Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fish Farming, Not the Best Solution for Overfishing Problem

Fish farmsImage by mattroyal via FlickrBy Allie Moxley

The fish farming industry would like us to believe that their products are better for the environment than seafood from natural sources. However, this is simply not the case. Simply put, anyone who tries to argue that fish farming works to correct the problem of overfishing that is currently threatening the world's fish populations is either misinformed himself or being intentionally misleading.

The fact of the matter is that, like other types of animal agriculture, fish farming is by nature extremely inefficient. It has been estimated that it takes 4.5 pounds of seafood from natural sources to produce a single pound of fish raised on a farm.

Of course, some fish farms are better than others. For example, vegetarian farms are a growing trend. At such farms, the fish do not feed on their ocean-caught cousin, but rather on vegetarian food pellets. However, even this is unnatural, especially since many of the fish being fed these pellets are carnivorous by nature. For this reason, these fish will not be as healthy for you as seafood from natural sources.

Plus, these pellets are made out of ingredients like soy, corn, and other grains that would be put to more efficient use if consumed directly by people rather than indirectly through a fish. And with a lot of the world's human population suffering from hunger, this issue should not be overlooked.

Also, unlike ocean-caught fish, farmed fish - regardless of what they are fed - create additional problems, such as unnatural concentrations of waste, disease, and chemicals that are caused by the confined conditions in which water is not allowed to flow freely in and out of the places where the farms are located. The result is an environmental catastrophe.

Experts have conjured the image of a floating pig farm to convey just how dirty this practice is. It pollutes and destroys natural ocean habitats, which in turn leads to further depletion of the natural fish populations. Plus, the fish from these farms are themselves more likely to become contaminated because of all the pesticides, antibiotics, and parasites in the water. Sometimes the nets keeping these fish in malfunction and the escaped fish spread their disease and genetic modification to wild populations.

So, what is the proper solution to the problems facing the world's marine life? As you probably know, fish is very good for you. It is full of nutrients that your body needs, and you should not stop eating it altogether. Instead, choose only seafood from natural sources that is caught by fisheries that do not employ overfishing methods.

Alaska's fishing industry leads the world in environmental protection measures. From efforts to improve traceability to strict enforcement procedures, Alaska continually shows how committed it is to preserving the ocean for the next generation. Check out the ASMI Facebook page for more information on Alaska Seafood!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Compost: The Holy Grail

A picture of compost soilImage via WikipediaBy Thomas Gavin

My wife and I always have a large vegetable garden. It has never produced all that well. My wife blames me; I blame the soil. Our soil here in southern Tompkins County is clayish and is always in need of more organic matter. It tends to be soggy in early summer and then bone dry in late summer.

It is obvious that one answer would be to add that rich, black, loamy material that one can produce by composting. Ahhh, compost - farmers' gold, Jayhawks' jewels, pioneers' platinum, homesteaders' heaven, cornhuskers' crack. Well, you get the idea - it is rich stuff.

To produce compost you simply mix together "green" material with "brown" material. Green material is fresh plant stuffs like grass clippings or kitchen waste, and the greens are your source of nitrogen. Brown material is dried plant stuffs, like old leaves or straw, and this is your source of carbon (=sugars). The nitrogen to carbon ratio in the compost pile is critical to get the pile to do what a proper compost pile is supposed to do - cook.

If mixed properly with sufficient moisture, microorganisms multiply in the pile, and their biological activity raises the internal temperature of the pile to about 170 degrees F. The high heat, naturally produced, decomposes the plant material, kills insects, pathogens, and weed seeds, and results in a beautiful mound of black, loamy compost that can be used to amend your lousy soil. I have this vision of looking at my compost pile from afar one cool morning and seeing steam slowly rising from a smoldering heap.

That has never happened. I have built compost piles for about 20 years, and I can never get the temperature of the damn thing warmer than the gravel in my driveway. On the other hand, my younger brother Bill, who lives in Corvallis, Oregon, loves to call me and describe the trash cans full of fantastic compost that he has produced. He produces so much compost that his entire backyard of perennial flower and vegetable gardens is grown in compost only. He doesn't even use the Willamette Valley soil that God put behind his house some time ago. He uses only compost, HIS compost, HIS BEAUTIFUL compost, HIS BEAUTIFUL COPIOUS amounts of compost. I now use my caller ID not to answer the phone when I see that Oregon area code, because I can not stand to hear about HIS compost victory one more time.

And then yesterday morning, it happened. I dutifully checked my pile like I always do and, what the heck, there was heat. Not scorching heat, but an unmistakable increase in temperature that I could feel with my hand. I had to tell Robin right away. I ran to the house screaming "We have heat!", stubbed my large toe on the top rung of the garage stairs as I skipped up the steps, fell into the laundry room just inside the house, and banged my head on the washing machine. I was excited, happy, angry, in pain, and out of breath, all at the same time. I was like a carbon:nitrogen ratio that had gotten all out of kilter. I described to my wife that we had heat in the compost pile but, I must say, she was not nearly as impressed as I had hoped. But, never mind, I had a prideful lilt in my step all day, aside from a small limp.

But by evening, it was gone. What the hell? No heat at all. What kind of a cruel joke is this? Had I imagined the whole thing? Had I incurred that lump on my head for nothing? What will Robin think now? What happens when my brother calls? Within an hour, I had calmed myself into my usual passive state about how life is not fair and don't expect it to be. If my soil sucks and I can't grow beautiful veggies, so be it. Farmers in Iowa might have great soil, but they don't have the Finger Lakes. My brother might have great compost, but he has larger slugs. New York pioneers might have been able to live off the land here, but they didn't have a Toro rototiller. So I'm doing ok. And after all, we can buy tomatoes Saturday at the local Farmers Market.

Dr. Thomas A. Gavin
Professor Emeritus
Conservation Biologist
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

Life at Dr. Tom's

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

German Solar Power - Nuclear Alternative?

Map of solar electricity potential in EuropeImage via WikipediaBy Mark F Weber

German solar power is rapidly growing, capturing an increasing share of Germany's electrical needs. Cloudy Germany is the world leader in photovoltaic panel production and installation. The Japanese nuclear crises forces Germany to reconsider its nuclear power position. When will solar be ready to replace Germany's nuclear portion of sustainable energy?

Since 2000, the German solar power capacity compound annual growth is nearly 63%. The Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature, Conservation, and Nuclear Safety estimates solar achieved 2% of Germany's electrical needs in 2010. Even in the midst of a major economic downturn, German solar capacity achieved a 33% CAGR.

Fueling German solar energy growth is a one billion Euro monthly tax incentive for individuals and companies. This Feed-In Tariff is part of the German Renewal Energy Act, the cost shared by all rate payers.

Solar power capacity growth is coming from individuals and companies. In an article by Anna Hart in the Solar Energy Connection, individual Germans installed 10,000 panels in 2003. The total doubled in 2004 and sizably grew since. German solar power plants, or solar parks, are the biggest investment. These massive fields of photovoltaic panels, or PV's, provide peak power between 2 and 50 megawatts. Finsterwalde Solar Park, near the Polish border, is the world's largest solar power plant with peak power of 80.1 megawatts.

German enthusiasm for sustainability and solar creates problems. A report by the government's energy agency warns that solar growth pressures the aging German electrical grid. A weekend of sunshine potentially can overload the system.

Worldwatch Institution projects Germany as the world's largest manufacturer and installer of PV's. Germany's Q-Cells overcame Japan's Sharp, as the world's largest producer of PV's. This fast-growing industry employs 40,000 Germans.

German society is enthusiastic about sustainability. They lead the world in PV technology, productions, and growth. Will solar power increase fast enough to replace German nuclear power? Given the Japanese nuclear disaster, the pressure is on to shorten the Deutsche atomic timeline.

While German solar power is rapidly growing, as is the country's projected gross national product. The government's solar power estimate is 66 gig watts, or 66 million kilowatts, by 2030, a growing spark on the electrical grid. The most optimistic estimate by Solar Energy Connection is a 25% solar share by 2050. The challenge: nuclear power is 25% of current German electrical sourcing. A 2009 government decision postponed the shutdown of the 17 German nuclear power plants until 2022.

Given the crisis in Japan, German anti-nuclear protests grow. Based on the Japanese crisis and political pressure, the government temporarily shut-down several of the reactors for safety inspections. Should the opposition threaten the current government, German nuclear power years will likely shrink. While wind power and solar power energy are major government investments, neither are ready to supplant nuclear in the near term.

Deutsche Welle estimates 26 German coal-fired power plants are under construction or in planning. Increasing ferrous fuel capacity flies in the face of European Union and German goals to reduce carbon output. More gas and oil power generation is an option, but these fuels places Germany more dependent on Russia. After over a half century of tension no one is comfortable with Moscow's hand on the faucet.

There are no easy choices for Germany. They must simultaneously juggle a desire to grow; a passion to reduce carbon output; and the priority of keeping their citizens safe. We only hope the sun shines on these decisions, and Germany's solar power panels.

Mark Weber is an international business professor in Rochester, NY, who traveled the world on behalf of the Eastman Kodak Company and Heidelberger Druckmachinen. Having visited Germany over eighty times, Weber brings a unique perspective on the customs, attractions, transportation options, language, and food.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Money, Self Interest And Change - Are These The Real Obstacles To Solving Global Warming?

Bangladesh - climate change canvasImage by Oxfam International via FlickrBy Harold Forbes

In the media and political world, there is still considerable argument about whether global warming and the associated climate change is caused by human activities. In reality, the scientific community has stopped arguing about this. The US National Academy of Science warned of the climate impact of human activity way back in 1979 and since 2007 there is not a single scientific body of national or international standing that has maintained a dissenting opinion.

This does not mean that there are no dissenting voices. But they are from individual scientists or from bodies with scientific sounding names that are funded by the fossil fuel industry to ensure that 'doubt' remains a powerful disincentive to action.

In his book Heat, George Monbiot dedicates an entire chapter to what he describes as 'The Denial Industry' and lists a number of fossil fuel funded organisations that make it their mission to. 'take a consistent line on climate change: that the scientist is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics. And if the government took action to prevent global warming they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason. The findings those organisations dislike are labelled "junk science"The findings they welcome are labelled "sound science".

The most recent project that seemed to set out to assist the deniers' case was the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature which set out "to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions." But in a recent talk the project chair explained that BEST has been analyzing large quantities of data, they have started writing a draft report, and what he can say now is:

• "We are seeing substantial global warming."
• "None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming."

Somehow, I doubt this will settle the political argument for at the heart of the denial is money and self-interest.
Economics is not a science in the strictest sense, in so far as economists do not undertake experiments to test hypotheses, the results of which would be peer reviewed before a new understanding emerges. Economics is, rather, a social science which tries to understand how people make choices between different courses of action, particularly where the choices are finite, e.g. it is either 'do A or B' and cannot be 'do A and B'.

Central to the workings of economics is the concept of scarcity, the idea that people want more than is available. Scarcity limits us both as individuals and as a society. As individuals, limited income (and time and ability) keep us from doing and having all that we might like. As a society, limited resources (such as manpower, machinery, and natural resources) fix a maximum on the amount of goods and services that can be produced. Amazingly, however, the scarcity of the planet as a whole is completely ignored. We are using an assumption that the natural resources and services of the planet are, essentially, inexhaustible. That is clearly nonsense.

The mechanism that enables choices to be made is money and acquiring and using money takes up an enormous amount of our time and thinking capacity. It also has a pretty strong influence over our behaviour in many situations. This is quite surprising in some respects because money itself is a concept, which sometimes manifests itself physically in a coin or printed piece of paper, but more often as a balance in a ledger somewhere.

The simple solution to the scarcity of money would therefore appear to be to just make your own money, but over the years societies have developed a complex set of rules over what are acceptable and what are unacceptable treatments of money in order to regulate its value. So, for example, an individual who prints their own money, no matter how identical to those notes printed by the government, is treated as a criminal and usually jailed if caught.

Catching them, however, is obviously something of a problem: a sample of coins in circulation made by the Royal Mint in 2008 found that 1 in 50 pound coins was a fake, with the total value of fakes worth about £30 million. That confidence in the currency has not collapsed by this development is probably due to the fairly limited value of a single pound. Falling foul of getting one in your change is a fairly minor inconvenience and anyway the 30 million false coins are a tiny proportion of the estimated 44,900 million pounds in notes and coins in circulation in the UK.

Money and self interest versus the common good. Short term pleasure versus long term sustainability. These are the key issues that need to be addressed when trying to find a solution to global warming and the associated climate change. Human history is filled with conflict used to resolve problems but in the case of global warming and the associated climate change conflict will simply extend and exacerbate the problem. We must find a way to collaborate or there will be nothing left to compete for. And, if that seems too much of a challenge, remember the old saw attributed to an unknown 12th century monk:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Harold Forbes is Author of "How to be a Humankind Superhero: a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate".

The book uses the myth of Hercules to provide individuals with twelve impactful action areas to fight climate change. It has been described by Jonathan Porritt, an eminent figure in the area of sustainable development as "An enjoyable read that hits the elusive balance between the analytic and the practical".

Climate change has been described as the greatest threat facing humankind and "How to be a Humankind Superhero" empowers and inspires meaningfull individual action.

You can read chapter summaries at or download the first chapter as a FREE PDF at

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Factory Farming - Why It Is So Dangerous

Hog confinement barn interior, slatted floorImage via WikipediaBy Fiona Ostermayer

Factory farming is the most common method used in the United States today to raise animals for meat. Most meat found in United States supermarkets comes from factory farms, and most consumers are not only unaware of what is in that meat, but what it is costing all of us in terms of our health and safety to produce it.

In addition to the horrific atrocities perpetrated on the animals, factory farming causes massive contamination of soil and groundwater, is promoting the development of "super" drug-resistant bacteria, routinely endangers the well-being of its workers, and is creating at least half of all greenhouse gases.

When we hear the word "farm" we think of pastures, grazing animals, and a big red barn. The term factory farm is a bit of a misnomer therefore as only the first half of the term is accurate. The conditions in which the animals are raised bear no resemblance whatsoever to the idyllic vision we have of a family farm, but the abundance of concrete and steel are along the lines of what one would expect to see in a typical factory.

Most animals are penned closely together indoors for their entire lives, never seeing daylight. In these circumstances, the animals become ill, so they are fed huge doses of antibiotics. This causes new strains of bacteria to develop that are resistant to antibiotics - super bugs.

The animals are also fed growth hormones to speed their growth so that they can be slaughtered more quickly. Under normal circumstances it takes a calf over two years to reach full maturity. With growth hormones it takes half that time and the hormones and antibiotics that have been fed to the animals are then passed on to the consumer in the meat they buy. This is causing early physical maturity in children and lowering people's immune resistance.

In addition to growth hormones, the animals are fed a high-carbohydrate diet of genetically modified soy, corn, and other grains for the purpose of producing plumper and more tender meat. Because this is not the animals' natural diet, they experience difficulty with digestion and excrete excessive quantities of methane gas, which moves into the upper atmosphere adding to the greenhouse gases. It is currently estimated that almost 50% of greenhouse gas is methane.

The feces of grain-fed animals also contains high levels of e-coli, a deadly bacteria that contaminates soil and water run-off. The contamination can spread to fruit and vegetable crops, which we have already seen in the forced recalls of products like peanuts and spinach. If you ever hear about food products being recalled due to e-coli contamination, you can be sure there is a factory farm behind it.

As it happens, meat-processing is one of the most dangerous jobs one can do. Because of this, many meat processing plants are manned by illegal immigrants and workers who have no other options. These workers are exposed to toxins in the raw meat, and in the feces that runs from the intestines of the slaughtered animals.

So although the packages in the meat section of the supermarket look pristine and appealing, they are full of hormones, antibiotics and traces of excrement - not very appetizing. The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers posed by factory farming and are choosing to patronize local farms in their communities or buy organic meat. Animals raised organically are treated more humanely and are not fed hormones or antibiotics. If you know of a farm in your area, particularly one that uses organic methods, you may want to think about paying a little bit extra for healthier food.

Fiona Ostermayer has been a vegan for almost 10 years. and is passionate about promoting and teaching healthy lifestyles, including vegan nutrition, raw food nutrition and the importance of eating locally and organically.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Rio +20 - Environmental Earth Summit Update

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...Image via WikipediaBy Wendy Moyer

It's been almost twenty years since global leaders met at the 1992 Earth Summit Rio de Janiero. It was an event that captured the interest of the world as it created sustainable waves of interest in environmental governance.

For a lot of environmentalists the original Earth Summit began the global movement that, since that time has been focusing on environmental degradation. Several major international agreements concerning sustainable development were the result of 1992 Earth Summit Rio de Janiero.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2009 to hold UNCSD - the UN Conference on Sustainable Development - in 2012. The Brazilian government has once again agreed to host that meeting. They are calling it "Rio +20."

The people that are planning Rio +20 are hoping that this meeting will address climate change as well as toxic accumulation, freshwater pollution, marine ecosystems, and the accelerating loss of biodiversity.

The theme for the upcoming summit will be "The Green Economy." It's hoped that the international representatives at the upcoming summit will agree on a document that will guide worldwide sustainable development policies for many decades to come.

The conference will focus primarily on poverty eradication and sustainable development within the context of a green economy as well as formulating an institutional framework that will be used as a guide for sustainable development..

In the latter part of 2009 a report issued by the UN suggested that if were able to stop the ever increasing worldwide population that it will be a major help in fighting global warming.

At a United Nations meeting during the second week of January 2011 some proponents of the event proposed ideas such as introducing birth control and personal carbon quotas as a way to reduce global consumption.

A personal carbon quota is the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that each of us can release into the atmosphere a year without increasing the current level of global emissions.

It is envisioned that the conference will also establish a World Environment Organization (WEO). Some of its proponents believe that the mandate of the United Nations Security Council should also be expanded to include "environmental issues and their security related issues."

Fears have been expressed that if no action is taken to deal with climate change then we all will see an increased number of conflicts that are related to water and food insecurity.

In addition, if nothing is done, natural disasters are expected to increase. These disasters could make some parts of the Earth uninhabitable which would fuel increased migration. The US government believes that if this happens it could become a security threat to the country.

To find out more about Environmental Organizations go to

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saving Cocos Island and Its Marine Ecosystem: An Act of Superior Governance

Chatham beach at Isla del CocoImage via WikipediaBy Victor Krumm

Though tiny, Cocos Island (12 miles around), is one of the jewels of Costa Rica's National Parks and a UNESCO designated World Heritage site. It is the only island in the eastern Pacific containing a tropical rain forest.

And, in March 2011, an amazing, transformative event occurred. An event of extraordinary governance.

On that day, and with a stroke of its president's pen, Costa Rica took a giant step in sustainable development and preserving marine biodiversity, creating a massive marine conservation area of a million hectares around one of the most famous of all Costa Rica national parks.

To put this into perspective, the marine preservation area around Cocos was expanded five-fold, making it the second largest marine management in the eastern Pacific. Only Galapagos is larger. It was a "day of national pride" for Costa Rica and a big deal for world marine conservation.

Cocos Island, lying halfway between Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, has long been recognized as one of Costa Rica's Seven Wonders. It sits atop a seamount (an underwater mountain range), so dazzling, so magnificent, so filled with marine animals that it inspired the famous undersea explorer, Jacque Cousteau, to declare it "the most beautiful island in the world."

Once, there were so many sharks swimming its waters that it was often called Shark Island. Scientists, conservationists, television filming crews, and scuba divers came from around the world to experience its wonders. They were greeted by a bewildering number of large marine animals. Not only sharks but rays, tuna, porpoises, sea turtles, and much more.

And, of course, fishermen took note as well. Not a few fellows making a living but huge, commercial fishing operations that have been threatening Cocos' bounty for years.

Unrestrained industrial fishing and indiscriminate killing on a scale so massive most of us can't even imagine it.
Worst of all are the factory trawlers which, in search of shrimp, drag the sea bed with giant nets the size of football fields that not only scoop up enormous amounts of shrimp but also vast amounts of "by-product", crustaceans, corals and sponges, sea turtles, adult and immature fish, and everything in their path, leaving behind huge swaths of ocean floor virtually devoid of life.

And, what happens to this "by-product?" Most of it is thrown overboard, discarded. Trash. Billions of creatures, young and old alike. Nothing is spared. Marine ecosystems that took eons to form gone in hours. Life replaced by death. Industrial fishing trawlers are decimating our oceans and are the most destructive of all human actions involving our seas. Nothing else compares.

Every year factory trawlers drag the equivalent of twice the size of the continental United States, kicking up plumes of sediment so large that they are visible, literally, from space, leaving behind entire lifeless marine ecosystems.

Once, the outer banks off Newfoundland were so full of cod that, in 1497, the English explorer, John Cabot, remarked that they blocked his ship. For over a century, 250,000 tons were caught every year. Despite the warnings of scientists, factory trawlers from around the world continued coming until in 1992, the entire fishery collapsed.

Tens of thousands of fishermen lost their livelihood and the fishery had to be closed.

What happened to the factory trawlers? They simply moved on for, after all, they're simply opportunists in it for today's cash. The future be damned.

Truth is, the oceans aren't being fished so much as plundered, decimating or already destroying 75% of the world's fish stocks at an annual worldwide economic loss of $50 billion-losses often hidden in government subsidies. Economic and fishing losses that are wholly avoidable, unnecessary, and unsustainable.

The World Bank estimates that, with proper governance, sustainable fisheries can go from a huge global economic loss to an economic surplus, drive economic growth, and restore fisheries. Unfortunately proper fisheries governance is in short supply worldwide and political will virtually nonexistent. With a few exceptions, like Costa Rica.

For years, this tiny country, occupying about 1/10,000 of its surface area, has led the way towards sustainable development. It has set aside nearly 25% of its land for parks and preserves, replanted about 25% of its forests, is on track to be the first carbon neutral country on the planet by the end of this decade, and has declared that it wants to end man's ceaseless war with nature and make peace with it:

"Costa Rica is a small country, but it can be a great leader. Nearly sixty years ago, we became the first nation in the world to abolish our army. Today [2008], we seek to make history once again by becoming the first nation in the world to protect its national wonders, on land and under the sea, in perpetuity" - Former Costa Rica President Oscar Arias.

That vision, that commitment, that governance, is carried on by President Laura Chinchilla, who created the magnificent Seamounts Marine Management Area in March 2011, massively expanding the protected waters and seamounts around Cocos Island to nearly 4,000 square miles. Important habitat to many species, including highly endangered scalloped sharks and ancient leatherback sea turtles, is now preserved into perpetuity. Industrial trawlers won't decimate this marine ecosystem.

Life and an ecosystem that took eons to form will continue to flourish. No more massive plumes of sand - signs of death - visible from space.

140 years ago, President Ulysses S. Grant created the world's first national park, Yellowstone, preserving an entire terrestrial ecosystem from exploiting opportunists. Good governance, Mr. President. Seamounts Marine Management Area is even bigger than Yellowstone and preserves an entire marine ecosystem. A well deserved "day of national pride for Costa Rica."

About the writer: Vic Krumm lives in sunny Costa Rica. Visit his acclaimed website about Costa Rica Vacations. And, in a world where biodiversity is under attack, learn why Costa Rica Conservation and biodiversity policies are world-famous.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Farmers Are Embracing Renewable Energy

San Joaquin ValleyImage by brewbooks via FlickrBy Sanford Nax

As major users of energy, America's farms are natural candidates for renewable energy efforts. That is especially true here in the San Joaquin Valley, where farming is a $20 billion per year enterprise, temperatures hit triple digits, power bills are sky high and air pollution ranks among the worst in the nation.

As it turns out, farmers, especially in California, have made substantial gains in the use of alternative energy sources. With about 25% of all facilities, California led the nation in 2009 with 1,956 farms and ranches producing renewable energy, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Solar dominated, with 1,906 California farmers using photovoltaic and thermal solar panels. The majority of those - more than 64,000 panels - were installed since 2005. Wind energy was used on 134 farms in California, while methane digesters were installed and used on 14 properties.

Solar power also has blossomed on farms nationally over the last four years. Prior to 2000, only 18,881 solar panels were on farms and ranches. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 108,000 panels were installed.

"Farmers and ranchers are increasingly adopting renewable-energy practices on their operations, and reaping the important economic and environmental benefits," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Farmers in nearly every state reported savings on their energy bill. The survey also noted that subsidies and other sources helped finance some of the installation cost. In California, about 41% of the average $79,000 cost of installing solar came from outside sources.

All this makes me wonder what the future holds. Technological advances, such as small-scale biomass project with ultra-low emissions suitable for urban areas, are coming fast, and the price of solar continues to fall. Some people predict parity is just around the corner. Possibly in 2012, according to some predictions.

And one has to wonder if increasing oil prices, and the increasing realization from military and Big Business that green is good, will spur more energy-saving and renewable efforts among California farmers and corporations.

Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are using solar, biogas and other renewable's to power parts of their operations. It is likely that others will realize the advantages and follow suit, especially if utility rates and oil prices climb. There is even some thought that the San Joaquin Valley could someday be energy self sufficient or an exporter of power.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

China's 5 Year Plan - The Overall Impact on Clean Technology

A shipyard on the banks of the Yangtze buildin...Image via WikipediaBy Nick Kellingley

China's 5 year plan has once again stated a focus on green sustainable energy technologies. The government already recognises that future economic growth cannot be sustained at the current pace with similar levels of high pollution and over consumption of natural resources. The energy development strategy included in this, the 12th 5 Five Year Plan (covering 2011 through to 2015) focuses on structural adjustments in energy resources.

Domestic energy providers are going to be encouraged to acquire key technologies in emerging renewable energy industries in China and overseas. This is seen as essential for the development of clean tech/"new energy" overall.

The plan also includes a sensible layout for the development of new energy sectors in the country. With focus on wind, solar, biomass energy generation, coal gas, nuclear and smart grids.

Senior government officials have confirmed that China intends non-fossil fuel based energy sources to amount to 11.4% of primary consumption in the country by the end of the plan.

Solar Photovoltaic

The PV industry will be expected to mature into an advanced manufacturing base and deliver high value to the new energy sector across the course of the plan.

Smart Grid

Smart grid technology will be expected to be incorporated in all new transmission capability where possible. Ultra high voltage lines covering 40,000 km will received an investment of 500 billion Yuan, to improve transmission of energy from the resource rich (but low population) Western and Interior regions to the East coast major population centres.

Nuclear Power

China has reiterated that following the Japanese quake their own nuclear strategy will remain unchanged, though there will be a temporary halt to new construction until lessons can be learned from that disaster to improve the safety of their own plants. With long-term plans for 138 new nuclear power plants the country has a serious commitment to this clean energy source. It is understood that Chinese consumption of Uranium will overtake US consumption by the year 2020.

Increased Oversight

The Chinese government is to increase levels of oversight on high pollution industries. This is almost certain to include a market cap on the volumes of coal consumption in current manufacturing hotspots, such as the Pearl River Delta, Tianjin, and Yangtze River Basin areas. There will also be a widely anticipated review of emission restrictions on coal based power plants expected to make Chinese standards the strictest in the world today.

For Investors

The ministry of commerce and the NRDC are expected to revise guidelines controlling foreign investment in green industries to encourage further rapid growth in clean energy technology. China's Central and Western regions will be offering unusual levels of support for investors looking to produce successful local partnerships in this field. Also supporting a key element of the 5 year plan to improve the capabilities of indigenous innovation structures and furthering the transformation of those industries by leveraging new technologies.

Nick Kellingley is the managing editor of China Strategic Monitor,
CSM is a newsletter and consulting service for finance and technology companies looking to invest in China. We offer insight into key verticals; New Energy, Automotive and Coal and Steel as well as bespoke reporting services and consultancy.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Global Warming and Its Effects On Water

ReflectionsImage by kevindooley via FlickrBy Graham Hunter

Global warming is expected to increase average global temperatures by several degrees and have detrimental effects on water. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007,, water will be affected by global warming in several ways.
  • Warming of ambient temperatures will speed evaporation globally. This will cause increased precipitation and changes in the seasonal timing of precipitation and snow/ice melt.
  • Global warming will negatively effect snowpacks, groundwater, lake, and river systems, and water quality.
  • There will be increased human competition for water due to negative effects on water quality and supplies.

As global warming will speed evaporation, precipitation will increase. However, it is hard to judge where increased precipitation will take place and when. Some regions will experience more rain and snow than they have historically, while other regions will experience more drought. The natural rhythm of seasonal precipitation will change, pushing forward seasonal rains and melts in some areas, and prolonging dry spells in other areas. Rivers will flood more frequently and at different times, desert areas may get more flash floods, and coastal wetlands may also sustain greater water levels, which could eliminate this sensitive and important ecology altogether.

Reduced Snowpacks

As global warming increases global temperatures, glaciers and snowpacks will continue to melt at a more rapid pace. Glaciers will continue to break off and disappear. Snowpacks will melt faster and earlier in the season, or not form as densely. The lack of snowpacks in some regions will negatively affect streamflow and water supplies. Declines in snow melt will cause drought in streamflow-dependent regions. Increased glacier melts will raise water levels of some river systems.


Groundwater systems will also be affected by climate change. In some areas, groundwater levels will rise, while in others it will fall. All areas, from deserts to inland plains to coastal areas will have effects on water due to global warming. Groundwater, as the water in rivers, lakes, and streams is affected by streamflow. Where precipitation and streamflow is increased, groundwater will be increased and vice versa. This will cause more flooding and droughts, depending on the region.

Water Quality

Climate Change will cause crises in water quality. More runoff due to heavy rains and floods will carry more harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers into water supplies, and increase acid rains. Warmer water temperatures will encourage the flourishing of waterborne diseases. Global warming will also most probably increase the salinity of fresh water as oceanic evaporation accelerates. Soil erosion from heavy rains and floods due to global warming will also have effects on water, dumping more particulate and heavy metals into water supplies. Disappearance of wetlands and bogs will eliminate their beneficial water-filtering role, which will have further negative effects on water quality.

Changing supplies and water quality will increase human competition for plentiful and clean water for use as drinking water and in agriculture.

An informative article by | Everything About Water
-Graham Hunter

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Organic Baby

Baby eating baby food (blended green beans)Image via WikipediaBy Edwin Rose

Along with the baby comes a whole new category of things he/she will "need" - not only the obvious items like nappies, furniture and food, but also all the unforeseen 'essential' extras. This consumerism coupled with our busy, time-constrained lives means it is not always easy to take the green approach to babies. However it doesn't need to be this way as in truth a baby has very minimal needs.

The key is firstly not to be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy by all the new 'must-have' baby products out there. There are some baby essentials that cannot be skimped on such as car seats and mattresses but just about anything else can be begged, borrowed, recycled, bought second-hand or even made at home.

Secondly, by understanding the environmental impact of the baby products on offer you can make an informed decision on what you want to buy. There may be some areas where your lifestyle and commitments will simply not allow you to 'go green' e.g. washable nappies just aren't for you, but this can be balanced with the many other areas where environmental benefits can be made e.g. chemical free organic baby clothes, locally sourced organic food and other items.

Thirdly, understand the importance of organics. The organic market has grown beyond belief, none more so than in products and produce aimed at babies and children. Research has found that babies and children are much more susceptible to the absorption of chemicals found in the pesticides used in non-organic foods and non-organic clothing and toiletries. There is a growing concern that these chemicals are related to growing rates of cancer in the western world. More and more products now have an organic or 'sustainable planet' alternative. The trick is knowing where to find them or how to make them yourself.

Fourthly, there are many theories on how children develop and learn but it is clear that babies and children learn the most through imitation and in the early years it will be you they are imitating more than anyone else. What better way to teach them about the environment and how we need to protect and nurture it (in the same way we protect and nurture our children) then by watching you carrying out the compost, recycling, planting seeds, bike riding, making things etc. It could be argued that educating our children to ensure the sustainability of their planet is just as important as teaching then to read.

Finally remember above all to enjoy your baby! Yes, all of these things are important but so is the special bond between you and your child and particularly the stress-free quality time you spend with them. You could search high and low for seasonal organic sweet potatoes to puree, knit hand-made organic cotton booties and wash all your nappies and clothes by hand, when you could have spent the time singing songs, playing in the park, cloud spotting and star-gazing, all of which cost nothing, have no effect on the environment and are more likely to bring a smile to both your faces.

This Eco-Baby site will look at the following approaches to providing your green baby with everything they need whilst still looking out for the environment.

* Baby Essentials, what do you (or rather they) really need and how should I get this stuff?
* Eco-Babies Nappies, all the options made easy.
* Organic baby food, buy it or make it.
* Organic baby clothes & organic toiletries, what's available and where from.
* Get Crafty, arts and crafts for you and your baby,
* Having fun with our children whilst saving the planet.
* Green Nursery, all the problems and solutions - Eco House Agent is a new web site which has been developed to offer people advice, outlining what household and lifestyle changes can be made to reduce energy waste and subsequently reduce our carbon footprint.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

MOVIE AND BOOK REVIEW: Born Free - A Timeless Movie and Book

Cover of "Born Free"Cover of Born FreeBy Kimberly Day

A book that came out in the 60's would forever change the way that people felt about wildlife. That book was "Born Free" which later became a classic movie in 1966 about Joy Adamson who had a very close friendship with a lioness named Elsa. Joy and George loved Elsa as though it were their own child.

In 1956, George brought three lion cubs home to Joy, after their mother was killed and Elsa was one of the cubs that later would change their lives forever. When Elsa died, Joy wanted her ashes to be spread on Elsa's gravesite. They would once again be bonded in death as they were in life.

In all of history, there has never been such a close relationship between a human and an animal. Sadly, Africa has changed quite dramatically, with a population increase and very few lions left in the wild compared to the numbers in the 60's when all of Africa was a paradise for all wildlife.

After Joy and George Adamson died, Virginia McKenna and her husband, the late Bill Travers who starred in the movie Born Free, actively tried to continue to protect the lions and to continue on with Elsa's Legacy. Through "The Born Free Foundation" today, they educate others on these magnificent creatures whom they share a common bond with.

I had the privilege of getting a personal card from Virginia McKenna and a signed copy of her autobiography book titled, "The Life In My Years" in which there are photos of Joy Adamson and Elsa in the early days. Virginia has such respect for nature and is a true Humanitarian and Advocate for all of wildlife, particularly of lions.

Born Free is a foundation for future generations to remember and to preserve Elsa's Legacy forever. Today, in a chaotic world where there is much fighting and suffering, this heartwarming true story of Elsa and those who loved her reminds us that if an animal and human can get along, then surely we can try to get along with each other.

This book and movie will forever remind us that lions are individuals that are quite intelligent and can be very loving to their human companions. And that lions and all animals should be free, rather than in zoos or circuses.

There will never be another book quite like Born Free that touched so many people throughout the World. It is a very unique true story that has transcended time.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Automobile: Profit and Status, Waste and Pollution

World Class Traffic JamImage by joiseyshowaa via FlickrBy Ken McIsaac

Originally used as basic transportation for home and business the automobile has become much more since the days of the Model T Ford. Today it supports a major industry as well as a wonderful convenience and better standard of living for so many. But the negative aspects of this great invention are now becoming more apparent.

Consider the mess that cars are making of our beautiful natural world as they spread fumes and noise into a once serene environment. And in their production and usage, cars chew up Mother Nature's resources at an increasing rate.

As in other industries the car companies' drive towards achieving greater profits has changed the way cars are produced, marketed and sold to consumers. The product that manufacturers want to sell most is not your basic transportation needs, and the advertising departments work feverishly to influence your choices. They have done a good marketing job over past decades as new owners proudly park impressive, shiny newer styled cars in their driveways, much like the TV commercials.

Automobiles are marketed aggressively for maximum corporate sales and profits as in other areas of merchandising. As long as companies need to increase their bottom line their efforts to sell products, good and sometimes bad, will be strenuous in the presence of strong competition.

This bigger, pricier car sales strategy is not new. In a dealer showroom way back in the 50's I had my mind set on a certain economy model but I was continually steered away from it. In fact the salesman refused to sell me the smaller model and I left. 35 years later and in a showroom helping my daughter with her concerns about choice and cost, the salesman turned to me and asked; "Who's buying this car, you or her?" As we headed to another dealer I remarked that he must have some personal problems, perhaps at home, maybe with his sales manager.

The automobile industry is a prime example of how shrewd marketing can sell maximum corporate benefits. Consider the car commercials on TV; they are not seriously trying to sell small and plain autos that use up the least resources. Most are for bigger and flashier styles, and with extra features that your friends will envy. Hybrids or electric cars may take the lead in future years but they will be made expensively and sold to generate maximum profit. Most by far will not be modest in design.

Along with continually remodeled styles the newest products can include frivolous gadgets and features that apparently are good selling points if marketed just right. And there has been a strategy where a model's size grows year-by-year until it's time to buy again; then your favorite model has grown in size and features and cost, and you gotta ante up considerably more than expected. Because what will your neighbors think if the choice is downsizing to a more practical purchase as the one you want to trade in?

Car commercials are amongst the noisiest on TV and can interfere with the family conversation if they are not muted. But the invasive annoying clamor attracts attention and results; it's how so much of advertising works. Rude and in-your-face works for them. In targeting the young and young at heart, commercials often sensationalize performance showing high speed maneuvers on city streets and highways. They are sending the wrong message considering the lives lost to excessive driving speeds. This is callous and harmful but it sells product. One has to wonder where the conscience of the corporate manager is hiding; perhaps ethic is a detriment in rising to top managerial positions with some businesses.

The general outcome of many years of this massive marketing effort is that cars are now commonly purchased for superficial status, even though they may be too costly when excessive to the owner's budget or needs.

It's unfortunate that in the richer areas of the world consumers are so infatuated with these environmentally unfriendly, sleek, roomy, gadget featured, 'Look At Me' cars. But that's what they have been telling us to buy, most days of the year; and we are like sheep as we are herded towards industry showrooms.

We are being taken for a ride.

Marketing and branding are continually at work, and so the ongoing push to consume more steel, plastic, oil, and gas. But why would industry promote a basic product that represents modest, caring and friendly lifestyles when it would shrink business?

On TV during an earlier oil crisis a smiling spokesperson from the Automobile Association was defending why they aren't marketing more smaller cars. "People couldn't just sell their cars and buy smaller ones." The TV commercial which immediately followed the newsbyte was for a flashy full size SUV. Funny and grim.

Friendlier vehicles are coming off the design board as public interest in the environment rises. Can consumers resist the persuasions towards pizazz and extra extras that they could drive into the workplace parking lot? Can we practically expect them to change to economy autos? Granted, there is a case for increased comfort for longer commutes, but where is the practical limit?

Let's face it, this inefficient, costly and unnatural way to get around must be changed. It may be necessary to own a car to get to work, school and shopping; that's the way planning has designed our urban layouts, but that has turned out to be one big mistake.

Even if we are inclined to use public transportation it probably isn't there or not practical to use if the government has had other interests. And if it is available and convenient it probably still isn't what most of would consider; every one else is driving and Peter has a new Super Spitter XYZ!!

The public's desire for improving the way we live and treat the environment will change, but it will not be easy if we are continually confronted with massive persuasions to consume more. This necessary means of transportation needs a review of its design, marketing, and effects on society. The average person does not need luxury on wheels when spending only a few hours a week in the car. Nor does the car require fast speed and polluting power to drive within the speed limit. A description of the fuel efficient car should include: The smallest vehicle that will suit your transportation needs in reasonable comfort.

The automobile must take a less destructive and healthier place in our society, but can it happen? When the car industry hit a brick wall during the financial crisis the bailed out industry reorganized, redesigned and retooled for energy efficiency to some degree. Then came the familiar and glitzy, 'Show Me Off' ads. There is little advertising of small and simple transportation - so they can later proclaim that people didn't want to buy them.

Why not review your automobile requirements to see if you can make some changes to more basic, downsized selection. And consider a reduction in usage. If public transit is available give it a try. I have been positively surprised at how convenient and relaxing transit riding can be. The ride is free time, and there are no expensive parking requirements when you arrive.

Businesses must continue to make money and so a drive into a brick wall may lie ahead unless politicians make a serious timed effort to tackle these problems for society and nature.

If the emerging economies follow the same pattern that we have, won't this world be one big ugly mess?

Albert Einstein once noted, "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive." We had better start changing soon as we are running out of time.

Grampa Ken ~ Author of 32 KEYS and Social Advocte

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Honey, Why Are There No Bees in the Garden?

Bee in CloverImage by elycefeliz via FlickrBy Matthew R Silverstone

Have you looked outside the window lately and noticed there are no bees in your garden? Have you observed that the number of flowers and vegetables are not as abundant as before. Did you not know bees at the moment are dying in their millions? Yet they are not dying in their hive or near to their hive, the bees are dying because they are disappearing. Hives are not full of sick bees, they are empty, the bees simply leave their hive one day and fail to return. Scientists don't where they go or why they disappear.

Common sense would surely offer up a simple explanation for this, the bees must surely be getting lost; there cannot be any other explanation as to why a bee would fail to return to its hive, let alone all of the bees. So how can a bee get lost? It was a very sad fact to discover that most experts do not know that bees are in fact homing creatures. Scientists readily accept that lots of other insects and birds have homing abilities, but not bees. If they did acknowledge this fact then it would be easy to figure out why the bees are disappearing.

I discovered the fact that bees have homing abilities when I read in a bee keeping journal written in 1902 about a bee keeper who accidentally moved his hive to clean it whilst the bees were out foraging, only to discover to his horror that every single bee that returned landed on the spot where the hive used to be and died on the ground, lost. The hive had only been moved 2 metres away and yet the bees could not find it. How is this possible? Almost every bee specialist today suggests that bees use chemical and visual navigation signals to find their way home, but if that were the case they would have been able to find the hive if it had only moved 2 metres away.

The only solution as to why the bees landed on the empty space where the hive used to be located lies in the idea that the bees were using a navigation system that told them exactly where their hive used to be. This works on the basis of a natural "internal satellite navigation" ability similar to the one we now have in all of our cars and mobile phones. Bees use the natural electromagnetic signals that are emitted by the earth to navigate home.

So, let's look at the bee's disappearance logically. Would the most obvious cause of the bee's inability to navigate home be most likely to be caused by a navigational issue and nothing else. If so what are our options. Without going into all of the options that are being investigated, the one obvious issue that could cause an interference with electromagnetic signals could be other electromagnetic signals. This seems blinding obvious to me. Every single police force and army in the world use jamming devices, we know they work, and we know how they work. We can artificially emit jamming signals to interfere with existing electromagnetic signals. So why do we not think that this is accidentally what we are doing to the bees -jamming their signals so that they can't find their way home.

All you have to do is think about how many mobile phone masts have been introduced and compare that to the timing of the bees disappearance to quickly realise this is blatantly the only reason why bees are disappearing.

Do you want to know something else that is terrible? There is no virtually no research whatsoever being conducted at the moment into this relationship. It seems that it is not politically correct to do so. Therefore, until we get a scientific U-turn the bees will continue to die out and scientists will carry on with their cosy funding regime looking into issues such as viruses and pesticides that will never find the solution to this problem. In the meantime the countryside is being devastated by the lack of pollinisation that the bees normally undertake.

I managed to discover a cure for the bees disappearance without having received any funding, just by using common sense.If you want to know my simple cure for the problem of disappearing bees, read my chapter on "The bees and the birds" in my book Blinded by Science which is free to download until April 30th 2011 at

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Time Is Running Out for Borneo's Rainforest - Time to Take Action

Thick smoke in Borneo resulting from slash-and...Image via WikipediaBy Fabrice Marre

Deforestation is a global problem, not only in tropical countries but all around the world. About 30% of the carbon we use is captured by boreal forests, but Borneo has the highest deforestation rate in the world. The equivalent of 300 football fields are destroyed every hours. While politicians - usually focused on short-term economic issues - don't give enough importance to this problem, Borneo's biodiversity-rich forest is inexorably vanishing.

Seen from above, analysis of satellite images paint a frightening picture of Borneo. During the past twenty years, two millions acres were cleared annually and the deforestation rate is not decreasing. Industrial large-scale clearing of forests for monocrop agriculture such as palm oil and cattle grazing is the main cause of deforestation in this region. In addition, gold mining is causing an ecological disaster, polluting rivers and affecting the local people.

In Borneo and Sumatra, consequences of deforestation are dramatically impacting the local biodiversity and orangutans are one of the many victims. Powerless against human environmental dictatorship, some associations such as the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, laid by Dr Willie Smits, have been fighting on their behalf.

The destruction of the Borneo rainforest may seem a world away from the urban comforts of industrialised civilisation, but raising their awareness about the importance of conservation is a major step towards a better future. Education of young generations is the key and by involving them in the fight, they will make better decision-makers.

The long-term consequences of global deforestation would jeopardise life on Earth as we know it. What makes life sustainable on this planet is the many recycling processes involved. Cutting down trees remove natural fertilisers such as leaves and animal faeces and the consequence is a poorer quality of soil, which is the main cause of desertification. Forest destruction is damaging the ability of the earth to absorb carbon, and damaging these carbon sinks directly contributes to rising temperatures, pollution and erosion.

Many environmental groups such as DeforestAction are heavily involved in the fight against deforestation, and using the power of the web and the media, they develop collaborative projects with schools and young people from all over the planet.

The latest DeforestAction project will involve award-wining Brisbane company, Virgo Productions, to develop a 3D feature documentary and a TV series following ten young change makers in their fight to save orangutans and raise awareness about deforestation.

Fabrice Marre is a citizen of the world. A native of France, a resident of Australia and a global traveller. Fabrice has seen first-hand the destruction of the World's ecosystems. As a satellite mapping specialist, Fabrice has contributed to the 2004 Indonesia tsunami reconstruction effort, has monitored oil spills as well as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest from high above.

He is now aiming for the front line to help correct the damage caused by others:

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

California's Water Supply: Top Fascinating Facts About California Water Consumption and Conversation

aerial photo of the California Aqueduct at the...Image via WikipediaBy Sarah Bernheim

The Californian water supply system is one of the most unique water delivery systems in the world. Not only do individuals depend on fresh water daily, farms, industries, local governments, and other institutions must have ready access to it too. Basic facts that you probably didn't know about California's water system include:

• Water demand in California is highest during summer time when the air is hot and dry.
• On average, over 190 million MAF's (acre-feet) of precipitation falls on California in the form of snow or rain, which predominantly originates in Northern California. To put that into perspective, 326,000 gallons of water constitutes one MAF - or enough to replenish two average-sized families for one year.
• A large portion of it evaporates or is absorbed into the ground.
• What's left of the remaining groundwater goes to freshwater river flows and basins, Delta outflows, and other environmental mandates (47%); irrigation systems (40%); and to the municipality water reserves and various industries (13%).
• Most precipitation in California occurs between October and April.
• California is one of the most susceptible states to water crises in terms of both flooding and drought, the latter being the most common. It is only appropriate that people would have raised awareness of this crisis waiting to happen. A proactive approach would be to instill water saving techniques in each household.
• All-in-all, California employs thousands of rivers, reservoirs, pipelines, and canals to deliver water to its residents and industries. They are a mixture local, state, and the federal initiatives.

Major Water Authorities in California

The Central Valley Project and the State Water Project are two of the largest water suppliers in California. The former is a water delivery system, established in 1950, that pumps over seven million MAF's of water to residents of Sacramento and the rest of the San Joaquin River Delta, as well as portions of the San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.

The State Water Project (SWP) infuses only about half the amount of water as the CVP does, yet it's still a force to be reckoned with. The second-largest CA water project, SWP, delivers enough water - primarily over the 440-mile-long California Aqueduct - to supply over 21 million people and over 750,000 acres of farmland with freshwater.

Finally, the California Aqueduct, the main artery of the CVP, starts its journey at the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant. From there, water is pumped in from the Joaquin River Delta and fed into a series of canals, which lead into various reservoirs, and back into canals that ultimately end near the heart of Los Angeles.

Learn more about Recycled Water and other valuable Water Saving Tips by visiting the website of Central Basin today.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

More Efficient Wind Turbine Plans - Novel Ideas and Blueprints

Wind turbines D4 (nearest) to D1 on the Thornt...Image via WikipediaBy David H Sullivan

The unpredictability and the variability of wind speed and direction is one of the biggest challenges that scientists face in turbine construction. Turbines generally work best and produce maximum amounts of electrical energy in the presence of steady and strong wind flow. But they can be damaged easily with sudden wind bursts, wind shear and turbulent winds. Because of this, the search for suitable turbine models that can answer all these are one of the most pressing issues in the turbine industry.

One of the newest turbine models that show great energy harvesting potential is now being developed by the Syracuse University's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. Their model is an intelligence-based machine that can shift blade angles to different positions, depending on the current wind speed and direction for better airflow control. The shifting of the blades to different angles can maximize the harvesting of mechanical energy and increase over-all efficiency of the system.

This is just one of the many new ideas that scientists are coming up with to improve the wind harvesting potential of wind turbines. In 2007, a new wind turbine blade design was created by people at Sandia National Laboratories. The new blade design aimed to reduce the COE or cost of energy in wind turbines situated at areas with variable or low wind speeds. The invention made wind turbine construction possible even at areas with low wind speeds.

The blade was 27.1 meters long, almost three meters longer than the original design. The length is especially made to improve energy capture, even at low wind speeds. Aside from that, the new blade design was curved towards the trailing tip, allowing it to withstand turbulent and sudden wind gushes and reduce the tension load on the entire length of the blade. This project was actually done hand in hand with the Low Wind Speed Technology Project by Knight and Carver which aims to construct wind turbines and harness wind energy from sites with low but constant wind speeds.

A scientist working in the University of Minnesota also came up with a new turbine blade design that can reduce drag. The resistance brought about by winds beating on the turbine blades are one of the major causes of repairs and replacements. The new design involved the placement of groves along the turbine blades, allowing air to flow more freely along the structure and thus, reducing drag. The grooves are triangular in shape and are only 40 to 225 microns deep, barely visible to the human eye. The design was patterned after the very same grooves placed in Airbus airlines which reduced body drag by 6%. But because airplane wings are a completely different structure compared to wind turbines, drag reduction may just be at a lower 3%, but still a significant figure for wind turbine efficiency.

Another issue in large scale wind turbine construction is the spacing of two or more wind turbines. The issue is on how to arrange wind turbines that will make the most out of the present wind speeds. Scientists have calculated optimal spacing distances for large scale wind farms to optimize energy harvests. According to Charles Meneveau, head researcher at the John Hopkins University, wind turbine spacing should actually be much farther apart than what they are made today.

Rotating turbine blades can create eddies, disrupting wind flow to other wind turbines found downstream. Thus, they should be spaced further apart in such a way that wind disruptions will not affect the efficiency of other wind turbines found nearer the area. Although wind flow is very difficult, if not impossible to simulate in real time, computer generated models and small-scale simulations have brought scientists several steps closer to the real scenario. This discovery can contribute a lot to establishing large scale wind farms, giving them better numbers on how to balance cost and efficiency in wind farm construction.

A team from the University of Alcala and the Complutense University in Madrid has also created models for predicting wind speed and direction in wind farms up to two days in advance. Such data is valuable in positioning wind turbines according to variability in wind speed and direction. Another key to more efficient turbines is correct site selection itself. Recent studies have revealed that the reduction of wind turbulence flowing to wind mill farms can significantly increase the efficiency of wind farms. Now, selecting sites that create this kind of condition is possible and even easier with available meteorological data.

Up until today, scientists, companies and governments are still investing in researches and projects that aim to improve efficiency and optimize harvesting capacity of wind turbines all around the globe.

If you want to learn more about using wind generator plans to build a turbine, there are a few videos you should see on YouTube about diy wind turbine building right here.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bio-Degradeables Gone Bad

A landfill in Poland                                   Image via WikipediaBy Natasha Craig

Most of us think that when we buy something labeled "bio-degradeable" that it will decompose once it has found its way in the landfill, and thus help reduce the amount of trash in the landfills. Unfortunately, this is not true.

When something is considered bio-degradeable, it means that it is capable of being decomposed with the help of environmental agents such as bacteria. Yet, this does not mean it can be discarded anywhere without consequence.

In 2001, a group of researchers from the University of Arizona excavated 21 landfills across the USA and found hundreds of under-decomposed hot dogs, corn-starch and even lettuce dating back to the 1960s! Even worse, they found 2,425 newspapers, all in excellent reading shape, dating back to the '60s as well (the newspapers were used to date the age of the food found!).

So why are bio-degradables not decomposing in the landfills the way we expect them to? Because modern landfills are lined on the bottom with clay and plastic to keep waste from escaping into the soil. Therefore, in the words of a 2007 Slate article, "The landfill, then, acts like a trash tomb - the garbage within receives little air, water or sunlight. This means that even readily degradable waste objects, including paper and food scraps, are more likely to mummify than decompose."

So, what to do with your bio-degradeables? Send them to the local composting outlet, where they will be able to decompose in the way they are designed to with the help of nature's bacteria.

Natasha is the founder of, an online retailer of fashion and bags made from recycled and upcycled materials. Her goal is to change the way we all shop, to make everyone an eco-shopper.

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