Monthly Archives: April 2009

Science to the rescue?

 

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

The Royal Society has set up a study group on geoengineering climate – looking at ways science can provide a ‘quick fix’ for climate change. The main two schemes are the use of mirrors to reflect away sunlight – and so reduce global warming, and using ‘scrubbers’ to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Lets be honest, geoengineering isnt a real solution – what we need are low carbon economies and we ned to use sustainable energy sources (not least because fossil fuels will run out one day) but geoengineering could provide a shor term and much needed respite from the damage already being caused by global warming.  The idea of reflecting away sunlight isn’t new – about 30% of all sunlight is reflected away anyway and when volcanoes erupt the ask and dust in the atmosphere can produce a similar effect to mirrors. Here the idea is to use mirrors to increase  the reflection rate by a few more percent – having an immediate effect on the Earth’s surface temperature. CO2 scrubbing is a longer term process and might take decades to take effect, but would go to the root of the problem – an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  The risk here is that the long term manipulation of the world’s ecosystems might have damaging side effects. So lets hope the Royal Society’s study produces some coherent thoughts for the future.  

 

 

The Guardian  29 April 2009 p28

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Turbine plant to close

 

Power to the people

Power to the people

Just when we thought the UK and US Governments’ budgets might have added some stimulus to the UK’s sustainable energy economy, news reaches us that Britain’s only wind turbine manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight is to shut with the loss of 600 jobs. The plant, owned by Danish firm Vestas, makes blades for windfarms in the US but the chief executive of the plant, Ditlev Engel, blamed a number of factors including the weak pound, a lack of local political intitiatives and a culture of ‘nimbyism’ and inflexible planning regulations in the UK which has meant that the UK wind market had stalled. Elsewhere BP reported a slump in sales of solar panels and that it would cut 620 jobs from its solar energy division in the US and Spain and that solar sales in the first quarter of 2009 were 15MW of power, down from 34MW in the same period in 2008.   Shell has already pulled out of solar, hydro and wind power, no concentrating on biofuels and carbon capture and storage,  Siemens cut 400 jobs from its wind farms in Denmark and Scottish Power owner Iberdrola has cut green investment by a half this year. The Guardian also revealed that one of the UK’s most efficient windfarms, Haverigg on West Cumbria’s ‘energy coast’ was in danger of demolition to make way for a new nuclear power station

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The greener recharge?

Like the windmills of my mind

Like the windmills of my mind

Did you know that it is quite possible by 2010 that the biggest users of electricity in our homes will be the gadget (see www.tinyurl.com/2010gadgets ) and everything from mobile phones to PSPs to lap tops to MP3 players do, of course, need energy. Now somethings, like wind up radios and torches are pretty energy efficient, just neededing  a tiny bit of human effort.  But every thing else either needs mains poweer or a battery. We throw 600 million batteries away every year – nasty toxic things – so rechargable reusable AA batteries are a simple and far eco-friendlier solution. You can even get rechargable bateries which plug into your USB port on a laptop – very funky. But even these batteries still need energy and in gadget land everything else needs power – and massive amounts of it when its ball added together. So, what is the greenest way to recharge gadgets? Well firstly try and get a gadget with low energy use – they vary dramatically – and you can compare mobile phone charger efficiency for example at www.tinyurl.com/mobchargers. There are ‘eco freindly’ chargers too for mobiles  – wind powered and solar powered (Solio, Freeloader, Solar Monkey)  so have a look at them too – at the Glastonbury Fetsival last year a number of living pods came with a built in charger. With laptops make sure you look for a lap top with a long lasting battery – and even when it is finished – try and recycle the battery – rechargable batteries in Nokias and Macbooks can be recycled. New fuel cells might be the future and the recently developed new generfation of silver zinc latop batteries might be a green solution – but in tne meantime that old mantra – reduce – reuse – recycle – still holds true in gadget land. Switch of a gadget or charger when not in use – reuse batteries – and recycle what you cant reuse.

See the article by Adam Vaughan in the Observer Magazine (Ethical Living) 26th April 2009

The Green Groove

Get into the Groove

Get into the Groove

Athens based Perpetual Groove, known to fans simply as P Groove, have been a pioneer within the US jamband music scene with their eco-friendly & sustainability initiatives.  Partnering with Tree Sound Studios, Sustainable Waves, and Green Mountain Energy Company, P Groove has shown their commitment to protecting the environment. To start with, all of P Groove’s tour emissions from touring are offset with renewable energy credits from Green Mountain Energy and this includes travel, lodging and all electricity used during live shows. P Groove also extends the opportunity to their vast fan-base by giving fans an opportunity to purchase a $2 renewable energy credit at the time of ticket purchase to offset the fan’s travel to and from shows. It gets better – P Groove also plant one tree for every ticket purchased through their online ticketing system and last but not least all of their promotion materials and CD packaging are created using soy inks & recycled materials. Catch the band on tour – see their website for dates at http://www.pgroove.com/

The Great Ape debate

 

 

I go ape every time I see you smile

I go ape every time I see you smile

As scientists argue over the best way to save the orang-utan, this beautiful and gentle primate’s habitat is rapidly being destroyed to make way for farms, palm oil plantations and acacia forests (to provide wood pulp).  Habitat loss and poaching are pushing them towards imminent extinction and every minute, every day, a size equal to six football pitches of Indonesian forest is lost. London will host the Great Ape debate on Thursday 30th April at the Linnean Society against a background of almost 1000 orangutans, many orphaned infants,  who are living in refuges in Sumatra and Borneo. The orangutan population is probably only 7000 in total in Sumatra and there it is ‘critically endangered’ – even with 40,000 orangutans in Borneo the population there is ‘endangered’. Conservationists remain divided about whether sanctuarys will protect the species, pongo abelii and pongo pygmaeus  and whether santuary animals can ever be successfully reintroduced into the wild. Scientists believe that with the current rate of deforestation by 2020 there will be so few wild orangutans that the population will not be sustainable. 

 

 

 

Bill Baily will headline a special concert for Orangutan SOS on the 1st June 2009 at the Lyceum Thetare in London.  The OrangeAid concert features Dave Brown (Bollo, The Might Boosh), Tim Minchin, Nina Conti and Jason Manford and hosted by Simon Munnery. For tickets see the Sumatran Orangutan Society website  – SOS http://www.orangutans-sos.org/  

Image: www.orangutanisland.org

Wind turbines spin again

You spin re right round baby right round ...

You spin re right round baby right round ...

The UK Government’s decision to boost subsidies for offshore wind generation seems to have had the desired effect with new announcements of commercial investment breathing life back into what was a moribund industry.  Danish energy giant DONG Energy has said it will go ahead with a £1.2 billion wind farm of Cumbria and it is thought that DONG, along with Eon, will invest £2.5 billion in the London Array – the scheme to locate 175 turbines in the Thames Estuary -producing enough energy for 750,000 homes. Analysts also believe that Centrica, owner of British Gas, is now reconsidering three projects in the North Sea and added to this is the news that Scottish Power have said they aim to become global leaders in carbon capture technology after the Government announced up to four new demonstration projects that would produce energy from coal, capturing and burying harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

 

 

 

 

 

Are fishing stocks at the end of the line?

 

How much for the fish? how much for the chips?

How much for the fish? how much for the chips?

Conservation groups have warned that at least a third of the world’s oceans need to be closed to all fishing if stocks are  going to be saved from total collapse. Callum Roberts, a professor at the University of York says that anything between 20% and 40% of the world’s oceans need protection. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 70% of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited (and cannot sustain any more fishing as populations can only just replenish themselves) but also say that the majority of fish populations have been reduced between 70-95% – in Europe 88% of stocks are overfished and in danger of collapse – and the current common fisheries policy in Europe is clearly not working, with up to 50% of the cod we eat being caught illegally.  Marine protection areas (MPAs) are not new but new marine protection areas need to be extensive, last for twenty years, be policed – and seem to be crucial to allow for the real regrowth of fish populations and the recovery of seabed habitats.  Three small no-take zones in the seas around the UK have far higher reserves of fish and lobster stocks than waters around them which are not protected. Currently just 0.8% of the world’s oceans are covered by MPAs.  It seems that anything else apart from urgent protection of stocks will probably mean that we will just having chips with chips.

 

 

Look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) mark for reliable evidence of sustainable fishing. The MSC certify sustainable fishing practices