May 21, 2009

China Relocates Eco-Refugee Farmers as Deserts Encroach on Farmland

chinadesert.jpg Desertification is the gradual transformation of habitable and arable land to desert ecosystems caused by climate change and/or destructive land use practices. Desertification is widespread in many areas of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese government is relocating farmers whose homeland is no longer suitable for habitation or agriculture. According to the Guardian:
The government says more than 150 million people will have to be moved. Water shortages exacerbated by over-irrigation and climate change are the main cause.

The problem is most severe in the north-west, where desert sands are swallowing up farmland, homes and towns. Huang lives in Mingqin, a shrinking oasis area that government advisers privately describe as an "ecological disaster area".

According to a study by the Centre for Agricultural Water Research in China, global warming is to blame. The Chinese government has begun paying farmers not to grow crops, in addition to relocating them. Unfortunately, most are relocated to land adjacent to desert areas which will eventually succumb to desertification.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 19, 2009

Global Warming Causes Land to Rise in Alaska

juneau.jpg Most warnings of melting icebergs predict sea levels will rise and coastal land will be lost; however, the opposite effect is taking place in Alaska. Land is rising in Alaska as glaciers melt causing the sea to retreat. The New York Times explains:
The geology is complex, but it boils down to this: Relieved of billions of tons of glacial weight, the land has risen much as a cushion regains its shape after someone gets up from a couch. The land is ascending so fast that the rising seas -- a ubiquitous byproduct of global warming -- cannot keep pace.
Glaciers near Juneau are retreating at a rate of 30 feet a year, not only causing the land to rise, but water tables to fall. Property boundaries are shifting, and ecosystems are threatened by the climate changes. Land near Juneau may rise as much as three feet by 2100 from global warming.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 7, 2009

Recycling Hair to Clean Up Oil Spills

haircut.jpg Ever wonder what happens to all that hair on the floor after a haircut? Most salons simply throw it away, but Matter of Trust will turn shorn hair into mats used by volunteers for soaking up oil spills.
Here we look at fibers (hair, wool, fur, feathers...). Thousands of salons mail us hair clippings, swept up off their floors, and the fibers are woven into Oil Spill Hair Mats. We all know about shampooing our oily hair, but it took Phill McCrory, a stylist from Alabama, to realize that hair was also an efficient and abundant material for collecting and containing petroleum spills. Salons, barbers, pet groomers, wool farmers, individuals... SEE HOW YOU CAN DONATE HAIR and spread the word.
The mats can be wrung out of oil and reused up to 100 times.

Via: GreenBiz

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 5, 2009

Dogs Used to Find Endangered Species


Dogs are often used to find drugs, bombs, and track people because of their heightened sense of smell. Now, scientists are using dogs to find rare endangered species, like the dog Rogue in the video searching for rare Kincaid's lupine, an endangered plant where endangered Fender's blue butterfly lays pin-sized eggs. The Scientist reports:

Greg Fitzpatrick, Corvallis Land Steward for the Nature Conservancy in Oregon, says the idea of using dogs to pick out plants first came to him when he read in a local newspaper that Dave Vesely was using dogs to track a rare turtle. "It seemed to me that if a dog could find the nests of a turtle, a dog could also be trained to find a plant at its peak time of flowering." On his mind was the Kincaid's lupine, whose peak flowering period is only two weeks long, some time from April through July. "The dog is using his nose; we're using our eyes and trying to find small, flowering plants in a blackberry thicket, for instance, is time-consuming and not always successful."

Of course, there's a treat for the good doggy when he finds a lupine!
Via:  Utne Reader
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 29, 2009

Book Review: Our Unprotected Heritage: Whitewashing the Destruction of Our Cultural & Natural Envrionment

our unprotected heritage.jpg Our Unprotected Heritage: Whitewashing the Destruction of our Cultural and Natural Treasures takes a hard look at the interplay between the preservation of our heritage (both cultural and natural) and unabated development. Written by Thomas F. King, this book begins by exploring the myth that the US government has laws that protect our natural places. I know firsthand about this assumption recalling when my parents first visited me in the west. Like many Americans, my parents assumed that US National Forests were protected land. They were shocked to see the destructive clearcuts that were taking place in the early 90s.

King divides environmental laws into two categories: bright green laws and light green laws. Bright green laws apply to everyone (more or less), involve "hard-and-fast quantitative criteria", and are enforceable. Light green laws, such as National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), apply to federal agencies and their are rarely enforceable consequences, such as jail time or fines, for violations. They are supposed to be self-enforcing, and they involve subjective criteria.

NEPA has long been thought of as the champion of the environment, and in my experience, it often works. I have seen NEPA stop destructive "salvage" logging sales in old growth forests that were not harmed by mild fire. I have also seen NEPA be skirted, such as in projects for forest stand improvement under the guise of fire prevention. Instead of looking at each project individually, including endangered species, statewide projects fell under one NEPA review.

King identifies five problems with our current environmental impact assessment (EIA) and cultural resource management (CRM):


  1. Specialist hired to complete reports have a vested interest in seeing projects completed because they work for the clients that hire them.

  2. Federal agencies view EIAs and CRMs as hurdles they need for "clearance" to projects rather than taking their responsibilities seriously.

  3. Agencies overseeing these these assessments (Council on Environmental Quality and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) have no real authority.

  4. The EIA and CRM systems are not transparent and offer limited opportunities for participation.

  5. We have accepted the system they way it is and don't demand change.


King offers solutions to fix the system, namely strengthening NEPA by keeping it politically and publicly prominent, so that we can truly move towards effective environmental policy. We must revise NEPA and "amend the US Constitution to give environmental protection the status of fundamental law."
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 7, 2009

Bad News at the Poles: Antarctic Ice Shelf Disappears

20090403_larsenmelt.jpg A new U.S. Geological Survey reports that an Antarctic ice shelf has completely disappeared. Another ice shelf has lost a portion three times the size of Rhode Island! Antarctica is the Earth's largest reservoir of glacial ice, and it is melting rapidly. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar explains:
This study provides the first insight into the extent of Antarctica's coastal and glacier change. The rapid retreat of glaciers there demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing -- more rapidly than previously known - as a consequence of climate change.
Recent imaging has revealed the Wordie Ice Shelf and the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf no longer exist.
Via: Environment News Service
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 28, 2009

Turn Off Your Lights Tonight at 8:30 PM for Earth Hour

Tonight at 8:30 pm, people across the world will be turning off their lights for Earth Hour. From the Great Pyramids of Giza to the Chatham Islands, people around the globe area uniting for climate change:
At 8.30pm local time tonight, 2848 cities and towns across 83 countries will switch off their lights for Earth Hour in a moment of global solidarity.

From the small island nations of the South Pacific to the densely populated cities of the Americas, millions of people from all walks of life and corners of the world will participate in Earth Hour, casting their vote in the world's first global election between Earth and global warming.

66 national capitals and 9 of the10 most populated metropolises on the planet have confirmed their participation in this year's event, along with some of the world's most prominent cites...

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 26, 2009

Italy and Switzerland Change Border Due to Melting Snow

matterhorn2.jpgAhhhh, another sign of global warming...the alpine glaciers between Switzerland and Italy are melting causing the two countries to reevaluate their mutual border. This border has been in place since 1861; however, the permanent snow cover and permafrost is melting, so the border is moving. According to the Independent:
Mr Mercalli says it is not only glaciers but other points of reference used in delimiting the border that have changed their position under the impact of global warming. "In places the conventional border fixed in 1861 followed water courses, and where glaciers have melted these may have changed significantly," he said.

The decision to redraw the border is a dramatic reminder of how seriously mountains are affected by climate change, he added. "The mountains are particularly sensitive to change. And they are also areas that teach us a lot: effects of climate change that you don't notice in the cities are vividly apparent in the mountains. Increased incidence of mud and rock slides, caused when soft ground previously covered by permafrost is exposed to rain, is only the most dramatic consequence."


The area around the infamous Matterhorn are affected.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 18, 2009

Arctic Heavy Metal Pollution Caused by Coal Burning

coalplant.jpg We all know there is no such thing as "clean coal"; the negative effects of coal burning are long lasting and far reaching. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, coal burning power plants in North America and Western Europe are responsible for heavy metal pollution in the Arctic. Natural News reports:
Researchers took an ice core sample from Greenland and analyzed it to determine levels of heavy metal deposits over time. They looked specifically for the metals cadmium, lead and thallium, and were able to measure monthly levels of the contaminants as far back as 1772.

The levels of all three pollutants surged between the years of 1850 and 1900, coinciding with the growth of rapid industrialism in North America and Europe. By the early 1900s, all three toxic metals were being deposited at a rate 10 times higher than before the Industrial Revolution.


Interestingly, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, there is a decrease in the rate of heavy metal deposits in the Arctic ice. I wonder if our current economic recession will demonstrate similar results.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 9, 2009

Fox News: Burping Worms May Contribute to Global Warming

aquatic_worm.jpg I recently came across an article from Fox News ("Fair and Balanced") about aquatic creatures, such as worms, contributing to global warming.
Aquatic animals that feed on lake and stream bottom sediments burp out small amounts of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, a new study finds.

While the biological emissions from these critters pales in comparison to the nitrous oxide emitted by fossil fuel burning, their contribution could increase as more and more nitrogen-rich fertilizer runs off into lakes, streams and seas, the authors of the study said.


I'm not a fan of Fox News, and this fallible headline "Burping Worms May Contribute to Climate Change" is just plain silly, especially when one reads the article that cites Peter Stief, of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany, stating:
We're not expecting a new catastrophe...We have not discovered that the animals represent an environmental problem.

Yes, the word "may" was used in the headline, but the contribution of aquatic creatures to the effects of global warming are minuscule in comparison to livestock flatulence, let alone how human activities are increasing aquatic animals' contribution to greenhouse gases through fertilizer run off.  
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

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