Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

The Center for Biological Diversity has managed to shut down ORV races at Oceano Dunes in California:

“The motorized circus at Oceano Dunes is a real disgrace. Continuing the onslaught of racing events would be a disaster for this fragile ecosystem. That’s no way to treat a natural treasure,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Under the settlement, the department agreed to withdraw its multi-year approval for the event, and conduct a full analysis of environmental impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act prior to approving future race proposals.
Legislative efforts are being made to protect the National Landscape Conservation System:
The House did a favor for natural quiet the other day through a big, bipartisan majority vote to pass legislation giving legal permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System, or NLCS.

Never heard of the NLCS? No worries, not many people have. The conservation system includes 26 million acres of national monuments, wilderness and conservation areas, wild rivers, and historic trails on Western lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Malaysia has decided against building a coal-fired power plant near a protected rainforest in Borneo:
"After weighing the pros and cons, the cabinet has decided to do away with this proposal because we do not want to risk the welfare of the community in the area including their health and any adverse impact on the environment," Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said in a statement last week. "We need to look for more environmentally friendly sources of energy."
In response to public outcry, Vladimir Putin has agreed to divert a planned oil pipeline away from Lake Baikal:
Mr. Putin...ordered that the route hew more closely to one that had previously been recommended by the Academy of Sciences and rejected by a regulatory agency. He said a new route should be charted at least 40 kilometers, or roughly 25 miles, from Lake Baikal. That would push it outside of Baikal's watershed, according to environmental organizations.

Mr. Shuvalov called it "a victory of common sense."

Marina Rikhvanova, the activist who spearheaded these protests, has been awarded the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Iran has freed a prominent women's rights activist:
Moghaddam has been described as a pioneer in environmental protection in Iran, working for better waste management and protesting against deforestation.

She has also been involved with the "one million signatures" campaign -- an attempt to change Iranian laws that discriminate against women by collecting signatures online and in person.
And in Afghanistan, a young journalist who was sentenced to death for criticizing Islamic views on women's rights will be allowed to appeal:
The writer, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, 23, was transferred on March 28 from prison in the remote province of Balkh, in northern Afghanistan, to the capital, Kabul, according to Jean MacKenzie, program director in Afghanistan for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. The London-based Institute is an international advocate for press freedom.

The move, Mackenzie said in a telephone interview, was accompanied by promises from officials in the government of President Hamid Karzai that Kambakhsh would be freed.
An extremely rare giant turtle has been spotted in Vietnam:
The discovery represents hope for the species, said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program.

Turtle expert Peter Pritchard, president of the Chelonian Research Institute, confirmed the find based on a photo Hendrie showed him.

"It looked like pretty solid evidence. The animal has a pretty distinctive head," Pritchard said.
Two plants thought to have been extinct since the 1800s have been found in Queensland:
State Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara says the two plants were found on Cape York, between Cooktown and Lockhart River, and they have now been re-classified as vulnerable species.

"The Rhaphidospora cavernarum, which is a large herb that stands about one and a half metres high, has reappeared," he said. "It hasn't been seen in Queensland since 1873.

"Similarly, the Teucrium ajugaceum, which is a herb that has also been missing in action since 1891 [has reappeared], so there certainly are some good news stories."
Corals at the Bikini Atoll seem to have recovered from US nuclear tests:
After diving into the crater, Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University says, “I didn’t know what to expect – some kind of moonscape perhaps. But it was incredible, huge matrices of branching Porites coral (up to 8 meters high) had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat. Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 per cent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick. It was fascinating – I’ve never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands.

“The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini atoll today is proof of their resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances, that is, if the reef is left undisturbed and there are healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.”
Lest this be hailed as evidence that nuclear tests are beneficial, it should be noted that "the research has also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll...[T]the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s."

The Sietch Blog reports on a program that provides renewable energy jobs for women in Bangladesh:
Initially, it was assembling of DC lamps and providing services through battery charging station. Now the SME has moved to assembling CFL and LED lamps, controllers and inverters of solar home system (SHS) and mobile phone chargers. It has provided SHS to almost 30,000 households, small enterprises and markets in coastal areas, where grid electrification is not a feasible option.
Inhabitat discusses the rollout of the Hippo Roller:
Currently on the scene in South Africa right now, Project H has successfully delivered 75 ‘Hippo Rollers’ - an ingenious yet simple rolling barrel device that facilitates a more efficient and safer transport of daily water supply needs. The roller holds 3-4 days worth of water for a family of 7, about 5 times the amount of water that can be moved using traditional methods. It’s an amazing product and an amazing story of good design enabling communities.
A Kenyan prison is planning an innovative sewer system:
The initiative, involving the development of a wetland to purify sewage, is expected to cost a fraction of the price of high-tech treatments while also triggering scores of environmental, economic and social benefits.

Apart from wastewater management, the project is to assess using the wetland- filtered water for irrigation and fish farming giving prisoners a new source of protein or sold to local markets, alternative livelihoods. Part of the so-called 'black wastewater' with high concentrations of human waste will also be used for the production of biogas.
Also in Kenya, women are working to provide clean and affordable water to their neighbors:
The Kenya Water for Health Organization, with the help of its many community coordinators and volunteers, is attempting to challenge the vendors by creating a water delivery system built on the strength, knowledge and experience of Kibera's women....

One of their most successful sanitation programs teaches women in the community solar water disinfection, commonly called SODIS. The technique is remarkably simple. Users fill ordinary clear plastic bottles with contaminated water and place them in direct sunlight for six hours, usually on the corrugated metal roofs of their homes. There the water is sanitized by ultraviolet rays.
A solar-powered trash compactor offers many benefits:
“The unit takes up as much space as the 'footprint’ of an ordinary receptacle -- but its capacity is five times greater. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. BigBelly also provides cost efficiencies from labor savings, fuel cost and maintenance savings, as well as environmental benefits from reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.”
Solar windows sound like a pretty good idea, too:
The Queensland University of Technology recently announced that it has been working with Dyesol to develop an innovative solar cell technology that re-envisions windows as clear, clean energy providers. Professor John Bell has said that these dye-infused solar cells would significantly reduce building energy costs, and could even generate surplus energy to be stored or sold. The development has been touted as the most promising advance in solar cell technology since the invention of the silicon cell.
Agronomy Journal has an interesting article on self-seeding crops:
“The significance of this research, in addition to lowering the cost and risk of establishing cover crops, is to extend the ecological functions that cover crops perform beyond the normal cover crop termination dates between mid-April and early May,” says Dr. Jeremy Singer of the National Soil Tilth Lab. “Furthermore, producers using organic crop production techniques could adopt these systems because of the potential for enhanced weed suppression without soil disturbance.”
Home Depot is giving $30 million to Habitat for Humanity:
The program, which aims to make at least 5,000 Habitat homes more energy efficient, will provide energy-efficient and sustainable building resources and funding for 17 percent of all single- and multi-family homes that Habitat builds in the next five years.
Scientists have created a groundbreaking library of avian flu antibodies:
These antibody libraries hold the promise for developing a therapy that could stop a pandemic in its tracks and provide treatment to those infected, as well as potentially pointing the way towards the development of a universal flu vaccine. The expanded treatment and containment options offered by Sea Lane’s antibody libraries could help provide healthcare officials, researchers, and governments with unprecedented resources to combat this serious global health threat.
In related news, Australian scientists report progress in understanding the mechanisms of acute respiratory distress syndrome, and American researchers have tracked the seasonal migration of the flu virus, which could help to improve vaccines.

Speaking of viruses, this is really fascinating:
A common, naturally occurring virus that attacks cancer cells but appears to be harmless to normal cells is being studied as a possible treatment for malignant, highly aggressive and deadly brain tumors called gliomas.
Having watched a family member die of a glioma, I hope very much that something comes of this.

A British church is refusing to perform heterosexual marriages:
North London's Newington Green Unitarian Church is taking a stand for gay and lesbian couples by refusing to conduct any heterosexual marriages until Britain's Civil Partnership Act is changed to allow religious content in civil partnership registrations. The church will conduct only blessing ceremonies for both gay and straight couples who have legally wed in a civil ceremony, according to BBC News.
Meanwhile, a Methodist church in Oregon has voted to accept LGBT members.

A new study contradicts a conservatarian article of faith:
Researchers led by Y. Tony Yang of George Mason University and Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health investigated the effects of malpractice risk, as measured by insurance premiums and various tort reforms, on the number of OB/GYNs in the United States between 1992 and 2002....The study found that the supply of OB/GYNs had no statistically significant association with premiums or tort reforms. Most OB/GYNs did not respond to liability risk by relocating out of state or discontinuing their practice. Tort reforms, such as caps on noneconomic damages, did not help states attract and retain OB/GYNs.
Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon has asked the FBI to investigate Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-immigrant raids:
Last week, the Arizona Ecumenical Council and American Jewish Committee issued a joint letter saying the raids had "evoked a 'police state' atmosphere" and led to "detainment on the basis of a racial profile and dehumanization of innocent people."

They were joined on Friday by the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which echoed calls for a Justice Department investigation.
Last, but certainly not least, Alberto Gonzales is having a tough time finding a job:
The greatest impediment to Mr. Gonzales’s being offered the kind of high-salary job being snagged these days by lesser Justice Department officials, many lawyers agree, is his performance during his last few months in office.
In light of which, Patricia Lee Sharpe at WhirledView offers him some not-so-friendly advice.

Now that all that's out of the way, we can give Images of Arctic Polar Science Stations 1881-1884 (via Plep) the attention it deserves.

Which reminds me: It's high time you familiarized yourself with the most common killer whale dialects. When you're finished, you can examine the phonographic ephemera at Nipperhead. And take a tour of Kudzu-Covered Houses (via Neatorama).

The lilting music of pinecones splitting open in the heat provides the perfect soundtrack for these photos. You'll find other exciting soundscapes here.

Furthermore: A gallery of Chinese cigarette cards. A timeline of Black Flag Hair: 1976 - 1986. Examples of immersive video, courtesy of The Bioscope. The Specimen Showcase of The Fluorescent Mineral Society.

Cinderella Stamps. An amazing collection of x-ray movies. Inconceivably beautiful microphotographs by Dennis Kunkel.

And now, I'll leave you to puzzle over "Dream of Toyland" by Arthur Melborne-Cooper (1907).

(Illustration at top: "Landscape" by Sidney Nolan, ca. 1965. Nolan's one of my favorite painters; I believe this work is for sale, if anyone feels like picking it up for me.)


Anonymous said...

What a reflection, and yes, that is hopeful. I particularly want those solar windows. Thanks.

from ruth

Anonymous said...

The hippo roller....I love things that when you see them for the first time you say, "well duh, of COURSE that's the way it should work."

Regarding the kudzu covered houses, I was just remarking to someone earlier today that if they ever get cellulosic ethanol to work, the southern US may have the perfect energy source in kudzu.

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