Ontario, Canada plans to phase out coal:
The province of Ontario, Canada's biggest energy user, aims to close its last coal-fired power plant in 2014 and become the only jurisdiction in North America to completely phase out coal, a strategy that some critics deride as reckless and others say is overly timid.For the record, I’d agree that it’s overly timid. Still, it’s much better than nothing. And I was interested to learn that “a poll of Ontario voters conducted last month found concerns about pollution and global warming trumped all other issues, including health care.”
Germany, meanwhile, is phasing out coal mining:
Hard-coal mining "has no future" in Germany, declared Economy Minister Michael Glos. "A great, long era is coming to an end in a socially responsible way."Grist links to a fine article on the appropriate technology movement:
For decades, the German government has propped up the industry, which at its peak employed 500,000 -- unwilling to risk massive layoffs and reluctant to eliminate a domestic source of energy. But after spending more than $200 billion in subsidies since the 1960s, it has finally decided that the subsidies have become unaffordable.
"Young people today are much more aware of the needs of the planet," said Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders and a professor at Colorado. "This is a kind of engineering that involves the heart as well as the brain, and it's appealing to more people than ever before.”Speaking of which, a US company is retrofitting two-stroke motorcycle engines in the Philippines:
A traditional two-stroke engine emits as much pollution as approximately 50 modern automobiles, according to Envirofit. In the retrofit systems, in contrast, the carburetor is eliminated and the fuel is introduced directly into the engine cylinder, so less unburned fuel is wasted. According to Willson, Envirofit’s direct injection kits reduce fuel and oil consumption by 35–50 percent and cut the emissions of a two-stroke engine by as much as 90 percent.Grandiose plans are being made for San Francisco’s Treasure Island:
Fuel efficiency can mean big savings for taxi drivers with little earned income. According to Envirofit, the typical Filipino taxi driver makes only US$3–5 per day. The organization’s kits pay for themselves in fuel savings alone within 10 months, says Willson.
The revamped Treasure Island will include 6,000 units of housing in both low-rise and high-rise buildings, restaurants, a ferry terminal, as well as a 20-acre organic farm, an ecological educational and art park, shoreline park, wind farm, and plenty of green space in the forms of parkland and runoff-filtering wetlands.Since Treasure Island was hurriedly constructed from delta mud in 1939, its chances of surviving a major earthquake are slim at best. It sounds like it’ll be nice while it lasts, though. And bathyscape tours of the underwater ruins could be an exciting tourist attraction.
Largely unexplored forests in the Congo contain previously unknown species:
An expedition led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to a remote corner of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has uncovered unique forests which, so far, have been found to contain six animal species new to science: a bat, a rodent, two shrews, and two frogs….The Fish and Wildlife Service claims it will reform its recovery program for the Mexican gray wolf:
“If we can find six new species in such a short period it makes you wonder what else is out there,” said WCS researcher Dr. Andrew Plumptre, director of the society’s Albertine Rift Program.
"The Center for Biological Diversity applauds the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking a hard and honest look at rules limiting the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Adaptive management means changing course when the rules aren't working, and they are definitely not working now. Bad management is always improved by good science, and the Fish and Wildlife Service seems serious now about paying close attention to the science."The vanishingly rare black-footed ferret has made an amazing comeback:
An estimated 223 of the weasel-like animals are busy hunting prairie dogs in the Shirley Basin area, the researchers report in this week's issue of the journal Science.Several endangered birds are also on the comeback trail:
The animals are all descended from seven ferrets rescued in 1986, Martin Grenier of the University of Wyoming and colleagues reported.
In 15 European countries studied, there was a significant increase in population trends for protected birds between 1990 and 2000, compared to 1970-1990, the team found. They said the protected birds also showed an increase compared to birds not on the list.Researchers at the University of Granada claim to have come up with an improved wastewater treatment system:
Species doing particularly well include the barnacle goose, white stork, spoonbill, little egret Slavonian grebe and white-tailed eagle.
Research carried out at the UGR could reduce the size of the biological reactor between 40 and 60%, and would completely eliminate secondary decanting. “In the future – explains the researcher –- we could even suppress the primary decanting stage.” In exchange, scientists from Granada have included a “biological processes” section in their wastewater treatment plant, which could make it possible to separate water from active mud by a membrane filtration process.Welsh researchers predict great things for a silicon-free solar cell that mimics photosynthesis:
The first commercial uses are likely to be in the developing world, where access to electricity is difficult. The firm is working with mobile phone companies including Nokia and Motorola to test whether the G24i cells could charge handsets in rural Africa. For £6-£8, he says, the company can supply a flexible strip of solar cells that can produce 0.4 to 0.5W of power. It's a relatively meagre output, but more than enough for at least 10 minutes of phone calls a day. And that, says Betzel, can make a big difference. "Over two billion people live without access to energy. This isn't about providing expensive, Rolls Royce- quality solutions. It's about improving their quality of life." Similar solar chargers made of silicon cost about £30.There's talk of making freezer-based energy storage available to homes:
For years large rooftop chillers have been making ice during off-peak hours at low off-peak rates to cool large buildings. Now a similar technology can be applied to smaller buildings - even homes - that could expand chiller technology beyond just large buildings to millions of homes in the country.Newsweek has published an impressive cover story on the denial industry:
It lays out, using plain language and careful reporting, exactly how the Carbon Lobby has used lies, kook scientists and lots of money to systematically distort the debate on climate change.While we're on the topic of kooks, the founder of Minutemen American Defense – those fearless defenders of law and order - has pled guilty to shoplifting. In addition to being amusing and instructive, this is likely to scuttle her chances of being elected to Everett, Washington’s city council.
CKR was kind enough to send me a link to a fascinating site detailing current research on the Nasca geoglyphs. As she says, "This doesn't necessarily make the world a better place, just that one more mystery is possibly being solved."
The photo at top is from an incredible Flickr set by Stuck in Customs, comprising HDR images of Iceland. Be sure to check out his other sets, too (especially Kiev and Thailand). I also recommend The Commissariat 3D Reconstruction Project. And Framing the Frontier: Photographers & the American West, 1850-1920.
Furthermore: The Happiest Days of My Life, a history of utopian communities in Tennessee. The tumultuous life of Muriel Orr-Ewing. And, via Coudal, photos of shattering figurines by Martin Klimas.
A collection of plates from the work of Georgius Agricola (the text is in German). The Moon Wiki. And a gallery of union labels, including this example from the Hebrew Butcher Workmen Union No. 1 of New York:
I'll leave you with some footage of the deep-sea jellyfish Atolla wyvillei.