Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

A new study suggests that severely damaged ecosystems can recover in a surprisingly short time:

A recent study by Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies reports that if humans commit to the restoration effort, most ecosystems can recover from very major disruption within decades to half-centuries....

According to the study, researchers compiled information from 240 independent studies conducted since 1910 that examined large, human-scale ecosystems recovery following the termination of both human and naturally imposed disruption.
A plan to log old-growth forests near the Grand Canyon has been halted:
For the second time in a decade, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club have halted a U.S. Forest Service plan to log old-growth forests north of Grand Canyon....

“We are pleased the Forest Service recognizes that they are on the wrong track with this timber sale,” said Stacey Hamburg, Grand Canyon campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “It is time for a project that focuses on restoration, protection of wildlife, and preserving the limited old growth that remains. By reversing its decision the Forest Service now has an opportunity to do that."
It looks as though little or no logging and road-building will be allowed in roadless areas...for now:

Stepping into a major environmental dispute, the Obama administration said Thursday that no new timber-cutting or road project could begin in roadless areas of national forests without the permission of the secretary of agriculture....

Environmental activists and others greeted the directive as a rebuke to the Bush administration, which in effect overturned the Clinton rule in 2005.

Draining rice paddies once a year could allegedly cut their methane emissions by 30 percent:
Global methane emissions from rice paddies could be cut by 30 per cent if fields are drained at least once during the growing season and rice crop waste is applied off-season, according to a study. Methane is a significant contributor to global warming and is produced by certain types of bacteria in oxygen-deprived environments — such as those feeding on the organic waste in water-covered rice paddies.

"Draining allows organic material to decompose aerobically as it is not covered by standing water," says Yan Xiaoyuan of the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the study.
Obama has announced new mileage standards:
Not only could the move potentially kick-start the sputtering U.S. auto industry, while saving the equivalent of some 1.8 billion barrels of oil, it also raises hopes that the Obama Administration will be able to forge a compromise on the tricky matter of a national cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. "It's an enormous breakthrough for national legislation," says Vickie Patton, a senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund. "It ends years of polarization on extraordinarily difficult issues and leaves us with a sense of progress."
The Administration will also hire workers to improve the country's public housing:
The Obama administration unveiled a $4bn (£2.5bn) plan to upgrade public housing for low-income Americans today, as part of an ambitious green job-creation project.

Obama sent the vice-president, Joe Biden, and other senior officials to Denver for a formal announcement of the renovation scheme, which will replace windows, insulation and even light bulbs in ageing and neglected housing stock.

The labour secretary, Hilda Solis, was also expected to announce $500m to train up workers for the new jobs. Of those funds, $50m will be directed to regions that have been hardest hit by the recession – such as the rustbelt state of Michigan where the unemployment rate is now 12%.
POGO discusses a possible plan to reform federal drilling and mining rules:
The Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) program that POGO has long criticized and recommended abolishing may be coming to an end. According to The Hill, the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources committee has crafted a bill to overhaul federal drilling rules that would alter royalty rates, shorten the duration of leases from 10 years to five, and move the leasing function out of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) into an Office of Federal Energy and Minerals Leasing. I haven't seen the legislation yet, but this last proposal would also seem to address POGO's concern that MMS has an inherent conflict of interest since it is charged with both leasing federal lands for drilling and auditing these leases.
New York has tentatively closed Times Square to cars:
If the city judges the closure of these sections a success, it is prepared to go even further and close the entire boulevard to vehicular access. The city plans on creating a truly pedestrian friendly walkway in the heart of the Manhattan theatre district. It will effectively become the biggest change to the makeup of the city, an urban companion to New York’s Central Park.
Although sensible centrists like Thomas Fuller have explained that natural gas is the ideal way to bring electricity to the world's poor, various filthy hippies keep trying to find some sort of practical use for solar power:
In rural regions of the Himalayas, a new lightweight, low cost, portable solar cooker called the SolSource 3-in-1 is poised to transform the health and prosperity of entire villages. The device, which can replace the hazardous traditional biomass-burning stove as a means for cooking and heating the home, can also use its own waste thermal energy to generate enough electricity to light a home at night, charge cell phones and power other small devices. And because the cooker's unique design targets specific local needs and materials, its manufacture and distribution could provide a new economic future for communities in transition from agricultural to manufacturing economies.

The satellite dish-shaped SolSource, developed by US-based nonprofit One Earth Designs, is elegant in its simplicity. Reflective nomadic tent material, stretched across a bamboo frame, concentrates sunlight from a large area inward toward a focal point where the user can place a pot stand for cooking, a thermoelectric device for generating electricity (at a lower cost than a photovoltaic panel), a heat module for heating the home, a solar water disinfector for treating drinking water, or a thermal battery for cooking after dark. These interchangeable parts are each about the size of a laptop computer, and the main platform is easily folded and disassembled for portability.
I kind of like these steel-foil buildings:
Conceived by design/build team Heatherwick Studio, the special cladding system was installed on-site by forming foil-thin steel into structural shapes and then coating the inside with spray foam insulation. The polished and crinkled steel not only provides windowsills and eaves but creates an interesting facade of fragmented reflections of sky, forest, and grass which gives the buildings a striking look that is entirely made up of their surroundings.

This is interesting too:
Employees in a handful of MIT buildings might notice what look like slim, fin-tubed radiators in ceiling cavities. These cooling devices are a relatively recent innovation to make its way to the U.S. market. Called chilled beams, they use water, not air, to remove heat from a room....

The potential energy reduction of using chilled beams instead of a traditional air-conditioning system ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the type of system, climate and building.
Israeli farmers are reducing their pesticide use, having noticed that birds eat rodents:
Many farmers are installing nest boxes to encourage the birds, which hunt the crop-damaging rodents.

In Israel, where there is a drive to reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, this has been turned into a government-funded national programme. Scientists and conservation charities from Jordan and Palestine have joined the scheme.
An Indonesian beach has been purchased for the benefit of this handsome creature:

"Protecting this beach is just the first step in what will soon be a comprehensive conservation project for the benefit of the maleo," Andayani said.

To commemorate the birds' new refuge, conservationists and local people recently released four maleo chicks.
A new non-toxic hull coating uses "wrinkled topographies" to protect ships from barnacles:
North Carolina State University engineers have created a non-toxic "wrinkled" coating for use on ship hulls that resisted buildup of troublesome barnacles during 18 months of seawater tests, a finding that could ultimately save boat owners millions of dollars in cleaning and fuel costs....

"The results are very promising," Efimenko said. "We are dealing with a very complex phenomenon. Living organisms are very adaptable to the environment, so we need to find their weakness. And this hierarchical wrinkled topography seems to do the trick.
There's word of a new microbicide that works against HIV:
They designed synthetic DNA for producing this molecule and introduced this DNA into plant cells. After regenerating transgenic plants that produce the fusion molecule, they prepared the microbicide from a plant extract made by grinding the leaves.

"This study is nothing short of a breakthrough—not only does it yield a new drug to fight the spread of HIV, but it also shows us how we can produce it on the scale necessary to get it into the hands of those who need it most," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
In other news, Angela at (what is this?) has published a book on artistic printing.
We did what in publishing jargon is sometimes called a "micro-history." Instead of Cod or Salt we chose Artistic Printing, the elaborate style of commercial letterpress printing popular ca. 1870s-1890. We've taken a piece of obscure cultural arcana and tried to reason that, well, it's not so obscure after all— or it shouldn’t be. Artistic printing was popular taste. It drew upon, and helped perpetuate, motifs that show up in other decorative arts of the time. In certain ways the style allowed for, and encouraged, design freedom and experimentation. Artistic printing showcases some of the more adventurous typographic play made to that date and many of the oddest conceptions of page arrangements ever.

You can buy it here, and would be foolish not to. There's a blog to go with it, too.

Furthermore: Bottlecaps! A discussion of Gigapan pictures, with examples. An Eerie Silence. All that remains of Kleindeutschland (via Plep). Vintage slides. Further forays into fluorescence. And odd photos of dioramas from the American Museum of Natural History.

Data sonifications. A 7-year-old explains how to rescue the Mars Rover. Volcanic terrain on Mercury. A monograph on the architecture of evil lairs. Experimental music and films from the Middle Eastern Avant-Garde (1959-2001). And a gorgeous collection of photos by Raymond Meeks.

Kinetic sculptures. Some unsettling potato portraits. Constructivist designs by Varvara Stepanova. And for my dear ancillary spouse, a book of animal-drawing instructions, a Wonder Movie, and a collection of watch-paper prints.

And, of course, a short film.

(Illustration at top: "Seal Point Series #55" by John Walker, 2005.)


Anonymous said...

Especially wonderful this week! I was so excited about your first post (reversing damage in ecosystems) because of seeing a nightmare interview with Jeff Rubin. Hope is energizing!

peacay said...

Thanks, as always, squire.

Just as a by-the-by, do you know Ptak? It is a first rate site run by an independent and entertaining thinker whom I feel sure you will appreciate.

Anonymous said...

Oops! I mixed up the names of folks I saw interviewed on consecutive nights. I have no problem with Jeff Rubin and peak oil! It was James Lovelock's prediction that the earth would be virtually uninhabitable in 100 years that got to me.