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ANOTHER PLANET?

HOPIn the UK, collaborating with other nations to combat climate change and the release of a new Energy Bill to increase energy security in the UK were among the key announcements in the first all-Conservative Queen’s Speech since 1996. The Queen gave just two mentions of energy and the environment in her 10-minute speech, to the disappointment of green groups and sustainability professionals alike. First, she said “measures will be introduced to increase energy security,” and later she stated that the new Tory Government “will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change – including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.”

The Evening Standard reports that London is set to become Europe’s green tech capital under bold proposals being drawn up by environmental chiefs. Mayor of London Boris Johnson is backing the plan to create a clean tech hub in west London following the startling success of Tech City in the east. An outline plan will be delivered to the London Sustainable Development Commission on how to attract hundreds of start-up and larger eco-firms to Park Royal and the Old Oak Common area as it is redeveloped with the arrival of Crossrail and the HS2 rail line. Former climate change minister Greg Barker, who now chairs the LSDC, said: “Our ambition is to create the largest concentration of clean tech businesses outside of California and [become] Europe’s No 1 destination for green entrepreneurs. “Unleashing the green entrepreneurs is really going to drive this forward and take this to the next level.”

India is enduring such a severe heat wave some of its roads are actually melting. Over 1,000heat-related deaths had been reported as temperatures soar up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Farenheit.) in some parts of the country. Most of these deaths have occurred in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Telangana. Meteorological officials have said the heat would likely last several more days – scorching crops, killing wildlife and endangering anyone laboring outdoors. More here.

oil rigEdinburgh University has announced plans to divest from coal and tar sands within the next six months, apparently reversing a recent ruling by the university’s court. On 12 May, Edinburgh rejected plans to divest from all fossil fuels, saying it would do so only where feasible alternative sources of energy existed, and where companies were not investing in low carbon technologies. The decision sparked outrage from students and campaigners, including pickets, marches on campus and a 10-day occupation of the university central management building.

And staying in Scotland, Edie.net reports that Zero Waste Scotland is offering interest-free loans up to £100,000 to help Scottish businesses improve their resource efficiency. The loans will help fund new heating systems and experiments into improving industrial processes, amongst other things, which could help save businesses up to £2.9bn in total. Resource Efficient Scotland, a programme of the Government-funded Zero Waste Scotland, will be overseeing the programme and carrying out audits on applicants. Head of Resource Efficient Scotland Marissa Lippiatt said: “Making resource efficiency a priority doesn’t just benefit the environment; it can also lead to cost savings and a real competitive advantage” adding “We know that time, money and expertise can often be perceived as a barrier, particularly for small businesses. These funds can help overcome some of these barriers, and I hope to see businesses taking this opportunity and making progress in becoming more sustainable.”

The UK can cut the cost of decarbonising its electricity supply by more than £3.5bn if it can create a grid-scale electricity storage system to balance the variable output of renewables. That’s according to a report from QBC, a company looking to build such a system. The group’s technology of choice is pump storage – pumping water uphill into large reservoirs when power is abundant and then letting it flow down again to generate power when needed.

And British consumers are being ‘kept in the dark’ about the sourcing practices of some of the UK’s largest timber users, according to a new report from WWF. The research – Do timber products in the UK stack up? – analysed 26 products from 17 different companies and found that none could provide evidence that they had carried out ‘sufficient due diligence’ in ensuring a sustainable timber supply. Only one company (Cargo) was able to provide any documentation about its product, although the information was in Chinese.

honeybee1Morgan Freeman has turned his 24 acre ranch near Mississippi onto a sanctuary for bees. Freeman has said that he is especially concerned about the declining numbers in the bee population which is a big part of the reason why he decided to start keeping them. Freeman now spends his days feeding them with sugar and water. His gardener also chips in by planting acres and acres of bee-friendly plants including clover, lavender and magnolia trees and told reporters  “There’s a concerted effort to bring bees back onto the planet…We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation…”  And Londoners are rallying to protect the honeybee with growing numbers of residents installing hives in their gardens. The number of people in the capital hosting their own colonies has more than doubled in five years to 3,500 following high-profile campaigns to save the bees. The Co-Operative’s Plan Bee drive, launched to combat the decline in pollinating insects, says honeybee numbers have fallen by up to 30 per cent in recent years, with worldwide bee populations in similar decline.  The British Beekeepers Association says an average of 9.6 colonies in every 100 perished between October 2013 and March last year — double the number that should be lost in winter. A loss of habitat and rising pollution are thought to be chiefly to blame. Barnes & Webb which installs and manage hives in London, said they are having to turn people away as demand soars. They have installed 40 hives since 2012, half of them in the past 12 months, mostly in north-east London. The honey sells in Selfridges and other London stores.

Thames Water will soon be 100% powered by renewable energy, after inking a five-year, £520m supply deal with Drax-subsidiary Haven Power. The deal has an option for two further five-year renewals which could increase the overall value of the contract to more than £1.5bn over 15 years. Thames Water – the UK’s largest water and sewerage company – currently sources about 20% of its electricity through self-generated renewables.

A female cyclist who was hit by a lorry in south London during a day of horror on the capital’s roads has died, police said. Esther Hartsilver, 32, was injured in the crash on Denmark Hill on Thursday morning. Ms Hartsilver, a senior physiotherapist, was taken to King’s College Hospital, where she was a member of staff but died later, police said. She is the sixth cyclist to die on London’s roads this year. All have involved HGVs. Another cyclist in her mid fifties was killed in a multi vehicle crash in Walton on Thames. A van driver was under arrest on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. A third male unicyclist was fighting for his life is hospital after being trapped under a double decker bus in Walthamstow – he was freed after a crowd of  around 100 people who were in the area lifted the bus.   In April, renowned designer Moira Gemmill, 55, who was overseeing renovations at Windsor Castle, was killed in an accident near Lambeth Bridge. In February, French-born Claire Hitier-Abadie, 36, a mother of two, died after being struck by a Crossrail lorry as she rode a cycle-hire “Boris bike” through Victoria, central London.

airpollutionThe world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change: “It is becoming apparent that 2015 may be a critical year for the issue of climate change, in more ways than one. The obvious way, of course, is through the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop21) opening in Paris in six months, where the world community will try to agree a legally binding deal to limit the carbon emissions causing the atmosphere to warm (and for which the Global Apollo Programme to lower the cost of low-carbon energy, which we report on today, might play a vital role).”  The Paris conference may be the final chance the world gets to keep rising temperatures below the agreed danger threshold of 2C above the pre-industrial level. The last attempt to cut such a deal, at Copenhagen in 2009, collapsed amid fierce argument about who should do what, between the developed countries, led by the Americans, and the developing nations, led by the Chinese. More from Michael McCarthy here

A group of leading scientists have joined the campaign to end the use of coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, within 10 years – promoting cheaper green energy in a move to abate climate change.  The Global Apollo Programme aims to make the cost of clean electricity lower than that from coal-fired power stations across the world within 10 years. It calls for £15bn a year of spending on research, development and demonstration of green energy and energy storage, the same funding in today’s money that the US Apollo programme spent in putting astronauts on the moon.The plan is the brainchild of a group of eminent UK scientists, economists and businessmen including Sir David King, currently the UK’s climate change envoy, Lord Nicholas Stern, Lord Adair Turner and ex-BP chief Lord John Browne. King said green energy already had advantages over fossil fuel power in cutting deadly air pollution and reducing the carbon emissions that drive global warming. But he said making clean energy cheaper was important too: “Once we get to that point, we are winning in all the battles.”

Tesla has announced that the first of its utility-scale Powerpack battery systems will be deployed in Ireland next year, under a new deal with energy storage firm Gaelectric. The 1MW pilot system will is said to be the first in a series of battery projects designed to help integrate renewable energy sources into the Irish grid. Tesla said it will also be exploring opportunities for other Tesla Energy products in residential and commercial applications.

The UK government has pledged £50m funding to help encourage investment in renewable energy projects in developing countries. The cash – set aside from existing funding for the International Climate Fund – will go into the Climate Development Finance Facility (CDFF). The CDFF aims to stimulate funding for medium to large scale (between 25-75MW) renewable energy projects in emerging economies where finance would otherwise be hard to come by. It provides assistance from the development phase, through construction, to refinancing options after completion.

food wasteAlmost 130,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK government to force supermarkets to give unsold food to charities. The petition is calling for a law to be passed forcing retailers to donate leftover produce that is still safe to eat to food banks. It is almost two thirds of the way to its target of 200,000 signatures, just nine days after being launched. Lizzie Swarf, who started the the campaign, pointed to a new French law which passed on Tuesday, as inspiration.

An ambitious project to build the world’s first tidal lagoon for generating clean electricity off the coast of Swansea has triggered an environmental row on the south coast of Cornwall. And a second row is brewing, with a Chinese construction group in pole position to win a huge contract to undertake marine works at Swansea Bay, despite key promises by the developers to prioritise local involvement. The Cornish dispute centres on a project to reopen a quarry at Dean near St Kevergne on the Lizard Peninsula, to source at least 3m tonnes of stone for the Swansea project. Many residents in Dean and St Kevergne, some ocean scientists and all the local candidates in May’s general election oppose the quarry scheme. The Cornish stone would be used to build a six-mile long breakwater in Swansea amid hopes of generating significant shipping volumes in a newly-created marine conservation zone.

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ANOTHER PLANET?

tigetwikiFinally some good news for tigers – one of our most beautiful and most endangered species. Hunting and poaching (to feed the demands of chinese ‘medicine’) has decimated the tiger population across Asia, but now India has said that there has been a 30% increase in wild tiger numbers – up to 2,226 this year from 1,706 in 2010. Still woefully tiny, but better and India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar called the rise a ‘huge success’ after intensifying efforts to stamp out poaching and re-introduce tigers to areas where they had been wiped out, and halt the steady destruction of their natural habitat.

And in South africa, 100 rhinos have been moved to new and secret locations in neighbouring states. South Africa has some 80% of the world’s remaining rhino population and is at the epicentre of the poaching crsis – it lost 1,215 animals last year, a 20% rise on 2013.

Climate change may be wiping out California’s famous big trees which are dying off faaster than ever. More than half of the state’s redwoods, ponerroas pines and other giant trees have died in less than a century. The trees are more susceptible to high temperatures and water shortages than smaller trees.

The symbolic doomsday clock moved to three minutes before midnight because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signalling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war. It is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down. The scientists who set the clock say world leaders have failed to face up to the dangers of climate change and the risk of a ‘potential catastrophe’. US scientists say 2014 was the hottest on record. Nasa and Noaa scientists reported that 2014 was 0.07F (0.04C) higher than previous records and the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. That didnt stop the US Senate from viting that climate changeis NOT caused by human activity. The Senate voted virtually unanimously that climate change is occurring and not, as some Republicans have said, a hoax – but it defeated two measures attributing its causes to human activity. Only one Senator, Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, voted against a resolution declaring climate change was real and not – as his fellow Republican, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma once famous declared – a hoax. That measure passed 98 to one. But the Senate voted down two measures that attributed climate change to human activity. “Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will,” Inhofe told the Senate. “The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.” CLIMATE CHANGE IN PICTURES.

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The Guardian reports on illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean: “Staying hidden behind sea ice and large waves, sailors aboard a navy patrol boat from New Zealand sneaked up on three suspected poaching ships, then took photos and video of the fishermen hauling in prized fish in banned nets from the ocean near Antarctica. Seemingly caught red-handed, the crews of the rusting vessels just kept on fishing. Authorities say this month’s high-seas confrontations, and the detailed evidence collected, mark a first in Antarctic waters, where regulators have long suspected poaching activities but have found them difficult to police in an area that’s roughly the size of the continental United States. It is a huge illegal business. Each of the ships could hold more than $1m worth of Antarctic toothfish, marketed in North America as Chilean sea bass.” More here.

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Fossil fuel companies have taken up majority positions in key renewables trade groups steering them towards a pro-gas stance that influenced Europe’s 2030 clean energy targets, industry insiders claim. Big energy firms such as Total, Iberdrola, E.On and Enel have together adopted a dominant position in trade bodies such as the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). Their representatives now constitute a majority on both group’s boards. Officials in EPIA were told to argue for a renewable-gas alliance as the answer to Europe’s energy security concerns, while EWEA lowered its 2030 clean energy ambitions by a third, according to ex-staffers, renewables experts and policy insiders. They argue that the more pro-gas stance influenced the 2030 climate targets adopted by EU governments last year.

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The former Tory environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, has called for a ban on fracking in the UK ahead of a report by an influential committee of MPs that is expected to conclude fracking could derail efforts to tackle climate change. The intervention by Spelman, a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, comes as the UK government’s drive for fracking came under heavy political attack.

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ANOTHER PLANET?

badgersUK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the UK’s planned badger cull, to stop the spread of bovine TB, will save the UK £1 billion and that there was now no backing down from the culls. Trials in West Somerset and Gloucestershire expect to see 5,000 badgers killed. Mr Cameron said that without the cull there would be ‘appalling consequences, not just for the cattle and the farmers – there are also appalling consequences for the badgers’. Errr yes David – like extermination.

The Lib Dems have said that motorists who hit cyclists should be deemed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise. The ‘presumption of liability’  would also apply to cyclists who hit pedestrians. The Lib Dems also plan to crack down on the illegal use of cycle lanes by motorists. And Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has called for a radical shift in priorities for long term funding and road priorities in favour of cyclists and pedestrians as well as a sustained programme of cycle training.

The UK’s Prime Minister has announced that £160 million will be spent to ‘cycle proof’ Britain’s roads to make it easier and safer to cycle and encourage more people to cycle. Networks of safe cycle paths will be built in eight cities (Norwich, Cambridge, Newcastle, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford and Leeds) and four national parks – and a new cycle route is being considered alongsid the new HS2 train line.  also 14 key stretches of A roads will be re-designed to make them safer for cyclists. The Times comments that works still neds to be done: hundreds of dangerous road junctions still need to be improved, 20 mph zones need to be expanded across cities, lorries entering cities should be fitted with extra safety equipment, training for cyclists shoukd imrpove, and two percent of the Highways Agency and Transport Budget should be allocated to cycling

Shares in electric sports car maker Telsa Motors jumped 18% on news that the US company had sold 5,150 of its Model S cars in the second quarter – despite a starting price of more than $70,000.  The company now expects to hit an annual production rate of 40,000 by 2014. Shares have doubled since the start of the year.

India, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are all planning new dams on rivers in the Himalayas to produce hydro-electricty. The number of planned dams is staggering: China is planning 100 dams and Pakistan 9, and India is planning a massive 292 dams – with scientists warning that there could be dangerous consequences for the environment. In what has been dubbed a ‘water grab’, the new dams would produce 160,000 MW of electricity from the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Huang he, Salween, Irrawaddy, Mekong and Salween rivers.

The Observer reports that the Lake District in England is facing a plague of freshwater terrapins – discarded and abandoned pets which are dumped. The small cute little critters, brought to satisfy cravings stirred by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, soon grow into large, aggressive and smelly pets – you have been warned!

Fuel prices in the UK have prompted 73% of drivers to modify their driving and take other measures to save fuel: Actions taken include reducing speed, with 20% of drivers removing heavy objects from the boot of cars, 26% now check tyre pressures, and 39% of people drive less. But just 3% car share to get to work a survey of 2,007 adults by Sansbury’s Car Insurance has shown.

ALLOTMENTS4A late Spring, and a recent burst of warm and then wet weather means that Britain can expect a fruitful Autumn – with a bumper crop of fruits and berries when the delayed Autumn finally arrives according to data collected by the Woodland Trust.

Three ministers in Peru have resigned pover plans to allow Argentina’s Pluspetrol, Hunt Oil from the USA and Spain’s Repsol to drill for oil in a reserve for indigenous tribes. Protesters say that the influx of workers and machinery could devastate the local Nahua people – and disease could be fatal to many. Since the 1980s, half of the tribe have been wiped out.

Britain’s largest consumer group Which? has called on the National Audit Office to investigate whether households are being ripped off by green levies on fuel bills. The levy is used for subsidies on wind farms and home insulation but the government seems keen to let fuel companies carry out its environmental programmes – mad really – I still have boxes full of unwanted and unasked for low energy light bulbs which will probably last me me ten lifetimes from the last time we let the fuel companies try and do something ‘green’ They don’t. They are out to maximise profit.

The Rice Fergus Miller Office and Studio green building achieves its low energy use by “designing for off” – that is, designing efficiency and simple intelligence into the building so that systems can be turned off for the majority of the year. Great idea!

A new study by ow a study confirms what everybody always knew: peple who drive expensive cars have a sense of entitlement and don’t think the rules apply to them. A study by Paul K. Piff of The University of California, Berkeley shows that higher social class increased unethical behavior: The study used a series of experiments to quantify how “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower class individuals”: One experiment involved looking at how drivers dealt with four way stops (fancy cars were more likely to cut off other drivers) and whether they stopped at pedestrian crosswalks. Cutting off a pedestrian violates the California Vehicle Code. In this study, 34.9% of drivers failed to yield to the pedestrians. BMW drivers were the worst offenders.

hyperloop-elon-musk-image-04.png.492x0_q85_crop-smartElon Musk, founder of pay-pal and Telsa Motors has published details of a new solar powered futuristic supersonic vacuum tube pod  train – what he calls the ‘Hyperloop’ (without patents, under an open source license). The plans can be found in a 57 page PDF file that goes into quite a lot of detail, with TreeHugger saying the design shows that Musk is not just a business person, but is also the “chief product architect” at both Tesla and SpaceX, immersing himself deeply into the technical side of things. The solar-powered, city-to-city elevated transit system can move people (and cars, in the larger version) from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

And finally, fishermen on the Øresund Sound in Scandanavian waters reeled in a Pacu, much to the alarm of folks at the neighboring Natural History Museum of Denmark. The fish, an unwelcome new arrival that’s closely related to the piranha, boasts a set of blunt, square teeth that are apparently well suited for nibbling on one of the most sensitive parts of the male anatomy who are now advised to “Keep your swimwear on if you’re bathing in the Sound these days – maybe there are more out there!”

Gibson – is it the wood? Is it the trees?

As we previously reported, Gibson, the famous guitar maker, is facing a criminal investigation in the USA over that claims it broke environmental laws  on importing wood. On August 28th, federal agents seized shipments of Indian rosewood from Gibson’s Nashville and Memphis grounds with US Authorities claiming that Gibson had violated the terms of the US Lacey Act. The law requires that imports to the US comply with laws in the country of origin.

This was the second time that Gibson was raided since the law took effect 2008. The first raid was about wood imported from Madagascar. Rosewood, specially Brazilian rosewood is regarded by some guitarists “holy grail”. It is effectively unavailable as it is officially an endangered species. Wood from Madagascar has been banned amid pressure from environmental groups. Although available in India, it is only under certain conditions.

The wood is used for fingerboards with  a strip running along the neck of the guitar. Rosewood is touted by serious guitar players as the best material for this purpose.

In a somewhat bizarre move, Gibson chief, Henry Juskiewicz, turned to the Tea Party for support (!!!!) claiming that this raid was an example of “unacceptable over-reach” of the US federal government:  Juskiewicz  even appeared on stage in Nashville and was introduced as the “the man who stood up to the federal government”.

Perhaps more sensibly, on the  Gibson website a statement  says  “The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India (simply) because if the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.  This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.”

Read more: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/music-is-killing-the-rain-forest/#ixzz1aeYzbRyW