Julia Whitty

Julia Whitty

Environmental Correspondent

Julia is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction (Deep Blue Home, The Fragile Edge, A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga), and a former documentary filmmaker. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

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Julia is a writer and former documentary filmmaker and the author of The Fragile Edge: Diving & Other Adventures in the South Pacific, winner of a PEN USA Literary Award, the John Burroughs Medal, the Kiriyama Prize, the Northern California Books Awards, and finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. Her short story collection A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga won an O. Henry and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

Mushrooms Now Grow Longer And Fruit Twice As Often

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 4:01 PM PDT

Mushroom season in Great Britain has more than doubled in length since the 1950s. Nature reports the season has increased from 33 days to 75, with some species fruiting twice a year, in both autumn and spring. This is a clear response to rising temperatures, says Alan Gange of the University of London. Although it's been shown that climate change is making birds nest and flowers bloom earlier, he knows of nothing else that has added a complete extra breeding season to its life cycle. Will fungi come to rule the world? They have before. --Julia Whitty

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Catching Big Pharma's Little Lies, Teens Bust GlaxoSmithKline

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 10:04 PM PDT

A blackcurrant drink produced by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline was advertised as having way more Vitamin C than it actually does. What's cool is that the independent investigation was conducted by two 14-year-old girls for a science fair project. As Seed Magazine reports, New Zealanders Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo tested the Vitamin C content of eight juices, with most matching their advertised C content. But Ribena, which claimed to have four times as much Vitamin C as oranges, fell far short. The teens tried to contact the company directly, but failed to get a response. So they went to a consumer affairs TV show and then the Commerce Commission. After two years, GlaxoSmithKline finally admitted breaching the Fair Trading Act. They'll pay a fine and change the labeling on the drink. Tch tch. How about detention?--Julia Whitty

Race For A Green Car, X Prize To Offer Millions

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 8:33 PM PDT

The X Prize Foundation has announced a competition to build an environmentally friendly car. Nature reports that the winning vehicle will have to achieve at least 100 miles per gallon, regardless of the type of fuel it uses. Its carbon emissions have to be no more than 210 grams of carbon per mile. And it has to be cheap enough to expect sales of 10,000 a year.

That'll be a huge improvement on today's US average of about 21 miles per gallon. The prize's challenge lies more in manufacturing and economics than in developing radical new technologies. To achieve 100 miles per gallon can be done with existing technology, but requiring a radical redesign.

The rules are currently in draft form, and are open to public comment for 60 days beginning 2 April. The prize's value has not yet been announced, but will likely be more than $10 million. The previous two X Prizes, for spaceflight and genomics, each had a value of $10 million. --Julia Whitty

Scientists Turn Old Garbage Into New Homes

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 5:38 PM PDT

A British civil engineer has invented a building block made almost entirely of recycled glass, metal slag, sewage sludge and ash from power stations. John Forth of the University of Leeds said his "Bitublocks" might revolutionize the building industry by providing a sustainable, low-energy replacement for concrete blocks. This according to UPI via Science Daily.

The secret ingredient is asphalt, which binds the mixture of waste products together, before compacting them to form a solid block that is heat-cured until it hardens like concrete. Forth said it's possible to use a higher proportion of waste in the Bitublock than by using a cement or clay binder. He's now working on developing a "Vegeblock" using waste vegetable oil as the binder.

Another noble reincarnation for MacDonald's used french-fry grease?--Julia Whitty

World Oil Production Close To Peak, Good Riddance

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 5:21 PM PDT

In a worst-case scenario, global oil production may reach its peak next year, before starting to decline. In a best-case scenario, this peak will be reached in 2018. This according to the doctoral thesis of Fredrik Robelius of Uppsala University in Sweden. He estimates future oil production on the basis of the largest oil fields.

A giant oil field contains at least 500 million barrels of recoverable oil. Only 507, or 1% of the total number of fields, are giants. Their contribution is striking: over 60% of 2005 production. However, giant fields are impending dinosaurs since a majority are over 50 years old--and fewer are being found, with less volume available within them.

Robelius' model forecasts future production from giant fields, combined with forecasts on other oil sources, to predict future oil production. In all scenarios, peak oil occurs at about the same time as the giant fields peak. The worst-case scenario sees a peak in 2008 and the best-case scenario, following a 1.4 % demand growth, peaks in 2018.--Julia Whitty

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