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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Size of Wales

“The next step for organizer Hannah Scrase is to increase the level of forest protection to the size of Europe”

It’s nice to see news about grassroots organizations that manage to deliver tangible results and do it with equal parts mirth and moxie. The BBC’s environmental analyst, Roger Harrabin, has written a piece detailing a charity whose whole modus operandi was to help decrease deforestation in Africa and reclaim their country’s name as a positive societal yardstick. Tired of reading in the press about areas of deforestation equaling the ‘size of Wales,’ Welsh environmentalists decided to take proactive measures to correct the analogy – now they can proudly claim that they raised £2m in three years to protect over two million hectares of forest.

This is a testament to positive ‘spin doctoring’ and a resolute desire by the public to get involved in a charity that communicated its idea with a light touch. The Size of Wales campaign resulted in “more than £1m gathered from the public, and that has been match-funded by a Cardiff-base charitable trust, the Waterloo Foundation.” It’s also amazing to see how much can be achieved with this amount of money.

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David Miliband

David Miliband (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former UK foreign secretary and brother of Labour party leader Ed Miliband, David Miliband is leading the charge on saving the world’s oceans. It’s encouraging to see the proactive, heartfelt stance being taken in a bid to raise awareness for the plight of the high seas – as over fishing, sea-floor mining and “rogue engineering” are threatening the planet and making, according to Miliband, the recent financial crisis look like child’s play. The new organization, which Miliband will lead in a non-profit capacity, is called the Global Ocean Commission, and will “try to fashion practical solutions that are an environmental win and an economic win, and with a commission which is avowedly across north-south, east-west, rich-poor divides.” This commission’s aim is to help preserve and regulate the high seas, long been an outlaw frontier due to human being’s inability to reach and navigate the deeper waters – but, the last twenty years have seen an unprecedented encroachment on marine life. Read the rest of this entry »

Plastic Bags

Plastic Bags (Photo credit: Urban Woodswalker)

It dawned on me when I was buying fruit in a local grocery store, how unnecessary plastic bags were for the apples and oranges – just to collect them for the checkout – at which point everything else was to be bundled in plastic. And so this thought of ludicrous wastage found a friend in the unlikely place of a new BBC series online, called 60-Second Idea. This is a simple format whereby philosophers, scientists, psychologists, and in this instance, historian David Abulafia, posits an idea in one minute that could change the world.

Abulafia simply outlined how everything we are surrounded by, and use, is constructed, at least in part, by plastic. This is killing the oceans as it’s not broken down, and creating landfills the size of countries. But, the crux of the idea was for the planet’s inhabitants to “stop using anything plastic for one day a year,” as a way to think about our unconscious actions and their impact. Would this solve the world’s problem? Of course not, but it would help to illustrate how we are enslaved by our habits and the ‘tools’ of our everyday lives. Just as there is a blackout day when everyone across the globe is supposed to not use electricity in the evening, this is the equivalent for a substance, and one that is unmanageable and hugely overused. Read the rest of this entry »

The great outdoors

Lunch outdoors_20120201 (Photo credit: csmramsden)

The BBC recently ran a lengthy report on an interesting and hugely beneficial public-inclusive science project called the Open Air Laboratories (Opal). This was a five-year effort (although they hope to continue) whose aim was to get the public “outdoors and involved in scientific research.” It worked, and involved over 500,000 people and 25,000 surveys.

Although data collection – concerning the surrounding local and area wildlife –was an objective to the project the main impetus was “just to get people out and enjoying the outdoors, ” said Dr. Linda Davies, Opal project director. This has proven to be a big hit with the public and one that is arguably necessary now more than ever. There seems to be a big disconnect between our lives and that of ‘life outside,’ namely nature and the environment; it’s as if many of us believe we’re renting a room from nature, like a hotel, and don’t actually live in the same house with ‘it.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Désert-du-Thar - Water Scarcity in the making

Desert tribes living in the Thar Desert near Jaisalmer, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just last week international new sources ran reports on Beijing’s dangerous air quality, complete with pictures on the BBC and CNN of a thick blanket of yellow smog covering the streets – apparently at record, toxic levels. This, it could be said, is the cost of China’s rapid economic expansion over the last two decades. But before cynicism takes hold, there have also been unlikely reports of new environmental agendas emerging from the most populous country on earth; positive advances in tackling water scarcity and preservation.

This may seem like an inessential area of concern, but water scarcity will emerge as one of the greatest challenges to mankind in the foreseeable future. And the BBC have just run a piece on China being the global leader in investments to protect watersheds – “preserving or reviving natural features, such as wetlands, streams and forests that can store and filter freshwater supplies.” This is good news, and also shows that governmental and private sector decision-makers are thinking much longer term, unlike the U.S. or Russia. Read the rest of this entry »

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is working closely with companies in order to help the natural world facilitate further advances in technology and industry

It was encouraging to read an article on the BBC about the San Diego Zoo working closely with companies in order to help the natural world facilitate further advances in technology and industry. This is the first zoo in the world to open a ‘Centre for Bioinspiration’ hoping to inspire and aid human problems with the ‘biomimicry’ of nature. It may seem surprising, actually, that this is not already happening, when one thinks of the medicine from the natural world humans have collected and used – the list is limitless. But, with the increasing loss of biodiversity and extinction of species being very real threats, this may provide a learning bridge and also a means to re-discover the necessity of our coexistence.

Currently, butterflies are being studied at the zoo, hoping to inform the new design of the Mirasol e-reader display; the list of what humankind has managed to ‘steal’ from nature is enormous: Velcro, wing design in airplanes and wind turbines and all manner of sustainable environmental structures. The head of this new auspicious collaboration, Larry Stambaugh, has the simple goal of learning from the greatest teacher of all – nature: “The zoo’s scientists and animal care staff will research the biology of plants and animals, and the centre then aims to collaborate with organisations around the world to develop actual products.” Read the rest of this entry »

Image courtesy of xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Global Climate Initiatives – image courtesy of xedos4, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is immensely difficult to be positive in regards global climate initiatives – especially if you are a scientist. The reality is that much like the infighting and indecisiveness of nations in the eurozone, trying to climb out of their collective fiscal grave, the complexities of ratifying global protocols for reducing carbon emissions is a massive undertaking. The recent UN climate talks in Doha consisted of the usual theatre – demonstrators outside, glum-looking politicians inside, and the dour intonations of a wheezing BBC broadcaster in your ear, proclaiming doom.

And of course it all boils down to money. The biggest polluters are the U.S. and China, but many developing countries have had a difficult time getting on board with Kyoto in the past because they feel unfairly compensated by those with money – this is a global effort, after all. What the current talks did yield is a new ‘Loss and Damage’ protocol aimed at wealthier nations compensating poorer ones for environmental fallout from rising temperatures; many island nations in the South Pacific are at least slightly comforted by this turn of events. And this is another confirmation that countries are looking at the problem holistically. Read the rest of this entry »


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