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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

High Toxicity!

A recently released study by the U.S. Geological Society has found that private wells are more likely to contain unsafe levels of trace elements, including arsenic, manganese, radon and uranium. Exposures to these elements in high levels have been known to cause serious health problems. These can range from cancer to kidney disease, affecting child intellectual development and symptoms that mirror Parkinson’s disease.
There is no one cause of these elevated levels of elements in well water. Some of the elements occur naturally and enter the water system through natural processes; however, the water from private wells in urban areas more often had levels of trace elements that surpassed human health benchmarks, levels where chemical concentrations become dangerous.  
Of the private wells studied, one fifth showed levels of one or more trace elements that exceeded human health benchmarks. The public wells that were tested were deemed safe, due to the EPA regulation of contamination levels. “In public wells these contaminants are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and contaminants are removed from the water before people drink it. However, trace elements could be present in water from private wells at levels that are considered to pose a risk to human health, because they aren’t subject to regulations. In many cases, people might not even know they have an issue,” said USGS Hydrologist and lead author on the study Joe Ayotte. The public wells are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act through EPA regulations on drinking water quality.
Read on:  http://p1n.in/tMO

Harnessing the Power of Wind

The International Clean Energy Analysis (ICEA) gateway estimates that the U.S. possesses 2.2 million km2 of high wind potential (Class 3-7 winds) — about 850,000 square miles of land that could yield high levels of wind energy. This makes the U.S. something of a Saudi Arabia for wind energy, ranked third in the world for total wind energy potential.
Let's say we developed just 20 percent of those wind resources — 170,000 square miles (440,000 km2) or an area roughly 1/4 the size of Alaska — we could produce a whopping 8.7 billion megawatt hours of electricity each year (based on a theoretical conversion of six 1.5 MW turbines per km2 and an average output of 25 percent. (1.5 MW x 365 days x 24 hrs x 25% = 3,285 MWh's).
The United States uses about 26.6 billion MWh's, so at the above rate we could satisfy a full one-third of our total annual energy needs. (Of course, this assumes the concurrent deployment of a nationwide Smart Grid that could store and disburse the variable sources of wind power as needed using a variety of technologies — gas or coal peaking, utility scale storage via batteries or fly-wheels, etc).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Work Green, Live Clean

That's what they're trying to find out in Seattle, where groundbreaking began Monday on a six-story building billed as the greenest commercial building on earth. The Bullitt Center — which eventually will use only its own rainwater, generate its own power and compost its own sewage — is the first big office building designed to carry its own environmental weight.

Green construction has become a mantra in cities all over the world, but nowhere has it been embraced more enthusiastically than in the Pacific Northwest, where mayors ride bikes to work, the Sierra Club dominates local politics and green energy is seen as a potential new job engine, as jet airplanes, coffee and software once were.

Both Portland and Vancouver have been in the running to construct some of the first buildings to meet "living building" standards, generating as much power as they consume, processing their own waste water, constructing with toxin-free materials, obtaining lumber from sustainably harvested forests and sourcing products locally to minimize fuel use during shipping.

Continued: http://p1n.in/tM7

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The earthian update!

Here's an update from the earthian awards. If you have any queries, feel free to post it as a comment on this blogpost or you can even post a comment on our Facebook page:

  • Registrations are going to close soon. The last date for submission of brief is the 31st of August. For registering your brief click here: http://p1n.in/Rgstr 
  • For a better idea on the format that you should adopt for your project, here is a sample brief: http://p1n.in/SmBr1
  • Follow us on Twitter for more updates: http://twitter.com/theearthian
  • Like our fan page on Facebook to get interesting updates: http://p1n.in/ertfb 
  • Don't forget to check out our website for all the details on the earthian awards: http://p1n.in/erthn 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Are food prices approaching a violent tipping point?

Seeking simple explanations for the Arab spring uprisings that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, is clearly foolish amidst entangled issues of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and water stress. But asking "why precisely now?" is less daft, and a provocative new study proposes an answer: soaring food prices.
Furthermore, it suggests there is a specific food price level above which riots and unrest become far more likely. That figure is 210 on the UN FAO's price index: the index is currently at 234, due to the most recent spike in prices which started in the middle of 2010.
Lastly, the researchers argue that current underlying food price trends - excluding the spikes - mean the index will be permanently over the 210 threshold within a year or two. The paper concludes: "The current [food price] problem transcends the specific national political crises to represent a global concern about vulnerable populations and social order." Big trouble, in other words.
Now, those are some pretty big statements and I should state right now that this research, by a team at the New England Complex Systems Institute, has not yet been peer reviewed. It has been published because, Yaneer Bar-Yam, NECSI president, told me, the work is relevant now but peer review is slow.
The first part of the research is straightforward enough: plotting riots identified as over food against the food price index. The correlation is striking, but is it evidence of causation?

This article is by Damian Carrington. To continue reading: http://p1n.in/tLW

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Inefficacy of DDT

Resistance has greatly reduced DDT's effectiveness. WHO guidelines require that absence of resistance must be confirmed before using the chemical. Resistance is largely due to agricultural use, in much greater quantities than required for disease prevention. According to one study that attempted to quantify the lives saved by banning agricultural use and thereby slowing the spread of resistance, "it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria."

Resistance was noted early in spray campaigns. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that "resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years." DDT has lost much of its effectiveness in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Turkey and Central America, and it has largely been replaced by organophosphate or carbamate insecticides, e.g. malathion or bendiocarb.

In many parts of India, DDT has also largely lost its effectiveness. Agricultural uses were banned in 1989, and its anti-malarial use has been declining. Urban use has halted completely. Nevertheless, DDT is still manufactured and used, and one study had concluded that "DDT is still a viable insecticide in indoor residual spraying owing to its effectivity in well supervised spray operation and high excito-repellency factor."

Studies of malaria-vector mosquitoes in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa found susceptibility to 4% DDT (the WHO susceptibility standard), in 63% of the samples, compared to the average of 86.5% in the same species caught in the open. The authors concluded that "Finding DDT resistance in the vector An. arabiensis, close to the area where we previously reported pyrethroid-resistance in the vector An. funestus Giles, indicates an urgent need to develop a strategy of insecticide resistance management for the malaria control programmes of southern Africa."

DDT can still be effective against resistant mosquitoes, and the avoidance of DDT-sprayed walls by mosquitoes is an additional benefit of the chemical. For example, a 2007 study reported that resistant mosquitoes avoided treated huts. The researchers argued that DDT was the best pesticide for use in IRS (even though it did not afford the most protection from mosquitoes out of the three test chemicals) because the others pesticides worked primarily by killing or irritating mosquitoes—encouraging the development of resistance to these agents. Others argue that the avoidance behavior slows the eradication of the disease. Unlike other insecticides such as pyrethroids, DDT requires long exposure to accumulate a lethal dose; however its irritant property shortens contact periods. "For these reasons, when comparisons have been made, better malaria control has generally been achieved with pyrethroids than with DDT." In India, with its outdoor sleeping habits and frequent night duties, "the excito-repellent effect of DDT, often reported useful in other countries, actually promotes outdoor transmission."

Godzilla & King Kong Didn't Make It!

The largest organism found on Earth can be measured using a variety of methods. It could be defined as the largest by volume, mass, height or length. Some organisms group together to form a superorganism, though this cannot truly be classed as one large organism. (The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, stretching 2,000 km, is a collection of many organisms.)
The Aspen tree (Populus tremuloides) forms large stands of genetically identical trees (technically, stems) connected by a single underground root system. These trees form through root sprouts coming off an original parent tree, though the root system may not remain a single unit in all specimens. The largest known fully connected Aspen is a grove in Utah nicknamed Pando, and some experts call it the largest organism in the world, by mass or volume. It covers 0.43 km2 (106 acres) and is estimated to weigh 6,600 short tons (6,000 t).
A giant fungus of the species Armillaria solidipes (honey mushrooms) in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon was found to span 8.9 km2 (2,200 acres), which would make it the largest organism by area. Whether or not this is an actual individual organism, however, is disputed: some tests have indicated that they have the same genetic makeup, but unless its mycelia are fully connected, it is a clonal colony of numerous smaller individuals. Another clonal colony that rivals the Armillaria and the Populus colonies in size is a strand of the giant marine plant, Posidonia oceanica, discovered in the Mediterranean near the Balearic Islands. It covers a band roughly 8 km (5.0 mi) in length.
The world's largest single stem tree, by volume, is the General Sherman tree, a Giant Sequoia with a volume of 1,487 m3 (52,500 cu ft). This tree stands 83.8 m (275 ft) tall and the trunk alone is estimated to weigh over 2,000 short tons (1,800 t). The largest single-stem tree ever measured was the Lindsey creek tree, a Coast Redwood with a minimum trunk volume of over 2,500 m3 (88,000 cu ft) and a mass of over 3,600 short tons (3,300 t). It fell over during a storm in 1905.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Is Junk Food Healthy?

According to Wikipedia, junk food is a term describing food that is perceived to be unhealthy or having poor nutritional value, according to Food Standards Agency. The term is believed to have been coined by Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1972. The term has since become common usage.
Junk Food includes those food items that do not add any value to a person’s diet. Here, value denotes essential nutrients, vitamins & minerals. Street food and fast food are also taken in the same context as junk.
When we speak of street food, the fact that it’s cooked in unhealthy conditions makes it more unhealthy than the same food made at home. Coming to the latter, fast food is the kind of food item which can be made & served quickly. According to Wikipedia, any meal with relatively low preparation time can be considered fast food. So, what exactly is junk food? Irrespective of where junk food is made, it is on the basis of how much value it contains in terms of nutrients that we get to decide what junk food is. More over, junk food, apart from adding up empty calories, also causes harm to the eater.
The biggest irony regarding junk food is the fact that it’s mostly prepared out of healthy food. In many items coming within the periphery of the term, vegetables are used as the main ingredients. Consider a pizza loaded with a thick vegetable topping. Who would refute the nutrients provided by the thick veggie topping? Now, the junk factor of pizza comes from the cheese sprinkled over the vegetables. Even though cheese is good for health, an excess of it is not recommended. And of course, the pizza base, made out of refined flour, does contain empty calories. Now, the burger, which is a favourite of a majority of junkies, contains a loaf of meat & vegetables like lettuce, cabbage & tomato, sandwiched between two buns. Although meat is known to be rich in protein, what makes the burger junk is the refined flour that’s used to make the buns, and the oodles of mayonnaise & butter added to the filling so that the 3 layers stick to one another, even while eating.

Continued: http://p1n.in/tL3

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Brief Overview Of The Themes

The themes for the earthian awards:
The earthian program invites papers on suggestions, thoughts, approaches and possible solutions on nine key challenges/themes:
  1. Climate Change.
  2. Cities and Communities.
  3. Our Home.
  4. Water.
  5. Production and Consumption.
  6. Biodiversity.
  7. Agriculture.
  8. Role of Information and Communication Technology.
  9. Role of Policies, Regulations.
Selection of themes for a paper
You can apply across any of the themes. Each application can be related to one core theme and up to two additional themes.
Schools (standards 9-12): You can apply across any of the themes. Each application can also be related to 1 core theme and up to 2 additional themes. The 5 best entries will be selected across all themes.
College (all levels above standard 12, including Diploma, Graduate, Post Graduate programs etc.): You can apply across any of the themes. Each application can also be related to 1 core theme and up to 2 additional themes. The 5 best entries will be selected across all themes.

What are we looking for?
The themes are diverse and wide ranging. The awards program is a first step in this long journey. For details, check the Rules and Registration/Submission sections. We would be interested to understand how your approach and solution covers the following aspects:
  1. How wide ranging and deep will the impact of the solution be?
  2. How innovative is the idea, especially in the Indian context where contextualizing is important (low cost, social barriers, cultural nuances for example) ?
  3. How complete is the understanding of the problem? Since sustainability is multi-dimensional, are the contours of the problem understood and defined in their entirety?
  4. How practical and easy will it to be implement the recommendations?
  5. How can we use the medium of arts (literature, drama, music etc) and culture to influence public behavior?
We believe the program will increase awareness of these issues and help catalyze sustainability thinking in our education institutions. Wipro will connect able, capable and willing institutions to a wider ecosystem of like minded organizations and initiatives in India and abroad to implement some of the ideas.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Green City: Victoria, Canada

Victoria's eco-achievements might not be as impressive as Malmo's or Masdar's eco developments, but still, the city deserves a mention here. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia in Canada, has committed itself to implementing innovative eco solutions that are to be reflected in such areas as public transportation, green building, energy saving projects, recycling systems and waste reduction programs.
Firstly, Victoria has green principles for city planning. It supports the development of a Civic Green Building Policy. The scheme requires all new construction of civic facilities to be the so called LEED Silver standard, i.e., to put it simply, cut energy usage by 31% and water usage by 22%.
Secondly, for several years now, Victoria has been implementing the waste reduction program with the aim of reducing and recycling as many organic materials as possible.
Victoria has hoped to be carbon neutral by 2012, and introduced the first hybrid double-decker buses in North America. Victoria is also covered with extensive bike routes - not without reasons it is called the "Cycling Capital of Canada". The city's traffic lights has been changed over to light emitting diodes (LEDs) in order to lower the consumption of electricity and it has also replaced the lighting in the buildings with more energy efficient lights.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

ICTs and Climate Change

Information and communication technologies have a critical role to play in combating climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The increased use of ICTs is undoubtedly part of the cause of global warming, as witness the hundreds of millions of computers and more than one billion television sets that are never fully turned off at night in homes and in offices. But ICTs can also be a key part of the solution, because of the role they play in monitoring, mitigating and adapting to climate change.
There are a number of different causes of climate change, many of which are naturally generated (such as variations in solar radiation, and volcanic activity). However, it is man-made climate change that is of major concern because it appears to be leading to a progressive and accelerating warming of the planet, as a result of the release of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon-based emissions. The work of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that global greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 70 per cent since 1970.
The ICT sector itself (in this definition, telecommunications, computing and the Internet, but excluding broadcasting transmitters and receivers) contributes around 2 to 2.5 per cent of GHG emissions, at just under 1 Gigatonne of CO2 equivalent. The main constituent (40 per cent) of this is the energy requirements of personal computers and data monitors, with data centres contributing a further 23 per cent (see Figure 1). Fixed and mobile telecommunications contribute an estimated 24 per cent of the total. As the ICT industry is growing faster than the rest of the economy, this share may well increase over time. ICTs have the potential to assist in finding a solution to reducing the remaining 97.5 per cent of global emissions from other sectors of the economy.

Contd.: http://p1n.in/tFb


Maize has become the queen of cereals, courted by state governments, seed companies, farmers and the feedstock and starch industries as the crop of the future. The golden promise of hybrid maize with its high productivity and high returns is luring farmers across the country. But this triumphal march is raising concerns about food security: maize is after all an industrial crop and used little as food. Food sovereignty campaigners are raising concerns about the shrinking acreage of millets and other staple foods of small farmers on account of the generous subsidies given to maize. Latha Jishnu and Jyotika Sood meet maize scientists, agriculture mandarins, industry leaders, nutrition experts and farmers, specially those in the tribal belt, to understand the maize phenomenon which is changing the agricultural landscape. M Suchitra in Andhra Pradesh and Sumana Narayanan in Tamil Nadu track developments in these high productivity states.

Read more: http://p1n.in/tF2

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Make Room For This Mushroom!

Trametes versicolor — formerly known as Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor— is an extremely common polypore mushroom which can be found throughout the world. Versicolor means 'of several colours' and it is true that this mushroom is found in a wide variety of different colours. T. versicolor is commonly called Turkey Tail because of its resemblance to the tail of the wild turkey. T. versicolor is recognized as a medicinal mushroom in Chinese medicine under the name yun zhi. In China and Japan T. versicolor is used as in immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Make this Independence Day into a Greendependence Day!

Today is the day when we rejoice and celebrate the fact that we are free from the shackles of an imperialistic rule, that was forced down our throats. But let us not forget about the state of our environment. Let's celebrate this freedom and not abuse it by littering our country. Here are a few tips that we urge you to follow this Independence Day to make it a Greendependence Day!
  1. Form a group or community for planting plants and trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and provide oxygen. You can form a club or team for planting trees at a regular interval.
  2. If you no longer need something that might be useful to someone else, try to donate the goods rather than throwing them away.
  3. Wish your friends and relatives on this special occasion with e-card. This is cheapest and easiest way to wish them. Save paper by sending e-card.
  4. Observe green day on Independence Day and 3 R’s-“Reduce, Re-Use and Re-cycle” should be the mantra in each one’s life.
  5. Limit your Balloon Release as many people are-unaware that balloon releases can result in littering and harm to wildlife and environment.
  6. Fireworks are one of the best parts of Independence Day celebration, but the fact that they are also explosives that spew dust, smoke, heavy metals, carbon monoxide and other toxins into the air.
  7. Do not use or buy paper or plastic Flags. A paper flag leads to waste by cut down of millions of trees and plastic takes more than 1000 years to decompose.
  8. Do not let small children use the National Flag as a toy which often ends trampled upon the road, in dustbins and elsewhere. Often, these flags are burnt along with garbage causing threat to environment and disrespect to National flag.
  9. Independence Day events will produce lots of trash, much of which could probably be recycled. You can spread awareness or educate or circulate the information to schools, private & government organizations, apartment complexes and residents in or around your neighborhood by putting dos and don’ts on the notice boards.
  10. Because of the harm to wildlife and the effect of litter on the environment, ban use of balloon, plastic and paper flag in or around the premises of Independence Day celebration.

    Friday, 12 August 2011

    Growing a Better Future

    A broken food system and environmental crises are now reversing decades of progress against hunger according to new Oxfam analysis. Spiralling food prices and endless cycles of regional food crises will create millions more hungry people unless we transform the way we grow and share food. Oxfam launches, in June 2011, a global campaign to ensure everyone has enough to eat always. 


    Growing a Better Future, is a report that catalogues the symptoms of today’s broken food system: growing hunger, flat-lining yields, a scramble for fertile land and water and rising food prices. It warns we have entered a new age of crisis where depletion of the earth’s natural resources and increasingly severe climate change impacts will create millions more hungry people.

    The report states that depletion of the Earth’s natural resources and increasingly severe climate change impacts will create millions more hungry people.
    • New research predicts that the price of staple foods such as maize, already at an all time high, will more than double in the next 20 years. Up to half of this increase will be due to climate change. The world’s poorest people who spend up to 80 percent of their income on food will be hardest hit.
    • Eight million people face chronic food shortages in East Africa today. Increasing numbers of regional and local crises could see demand for food aid double in the next 10 years.  
    • By 2050 the demand for food will rise by 70 per cent, yet our capacity to increase food production is declining. The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of one percent in the next decade.
    The report, in full, can be downloaded at the link below: http://p1n.in/t65

    Wednesday, 10 August 2011

    Quagga: half zebra, half horse, completely extinct!

    One of Africa's most famous extinct animals, the quagga was a subspecies of the plains zebra, which was once found in great numbers in South Africa's Cape Province and the southern part of the Orange Free State. It was distinguished from other zebras by having the usual vivid marks on the front part of the body only. In the mid-section, the stripes faded and the dark, inter-stripe spaces became wider, and the hindquarters were a plain brown. The name comes from a Khoikhoi word for zebra and is onomatopoeic, being said to resemble the quagga's call.

    The quagga was originally classified as an individual species, Equus quagga, in 1788. Over the next fifty years or so, many other zebras were described by naturalists and explorers. Because of the great variation in coat patterns (no two zebras are alike), taxonomists were left with a great number of described "species", and no easy way to tell which of these were true species, which were subspecies, and which were simply natural variants. Long before this confusion was sorted out, the quagga had been hunted to extinction for meat, hides, and to preserve feed for domesticated stock. The last wild quagga was probably shot in the late 1870s, and the last specimen in captivity died on August 12, 1883 at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam.

    Because of the great confusion between different zebra species, particularly among the general public, the quagga had become extinct before it was realised that it appeared to be a separate species. The quagga was the first extinct creature to have its DNA studied. Recent genetic research at the Smithsonian Institution has demonstrated that the quagga was in fact not a separate species at all, but diverged from the extremely variable plains zebra.

    earthian Update

    Here are the latest updates from the earthian awards:

    1. Hurry up because the submission dates are drawing nearer (last date: 14th Aug.). Just register and submit your brief here: http://p1n.in/Rgstr
    2. If you're confused about the format in which you should submit your entries, here is a template that you can follow: http://p1n.in/SmBr1
    3. You can ask us any queries on our Facebook fan page or Twitter handle. Find us here: http://p1n.in/ertfb  
    Get cracking on your projects!

    Tuesday, 9 August 2011

    Use the Sun as a charger!

    Charge your iPods, smart phones and other portable electronics using the power of the Sun!

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    Why Cycle? Well, why not?

    Benefits of bikes... Why should I cycle?


    Because it is...

    Good for you...

    • Regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person ten years younger. (Source: National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation, Sharp)
    • Cycling at least twenty miles a week reduces the risk of heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists who take no other exercise (Source: British Heart Foundation, Morris)
    • If one third of all short car journeys were made by bike, national heart disease rates would fall by between 5 and 10 percent (Bikes not Fumes, CTC, 1992). Info from BikeBiz, with thanks.
    • During rush-hour, a bicycle is about twice as fast as a car - good if you hate traffic jams!

    Good For Your Wallet...

    • Bicycles require no road tax, no MOT, no insurance, no licensing, no breakdown recovery services, and above all no fuel bills (unless you count confectionery bars!).
    • A good bicycle needs at most about £50-worth of maintenance a year - less if you do a bit yourself. How much does your car need?
    • A good bicycle will last for years, if not decades. How long did your previous car last?
    • A bicycle can be parked just about anywhere, so no more expensive car park bills.

    Good For Your World...

    • Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space taken up by one car.
    • To make a bicycle requires only a fraction of the materials and energy needed to make a car.
    • Bicycles produce absolutely no pollution - they are a lot quieter too. When was the last time you saw a rusting, burnt-out bicycle?

    Friday, 5 August 2011

    A Sustainable City. What's that now?

    A sustainable city, or eco-city is a city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people dedicated to minimization of required inputs of energy, water and food, and waste output of heat, air pollution - CO2, methane, and water pollution. Richard Register first coined the term "ecocity" in his 1987 book, Ecocity Berkeley: building cities for a healthy future. Other leading figures who envisioned the sustainable city are architect Paul F Downton, who later founded the company Ecopolis Pty Ltd, and authors Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann, who have written extensively on the subject. The field of industrial ecology is sometimes used in planning these cities.
    A sustainable city can feed itself with minimal reliance on the surrounding countryside, and power itself with renewable sources of energy. The crux of this is to create the smallest possible ecological footprint, and to produce the lowest quantity of pollution possible, to efficiently use land; compost used materials, recycle it or convert waste-to-energy, and thus the city's overall contribution to climate change will be minimal, if such practices are adhered to.
    It is estimated that around 50%  of the world’s population now lives in cities and urban areas. These large communities provide both challenges and opportunities for environmentally conscious developers. In order to make them more sustainable, building design and practice, as well as perception and lifestyle must adopt sustainability thinking.

    To learn more, click here: http://p1n.in/t6K

    Thursday, 4 August 2011

    FAQ: How does Biodiversity loss affect me and everyone else?

    Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. It is the link between all organisms on earth, binding each into an inter-dependant ecosystem, in which all species have their role. It is the web of life. The Earth’s natural assets are made up of plants, animals, land, water, the atmosphere AND humans! Together we all form part of the planet’s ecosystems, which means if there is a biodiversity crisis, our health and livelihoods are at risk too. But we are currently  using 25% more natural resources than the planet can sustain As a result species, habitats and local communities are under pressure or direct threats (for example from loss of access to fresh water). Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.

    The harsh reality

    Wednesday, 3 August 2011

    Steller's Sea Cow, A Relic Of Our Past

    Formerly found near the Asiatic coast of the Bering Sea, it was discovered in in 1741 by the naturalist Georg Steller, who was traveling with the explorer Vitus Bering. The sea cow grew up to 7.9 meters (25.9 ft) long and weighed up to three tons, much larger than the manatee or dugong. It looked somewhat like a large seal, but had two stout forelimbs and a whale-like tail. According to Steller, "The animal never comes out on shore, but always lives in the water. Its skin is black and thick, like the bark of an old oak..., its head in proportion to the body is small..., it has no teeth, but only two flat white bones—one above, the other below". It was completely tame, according to Steller. Fossils indicate that Steller's Sea Cow was formerly widespread along the North Pacific coast, reaching south to Japan and California. Given the rapidity with which its last population was eliminated, it is likely that the arrival of humans in the area was the cause of its extinction elsewhere as well. There are still sporadic reports of sea cow-like animals from the Bering area and Greenland, so it has been suggested that small populations of the animal may have survived to the present day. This remains so far unproven.

    Tuesday, 2 August 2011

    Light Pollution, A Modern Day Hazard.

    Light pollution is the intrusion of unwanted or unneeded artificial light into a man-made or natural environment. A variety of somewhat separate phenomena comprise the overall issue of pollution due to excess artificial light: Over-illumination, glare, light trespass and skyglow. Adverse impacts of light pollution include human annoyance, interference with ecosystems, human health effects, interference with astronomical observation and wasteful consumption of energy. Sources of interior light pollution consist chiefly of unnecessarily intense lighting; principal sources of outdoor light pollution include street lighting, poorly designed stadium and recreational lighting, gratuitous building uplighting and unnecessary use of office interior lighting intruding into the night sky.
    Local governments have begun to regulate certain aspects of light pollution; in particular, numerous municipalities have established standards that control the amount of light traversing property boundaries. Regarding exterior lighting fixtures and skyglow issues, some governmental agencies and lighting manufacturers have established standards that limit the quantity of light that is wasted by emanating skyward and not illuminating the ground target.

    Monday, 1 August 2011

    FAQ: Can I harvest rain in my own house?

    Yes you can. Structures to harvest rain require little space. A dried borewell, a row of soak pits or a tank (concealed below the ground) are all that you need. The open spaces, rooftops and ground can be used as your catchment area (surface to catch rain).