks? Are you people no longer able to visit them or are they simply not staffed? Are trails closed?
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

December 29, 2009

Extinct Manzanita Bush Found in San Francisco Presidio

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A plant thought to be extinct for 60 years was discovered in San Francisco's Presidio. It's hard to imagine that in such an urban environment, a rare native plant would be found, but the Franciscan manzanita was found by a biologist as he drove by the Presidio. SF Gate reports:

It's like the unicorn of San Francisco," said Daniel Gluesenkamp, who was returning home from a climate change conference in Sonoma on Oct. 16 when he spotted the plant after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge...

The ground-hugging shrub, uniquely adapted to San Francisco's natural sand dunes, wind and fog, has not been seen growing in the wild since 1947. That's when the last known patch was bulldozed at the old Laurel Hill Cemetery, which was paved over for homes and businesses.

Just before the bulldozers rumbled through, local botanist James Roof saved two specimens, which have been kept alive at Berkeley's Tilden Botanical Garden.

This rare manzanita is not even protected under the Endangered Species Act because it was thought to be extinct.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

December 24, 2009

Largest Copper and Gold Mine Would Destroy Bristol Bay, Alaska

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An international mining group is planning North America's largest copper and gold mine at headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Environmentalists are outraged, as this is a "vital ecosystem" for salmon and other species. The National Resource Defense Council explains:
The only way to extract the low-grade ore from the region would be to use a brutal and pollution-prone technique known as hard-rock mining, which includes powerful explosives and massive drilling equipment. At one of the proposed mines in Pebble, a remote, roadless area sandwiched between two national parks, spongy, lake-studded tundra would be scraped away, leaving a yawning two-mile-wide, 2,000-foot-deep pit in its place. This would be the largest open-pit mine in the world -- wide enough to line up nine of the world's longest cruise ships end to end and deep enough to swallow the Empire State Building. At a second mine, explosives would be used to create a series of underground cave-ins to extract ore.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

December 3, 2009

Jet Trails Reduce Sunshine by Up to 10 Percent

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The controversy and paranoia around jet contrails have led some to believe this condensation left by airplanes is "actually chemicals or biological agents deliberately sprayed at high altitudes for a purpose undisclosed to the general public". Whether this conspiracy theory is true or not, Britain's Met Office has discovered contrails reduce sunshine. The Telegraph reports:
Analysis of contrails from one large military aircraft circling over the North Sea showed the creation of a thin layer of cloud that, at its peak, covered an area of more than 20,000 square miles...Globally, vapour trails are thought to cut sunshine levels by less than one per cent, but this figure could rise to 10 per cent in areas under busy air corridors, such as the south-east of England, according to The Sunday Times.
Given this new information, I wonder if busy flight paths will be considered when selecting solar array sites in the future.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

November 24, 2009

Melting Ice in Greenland Responsible for 1/6 of Sea Level Increase

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With the buzz surrounding climate talks in Copenhagen next month, the news about climate change is rather grim. For example, researchers have documented Greenland has lost "1500 cubic kilometres of ice between 2000 and 2008, making it responsible for one-sixth of global sea-level rise. Even worse, there are signs that the rate of ice loss is increasing."
1/6 of sea-level rise translates to "0.75 millimetres per year". That may not sound like much, but year after year the effect is cumulative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

November 18, 2009

Environmental Books: Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

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Written by the some of the great folks at DeSmogBlog, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming explores how such a large portion of Americans have come to believe that climate change is just a hoax. Authors Hoggan and Littlemore explain how the climate "debate" is actually a "public relations creation" and support their claims with proof, including corporate strategy papers. Unfortunately, such debate "cripples public policy and paralyzes public action".

It seems that there are no safe compromises to be made in dealing with climate change. Denying it was wrong. Delaying action is dangerous. People who say otherwise should, at some point in the very near future, have to stand accountable for their recklessness.

It's time to drop the hype around climate change and deal with it now. Exposing those who are responsible for creating confusion on the issue, such as Exxon Mobil that "has funneled tens of millions of dollars into denial", is the first step, but it should also not hinder or confuse progress on true environmental policy. Thankfully, as Hogan and Littlemore write, "That tide is turning."
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

November 3, 2009

Lake Tahoe Restoration Act Would Provide $415 Million For Preservation and Improvements

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Lake Tahoe, a popular tourist destination straddling the Nevada and California border, may be in for a lot of restoration funding. Introduced today by senators from Nevada and California, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act expansion would "improve water quality, restore lake clarity, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species at the lake, in addition to other environmental restoration efforts." According to the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, specifically the money would go towards:


  • $72 million in stormwater management and watershed restoration projects.

  • $136 million for priority restoration projects.

  • $136 million for forest fuels reduction projects.

  • $20 million to prevent the introduction of new invasive species, ongoing watercraft inspections and removal of existing aquatic invasive species.

  • $20 million for reintroduction of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

  • $30 million for scientific programs and research which will produce information on long-term trends in the Basin and inform the most cost-effective projects.

  • Authorized funding for public outreach and education.

Lake Tahoe has been plagued by forest fires and mtbe contamination in recent years, among other environmental degradations. This lake formed during the ice ages is a national treasure that should be preserved and protected.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

October 22, 2009

Obama Gives Shell Oil Permission for Offshore Drilling in the Arctic

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In a move reminiscent of the Bush administration, President Obama has given Shell Oil permission to "begin exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska in an Arctic area that is home to large numbers of endangered bowhead whales and polar bears, as well as walruses, ice seals and other species."  What is the president thinking?

Via: Truthout and the Guardian

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

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