Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

Remember how giddy climate denialists became when it was announced that plants contribute to global warming by emitting methane? Well, it now looks as though they actually don’t:

A recent study in Nature suggested that terrestrial plants may be a global source of the potent greenhouse gas methane, making plants substantial contributors to the annual global methane budget. This controversial finding and the resulting commotion triggered a consortium of Dutch scientists to re-examine this in an independent study. Reporting in New Phytologist, Tom Dueck and colleagues present their results and conclude that methane emissions from plants are negligible and do not contribute to global climate change.
States continue to take the lead in cutting emissions:
At least 21 states and the District of Columbia are on track to create 46,000 megawatts of renewable power by 2020, eliminating 108 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions a year that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger is threatening to sue the EPA:
"If we don't see quick action from the federal government, we will sue the EPA," Schwarzenegger, a Republican, told an audience at the Milken Institute's Global Conference in Beverly Hills.

Schwarzenegger's move stems from California's request in 2005 to get a federal Clean Air Act waiver that would allow it to regulate auto emissions more aggressively.
California has also approved the nation’s toughest restrictions on formaldehyde use:
"There is no safe threshold for this carcinogen, and we know how to eliminate it," said Harry Demorest, president and chief executive of Columbia Forest Products, an Oregon-based manufacturer that began taking formaldehyde out of its plywood in 2002.
An article in the Vancouver Sun catalogs the changes afoot in Canada:
Leaf Rapids, Man., banned plastic bags. Low-flow toilets and shower heads are mandatory in new homes in Okotoks, Alta. The mayor of Aurora, Ont., is calling for clotheslines to reduce dependence on dryers. A Toronto city councillor is trying to ban leafblowers and Hamilton is considering banning more drive-thrus…. In one of the most radical measures, the town of Okotoks, 18 kilometres south of Calgary, is one of the first communities in the world to limit its population and boundaries based on what the surrounding environment can sustain.
Meanwhile, the Niagara Region plans to ban plastic bags in its composting system, and Peterborough, Ont., is the latest town to ban lawn pesticides. God’s vengeance will undoubtedly be swift and merciless.

Tom Philpott spotlights a pair of proposals that could help us to shift away from industrial agriculture:
One step in the right direction is the Competition Bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). There's a movement afoot to build the Harkin proposal into the farm bill by adding a "competition title." That move deserves support.

But curtailing the anti-competitive practices of the giants won't be enough rebuild local food infrastructure….Henry Herrera and Katherine Mendenhall of the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group have come up with an elegant idea [PDF]: create a funding stream, within the farm bill, for regional and local food-infrastructure projects -- indexed directly to the commodity payments now flowing to large-scale farmers who produce corn and soy for the global food (and increasingly, energy) industry.
Like all of Tom’s posts, it's worth reading in full.

WorldChanging discusses Duck-Rice:
Japanese farmer and entrepreneur, Takao Furuno, developed Duck-Rice as an integrated bio-system which eliminates the need for fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides by incorporating duck-raising into organic rice cultivation. The approach is now being replicated with substantial success all over South East Asia as an effective way to boost farmer incomes, reduce environmental impact and improve food security.
Scientists from Liverpool are trying to improve water management in Ghana:
Dr Rick Leah, project manager, said: "Ghanaian scientists who are trained in using the ‘Ecosystem Approach’ will in turn train scientists from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin to help harmonise environmental efforts in the region. Training for local stakeholders will also help enhance public awareness of aquatic systems.

"The aim of the project is to make local authorities and local people aware of the resources they currently have and how they should protect them in future. We have set up an interactive website where collaborators in the project, such as the Centre for African Wetlands and Ghana Wildlife Society, can log on and discuss problems they have faced and download teaching tools for researchers and school children."
There’s talk of using fructose to clean up hexavalent chromium:
[C]hemist Bryan Bilyeu of Xavier University, in New Orleans…reported that a fructose solution added to wastewater and soil contaminated with Cr(VI) removed 94 percent of the contaminate; glucose removed 93 percent. Sugar converts the toxic chromium into the naturally occurring and more stable chromium III--a nutrient necessary for life.
Encouraging, if true.

There are ten countries in the world that use child soldiers. Nine of them receive military aid from the United States. Accordingly, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) have introduced The Child Soldier Prevention Act (S1175). You can show your support for this legislation by clicking here, and you can spread the word by clicking here.

Mexico City has legalized early abortion:
Lilian Sepulveda, the Latin American legal advisor for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said of the vote, this "is going to make an enormous difference in the lives of Mexican women… Instead of back alleys, women will be able to go to the doctor's office to get the health services they need," the Miami Herald reports.
According to No Capital, the Iowa House has decided that American citizens have certain inalienable rights:
The Iowa House took a historic vote Wednesday to extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians, giving approval to the measure in the waning days of this year’s session of the Iowa Legislature.
Nine Republicans voted in favor of the measure. In related news, New Hampshire voted to legalize civil unions.

Ted Kulongoski, the governor of Oregon, is living on food stamps for a week:
By volunteering to subsist on the average food-stamp recipient's budget of $21 per person per week, he and his wife, Mary Oberst, have gotten lots of folks thinking about hunger in Oregon.

The Oregon Food Bank got commitments from thousands of people who said they'd join the governor on lean rations this week.
A peer-reviewed, open-access journal called Open Medicine hopes “to facilitate the equitable dissemination of high-quality health research; to promote international dialogue and collaboration on health issues; to improve clinical practice; and to expand and deepen the understanding of health and health care.” As Revere says:
Open access works and benefits everyone. Open review has produced better and more constructive reviews by assent of both reviewers and authors. I am thrilled to see another major journal adopt these policies.
I'll wrap up with some quick links, as I forgot my powercord and am about to run out of batteries.

The image at top comes from a gallery of natural history photos by Lazslo Layton. See also the landscape photos of Thomas Schuepping, and Japanese Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period (both via Things).

Furthermore: A survey of Pietre Dure from Giornale Nuovo, and a lesson in abysses from BLDGBLOG.


olvlzl said...

Friday Hope Blogging is something to look forward to and to revisit all week. Thank you Phila. Do you take suggestions?

Phila said...

Do you take suggestions?

Of course! In fact, I keep meaning to ask people to send me stories they think belong here...

Anonymous said...

On reducing Cr(VI) with fructose, it likely can be done; Cr(VI) is a potent oxidizer, and sugars oxidize to carbon dioxide rather easily. That means that this process would contribute to global warming, but probably not a lot.

I'm always wary of studies like this coming out of universities, though. It's easy to put a couple of things together in a flask and get a nice result. The real world presents more difficult challenges.

My first thought (as a chemist) when I read that one was "But why don't the organic acids in most natural waters do the same thing as the added sugars?" They have some of the same qualities. The answer most likely is that they complex the Cr(VI) and make it resistant to reduction. Complexing this way may also make it resistant to reduction by the sugars.

It's worth continuing some experiments on this, but I'd try to go to field tests fairly quickly, or at least use natural waters.

Seems like I tend to point up the holes in some of this Friday hope. Sorry. But there's not much point in having hope about something that is unlikely to work.


Phila said...

Seems like I tend to point up the holes in some of this Friday hope. Sorry. But there's not much point in having hope about something that is unlikely to work.

Oh, I agree. And I was a bit skeptical myself, which is why I said "encouraging, if true."

It's always a bit hard deciding what to put in and what not to, especially when looking at sites that basically compile university press releases. It's almost always a snap decision on my part.

But as I've said before, I'm also interested in the sheer effort being made to come up with new approaches. For instance, I'm extremely skeptical about the "hydrogen economy," but I'll often include fuel-cell-related "breakthroughs" just because it's heartening to see people trying to move in new directions. A lot of progress happens accidentally, in any case...

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's important that we all keep trying to do what we can to make this a better world. We won't always succeed, and sometimes we'll wander down a dead end, but we have to keep trying, and that's worth including in Friday Hope Blogging.