Monday, February 28, 2011

The Human Planet - Co-Creating With and Respecting Nature

Pass between Hemis Shakpachen and Ang in Ladakh.Image via WikipediaBy Semele Xerri

I watched Human Planet last night - a fantastic BBC TV programme if you get the chance to see it. The series looks at extreme environments on the planet and how humans in those places have adapted incredible and resourceful techniques for surviving within them. Two of the stories really spoke to me personally in this particular programme which focused on rivers.

In the first one, we saw Hali who lives in Cherrapunji, India where they have the highest rainfall in the world, leading to problems with heavily swollen rivers that still needed to be crossed safely by the villagers. Any human structure put in place would simply be washed away by the ferocious current and probably take half the river bank with it.

The amazing answer from Hali, passed down to him by his ancestors, was to plant a strangler fig tree on the banks of the river at the crossing point. Over time, as the tree grew, this man painstakingly teased, trained and weaved the roots to grow across the river, forming a natural, living bridge. At the same time, the strong knotted root system of the tree which was carefully tended and protected by Hali held the soil of the river bank together and insured against erosion.

The result was one of the most beautiful and magical structures I have ever seen, a stunning collaboration between man and nature that was seamless - it was hard to see where the tree ended and where Hali's contribution began. It brought tears to my eyes and images to my mind of Lothlorien, Tolkien's Elvish paradise.

Even more striking about this story was that no bridge formed in this way could be built in one lifetime so Hali would never see his work completed. Instead, he was training his niece to carry on the project after he had gone. Somehow, this made the bridge seem more achingly beautiful as it also represented the universal cycle of death and the surety of the continuation of life. I felt sad for our soul-less concrete and steel structures that would go up in a tiny fraction of the time but certainly wouldn't survive here for even one lifetime. There are more than one valuable lessons encapsulated in this true story.

The second featured a father who had to take his two children on an amazing school run - a six-day trek down the frozen Zanskar river in the Himalayas. It is extremely dangerous as in places the ice is treacherously thin and could crack at any moment, and avalanches occur regularly. As I watched the children follow in their father's footsteps, literally because otherwise they could fall into the icy water which would mean almost certain death, it made me think how valuable an experience this was for them.

Now I'm not condoning deliberately taking children into life-threatening situations, but on that journey those children had to face and overcome their fear, place absolute trust in their parent while observing proof of his wisdom,, show resilience and determination to overcome challenges, and have total respect for the strength of the natural forces at work around them. What a fabulous education for their future lives, sadly lacking in our Western social structure, and that's all before they got to school! Which they did safely, I'm very happy to say.

Semele Xerri is a spiritual healer, Reiki Master/Teacher and psychic intuitive. Based in Wales, she offers healing and readings, runs spiritual and self-development workshops and trains Tarot readers. She also provides email courses for spiritual development and Tarot reading. Visit her website at

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Earth DayImage by AlicePopkorn via FlickrBy Art Johnson

Earth Day - A Brief History

On April 22, 1970, nearly 20 million Americans rallied for a cleaner, more sustainable environment through "teach in" demonstrations across the country. Springing from the initial Earth Day were significant amendments to the Clean Air Act and the creation of the Clean Water Act.

Earth Day has since become a yearly celebration in more than 175 countries, with one billion people participating in sustainability fairs, cleanups and recycling events worldwide. Activities for Earth Day have expanded so much that the month of April is now considered Earth Month.

With these successes, Earth Day evolved into a movement for environmental causes that are truly global in scope - clean air and water, global warming, etc. However, recycling has been left out in the cold.


None of us are born environmentalists. We all love our planet and understand the importance of these global issues for sustainable living. One of the easiest ways to celebrate Earth Day year round is by recycling.

Why celebrate recycling? Because it is one of the few things we can do that contributes measurably to our planets health on a daily basis. It is a habit that we can all do to contribute to the bigger picture. It has intrinsic value and it is also a symbolic act. People feel good when they recycle, particularly at events. And that good feeling is contagious. Our job is to make recycling available everywhere so people can make a difference, day in and day out.

There is a lot of room for improvement. What is the state of recycling in the country? The facts are that public space recycling is only available at 12% of locations in the United States. There is a lot of room for improvement.

The United States is one of the largest producers of trash, yet we only recycle about 31% of our waste. Recycling is a habit that we can all develop to a make positive impact on our environment every day. When you recycle, every day can be Earth Day.

Here are some goals for EARTH YEAR 2011
  • Creating Jobs
  • Visibly Cleaner Events
  • Respect for the Land
  • Conservation of Non-renewable Resources
  • Education: It takes a village to raise a generation
  • Curbside Diversion from Landfills
  • Leadership and Mentoring Opportunities
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Buy Recycled or post consumer or recycled content
  • Purchase Recycled Products
  • Pledge to A Billion Acts of Green
A Billion Acts of Green: Personal, organization and corporate pledges to live and act sustainably is the aim of Earth Day 2011. With more than 42 million pledges thus far, A Billion Acts of Green asks for simple individual acts and larger organizational commitments to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability. Act of green can be submitted through the EDN website.

Not all rewards are economic. It is important that recycling "closes the loop". However, the most important benefits of recycling are not quantifiable. Millions of people are passionate about recycling because they recognize it as the voice of the future.


Recycling is our legacy.

The real cost of not recycling today is a waste of spirit, material, and the value of the next generation. When you take a look at the rest of the world now, or fast forward into our future, recycling is inevitable and sustainable.

Recycling is the heart beat of America, yet public policy today is apathetic. Who will protect the recycling culture legend of our grandchildren? People who recycle today are concerned about the future of the world we share.

Expect a future where Recycling is the Norm.

The disposable society breeds disposable ethics. Recycling recaptures the greatness of our national character. Recycling is about the future. It is up to each of us to help shape a vision of the future where recycling is the norm.

Recycling ethics need to be part of the fabric of our national character. As they realize that we are borrowing the world from our grandchildren, the public will also become better steward of all our resources.

Final thought - Most see things the way they are. This Earth Day 2011, come out and see the way things can be in your community and your life. Who speaks for recycling this Earth Day? You do.

Art Johnson is a published author and environmentalist who is dedicated to increasing awareness in conservation and environmental issues. He enjoys writing for blogs such as

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is Your Home a Bio-Dome?

Bio DomeImage by Camera John via FlickrBy Haden Smith

A number of years ago, I watched a movie called Bio-Dome. Pauly Shore was the central character, trapped in a bubble where the primary goal was to create a sustainable eco-system capable of maintaining the basic necessities for life such as water, food and oxygen. In the bubble, everything contributes to the cycle of life and attempts to mimic nature's ability bring forth new life from the death and decay of those living organisms that have served their purpose.

Nature has provided a terrific pattern of maintaining and sustaining life. Basically anything grown from the earth will one day return to the earth, providing the nutrients and building blocks for new life to begin. It is a magnificent system that deserves emulation on our part. Much of what we produce today is polluting our air, contaminating our water and exponentially increasing the size of our landfills. Nature just can't keep up. We need to provide a helping hand.

As we examine the products that make up our home, from the insulation in our attics, to the laminate or carpet on our floors. What affect will these products have on the environment years down the line? I find it amazing that we are now being cautioned not to throw out many of our outdated electronics devices because they contain hazardous materials such as mercury and lead. Just as disconcerting to me is the advent of the fluorescent light bulb, which likewise contains mercury. Yet the suggested method of disposal is to put them in a zip lock plastic bag with the rest of our trash.

Changes are occurring in the manufacturing processes around the world. Not only do companies understand their responsibility to the environment but they are finding ways to accomplish this goal without sacrificing the number one goal of business, which is to make money. Manufacturers are finding ways to develop products that meet an immediate demand but that can later be developed into something else. A good example of this is natural green flooring coming from manufacturers such as Shaw, where they have developed a line of laminate flooring and carpet developed to reduce the impact on the environment now and in the future.

Such initiatives need to be encouraged and promoted and the best way to do that is ask questions. Do a little research about the products you bring into your home. If we each consider our homes our own little Bio-Domes and do our part to make sure the products we bring into our homes have favorable consequence when they leave our home, we can help nature do what it does best, maintain and sustain life now and in the future.

Change the World Here!

The products we bring into our homes and the garbage we throw away have a profound impact on our health but also on the environment. Our goal is to find and sell high quality, eco-friendly products at a reasonable cost. - Green Flooring - Best quality Green flooring at LOWEST price plus take an additional 30% OFF!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Global Warming And The Games Politicians Play

GLOBAL WARMING / CLIMATE CHANGE IS A HOAXImage by genetew via FlickrBy Harold Forbes

The solution to global warming and the resultant climate change is a political issue. Politicians are dependent on the people for their power. This means that the people can force politicians to act on implementing solutions to avert global warming and the resultant climate change.

Even in non-democracies, the leaders need to attend to the general state of the nation if they want to avert a revolution, as several Arab leaders have been finding out in early 2011. In democratic countries, for centuries politics has been practised in the same manner: the leaders of countries are concerned about the next election. In politics, humanity does not exist, only the voters. The next century does not exist, only the next year. The next generation does not exist, only the next election.

President Obama has said that he is not President of the World. He is, rather, President of the United States and must defend the interests of his country's voters, who are concerned about changing their cars and increasing their consumption, not about saving the planet. Politicians are unprepared for long-term planetary problems. They and their electorates have great difficulty in gauging what might happen in the future. When the voters in the developed West, who are the biggest emitters of the Green House Gases do think about, it the majority remain unmoved.

Concern about increases in expected frequency and severity of major weather events like droughts or floods is generally low in places such as the United States and Europe: even in Australia where there was massive flooding in early 2011 there is still popular resistance to taking action on averting global warmng and the resultant climate change. This may be because low probability events tend to be underestimated in decisions based upon personal experience, unless they have recently occurred in which case they are vastly overestimated. Many think of climate change risks (and thus of the benefits of mitigating them) both as considerably uncertain and as being mostly in the future ('it is a problem for our children's children' is a fairly common view).

The risks are also considered geographically distant. The Maldives, which have a reputation for beauty and are a popular upmarket destination for well-off tourists, face being destroyed completely by rising sea levels. Whilst that may be lamented by people in Western Europe or the United States, in itself it is not a sufficient motivation for the majority who would probably never go there anyway. People are more concerned about what happens in their immediate vicinity than in far-off lands. Much more important to the voters is what is happening in their economy, now.

The two biggest emitters, China and the United States, are at very different stages of their economic development and are equally reluctant to make promises on reducing total emissions. Both accept that cuts are needed but there is an associated cost in making the change. If one country presses ahead without the other, there is the fear that their economy will suffer from higher costs of energy production without seeing any short-term advantage, so neither wants to 'go first'. Each country is waiting for the others to agree to act at the same time. It is rather like the world is engaged in a giant game of 'Prisoner's Dilemma'.

Imagine, if you will, two criminals arrested under the suspicion of having committed a crime together. However, the police do not have sufficient evidence in order to have them convicted. The two prisoners are isolated from each other, and the police visit each of them to offer a deal: whoever offers evidence against the other will be freed. If neither of them accepts the offer, they will both be charged and face court.

Now they have a choice, but making the choice depends on how they think the other person will behave.
If they both keep quiet, they can be considered to be cooperating with each other or uniting against their common enemy, the police. They might still be charged with the crime, but there is a good chance they will be acquitted due to lack of evidence. Therefore, they will both gain. However, if one of them betrays the other one by confessing to the police, the one who breaks will gain more since he is freed; the one who remained silent, on the other hand, will receive the full punishment since he did not help the police and there is now sufficient proof with the statement of the betrayer. The silent one will face the full fury of the law.

If both betray each other, both will be punished, but less severely than if they had refused to talk as the justice system gives credit to criminals who confess to their actions.

The dilemma resides in the fact that each prisoner has a choice between only two options, but cannot make a good decision without knowing what the other one will do. This is similar to the dilemma that politicians face: everyone agrees cuts must be made, but they are frightened of putting their economies at risk. No wonder politicians prefer to talk about addressing poverty and development as priorities.

They are willing to acknowledge that global warming and the resultant climate change is the greatest threat to the future, but foregoing fossil energy driven economic growth, it seems, will have to wait. Unless the people tell them otherwise.

Harold Forbes is Author of "How to be a Humankind Superhero: a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate". The book has been described by Jonathan Porritt as "An enjoyable read that hits the elusive balance between the analytic and the practical". You can read chapter summaries at or download the first chapter as a FREE PDF at

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Amazon Rainforest: A Cornucopia Of Wildlife

Indigenous in Amazon Rainforest.Image via WikipediaBy David Walch

The Amazon Rainforest is home to numerous species that make up twenty percent of those found on the planet. Covering an area of two and a half million square miles, representing two-thirds of South America, the Amazon Rainforest expands into nine countries: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Ecuador, French Guiana and Guiana.

The Amazon Rainforest, considered to be the world's largest natural resource, constitutes over fifty percent of the earth's total rainforest. Known as the earth's lungs it produces over twenty percent of the Earth's oxygen; more than any other single source. As such, it is a vital source of the air that we breathe.

Its' canopies are home to the iconic toucan with its' thick, short neck and its large colourful beak in combinations of red, black, blue, white and red. Additionally, the Amazon Rainforest hosts over one third of the total bird species found on Earth. Many of which are in danger of extinction due to mans encroachment on and deforestation of the rainforest.

In addition to its abundant avian population, the Amazon Rainforest is also home to the capybara. At two feet tall and weighing in at over one hundred pounds, the capybara it is the planet's largest rodent. An endangered species, it is an excellent swimmer, spending most of its' days, and nights, in and under the water. The capybara exists primarily on a diet of aquatic vegetation, melons, squash and grass.

The Amazon Rainforests largest mammal is not a land animal, as you might suspect, but lives in the Amazon River and its' tributaries, the Amazonian manatee. Also known as sea cows (a reputation earned from its herbivorous habits and spending most of its days grazing). Some have even supposed they saw mermaids when encountering the Amazonian manatee.

Considered the most beautiful of all the Amazon Rainforest's creatures is the mythical Amazon pink river dolphin. Suffering from the effects of development of the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon pink river dolphin is a severely endangered species due to the pollution of its' habitat from agriculture, mining and industry. Local fishermen do not see the dolphin for its beauty due to its habit of tearing holes in their nets to steal their catch.

A beautiful, but deadly, Amazon Rainforest resident is the jaguar. An excellent hunter, and natural athlete, the jaguar grows to up six feet long and can weigh as much as two hundred pounds. Naturally adept on land or water, the jaguar can climb trees or run in search of its prey, or swim after aquatic prey such as the pirarucu or turtles.

A less attractive, but just as dangerous, Amazon Rainforest resident is its largest predator, the black caiman. With no natural enemies, other than man, it can grow to as large as twenty feet in length and weigh in at over three thousand pounds. It has been known to eat the likes of giant river otters, capybara and even humans.

Of course the Amazon Rainforest, with its diverse animal population, is home not only to large predators, but also the nearly microscopic. One of the most deadly of which is the poison arrow frog. Harmless if left alone it possesses the most powerful toxin known to man. Its toxin can kill as many as one hundred people. The Amazon Indians have long harvested the frog for its poison, which they use on the tips of their arrows when hunting.

The Amazon is a healthy environment for the fabled anaconda, which grows its entire life. The largest ever caught was approximately twenty eight feet long with a girth of forty four inches and estimated to weigh nearly five hundred pounds.

The most infamous of all the Amazon Rainforest's wildlife is undoubtedly the piranha. The most feared and best known of all Amazon rainforest's creatures is the red bellied piranha. Feeding in large schools they can converge upon, and devour with their razor sharp teeth, such prey as caimans, anacondas and jaguars. However, contrary to popular myths attacks on humans are extremely rare.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

California's Central Valley Is a Petri Dish for Clean Energy

The irrigation and reclamation of the Central ...Image via WikipediaBy Mike Nemeth

A Fresno patent attorney wanted to know the most pressing legal needs of clean energy companies in the San Joaquin Valley. Her emailed question made me think.

The industry remains in its infancy but likely won't dawdle in Huggies for long, especially if petroleum prices continue upward as analysts suggest. still lists $99 barrel on its one-year forecast, and pump prices continue to climb.

In my response to this attorney, I included concerns of solar, energy efficiency and biomass industries.

"Land use is a big deal," I wrote. "I have heard that because of increased difficulties getting federal land secured, solar companies are moving to get private land deals. So far those are with municipalities and small solar operations, teaming them with wastewater sites (big electrical users) in hinter-ish lands."

I also mentioned potential interest by Westlands farmers looking for a new source of revenue for farmland due to restrictions on irrigation water. Hundreds of acres of parched and dead grape fields and orchards greet passers by in this incredibly fertile sun-drenched valley.

My co-worker Sandy Nax, who was also my compatriot on the now mothballed Fresno Bee business desk, says the Central Valley is a veritable Petri dish for clean energy with its abundant sun, wind in the Sierra foothills, methane rich dairy waste and bio-plant-rich farmland.

Should a series of studies prove correct - that clean energy will produce scads of jobs nationwide and in California - I believe a large role will be played by those bitten by the powerful American entrepreneurial spirit. I told the patent attorney to keep an eye on start-ups, especially those related to water and biomass.

For instance, the more than $800,000 fine levied on two biomass plants in Merced and Madera counties by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently will likely worry folks in that industry. The Fresno Bee's Mark Grossi called it "one of the state's largest air-pollution fines in recent history."

Biomass defines the process of burning woody material and ag waste to generate electricity. Emissions are a part of that as they are for biogas from methane.

Another sector worth a look, perhaps from an attorney's perspective, is construction. Net-zero homes, the passive house movement and others will likely become dominant features of the new home market. A part of that is retrofits, something we're quite familiar with at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization.

The practice of auditing buildings and upgrading systems that show inefficiencies is gaining converts and consumer interest. Some big players are starting to do this elsewhere. For instance, the Empire State Building is now a model of efficiency after a massive overhaul.

I was talking about the status of the clean energy movement with Valley hydrogen power expert Gene Johnson, and he said the best bet for change is talking up the subject to our young people. "Education is the key to this whole thing," he said.

I convinced him to be one of the potential speakers in a program we're working on with Valley high schools and colleges to prepare students for clean energy and entrepreneurial opportunities. Gene is one of those amazing people who can inspire people after 5 minutes in his presence. For example, he decided he wanted a hydrogen powered car so converted a glossy yellow Chevy SSR to run on the clean burning fuel.

Gene's pretty optimistic about the future of clean energy. "Once people see food and gas prices going up... they'll realize self-sufficiency is the best way to deal with it," he said. Gene's definition of self-sufficiency is pretty global and refers to the United States being able to produce all its own energy, from multiple sources.

Sandy and I keep up with news, and on the subject of clean energy and energy efficiency it looks pretty good. Our hope is that this industry takes off in the next couple of years. That may be optimistic, but things are definitely happening.

The jolt of federal stimulus money didn't hurt. But it's limited. In fact, we're working on a couple of stimulus grants that sunset in the next 12 months. So we are biased - a bit.

We were heartened by a post on by Bracken Hendricks and Jorge Madrid with the Center for American Progress in which they called "clean energy technology one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy and it is projected to grow to $2.3 trillion by 2020."

They also said American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the official name of stimulus money) sustained the nation's fledgling clean energy industry when it was struggling due to the economy and global competition.

Nice to hear. I put a comment on their post saying as much.

Mike Nemeth, project manager of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, spent 24 years working as a newspaperman editing and reporting from Alaska to California. The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through increased use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO is based in Fresno, Calif. and works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Plastic Nightmare

Thin plastic shopping bagsImage via WikipediaBy David Hodges


We still do not know just how badly we are polluting the world. It is becoming more obvious that the multi-nationals and supermarkets are only interested in profits and not in the effects on our environment and health.

We now live in the throwaway society. Almost everything we buy is in a plastic container such as milk, soft drinks and water. Supermarket carrier bags and black bin bags are all made from plastic.
What are other countries doing and can we learn from them?

Belgium - Government imposed a tax on all free bags in 2007
Denmark - Government imposed a levy as far back as 1994. Use of plastic bags has fallen by two thirds
Germany - Supermarkets charge between 4p and 20p for single use bags
Italy and Spain - Plastic bags have been banned since last year
India - Plastic bags are banned. Shops risk one months suspension of trading
Ireland - A tax, now at 16p per bag, was introduced in 2002. Use has dropped by 90%
Kenya - Thin plastic bags banned in 2007. Heavy tax imposed on imported thicker bags. Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania have adopted similar policy
Switzerland - Plastic bags cost 10p
Taiwan - Plastic bags phased out in 2003

What are we doing? The answer is nothing.

Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, opposes both charges and a ban for plastic bags. Between 2006 and 2010, WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme) was in charge of monitoring bag numbers and it reported a 48 per cent fall over the four years. However, Environment ­Secretary Caroline Spelman let the monitoring regime lapse in May. The Government currently has no ­policy on plastic bag reduction, despite pledges by David Cameron and Nick Clegg when in opposition.

Miss Spelman has kicked the issue into the long grass, with a 'waste review' that will not report until next April and decisions on policy likely to come much later. At the same time, the supermarkets and their trade body, the British Retail Consortium, have refused to draw up any new reduction targets. The BRC has admitted it has no idea how many bags are now given out. In May last year, 475 million plastic carrier bags were given by our supermarkets to their customers. Less than 1% are recycled and most of the rest end up in our land fill sites. They have a life span of about 1,000 years!

These containers and bags are made from a plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate, PET for short. It is made from a combination of natural gas and Petrol.

Here are some frightening statistics:-

In 2006, 31.2bn litres of water were consumed in USA alone. (Pacific Inst. of America). This required over 900 tons of plastic which needed 17.6m barrels of oil to produce.

In 1997, Captain Charles Moore on returning from a boat race in Hawaii chose a short cut back to California along the edge of the North Pacific subtropical Gyre, an area normally avoided by seafarers. This is a high pressure zone where several currents converge. This brings flotsam from the coasts of South East Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. He discovered an island of plastic and flotsam twice the size of Texas, or over five times the size of the UK. It is 10m deep, and 90% plastic. UN research has established that Navies and commercial shipping dump 639,000 plastic containers per day in our oceans. This represents 20% of all plastic dumped in our oceans, the other 80% is from land.

Captain Moore has established that America alone produces 105 trillion plastic bottles per year. This would consume 59Bn barrels of oil per year. A barrel of oil contains 42 US gallons, 35 Imperial gallons (or for those that prefer it, 159 litres). This equates to 2.1 Trillion imperial gallons per year.

If you want to do your bit, find us on

David Hodges

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Car Scrapping and Charity: How Giving is Paving the Way for Greener Roads in the UK

Penz Schrotteinsatz 3                                           Image via Wikipedia

Hi all,

Here is a fantastic initiative from an organisation in the UK called Giveacar at: This is a really impressive project created by some great lateral thinking so have a look and get on board!

Car Scrapping and Charity: How Giving is Paving the Way for Greener Roads in the UK

The damage caused to air quality by old, inefficient, cars has been well-documented, and though there is clearly much left to be done, advances are being made all the time in the production of hybrid and electric motors. But the question remains about what is the best way to handle end-of-life vehicles coming off the roads, as these too can pose a serious environmental threat.

Giveacar began operating in 2010. It’s a new social enterprise that arose partly from what its 24-year-old founder Tom Chance saw as a need to reduce the environmental impact of old and end-of-life cars. Inspired by several schemes operating in the US, such as (which donate the funds generated by car scrapping to good causes) he saw the opportunity to combine car junking with charitable giving - a largely untapped market in the UK.  

Giveacar provides a free-of-charge service to its customers, arranging for the collection and environmentally responsible recycling of end-of-life vehicles. Once the cars have been scrapped, Giveacar then donates the proceeds (after administrative costs) to the charity or charities of the car owner’s choice on their behalf.

As one charity they work with, The Children’s Trust, tweeted, it’s a “Win win” process, providing a service that end-of-life vehicle owners are in need of, creating a new revenue stream for charities, and all to the benefit of the environment.  

Working with Britain’s leading car salvage agents - in cases where a car is not of auction-worthy value - Giveacar ensures that it is recycled and scrapped to the highest environmental standards; this is what happens to approximately 90% of the vehicle donations Giveacar receives.

Some 1 million cars come off British roads every year without being properly disposed of. Many of these end up abandoned in driveways or by roadsides, leaking hazardous waste, heavy metals and toxins into the soil, while oils and fluids are poured into sewers and down drains. Others are cherry-picked of their valuable parts by unscrupulous car scrappers before being abandoned. An additional concern is that of cars - which have been supposedly scrapped - being brought back onto the roads illegally, thus posing considerable pollution, not to mention safety, problems. 

Through guaranteeing to process car scrappage only at one of the UK’s  1,617 Authorized Treatment Facilities, or ATFs (where pollutants are safely recovered and disposed of) Giveacar ensures that all the hazardous materials are removed without impacting negatively on the environment. The shell of the car is then sent off for recycling.

Since its inception, Giveacar has managed to raise over $300,000 for over 250 charities, and has taken thousands of end-of-life vehicles off the roads for good.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Can We Live In An Eco Heaven?

John Willoner's Eco-House at Findhorn. Turf ro...Image via WikipediaBy Kathy Brautigam

Why should you reduce your carbon footprint? And how can you do this?

Well you can start locally and join a green eco club in your area and if there isn't one around join a club on-line. There are also many online site to help give you ideas available.

What are some of the other things that we can do on an individual level to help the environment?

- Turn off the lights when you leave the room
- Recycle your plastic, paper and aluminum cans
- When you go shopping plan your route in an efficient way
- Car pool whenever you can or you and your friend can run your errands together
- Go paperless - for instance, pay your bills online or read your newspaper online to save paper
- Install solar panels or a wind turbine to conserve power
- Encourage recycling at your work place

If you are a DIY enthusiast there are many places to learn how to make solar panels or make your own wind turbine. If you don't have any DIY skills then you can hire someone to convert your house for you or have a friend or neighbor help you with your project and maybe in the future you can return the favor after your DIY skills improve over time.

Clean living is what past generations had, but as we grew more and became an industrialized world so did the pollution. This went unchecked for years now we are faced with severe climate changes, disease, and rising costs of basic needs. Have you noticed the flocks of birds that used to migrate south every winter are getting smaller and small? I remember when the sky was filled with birds on their migration route. Who wants to live like this? I know that I don't want to live this way.

Discover ways support the environment for future generations. Learn to simplify your life and you will soon realize that green living is personally satisfying knowing that you did right by Mother Nature. Eco heaven is about healthy living, lowering bills, and returning to nature.

If we all work together we can make the world a better place to live for our generation and future generations.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

Gulf of Mexico Dead ZoneGulf of Mexico Dead Zone - Image via WikipediaBy Jerry Greenfield

The Gulf of Mexico has seen some better days. We all know about the huge oil spill caused by the explosion of the oil drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, on April 20th, 2010. It took them 3 months to finally cap-off the gusher, but by then, the damage was done. This is, to date, the absolute worst oil spill we have ever experienced.

But to add insult to injury, the Gulf of Mexico has had many other "issues" for years. One of the biggest is the fact that there is a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico ... and it is growing.

Now, you're probably asking yourself, "What's a dead zone?" A dead zone is any area in water where the oxygen supply has been depleted. When this happens, the water is said to be hypoxic. If there isn't enough oxygen, then plant-life (such as algae) can't grow. If there's no algae in the area, then much of the marine life has nothing to eat. This marine life will either starve and die, or if they can, they will flee the area and try to find a better place to live.

Water becomes depleted of oxygen when there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus in it. The reason the Gulf of Mexico is so susceptible to this problem is because of the Mississippi River. The mouth of the Mississippi opens up into the Gulf - and boy, is it a big mouth!

Beginning in Minnesota, the Mighty Mississippi flows down to the Gulf of Mexico and carries all of the bi-products of farming right along with it. All of the chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used in the farmland along the Mississippi leach into the ground surrounding the river and begin their journey southward.

Man-made chemicals used in farming are extremely high in nitrogen and phosphorus. In fact, these chemicals have more nitrogen and phosphorus in them than the crops could ever use, so all of the excess is absorbed into the ground and eventually makes its way into streams, creeks, rivers, and lakes ... which all end up somehow being connected to the Mississippi River!

Unfortunately, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has only grown over time and shows no signs of halting its growth any time soon. The men and women who live off of the sea have no control over this problem and just have to deal with it. Obviously the marine life has no say! And now, on top of everything else, there are the devastating effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to deal with as well!

We are killing our planet! That's all there is to it! The blatant misuse and overuse of chemicals in farming is causing dead zones where marine life cannot live. Our thirst for energy lends to unsafe circumstances and over-looked precautions when it comes to oil drilling. We need to be held accountable for our action - all of us - not just the people who make a living off the Gulf of Mexico and the marine life who try to make a home there.

For more information, please click here.

My number one focus is growing my own food. I don't think that really counts as a hobby. For some people it is, but for me, growing my own fruits and vegetables and saving my own seed is the key to survival. The only person you can count on is yourself, if you ask me. The government is trying to "help" us all with GMOs and welfare, but it's all a crock. We need to know how to survive on our own.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Horrifying Spectre of Irreversible Runaway Climate Change

This is a map location of the Amazon Basin. Th...Image via WikipediaBy Robin Whitlock

The UK's Independent newspaper today (4th February 2011 (1))is carrying a truly terrifying story on its front page. Apparently the Amazon rain forest suffered an appalling drought last year which caused it to become an emitter of carbon rather than a carbon sink. For those unused to the terminology this means that whereas in previous years the rain forest absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it is now beginning to release it.

According to the story, scientists believe that it will release some eight billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which is more than the current annual total emissions of the United States. This switch from carbon sink to carbon emitter occurred because many of the trees dried out and died.

So why is this such an appalling development in the ongoing saga of climate change? The answer can be found in an article written by Craig D. Allen of the US Forestry Department (2). He explains that what is occurring with increased regularity is something called 'climate-induced forest dieback'. This is important because trees grow relatively slowly but can die very quickly, which means that their rate of replacement is slower than the rate of their destruction.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen, therefore the more trees that die more quickly the greater the amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere. This is known among climatologists as a positive forcing or a positive feedback in the sense that it is something that is highly likely to accelerate the rate of climate change rather than reducing it.

Where trees die out en mass, for example in response to drought, an entire regional environment can be quickly and severely affected. There is increasing evidence that this is already starting to happen in other parts of the world, for example in Canada where Kurtz et al (2008) have shown that forest dieback, insect and disease mortality and fire impacts have turned the Canadian forests into a producer of carbon rather than a carbon sink. Lewis (2005) suggests that widespread drought throughout this century could transform the world's forests into a massive carbon source. This would grossly accelerate the rate of warming as more and more carbon is released into the atmosphere.

How does dieback actually occur with higher temperatures? This is shown in a study by Henry D. Adams et al (2009). In trials with pinus edulis pine trees, Adams and his team showed that higher temperatures of around 4 degrees C shortened the time to drought-induced mortality by nearly a third. There are two processes involved here, 1) carbon starvation as a response to prolonged water stress, and 2) sudden hydraulic failure under water stress (cavitation).

Carbon starvation occurs where trees close their pores (called 'stomata') in order to maintain safe levels of xylem pressure (xylem is a form of tissue within the structure of trees and plants that is responsible for the transportation of nutrients around the system). This stops photosynthesis and forces the plant to rely on stored carbohydrates to support the maintenance of tissue. It seems that higher temperatures increases the metabolism, forcing the tree to consumer its stored resources at a faster rate than normal. Eventually the tree runs out of food and death results. Hydraulic failure occurs where air bubbles block the transportation of stem water.

Some experts have noticed that increasingly trees are dying faster than expected in droughts around the world and this has led to the belief that higher temperatures are responsible(4).

This positive feedback, alongside others such as the loss of albedo caused by melting sea-ice and the release of methane from melting permafrost, adds to the likelihood that the earth will be pushed closer and closer to irreversible 'runaway' climate change unless we as a species take urgent measures to curtail and reduce greenhouse emissions. Runaway climate change is the term used to describe the point in time at which climate change is impossible to stop and at which it starts to increase in severity under its own momentum as more and greater positive feedbacks add to greenhouse gas emissions, rather like a giant snowball running downhill, hence the term 'snowball effect'.

Climatologists and environmentalists that the danger of this occurring becomes more likely as we approach a level of 2 degrees C beyond the temperatures experienced in pre-industrial times. An even greater danger of runaway becomes likely as temperatures move towards 4 degrees C. An article in The Guardian in November grimly concluded that at the present time there is very little chance that the 2 degree limit can be maintained and that therefore a move towards 4 degrees is likely.

James Hansen, the well known climatologist and scientific adviser to NASA, has talked about 'the Venus syndrome', a situation in which runaway climate change gathers such momentum that warming of the planet carries on all the way towards the death of the life preserving capabilities such that the Earth becomes a dead planet - like Venus (5). This is a very controversial idea and Hansen has, as a result been accused of excessive 'doom mongering'. Nevertheless, the movement of the Amazon basin towards being a carbon source, is a very worrying development indeed, of which everyone of us should take note.

(1) Steve Connor, Special Report: Catastrophic drought in the Amazon, The Independent Newspaper, 4th February 2011

(2) Craig D. Allen, US Geological Survey, 'Climate-induced forest dieback: an escalating global phenomenon?

(3) Adams, H. D. et al (2009) 'Temperature sensitivity of drought-induced tree mortality portends increased regional die-off under global change-type drought', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (doi:10.1073)

(4) Goodall, S. (2009) 'Trees die quicker in drought when temperatures are hotter', Carbon Commentary website.

(5) Hansen, J. (2009) 'Storms of my grandchildren: The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity', London:Bloomsbury

Robin Whitlock is a British freelance writer with a special interest in environmental issues, particularly climate change. He has been an environmentalist since the early 1990's and writes regularly on the subject of renewable technology for a technical recruitment consultancy website.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The New Wave of Environmentalism in the Gulf

Protect the treesImage by mrehan via Flickr
By Glada Lahn

Resource stress, pollution and climate change all threaten to aggravate instability and inequality in the Gulf, but have so far failed to capture the public imagination. Now a wave of grassroots initiatives is trying to change this. Springing up in response to local problems, often employing Islamic narrative and spreading through Facebook, the movement is characteristic of the Gulf's new generation and its rapidly evolving approach to ecology.

"It's growing like crazy" says the effusive Khayra Bundakji of the environmental movement in Saudi Arabia's coastal city of Jeddah. A surprising fact, perhaps, in a country not known for its ecological values. What's more, women are leading the movement. Of the 17 groups Bundakji found active in Jeddah on environmental issues, 15 of them were initiated by women.

Bundakji, a computer science major and internet blogger, founded Faseelah, Effat University's first Islamic environmentalism organization in 2010. She also works with Naqa'a (purity), the brainchild of two nursing students, which calls itself a youth driven "environmental enterprise." Naqa'a's educational campaigns emphasize "the three Rs"-reduce, reuse, recycle-of the western mantra, the Islamic duty of stewardship over the environment, as well as concepts of purity and reining in excessive consumption.

Despite these examples, the environmental movement is still a small world, composed mainly of the educated middle class. Exposure to ecologically conscious societies in the West and efforts in other Gulf cities are the most commonly cited influences feeding the Gulf's environmental movement, according to Bundakji, who lived in the US and Dubai for 11 years.

Environmental campaigns in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are at least a decade ahead and have been impacted by the large expatriate community (over 80 percent of the population). A former government official, Habiba Al-Marashi, established the Emirates Environmental Group in 1991 and has become a one-woman tour de force in railing against over consumption and engaging the private sector in sustainability drives. The international World Wildlife Fund (WWF) opened its first office in a Gulf State in Abu Dhabi in 2001, where it conducts conservation projects and tracks the heavy environmental footprint of UAE citizens. High-profile events such as the Sharjah Art Biennale, initiated by Sheikh Qasimi whose 2007 theme was ecological art, have also raised awareness in the region.

"People in the West often view these initiatives as either a drop in the ocean in countries which rely on oil exports or as plain hypocrisy because of their high levels of consumption" says Professor Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, a former lecturer in environmental ethics at the American University of Sharjah. But he cautions against cynicism. "In fact, what you see in the Emirates is just an intensified version of the material system we have in the US ... the advantage they have is their 'can do' attitude and the capital to back it up."

While the glamour of green activity in the UAE may have offered inspiration to Jeddah, it was the tragic floods of November 2009 that really kick-started local activism. One group, Muwatana, began as an emergency volunteer relief effort for the victims and has become active in subsequent local environmental improvements such as beach clean-ups-a look at its Facebook page reveals 1,751 members and it has served as an initial network and model for other groups.

"Before the floods, there was interest in the environment but it was not considered a priority" says Dr Majdah Aburas, member on the board of directors of the Saudi Environmental Society (SENS), an organization begun in 2006 under the auspices of Environment Minister, Prince Turki bin Nasser. "After the floods, people became a lot more active-SENS organized a campaign of 900 volunteers from many different [informal] groups to help with the clean-up operation-and there was much more interest in acting to improve their local environment."

SENS is now leading a national cleaning campaign in collaboration with the Mayor of Jeddah and Prince Salman bin Sultan's Charitable Heritage Foundation, which explains the penalties for dumping waste but also regenerates deprived neighborhoods. "Every Thursday, we are in a historical area of Jeddah" says Aburas, herself a renowned specialist in the bio-remediation of crude oil pollution on desert soil. "One of the projects is getting volunteers to redesign a small garden in a neglected, poor area that will both fit with traditional aesthetics and provide a nice recreational space for poor families."

Most volunteers are young people - from the ages of 4 to 30. And yes, SENS abides by Saudi law and custom in separating the male and female volunteers during activities. "This is why we will be successful" she says "because we take into account tradition and social development needs as well as the environment." Al-Marashi is likewise impressed by the volunteering spirit in the UAE. "For example, the recent Clean Up UAE campaign witnessed the participation of 20,000 volunteers across the country who collected 91 tons of waste!" she says.

Greenpeace-style activism this is not. Political status is also ambiguous. Aburas terms groups like Muwatana "voluntary committees" as they do not have status as organizations under Saudi law. Can we even use the terms grassroots or civil society? Dr Chris Davidson, author of Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond, thinks not in the case of groups in the UAE, "you will find that they usually have patronage from the rulers and it would be very hard for them to publicize government crimes against the doesn't help that the press is one of the most controlled in the region."

"We can't speak of a coherent civil society movement in the UAE as such-because of the politics, that is tricky" says Bendik-Keymer, "but we can see three broad areas of environmental action in the UAE: community philanthropy, 'green business' initiatives, and stunningly futuristic engineering projects." Under the first category come groups like EEG and Emirates Diving that organize voluntary beach and reef clean-ups, and social efforts like Adopt-a-Camp-a volunteer group helping to improve sanitary conditions in the South Asian worker camps.

The second is manifest in the media saturation with environmental claims from the business sector which vary from greenwash to seriously innovative conservation projects. The third, like Masdar City (a sustainable city planned for 2025) and the associated solar farm, have an effect on people's minds according to Bendik-Keymer, "they could send a powerful message about the kind of civilization the Emirates aspires to be."

In spite of their comparative newness and less sophisticated PR, the Saudi initiatives benefit from a more investigative press and the much larger indigenous university-aged population. They have steered clear of any conflict with the state but informal conversations reveal disdain for local management of the environment and concerns about the lack of mechanisms for accountability. Nevertheless, all express hope for more support from the national government and senior figures of society in putting this to rights.

Professor Hussain Fouad Sindi, project manager with independent Saudi think tank Al-Aghar, is leading a professional team in drawing up a practical water strategy for the Kingdom. He went on national television last year to criticize both the bureaucracy for mismanaging water and the general public for wasting it. But he stresses, "our King is determined to tackle the issue [of water] no matter what it takes, that I am personally sure of. So, when finished, an executive report of this study will be handed to His Majesty."

Kuwaitis, who have a longer tradition of open political debate and suffered some of the worst effects of oil pollution during the 1990-91 Gulf War, are more outspoken. Last May, 15,000 students were reported to have staged a two-day walk out over heavy industrial emissions in Kuwait's Umm Al-Haiman area, which are thought to be causing cancer and respiratory illnesses. This and a public demonstration by 200 people was organized by the local volunteer environmental protection committee and supported by Kuwait's Greenline Environmental Group - an NGO started in 2001 by journalist Khalid al-Hajeri, who frequently lambasts the government on environmental issues in the national and regional press.

Interest in the environment is most often provoked not by global dialogue on climate change or biodiversity but health and business risks closer to home. As one Saudi scientist put it, "ok, we need to reduce Co2 emissions but we have to put the national interest first ... we should focus on reducing sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide - have you seen satellite pictures of the huge orange cloud over Riyadh? This is causing serious health problems."

The impacts of pollution are increasingly discussed by the Gulf's media. From an American study reported in October estimating some 600 air pollution-related deaths in the UAE in 2007, to the official Iranian announcement in December that around 3,600 people a month die from smog inhalation in Tehran. Poor sewerage treatment also poses a risk to the reputations of richer Gulf countries. In 2009, raw sewage dumped in Dubai's storm drains closed the luxury Jumeira Beach resort. Lake Salwa in Qatar is another example of rapid development outpacing infrastructure. "This is threatening to pollute the already dwindling national water table" warns Doha-based UNESCO project officer Mark Sutcliffe.

Bundakji is a strong believer in the power of grassroots driven movements to promote real change in society towards sustainability. She attended a think tank workshop prior to the Saudi Water and Power Forum (SWPF) last October and says; "I met so many passionate ministers and heads of companies like Philips and GE who would love more attention and time dedicated to these issues. However, I feel that it will take the voluntary leaders to push influential [government] bodies in the direction."

She immediately saw the empowering role SENS could play in coordinating and focusing what she feels is a fragmented and ill-equipped movement. She liked Aburas's reference to SENS as a "tent" for the informal committees. "What would really help us is if SENS could list all the different groups with websites and contact details on one page of its website."

"It is helpful that Facebook is such a big part of our culture, because causes and campaigns spread at an exponential rate through it." However, she warns, "the majority of the initiatives are based on half-baked ideas" not necessarily based on a solid understanding of the local context and ecology. "For instance, many an Earth Day has been celebrated by planting trees that have not been proven to be indigenous to the region. The fall of such initiatives comes when the initiator realizes they don't have enough time to educate themselves on local conservation needs, let alone the masses."

Nationwide education is Aburas' ambition. Her mission is to convert SENS into an independent not for profit company and get the government and some private sector sponsors to sign up to its ten-year strategy aimed at a transition in behavior in the country. "This would be the first national awareness program for sustainable development in the Arab World; it would use many tools but concentrate on schools to not only raise environmental understanding but change habits in the country."

As a way forward for fledgling environmental groups where legal political status is not an option, the idea of social enterprise is catching on. Many are seeking company, rather than charity status. This fits with both the religious support for voluntary philanthropic work and government support for private sector-led development and avoids the politically antagonistic field of the lobby group or even the NGO.

First published: Wednesday 02 February 2011

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Story of the Kakapo (Heaviest Parrot in the World)

en: Pura, a 1-year-old Kakapo (Strigops habrop...Image via WikipediaBy Wayne Quinton

The Kakapo (Maori for Night Parrot) is considered to be one of the largest parrots in the world measuring up to two feet long and tipping the scales at nine pounds at maturity. Unlike other land birds they store their energy by accumulating large amounts of body fat. They cannot fly and uses it short wings mostly for balance. They are an endangered species with less than a hundred left in existence. These remaining Kakapo are all a mossy green in color.

They have a very strong smell which often leads their predators directly to them, perhaps one of the reasons they are nearly extinct. The other is that they tend to freeze in position when threatened making them easy prey to the newer predators to New Zealand that rely on their sense of smell to find food.

They have very strong legs and may cover several kilometres and climb up and down 300 meters in their nightly search for food. Their main diet consists of a wide variety of native plants, seeds and fruits. They have also been known to eat small insects.

They have very strong beaks which they use to aid in their climbing as well as to grind their food to a very fine powder. Unlike many other birds the Kakapo has a very small gizzard so must grind its food so it can easily digest it.

The Kakapo is a naturally curious bird and even though they are nocturnal and live in remote places they seem to enjoy the company of people. The few remaining birds are said to have individual personalities and seem to like to interact with humans.

During breeding season the males leave their territory and gather together in a group. They can travel almost 10 Km from home to establish a mating court. When the breeding season begins the males will battle each other for the best spots. With their strong legs and beaks there are often a number of injuries.

Each of the courts has a number of holes dug into the ground about ½ a meter in length and nearly 10 cm deep. Each male tends his hole in the ground keeping it totally clean and clear of any twigs or debris. The bowl like hole is often dug next to a rock or tree trunk.

The male attracts the females by making low booming calls while sitting in their dug out holes. They start with a low grunt like sound which gets louder and louder as the Kakapo inflates its thoracic sac. They make a number of booming sounds then the sound dies off. They stand up and begin the ritual all over again making its booming sound for about eight hours a night. This nightly ritual can go on every night for three or four months.

The female may come from several kilometres away attracted by the booms of the competing males. Once the female arrives the male puts on a display of beak clicking and body movement where they rock from side to side. The male turns around and walks backward toward the female. There is not at lot known about the actual copulation but it has been said that once aroused a male Kakapo will indulge in sexual intercourse with a tree or some other such object. They have been known to try to have sex with a person.

Once the female has been mated she returns home to lay her eggs and raise the chicks. The males stay on trying to attract another female. The female can lay up to four eggs. She lays her eggs on the ground under the cover of low plants. She leaves only at night to go in search of food. The eggs can take up to a month to hatch and the chicks leave the nest at about 12 weeks old to venture out on their own but mothers may feed them occasionally for up to 6 months.

The Kakapo do not breed every year. Breeding takes place only when there is a lot of fruit. In the case of some areas this is only every three or four years. The females do not go looking for males until they are around ten years old. The Kakapo is believed to live at least 60 or so years.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the Kakapo of New Zealand and will visit my site where you might find a photo or a replica. Please drop on by and see the Unique Gifts from New Zealand.

Thanks for your time,

Hello, my name is Wayne and for a long time I have been wanting to put a website on the web. I struggled with the right "Niche" and finally found a business I am proud to be associated with. They are like me, a little guy. It was through sheer luck that I came upon this site offering products that I found to be absolutely unique and amazing. I hope that you will read my articles and also join me on my site to see just a few of the most Unique gifts you will find anywhere. If you enjoy my site tell your friends and ask them to tell their friends. I think more people should know about the other land down under New Zealand. Here is my address:


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Climate Skeptic Refutes Self, Confirms Antarctica Warming

Melting ice - AntarcticaImage by dzaks via FlickrBy Jesse C Moore

If the ice on Antarctica melts, the oceans will rise several meters, inundating low islands and coastal regions. There is a controversy about the rate at which Antarctica is warming.

The headline read O'Donnell et al 2010 Refutes Steig et al 2009. Wow! Steig's work had been featured on the cover of Nature when he found that over the last fifty years, the Antarctic had been getting warmer by 0.1 C per decade. I wanted to see how it was possible that Steig was wrong, but O'Donnell's paper was nowhere to be found.

My search led me to the Steve McIntyre's ClimateAudit website. Yes, McIntyre claimed, a peer reviewed paper in J. Climate had refuted O'Donnell. After wading through some verbiage about the failure of the scientific peer review process and the evils of Climategate, the truth emerged. McIntyre was one of the coauthors of the paper and had access to it, though it had not yet been published.

It is considered bad form among scientist to claim that your paper refutes another scientist's. That is best left for other scientists to decide. It is even worse to do so before your paper is published. There is a prohibition in scientific ethics about making premature and exaggerated claims to the public. Apparently, McIntyre missed that, as he did the same thing in Climategate. He claimed the climate scientists were guilty of hiding data, not sharing their raw data, of colluding to keep skeptics from publishing, and of using the peer review process to keep skeptics from publishing. This is, for lack of a better name, the Twisted Science Theory. Five investigations into Climategate found no scientific misconduct. Apparently, McIntyre believes in getting his version of the facts "out there" before the truth can be discovered.

The Feud: But, did O'Donnell's paper prove the Antarctic was not warming? No, not at all. The refutation claim is part of a running feud McIntyre has with Michael Mann, a coauthor of Steig's paper. The dispute started much earlier when, after repeated complaints of scientific secrecy, Mann had released the raw data from one of his papers to Steve McIntyre. McIntyre recalculated the results and claimed to have refuted Mann's work. McIntyre had a bit of trouble getting his work published in a peer-reviewed journal, but after much complaining, the Geophysical Research Letters finally published it.

Shortly after its publication, Peter Huybers found McIntyre's paper to have errors that, when corrected, led to results similar to Mann's. That should have ended it, but the dispute became a political football when Congress intervened. Congress rejected the National Academy of Science's offer to investigate the matter and instead chose Edward Wegman, a statistician from George Mason University. Wegman relied heavily on McIntyre's work and opinions, he refused to answer scientists' questions about his methods, and he produced a flawed report. Wegman is now himself under investigation by George Mason University for alleged plagiarism and improper research methods.

The Refutation: McIntyre should certainly get some credit for proving Sir Walter Scott's Tangled Web Theory. However, by being a coauthor of a paper in a respected, peer reviewed journal, McIntyre has clearly refuted his own Twisted Science Theory. McIntyre's involvement in O'Donnell's work and his premature claims of refutation made me wonder if McIntyre might have introduced bias into O'Donnell's methods. I contacted O'Donnell and asked about his funding, McIntyre's role, and whether he considered his paper a refutation of Steig's work.

The Scientific Controversy: O'Donnell was very honest and professional in answering my questions. He explained that the idea for the paper arose from a series of posts on McIntyre's blog and the replies on RealClimate. He explained that the paper would not likely have happened had he not been presented a challenge by both Dr. Steig and Dr. Gavin Schmidt at the RealClimate blog. None of the four of us have advanced degrees and none of our degrees are in the geosciences. Steve McIntyre's function with respect to the paper was to ensure that, to the best of our ability, we made the best possible use of the available data. The work did not have external funding and the authors contributed the work, the expenses, and even the page charges from their own pockets.

O'Donnell's Reply was very diplomatic. Whether his paper could be considered a refutation or not, he said, depended on what you considered important about Steig's work. He continued that he always viewed the challenge as a friendly one (as, did Dr. Steig). Dr. Steig was quite helpful in my email communication with him when we were attempting to exactly replicate his method. Regardless of the language used by anyone, our paper is only important if it enhances the understanding of what has happened with Antarctic climate and prevents similar mathematical mistakes from being propagated. In terms of the larger picture, the characterization of refutation or improvement is less important than the question of whether our paper has made a contribution.

Steig's Reply: Now that O'Donnell's paper has been published, Eric Steig has posted an analysis of O'Donnell's paper on RealClimate. He explained the differences in the two paper's methods, gave credit where he thought O'Donnell had improved on his work, and explained where he thought O'Donnell was in error. His evaluation of the work was summed up in his statement:

"As one would expect of a peer-reviewed paper, those obviously unsupportable claims found in the original blog posts are absent, and in my view O'Donnell et al. is a perfectly acceptable addition to the literature. O'Donnell et al. suggest several improvements to the methodology we used, most of which I agree with in principle."

Antarctica Is Warming: This reasoned debate stands in sharp contrast to McIntyre's assertions. The exchange between O'Donnell and Steig is an excellent example of the kind of open academic debate that underlies every significant research conclusion in science. I would not consider O'Donnell's paper a refutation, but an addition to our understanding. The significant point to me, and they both seem to agree, is that Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, is warming.

(C) 2011 J.C. Moore

Further quotes from Ryan O'Donnell and references for the article may be found at

Dr. J.C. Moore is a physical chemist whose interests are spectroscopy,computational chemistry, professional ethics, and science education. He taught chemistry, physics, and general science at the college level for 38 years. Since retirement, he has established, a website that examines current events from a science and research perspective.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is Nuclear Power Safe?

Never forget ChernobylImage by freestylee via FlickrBy Kk Subramanian

This is the first time in our history, that villagers are opposing the construction of a nuclear power plant. Most states are demanding such plants, considering power supply, employment opportunities etc. thinking that it is pollution free.

The reality is that it converts the whole area, into a danger zone, inviting an accident like the one at Chernobyl in Russia. The Russians could control the spread of radiation, by spreading soil, brought from various parts, transported in planes, as the whole nation rose as one man. All European countries admired the management of a disaster of such magnitude.

Can we do it?

The negative factors are:

- Such projects are very costly and the real cost is hidden, because of the fact that, intense supervision by BARC Scientists, is ignored in cost calculations.

- Still, no one knows how to dismantle a plant. The cost of dismantling should also be taken into account, in calculating the cost. This cost is enormous.

- Disposal of spent fuel, which is highly radioactive, is also very difficult. An accident of the special train carrying it can be disastrous.

A newly constructed atomic power plant was abandoned in Switzerland, after the people voted in favour of this idea, after the Chernobyl accident.

The villagers are opposing the acquisition of land for the project, because they fear that the environment will be spoilt forever. Their fears are legitimate and we all should join the struggle against the plant.

It is necessary to create awareness about the dangers to life and environment posed by nuclear power plants.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: A Special Type of Earthship: Gardening At The Dragon's Gate by Wendy Johnson

Green Gulch Farm GardensGreen Gulch Farm Gardens - Image via WikipediaBy Deidre Lin

I should have known by the front cover what intriguing mysteries awaited. The matte cover is a lush green-yellow with a vine unfurling on one side - the promise of new life. Yes, the fact that it has a matte cover did score some points with me! (If you've read my previous reviews you will recall that I am partial to matte book covers...) The sub-title proclaims the theme as 'At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World' - a wonderful synonym for how gardens really grow and how life actually is.

I found myself transported to a world that I had no idea still existed - but, isn't that what books are supposed to do? Yes I suppose it is, but I had not anticipated that this reference book, also a memoir, would be so potent. Like the fertilizer Johnson speaks of so glowingly, the book brought forth childhood memories of playing in nature up from the depths of my memory banks. I found myself wistful as I wondered what it would have been like growing up in that magical place.

Originally, I bought this book hoping to find some answers to common organic gardening questions and found a unique approach to the circle of life through the author. Johnson, the master gardener at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center in Northern California gives an intriguing glimpse of life both at a commune and a Zen center. I found myself led down garden paths and through multi-tiered plots of plants of all kinds.

Feeling like the apprentice I surely would be known as, if I happened to volunteer my time during harvest season, I followed close not wanting to get lost in the lush vegetation. Not to worry though, just as I thought the greenery was too overwhelming, Johnson gently but firmly guides novice gardeners (and readers) back onto the gravel path.

The book is structured brilliantly. Johnson's memories, stories and gardening philosophy are perfect segues into chapters of reference material. This is one book that - even an avid reader like myself - cannot be digested in one sitting. Not unlike a good compost pile, it must be assimilated, turned and broken down into little bits.

This one's a keeper and not one to store on the shelf either. This one is meant to be taken out to the garden itself; pages open to the sun, providing reference while turning the soil.

Read more about Sustainable Earthship Living.

Enjoyed this resource? Deidre Lin invites you to read more about Sustainable Living & Healthy Lifestyles for mind, body and spirit at

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