Blue Marble - July 2007

Rural Communities Revived By Renewable Energy

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 9:40 PM EDT

Renewable energy projects in Britain not only help in the fight against climate change but also bring people together, revitalize local economies, and alleviate poverty. This according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The study documented more than 500 community energy projects happening in the UK, far more than researchers expected to find. "There is a huge demand for this," says project leader Professor Gordon Walker. "It's no longer a question of convincing the public that small scale renewable energy is a good idea. Whenever money is made available it is snapped up immediately." The vast majority of projects, which are rural, provide new income for farmers. Some have been set up and run by communities, with shared ownership of the technology, like the cooperatively owned 750-kilowatt wind turbine at Bro Dyfi in Wales. The researchers found good projects are often driven forward by strong local enthusiasts intent on meeting a local need. . . Sounds delightfully subversive. JULIA WHITTY

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Glaciers & Ice Caps To Dominate Sea-Level Rise Through 21st Century

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 4:16 PM EDT

Ice loss from glaciers and ice caps is expected to cause more global sea rise this century than the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. A startling new University of Colorado at Boulder study finds glaciers and ice caps currently contributing 60 percent of the world's ice to the oceans, with the rate markedly accelerating in the past decade. The contribution is presently 100 cubic miles of ice annually, a volume nearly equal to the water in Lake Erie, and is rising by three cubic miles per year. In contrast, Greenland now contributes 28 percent of the total global sea rise from ice loss and Antarctica 12 percent. The acceleration of glaciers and ice caps is due, at least in part, to rapid changes in the flow of tidewater glaciers discharging icebergs into the ocean. The team estimates the accelerating melt of glaciers and ice caps could add 4 inches to 9.5 inches of additional sea-level rise globally by 2100 &mdash not including the thermal expansion of warming ocean water, which could double those numbers. A one-foot sea-level rise typically causes a shoreline retreat of 100 feet or more. . . In other words, even if the big canons stay frozen, these little guys are going to inflict a lot of damage.

This of the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland. JULIA WHITTY

Meat Is Murder On The Environment

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home. This, according to New Scientist's Daniele Fanelli, is the conclusion of a study out of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan. The team looked at the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption. They focussed on calf production, animal management, and the effects of producing and transporting feed, to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef. They concluded that a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometers (155 miles), and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. The calculations did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is even higher. . . Still want that burger? How about one of these instead? Yum yum. JULIA WHITTY

Elevated Leukemia Rates In Children & Young Adults Near Nuclear Facilities

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 6:28 PM EDT

Leukemia rates in children and young people are elevated near nuclear facilities. The research, published in European Journal of Cancer Care, came from a meta-analysis of 17 research papers covering 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, the USA, Germany, Japan and Spain. Death rates for children up to the age of nine were elevated by between five and 24 per cent, depending on their proximity to nuclear facilities, and by two to 18 per cent in children and young people to the age of 25. No clear explanation exists to explain the rise. The authors say it's "possible that there are environmental issues involved that we don't yet understand" . . . Right. Like chronic underreporting of mishaps, accidents, and releases &mdash as recently as yesterday, by golly. JULIA WHITTY

The Stork Is The Bird Of War

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Worried about too many Homo sapiens? Wanna help with a (gentle) reset button? Check out the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

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This post comes to you thanks to a blog comment of note (no, not the eejit ones…) JULIA WHITTY

Peruvians Ban GM Potatoes

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 9:22 PM EDT

The government of Cusco in the Peruvian Andes is scheduled to ban all genetically modified varieties of potato. Nature reports the area was the birthplace of many kinds of potatoes, and is still home to thousands of varietals. The move was supported by Peruvian non-profit Association ANDES, along with the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. The hope is to ensure that genes from GM potatoes don't infiltrate native potatoes, and to promote the area as a source of diverse, authentic, organic potato varieties. Association ANDES has been involved in repatriating varieties of potato that have gone locally extinct, but are held in repositories such as the International Potato Center in Lima. "When the potatoes came back, the culture came back," says Alejandro Argumedo. "Genetic diversity and cultural diversity are closely linked." JULIA WHITTY

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Vines Swamp Southern Forests

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 8:47 PM EDT

A new study in the southeastern U.S. suggests that increased vine growth is changing bottomland hardwood forests. Researchers from Ohio State University charting the growth of grapevines, trumpet vines, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper in two South Carolina forests found as much as a 10-fold increase in just two decades. As the vines increase, the density of small trees decreases, probably because most vines use adhesive roots or tendrils to climb trees. The reasons for the shift aren't yet understood, but rising CO2 levels may be to blame &mdash since other studies suggest that vines such as poison ivy benefit more than trees from higher CO2 levels. . . Think of that itchy future: the Republican rash. JULIA WHITTY

Swimmer Sets Cold Water Record to Highlight Climate Change

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 9:58 AM EDT

First, let this be said: Lewis Gordon Pugh may be crazy. Known as the "Ice Bear", the record-setting swimmer has repeatedly subjected his body to the extremes of human endurance in lakes and oceans the world over. He holds long-distance swimming records for the Atlantic, the Indian, the Pacific, and the Arctic. According to his Wikipedia entry, he shares with the nine-banded armadillo the ability to regulate his internal body temperature at will. It was this particular skill that was on display last Sunday when he became the first human to undertake a long distance swim at the North Pole. For 18 minutes and 50 seconds, Pugh splashed through waters that have thawed to a pleasant 28.7 degrees Fahrenheit. "The water was absolutely black," he told the BBC. "It was like jumping into a dark black hole. It was frightening. The pain was immediate and felt like my body was on fire. I was in excruciating pain." What fun! So, why did he do it? To highlight climate change. The location of Pugh's swim was, until recently, a block of ice. But as global temperatures have risen, much of the polar ice cap has melted. As Pugh explained to Britain's ITV, he finished his swim with mixed emotions. "I am obviously ecstatic to have succeeded, but this swim is a triumph and a tragedy—a triumph that I could swim in such ferocious conditions, but a tragedy that its possible to swim at the North Pole."

UN's Ban Ki-moon To Press Bush on Climate Change

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 7:01 PM EDT

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday he would press President Bush over climate change when they meet in Washington on Tuesday, Reuters reports. "On climate change, I'm encouraged by a high level of expectations as well as representation on that special high level meeting on Sept. 24," Ban said, referring to a conference on the environment that he has called for September on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly. "I would like to discuss this matter with President Bush and would expect President Bush and the American administration will be represented at the highest possible level." JULIA WHITTY

Paris Provides Bikes To Fight Traffic, CO2

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

The Paris city council is launching a free bike scheme to encourage people to give up the motor in favor of pedal power. The BBC reports this morning that the local authority in Paris is depositing 20,000 heavy-duty bicycles, called Velib, in 750 or so special racks around the city and anyone who wants one simply swipes his or her public transport card and pedals off wherever they want to go. The bike can be returned to any Velib stand. Subscriptions range from one day (one euro, $1.38) to a whole year (29 euros, $40). The first half hour of pedalling time is free but if you fail to return the bike after 30 minutes you get charged an extra euro and the penalties go up over time. The scheme has worked well in the French city of Lyon. But out of 2 million Parisians, only 150,000 own bikes. (Other Europeans don't need encouragement.) Tourists will love them and every city should have them. After all, why not use that fastest-growing and INFINITE fuel source: fat. JULIA WHITTY