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Let wind farms pay to help endangered species they hurt
Tim Flannery, The Age
Perhaps surprisingly, the Kyoto Protocol might have a thing or two to teach us about managing wind farm developments. At the heart of the treaty is a carbon trading mechanism that allows polluters who find it difficult or expensive to reduce their CO2 emissions to offset their pollution by buying carbon credits from those who can reduce their pollution more easily. Why should we not allow a trading system designed to protect endangered species to operate in the case of wind farm developments?
The system could work as follows: if it is considered likely that a wind farm development might kill a single orange-bellied parrot each decade, for example, the wind farm developers should be allowed to offset this risk by funding initiatives aimed at increasing the population of orange-bellied parrots by one individual each decade. Such initiatives might include the protection of important habitat, feral cat eradication programs, or even support for organisations committed to saving the orange-bellied parrot.
Such a scheme has the potential to allow both wind-farm development and save endangered species in a cost-effective manner. It should be subject to review: if more parrots are killed, the volume of "endangered species credits" purchased by the wind company could be increased. The same could be done if the measures funded were found to be ineffective in protecting the species. If, on the other hand, it could be demonstrated that no dead parrots eventuated, the credit scheme could be suspended and the funding reimbursed to the wind farm.
(26 June 2006)
Blagging in the blogosphere
Dr Richard Ladle, BBC (Viewpoint)
Blogs are revolutionising the way millions of people around the world keep in touch with environmental issues, but at what cost? Richard Ladle, in this week's Green Room, says the growing popularity of web-based journals is making it harder to sort fact from fiction.
...Misreporting and misrepresentation are important because they can lead to a loss of trust at a time when public support for pro-environmental policies is most crucial.
Poor reporting of environmental science may also have a disproportionate effect on children who are increasingly turning the internet as their preferred source of information and who are least able to judge the validity of claims or the legitimacy of one blog over another.
So how should we be responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by the blogosphere?
One way to deal with misrepresentation in blogs is to increase the weight of informed opinions in the blogosphere. An influx of scientifically informed opinion and accurate information would also help combat and correct misrepresentations in the traditional news media and draw public attention to important new research findings.
Weblogs could also be used to inspire the next generation of environmentalists. For instance, blogging is the perfect way for field biologists and conservationists to communicate the soap opera quality of working and living in the field.
Furthermore, new wireless communication systems and solar technology now make real-time blogging from the remotest of locations a strong possibility.
The diversity of views that can be found on the internet is one of its greatest strengths. However, associated with such freedom of information is a lack of quality control which can make it hard to sift through the weight of uninformed, misguided or misleading websites and weblogs.
One of the challenges of living in a media world without gatekeepers is that we need to take far more personal responsibility for assessing the quality of scientific information that we receive.
Fortunately, there are several ways in which the credibility of a website or blog can be quickly assessed:
* Check the data - strong scientific arguments are based on information from recognised sources that is available for public scrutiny, while weak or spurious arguments are often backed up with data from secondary sources or often no data at all
* Take note of the language - arguments couched in hyperbolic language may be masking a lack of understanding or sound information
Whatever precautions are taken there is always scope for being mislead or misdirected and for work to appear out of context - even when the exact figures are readily available for public scrutiny.
This transition from individuals consuming their environmental news from traditional sources such as newspapers and television to selecting their news from the "electronic buffet" of the internet could have profound implications for the environmental movement and, for that matter, news providers such as the BBC.
(23 June 2006)
Critical response from David Roberts at Grismill.
Mauritius: Recycling of All Resources for Sustainability
Prof George Chan, Ministry of Agro-Industry & Fisheries, Mauritius via Institute of Science In Society
Integrated food and waste management for Mauritius
I am now implementing a pilot project of integrated food and waste management in Mauritius with the following objectives:
* Produce milk, meat and grain and other foods now mostly imported
* Produce of biogas and fertilizers at village and farm levels to replace imports
* Generate electricity from biogas produced in villages and farms to supply the towns
* Provide biogas as transportation fuel from the villages to supply the rest of the island
* Polyculture fish on land as well as in the lagoon and sea
* Use cold ocean water to cool buildings for tourists and to boost the growth of vegetables
* Treat garbage at home in to produce earthworms as high-protein feed for chickens and bait for fishing.
* Build mini-hydroelectric plants in streams and rivers for isolated villages and farms
* Use tidal energy from small and big rivers for coastal towns, with decentralised ones for inland villages and towns
Mauritius is going through a big crisis with preferential tariffs for sugar slashed by 36 percent and the textile industry still facing competition from China, India and other countries. The tourism industry is the only one surviving. We are aiming to increase the number of tourists from 600 000 to two million as soon as possible, which is a tough job. The Chikungunya disease (a viral disease spread by mosquitoes) has reduced the number of tourists from France, our best customers...
Our aim is to have almost all present consumers to become suppliers of energy, fertilizers, feeds and even raw materials for sustainable development instead of the existing system depending on charity. This is contrary to what most of our politicians and bureaucrats think of as the solution.
(28 June 2006)
George Chan is the initiator of the inspirational closed cycle 'Dream Farm' projects.
There are literally millions of small farm and community scale biodigesters in India and China. For a great introduction to the topic check out Univerisity of Melbourne Professor Lu Aye's presentation to Greening the Apocalypse. -AF
How to be Fuel and Food Rich under Climate Change
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science In Society
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho rejects solutions offered by governments and tells us how to survive the climate change and energy crisis in style
There are many solutions in renewable energies that are truly sustainable, as described in our ISIS Energy Report.
Solar power, for example, is getting cheaper, more versatile and more efficient everyday. The world’s energy needs can be satisfied with solar panels at even a low 10 percent efficiency covering just 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface. They can be incorporated into existing building structures and are ideal for local micro-generation .
I want to concentrate on energy from biological wastes, which has enormous potentials not only in terms of energy that can be harvested, but also in reducing carbon emissions. But not I hasten to add, not incineration, which is also what the Blair government is supporting .
First and foremost is anaerobic digestion to harvest biogas, which is 60 percent or more methane that can be used the same way as natural gas.
Anaerobic digestion of biological wastes for a renewable and carbon mitigating fuel
There are numerous advantages of anaerobic digestion, which has the potential to provide 11.7 percent of all energy needs, or 50.2 percent of transport fuels in the UK. Methane can be used both as fuel for mobile vehicles or for stationary combined heat and power generation.
Methane-driven vehicles are already in the market, and they are the cleanest vehicles on the road by far, ranking top green cars of the year in 2005 . Sweden has thousands of them, supported by hundreds of filling stations; many operated from locally produced biogas.
Biogas methane is a renewable and carbon mitigating fuel; it is more than carbon neutral. It saves on carbon emission twice over, by preventing the escape of greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and by substituting for fossil fuel.
Anaerobic digestion conserves plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous for soil productivity. In fact, many third world countries started to use anaerobic digestion for making good fertilisers before they began to use the methane for energy.
Anaerobic digestion prevents pollution of ground water, soil and air with nitrates, methane, nitrous oxides, and other contaminants. It improves food and farm hygiene, and has been shown to destroy disease bacteria. It can be adapted to produce hydrogen either directly or from methane. And if and when research and development in hydrogen storage and fuel cells become further advanced, anaerobic digestion can link up quite easily.
There’s a company, Organic Power Ltd, run by Chris Maltin in Somerset here in Britain, which produces its own biogas methane to run methane-powered Mercedes people carriers (“Organic waste-powered cars”, SiS 30).
(27 June 2006)
Dr Mae-Wan Ho addresses the problems with biofuels and nuclear, while promoting biogas digesters - pointing out that they can mitigate greenhouse emissions by turning potential methane from rotting biomass into carbon dioxide - green algae carbon capture for biodiesel, local food production and Dream Farms. -AF