Friday, July 31, 2009

Saving a Rainforest (con't)

Regardless of the eventual source of funding, there is no question that considerable funds need to be generated to effectively reduce deforestation. A recent report from the Meridian Institute on behalf of the Norwegian government estimates that to achieve a 50 percent reduction in deforestation by 2020, REDD will need a commitment of 2 billion per year in 2010, increasing to 10 billion per year in 2014 for capacity building, readiness activities, and demonstration projects. The report suggests financing could come through a global fund, financed through donations generated by auctioning of emission allowances, fuel surcharges, or development aid. Prince Charles has suggested a different approach: a rainforest bond issue to provide emergency funding.

Beyond the money

Beyond the issue of financing, there are other points of contention, including how to establish baselines, especially in countries and regions that have managed to maintain forest cover or have already reduced deforestation rates dramatically. Some countries—like Costa Rica—want credit for early action, while others are pushing for elevated baselines to account for potential deforestation, positions that raise eyebrows among those concerned about the integrity of REDD. But as Kevin Conrad of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations puts it, "If we don't provide incentives for countries that have so far maintained their forests, but otherwise have land suitable for conversion, then those forests are going to fall."

National vs. Sub-National

There is heated debate over the scale and scope of REDD projects. Because few countries are expected to have national REDD programs up-and-running anytime soon, developers are first starting with individual projects within countries—a sub-national approach—that are ready for market-based compensation now. But eventually these projects will need to be integrated into a national system to avoid leakage and other issues. The process of integration remains contentious and some fear that early stage projects will never be recognized in national level accounting, depriving them of access to lucrative compliance markets.

Negotiators must further work out whether to include emissions from degradation of other carbon-dense ecosystems like peatlands, which in some years may contribute more than 2 billion tons in emissions. Wetlands International is adamant that peatlands be part of a climate pact—especially in light of Indonesia's recent announcement that it will open millions of hectares of swampy wetlands to oil palm cultivation. The move—ostensibly to expand production of palm oil, which can be used as a feedstock for biofuels—could trigger millions of tons of emissions and destroy habitat critical for endangered species, including the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.

Another issue—known as permanence—stems from the integrity of forest carbon stocks and the capacity of a forest to retain carbon in the future. Critics ask how it can be assured that a forest protected for REDD won't be logged, accidentally burned, or damaged by a storm, flood, or drought, reducing its capacity to store carbon. The issue is a significant one given the forecast impacts of climate change in places like the Southern Amazon. The 2005 drought—caused by abnormally high temperatures in the Atlantic, rather than el Niño—killed millions of trees and turned large expanses of the Amazon into a tinderbox. Thousands of square miles of forest went up in smoke, releasing more than 100 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Healthy forest and recently cleared forest adjacent to Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) (February 2006). Photos by Rhett Butler.

REDD advocates say this issue can be addressed partly through safeguard required under criteria like the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards (CCB) as well as emerging insurance products and national reserve accounts proposed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. But the best protection may be the forests themselves. Studies suggest that reducing deforestation can be one of the most important factors in increasing forests' resistance to the effects of climate change.

New technology, including a new class of remote sensing applications, will help scientists and forest managers monitor forests for degradation. Satellites and high-altitude aircraft equipped with lasers and high-resolution sensors can map the structure of the forest, greatly increasing the accuracy of carbon estimates as well as documenting changes in carbon stock. CLASLite, an advanced processing application for monitoring tropical deforestation, and Google Earth are greatly expanding the availability of forest cover data to scientists, policymakers, and the general public.

Eroded hillsides in Madagascar (October 2004). Photo by Rhett Butler.

An issue of payment

But great satellite imagery won't resolve a thorny issue arising from the need to directly address drivers of deforestation. Given that industrial activities today account for the bulk of deforestation, a successful REDD mechanism may mean paying agents of deforestation—forestry firms and agribusiness—to cease their activities. The concept doesn't sit well many environmentalists, but in cases where landowners are within the law, REDD becomes a way to encourage loggers, oil palm plantation developers, large-scale farmers, and ranchers to leave their forests standing.

Cattle pasture and forest in the Brazilian Amazon (top), Cattle in the heart of Mato Grosso state (April 2009). Over the past decade more than 10 million hectares – an area about the size of Iceland - was cleared for cattle ranching as Brazil rose to become the world's largest exporter of beef. Now the government aims to double the country's share of the beef export market to 60% by 2018 through low interest loans, infrastructure expansion, and other incentives for producers. Most of this expansion is expected to occur in the Amazon were land is cheap and available. 70 percent of the country's herd expansion between 2002 and 2006 occurred in the region. Photos by Rhett Butler.

"Without economic incentives, standing forest will always lose out to pressures from the market," explained John Carter, an American rancher in the Brazilian Amazon, who heads Alianca da Terra, an NGO that works to encourage environmental stewardship among beef producers in the Amazon. "Land appreciation and production value are at the end of the day what determine land use. In order for REDD to work, all landowners—whether they be Indians, ranchers, or farmers—should be allowed to participate."

Carter believes that forest reserves—required under Brazilian law for landowners in the Amazon—should be eligible for payments under REDD.

Some environmentalists worry that REDD could become a tool for "greenwashing," whereby firms mask their environmental damage by buying REDD credits. This concern touches on the entire debate about "offsets," a concept that activist groups like the World Rainforest Movement and the Rainforest Foundation UK find deeply troubling. Buying REDD credits, however, will not offer environmental transgressors sanctuary from environmental campaigns and freely accessible satellite imagery. Green groups are already putting Google Earth to use for monitoring deforestation and other activities.

Forestry remains a controversial issue in REDD discussions. Some environmental activists complain that REDD may allow selective logging in old-growth forests, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense ecosystems. Others argue conversely that sustainable logging should be allowed as a source of income for forest holders, including indigenous communities. Recent reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlight the value of reduced-impact logging as a mitigation strategy. But the impact of logging depends largely on forestry rules and governance structures, an area of particular concern to the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA), a coalition of eight environmental and rights groups.

Issues of consumerism, governance

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a member of the ECA that works on international trade and demand issues, believes REDD should incorporate rules for demand in consuming countries, since deforestation is as much driven by market demand in industrialized nations as it is by poverty in developing nations.

Logging truck in Malaysia (April 2008). Photo by Rhett Butler.

"My major concern is that until we talk about these demand issues in a meaningful way, we aren't talking about a real solution," EIA Forest Campaigns Director Andrea Johnson said.

Johnson believes funds for supplemental activities under the Waxman-Markey bill could be directed towards joint implementation of demand-side laws like the U.S. Lacey Act, which is used to fight illegal logging by requiring companies to respect environmental laws in the countries from which they obtain plant and wildlife products.

Jihan Gearon of the Indigenous Environmental Network, an indigenous rights coalition, said, "Offset mechanisms, including REDD, do not address the real problem causing climate change. The major driver of climate change is the historical and current burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—to feed the unsustainable consumption needs of industrialized countries, like the United States. We have to prioritize and focus on changing these unsustainable consumption patterns, which are responsible for not only climate change but also a host of other issues including pollution to land, water, air, animals, and people."

Governance also is a critical issue for the success of REDD—it ranks among the top priorities among REDD designers, but good governance is difficult in frontier areas where most deforestation is occurring. Development agencies are positioning REDD as a vehicle to deliver services and protections that vast amounts of aid have so far failed to provide—a tall order for a conservation initiative. Still, REDD has at least two advantages over prior mechanisms: it offers a wide range of benefits and will be performance-based. If a country fails to reduce deforestation by meaningfully addressing drivers of deforestation, it won't collect.

But this new governance regime raises other questions, especially in areas where rights are poorly defined. This is particularly important for forest-dwelling communities and indigenous people, who despite having occupied lands for years or generations may still lack formal title, or even basic rights, to land and resources. Many groups fear that regulation could cause them to be further disadvantaged, depriving them of their land as well as leaving them out of carbon payments. Some paint a nightmare scenario of forced displacement at the hands of carbon speculators.

"REDD projects do not help indigenous peoples and forest peoples," Gearon said. "In fact they hurt these communities and take away access and rights to forests, traditional territories, and medicines. Our principal hope and concern for the REDD mechanism, as well as other market-based solutions to climate change, is they be rejected because they are false solutions to climate change."

The Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups have called for the inclusion of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a treaty signed by the majority of the world's countries in 2007, in REDD. But REDD designers say the stipulation is unlikely because negotiators from countries that haven't signed the Declaration (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States) can't sign an agreement that binds them to a treaty their countries have not ratified. Many native leaders are lobbying for a mandate that all REDD programs seek the "free, prior, and informed consent" of local people.

But in spite of these concerns, the consensus among coalitions representing forest people is that forest conservation should be included in a climate framework. Some groups are even supportive of a market mechanism, recognizing that a well-designed mechanism is better than the status quo.

The Surui are an example. The tribe actively sought out its own carbon project, first focusing on reforestation of areas that had been illegally logged, but then exploring REDD as a means to generate income to defend its forest home. Almir Surui, a Surui chief who has become the public face of the tribe, said forest conservation is also a way to maintain culture in a place where there are strong bonds between land and society.

But in pioneering their REDD project, the Surui have run up against some obstacles, indicating that the forest carbon initiative hasn't been designed with indigenous issues in mind. For example, by virtue of being good stewards of their forests the Surui encounter the same problem faced by countries with high forest cover and low deforestation rates: the REDD process doesn't reward them for their success in maintaining their forest cover even as forests around their reservation fell to bulldozers and loggers.

Bulldozers on the edge of the tropical rainforest (top), logs awaiting processing and shipment in Gabon (bottom) (June 2006). Photos by Rhett Butler.

The final installation on this riveting article tomorrow!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tips for This Unseasonably Warm Weather

Wow!! Are we in the middle of a heatwave or what. British Columbia (where I live) has the dubious distinction of being the hottest province in Canada. Of course, Vancouver, very close to where I live has the distinction of being one of the hottest cities in British Columbia. Could I get any luckier?

The article by Rhett Butler is not finished yet - there are about two more installments - but, I felt it necessary to interrupt and do a "hot weather warning" blog. Some repeats of warnings; some new ideas.

1. Water, water, water. No, I don't mean water contained in coffee, tea, soda or any other drink. I mean real, unadulterated water. Your tap is full of it. Drink at least 10 - 12 glasses a day in this heat IN ADDITION TO anything else you might drink.

2. Sweating is nature's way of keeping us cool; but, sometimes your sweat glands can't keep up unaided. Stop every once in a while - drink, rest, cool down; otherwise, you might find yourself the victim of heat stroke or worse.

3. Your pets. I have one dog, three cats and five birds that are feeling it as much as I am. Replace their water several times a day with fresh, COLD water. When positioning fans, think of your furbabies as well. I place the birds under the ceiling fan. (These cages are roofed; so, there is no draft.) I have one fan placed directed at me. Yeah, baby!! I have one fan directed toward the floor for the animals.

All the birds have small bowls of cool water on the bottom of their cages for baths, etc. This water is replaced at least twice a day. For the dog and the cats, I either lightly mist towels; or, if I doing laundry, I dry them to nearly dry (but not quite). Then I pop them in the freezer for an hour or so. When they come out, they are lovely and chilled. The chill lasts quite a while and penetrates every fur known to petdom. The cats and dog lay around on them while I prepare the next batch.

4. Try not to fall asleep in a room with no air conditioning or fan when the temperature is rising in that space. With nothing to cool the air or keep the room a steady temperature, you might sleep long enough to become overheated, suffer heat stroke or worse.

5. Stand under a cool shower for few minutes. You will amazed at how refreshed you will feel for a long time afterward. Try to remember the water shortages when showering; and, save some for the next guy.

6. Take extra precautions with places that involve skin on skin contact (such as armpits). Moisture can accumulate in these dark, moist, warm places and; all of a sudden, the Fungus family comes to live rent-free. Take extra care to clean, dry and powder these areas: feet and toes; armpits; personal areas (front and back); and, if you are a size cuddly, pay special attention to under the apron.

7. Cover the windows not only to keep out any extra heat and sunlight; but, to allow you the privacy to wander naked. One of my favourites! Being naked in a place where you feel totally safe is a very freeing; not to mention; cooling experience. No matter how light the clothing, it traps some of the heat generated by your body next to your body causing you to be hotter than if you wore nothing at all. I have also found that walking naked in my home has helped me to become more accepting of who I am physically.

8. Apply ice cubes wrapped in a towel (never ice cube to bare skin) and place it on your wrists. This helps to cool the body very quickly. It is incredibly refreshing and the effects last for quite a long time after the application. The ice cubes applied to the back of the neck will help cool the blood headed for the brain.

9. Get a 1 or more 3 liter bottles, fill them approx. 3/4 full of water, freeze them, then place them in a large bowl (to catch dripping water). A bowl of ice cubes can be used as well. Position a fan to blow on them. As the ice in the bottles melts, the air cools around them. The fan will blow that air at you. The water in the bottles can be frozen overnight and used again, repeatedly.

10. Pop a bag of grapes, cubed cantaloupe, cubed watermelon or the like into the freezer. When frozen - enjoy. I understand that frozen banana is delicious.

Do not underestimate the heat, friends - it can be killer. Water, water, and more water. While you're at this, take note that your urine output will not seem to be any more than usual because you are losing so much water through sweat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saving a Rainforest

Lowland rainforest in Costa Rica (March 2009). Photo by Rhett Butler.

By 2007 advancements in science had shown that not only were verification and monitoring of forest carbon possible, but that emissions from deforestation and degradation were so significant that they couldn't be excluded and keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels under 450 parts-per-million, a level seen by many scientists as a critical climate tipping point. The Rainforest Coalition had a strong case that actions on forests by tropical countries could make a substantial contribution to the battle against climate change. But the Coalition still had to go up against the United States In Bali, where the U.S. delegation was attempting to block progress towards a post-Kyoto agreement. Conrad issued a direct challenge:

"We ask for your leadership, but if for some reason you're not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."

Minutes later the U.S. delegation capitulated, paving the way for the Bali Action Plan, which recognized the critical role tropical forests play in regulating climate.

Bali proved to be a watershed moment for REDD. During the meeting, Norway unveiled its International Climate and Forests Initiative, a plan to commit some 3 billion krone ($500 million at the time) per year to rainforest conservation, a sum still unmatched by any other donor. The World Bank announced a $300-million fund, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), to jumpstart REDD projects in developing countries, and several other countries voiced support for the concept of REDD. Since Bali, momentum has only grown. In 2008, Britain and Norway put $200 million towards the Congo Basin Forest Fund to fund forest conservation activities in Central Africa; the U.N. has launched it own REDD fund; and Prince Charles made saving rainforests his signature cause, developing the Prince's Rainforest Project to bring business and political leaders around to supporting conservation. His efforts culminated in a historic meeting between heads of state to discuss rainforest conservation ahead of the G20 summit in April 2009.

Oil palm plantation and logged-over forest in Borneo (April 2008).

Mining road in Suriname (June 2008). Photos by Rhett Butler.

Developing countries have also become involved. Ecuador offered up a large tract of rainforest in the eastern Amazon as a giant forest carbon offset, while a group of 26 African countries in East, Central and Southern Africa announced the African Climate Solution, a plan to seek carbon financing for forest conservation, rural development, and poverty alleviation. Meanwhile, dozens of other countries have applied to the U.N. REDD program and the FCPF to begin receiving funds for REDD readiness activities. But the biggest news came from Brazil, which announced the formation of a $21 billion fund to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 70 percent within 10 years, preventing an estimated 4.8 billion tons of carbon that would have been emitted under a business-as-usual scenario.

Owning to its lack of a climate policy, the United States has been slow to move on the concept of avoided deforestation, but a broad base of interests, including conservationists, development experts, scientists, and industry groups, has helped pushed it to the front of the climate agenda. Groups like Forest Carbon Dialog and Avoided Deforestation Partners, have played a critical role in working through difficult policy questions, fostering partnerships and strategic alliances between sometimes adversarial parties, helping draft legislative language, and informing policymakers of the multiple benefits of REDD.

Emissions from fossil fuels for the U.S. and China, 1900-2007.

"Having a dialog among companies, NGOs, and other stakeholders about how to get forest carbon on the table in a U.S. policy context have been very important," said Petsonk of EDF.

The efforts have paid off, with REDD figuring into last year's failed Lieberman‐Warner Senate Bill and the American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) narrowly passed by the House of Representatives in June. The current version of ACES, which is now in the Senate, seeks to achieve supplemental emissions reductions of at least 720 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2020 and a cumulative amount of at least 6 billion tons carbon dioxide by the end of 2025 through avoided deforestation. The proposal is equivalent to the United States conserving 34,000 square miles of rainforests in developing countries and would boost U.S. emissions reductions targets from 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 to 27 percent if fully exploited.

U.S. climate legislation is particularly important for progress on REDD. Without it, the U.S. delegation to the December 2009 Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen will not be able to bring much to the negotiating table, Eizenstat said.

"It is impossible for the U.S. delegation to go beyond the emissions targets that Congress will set in legislation," he said. "The administration cannot go further than Congress will allow. Congressional legislation will thus be a very important step."

National GHG emissions from industrial sources (electricity generation, transportation, buildings, etc) and LULUCF, 2000. Note that some countries have negative emissions from LULUCF meaning they these sources are a net carbon sink. Also note that the E.U. is listed in addition to its individual member countries.

Supporters say that beyond the environmental benefits of REDD, there are good reasons for the U.S. Congress to include REDD provisions in climate legislation, including reducing compliance costs for American business under a cap-and-trade system, engaging developing countries in a climate framework, and bolstering security in potentially worrisome areas through sustainable development and climate change mitigation.

"Climate change impacts could include crop failures and drought, creating instability and the potential mass movement of ‘eco-migrants,'" Eizenstat said. "But strong forest provisions would offer multiple co-benefits."

Tracy Johns, a forest policy expert who is co-leader of the Woods Hole Research Center's REDD Initiative, agrees.

"From a domestic standpoint one of the things that makes REDD a really attractive policy option is that it is a mechanism to encourage developing countries to take on emissions reductions goals," she explained. "At the same time it offers to these developing countries a potential pathway to use forests in a sustainable matter for development. Finally REDD offers a very interesting and potentially very effective cost containment measure U.S. businesses under cap-and-trade program. REDD will make it easier for the U.S. to reduce emissions further at a lower cost."

While still evolving, the U.S. position appears to be leaning towards a financing mechanism for REDD that includes both fund-based and market-based financing mechanism for REDD, a position shared by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and by Australia. Financing remains one of the most contentious issues for REDD, with Brazil calling for an aid-based fund and Europe hesitant to allow forest carbon into its compliance market for fear it could cause the price of carbon to fall. Market advocates say that fund-based approaches will be subject to political whims and won't generate the kind of money needed to reduce deforestation at the scale and pace necessary to meet emission reduction targets.

But the critical issue in the market debate really is the fungibility of credits—whether countries can count carbon credits against their emissions. ("Fungibility" means that economic assets are exchangeable in the satisfaction of obligations.) Some Europeans countries are worried that the REDD credits will undermine low-carbon technologies without meaningfully reducing emissions, while Brazil doesn't like the idea of letting industrialized countries off the hook for their emissions. Environmental groups are split. Some call any sort off offsetting a "false solution" to climate changes; others say strong caps will greatly reduce the risk of the market for carbon credits being flooded.

"The central issue that is a critical impediment to progress on REDD and really to anything dealing with global warming is that the United States is not in the international game," Stephan Schwartzman, co-author of the seminal paper on compensated reduction of emissions from deforestation, said. "The U.S. has not actually begun to reduce its emissions nor created a cap-and-trade system. As long as that's the case, European policymakers are justifiably concerned about guarding the integrity of their carbon market."

Clearcutting in the Peruvian Amazon (October 2005). Photo by Rhett Butler.

"In the international discussion, among some NGOs there's still a sense that we can somehow avoid the risks of the market funding all of this with one version or another of public funding. But government priorities change and public funds are limited," Schwartzman said.

"A robust market mechanism is going to be critical to having this work. If there are too many good, real reductions from avoided deforestation out there, then tighten the cap. How hard is that?"

William Boyd, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School who has worked closely on REDD policy issues, agrees that a capped system can help avoid market flooding. A Greenpeace study, released at Bonn, has warned that in an unlimited market, carbon prices could drop by up to 75 percent.

"This isn't an extension of pure project-based offsets," Boyd said "The system is moving towards a national accounting framework where a country only get credits if it reduces emissions below a baseline that could progressively ratchet down over time—it might go to zero deforestation at some point. At that point you're trading between two capped sectors or two capped systems. Very different than the idea of offsets."

Continued next blog!!

Saving a Rainforest (con't)

The Birth—and death—of forest carbon

Protecting forests as a climate mitigation strategy has a history in the United States. American power companies—including American Electric Power (AEP), PacificCorp, BP Amoco, and others—spent millions of dollars in the 1990s to protect at-risk forests in Belize, Bolivia, and Brazil in hopes of getting early-action credit for "offsetting" their greenhouse gas emissions by preventing deforestation.

The Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project, as the Bolivian initiative was known, would become model for "avoided deforestation." Project designers carefully calculated a baseline deforestation rate using business-as-usual scenarios; set up monitoring and verification systems; accounted for leakage—deforestation that would be displaced to other areas by the protected status of the park; and set up a system of incentives for people in and around the protected area.

Tia Nelson, daughter of the late Gaylord Nelson, the governor and senator who founded Earth Day, is now co-chairwoman of the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. She was a key participant in the development of early forest-protection mechanisms as a deputy director of the Climate Change Program at the Nature Conservancy (TNC), a conservation group based in Washington D.C., which provided technical and scientific support for the projects.

"I was fascinated by the idea that companies would pay to conserve forests as a climate change mitigation strategy," she said. "Noel Kempff was particularly well-designed."

But the utility of Noel Kempff and other forest conservation projects was limited by the exclusion of forest conservation from the climate agreement reached in Kyoto in 1997. For many environmental groups, forest carbon was at best a distraction from the key issues of Kyoto, and at worst an insidious way for polluting industries to continue emitting greenhouse gases by paying poor countries to reduce their own emissions. When the United States pushed for inclusion in the Protocol of carbon sinks like forests, opponents saw it as an attempt by the world's largest polluter to avoid emissions cuts.

Rainforest in Borneo (April 2008). Photos by Rhett A. Butler.

Rainforest in Borneo (April 2008). Photos by Rhett A. Butler.

Stuart Eizenstat, a prominent attorney at Covington & Burling, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and the lead U.S. negotiator during the Kyoto talks, said that while justifications for conserving forests seemed strong, bigger concerns loomed over Kyoto, including emissions trading and contributions of developing countries to mitigation.

"We pushed for sinks because we were looking for every conceivable way to both engage developing countries and reduce costs. We knew that cost was going to be the most critical issue as it is today," Eizenstat said.

In the end, the rancor over offsets led to the exclusion of forest conservation from Kyoto. Forests were included in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)—Kyoto's attempt to involve developing countries in a climate solution. CDM allowed for afforestation (planting of new lands) and reforestation projects, but not for "avoided deforestation," although the provision was short-lived. Afforestation and reforestation was relegated to temporary credits in the Marrakesh Accords in 2001 and completely excluded from the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the European Union's compliance market for carbon. All this greatly limited the value of forestry credits.

Deforestation-induced erosion in Madagascar (October 2004).

Nelson said the decision not to include forest conservation in Kyoto came as a disappointment, but not a surprise. A lot of environmentalists argued that offsets were not a solution to reducing industrial emissions, a sentiment that remains strong today.

"It was a pretty lonely battle at the time," Nelson said. "I was hopeful that we had a good case but there were only a few voices arguing for avoided deforestation then."

The decision to exclude forests from Kyoto was a controversial one, producing shouting matches and bitter rifts between environmental groups. It would also prove costly to tropical forests and their inhabitants.

Oil palm plantations and logged over forest in Malaysian Borneo (April 2008). While much of the forest land converted for oil palm plantations in Malaysia has been logged or otherwise been zoned for logging, expansion at the expense of natural and protected forest does occur in the country. Reserve borders are sometimes redrawn to facilitate logging and conversion to plantations. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The years following Kyoto saw a surge in deforestation, particularly in two countries with the most extensive forest cover: Brazil and Indonesia. In Brazil, deforestation increased nearly year by year between 1997 and 2004, peaking at 10,600 square miles in 2004, an area the size of Massachusetts. The story in Indonesia was even worse. The collapse of the Suharto regime in 1997 ushered in a period of chaos, resulting in unprecedented destruction of forests. Loggers and oil palm plantation developers cleared and burned vast areas, facilitated by one of the strongest el Niño events on record. When the smoke cleared, more than 25,000 square miles had burned in Indonesian Borneo alone, unleashing upward of 2 billion tons of carbon. All told, since Kyoto's exclusion, the two countries have lost more than 160,000 square miles of forest, an area nearly the size of California, releasing billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and placing the two countries among the top emitters in the world—a position far outpacing their industrial output.

But deforestation wasn't limited to Brazil and Indonesia. With no incentives to keep forests standing, deforestation accelerated around the planet, especially in primary forests, the richest biologically and most carbon-dense form of forest and the most irreplaceable. Centuries-old rainforests were cleared for cattle pasture, oil palm plantations, mechanized soy farms, and industrial pulpwood. Environmentalists continued to sound the alarm, perhaps failing to realize their own role in the rising carnage. Meanwhile, supporters of avoided deforestation regrouped, expanded their reach, and explored new ways to include forests in a global climate deal. To be workable, a proposal would need to overcome serious technical, political, and ideological obstacles.

Rebirth of the forest initiative

A breakthrough came from an unlikely source: an academic paper. A team of American and Brazilian researchers analyzed the issues that kept forests out of the Kyoto Protocol and came up with a solution that addressed the most pressing concern, "leakage"—the idea that project-based schemes like CDM couldn't guarantee that shutting down deforestation in one area wouldn't simply shift it to another. The authors, including Márcio Santilli, Paulo Moutinho, Stephan Schwartzman, Daniel Nepstad, and Carlos Nobre, proposed a system of national accounting, meaning that countries would have to commit to national-level, rather than project-level, reductions in deforestation. The concept suggested a mechanism that would look a lot like trading between two capped systems, rather than just offsetting emissions.

Pastureland and transition forest in Mato Grosso, Brazil (April 2009). Since 2003 Brazil has set aside 523,592 square kilometers of protected areas, accounting for 74 percent of the total land area protected worldwide during that period. Photo by Rhett Butler.

"The publication of ‘Tropical deforestation and the Kyoto Protocol" was a very important development because it created a scientific space—and a policy space—where you could actually talk about reducing emissions from deforestation and put the leakage question to one side. It didn't completely resolve the leakage question but it greatly tempered it." Annie Petsonk, a policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said.

A crucial parallel development was the emergence of a negotiating block—later to become known as the Coalition for Rainforest Nations—that would enable developing countries to participate meaningfully in reducing emissions and would help quiet complaints that Kyoto didn't do enough to include all countries.

In 2005 Papua New Guinea joined forces with other forest countries to form the Coalition of Rainforest Nations with Kevin Conrad as executive director. A key member of the coalition was Costa Rica, a country lauded by the international community for transforming itself from a high deforester to a model of conservation.

"One of my first official delegations was to Costa Rica to find out how they turned their deforestation rate around," Conrad said. "They said, 'Yes, we did it, but we've been taxing ourselves. No one's been helping us with it.' Well, we knew Costa Rica might be able to do that but for most of us, there was no way. We would need a source of funding."

The Coalition went to the U.N. Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Montreal in 2005 and immediately met opposition from the United States, which was content doing nothing on climate. The U.S. delegation told Conrad it would kill the Coalition's proposal, fearing that if developing countries put forth a plan committing to robust and meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases, the United States would no longer have an excuse not to take action on climate.

"The U.S. was going to block us simply for that," Conrad said.

Conrad engineered a strategy for delaying U.S. action during the Montreal talks, persuading dozens of countries supportive of the proposal to push their voting buttons ahead of the United States.

"If the U.S. went first, all the naysayers would pile on," he said. "But if they were fortieth following a long trail of positives I was hoping they wouldn't be able to kill the proposal."

Sure enough the United States agreed to give the proposal two years, sending it out to committee with the expectation that it would collapse under the technical challenges of measuring, verifying, and monitoring emissions from deforestation. Should the proposal make it to COP 13 in Bali in December 2007, the U.S. delegation promised to kill the measure then.

History took a different turn, though.

The Coalition for Rainforest Nations
The Coalition for Rainforest Nations was born out of a conflict between the World Bank and Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country better known for its cultural diversity (more than 800 languages are spoken across its rugged mountainous terrain) than its political acumen. But the dispute over a $50 million payment could someday lead to billions of dollars in payments for protecting global rainforests. PNG could be one of the largest beneficiaries.

In 2001 the World Bank came to PNG with a loan proposal: around $50 million over 10 years for the country to cease all logging and transition to sustainable forest management. But PNG turned it down, arguing that the offer was too low to meet the needs of the forest communities that had signed the logging contracts. The loan rejection triggered a standoff between PNG and the bank, leading to damaging accusations and an ugly fight.

"These communities want to save the forests, which are the basis for society and culture in New Guinea," said Kevin Conrad, an American born to parents living in Papua New Guinea and now a lead climate negotiator for the G-77 and China. "But at the same time these communities need schools, health and access to markets to develop."

Conrad went to graduate school at Columbia University with the intention is exploring ways for PNG to capitalize on its forests without destroying them. In New York he met with the World Bank and was surprised to find that it was the world's largest carbon trader. He asked the bank how one of its departments could be demanding that New Guinea stop logging, while another was trading carbon.

"I asked the World Bank, 'Why not put your efforts together and give us something we can work with?'"

The World Bank told Conrad the idea was a non-starter because the Kyoto Protocol didn't allow forest conservation projects.

"So I asked, 'what if we change the Kyoto Protocol?'

The World Bank told him that if he changed the Kyoto Protocol then all options would be open.

"So that was the basis of our submission in 2005."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saving a Rainforest

For quite some time now, I have been seeing pictures by Rhett A. Butler; admiring them and wishing I could go to some of these locations and see the things he has seen. I have also been a fan of the site and visit it regularly. I was surprised to find that one of my favorite websites was written by Rhett A. Butler.

He has done a marvelous article (complete with incredible pics) on saving a rainforest. Rhett has graciously given me permission to reprint his article in its entirety complete with accompanying photos. The following article was completely written by Rhett A. Butler. The article is fairly long; so, I have split it into several parts. I have also included all hyperlinks that Mr. Butler has in his article.

Keep reading for part 1 of "Are We on the Brink of Saving Rainforests" by Rhett A. Butler.

Until now saving rainforests seemed like an impossible mission. But the world is now warming to the idea that a proposed solution to help address climate change could offer a new way to unlock the value of forest without cutting it down.

NOTE: See Bigg REDD for a condensed take on this concept.

Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, members of the Surui tribe are developing a scheme that will reward them for protecting their rainforest home from encroachment by ranchers and illegal loggers.

The project, initiated by the Surui themselves, will bring jobs as park guards and deliver health clinics, computers, and schools that will help youths retain traditional knowledge and cultural ties to the forest. Surprisingly, the states of California, Wisconsin and Illinois may finance the endeavor as part of their climate change mitigation programs.

As unlikely as it may sound, this collaboration could become a reality under a far-reaching initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), a climate change mitigation mechanism currently under consideration by U.S. legislators and in international discussions for a "framework" on climate change. Supporters say REDD could send billions of dollars a year to developing nations for conserving their rainforests, while preserving biodiversity; protecting ecosystem services like rainfall regulation, watershed functions, and erosion control; promoting rural development in some of the world's poorest, and in some cases, least, governed regions; and breaking a deadlock that has stalled international climate negotiations for over a decade, since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Deforestation in southern Laos (January 2009). Photos by Rhett A. Butler.

The premise of REDD is straightforward: tropical forests store roughly 25 percent of the planet's terrestrial carbon, more than 300 billion tons. When forests are cut—their vegetation burned and timber converted into wood products—much of this carbon is released in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The clearing of 50,000 square miles of tropical forest annually accounts for roughly 20 percent of global emissions from human activities—a share larger than all the world's planes, ships, cars, and trucks combined. In other words, despite the attention given to the fuel efficiency of cars and the number of flights taken by celebrities, parking all the world's jets and cars still wouldn't offset the annual emissions from global deforestation.

But reducing deforestation is no simple effort. Forests are being destroyed as a consequence of global economic forces—demand for timber, pulpwood, beef, soybeans, and palm oil—as well as subsistence farming. Slowing or eliminating deforestation means addressing these underlying drivers by making forests valuable as living entities, rather than solely for what can be produced when they're cut. And the issue goes beyond economics. Good governance, including law enforcement, recognition of land rights, and fair distribution of benefits, is the issue that will make or break REDD.

Tropical deforestation rates from 2000-2005, ranked in descending order by the highest amount of average annual forest loss for 25 countries based on data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Thinking REDD

The idea of forestalling climate change by saving forests is not new, but it has had to win its way slowly. The Kyoto Protocol went a different direction, and critics of REDD fear it would be too complex to manage in a world economic scheme for climate rescue. (Some critics also think most plans don't do enough to address overconsumption by developed nations.

REDD suffers, like all such schemes, from the difficulty of explaining itself in terms non-specialists can understand. Carbons markets, offsets, cap-and-trade—all these have been in the language for years now, but the topics still seem esoteric to many. This "my-eyes-glaze-over" syndrome may be especially acute in the United States, whose government declined to join the Kyoto Protocol. But still, there are the Surui people—and if an Amazonian tribe can get help in saving its home forests by partnering with U.S. states, maybe the rest of us can get some handle on the idea.

What's more, the whole subject of climate change and its mitigation has gotten a renewed boost with the Obama administration's support of cap-and-trade—the concept of legally limiting a region's greenhouse-gas emissions and encouraging trade in the "credits" earned by industries that meet or exceed the standards. (A debate continues, however, over cap-and-trade vis-a-vis what are sometimes seen simply as "pay-to-pollute" offsets.)

Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan (May 2009). Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Stay tuned - next blog has more fascinating info and wonderful photos.

An Amazing Stat...

According to the latest data, the number of vacant homes in the USA touched 18.7-million in the second quarter of this year. This figure seems to be astronomical; and, putting it into a context we can all understand confirms that. Assuming four people per household, the US currently has enough surplus housing to shelter the entire population of the UK, with enough room left over for the residents of Israel.

Did You Know That...

42% of all industrial wood harvested goes into the production of paper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grandparront Post

The first two picturs are of the oldest baby, Daffodil. The second two pics are of the runt of the clutch.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Reader Says...

After reading the article about what can happen to your e-waste, a reader wonders how to properly dispose of it.

Some suggestions are:

1. If you are recycling your own computer, remove the hard drive and take a hammer to it. Think of a cause, invite friends over, offer them a "whack" at your hard drive for $1.00 or so; and, donate the proceeds to charity.

2. If the equipment you are trying to dispose of is still truly useful, consider donation. Electronics labs at schools are often happy to accept old equipment; but, make sure it is wanted first. Inquire about their procedure for dealing with your hard drive.

3. Computers and cell phones that are still in good working order can sometimes be donated to programs which refurbish them and pass them on to people in need. There are programs for victims of domestic violence; women in danger; people in third world countries; and, so many others. Before donating to such a program, make sure that they are actually passing on working electronics, not just dumping e-waste. Again, do your due diligence and investigate.

4. Check with the store and/or company you bought your computer from. Many them will take your old computer back for either refurbishment for a social program or disposal. Again, check their veracity.

5. Do your homework. Check the Internet to find responsible recyclers who don’t sell their "scrap" e-waste. The International Association of Electronics Recyclers has a useful link for this.

6. Check with environmental groups for their "insider" views on this.

7. A number of communities have recycling programs, some of which deal specifically with e-waste. Check to see if your community has such a program.

8. Check with the governmental agency in your area that deals with the environment. They may have information and/or resources that will help you.

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to safeguard your information in other people's computers. Ask the companies you have to give personal information to how they dispose of the hard drives on their computers when the computers are replaced. If the answer is not satisfactory, check out similar companies.

Identity theft is becoming so rampant nowaday that are two methods of protecting that I highly recommend.

1. Subscribe to a service like "Life Lock" in the USA. It's a service that guarantees no one can steal your identity; or, they will cover your costs to $1m US.

2. Take out Identity Theft protection on your home owner's insurance.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This E-Waste Dump Site in Ghana Should Scare You on Many, Many Levels

Mid-November 2008, I did two blogs on the ewaste being dumped in China and the environmental problems that were occuring due to improper disposal of our old electronics. Click here for part one; and, click here for part two. The picture below is of Agbogbloshie, Ghana; although, one can be excused for thinking it was a dump site in China. So far, most of the attention surrounding e-waste has been on the environmental issues involved; and, there are plenty - all of which should scare the socks off you.

This dump site and others like it in Ghana should scare you on so many levels I barely know where to begin.

This dump site in Agbogbloshie, Ghana is an example of improper e-waste disposal. Photo: Hahn. Taken from

Greenpeace released a report about e-waste being labeled as “second-hand” or “donation” and then dumped on Ghana for disposal. PBS has just released a video on the growing e-waste problems in Ghana. The entire documentary can be viewed at

I am proud to say that the expedition was led by correspondent Peter Klein and a group of graduate students from the University of British Columbia (UBC). UBC is the largest university in BC and is located in Vancouver, BC.

The environmental issues surrounding this issue are enormous; and, reasonably well-known. However, a new crime has become a burgeoning business for those involved in e-waste disposal. This newest crime is perpetrated in Ghana; but, the victims are overseas in such countries as the USA, Canada, UK, and other European countries.

At the dump sites in Ghana, after the e-waste has been separated; usable material salvaged; and, unusable material is discarded, salvageable hard drives are sold on the streets. Most of the hard drives haven’t been cleaned property; and, therefore still contain personal information.

Off-camera, some Ghanaians admit to criminals combing through these hard drives, recovering information such as credit card numbers, account numbers and personal files. It is no wonder the US State Department lists Ghana as one of the top sources of cyber crime in the world.

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

The locals call the area “Sodom and Gomorrah,” as it has become an e-waste graveyard, with electronics from the U.S. and the U.K., among other countries.

On the videos there is laughter by the man relating how all they need is the hard drive to find out everything about you; and, then they empty the bank accounts of these unsuspecting victims. Unfortunately, the money is never recovered.

The maker of this documentary bought some hard drives in Ghana, brought them back to Canada and viewed them using “tricks of the trade” taught to them in Africa. Amazingly, they found documents from Northrop Grumman (among other companies) that revealed the details of a $22m government contract and information regarding the Pentagon, NASA, Homeland Security and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The following two videos are the major portion of the PBS documentary you may have accessed at the top of the page. If you haven't watched it yet, do so now. I guarantee you will be horrified at what you see.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Did You Know That...

In the Caribbean, there are oysters that can climb trees. All oysters have an appendage known as a foot equipped with strong bivalves that allows them to "walk" underwater. In the Caribbean the oysters have lungs, so they can climb trees.

Did You Know That...

A duck's quack is the only sound that does not echo. Scientists have never been able to determine why.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Giant Squid Invasion in the Waters of California

Photo credit: Dana Rene Bowler (Ventura County Star) Courtesy of

Tales of giant squid slithering up from the depths, wrapping their tentacles around sailors and pulling them overboard to their deaths were the stuff ancient mariners’ nightmares were made of.

A modern-day invasion of jumbo flying squid is plaguing the shallow waters off San Diego, CA., USA. Scuba divers and beachgoers alike are unsure about going back in the water after seeing these denizens of the deep washed up on the beaches.

Humboldt squid are carnivorous and can weigh up to 45 kg (100 lb). They have huge beaks and can be very aggressive and/or inquisitive.

"The ones that we are getting right now have a big beak on them, like a large parrot beak," San Diego's Union-Tribune quoted John Hyde of the National Marine Fisheries Service as saying. "They could take a chunk of flesh off you."

Humboldt squid, which can weigh up to 45kg (100lb) have entered shallow waters off San Diego, California. Photograph: Visuals Unlimited/Corbis.

Close encounters of the cephalopod kind have many divers and swimmers running for the beaches. Many were torn between concerns for their personal safety and the opportunity to swim with the squids – an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Adding to the personal safety concerns are the reports by some divers that the squids’ tentacles were enveloping their masks and yanking at their cameras and gear. There is also the danger that the squid could foul their airways.

Adding to the fear is the fact that the Humboldt squid, named after the current in the eastern Pacific, have been known to attack humans. They have been nicknamed "red devils" for their rust-red colouring and mean streak. Divers wanting to observe the creatures often bait the water; then, use a metal viewing cage or wear chainmail to avoid being lashed by the creature's tentacles. Think shark cage!

The squid, which is most commonly found in deep water from California to the bottom of South America, hunts in schools of up to 1,200 individuals, can swim up to 15 mph and can skim over the water to escape predators.

An 4.0 earthquake took place in the Pacific Ocean 19 miles out to sea just before the Humboldt squid showed up. This is being looked at to determine if it may have dazed the squid to the point that they ended up beached a La Jolla beach.

Following are two short videos showing the humboldt squid problem and questioning whether the earthquake was responsible.

View more news videos at:

Beautiful photography and great music!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small Adult Basking Shark Washes Up On Beach in New York

A 20-foot-long basking shark washed ashore on a Long Island beach on July 14, 2009. Photo courtesy of CBS.

A 20', 5,000 pound basking shark washed up on a Long Island beach July 14, 2009, reports CNN. This shark may seem large; but, basking sharks can reach a length of 35' and weigh up to 7 tons (14,000 lbs), making this one quite small - probably a very young adult.

The shark died shortly after authorities arrived on the scene. The cause of death is unknown, although the possibility of a boat strike has been ruled out.

A full-grown basking shark is second in size only to the whale shark. In summer and autumn months, the species is a common sight in the surface waters off the USA's eastern seaboard. Basking sharks migrate south for the winter, feeding on plankton and small fish off the coast of South America.

Despite being so intimidating looking, the basking shark is harmless to humans. Basking sharks are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to overfishing for its fins used in shark fin soup.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Second-Hand Clothes Are Healthier For You Than New

Image: Flickr, Joe Shlabotnik.

I confess to a fascination with used things. I love to feel the worn pages of a book and wonder who read this before I did, sit in a reclaimed chair and feel the comfortable grooves made by people before me who loved this chair; and, I find used clothes fit more comfortably than new.

Hand-me-downs used to be a staple in our house while I was growing up. And, they became a staple in our house while my children were growing up. Our financial situation was such that new clothes were almost totally out of reach. However, the one situation where people still try to buy everything new is in the case of a newborn baby.

The German Bundesinstituts für Risikobewertung (BfR, or National Institute for Risk Assessment) has warned that newborns need better consumer protection advocacy. Pediatrician Axel Hahn of the BfR explained: Many parents completely remodel the room for the nursery, without giving thought to the amount of harmful substances newborns face from the new furniture, paint and carpet. The conclusion? Second hand--even for baby clothing--is often the healthier choice.

Many people don’t realize that new items usually emit or leach dangerous chemicals. The overwhelming majority of new furniture emits formaldehyde from the glues and particle board constituents or chemicals added as flame retardants. New carpets can release polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) which is know to impair thyroid functioning. states this about baby clothing:
• Because of its appeal to a variety of insects, conventional cotton gets treated with pesticides more than any other crop except coffee.

• The pesticides used, cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin, are all known to cause cancer, and have been classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as the most dangerous pesticides.

• In order to give baby clothing a "finish" it is often treated with flame and stain retardants, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals.

• According to Organic Baby author Kim Rider, these chemicals can not only irritate your baby's eyes, nose and throat, but they have been linked to depression, leukemia and cancer.

• Formaldehyde is another common fabric finish. It should also be avoided, because it is a neurotoxin and carcinogen.

• Beware of synthetic fabrics, such as fleece, which are derived from petrochemicals that off-gas throughout the life of the clothing. Benzene, Ammonia, Ethylene glycol are all common in fabric finishes of fleece, polyester and polyester blends.

Many adults have hypersensitivity to environmental pollutants and are changing their lifestyles reflect this.

More and more consumers are using naturally-sourced items rather than man-made items (eg. hardwood floors rather than carpet, clothing made from natural fibres sourced from crops that are not doused with pesticides, etc.) It is only common sense that irritants that plague adults would have a far more concentrated effect on children and babies. Children and babies are especially sensitive to these additives as they have a much larger ratio of skin surface to body size, breathe more quickly, and have faster metabolic rates.

Going to a baby shower? Buy organic and/or used and explain to the mother-to-be why. She'll love you for putting her baby's health first.

Proud to be British Columbian

Photo courtesy: T’Sou-ke Nation.

A small community on Vancouver Island is undergoing a solar project of epic proportions. T'Sou-ke First Nation in Sooke on the southern end of Vancouver Island will be powering nearly 30 buildings with solar energy.

British Columbia is a breath-taking province with many different climate zones. Sooke, on Vancouver Island, happens to be in the “rainforest” zone which accounts for the lush vegetation; as well as, being on the coast which explains the rugged “water/rock” landscape. Of course, I am just bragging; but, have decided to add a gratuitous picture of one point-of-view of Sooke anyway.

Photo courtesy:

Bragging over - on with the story.

The T'Sou-ke First Nation has launched a solar power project that will power its band office, fisheries building, canoe shed, and 25 homes on the reserve. They are installing solar panels to pre-heat hot water; and, photovoltaic panels to create clean electricity. The plan behind the photovoltaic panels is to avoid paying higher prices for electricity and to power potentially large savings as hydro prices spike.

Chief Planes said at the opening of the project: "We need to educate British Columbians [and] Canadians as a whole. We need to all get in the same canoe and go forward, and for us, like the potlatch style of giving away, we have information to give away, and this is where it starts."

The community had trained nine residents in solar power installation so that they would be able to take on the project. Another win-win situation. The residents received funded training and the community, in turn, receives well-trained technicians with a vested interest in the project. These highly-trained individuals will also be able to manage all future projects without the T'Sou-ke First Nations having to hire either outside contractors or as many contractors depending on the magnitude of the project.

Chief Gordon Planes of T'Sou-ke First Nation is hoping that other communities across Canada (and globally, hopefully) will look at this project and realize how feasible this can be when you go about it in the right manner. "I guess you could say we're the new warriors. We're educating our young people to be able to take on this task and it takes a whole community to do that," he said.

The new solar panel was launched on Friday, July 17, 2009 on the reserve. This forward-looking Nation is also looking at wind power and organic farming for their next projects.

Chief Gordon and the T’Sou-ke First Nation rocks! (as the young people say)

Remedy For Colony Collapse Disorder

An Israeli company, Beeologics, has developed a vaccine against Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder is a syndrome that has been wiping out bee communities and threatening agricultural production all over the world. No one knows what causes it.

Their new drug, Remembee has completed successful clinical trials on millions of bees in North America. It has proved to be effective in maintaining bee health; increasing the longevity of bees; and, increasing honey production. Based on Nobel prize-winning RNAi technology, an interference technology, Remembee helps the bees overcome IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus).

Nitzan Paldi, Chief Technology Officer of Beelogics, explains to ISRAEL21c,
“The technology is based on naturally occurring biological agents. Conceptually, we’re introducing the factor that prompts the silencing response,” says Paldi. “We didn’t invent gene silencing, it’s been around for eons, and discovering its broad applicability earned Andrew Fire and Craig C. Mello the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2006. However, as far as we know we are the first to use it commercially on non-humans.”

"It's really a tug of war between the virus and the host. We are helping the bee tug the rope more strongly and beat the virus. We take advantage of an immune system that the bees elicit for viral disease. But we are really using naturally occurring phenomenon. It's not a pesticide and it's not toxic."

This animated video shows how RNAi works:

Videos of the Baby Parrotlets Now Posted to YouTube!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Onion Waste Turned Into Electricity

All photos courtesy of Gills Onions.

Onions – one of nature’s superfoods; and, as far as I am concerned, one of the holy trinity of cooking – onions, garlic and ginger!!

A lot of waste products have been turned into biogas (most well-known being manure). However, this is the first time I have heard of onion waste being used for biogas production.

Gills Onions, the largest processor of fresh onions in the USA, has just debuted an anaerobic digester system at its Oxnard, CA location. This digester will turn 100% of the plant’s onion waste and juice into electricity, heat and cattle feed.

In a win-win situation both Gills Onions and the environment come out as winners. The environment wins because 300,000 lbs. of onion waste is utilized each day to produce enough electricity to power 460 average homes. This also removes 300,000 lbs. of onion waste from being landfilled daily. It is estimated that 30,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases will prevented from entering the atmosphere.

Gills Onions wins because they get a warm, fuzzy feeling for doing something so environmentally significant; and, it saves them $700,000 per year in electricity cost. Furthermore, by installing the system Gills Onions is eligible to receive $2.7 million from Southern California Gas Company as part of a state program to encourage on-site electrical generation for businesses.

This a flowchart of anaerobic digestion:

Photo courtesy Blue Planet Energy.

Here's a couple videos on the making of biogas.

Design of a floating drum biogas digester for an Ecovillage at the Children's Youth Empowerment Centre in Nyeri, Kenya.

Did You Know That...

A donkey will sink in quicksand; but, a mule won't.

Did You Know That...

Cranberries are sorted for ripeness by bouncing them; a fully ripened cranberry can be dribbled like a basketball.

Another Proud Grandparront Post

Three more pictures of the babes. If you look closely at the end of the babe's beak on the bottom of the pile, you can see the beginnings of the horn of the beak. This chick is 1 week old. That chick is, of course, Daffodil. The other two chicks remain unnamed.

If you look at the bottoms of the pictures, you can see the eye of the third chick in the top one and fuzz from it's back in the other two.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

$780 Million Desalination Plant To Be Run Entirely On Renewable Energy

Photo via Getty Images

In the next blog or so, I will be looking at using desalination of ocean waters to help remove CO2 from the atmosphere; and, I thought I would segue into the next couple of blogs with this.

Australia is in the worst drought in 117 years. The Murray-Darling river area has been in the drought’s grip for the last ten years. This affects the local farmers which affects Australia’s economy which affects the global food market. It’s the ripple effect; and, farmers have been told that they will have to continue preparing for the worst.

The solution it would appear, on the surface anyway, is a new $780 million desalination facility that is planned for Western Australia. This plant was approved in late June and will boost water supplies in the area by 20% upon completion in 2011.

Photo via jez.atkinson

The Australian government has approved the plans based on the plant meeting strict requirements for wildlife preservation and its commitment to run entirely on renewable energy sources to help reduce its emissions.

Business Green reports WA (Western Australia) Conservation Council and other green groups are carefully watching to make sure the plans for the new plant ensure that it runs on 100% renewable energy in the forms of wind, solar and geothermal.

Western Australia's Minister for Water, Graham Jacobs has made a statement that the plant will run on power purchased from renewable energy suppliers. While this all sounds environmentally friendly, it’s not the same as it powering itself from renewables:

“The Water Corporation intends to purchase all the energy requirements and associated Renewable Energy Certificates for the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant from renewable energy generators,” Jacobs said. “Most will come from generators using proven renewable energy technologies. The corporation is also hoping to have a portion of the energy requirements purchased from renewable energy generators using technologies not yet commercially proven at this stage.”

Construction begins later this year; and, there are many locals and environmentalists that are against the desalination plant. (See video below)

While it would be great to see the plant built with its own solar, wind and geothermal power generation supplies, it's encouraging news that the power purchased will come from these sources. However, vigilance from green groups is still needed.

Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said, “The previous state government fudged the figures on the Kwinana desalination plant, saying it was carbon neutral, and powered by renewable energy when that was not the case. As the Water Corporation’s annual report shows, greenhouse gas emissions associated with Perth’s water use have increased dramatically since this first plant was brought online.”