Saturday, June 23, 2007
It seems there are more reasons to support organic coffee than just the health benefits. I must admit, I've never read a story quite like this one before. One of the commonly held ideas about global warming is that the animals effected by change will migrate long distances to find areas more suitable. But how are they supposed to migrate when their passage is blocked by roads, development and cities?
Costa Rica enjoys a vast biological diversity, with over 20% of the world's species hiding in the remnants of rainforest scattered across the country. Yet it is broken by freeways and human activity into little parcels. You can't displace the people to create passage for the animals, but activitists and farmers are starting to understand that organic coffee plantations can provide the shelter needed, while still providing a livelihood for people.
The same could be said for organic farms all over the world. Much of our farmland here in the United States is occupied by animals regardless of the health of the land. As a child I walked the rows of soy and corn in search of killdeer, pheasants and all sorts of animals, not knowing that these animals depend on farmland for their lives.
This was a great article that made me look at the issue a little differently. (And feel a little less guilty for my coffee drinking) Check it out!
Christian Science Monitor 'Creating Escape Routes for Wildlife'
Friday, June 22, 2007
China has built another wall to keep out an invasion, but this time the marauder isn't wild hordes of lawless nomads, but the Gobi desert and its sea of sand. At one time Mongolia was 90% grassland, but over the centuries the sand has been slowly moving, and now covers nearly 30% of the lands there. Beijing may soon be at risk, poised just 120 miles from the edge of the desert.
This narrow strip of vegetation has been playfully referred to as The Green Wall of China, and according to Chinese officials has already stopped terrible sandstorms this year, no small feat when looking at 2001, when the storms numbered 18 for the year.
"We are pretty confident it will be effective," Hu Cun, Inner Mongolia's vice director of forestry, told some 30 journalists invited from Beijing to inspect the work ahead of World Environment Day."
But other reports say that Beijing alone has suffered from four sandstorms this year. Basically, trees have been planted along the deserts edge and grass seed has been dropped from planes onto the edges. People along the sensitive desert borders have been moved, and cattle are banned from these areas. But experts say this isn't enough. "Overpopulation and unsustainable development, has not been addressed by a narrow corridor of grass and trees."
It appears China has once again mislead the public, and this time some say its all part of an elaborate ruse to give the illusion that Beijing Olympic Games will be the greenest Olympics ever held.
"Jiang Gaoming, of the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Science, said that 60 billion yuan (7.6 billion dollars) spent on projects to control sandstorms hitting Beijing had been largely wasted."
for the original article on Seed mag
Wikepedia's Great Wall article is pretty neat
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
This is the course where I first met with architects and worked on projects using my knowledge of ecology to design, here in SF. It was a great class, so if you're on the East Coast, be sure to check it out!
for more information from AIA NY
China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter
John Vidal and David Adam
Tuesday June 19, 2007
Cyclists pass a factory in Yutian in China's north-west Hebei province. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP
The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China's growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China's emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world's biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year.
Jos Olivier, a senior scientist at the government agency who compiled the figures, said: "There will still be some uncertainty about the exact numbers, but this is the best and most up to date estimate available. China relies very heavily on coal and all of the recent trends show their emissions going up very quickly." China's emissions were 2% below those of the US in 2005. Per head of population, China's pollution remains relatively low - about a quarter of that in the US and half that of the UK.
The new figures only include carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production. They do not include sources of other greenhouse gases, such as methane from agriculture and nitrous oxide from industrial processes. And they exclude other sources of carbon dioxide, such as from the aviation and shipping industries, as well as from deforestation, gas flaring and underground coal fires.
Dr Olivier said it was hard to find up to date and reliable estimates for such emissions, particularly from countries in the developing world. But he said including them would be unlikely to topple China from top spot. "Since China passed the US by 8% [in 2006] it will be pretty hard to compensate for that with other sources of emissions."
To work out the emissions figures, Dr Oliver used data issued by the oil company BP earlier this month on the consumption of oil, gas and coal across the world during 2006, as well as information on cement production published by the US Geological Survey. Cement production, which requires huge amounts of energy, accounts for about 4% of global CO2 production from fuel use and industrial sources. China's cement industry, which has rapidly expanded in recent years and now produces about 44% of world supply, contributes almost 9% of the country's CO2 emissions. Dr Olivier calculated carbon dioxide emissions from each country's use of oil, gas and coal using UN conversion factors. China's surge beyond the US was helped by a 1.4% fall in the latter's CO2 emissions during 2006, which analysts say is down to a slowing US economy.
The announcement comes as international negotiations to produce a new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol when it expires in 2012 are delicately poised. The US refused to ratify Kyoto partly because it made no demands on China, and one major sticking point of the new negotiations has been finding a way to include both nations, as well as other rapidly developing economies such as India and Brazil. Tony Blair believes the best approach is to develop national markets to cap and trade carbon, which could then be linked.
Earlier this month, China unveiled its first national plan on climate change after two years of preparation by 17 government ministries. Rather than setting a direct target for the reduction or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions, it now aims to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20% by 2010 and to increase the share of renewable energy to some 10%, as well as to cover roughly 20% of the nation's land with forest.
But it stressed that technology and costs are major barriers to achieving energy efficiency in China, and that it will be hard to alter the nation's dependency on coal in the short term. What China needs, said a government spokesman, is international cooperation in helping China move toward a low-carbon economy. Chinese industries have been hesitant to embrace unproven clean coal and carbon capture technologies that are still in their infancy in developed countries.
The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China's growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China's emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world's biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year."this article was originally printed in Guardian Unlimited June19, 2007
I picked up this story from New Scientist's Environment Blog on the predicted ghost towns of this century. The slideshow was originally run on Forbes.com and features cities on the brink of disappearing. Cities like Detroit, Venice, and (gulp) San Francisco. The causes range from natural forces like desertification to rising water levels, and human factors such as political instability and economic collapse. It's a fascinating little slide. When you finish that one, check out another slide they produced on the world's megacities.
Check them both out at Forbes.com
for the NewScientist Blog
Monday, June 18, 2007
Scientists at Stanford, along with researchers from Canada and Australia, are teaming up to look at the earth's most powerful form of power, and its not the sun. It's the Jet Stream. They believe that tapping only 1% of the jet stream will provide enough energy to power the entire earth. The question is, how do we harness all that power?
"There is a remarkable variety of designs for high-flying wind machines, some of which resemble blimps or futuristic helicopters. Others look like Alexander Calder-style mobile sculptures. An early, 240-kilowatt prototype of a wind machine could weigh 1,140 pounds and have four rotors, each of which might be 35 feet wide from tip to tip and would spin up to five times per second."
So far only lab prototypes have been tested, but some of the members of the team are optimistic that the technology will be available in the next 15 years. Others, like atmospheric scientist at Stanford Ken Caldeira believe it will take a little longer, "In the 19th century, it took 25 years for oil to replace 1 percent of the coal market. The energy infrastructure tends to evolve slowly.The challenge is developing a device that can withstand the extreme forces in the jet stream such as light exposure, then sendiing that energy back and converting it to a form we can use."
Other issues will be safety for air travel, birds, and efficiency issues.