I love drama on the high seas. And Greenpeace activists certainly delivered earlier this week, painting the word “pirate” on the side of a Taiwanese fishing boat in Pacific international waters. Greenpeace accused the long-line fishing vessel “of hunting down precious marine species — including an endangered turtle — in international waters north-east of the Solomon Islands”, an area Greenpeace wants declared as marine reserves.
Boarding rubber duckies launched from their mother ship, the Esperanza, Greenpeace activists confronted the vessel called “Ho Tsai Fa 18” and began to “free the fish, sharks and endangered turtle caught on its hooks” as well as (possibly displaying pirate-like behavior themselves) taking one of the vessel’s radio beacons and a fishing line. Greenpeace resorted to these drastic measure due to inaction on behalf of international fishing authorities.
Say what you will about the often questionable morals or wardrobe choices of the many bright stars shining in the celebrity firmament — but when disaster strikes, you can usually count on some of Hollywood’s finest and classiest to rush to the front of the line to lend their support.
The skeptics are always quick to come back with “it’s easy for celebs to help… they’re rich.” But generosity has nothing to do with the size of your wallet; it’s all about whether or not it occurs to you to do something.
China’s been under such fire lately.Thank goodness for field naturalists. These tireless volunteers brave the elements, brambles and blisters in an effort to preserve precious native flora and fauna, as well as promote nature conservation and protect endangered species. (This, while the rest of us are hanging out in malls, watching the Wire or dating.) It sounds like tedious work, but the rewards are huge when it pays off — as was the case for Kevin Bonham, a local field naturalist in Tasmania, Australia.
Bonham chanced upon the “dense midge orchid” — a species of plant that was long thought extinct. (The last one was recorded in 1852.) And it’s not just one or two — an officer from the Threatened Orchid Project says an incredible 60 patches were found on private land. (Just what he was doing on the private land was not reported.) ABC News quotes him as saying: “They’re tiny, so they’re only 4 to 7 centimeters tall and very fine, so unless you’re really down on your hands and knees looking, you’d just miss them.” (Okay, what he was doing on private land down on his hands and knees is probably best skipped right over.) Furthermore, “you’ve got to be there at that right window when they’re actually in flower to actually see them or else there’s nothing above ground, just a tuber below ground.”
Energy from rainwater? If you read my blog on harvesting rain, you’re aware of the many possibilities nature provides to supplement our insatiable need for water. But some scientists at Europe’s Atomic Energy commission have taken the idea of utilizing rainwater a step (or ten) further – they’ve figured out a way to harness the energy released as a drop of rain hits a hard surface.
It’s quite simple really. A raindrop has absorbed a significant amount of energy through evaporation. That energy is increased by its height above the ground (anyone remember Potential Energy from Earth Science?). As the drop becomes too heavy to stay in a cloud, the drop begins to realize its potential, and as it hits the earth, it releases that energy in the form of mechanical force. Scientists are using piezoelectric material to capture that force and turn it into electricity.
British tabloid The Sun is world famous for its jingoistic headlines (Gotcha, Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster); colorful editors (including my former boss, Kelvin MacKenzie and now the first female editor, Rebekah Wade); incessant pandering to the lowest common denominator (with articles about celebrity, celebrity and more celebrity) and the institution that is Page Three (topless chicks between the ages of 18-28). Yes, America, I said topless. All natural breasts, though.
More recently, it seems the tabloid is pulling its mind out of the gutter and aiming it at the altogether higher ground of global warming. As well as celebrating a special “green week”, the paper’s online version now has a section dedicated to the environment called Go Green. Stories include: “Face to face with climate change”, where journalist Sebastian Lander kayaks around Alaska; “N-ice maiden’s naked plight” (no-one does headlines quite as well as The Sun) about 21-year-old Spanish student Ines Reverter’s naked dingy boat ride in an Alaskan fjord; and “Grolar bears are global warning” on the emergence of a grizzly polar bear hybrid in the wake of warmer temperatures. Admittedly nothing that would be published in Nature, but it does appeal to the masses. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Those of you hoping to find Prince Charming by kissing a toad had better start considering other dating options, like match.com. The chances of this fairytale ending coming true are getting slimmer by the second. Scientists warn that frogs and their cousins, the toads and newts, could disappear entirely within 20 years. That’s right, extinct. But this time it’s not because of global warming, rather a deadly virus.
London Zoo’s amphibian expert Iain Stephen said: “Over the next 20 or 30 years we could be talking about the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs” (via The Sun). Some of the cold-hearted amongst you could argue: big deal. The death of dinosaurs didn’t adversely affect humankind. Quite the contrary — it’s allowed us to thrive (while inspiring us to create animated masterpieces like the Flintstones). With frogs, however, it’s different. Frogs play an important role in the food chain: “They typically live on insects, worms and snails (and) in turn, they are eaten by birds, fish and mammals such as badgers and foxes”. Losing them would upset the fragile balance of nature.
It’s been a not-so-great couple of news weeks for rocker Sting. First, an interview with wife Trudie Styler revealed that the eco public couple were “hypocrites” (her word) over their huge carbon footprint. And now, Sting’s almost 20-year-old rainforest charity is under intense media scrutiny for its large intake and “paltry” (the NY Post’s word) output.
I’m not a fan of the continued reliance on natural gas and oil to meet our energy needs. I’m also willing to discuss interesting interim solutions, especially if these interim solutions are already a reality. That’s what’s happening in the North Sea off Norway right now, where companies are pumping tons of natural gas out of the ground and pumping CO2 back in — nearly 2,800 tons per day.
Here’s how it works. The natural gas is pumped out of the ground with oil rigs like we see all over the world, the CO2 (which comes with the gas) is extracted, and then CO2 is pumped back into the Norwegian Continental Shelf in an area known as the Utsira formation. The Utsira is made from sandstone and has ample pockets to store CO2. Normally when natural gas is harvested, the CO2 just escapes into the atmosphere. At the Sleipner West oil field, the CO2 is trapped underground in pockets in the sandstone.
Getting tired of hearing that petroleum is finite? No big secret that there were a limited amount of dinosaurs, and therefore a limited amount of petroleum reserves — not to mention the emission problem. I’ve said it many times on this site and elsewhere that internal combustion is a dead-end technology. No matter how much we play with new fuels and cleaner emissions, there’s not enough energy in the earth to sustain internal combustion indefinitely.
But it’s unwise and impractical to think that we can simply stop using the internal combustion engine as a tool because of its ability to rapidly convert gas into energy. There must be a period of transition as the world redefines the word “engine.” Part of this transition will involve developing and deploying new fuels that are compatible with the IC engine and are more sustainable and cleaner burning.
I found a handful of the solutions that are available right now, as well as some that are still in the design phase. GreenCar.com recently ran a feature on these fuel alternatives –but let’s remember: these fuels rely on internal combustion, the dead-end technology.
Here’s one for the pseudoscience file. Psychologists worldwide are increasingly buying in to the idea that a return to nature is the panacea for all of our human problems. Bogus? Well, I’m not a psychologist, but I know that there’s no single answer to our problems as modern humans.
I have worked with hundreds of at-risk teens in the woods and sat in countless meetings with their therapists. What I’ve found is that nature certainly has a place in rehabilitating people — especially teens — who have difficulties managing the crazy lifestyles we lead. What we shouldn’t be doing is diagnosing new diseases based on our lack of connection with nature and working forward with people from there. My favorite new diagnosis is “global warming anxiety”.
Forget the cinematic tale of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, here’s the real-life account of Mr. Edward Norton’s recent trip to the nation’s capital. The actor, director and producer (not to mention Yale graduate) testified earlier this week before the United States House of Representatives select committee on energy independence and global warming.
Norton, an Enterprise Community Partners Board trustee, environmental activist and proponent of affordable housing, asked Congress to make a commitment towards green building for low-income families. “Green and affordable must be one and the same and we need a national commitment,” said Norton. “Low-income people and communities suffer disproportionately from housing challenges, energy costs and the effects of climate change. We can make progress on all these issues, create green jobs and lock-in long-term environmental benefits by making green affordable homes a national priority.”
Hillary says yes. And having recently benefited from seeing a Clinton stumping from the back of a pickup, and after shaking hands with, er… Bill… in Kalispell, Montana, I can tell you that Hillary is not giving up the fight until the last primary vote is counted.
And good for her. So what if she comes off as robotic and out of touch? So what if she didn’t leave Bill the Thrill after Lewinsky-gate? So what if she cashed in on 8 years of first-ladyship with $ millions in public appearance fees. And so what if she didn’t really get shot at in Bosnia. Maybe we need a woman’s touch in the White House — and not just as the First Lady.