Category Archives: Environment

Stuff about the environment and our relationship with it

The Worlds Major Rivers Are In Danger

WWF rivers report

Rivers on every continent are drying out, threatening severe water shortages, according to a new WWF report. (pdf)

The report, World’s Top Rivers at Risk, released ahead of World Water Day (22 March), lists the top ten rivers that are fast dying as a result of climate change, pollution and dams.


Ebro Delta Spain

“All the rivers in the report symbolize the current freshwater crisis, which we have been signalling for years,” says WWF Global Freshwater Programme Director Jamie Pittock.

“Poor planning and inadequate protection of natural areas mean we can no longer assume that water will flow forever. Like the climate change crisis, which now has the attention of business and government, we want leaders to take notice of the emergency facing freshwater now not later.”


Amazon River Brazil

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Bush Administration Systematically Lied About Climate Change

co2

New testimony before the house committee on oversight and reform has brought to light that Bush administration appointees have systematically made changes to scientific reports on climate change before they were released to the public.

The testimony to the house committee on oversight and government reform painted the administration as determined to maintain its line on climate change even when it clashed with the findings of scientific experts. James Hansen, who heads the Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York, said in prepared testimony: “The effect of the filtering of climate change science during the current administration has been to make the reality of climate change less certain than the facts indicate, and to reduce concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”(via)

The Bush administration had installed political appointees in key scientific agencies to act as monitors and editors. One such appointee was Philip Cooney. Former lobbyist for big oil. Bush had appointed him chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality( another bad choice was a 23-year-old college drop-out who was made a public affairs officer at Nasa after working on Mr Bush’s re-election campaign). Mr Cooney told the committee yesterday: “My sole loyalty was to the president and advancing the policies of his administration.”

Documents released today also show a wide spread pattern of edits, suppressions, and outright lies. 181 in all to multiple scientific studies, made by Cooney and others at the behest of the Bush administration. They made another 113 changes to try and make it look as if humans were not the cause of global warming. What kind of changes you might ask? Well apparently this statement “Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.” was just too controversial, he went on to stifle information about warming trends over the last 1000 years, even inserting information from the American Petroleum Institute (a fake science firm that belongs to big oil) into office reports.

Under heated questioning, Mr Cooney admitted yesterday that the changes were all intended to cast doubt over the impact of global warming. He denied they were directly coordinated with the White House but said he had regular conversations with a senior White House aide. “We got notes from them,” Mr Cooney said.

Control from the White House became the norm, Dr Hansen told the committee yesterday. “Scientific press releases were going to the White House for editing,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate that we developed this politicisation of science. The public relations office should be staffed by expert appointees. Otherwise they become offices of propaganda.” He acknowledged that such interference existed before the Bush administration, though to a much lesser extent.

It’s no wonder then that we have so many people in this country who still to this day do not accept the fact that global warming is caused by humans that its going to get worse, and that we have to do something about it.

The Hexayurt – Cheap Simple Shelter For People In Need

What would you do if your home was just destroyed in a fire, its cold, and you need a place to spend the night? You might call up a relative, or go the YMCA or the local shelter, get a hotel room or spend the night at the hospital. What would you do if your home and your entire village had just been leveled by an earthquake, its cold, and you need a place to stay? You might call on the UN or the Red Cross to send you a bunch of Hexayurts.

The Hexayurt

The Hexayurt is a refugee shelter system based on work done at the Rocky Mountain Institute. It uses an approach based on "autonomous building" to provide not just a shelter, but a comprehensive family support unit.

The hexayurt is an amazing structure because of how simple it is. Just because its simple doesn’t mean it lacks human comforts. It has solar water purification for drinking water, a composting toilet, a fuel-efficient wood gas stove, and solar electric lighting. With the ability to add other systems as self contained modules. So how easy it is to build? Check these videos out.

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An Ounce Of Prevention – Teaching People About Disaster Preparedness With Video Games

Being ready for disaster when it strikes (and it will) can mean the difference between a life threatening situation and just a bad couple of days. Because we can not stop a flood, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, we must be ready instead to meet the challanges of the aftermath. It is hard however to educate people about what to do in order to help mediate these disasters. Lucky for us the United Nations is here to give us a hand. They have developed a handy little flash game called, Stop Disasters!

stop disasters game

The games plays like sim city (seems the sim city model is good for all sorts of things, check out this companies use of the sim city model to plant trees in the sub Sahara). You play a town planner trying to get ready for a looming disaster. You can help plan against floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, wild fires, and hurricanes. Your job is to work within your budget and within a time period to get a community ready. During the game you discover facts about disaster preparedness, the more facts you uncover the more points you get. Learning gets you points!

stop disaster learning

It reminds me a lot of the BBC game about climate change where you learn how hard it is to make government policy regarding global warming. These games do an excellent job of at once showing you so many things that can be done to solve these problems, and showing you the difficulty in doing them. Games and game designers clearly have a massive untapped market here. The realistic game for change market. There are some people working towards things like this, but the big players in the market still seem to be trying to produce the same old same old.

What I would like to see is a massive multiplayer online game where people team up to play a sim city like game where they help the world. For instance you would start over a giant map of the world, tiny glowing dots would represent “games” going on around the world. You would see one glowing in central Africa. You click the glowing dot and are transported to the “small African village level.” There you see that other players are trying to get the town a clean supply of drinking water, and some solar panels. You would help out by contributing “Earth Dollars” to the project (which you buy with real dollars, similar to the system in Second Life).

The game would then show you how much closer you are to getting that task done. The kicker would be that at the end of every month the people who run the game would team up with various non-profits and the UN to actually take the money people have spent in the game and spend it in real life. As more non-profits teamed up with the game makers more “levels” would become available, more “scenarios” would be available to play you could even have people from the various game sites (the people being effected by the game) get online and speak to the players sort of like NPC’s only real.

I know its rather blue sky but I could see a system like this working with the proper marketing. Micro-payments have been shown to work for other things. And players could compete for most projects completed, try to get the best “stats” (things like lower AIDS infection rate, more housing, higher education rates), and the designers could work in other mini-games that have less to do with reality that players can engage in while they wait for the real world to catch up with the game world. These games could also be tied into how you are doing in the “real” game.

Any game coders out there interested in realizing this vision? Contact me and we can chat about it.

Radar Drives Bats Crazy! – Keeps Them From Running Into Wind Turbines

bat swooping down onto water

In what should put yet another nail in the coffin of people who oppose wind farms, researchers have discovered that radar systems seem to drive bats away. Making it a possible way to keep bats from running into wind turbines. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen believe they may have found a solution to a problem that they worry will only worsen with the proliferation of wind turbines worldwide.

Leading bat experts Professor Paul Racey and Dr Barry Nicholls studied the behaviour of bats at various distances from 10 radar installations across Scotland last summer. The pair found that the bats did not forage where electromagnetic radiation from the installations could be measured.

However, the bats did forage where no radiation was detectable.

Professor Racey, Regius Professor of Natural History within the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “We found that the bats were deterred by the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the radar installations.

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