Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Congress has passed a landmark conservation bill:

The Democratic-led U.S. Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to sweeping land and water conservation legislation that environmental groups praised as one of the most significant in U.S. history.

The measure, a package of more than 160 bills, would set aside about 2 million acres -- parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails -- in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.
One of the areas this bill will protect is Arizona's Fossil Creek:
Despite the success of restoration, management of Fossil Creek as a recreational destination has remained two steps behind, and the creek is in danger of being loved to death. Designation of Fossil Creek as wild and scenic, though, requires that the U.S. Forest Service prepare a management plan and use its authority to protect the outstanding values of the creek, something conservation groups have long sought.

“This is great news for Fossil Creek, for our native fishes, and for future generations,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “Fossil creek is an amazing ecological wonder; a ribbon of life in an arid land.”
The Obama administration has blocked new permits for mountaintop-removal mining:
The Obama Administration just made a major announcement – they have directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not issue any new mining permits until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a chance to take a hard look at well over 100 pending permits to bury streams with mining waste, an essential part of the mountaintop removal coal mining process.

Beginning with EPA’s recommendation today to deny a permit to bury a stream in West Virginia, this review, using the best available science, will likely halt the flood of permits that was unleashed by the 4th Circuit court decision last month.
Rep. Jay Inslee has introduced legislation that would reduce emissions of black carbon:
Today the Center for Biological Diversity, Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Defenders of Wildlife, and Earthjustice applauded Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D-WA) introduction of federal legislation that would reduce domestic and global emissions of black carbon, or soot, which is a powerful global warming agent and public health hazard. Recent scientific studies on black carbon demonstrate that reducing emissions of this short-lived pollutant can bring about near-immediate climate mitigation, that governments possess the technological and economic ability to reduce black carbon pollution, and that such reductions will also result in significant public health benefits. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Mike Honda (D-CA) are original co-sponsors of the bill.
An environmental group won emissions allowances at an auction in order to retire them:
"There are a limited number of allowances available for 2009, and we just bought another 1,000 of them with the intention that they never be used," said Brian Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council, a privately funded environmental organization based in New York's Adirondack Park.

"We are the only environmental organization in America – maybe the world – that is actively buying and retiring real pollution allowances, resulting in real emissions reductions from power plants that are under government orders to reduce their carbon emissions," Houseal said. "These aren't offsets or some other form of compensation for emissions. These are real reductions that will make the air cleaner and cooler."
POGO has released the names of suspended and disbarred government contractors:
Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report titled, Excluded Parties List System: Suspended and Debarred Businesses and Individuals Improperly Receive Federal Funds, documenting 25 cases in which companies and individuals that had been suspended or debarred from federal contracting continued to receive contracts. Unfortunately, the report did not name the companies and individuals at issue.
A school district in Mobile, AL will end its policy of sex segregation:
The Mobile County School System has agreed to stop sex segregation in public schools after being notified by the American Civil Liberties Union that its sex segregated programs were illegal and discriminatory. Late last evening, the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County approved a settlement agreement changing the policy.

"While schools might think that sex segregated classes will be a quick fix for failing schools, in reality they are inherently unequal and shortchange both boys and girls," said Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Program. "We hope that now Mobile County will focus on efforts that we know can improve all students' education, like smaller classes and more teacher training and parental involvement."
Dr. George Tiller has been acquitted of charges that he broke the law when performing late-term abortions:
Jurors have acquitted one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers of violating Kansas law requiring an independent second opinion for the procedure.

Dr. George Tiller was found not guilty Friday of 19 misdemeanor charges stemming from some abortions he performed at his Wichita clinic in 2003.
Voters in Gainesville, FL have rejected a bid to legalize discrimination:
“This is a great day for Gainesville. Voters rejected the right-wing’s attempts to make their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, family and neighbors second-class citizens. While the opposition rooted its campaign in lies and scare tactics, fair-minded Gainesville voters knew that Charter Amendment 1 was really about discrimination,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. “We congratulate Equality is Gainesville’s Business for its hard work to defeat this ugly and hurtful measure, and to ensure that Gainesville remains a welcoming community for all — including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
The New Hampshire house has voted that gay citizens should have the same rights as straight ones:
After two days of debating, the New Hampshire House voted for gay marriage 186 to 179 after first voting against it, 183 to 182.

Bills can only be reconsidered once, so the new vote is final.
Serbia has outlawed discrimination:
Parliament passed the bill with a slim majority of 127 votes in favor to 59 against - one more vote than was needed for passage in the 250-member parliament....The law bans any kind of discrimination, whether based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender or other factors.
Virginia has banned the cul de sac from new subdivisions:
The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.
A federal judge has ruled that Monsanto should not be allowed to plant GM crops in a national wildlife refuge:
As a result of the ruling, 37 farming contracts—most of which were being used for GMO soybean and corn crops—have been canceled. Will this set a national precedent, paving the way for tougher rules and closer scrutiny of the environmental impact GMOs?

It could.
I don't entirely understand the logic behind this robotic fish, but who cares?
Soon, the water in Gijon, a harbor in Northern Spain will be monitored by robotic, battery-powered fish. These mechanical, articulating sea creatures were designed and tested by the Robotics Department at the University of Essex. At a cost of $3.6 million, through a European Union grant, these fish will test the water for oxygen levels, detect oil slicks and other contaminants pumped into the water. This is the first monitoring program of it’s kind, and the retrieved data could be very important, with implications for global warming and the state of our water sources.
Sales of bottled water are down:
The popularity of bottled water soared in the 1990s and the early 2000s, but is now s-o-o-o yesterday, according to figures from market research company TNS. Last year the on-going year-on-year increase in sales was halted and sales actually fell by 9%.
Harbor seals are returning to New York Harbor:
New York Aquarium Curator Paul Sieswerda says that the harbor seals are back after such a long break because the water is much cleaner, and there are more fish in it. He also says the seals are no longer afraid to be in the urban waters surrounding New York because they are protected by law and do not have to face the same fate as their relatives so many years ago.

It seems the harbor seals have also brought ecotourism to the New York harbor. People want to protect what they know and see, and after an hour in a boat along the Coney Island coast, little shiny grey heads can be seen popping up like little buoys around Swinburne and Hoffman Islands.
Several undocumented species have been discovered in Papua New Guinea:
Colorful jumping spiders, a tiny frog with a "ringing song" and a striped gecko are among more than 50 previously unknown species discovered during a recent survey in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Click through to see pictures; it's worth it just for the jumping spider.

And a new species of mouse has been found in Peru:
The roughly 3.5-inch-long (8.8-centimeter-long) mouse primarily eats insects and seeds, making it a vital player in the region's ecosystem, researchers say.

Globally, it's very rare to discover new mammal species, added team leader Constantino Aucca, president of the Association of Andean Ecosystems.

Crabs apparently feel pain, and remember it:
Professor Elwood said: "There has been a long debate about whether crustaceans including crabs, prawns and lobsters feel pain. We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner 'feeling' of unpleasantness that we associate with pain. This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus. Such trade-offs are seen in vertebrates in which the response to pain is controlled with respect to other requirements.
Cheryl Rofer has launched a new weekly feature that'll offer informed comment on the Obama's administration's diplomatic efforts. This is a great idea, IMO. I'd hope everyone who reads this blog is already reading WhirledView, but if you're not, today is an excellent time to start.

In other news: An interview with the Malian photographer Malick Sidibé (don't miss the gallery). Linkograms and Meccanographs explained. Slow Down. An amazing collection of beer cans. An even more amazing collection of Edo monsters.

Words Taken Out of Context. Rare films from the Warner Bros. archive, available on demand. Strange forms of musical notation. A brief clip of platypus sounds. Images from the insides of rocks (via things).

Graphics galore at but does it float. Sounds from The Ghost Station. At least some of what you need to know about Great Lakes Sinkholes. A sampler of audio illusions. And via Plep, beautiful early views of Montreal.

And, of course, an animated film.

(Illustration at top: "Inland Lake" by John Olsen.)


Larkspur said...

Yup - this is the post that should have umpteen zillion comments. But I suspect it has had at least eleventy-seven thousand viewings. It is very very good.

dan mcenroe said...

Harbor seals have been steadily returning to the waters around NYC for some time now. A few years ago my mother saw one in the canal behind her house on Long Island and panicked; she thought a neighbor's dog had fallen in the cold water. I've since taken my daughter on a couple of harbor seal viewing trips.

Oh, and the robot fish? Sparkly. Sparkly + Science = what other reason could you possibly need?