Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sources of Energy in Melbourne and Across Victoria

Illustration: Different types of renewable energy.Image via WikipediaBy Amber Nichols

When talking about energy sources in the densely populated city of Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, Australia, it is unfortunate to know that the primary source of electricity for the whole state is brown coal.

Brown coal is among the greatest contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions of the country. It is, sad to say, utilized in about 85 percent of the state's total electricity consumption. However, it is also good to know that chief power suppliers in Australia like Red Energy, TRUenergy and Click Energy generate products from natural gas and renewable power including hydro, wind and solar, in an effort to help sustainability in the region.

The Victorian government, working with the environmental advocacy offices of the national government, has put in place programs to aggressively counter its greenhouse gas emissions and help build a more sustainable environment for its people. Among these are rebates on solar and gas hot water systems; GreenPower; Solar Cities; energy ratings; development of renewable energy sources like bioenergy, geothermal and mini hydro; and many other national and local government initiatives.

With the help of power retailers like AGL, Australian Power & Gas and Red Energy, the government is working towards this goal of developing renewable sources of energy. Having alternatives to its usual types of energy supply would decrease their dependence on brown coal. The renewable energy target for the state was set at 10% by the year 2016. That was in 2006. However, this number was recently increased to 25% by 2020.

While hydro power is the most widely generated and used renewable energy in the whole of Australia, it is scarce in Victoria due to the state's very limited water resource. But the government still has been able to generate hydro power for Victoria with the assistance of power suppliers in Melbourne like Red Energy and AGL. Victoria, instead, concentrates on other prime points of power supply, particularly wind farms and solar power stations.

This state is considered as one of the best homes for wind farms in the country. In about a couple of years from now, Victoria will have an additional capacity of 487 MW on top of its existing 428 MW. This number definitely beats the output of its Anglesea Power Station, which runs on brown coal and emits 1.21 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.

Roof-mounted solar systems are becoming more and more popular in homes and commercial establishments in Victoria in the recent years. By choosing solar power, consumers can get rebates on electricity rates from Red Energy, TRUenergy and other retailers that support the government's sustainable environment programs.

There is a host of other programs that the government and the industry sectors of Melbourne and Victoria are undertaking. All these are being done with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and have a more sustainable environment not just for the state, but for everyone in the world.

Red Energy Australia is part of Snowy Hydro Limited, a chief provider of hydro power in the National Electricity Market. Visit Switchwise to know more about Red Energy electricity rates and its efforts towards a more sustainable Australia.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reintroduction or Conservation Projects?

Welcome signImage by daveynin via FlickrBy Joanna French

There are pros and cons to each, but the ongoing debate of focusing efforts on reintroduction or conservation looks like something that is long going to continue. Here, we briefly consider if conservation organisations, government and non-governmental organisations (NGO's) should financially support reintroduction projects, or if the money could be better spent on other types of conservation projects.

Both reintroduction programmes as well as other types of conservation projects are very important and there is a balance that must be found in terms of resources given to each area. Indeed, reintroduction programmes alone will not remedy the situation that we are currently facing in terms of the ever decreasing numbers of species that live in their natural habitat.

If we first look at reintroduction, it can be seen that there are indeed benefits to reintroduction programmes and thus financial support is vital for them. In some instances, where there are only a few species remaining in their natural habitat, it is a good idea to try to reintroduce. Reintroduction gives species a 'fighting chance' of survival. It can also help preserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Each species has its own role to play in the ecosystem and if some species are 'missing' it can throw the whole system out of balance. This can impact not only on flora and wildlife, but also on the local communities who rely on natural resources. Reintroduction is basically a way of trying to put right what mankind has done.

However, reintroduction cannot be considered in isolation, other types of conservation projects must run alongside any reintroduction projects if they are to prove successful.

An integrated approach should be taken to conservation projects - there is not one approach that can be used as a quick fix to the declining number of species found in their natural habitat. However, there are a number of issues that have an effect on populations and looking at these can then lead on to ways in which to help negate or at least diminish their impact.

One reason that some species are decreasing in number is due to loss of their natural habitat, infringement from logging and other activities, resulting in less area in which to move around and a scarcity of food resources. Deforestation is done for a number of reasons, both for large commercial gain, but also for personal use by often poor rural communities.

There is a great deal of profit that can be made for companies using natural resources, this is mainly down to demand from other countries for the products that are created using these resources. Education is paramount - explaining the consequences of a cheap product on the future of our natural resources may have some impact on the demand for products, however, what we really need is to develop alternatives that can be used; whose production would not have such an impact on the environment.

Education is also important for local communities surrounding these natural areas - they need to learn that there are ways in which they can use these resources, but in a sustainable manner. Also, alternative methods of making a livelihood should be explored.

Ecotourism programmes should also be funded, providing that they are run in the right way, that they are benefiting the country and local community as well as ensuring that the impact on the population and animals is not a negative one.

Money should also be spent on better enforcement of anti-poaching laws - it is too often the case that these laws are lax and are not perceived as a genuine threat by the poachers - the potential rewards are seen to outweigh the risk. If it was harder for poachers, the number of animals taken from the forest for the bushmeat and pet trade would be reduced and thus the numbers remaining in the wild would be greater.

The above are just a handful of initiatives that funding should be applied to. In some cases, programmes are already in place which are starting to make some inroads into these areas, however, there is still a lot that can be done. Whatever happens in the future, it is important to remember that there are a number of parties that have a vested interest and the consequences of any conservation initiatives should be considered across all these parties before being introduced.

Reintroduction projects are vital in attempting to put-right the past mistakes of humans that put in jeopardy the survival of the natural world. However, it is equally important to learn from the past and try to prevent the same mistakes recurring, through the implementation of alternative conservation projects. Ideally, in future this will remove the need for further reintroduction projects.

Joanna French is a conservation scientist, founder of and supporter of conservation and development initiatives across the world. ecoTravel Africa promotes and supports responsible travel to natural areas that helps to conserve the environment and improves the well-being of local people. ecoTravel Africa creates tailor-made itineraries for either self drive, guided or small group travel that allow the traveller to be sure that they are travelling responsibly on any budget, whilst benefiting the environment and communities that they visit.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Carbon Neutral And Carbon Zero Are Not The Same

Verus Carbon Neutral, www.verus-co2.comImage via WikipediaBy J. Mark Dangerfield Ph.D.

An accepted solution to the problem of limiting climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This makes sense because the evidence that greenhouse gases are a key climate driver has strengthened and because emission reduction is both doable and desirable. Carbon neutral and carbon zero are policy and practical frameworks to achieve emission reductions that help motivate our actions.

Carbon zero is just that; no greenhouse gases are released as a result of human activities. The policy seeks zero carbon pollution. Obviously this is tricky to achieve because most of our economic activity requires machinery powered by fossil fuels or electricity generated by coal or gas.

Given that agriculture, land management, transport, electricity generation and manufacturing all release greenhouse gases, an economy with zero emissions is a huge challenge. It is only possible after a serious, technically difficult, and costly transition away from a fossil fuel dependent way of life.

But it does send an interesting message.

Aiming for zero emissions is a commitment to a fundamental shift in the way we do business. It forces a whole of system view on understanding the consequences of manufacturing, production and resource use, not just on emissions but also on other unwanted environmental and social impacts. It is also a big picture view that makes tremendous sense because, even if we put aside the pollution issue, fossil fuels will eventually become scarce. With scarcity will come expense.

Carbon neutral is a different approach. It allows greenhouse gas emissions so long as an equivalent amount can be offset by emission reduction, avoided emissions and/or carbon sequestration somewhere else. You can emit so long as you buy from someone else emissions they have legitimately saved or avoided to balance out yours.

Three ideas are usually adopted to achieve a carbon neutral system.

Idea #1: Be frugal

Turn off the lights, walk to work, recycle paper (and the drinks bottles) ... The list is long of ways to be energy and resource efficient.

In this approach we basically keep doing the same things we have always done; only we are more aware of the energy and resource implications of what we do each day. We remember to close the door so that the air conditioner has to work less.

Most of the scientists and engineers agree that savings of up to 30% are possible if we are more efficient in our use of energy and resources. Although they also agree that there will be a cost to retrofit our buildings and transport systems to achieve this level of reduction across the board.

Awareness that leads to actions for energy efficiency means that we would also slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and, if we get good at it, even reduce emissions in some economies.

But there would still be emissions hence the need for a second idea.

Idea #2: Switch to greener options

Put solar panels on the roof, buy a hybrid car, grow your own veggies using fertilizer generated from the worm farm in the garden ... Plus any number of alternatives to fossil fuel based energy and goods.

This option sees us doing the same things, but in different ways. Essentially we replace our goods and energy supplies that generate greenhouse gas emissions with those that either don't emit or emit much less that the traditional methods.

The switch to greener options requires a change in our consumer behaviour and, for most of us, a change to our lifestyles. It also requires that such options are available for use, and at a price we are prepared to pay. And it requires a period of time for us to get used to these new options and for the greener options to become available.

This idea can certainly reduce emissions and when the technologies mature and uptake is complete, the economy would be far less polluting.

Combine idea #1 with #2 and there is the possibility that emissions would be much reduced but not eradicated. Some activities, such as industrial processes, coal fired power stations, livestock production and the use of nitrogen fertilizer, would still produce emissions. Carbon neutral is achieved with the third idea.

Idea #3: Purchase emission reduction credit

When you have exhausted the capacity of idea #1 and #2 to lower emissions, then pay someone else to reduce them for you. Obviously they cannot come in and stop your actual emissions, so they create emission offsets that you buy.

These are the carbon credits that are bought and sold on local and international markets under emission trading schemes. These credits, each one equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide equivalents (1 t CO2-e), come in many flavours with confusing acronyms. You can buy CERs, tCERS, lCERs, ERUs, VCUs, ACCUs etc, depending on where they come from and what kind of emission reduction, avoided emission or sequestration activity they represent.

These details are for another time. In this story what credits do is allow for carbon neutrality. Those organisations or economies that still emit greenhouses gases even after efforts at efficiency and uptake of green alternatives can buy credits to cancel out what they emit and become carbon neutral.

Now, if it is possible to buy your way to a carbon neutral system, this is very different to creating a zero emissions system. At the extreme you could just carry on with business as usual and then buy a bunch of credits each year to offset all the emissions. It may be costly to do this, but, depending on the credit price, potentially cheaper than changing to greener alternatives.

If the goal is carbon zero you have to remove all the ways that greenhouse gases are released. It is all or nothing, hence the notion that it is aspirational.

In carbon neutral there is an incentive to reduce emissions caused by the pain in the hip pocket, but this is relative. It may be quite acceptable to stay with coal, oil and gas and buy cheap forest offset credits from your neighbour. Look out for this option to be taken up by many developed countries.

The tension between radical system change - carbon zero option - or an overhaul to the current model - the carbon neutral approach - is the crux of an emerging political squabble in Australia.

The left of centre Labour government has decided to settle for a carbon neutral economy cancelling the extra emissions through purchases of offset credits, mostly from overseas. This will mean a purchase of up to 170 million tCO2e every year assuming emissions stay at the projected 2020 levels.

The Australian Greens, who currently hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, want to see a carbon free economy. They favour the carbon zero goal and have a strong commitment to renewable energy that they see will allow, eventually, all the fossil fuel use to be phased out.

At the moment all is well because the targets for emission reduction are modest to avoid unnecessary economic disruption. It will become tense as the targets become more ambitious and the true effect of the two philosophies emerges.

Carbon zero means that we have to change how we do things but with carbon neutral we believe we can pay to get of jail.

J. Mark Dangerfield, PhD is a scientist, consultant and educator with a different take on our environmental challenges. Read more of his work at or grab a copy of his book 'Awkward news for Greenies and everyone else' at

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Monday, August 22, 2011

This Is Getting Exciting: The Climate Movement’s Biggest Civil Disobedience Action Ever is About to Take Washington by Storm

Rights are widely regarded as the basis of law...                                  Image via Wikipediaby Bill McKibben, Yes! Magazine:

This is starting to get exciting.

Five or six of us are hunched around a table in a small Washington office, shouting into phones and pecking away at keyboards as we count down toward the Saturday beginning of what looks like it will be the largest civil disobedience protest in the history of the American environmental movement.

We’ve got 2,000 people signed up to come to Washington and get arrested outside the White House between August 20 and September 3, all in an effort to persuade President Obama not to grant a permit for a new pipeline from the tar sands of Canada.

As momentum builds, we’re hearing from the famous and powerful: the wonderful Bernie Sanders just offered up a blogpost pointing out how many more jobs we’d create if we concentrated on clean energy; and the dynamic actor Mark Ruffalo chipped in a heartfelt video imploring people to head to Washington for the protest.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Geothermal Energy and Its Benefits

Krafla Geothermal Station. Taken in July 2006 ...Image via WikipediaBy Rob S Snyder

Geothermal energy is energy that comes from heat naturally generated inside the earth. Rain water percolates down into the earth where it forms underground pools and subterranean rivers.

When the earth's internal heat (which is conducted through the earth's interior rock formations from magma pockets close to the earth's surface) comes into contact with this water it heats it up, turning it into steam or a very hot brine solution. This heat is used for geothermal power plants and heating systems.

Geothermal heat pumps work in a different way. They rely on the relatively stable ground temperature of the ground directly below the surface of the earth to absorb heat in the summer and supply heat in the winter.

What are the benefits of geothermal energy?


Burning fossil fuels has certainly taken a toll on the environment. Some believe it is the biggest contributor to global warming. Geothermal energy is very clean. It does not emit any significant emissions nor does it consume any fuel. It uses the natural heat that is stored in the earth and cycles it through modern pump technology, giving us a never ending source of energy with virtually no effect on the environment.


The way the geoexchange takes place is healthy, clean and safe. There is no open flame and no venting requirements, which eliminates the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion. The air also does not dry out or have an odor. This type of energy does not rely on outside air so it keeps everything inside buildings free from pollen and all the outside exposures. Finally in regard to health, heat pumps are very quiet and don't have noisy outside compressors.


Like solar energy, after the initial costs of set up, it can mean tremendous savings for the homeowner once the initial investment is recouped. Since it is a 100% renewable energy source it does not require the cost of fossil fuels.


The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have both endorsed this type of technology to heat and cool buildings. It is a great choice for government buildings, high rises, schools and any other type commercial buildings. Maintenance costs are lower as well as operating costs.


A ground source heat pump can be installed in any residential home. They work on any size house.

The operating cost of geothermal energy is fairly low. It is much lower than traditional fossil fuels energy. The initial installation costs can vary depending on what part of the country you are in and how sophisticated of a system you need and how big your house is. The western states and Alaska and Hawaii have lower installation rates than other parts of the country currently.

Welcome to Stream Energy, a Georgia natural gas provider, offers attractive energy rates. Stream Energy will tailor Energy services in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to fit the needs of your business or home. Start Saving Now!

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prevent a Tar Sands Disaster: Why Developing the Tar Sands Has Been Called "The World's Most Destructive Project"

Location of bitumen depoits ("tarsands&qu...                      Location of Tar Sands in Alberta    by Nellis Kennedy-Howard on Yes! magazine:

What does it mean to live in an energy sacrifice zone? For many First Nations of Canada, it means that the land and water your families have lived on for generations is no longer safe.

Nearly every major oil company in the world is participating in making the homelands of indigenous peoples unsafe by investing in the Athabascan tar sands.

In what is called by the Environmental Defense Fund the “world’s most destructive project,” an area the size of Florida is slated for various forms of mining. Locked up in sand, clay, and bitumen, tar sands oil is one of the hardest to mine and refine and is also one of the dirtiest: extracting it creates three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

Mining the tar sands means not only deforestation but also the creation of massive lagoons filled with toxic wastewater. These ponds are leaking 11 million liters of toxic water each day and by 2012 are expected to leak 72 million liters a day.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Future Farmers: Preparing the Land for a Post–Peak Oil Society

by Adam Regn Arvidson, from Landscape Architecture Magazine, July-August 2011, on UTNE Reader: The Best of The Alternative Press, at:

Ben Falk is growing rice in Vermont. In the fall of 2009 he carved two flat paddies into a hillside above the Mad River Valley, then excavated a small pond at the top of the hill. The pond catches rain and meltwater from the upper part of his 10 acres.

Three ducks, which provide eggs and eat the slugs that would otherwise overwhelm his vegetables, often use this pond as their bathroom, so the water is rich in nutrients. It also gets a lot of sun, so it’s warm, like bathwater. A simple garden hose brings the water downslope to the rice paddies, keeping them wet and mucky.

Last July, the rice was bright green, obviously thriving. Falk says he’ll get about 150 pounds of brown rice from these two paddies, enough to take care of the grain needs of a family of four for a year.

He also has berry bushes, fruit trees, vegetables irrigated with rainwater, and natural fences of black locust that can be cut for firewood. Portobello and shiitake mushrooms grow on the downed trees in the woods, and sheep graze just about everywhere, herded from field to field with portable wire fencing.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recognizing the Potential of Wind Energy as a Viable and Profitable Source of Energy Production

A barn and wind turbines in rural Illinois                                   Image via WikipediaBy Cory Sober

Both government and industry are searching for the most efficient environmentally friendly and sustainable methods to generate energy. Society's love affair with cheap power has had far-reaching consequences including the over reliance on fossil fuels which has had negative impacts on climate, habitats, and the lives of millions of people around the world. Though wind turbines have been used in various forms for centuries, there is now a renewed interest in the potential they have for supplying a large amount of energy.

The ability to harness wind energy for power has been attracting a great deal of attention, especially in the US. The United States now produces more wind power than any other nation, and it is predicted that by 2030, around twenty per cent of the nation's supply will be sourced through this technology. In 2009 alone, thirty nine percent more capacity was added by the US wind power industry. This industry holds a lot of promise and a great deal of potential, however there are also obvious problems that this sector faces.

There are two main concerns regarding renewable wind energy as a sustainable source of power production. First of these concerns is sustainability. As everyone knows, the wind does not always blow. For this reason, many governments are unwilling to invest heavily in the latest turbines as there is no guarantee that they will be efficient, especially for countries that rely heavily on the export of their natural resources as their main source of economic growth. Their argument is that there would still be a need to have back up systems in place to cover any periods when there is no breeze.

The second concern is a combination of location and cost of operating a large-scale wind project. Typically, the places where winds blow the most consistently are fairly remote. For example, steady winds are usually located at the top of mountains, out at sea, and across remote plains.

This is a problem that is highlighted in Texas, the country's leading state for producing wind-power. West Texas is where the speeds and gusts are most constant, specifically on the high plains and mesas, but these regions are a considerable distance from Houston and Dallas, and installing the necessary power and utilities are difficult and expensive.

There is a lot of interest in positioning turbines offshore, though this is more expensive than onshore, data indicates that the breeze out at sea is both stronger and more constant than onshore. Offshore wind farms do make it possible to create large-scale wind power facilities close to large coastal settlements, without the need for costly and extensive overland transmission cables. Also, by positioning the turbines at sea, they are not the eyesore that they would be if installed on land.

Cost of repair and maintenance at these locations can also be costly. However, new technology has enabled wind farm operators to assess, detect and repair large wind turbines without extended downtime and exorbitant costs that result in loss of profit.

This means that the positioning of wind farms isn't as much of a problem as curbing the current governmental mindset that fossil fuels are a necessity. The cost of extracting fossil fuels is becoming more expensive on an annual basis, yet the demand from consumers is showing absolutely no sign of decline.

Sustainable power may be the solution that keeps the economy buoyant in the coming decades. With more efficient turbines being constructed on an ongoing basis, the prevalence of wind technology is only going to grow. The real trick is showing both government and consumer that wind energy is cost effective as not only an efficient long-term energy production method, but viable source of revenue.

Cory Sober is the IT Director for UpWind Solutions, a full-service operations and maintenance provider for utility-scale wind turbine companies. He is part of a highly trained team focused on maximizing long-term productivity of wind turbines, and as a result, delivering a higher return on investment for wind energy projects.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tipping Point - Waste As a Resource

The waste hierarchy refers to the "3 Rs&q...Image via WikipediaBy Manik Thapar

Until recently most people in the waste industry had assumed that it was impossible to reduce the amount being produced and were concentrating on putting the stuff to better use. But lately that assumption has been challenged. For one thing, the pace at which the rich world churns out rubbish has been slowing.

Between 1980 and 2000 the amount of waste produced by the OECD countries increased by an average of 2.5% a year. Between 2000 to 2005 the average growth rate slowed to 0.9%. That was just ahead of the rate of population growth (0.7%), but well behind the rate of economic growth (2.2%).

The OECD describes as "a rather strong relative decoupling of municipal waste generation from economic growth", although it express some misgivings about the reliability of the data. The European Union has detected a similar trend in several European countries as has CyclOpe, the research institute.

Reducing the amount of waste being produced makes a great deal of sense, provided it does not cost more, in either environmental or financial terms, than disposing of it in the usual way. Governments hope it might help to trim both green house-gas emissions and waste management costs. But they are not sure how best to encourage it.

Some are trying to persuade consumers to throw away less. The simplest method is to collect the rubbish less often. In areas of Britain where the dustmen come round only every other week, recycling rates are 10% higher then elsewhere.

Another tactis is to make households pay by volume for the rubbish they generate, rather than through a flat fee or through local taxes. Many places in Europe. America and Asia have adopted "pay as you throw" schemes. (in Taiwan, householders even have to chuck their own rubbish into the truck.) About a quarter of Americans live in communities with such programmes. The EPA recksons that they reduce the volume of rubbish by 14-27%, and increase recycling (which usually remains free) by 32-59%.

There are drawbacks. Fly-tipping the illegal dumping of waste-tends to rise slightly as people try to avoid paying. And households generally grumble a lot if they have to pay extra to have their rubbish collected. Some communities have responded by offering rebates to those who throw away less-a more palatable way of packaging the same idea. But most local authorities have simply decided against the idea. When the British government offered them money to experiment with pay-as-you-throw schemes earlier this year, not one signed up.

Businesses are generally seen as a softer target than consumers. It can be argued that manufacturers bear some responsibility for the amount of waste rich countries produce. They often have an incentive to reduce waste anyway, since most already pay for disposal by volume. There is even a name for the steady reduction in materials used to make the same goods: "light-weighting". It is not only electronic gadgets that have become smaller and lighter over the years even as their performance has improved but many other things too, from cars to plastic bags.

The average aluminium drink can is only half as thick as it was in 1960s, according to Molson Coors, the firm that introduced this type of container in 1959. Its American subsidiary has reduced the weight of its cans by 7% in the past five years alone. That means savings not only on the metal itself but also on transport and even cooling: thinner cans chill faster.

Officials in the EU, in particular, are keen to hurry lightweighting along. WRAP, the British agency charged with reducing waste, is trying to promote it for various sorts of packaging. It funded trails of a lightweight pull-tab lid for food tins, which believes could save 15,000 tonnes of steel each year in Britain alone. Heinz, a giant food manufacturer which took part in the trial, hopes that adopting the new lids will save it 400,000 a year. WRAP has conducted similar tests of thinner glass and plastic bottles, with equally promising results.

WRAP also cajoled Britain's biggest supermarkets and food suppliers into signing a voluntary agreement to halt the growth in packaging by last year and start reducing it from 2010. Last July it announced that the initial target had been met, despite a 1.8% rise in sales. Some firms are going much further: in 2007 Tesco pledged to reduce its packaging by a quarter by 2010.

In theory, consumers could steer firms towards waste reduction by buying products that are easy to recycle, say, or have only minimal packaging. To some extent this is happening. Tesco's Alasdair James says British consumers rank the environment as their third priority after price and convenience. But many governments are trying to give greenery an extra push with compulsory waste-reduction schemes. Some levy fees on certain products, akin to bottle deposits, to ensure they are disposed off safely.

Thirty-six states in America, for example, charge for the disposal of tyres. The states spend the money on clean up programmes or pay others to run such programmes. Many of the tyres are blended into road surface or burned in cement kilns. Several other states have "advance recovery fees" for computer motors and televisions. So have Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, among others, and China is working on a scheme.

The problem with fee programmes is that all goods in a category are subject to the same charge, whether they are easy or hard to get rid of. That gives manufacturers no incentive to build easy disposal into the design of product.

One answer is to ban certain substances outright, thereby eliminating the need to dispose of them later. A number of places, from San Francisco to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, have banned or severely restricted the use of plastic bags. The EU barred the use of several heavy metals and flame retardants in electronic goods in 2006 and recently proposed expanding the scheme. Several American states were so impressed that they have copied the EU's rules.

Manik Thapar (MBA)

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Time to Save on Business Energy Use

NORCO, Calif. (Aug. 9, 2010) A construction wo...Installation of new energy-efficient windows - Image via WikipediaBy Graeme Knights

The rising cost of energy is forcing every business owner to look for ways to slash energy use. Energy bills that were insignificant a decade ago are now straining pocketbooks. Even the most radical changes are starting to look plausible if they will lower the monthly utility bill.

Saving energy is good for both the wallet and the environment - every bit of energy saved means less greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere. Luckily, there are a number of easy and painless ways business owners can reduce energy use.

Raise the Thermostat in Summer and Lower It in Winter

Changing the set point on the thermostat by as little as one degree can lower the average utility bill by as must as eight percent. Most people can adapt to a thermostat change of as much as five degrees.

Turn Office Equipment Off

Computers, monitors, photocopiers and the like use a lot of power. Turning them off at night and on the weekends can save a significant amount of power.

Install Energy Efficient Lighting and Motion Sensors

Some energy efficient bulbs use as little as 10 percent of the energy the old incandescent bulbs consume. The payback time for switching to compact fluorescents or LEDs can be as little as two months. Energy efficient bulbs also last longer. Motion sensors will automatically turn lights on and off when people enter the room, which will reduce energy use even further.

Use Natural Lighting

Artificial lights use up a lot of energy. Remove curtains and blinds to take advantage of any windows or skylights in the building. Cleaning the windows on a regular basis will also increase the light they provide.

Buy Energy Efficient Equipment

New equipment is much more efficient than older models. Be sure to buy the most energy efficient unit the budget will allow when it is time to replace a piece of equipment. This will save on business electricity no end.

Weatherproof the Office

A lot of energy is lost due to air leaks. Check the weather stripping around all doors and windows. A can of caulk can often do as much to reduce energy use as a truckload of insulation. Light switches and electrical outlets are another major source of air leaks. These can be plugged by putting foam gaskets behind the plates.

Insulate the Ducts and Pipes

Air loses or gains heat, depending on its temperature, as it travels through the ducts in the HVAC system. The same thing happens when hot water travels from the heater to a sink. Both events cause energy use to increase. An easy way to stop this is to insulate the pipes and ductwork with foam or fiberglass insulation.

Graeme is writing on behalf of Haven Power - Business Electricity Suppliers and Business Electricity

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Global Warming's Effects on Humankind

Global mean surface temperature difference rel...Image via WikipediaBy Daniel Lanback

Global warming is something that we all should be aware of. It is something that we should be concerned of. It is the reason why the world that we are living in is changing in a negative way. In addition, if we do not do something about it, it will get worse and worse until the time comes that we can no longer fight it. Time will come that the damage that it made will be irreversible and all hope will be lost.

However, rejoice for today, we still can do something about it. However, how can we understand and be motivated if we do not know anything about it. Do not worry; we are here to explain to you some of the effects of global warming. We hope that through understanding, you would come to realize the urgency of the problem.

Effect number one

Have you noticed the weather lately? Have you noticed the freaky change on the weather patterns? You are right; these are the effects of global warming.

Effect number two

The global rise in the temperature causes the polar ice caps and iced-covered continents to melt. It then becomes water and then it is dumped on the ocean. This significantly raises the sea level, flooding low-lying coastal areas.

Effect number three

Lands are turned to deserts because of the extreme heat. We have seen it so long ago in Africa, but now Asia, Europe and the United States is experiencing it. The warm climate makes the land drier, which makes it impossible for people to produce food. Food is what keeps us going and if we are no longer capable of producing it, we will die.

Effect number four

On the good side, global warming gave birth to new industries. All of these industries have the sole purpose of creating solutions for the different problems brought to by this phenomenon. It is a good sign that people are finding ways to fight it. Let us face it; it is here already and let us find ways to fight it.

These are some of the effects of global warming that we are all experiencing right now. Although there are many people who deny its existence, all we can say is to let the obvious speak for itself. We cannot deny the fact when it is starting at us on the face. We clearly can see and feel the effects manifesting. Let us stop denying the obvious and start finding ways to counter it. Join the campaign and stop global warming.

Interested in knowing more about the effects of global warming?
More information about global warming on

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

INTERVIEW: Go Vegan or Go Home - Where others see gray, animal advocate Gary Francione sees black and white

Gary Francione argues that PETA are "new ...Gary Francione - Image via WikipediaHi all,

Below is an interview with Gary Francione, Deb Olin Unferth, from The Believer, brought to you by UTNE Reader, The Best of The Alternative Press:

Gary Francione is the most controversial figure in the modern animal rights movement.

In the 1980s he was an indefatigable and high-powered young attorney who worked on prominent animal rights court cases with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

In the early 1990s he broke from PETA and from the organized movement, and in 1996 he wrote the controversial book Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, an incisive critique and re-envisioning of the movement.

Francione’s theory is described as the abolitionist approach. He maintains that we cannot morally justify using animals as human resources, and that we should abolish animal use.

He opposes efforts to reform or regulate animal use, arguing that they will necessarily provide limited protection to animal interests, because of the status of animals as property.

Francione is a professor of law at Rutgers University and the author of six books, most recently The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? from Columbia University Press.

Most animal advocates encourage people to become vegetarians, yet you feel that promoting vegetarianism is a step in the wrong direction for reducing animal exploitation. Why?

There is absolutely no morally defensible distinction between flesh and other animal products, such as milk or cheese. Animals used in the dairy industry usually live longer than and are treated as badly as, if not worse than, their meat counterparts, and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse anyway. The meat and dairy industries are inextricably intertwined.

As far as I am concerned, there is more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak, though I would not consume either. Vegetarianism as a moral position is no more coherent than saying that you think it morally wrong to eat meat from a spotted cow but not morally wrong to eat meat from a non-spotted cow.

We do not need any animal products for health purposes, and animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. The best justification that we have for killing billions of animals every year is that they taste good. That simply cannot suffice as a moral justification.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Genetic Techniques Being Developed for Parrot Conservation in Tambopata

Scarlet Macaw in Yucatan, Mexico.                                   Image via WikipediaBy Danielle Krautmann

Parrot species tend to be as endangered as they are charismatic. Threats such as habitat destruction and the capture of wild birds for the pet trade have resulted in nearly 30% of neotropical parrot species being threatened with extinction.

Major challenges to reversing this unfortunate trend include:

- Low reproductive rates of many macaws, parrots, and parakeets
- Not knowing how many birds are needed to maintain viable populations
- Information is also needed regarding the susceptibility of macaws and other parrot species to forest fragmentation.

This latter concern has become particularly relevant for the Tambopata region because of the Interoceanic Highway. This new road abuts the northern edge of Tambopata and could result in higher levels of deforestation as it becomes an increasingly important conduit between Brazil and the Pacific coast.

George Olah hopes to develop genetic techniques that can assess population size of Scarlet Macaws in Tambopata, their movements, and the extent to which they are affected by forest fragmentation.

He does this by:

- Using capture - recapture sampling on DNA extracted from blood and feather samples
- Using genetic variability to estimate population size
- Using genetic tagging to estimate territorial needs

Capture - recapture sampling works like this: imagine you are in a small town, and you start jotting down license plates. It will not be too long before you come across the same license plates. Based on how frequently you come across the same license plates, you can estimate the total size of the license plate "population", by way of statistics. The same is true of genes in DNA. Think of selected genes as license plates.

Genetic variability is another important aspect of this study. Large variability means a population is either very large, very diverse or both. The more diversity, the healthier it will be, and the least susceptible to inbreeding.
This doctoral student from the Australian National University is collecting Red-and-green Macaw and Scarlet Macaw feathers at clay licks and nests near our lodges for a genetic study that will hopefully provide the answers to:

- Determine the minimum territory required for genetically sustainable macaw populations
- Monitor the health of macaw populations over time in Tambopata
- Use similar techniques to conserve parrots in other parts of the world

We are happy to have George carry out this important project at the Tambopata Research Center and are pleased that guests staying at the Tambopata Research Center between the months of November and April in 2011 and 2012 will have the chance to speak with him in person about this ongoing study.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sustainable Living - Is It Possible?

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

One of the most interesting times in any era is the turn of a century. You remember Y2K? We had all the worry about our computer systems shutting down and the world faced with technical chaos. Of course it didn't happen. Question is, did the rumoured collapse not happen because we circumvented it or was there no difficulty in the first place? Interesting at the time and in retrospect perhaps still is interesting but it doesn't come close to the real interesting time in this era.

Imagine, the Mayan calendar runs out in this decade, or close to it. Nostradamus predicted drastic events in the early years of this century and the soothsayers of our time are saying some natural catastrophe is going to befall us that will have an everlasting effect upon the world. Can it all be just fiction?

Then I remembered Chernobyl, Sri Lanka tsunami and the Japanese gallant fight against the sea and the possible melt down of their nuclear reactors. Where once there was a tornado or two there are now 900 a season not a hot skip and jump from where I live in North America. Floods, once rare are now common place and power outages are the normal result of our winters and sometimes new summer heat waves.

When I first read about sustainable living I was surprised to note it was far more common than I imagined. My neighbour brought his new sustainable system to my attention that impressed me so much that after very little consideration I began to implement some of his efforts into my own home and yard.

The first consideration was power, the second was water and the third waste disposal. Solar panels on two rigs were installed along with the storage system and cut in from the electrical panel. The plan was to use the new system as an emergency back system but further thought brought the idea of spreading a 12 volt system throughout the house for lights, technical equipment and entertainment media that provide their own adapters to reduce the power usage. Our home was built on an incline which made developing a Thermal System much easier than normal. By altering the South facing windows we were able to create a natural heating and cooling system within the design of the home.

Pleased with the results to date, my wife and I developed a retail outlet at roadside to sell the produce I expected to produce from the garden spots around the yard. We planted over 350 trees, numerous bushes and perennials; attractive appearance being part of the equation. Whenever possible we included fruit trees in the mix along with berry bushes.

Our small garden spots were ideal for tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, lettuce, onions, beans, various herbs. All are growing magnificently, irrigated regularly and facing the future in moveable pots. A suitable sized shed related to the number of pots you use is an excellent idea.

When selling the overproduction of produce or when operating a produce business it is wise to make use of all the local markets you can find. Lack of shipping costs reduces your expenses. Packaging becomes a minor expense by utilizing reusable containers.

A storage area for vegetables in the form of a root cellar is a great idea for protecting your winter usage and is a perfect system when added to refrigerated units set to minimum use for longer term items. The power you need to operate ancillary equipment is calculated when finalizing the overall design.

Water supply for all uses is crucial. Rain water is free. Collecting rain water can be a passive effect of the design and a simple irrigation method can cover a one acre site. Larger areas however, will require a more sophisticated method of irrigation and is covered in the commercial designs. A pond is a recommended addition if there is no natural collection or flow of water on the site. Finding a natural water source is an ideal factor.

When completed we were ready to maximise the many uses presented and make appropriate changes to our designs. Working with Earthworks, a Canadian company specializing in the production of eco - friendly designs and currently producing an Eco Village on 72 Acres in Central Ontario has given us a much wider scope when turning experience into improvements. You can visit our site, for photo's and additional information.

John David Morton
Author: 6 screenplays, 3 non-fiction works, 1 Novel and numerous articles
Hypnotherapist/life coach.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Carbon Nation – the Movie – Now on DVD and Recommended

The Green FutureThe Green Future - Image by Gilderic (Recovering) via Flickrby Glen Hiemstra, on the Futurist blog:

Carbon Nation is now available on DVD and on most download and On Demand sites. This important, entertaining and hopeful documentary, produced by Peter Byck, is highly recommended by us here at Read the press release here. Learn how to order the film here.

I saw Carbon Nation this spring when Boeing sponsored a premier here in Seattle, and we blogged at that time that it would be come the “new must see film on our common future.” In the movie Peter travels throughout the country documenting amazing stories of individuals and companies who are creating the next clean and low-carbon energy future. If you see climate change as a problem, or if you don’t but would like cleaner and cheaper energy anyway, this film tells you how it can be done, and is already being done.

We encourage you to buy the DVD, and what we are really recommending is that companies, educational institutions, and conference events consider a bulk purchase of DVD’s for use as a premium, an educational asset, or strategic planning tool. Carbon Nation would be terrific for any of those uses, and I have already begun talking with one speaking event I am doing about the possibility of a purchase and give-away of the DVD to those in attendance.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Revealing Mosanto's Secret

Detection of genetically modified organismsImage via Wikipediaby Ronnie Cummins, International Director of the Organic Consumers Association on Before It's News:

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it" - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994.

After two decades of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered (GE) foods to animals and humans - aided and abetted by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations - it's time to move beyond defensive measures and go on the offensive.

With organic farming, climate stability, and public health under the gun of the gene engineers and their partners in crime, it's time to do more than complain. With over 1/3 of U.S. cropland already contaminated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), with mounting scientific evidence that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects, and serious food allergies and with new biotech mutants like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops, and genetically engineered trees and animals in the pipeline time is running out.

Living in Monsanto Nation there can be no such thing as "coexistence." It is impossible to coexist with a reckless industry that endangers public health, bribes public officials, corrupts scientists, manipulates the media, destroys biodiversity, kills the soil, pollutes the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically enslaves the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. It's time to take down the Biotech Behemoth, before the living web of biodiversity is terminated.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CASE STUDY: Is the UK Heading for an Energy Crisis?

UK energy-related grapicImage via WikipediaBy Louise Goldstein

Dark days are coming to the UK - so the experts say. Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) chief executive Alistair Buchanan said, "For the next two or three years, there is plentiful reserves, but the problem is the speed with which the situation could deteriorate."

He also said, "In our early warning system of 20 traffic lights, eight are now on red."

Simon Skillings, director of strategy and energy policy at Eon UK, agrees. He stated, "The idea of lights going out is not a fantasy. People seem to accept that security of energy supply is a right. It is not."

The cost of energy

A large amount of money is needed in order to keep the Britain's homes well lit at night. A staggering 200 billion pounds is needed to establish new power plants and gas stations to replace the worn-out ones. Nuclear plants, still the most controversial source of energy, are ageing and it is still a question whether they ought to be replaced.

At the same time, the demand for energy is growing ever higher, and the local supply could accommodate it no longer, especially as the North Sea's production of oil and gas dwindles.

Due to this particular development, it is foreseen that the UK will need to import 80-90% of its gas needs by 2020.

This disproportion of demand to supply naturally means an increase in the price of power, sending unaffordable bills to households - bills that could force families to ration their use of electricity and dine in darkness.

Adjusting the demand

In fact, Scottish and Southern Energy has reported seeing signs that some of their customers are already rationing their power use to save money. There has been a drop in gas consumption over the past years.

While this is as good sign the UK residents are becoming more aware of the importance of resource management and allocation, one has to ask how far this measure can go, and how long can it keep the crisis at bay.

Alternative sources of energy must be considered - alternatives such as wind, geothermal, and even nuclear.
Ofgem has also suggested that it's time we moved away from privatized energy markets and give the government more control.

Scottish economist Andrew Bain even goes so far as to say he thinks "it's a terrible mistake to rule out nuclear, because it's probably going to be the cheapest option."

Investing in renewables

After the recent Japan nuclear leak incident, however, one has to wonder again whether the benefits of nuclear energy is truly greater than its risks.

So far, the best solution we have right in front of us is investing in renewable energy that can be created in our own soil, our own backyard, in fact. Companies such as British Gas have already put programs such as Energyshare to encourage and assist UK residents to use renewable energy.

In our own little way, there is something we can do to help avert the energy crisis and save a bunch of cash in the process. Let's do what we can now, by investing in renewable energy.

British Gas boilers and central heating information.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How Bees Find a New Home

Description: The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mel...                                 Image via Wikipediaby Keith Goetzman on UTNE Reader - The Best of the Alternative Press:

How do honeybees find a new home? In the same way they do most everything: Through a highly regimented, hierarchical yet democratic process - with dancing!

Yes, a variation on the “waggle dance” that scout bees use to communicate food finds is also employed when bees go real estate shopping, writes biologist, professor, and bee watcher par excellence Thomas D. Seeley in “Honeybee House Hunting” in Northern Woodlands magazine.

A “search committee” is also involved, reports Seeley, as well as a lobbying and voting process that looks a lot like a political race. Once a scout has found a house site, she recruits supporters among fellow scouts and uses a waggle dance to tell them where it is, so they can take their own home tours. Meanwhile, writes Seeley,

"Other scouts that have found other potential nesting sites will be vigorously advertising their proposals as well, so the uncommitted scouts are being actively recruited to various camps. All this makes the surface of the swarm look at first like a riotous dance party, but eventually the scouts choose a winner".

"They do so in a most ingenious way. It works much like a political election, for there are multiple candidates (nest sites), competing advertisements for the different candidates (waggle dances), individuals who are committed to one or another candidate (scouts supporting a site), and a pool of undecided voters (scouts not yet committed to a site)".

"At times, supporters for a site can become apathetic and rejoin the pool of undecided voters. The election’s outcome is biased strongly in favor of the best site because this site’s supporters produce the strongest dance advertisements and thus gain supporters the most rapidly, and because the best site’s supporters will revert to neutral-voter status the most slowly. Ultimately, the bees supporting one of the sites build up a large majority and return to the swarm cluster to initiate the swarm’s move".

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Can We Conserve Our Forests?

Will forests, like this one on San Juan Island...Image via WikipediaBy Wendy Moyer

Forests are mostly celebrated for their timber, fodder, fuel wood and other non-timber forest products that they provide. What is not universally appreciated is just how much forests contribute to crucial ecosystem services.

Forests are indispensable as far as protecting watersheds that are upstream and separating carbon from the atmosphere is concerned. And they must continue intact in order to conserve gene pools and guarantee biodiversity so that future generations will be able to enjoy nature's bounty and beauty.

Forest environmental services include nutrient recycling, the regulation of the climate and the water cycle, soil formation, and plant pollination.

There is an ever growing demand for the goods that forests provide mankind. That's quite obvious. What's not as obvious or as widely recognized is that there is an increased need for the services that forests provide to our ecosystem.

One of the reasons is that society at large has not assigned any financial terms or financial measures to these values. As a result, forest environmental services are usually not included in our national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) statistics. In addition, there are not many established, well developed markets for such services.

Luckily, things are beginning to change.

Our culture is becoming more aware of how we really need to pay more than lip service to these services. Many people are beginning to realize that we need to place a value on these services in order to make better decisions involving land use changes in our nation's forests.

As a result, decisions will be based on the true long term values that our forests offer instead of just the potential short term profits from the tangible goods that they provide.

In addition, there's an urgent need to cultivate the appropriate mechanisms, which may or may not be market based, that will facilitate the standardization of these approaches. What has to be done is to formulate a methodology that will offer direct incentives to institutions and communities that actively protect our forests and provide these services.

Amply demonstrating the entire range of the ecosystem and the potential economic benefits are only part of the equation.

Another part is discerning applicable methods to equitably capture the aforementioned values and benefits that our forests provide over the long term. Once this is accomplished various incentives for the private sector, local and national governments, and local communities that focus on promoting sustainable forest management can then be put into place.

It is of the utmost importance that responsible citizens who are truly interested in conserving what our forests have to offer are the people who are given the responsibility for formulating these criteria. That's because, as has been proven time and time again, economic instruments can be designed to either benefit or to undermine conservation efforts.

Next, to find out about Online Environmental Courses go to

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