Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

An Arkansas circuit judge has struck down a state law that prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children:

Act 1 unconstitutionally burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults by forcing them to choose between becoming a parent and having any meaningful type of intimate relationship outside of marriage, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled in a lawsuit challenging the initiative voters approved in 2008.
Obama is speaking out against Arizona's demented racial profiling law:

“Our failure to act responsibly at the Federal level will only open the door to irresponsiblity by others,” Obama said. “That includes for example the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Obama added that his administration could join the fight. “I’ve instructed members of my admininstration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation,” he said, adding that it was “misguided.”

Plans to develop a wildlife preserve in Southern California have been scrapped:
As a result of a legal settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a 1,100-acre wildlife preserve in western Riverside County will once again be protected from industrial development. The settlement resolves a dispute surrounding the approval for large-scale development on the March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve – home to numerous imperiled species, including the endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat. Not only will the land be returned to the preserve, but under the terms of the settlement agreement, any future proposals to release the area for development must undergo strict environmental review.
National Geographic has video footage of a new microbial sea species, discovered as part of the Census of Marine Life:
[T]here was one sampling area in the South Atlantic that sampled an area about the size of a small bathroom. And found 700 species of just crustaceans, most of which were new to science.
Scientists have found 123 new species in Borneo:

"You have some iconic small species which are very interesting to talk about but perhaps it's the plants that are tremendously important in terms of potential future cures," said David Norman, director of campaigns for the WWF.

"About half of all synthetic drugs have a natural origin -- these are commercial drugs based on plants and sometimes animals. So we can't afford to lose species," he said.

Other interesting new species have been found off the coast of Greenland.

Efforts to control invasive species in the Galapagos seem to be working:

In fall 2009, entomologist Mark Hoddle, the director of the Center for Invasive Species at the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues visited the Galapagos Islands to assess the impact and safety of the lady bug beetle that had been released in 2002 to suppress the cottony cushion scale.

"Pest numbers have been reduced by more than 99 percent on some native plants like mangroves, which were very susceptible to attack by cottony cushion scale," Hoddle said. "While from other rarer native plants, like Darwiniothamnus tenuifolius, the pest appears to have been completely removed."

A new collaborative site called iFixit helps people repairs electronics and other gadgetry that might otherwise wind up in a landfill:
As iFixit states, "The internet sucks at providing repair information. It either doesn't exist, or it's spam-ridden, disorganized, or there's no feedback loop to find out if the information is good. At the same time, there is massive pent-up expertise in enthusiast forums where people are posting detailed information about repairs they've done. We are providing a platform for those people to share what they know, and to come together to build a resource that humanity desperately needs."
Albania is repurposing its military bunkers:
[S]ome have become eco-hostels, complete with bedroom views from parapets; others now serve as US-style hamburger joints (perhaps the ultimate symbol of capitalist consumerism), or as ice cream shops on sandy beaches. The changes are undeniably positive and provide an exemplary instance of how the concept of ‘recycling’ might extend beyond the merely functional, into the deepest reaches of collective cultural memory and identity - through its physical landscape, Albania is recycling the memories of a sinister past, into a fresh future with new purpose.

There's talk of turning suburbs into agricultural centers:
In cities, agriculture might be able to take the place of vacant lots. And in suburbia? Well, in 2008, the New Urbanism evangelist Andrés Duany, of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), architects and town planners, proclaimed that "agriculture is the new golf," a prescient and deliberately provocative claim that is helping frame the conversation about suburbia's future. "Only 17 percent of people living in golf-course communities play golf more than once a year. Why not grow food?"
Meanwhile, black organic farmers are helping to address the problem of food deserts:
Many of the farmers, descendants of blacks who fled sharecropping and segregation during the Great Migration, now sell victuals at farmers markets that are becoming fixtures in black neighborhoods. The farmers also sell to food co-ops in the same areas. Some supply produce to black-owned (and other) restaurants, as well as well-known natural food supermarkets.
And in Durham, NC, tobacco fields have given way to food crops:
Spring is just blowing into the Triangle, bringing strawberries, mushrooms and the first Sugar Snack carrots and small white turnips. “We’re raising things I never would have dreamed of,” said Michael Brinkley, a farmer whose family farm in nearby Creedmoor produced up to 60 acres of tobacco until about five years ago, when the Brinkleys shifted entirely to produce.
And in Africa, traditional land-management techniques are being used to re-green the Sahel:
One inexpensive method of farming that helps to restore the Sahel’s degraded land is so-called Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) (see also Millions Fed: “Re-Greening the Sahel: Farmer-led Innovation in Burkina Faso and Niger”). By pruning shoots that periodically and naturally sprout from below-ground root webs, farmers can promote forest growth and take advantage of a naturally occurring source of fuel, food, or animal fodder.

The trees produce fruit rich in nutrients and help to restore the soil by releasing nitrogen and protecting the ground from erosion by wind and rain. The cultivated but naturally occurring forest also creates a local source of firewood and mulch, reducing the time spent in gathering fuel for cooking meals and cleaning households (see Reducing the Things They Carry). The practice also cuts down on deforestation as the trees that are used for fuel are replaced with seedlings and tended by farmers.

The CDC has released a report detailing the effects of community design on public health:
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), created with input from ASLA, illustrates the importance of considering public-health factors, such as physical activity, respiratory and mental health, water quality, social equity, healthy aging, and social capital, when creating the built environment.

The report includes case studies that illustrate best practices in healthy community design, and it recommends action steps to advance healthy community design principles.
You can read it here, if you're interested.

An Oklahoma appeals court has announced that it will not reconsider its ruling that elements of an Oklahoma anti-immigrant law are legally unenforceable:
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a blow to state officials and other advocates of House Bill 1804, the anti-illegal immigration law passed in 2007....

The case now will go back to U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron in Oklahoma City to decide whether she will turn her 2008 preliminary injunction against the law into a permanent injunction.

In related news, immigrants hold one-third of America's doctorates:
Immigrants, who account for a disproportionate share of Americans without a high school diploma, also made up nearly one-third of Americans with doctoral degrees in 2009 — a sharp increase compared with five years earlier, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
Speaking of education, a 30-day comment period is underway for the bizarre textbook changes approved by the Texas State Board of Education. All American citizens are eligible to comment. Click here for more details.

A US industry group claims that solar power created 17,000 jobs in 2009:
[I]nstallations generating 441 Megawatts of power were put up, manufacturing costs went down, the industry attracted $1.4 billion worth of investment in venture capital, and the industry grew 17,000 American jobs.
Another solar group is petitioning Obama to put solar panels back on the White House. You can add your name here.

Google is providing data on the information requests it receives from world governments:

Google's new tool displays the number of "user requests" that Google received from various governments from July to December 2009. According to the tool, the company received thousands of such requests from the U.S. government during that period — thousands of requests digging into the intimate details of individual lives that are captured in emails, search histories, reading and viewing logs, and the like. And if Google is receiving thousands of requests every six months, how many more are going out to Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and the thousands of other online services that we use every day?

Apparently, the iPhone is proving helpful to people with dyslexia, by allowing them to read books onscreen:
John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust explains that the iphone has more space between lines and presents fewer words at a time, which eases the crowding effect that creates confusion for people with dyslexia.
Ontario is banning toilets that waste water:

Water-guzzlers with tanks that use 13 litres for one flush will be outlawed in the province this summer....

Ontario’s per capita water consumption is one of the highest in the world. Each person uses 260 litres a day.
And an effort is underway to retrieve tons of garbage from the top of Mount Everest.

Problems remain with waste on the upper reaches of Everest, but climbing groups are stepping up efforts to clean house. Several expeditions in recent years have recovered thousands of pounds of trash from the higher, more dangerous Everest camps. And this spring, a 31-member Nepalese-led expedition will attempt to gather two metric tons of trash from the highest reaches of Everest – the notorious “death zone” above 26,000 feet – a historical first.

Things to do today: Support Akvo. Visit the Archigram Archive. Read The Single Mother's Manifesto. Wander through a Desolate Metropolis. And marvel at the first photos from NASA'S Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Comic Book Cartography. The lost state of Jefferson. A helpful list of state microbes, fossils, minerals, and macroinvertebrates. A helpful Lowden Plan calculator that converts dollars to chickens. Glass cinema slides. A WWII pseudo-dictionary for saboteurs. And x-rays of flowers.

Motel postcards and plenty of 'em (via Coudal). Memory of the World. Lightning on Saturn. Lightning on earth. Images of pollen. Illustrations by Edward Ardizzone (via things). And via wood s lot, linocuts by Cyril Power.

And here's a movie, too:

(Image at top: "Broken Egg and Summer Landscape" by John Olsen.)

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