Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Butterflies to give environmental clues

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A Central Australian entomologist says more research should be done on butterflies.

Dr Christopher Palmer says butterflies are a good indicator of the health of the environment particularly during times of climate change.

He says research on butterflies is needed now, more than ever.

"When you know a lot about different species within a particular group you can use those species to monitor the health of the landscape", he says.

"For instance, you do climate change, you can monitor those species and their distributions and whether they're present or absent or not just to see if the landscape is healthy or not".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Air Pollution Control Techniques

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The best control measure, of course, is prevention. However, as long as there are fossil fuel emissions from our coal-burning factories and gas-burning automobiles, there will be air pollution. The key to easing future impacts is control. The sources of air pollution are many, although most authorities identify sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter as the major pollutants. Identification of sources of pollution offers opportunities for control.

Industrial Solutions
1. Overall, control measures are proving effective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that air quality has improved significantly since 1990, with control programs for chemical plants, coke ovens, and incinerators, among other pollution sources, in place. The success of such programs depends upon achieving a balance between benefits and costs.

A switch to low-sulfur coal would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Power companies have opposed the switch, citing the high cost of implementation and cost to the consumer. However, the EPA estimates the cost to the consumer as only a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in energy costs. Another possible solution is installation of scrubbers on smokestacks. Scrubbers filter emissions with a water and limestone solution, resulting in formation of gypsum, an additive for concrete or for use in wallboard construction. This solution dramatically reduces sulfur dioxide emissions, by some estimates up to 95 percent.

Individual Activities
2. While tangible results can be achieved with control measures, the American lifestyle counteracts a reduction in air pollution. Since 1970, automobile travel has increased 177 percent. The population has grown over 46 percent, accompanied by an increase in energy consumption. Driving a car is the greatest source of pollution from a single individual. Hydrocarbon emissions result in ground-level ozone, which has been linked to respiratory problems in people and wildlife. Driving less and car pooling are two ways an individual can reduce the effects.

Other seemingly innocuous human activities also increase air pollution levels. The EPA estimates that smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contributes up to 80 percent of the particulate emissions during the winter season. Using an EPA-certified control device and cutting back on wood fires are two ways to reduce emissions.

Deforestation
3. Deforestation also impacts air quality in two major ways. As a result of the reduction in plant biomass, the total volume of oxygen released by plants during photosynthesis is reduced. Carbon dioxide that is normally cycled by plants builds up in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas and a contributor to global warming.

Conclusion
4. Air pollution affects all life on Earth, from reducing a plant's ability to produce food to acidifying lakes and killing fish, to causing human disease and death. The complexity of air pollution with its many causes requires a multi-faceted approach that involves not only industry control but conservation practices by citizens as well.

Drinking weed - Environmental problem proposed as beer ingredient

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Cheatgrass is proposed as an ingredient for beer
in U.S.D.A Ag Report.  Graphic & Photo courtesy
of Wikipedia
Barley growers aren’t going to like this report. It’s a nasty, invasive and non native grass that’s called cheatgrass.  It crowds out native grasses, tangles dog hair and ruins your socks and running shoes and grows all too well everywhere you don’t want it.  But it may be good for beer.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service report titled, An Economic Solution for an Environmental Problem: Cheatgrass  indicates that cheatgrass seed (barley is grass seed too) could be a suitable beer ingredient.

The author claims to have decoction mashed cheatgrass seeds successfully to full conversion of starches to sugars.  The test brew measured a specific gravity of 1.040 (10 degree P) and fermented to a 4.5% alcohol beer.  A “panel of taste testing” determined the beer as a “flavorful, consumable product, similar to amber ales.”

The authors figured that 3,112 pounds of seed can be produced per hectare (2.5 acres). If one pound is used per gallon of beer then 31 pounds could produce one barrel (U.S) of beer.  They conclude that 100 barrels of beer could be made from a one hectare plot.

The idea has merit, but the authors may have been drinking a bit too much of their weed when finally concluding that cheatgrass beer could be a windfall crop: “ … beer can be sold for $200.00 per barrel, estimating $20,000.00 net profit per hectare.

Unfortunately if you grew your own weed and brewed beer yourself, there’s a lot more expense to making beer than indicated  in the report.

Monday, March 22, 2010

E-waste Trade Ban Won't End Environmental Threat

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Crude recycling methods used in developing countries contaminate air, water and soil

A proposal under debate in the U.S. Congress to ban the export of electronics waste would likely make a growing global environmental problem even worse, say authors of an article from the journal Environmental Science and Technology appearing online today.

The authors call into question conventional thinking that trade bans can prevent "backyard recycling" of electronics waste – primarily old and obsolete computers – in developing countries.

Primitive recycling processes used in these countries are dispersing materials and pollutants that are contaminating air, water and soil.

"Trade bans will become increasingly irrelevant in solving the problem,'' says Eric Williams, one of the authors of the article, which offers alternative ways to address the problem.

Williams is an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability.

Electronics waste – or e-waste – is often exported from the United States and other developed nations to regions in China, India, Thailand and less developed countries where recycling is done in a crude fashion.

To recover copper from e-waste, for instance, wires are pulled out, piled up and burned to remove insulation covering the copper. This emits dioxins and other pollutants.

Toxic cyanide and acids used to remove gold from circuit boards of junked computers also are released into the environment.

With the number of junked computers expected to triple in the next 15 years, the authors say, the problem will grow much worse if an effective remedy is not put in place in the near future.

The main approach to solving the backyard recycling problem has been to ban trade in e-waste. Some countries have officially banned e-waste imports, but in some cases, as in China, such legislation has pushed the trade to the black market.

Congress is debating House Resolution 2595, which would ban the export of e-waste from the United States.

"The underlying assumption of this bill and other trade bans is that most e-waste comes from outside developing nations, and that stopping trade with developed countries would cut off the supply of e-waste and stop backyard recycling," Williams says.

But authors of the Environmental Science and Technology article forecast that the developing world will generate more waste computers than the developed countries as soon as 2017, and that by 2025 the developing world will generate twice the amount of waste computers as what will come from developed nations.

"Rapid economic and population growth in developing countries is driving an increase in computer use in these parts of the world that is outpacing the implementation of modern and environment-friendly recycling systems," Williams says. " So without action, backyard recycling is certain to increase."

But he and his co-authors say even a complete global ban on trade in e-waste cannot solve the problem because it covers only a diminishing percentage of the overall supply of e-waste. They argue for direct action to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of backyard recycling.

One proposal is to pay backyard recyclers not to recycle.

"The idea is to let people first repair and reuse equipment, and only intervene to remove materials and components that would be environmentally hazardous when e-waste would be recycled using crude methods," Williams says. "Such a system looks to be an inexpensive way to maintain jobs in recycling operations and maintain access to used computers while protecting the environment."

Sensors to detect engineered nanoparticles to gauge environmental impact

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Washington, March 21 (ANI): A chemist is developing sensors that would detect and identify engineered nanoparticles, a research work that will advance our understanding of the risks associated with the environmental release and transformation of these particles.


The chemist in question is Omowunmi Sadik, director of Binghamton University's Center for Advanced Sensors and Environmental Systems.

"We need to think not just about how to make these nanoparticles but also about their impact on human health and the environment," said Sadik, a professor of chemistry.


A survey by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies found that nanoparticles - particles less than 100 nanometers in size - are now used in more than 1,000 consumer products ranging from cars to food.


Silver nanoparticles are widely used as coating materials in cookware and tableware and as ingredients in laundry liquids and clothes because of their antibacterial properties.


You can even buy socks infused with silver nanoparticles designed to reduce bacteria and odor.


"But what happens if we buy those socks and we wash them?" Sadik asked. "The nanoparticles end up in our water system," she said.


Little is known about how these and other engineered nanoparticles interact with our water systems, the soil and the air.


Some are known toxins; others have properties similar to asbestos, and it's difficult to monitor them.


Current techniques rely on huge microscopes to identify nanoparticles, but the devices are not portable and do not provide information about the toxicity of materials.


Sadik and a Binghamton colleague, Howard Wang, have received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to design, create and test sensors for monitoring engineered nanoparticles and naturally occurring cell particles.


"We need to understand the chemical transformation of these materials in the ecosystem so we can take action to prevent unnecessary exposure," Sadik said.


Her lab has already created a membrane that will not only trap a single nanoparticle but also provide a means of signal generation.


It uses cyclodextrin, whose molecular structure resembles a tiny cup.


"It can be used not only as a sensor, but also for cleanup," Sadik said.


That discovery and others make Sadik believe that nanotechnology may also prove useful in the remediation of environmental pollutants.


"Green nanotechnology could even reduce the use of solvents and result in manufacturing protocols that produce less waste," she said. (ANI)

Friday, March 19, 2010

India and China need to team up to deal with environmental problems

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Washington, March 19 (ANI): A Michigan State University (MSU) scientist and colleagues have said that China and India need to collaborate to slow global warming, deforestation, water shortages and other environmental issues.


"China and India are the two largest countries in terms of population," said Jianguo Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability.

"Even while the rest of the world is in a recession, the economies of China and India are growing and the countries' consumption of raw materials is increasing. Cooperation between the two is vital to mitigating negative environmental impacts," he added.


In the report "China, India and the Environment," published in the March 19 issue of the journal Science, Liu and co-authors advocate using scientific collaboration as a bridge to help break down political barriers between the two nations - ultimately benefiting the larger global society.


All the authors have strong research programs in one or both of the countries.


"We all have a huge interest in a sustainable world and the way we're managing it now, it simply isn't sustainable," said Peter Raven, co-author and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden.


"The problems get worse every year; biodiversity loss and climate change have clear global significance.


Our thesis is the two countries share so much adjacent territory that the environmental benefits should be obvious and, informed by scientific analysis, should provide a bridge between them," he added.


According to Liu, water availability could be an increasingly challenging issue facing the two countries and one that will require careful cooperation.


Many rivers flow through both China and India. If one country builds too many dams on its side to generate hydroelectric power, it will likely cause water shortages downstream in the other country.


"Water is a huge issue. It's being discussed extensively. We need to make people aware of the benefits of cooperation," said Liu.


"It's more than just China and India that will be affected if these two countries don't work together. The environmental impacts will be felt around the world, including in the United States," he added.


"One thing we have learned from the recession is that without sustainability there cannot be unlimited growth," said Kamaljit Bawa, University of Massachusetts-Boston distinguished professor of biology and president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalor, India.


"The two countries are not facing recession and it is time for them to exercise environmental stewardship. Future economic growth is contingent upon this stewardship," he added. (ANI)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Environmental And Social Impacts Of The 'Livestock Revolution'

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A new report by an international research team explores the impact of the global livestock industry on the environment, the economy and human health.

Global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and could double its present level by 2050, according to a new report on the livestock industry by an international team of scientists and policy experts. The impact of this "livestock revolution" is likely to have significant consequences for human health, the environment and the global economy, the authors conclude.

"The livestock industry is massive and growing," said Harold A. Mooney, co-editor of the two-volume report, Livestock in a Changing Landscape (Island Press). Mooney is a professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment.

"This is the first time that we've looked at the social, economic, health and environmental impacts of livestock in an integrated way and presented solutions for reducing the detrimental effects of the industry and enhancing its positive attributes," he said.

Among the key findings in the report are:

* More than 1.7 billion animals are used in livestock production worldwide and occupy more than one-fourth of the Earth's land.

* Production of animal feed consumes about one-third of total arable land.

* Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product.

* The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Impacts on humanity

Although about 1 billion poor people worldwide derive at least some part of their livelihood from domesticated animals, the rapid growth of commercialized industrial livestock has reduced employment opportunities for many, according to the report. In developing countries, such as India and China, large-scale industrial production has displaced many small, rural producers, who are under additional pressure from health authorities to meet the food safety standards that a globalized marketplace requires.

Beef, poultry, pork and other meat products provide one-third of humanity's protein intake, but the impact on nutrition across the globe is highly variable, according to the report. "Too much animal-based protein is not good for human diets, while too little is a problem for those on a protein-starved diet, as happens in many developing countries," Mooney noted.

While overconsumption of animal-source foods – particularly meat, milk and eggs – has been linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions, these foods remain a vital source of protein and nutrient nutrition throughout the developing world, the report said. The authors cited a recent study of Kenyan children that found a positive association between meat intake and physical growth, cognitive function and school performance.

Human health also is affected by pathogens and harmful substances transmitted by livestock, the authors said. Emerging diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, are closely linked to changes in the livestock production but are more difficult to trace and combat in the newly globalized marketplace, they said.

Environmental impacts

The livestock sector is a major environmental polluter, the authors said, noting that much of the world's pastureland has been degraded by grazing or feed production, and that many forests have been clear-cut to make way for additional farmland. Feed production also requires intensive use of water, fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels, added co-editor Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Animal waste is another serious concern. "Because only a third of the nutrients fed to animals are absorbed, animal waste is a leading factor in the pollution of land and water resources, as observed in case studies in China, India, the United States and Denmark," the authors wrote. Total phosphorous excretions are estimated to be seven to nine times greater than that of humans, with detrimental effects on the environment.

The beef, pork and poultry industries also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, Steinfeld said, adding that climate-change issues related to livestock remain largely unaddressed. "Without a change in current practices, the intensive increases in projected livestock production systems will double the current environmental burden and will contribute to large-scale ecosystem degradation unless appropriate measures are taken," he said.

Solutions

The report concludes with a review of various options for introducing more environmentally and socially sustainable practices to animal production systems.

"We want to protect those on the margins who are dependent on a handful of livestock for their livelihood," Mooney said. "On the other side, we want people engaged in the livestock industry to look closely at the report and determine what improvements they can make."

One solution is for countries to adopt policies that provide incentives for better management practices that focus on land conservation and more efficient water and fertilizer use, he said.

But calculating the true cost of meat production is a daunting task, Mooney added. Consider the piece of ham on your breakfast plate, and where it came from before landing on your grocery shelf. First, take into account the amount of land used to rear the pig. Then factor in all the land, water and fertilizer used to grow the grain to feed the pig and the associated pollution that results.

Finally, consider that while the ham may have come from Denmark, where there are twice as many pigs as people, the grain to feed the animal was likely grown in Brazil, where rainforests are constantly being cleared to grow more soybeans, a major source of pig feed.

"So much of the problem comes down to the individual consumer," said co-editor Fritz Schneider of the Swiss College of Agriculture (SHL). "People aren't going to stop eating meat, but I am always hopeful that as people learn more, they do change their behavior. If they are informed that they do have choices to help build a more sustainable and equitable world, they can make better choices."

Livestock in a Changing Landscape is a collaboration of the FAO, SHL, Woods Institute for the Environment, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), and Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD).

Other editors of the report are Laurie E. Neville (Stanford University), Pierre Gerber (FAO), Jeroen Dijkman (FAO), Shirley Tarawali (ILRI) and Cees de Haan (World Bank). Initial funding for the project was provided by a 2004 Environmental Venture Projects grant from the Woods Institute.

Cassandra Brooks of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University contributed to this article.

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Image Caption: The growing worldwide demand for meat is likely to have a significant impact on human health, the environment and the global economy in the next 50 years, according to the report, Livestock in a Changing Landscape, released in March 2010. Credit: Keith Weller; Agricultural Research Service; USDA

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Ebay highlights environmental appeal

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Want to do your part to save the environment? Buy a leather handbag.
That is the message eBay is pushing with a new green shopping site and ad campaign.
On the site, green.ebay.com, and in the ads, eBay makes the case that buying something used is as environmentally correct as conservation and recycling.
eBay
"Most people think you have to make a product in a certain way with a certain set of ingredients for it to be green," said Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay's green team. "What we're saying is you don't have to make this new product at all."

It is nothing new for companies to pick something they already do -- selling used products, in eBay's case -- and "rewrap it in nice green marketing," said Casey Harrell, who analyzes the information technology sector at Greenpeace.

Call it greenwashing or not, but Greenpeace has found in its research that reusing products has environmental benefits, he said. "Does this pass the laugh test? I think it can."
EBay, which is recovering from several unprofitable quarters and facing dwindling market share, has been recasting the site to make it more attractive to new kinds of shoppers -- and make it feel less like shopping an Excel spreadsheet. It unveiled a new apparel hub for fashion lovers in February, and now it is going after conservation-minded shoppers.

Its green hub, at green.ebay.com, collects items for sale on the site that eBay qualifies as green. They could be preowned or sustainable, such as a $34 cobalt blue vase made of recycled glass from a seller in Virginia, or resource-saving, like a $14.95 stainless steel water bottle from a seller in California.
The green site displays photo shoots by eBay showing the products in a room -- a shot of a kitchen, for instance, filled with products for sale.

The ads will appear in the April issues of all 15 Hearst magazines, which include Good Housekeeping and Popular Mechanics. They feature close-up portraits of used products on eBay. "Choosing a previously owned espresso machine saves 90 percent of the CO2 needed to produce a new one. So you get the jolt you need without compromising mankind," one ad says.

EBay hired Cooler, a company that calculates carbon footprints, to determine how much carbon shoppers save by buying something used instead of new. They say that the leather handbag, for example, saves as much energy as a flight from London to Paris.

Cooler calculated the total cost of creating a new item, including materials and manufacturing, and factored in the cost of packaging and shipping eBay items via fuel-guzzling planes or cars, Ms. Skoczlas Cole said.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plastic bags – an environmental hazard

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Issues related to environmental hazards posed by plastic waste have been assessed by several committees. The problem created by the use of plastics bags is primarily due to shortcomings in the waste management system. Indiscriminate chemical additives pose environmental problems including choking open drains, ground water contamination, etc. Plastic itself is a chemically insert substance, used world –wide for packaging and is not per-se hazardous to health and environment. Recycling of plastic, if carried out as per approved procedures and guidelines, may not be an environmental or health hazard.

What are Plastics?

Plastics are polymers i.e. large molecules consisting of repeating units called monomers. In the case of plastic bags, the repeating units are ethylene. When ethylene molecules are polymerized to form polyethylene, they form long chains of carbon atoms in which each carbon is also bonded to two hydrogen atoms.

What are plastic bags made of?

Plastic bags are made from one of the three basic types of polymers -polyethylene- High Density polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), or Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE). Grocery bags are generally of HDPE, and bags from the dry cleaner are LDPE. The major difference between these materials is the degree of branching of the polymer chain. HDPE and LLDPE are composed of linear, un-branched chains, while LDPE chains are branched.

Are plastics harmful to health?

Plastics are not intrinsically toxic or harmful. But plastic carry bags are manufactured using organic and inorganic additives like colourants and pigments, plasticizers, antioxidants, stabilizers and metals.

Colourants and pigments are industrial azodyes which are used to give bright colour to plastic carry bags. Some of these are carcinogenic and likely to contaminate food stuffs, if packed in these carry bags. Heavy metals such as Cadmium contained in pigments can also reach out and prove to be a health hazard.

Plasticizers are organic esters of low volatile nature. They can migrate to food stuffs as a result of leaching. Plasticizers are also carcinogenic.

Antioxidants and Stabilizers are inorganic and organic chemicals to protect against thermal decomposition during manufacturing process.

Toxic metals like cadmium and lead when used in manufacturing of plastic bags also leach out and contaminate the food stuffs. Cadmium when absorbed in the low doses can cause vomiting and heart enlargement. Lead exposure in long term may cause degeneration of brain tissues.

Problems posed by Plastic Carry Bags

Plastic bags if not disposed properly may find their way into the drainage system resulting into choking of drains, creating unhygienic environment and causing water borne diseases. Recycled /coloured plastic bags may contain certain chemicals, which can leach to the ground and contaminate soil and sub-soil water. Units not equipped with environmentally sound techniques for recycling may create environmental problems due to toxic fumes generated during reprocessing. Some of the plastic bags which contain leftover food or which get mixed up with other garbage are eaten by animals resulting in harmful effects. Because of the non-biodegradable and impervious nature of plastics, if disposed in the soil, they could arrest the recharging of ground water aquifers. Further, to improve the properties of plastic products and to inhibit degradation reactions, additives and plasticisers, fillers, flame retardants and pigments are generally used, these may have health impacts.

Strategies for Plastics Waste Management

Many states have prescribed thicker bags. The inflow of plastic bags into the solid waste stream would be substantiality reduced, as rag pickers would be keen to segregate the same for recycling purposes. Thin plastic bags have little value and their segregation is difficult. If the thickness of plastic bags is increased, it would make plastic bags expensive and check their usage. The plastic Manufacture Association could also be involved in the waste collection and disposal system using the principle of extended prouder responsibility.

Littering of Plastic carry bags, water bottles, plastic pouches have been a challenge for municipal solid waste management. Many hilly States ( Jammu & Kashmir , Sikkim , West Bengal ) have banned use of plastic carry bags/bottles in tourist places. In Himachal Pradesh the State Government of has taken a cabinet decision to ban plastics in all over the State since 15.08.2009 under the HP non- biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995.

The Central Government too, has made assessment of the extent of damage caused to environment by plastic waste in the country by constituting Committees and a Task Force which studied the issue and made recommendations.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999, and amended it in 2003 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for regulating and managing plastic carry bags and containers. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has notified 10 standards on biodegradable plastics.

Alternatives to Plastic

The use of jute or cloth bag as alternatives to plastic paper bag should be popularized and prompted through fiscal incentives; however, it needs to be noted that paper bag involve cutting of trees and their use is limited. Ideally bio-degradable plastic bags alone should be used and research work is on to develop biodegradable plastics. -PIB

Palm oil: environmental curse or a blessing?

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AFP

NUSA DUA: It is blamed for everything from deforestation to threatening the extinction of the orangutan, but palm oil is a vital source of income for many developing countries, the crop's producers say.

In Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, where the plant provides work for three million people, the government is keen to promote the benefits of the crop.

Gatot Irianto, research director at Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture, pleaded with producers, scientists and NGOs meeting on the holiday island of Bali last week to reconsider the plant's reputation.

"Stop demonising palm oil," he urged. Irianto says palm oil should be considered a "gift from nature" that provides a significant economic boon for the country, where it is "helping to eradicate poverty".

But in many parts of the Western world, and in Europe in particular, palm oil is a byword for ecological disaster; a crop that requires the slashing and burning of vast areas of forest and is a major contributor to global warming.

Nazir Foead, head of WWF Indonesia, said the crop's reputation is deserved because of the way the industry has behaved in recent years.

He says millions of hectares (acres) of tropical rainforest have been razed in Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia to make way for the palm plantations that make up 80 percent of the world's total.

"But things are changing," he accepts. "Some players have understood that their activity could be linked to deforestation."

Financial pressure has forced at least one big producer to review its business practices after a key partner walked away.

Smart, a leading Indonesian palm-based company, involved in marketing and exporting products such as cooking oil, was dropped by Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever after a Greenpeace report accused it of tropical deforestation.

Daud Dharsono, the company's president, disputes the accuracy of the Greenpeace report, but said the firm had since reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable production to limit the environmental impact of its plantations.

"There will be no conversion on land with high carbon stock as well as land with high biodiversity value, no development on peat soil and primary forests."

For its part, Greenpeace said it was pleased with the commitments, but was now waiting to see action on the ground.

The pressure also comes from big European retailers like Marks and Spencer, which recently launched an anti-palm oil campaign, saying it would use alternatives such as rapeseed oil wherever possible.

The retailer is one of the 400 members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, formed in 2004 to promote sustainable palm oil production.

One of the group's founders, WWF, says dedicated plantations have so far produced over 1.4 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil.

Most experts agree that demand for palm products such as cooking oil, margarine, soaps, cosmetics and resins, will continue to increase and better management is the only way to reduce its environmental impact.

"Rapid growth in global demand, notably from China and India, is likely to drive land use change. We cannot change that," said Moray McLeish of the World Resources Institute.

"The solution is an increased utilisation of degraded land," which usually results from deforestation or overgrazing, he said.

Jean-Charles Jacquemard, an engineer at CIRAD, the French Centre for Agricultural Research said palm oil was too profitable for producers in Asia and Africa to abandon, regardless of pressure from the West.

"It is a plant which has many benefits for them. It produces a large amount of oil per hectare, three to six times more than rapeseed or sunflower," he said.

"Its cultivation uses relatively little fertilizer -- around eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) per tree per year."

In Indonesia, 40 percent of production comes from small producers who, by farming between 10 and 20 hectares, "are able to live decently and send their children to university", he said.

Now, tobacco to clean up environmental toxin

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WASHINGTON: A new research by scientists has suggested that a new strain of tobacco plant can make antibodies to clean up toxic pond scum that affects humans, livestock and wildlife.

In a new research report appearing in the March 2010 print issue of the FASEB Journal, scientists explain how they developed a genetically modified strain of tobacco that helps temper the damaging effects of toxic pond scum, scientifically known as microcystin-LR (MC-LR), which makes water unsafe for drinking, swimming, or fishing.

This plant could serve as a major tool for helping keep water sources safe to use, especially in developing nations.

"We hope that our study will ultimately lead to a reduction in the exposure of humans, livestock, and wildlife to environmental pollutants," said Pascal M.W. Drake, co-author of the study, from the Centre for Infection at St. George's University of London.

To develop this type of tobacco, Drake and colleagues genetically altered a tobacco plant to produce an antibody to MC-LR, by inserting genes which code for the production of this antibody.
With the genes in place, the new strain of tobacco produced the antibody in its leaves and secreted the antibody from its roots into the surrounding hypotonic growth medium.

When the toxin from MC-LR was added to the plant's surrounding hypotonic growth medium, the antibody bound to the toxin, rendering it harmless.

This is the first example of a transgenic plant expressing an antibody that remediates an environmental toxin, but according to Drake, more plants like these will be developed in the future to address different environmental problems.

According to Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, "Tobacco is perhaps one of the most cultivated non-food crop in human history, and for centuries it has hurt human health. Now, with smart genetic tweaking, tobacco may prove more valuable in the field than in the pipe."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

India's Coal Tax Proposal

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One wouldn’t expect a country facing energy deficits equivalent to 8% of primary energy demand in proportion to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to formulate energy policies that promote anything other than cheap abundant sources of fuel – whatever their source. india wires India however, which faces chronic power shortages in nearly every city tied to the grid – not to mention the over 412 million inhabitants who lack electricity all together – has proposed a $1 levy on every ton of coal   – both imports and exports – in order to fund a national clean energy fund.  
The significance of this proposal goes far beyond its ability to raise revenue, or discourage the use of coal. It is yet another example of an increasingly progressive stance on developing clean energy that shows leadership on climate that is sorely lacking in today’s geo politics of climate change.

From developing significant wind resources - despite the fact the country has a small fraction of the potential   of other large emitters like the United States or China - to creating special economic zones for solar PV   manufacturing and distribution, the country is reorienting itself to be a leader in the coming green revolution.

Similar efforts in the United States for reasonable, sensible, and pragmatic policies such as this are immediately met with chants of drill baby drill, and cries of righteous indignation that environmentalists want Americans to live like Europeans – oh the horror! If any nation should be demanding a tax on fuels that are ruining our health, destroying our climate, and miring us in technologies of the past it should be the United States which is hemorrhaging jobs, while still reeling from the Great Recession (which by the way rapidly industrializing nations have already emerged from quite well  ).

Of course the United States and India face entirely different challenges in terms of their development, economies and cultures. But it’s time for American environmentalists to take a step back and reevaluate how India - a country where 412 million people lack electricity - was able to convince its politicians of the opportunity to be found in the enormity of the challenge climate change poses. This lesson is crucial to our struggle against polluting industries and efforts to save the planet.

On Rooftops Worldwide, A Solar Water Heating Revolution

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The harnessing of solar energy is expanding on every front as concerns about climate change and energy security escalate, as government incentives for harnessing solar energy expand, and as these costs decline while those of fossil fuels rise. One solar technology that is really beginning to take off is the use of solar thermal collectors to convert sunlight into heat that can be used to warm both water and space.

sunshine China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. With nearly 4,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity.
For as little as $200, villagers can have a rooftop solar collector installed and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing plans to boost the current 114 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors for heating water to 300 million by 2020.

The energy harnessed by these installations in China is equal to the electricity generated by 49 coal-fired power plants. Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. This leapfrogging into rural areas without an electricity grid is similar to the way cell phones bypassed the traditional fixed-line grid, providing services to millions of people who would still be on waiting lists if they had relied on traditional phone lines. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid, the hot water is essentially free.

In Europe, where energy costs are relatively high, rooftop solar water heaters are also spreading fast. In Austria, 15 percent of all households now rely on them for hot water. And, as in China, in some Austrian villages nearly all homes have rooftop collectors. Germany is also forging ahead. Janet Sawin of the Worldwatch Institute notes that some 2 million Germans are now living in homes where water and space are both heated by rooftop solar systems.

Inspired by the rapid adoption of rooftop water and space heaters in Europe in recent years, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) has established an ambitious goal of 500 million square meters, or 1 square meter of rooftop collector for every European by 2020—a goal slightly greater than the 0.93 square meters per person found today in Cyprus, the world leader. Most installations are projected to be Solar-Combi systems that are engineered to heat both water and space.

Europe’s solar collectors are concentrated in Germany, Austria, and Greece, with France and Spain also beginning to mobilize. Spain’s initiative was boosted by a March 2006 mandate requiring installation of collectors on all new or renovated buildings. Portugal followed quickly with its own mandate. ESTIF estimates that the European Union has a long-term potential of developing 1,200 thermal gigawatts of solar water and space heating, which means that the sun could meet most of Europe’s low-temperature heating needs.

solar panel The U.S. rooftop solar water heating industry has historically concentrated on a niche market—selling and marketing 10 million square meters of solar water heaters for swimming pools between 1995 and 2005. Given this base, however, the industry was poised to mass-market residential solar water and space heating systems when federal tax credits were introduced in 2006. Led by Hawaii, California, and Florida, U.S. installation of these systems tripled in 2006 and has continued at a rapid pace since then.

We now have the data to make some global projections. With China setting a goal of 300 million square meters of solar water heating capacity by 2020, and ESTIF’s goal of 500 million square meters for Europe by 2020, a U.S. installation of 300 million square meters by 2020 is certainly within reach given the recently adopted tax incentives. Japan, which now has 7 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors heating water but which imports virtually all its fossil fuels, could easily reach 80 million square meters by 2020.

If China and the European Union achieve their goals and Japan and the United States reach the projected adoptions, they will have a combined total of 1,180 million square meters of water and space heating capacity by 2020. With appropriate assumptions for developing countries other than China, the global total in 2020 could exceed 1.5 billion square meters.
This would give the world a solar thermal capacity by 2020 of 1,100 thermal gigawatts, the equivalent of 690 coal-fired power plants. This would account for more than half of the Earth Policy Institute’s renewable energy heating goal for 2020, part of a massive effort to stabilize our rapidly changing climate by slashing global net carbon emissions 80 percent within the next decade. (For more information, see Chapters 4 and 5 of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization  .)

The huge projected expansion in solar water and space heating in industrial countries could close some existing coal-fired power plants and reduce natural gas use, as solar water heaters replace electric and gas water heaters. In countries such as China and India, however, solar water heaters will simply reduce the need for new coal-fired power plants.

Solar water and space heaters in Europe and China have a strong economic appeal. On average, in industrial countries these systems pay for themselves from electricity savings in fewer than 10 years. They are also responsive to energy security and climate change concerns.

With the cost of rooftop heating systems declining, particularly in China, many other countries will likely join Israel, Spain, and Portugal in mandating that all new buildings incorporate rooftop solar water heaters. No longer a passing fad, these rooftop appliances are fast entering the mainstream.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ten Things You Can Do to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

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Most environmentalists agree that government, with its power to regulate, is critical in finding and enforcing solutions to global warming. But consumers represent 70 percent of US economic activity--indeed, the average American's carbon footprint is twenty metric tons, five times the global average.

Individuals can be a powerful engine for change by demanding green products and reducing consumption of fossil fuels. This can make you healthier and save you money too, says Mindy Pennybacker, editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices , to be published in March. Here are some of her recommendations for small steps that make a big difference.

1 Use less paper, and replace paper towels and napkins with reusable cloths. Buy recycled products containing at least 30 percent postconsumer waste and bearing the Forest Stewardship Council logo, which means they come from well-managed forests (fscus.org/paper ).

2 Buy shade-grown, fairly traded coffee and chocolate. According to the Rainforest Alliance , tropical deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, more than all vehicles combined. Consumer demand for products grown under the rainforest canopy provides economic incentive to preserve these habitats for migratory birds. Look for products certified by the Rainforest Alliance or labeled "bird friendly" by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationandScience/MigratoryBirds/Coffee and transfairusa.org ).

3 Lower your household thermostat below 70 degrees in winter and raise it above 72 in summer. Heating represents about 41 percent of the energy bill in the average home; lowering your hot-water temperature from the standard 140 degrees to 120 will save 200 pounds of carbon a year, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. For more information, see the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (aceee.org ).

4 Replace light bulbs and appliances with Energy Star-approved models. Lighting takes up 15 percent of a home's energy use, and regular incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of the energy they consume as heat. If you replace five incandescent bulbs with five compact fluorescent or light efficient diode Energy Star bulbs, you'll save at least $60 a year, the EPA estimates. If every US household did so, it would save the equivalent of the output of twenty-one power plants and keep smog, particulates and carbon out of the atmosphere.

5 Plug electronics into power strips and switch them off when not in use. Televisions, DVD players, game consoles, computers and cellphone chargers quietly suck electricity out of sockets even when they are turned off. Breaking the connection can save the average household $100 on its electricity bill and reduce carbon output.

6 Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat--livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Choose certified organic and/or locally produced foods (localharvest.org ) to preserve your regional economy and reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

7 Rid your home and garden of synthetic pesticides--nervous-system toxins that have been linked to lower birth weights and developmental problems. Call 1-800-CLEANUP to find out how to safely dispose of these poisons. For DIY nontoxic pest control, see birc.org and watoxics.org .

8 Water-efficient fixtures like faucet aerators, shower heads and low-flow toilets can save households thousands of gallons a year, the EPA says (epa.gov/watersense ).

9 Cut back on plastics. They clutter the environment, and they're made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. Many also contain toxic bisphenol-a (BPA) and phthalates, which can migrate into food, water and baby formula. Keep vinyl, which has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems as well as cancer, out of your household. For more information, go to greenerpenny.com .

10 Drive less, and drive sensibly. We can't all afford a hybrid car, but many other cars get nearly as good mileage. Save on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions by following the speed limit and keeping your engine tuned and tires properly inflated. For more information go to the Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org ).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SunEdison eyeing plans for the world's largest solar PV farm

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US solar giant is reportedly preparing to announce plans to build a 60MW plant in Italy

US solar energy firm SunEdison looks set to accelerate its push into the booming southern European solar market with plans to build the world's largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Italy.

According to reports from news agency Reuters citing sources close to the project, SunEdison is at the advanced stage of planning for a new 60MW solar PV development in the northern Italian province of Rovigo and is expected to formally announce the project at an event later today.



The source added that the facility is expected to be up and running by the end of the year and will be larger than the 60MW Almedilla de Alarcon solar farm in Spain which is currently regarded as the world's largest operating PV solar facility.

The new facility is expected to use ground mounted solar panels that are capable of turning to track the sun's movement, and has reportedly obtained all necessary planning permissions.

SunEdison is one of the world's largest operators of solar PV farms, and currently manages over 96MW of photovoltaic solar power plants in North America.

The company is targeting the European market for expansion and last year shelled out an undisclosed sum to acquire Germany-based Business Institute Solar Strategy GmbH (BISS), snapping up offices in Germany, Spain, Italy and France, as well as access to over 300MW of European project opportunities

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AeroThermal outlines advanced anaerobic digestion vision

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Latest funding round to drive forward waste-to-energy commercialization plan




The British developer of a new advanced waste-to-energy technology designed to turn both food waste and mixed household waste into renewable energy is set to deploy its first commercial scale system after yesterday securing a fresh round of funding.

Dorset-based AeroThermal Group Limited is to receive an undisclosed sum from the new investment round, led by venture capital firm Bridges Ventures and the Carbon Trust's investment arm.

The cash injection will fund the construction of a full-scale version of its AeroThermal Advanced Anaerobic Digestion (AAD) system, which uses an autoclave-based steam treatment technology to increase biogas yields from municipal waste.

Steam autoclaves work like giant pressure cookers, heating mixed waste at high pressures to ensure the breakdown of organic material. The process ensures that more of the organic waste is captured for use in an energy generating anaerobic digestor, while the non-organic materials are cleaned and sterilised ready for recycling. As well as generating renewable electricity from the anaerobic digestor, waste heat from the process can be captured for re-use.

The company, which boasts a management team with experience of producing autoclaves for use in the aerospace sector, said the technology provided a solution for "problem" waste streams that are difficult to recycle and end up being sent to landfill, while also generating low-carbon electricity.

It added that it was now well placed to either roll out its own systems or set up joint ventures with organisations that can provide a steady waste stream that they want to exploit.

Philip Newborough, chief executive of Bridges Ventures, said AeroThermal was now well positioned to commercialise its technology, hinting that the company could invest further in the technology to help accelerate its deployment.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Carbon Friendly Agriculture?

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As climate crisis accelerates, our farmers are placed in the ever more precarious position of growing food for an increasing population in the face of increasingly bizarre weather patterns. Weather patterns are shifting   due to the increasing amount of energy trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases.

And yet, farming offers the fastest way to slow climate crisis. This is because farmers manage photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a biological process within green plants that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and stores it in a stable, useful form: organic carbon. Organic carbon is the chemical basis of leaves, shoots, roots, fungi and all the other living things that make up healthy soils.


Good farmers can accelerate this process and pull huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air into soil organic matter. You can read here about how increased soil organic carbon can help us manage dry and wet years better by storing water. And the practices that build soil organic carbon require more diverse cropping systems, making farmers (and us) less reliant in any one crop.

The most important thing we can understand is how we to stop climate crisis. On a heating planet, we must do anything to pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Bill Gates’ recent Ted talk   argued clearly that stopping greenhouse emissions must be our number one priority. Despite this powerful vision, he allows for agricultural emissions to continue as they are, despite knowing about one fourth of global climate emissions are from agriculture.

Can we continue to emit that much greenhouse gas? As it stands, we are seeing melting glaciers, an ice-free arctic, and are running the risk of going over many  tipping points   predicted by the scientific community. We’re currently at 390 parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The safe limit is 350 parts per million  . How can we get below 350 parts per million while continuing thirty percent of our emissions?

We can’t.

The good news is, we don’t have to. We can choose to embrace agricultural practice that does not emit greenhouse gases. We can choose agriculture that actually pulls carbon from the atmosphere.

Today thirty percent of  global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come mainly from producing synthetic fertilizer  , herbicides and pesticides. The industrial processes that produce these chemicals are incredibly carbon intensive. In fact, a recent study   found it is the MOST carbon intensive industry in the world.

What is worse is that application of synthetic chemicals to soil destroy  s its ability to store carbon.  
In organic, sustainable and regenerative farming systems, biological processes replace those chemicals. Rather than applying synthetic fertilizer, we can build fertility through nitrogen fixing plants. Rather than using pesticides we can rotate crops annually so that pests can’t find them. Rather than applying herbicides we can kill weeds using tillage or other means.

I’ll conclude with a specific idea. Imagine rows of corn growing in the Midwest, with barren soil in between them. A farmer adds synthetic fertilizer to the land for his corn. The soil only has one kind of root (corn) and cannot sequester very much carbon due to the synthetic fertilizer.

As fertilizer costs go up, our farmer tries a new approach. He plants clover between the rows of his corn. This has no effect   on the yield of his corn. The clover adds fertilization to his soil so he needs less (or no) fertilizer. And with twice as many kinds of roots in his soil, the increased diversity supports more life in the soil. The absence of synthetic fertilizer also helps the living things in his soil flourish.

Imagine the fields again. Every square inch is covered with green photosynthesizing plants. The soil is storing soil organic carbon faster and faster. And this farmer is helping to slow our climate crisis. That’s the best kind of carbon capture and sequestration I know of.



Sunday, March 07, 2010

New Ultra-Flexible Solar Cells May One Day be Incorporated into Clothing

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Imagine a lightweight, flexible solar cell that could be built into your clothing, allowing you to charge the batteries on gadgets from iPods to smart phones with a little help from the sun.

A team of researchers at the California University Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed a new, super bendy solar cell made from silicon wire arrays grown on a silicon base. The new cells enhance the absorption of sunlight and converts photons into electrons using less than half of the amount of expensive crystalline silicon used by conventional solar cells.


Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor, professor of applied physics and materials science, and director of Caltech's Resnick Institute focusing on sustainability research , led the team in the development of the new solar cells. Atwater said the flexible cells are so rugged they can be rolled up as opposed to traditional solar cells that are made from thin, brittle wafers.

At water also said these solar cells surpass the light-trapping limit for absorbing materials, meaning that the silicon wire arrays absorb as much as 96 percent of sunlight at a single wavelength and 85 percent of total collectable sunlight. They can then convert almost 100 percent of the sunlight into electrons, making them both highly efficient and higher in quality solar cells than conventional cells.

The performance of the new solar cells appeared in the February 14 issue of the journal Nature Materials . Atwater says there are a myriad of potential uses for the cells that can be produced on a large scale using roll-to-roll printing methods, and he said the team is actively pursuing commercial opportunities right now.

So, those solar cells built into your parka providing an all-day charge for your various gizmos may be just a few research steps away from reality

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Argument for Legalizing Marijuana for the Environment's Sake

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Would the legalization of marijuana in the United States be good for the environment?

Do I hear a resounding yes from the peanut gallery? Thought so. Beyond hyperbole and party favors the legalization of marijuana could actually benefit the environment

Legalizing marijuana would (hopefully) end the practice of growing marijuana deep within national forests . Currently, illegal pot fields mean trampled and destroyed ecosystems, cleared habitat, pesticide and fertilizer runoff, and an abundance of human refuse left at the grow site .

Clearly, legalizing pot would not mean the end of all of these problems, however, the necessity of seeking out undisturbed sections of national forest would no longer be a concern. Also marijuana farmers could focus more of their attention on growing a healthy, dare I say organic, product versus hiding from authorities.

Once marijuana is legal to grow it could be regulated and taxed by the federal government . Regulations on the type of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals the plants are exposed to means a healthier product and watershed. Growers would also be subject to each state’s agriculture laws. Instead of paying taxes to fight a costly and unproductive war against marijuana, tax revenue on the plants could be earmarked for environmental and educational programs. States in the red like California, where marijuana is currently the largest (untaxed) cash crop , might want to take note.

Finally, one cannot overlook the renewed interest in gardening by college age students which would blossom across the United States. Horticulture classes would be booked and a new kind of “victory garden” would spring to life around the country. In the end, getting a new generation back into the garden, that’s what it’s all about.

Solar Powered Boat to Sail Around the World

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Planet Solar has made a huge push for solar energy by developing the world’s largest solar powered boat. Equipped with 5,300 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels, this 60-ton smart yacht was made for a larger project in which two sailors will make a voyage around the world with a zero carbon footprint.

Picking up and dropping off passengers at various major ports, Planet Solar is scheduled to return to Europe in April 2011 after leaving it’s home port in Kiel Germany on February 25th. This venture aims to raise awareness of the fact that transportation and cruise boats currently emit nearly 6% of total carbon emissions.

As mentioned on their website , the “utilitarian and optimistic ecologists” behind the project believe that we can eradicate all non-natural carbon emissions between 2050 and 2070.

Power to Save the World- A Pro-Nuclear Perspective

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There is an often-vicious debate occurring within the environmental community about nuclear energy. While there are those like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, who are arguing in support of nuclear power, there are still many others against it.

Gwyneth Cravens is one environmentalist participating in this debate who supports nuclear energy and wrote Power to Save the World in favor of this energy source. Cravens wasn't always a nuclear energy supporter. In fact, she once helped support initiatives that prevented a nuclear power plant from being completed in Long Island, where she currently lives.

However, this book shows how she went from being firmly anti-nuclear to believing that nuclear energy is actually environmentally friendly while at the same time following the life cycle of nuclear fuel from extraction to use to storage.

Unlike other books about nuclear energy, this book is written in an easily understandable and readable narrative fashion. Using this format, Cravens weaves a story that doesn't sound like she is just spouting off fact about nuclear energy. Instead, Cravens teaches the reader about the nuclear process through interesting and witty anecdotes that she learns from the researchers, scientists, and technicians she interviews.

While written in narrative form, the little under 400-page book is jam-packed with facts about every aspect of nuclear energy. Two facts that are brought up multiple times in the book deal with the amount of energy a unit of nuclear material contains and the ambient levels of background radiation.

One point that Cravens tries to drive home with the reader is the amount of energy a unit of uranium contains. For example, a nuclear fuel pellet weighing just .0007 pounds produces roughly the same amount of electricity as 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil. This point is highlighted in the book by the fact that the annual waste for a 846-megawatt nuclear reactor can fit into the bed of a pickup truck while one 500-megawatt coal plant produces an annual waste volume equivalent to a six story building.

The other point that Cravens brings up multiple times in her book is that people receive much more radiation from natural and medical sources then they would ever receive from a nuclear power plant. For example, Americans receive on average 360 millirems of radiation year, with the majority of it coming from natural sources like radon.

According to EPA regulations, nuclear plants cannot expose someone to more than 15 millirems a year if that person lived, breathed, and ate everything right on the border fence of the nuclear plant. This hypothetical “fencepost man” does not exist and if he did this amount is extremely small when you consider that a single dentist x-ray can expose you to 39 millirems. In fact, if you live within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor in the United States, you’d get an estimated trace exposure of 0.009 millirem a year, an amount smaller in size than eating one banana, which contains the radioactive isotope potassium-40.

In addition to those two points, Cravens does an excellent job outlining the various security and safety features that the nuclear plants incorporate to ensure that every single gram of nuclear material is accounted for and cannot escape into the environment.

However, for those that are still worried about the effects nuclear energy may have on the environment, Cravens points out that every source of energy is going to have environmental costs; we just need to find a source that helps mitigate those costs. She points out that even wind power has its downsides considering that it would take 94 to 200 square miles to produce 1,000 megawatts of power, an amount that a nuclear plant could produce on just 1/3 square mile of land.

Overall, Cravens does an excellent job in her book addressing many of the environmental concerns about nuclear power as well as highlighting the industry's environmental benefits. While some who read this article may dismiss these claims outright, I would challenge them to read her book for themselves. Energy issues are only going to increase in the future and nuclear power offers a solution that can minimize environmental impacts while maximizing economic benefits.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Global Warming Animation Video

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Green Building

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Green Building, also known as green construction or sustainable building, is the practice of creating structures and

using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from

siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction. This practice expands and

complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.

Although new technologies are constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener

structures, the common objective is that green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built

environment on human health and the natural environment by:

* Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
* Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
* Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation

A similar concept is natural building, which is usually on a smaller scale and tends to focus on the use of natural

materials that are available locally.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Celebrities in Save Our Tiger Campaign

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Indian Cricket Team Captain M.S.Dhoni:



Tamil Actor Surya: