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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

We all know that chestnut trees were wiped out by disease, right? Well, maybe not.

Susan Sharon at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network has a hopeful story.

“A century ago American chestnut trees dominated the eastern woodlands from Georgia to Maine. Growing straight and tall they were prized for timber. Wildlife depended on the nuts they provided every year.

“People ate the chestnuts, too, scooping them up by the sackful every Fall. Then came an exotic blight accidentally introduced from Asia and the species was virtually wiped out.

“That’s why scientists are excited by a recent find in western Maine, a record-breaking find that is raising their hopes for the future.

“The unusual discovery was made from the air. Dr. Brian Roth, a forest scientist with the University of Maine was surveying areas most likely to have habitat conditions favorable for chestnut trees and – voila! Flying over some woods in Lovell he saw a telltale sign.

” ‘In July, when nothing else is blooming, this tree will have a large amount of white flowers in its crown,’ says Roth. …

“This is not just any tree. This is an American chestnut tree worthy of the record books. …

“As girth goes, this chestnut tree is not so impressive. It’s on the skinny side. And most people wouldn’t pick it out as distinctive in a forest lineup. But when it comes to height, this American chestnut reigns supreme.

” ‘We think it’s around one hundred years old,’ says Roth. ‘It’s over 100 feet tall, which makes it the tallest [chestnut] that we know of in North America.’ …

” ‘We’re quite interested in these native trees, one for getting them into the population, our breeding program, as well as where do these trees grow?’ Roth says.

“The North Carolina-based American Chestnut Foundation is devoted to restoration of the American chestnut to its historic range. … Dr. Jared Westbrook is the American Chestnut Foundation’s geneticist. …

“He says more than 60,000 chestnut trees have been planted so far. To help them out, the group is using a virus that infects the chestnut fungus and makes it weaker. But Westbrook says only 500 trees, the toughest and the best of the bunch, will ultimately be selected for reintroduction to the wild.” Listen to the story here.

The poet Marianne Moore once wrote, “I rejoice that there are owls.” Today I rejoice that there are chestnut trees.

Photo: MPBN/Susan Sharon
Here’s the evidence. People are excited about finding a 100-year-old chestnut tree that survived blight in Maine. Other chestnuts are being nurtured in the South.

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Photo: Biosphoto/Ardea/Caters News Agency
New energy generator may not be as attractive as a tree, but it’s also not as noisy as a standard wind turbine.

While you and I are just bopping along following our familiar routines, it’s reassuring to know that inventors are out there inventing.

Victoria Woollaston writes for the Daily Mail about one inventor who may help reduce global warming by making the use of wind turbines more widespread.

She says, “Monstrous, noisy conventional wind turbines may soon be a thing of the past thanks to tree-shaped wind turbines being installed in Paris. …

“French company ‘New Wind’ is installing the first at Place de la Concorde in Paris and is hoping to expand throughout the country and abroad. The 26ft (8 metre) trees are fitted with 63 aeroleaves. Each one uses tiny blades inside the ‘leaves’ and can generate electricity in wind speeds as low as 4.5mph (7km/h), and regardless of the wind’s direction. …

“The company’s founder, Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, hopes the trees can be used to exploit small air currents flowing along buildings and streets, and could eventually be installed in people’s backgardens and urban centres. …

“The trees are also silent, so sound pollution would not be an issue — a major improvement from past designs. The trees currently retail at £23,500 ($33,670).

” ‘The idea came to me in a square where I saw the leaves tremble when there was not a breath of air,’ said Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, the founder of the Parisian start-up. …

“In the future Mr Michaud-Larivière hopes to develop a ‘perfect’ tree that has leaves with natural fibres, roots that could generate geothermal energy and ‘bark’ covered with photosensitive cells.”

Readers can probably guess what I love most about this invention: “The trees can be used to exploit small air currents flowing along buildings and streets.”  That sure fits with my mantra about small things adding up: “One and one and 50 make a million.” (Line adapted from Pete Seeger’s “One Man’s Hands.”)

More at the Daily Mail, here.

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All Dutch electric trains are now powered by wind energy, the national railway company NS has said.

“Since 1 January, 100% of our trains are running on wind energy,” said NS spokesman, Ton Boon. …

“We in fact reached our goal a year earlier than planned,” said Boon, adding that an increase in the number of wind farms across the country and off the coast of the Netherlands had helped NS achieve its aim.

“[Dutch electricity company Eneco] and NS said on a joint website that around 600,000 passengers daily are ‘the first in the world’ to travel thanks to wind energy. NS operates about 5,500 train trips a day.

“One windmill running for an hour can power a train for 120 miles, the companies said. They hope to reduce the energy used per passenger by a further 35% by 2020 compared with 2005.” More at the Guardian, here.

Meanwhile in London, researchers are looking into solar-powered trains.

As Michael Holder said in BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network, “Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains. …

“The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains.” More.

I wonder what sounds solar- and wind-powered trains make. Can we still say choo-choo-choo and whoo-oo-OO with our grandchildren? And who will update Thomas the Train?

Photo: Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images
Intercity train arriving at Leiden Central railway station, Netherlands.

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How many times lately have I read “in these uncertain times” and “now more than ever”? Crises bring these phrases out.

So how do we inject the words with extra special urgency? I find myself thinking like Charlie Brown (or was it Lucy?) trying to fill up a book report: Now more than ever ever ever really and truly and I’m not kidding, programs about the environment such as Living on Earth are important.

Some of the Living on Earth shows — about melting ice and rising seas, for example — are crucial to our understanding of what we face. Others, like the one about a certain pig in Haiti, underline the interconnectedness of the environment and local economies. You can’t wipe out an animal people rely on and expect everything to be fine.

From Living on Earth: “In Haiti, the creole pig was a staple of the peasant economy, bringing families economic stability, devouring food waste and occasionally becoming an religious sacrifice. But as Allison Griner reports, disease killed many creole pigs and American efforts to control the swine flu took the rest. Efforts to replace the pig failed, but now peasant farmers are slowly rebuilding the creole pig herd.

“GRINER: To reverse the trend, [2015 presidential candidate Jean-Baptiste] Chavannes and his colleagues in the peasant movement decided to reintroduce the creole pig — or at least a hybrid that could fill its place.

“CHAVANNES: We want the return of the creole pig. So we led a fight, and over the years, the minister of agriculture finally started a program for the repopulation of the pigs. …

“GRINER: But just as the new pig herd was starting to grow, once again disease intervened. This time, the culprit was teschen, a virus that can kill a pig within days. Six years ago, it started to spread. And decades of work were lost. …

“Still, the fight is not yet over for the creole pig. Vaccines for teschen are already being tested in Haiti, and Chavannes hopes partnerships with international NGOs will help fight this latest disease. Part of Chavannes’ mission is to rebuild the peasant economy. But to reach that goal, bringing back the creole pig is a necessity, he says.

“CHAVANNES: We must. [Laughs] We must, and like I said, pig farming is indispensable for reestablishing the peasant economy. …

“GRINER: Already, the race to save Haiti’s pigs is well underway. This past spring, an official from the ministry of agriculture announced that the 500,000 doses of the teschen vaccine had been produced. The official says they are currently available for farmers to use.”

At Living on Earth, you can read what the pigs meant to the farmers, why they got killed off, why American pigs were a terrible replacement, and what kind of livestock peasants decided to raise while they are waiting for the creole pigs to come back.

Photo: Allison Griner
Pig in Delmas, Port au Prince, Haiti

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Recently, Kara Baskin wrote for the Boston Globe about a couple of young environmental philanthropists.

Arlington (Mass.) siblings Will Gladstone (age 12) and Matthew (age 9) “run the Blue Feet Foundation, which manufactures bright blue socks with bird logos to support the endangered blue-footed booby, a threatened species found in the Galapagos Islands.

“Proceeds benefit the Galapagos Conservancy, and the brothers have raised $18,000 since launching a few months ago.

“The idea began in science class at the Fessenden School in West Newton last year. …

“The brothers started a logo contest among pals. Dad Peter Gladstone helped the pair create a final design on logo site 99designs.com and located a manufacturer to to produce the cotton footwear. …

” ‘We put a thank you card in each package, write out the label, and talk about what this will go to. We ask for photos of them wearing the socks,’ Will says. …

“Will also plans to expand his business a bit, perhaps shifting to red socks for Valentine’s Day. (Yes, there is also a red-footed booby.) …

” ‘My brother says, “If we go out of business, I hope it’s because we save the birds.” ‘ ”

Read more at the Blue Feet Foundation, here. There’s a cute photo of three generations of one family wearing the blue socks in memory of their trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Photo: chutupandtakemykarma
The Galapagos bird the blue-footed booby is endangered

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What is it about Nordic countries that they seem to find more solutions to global challenges than the rest of us? Do they have fewer challenges to worry them, better education, more ability to focus?

Here are some of their successful and replicable tactics for combating global warming.

Christian Bjørnæs writes at Cicero, “By scaling up just 15 proven Nordic solutions, countries all over the world can save 4 [gigatons] of emissions every year by 2030, which is as much as the EU produces today. The costs for this scale-up equal the amount spent in just 9 days on fossil fuel subsidies.

“These results come from the Nordic Green to Scale study which was launched during the UN Climate Conference in Marrakech. …

“ ‘The main concern decision makers have is that it’s either too difficult or too expensive to rapidly reduce emissions,’ says Senior Advisor Oras Tynkkynen, who led the Nordic Green to Scale analysis on behalf of [the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra].

“ ‘Our objective with this study is to highlight what different countries have already achieved on climate action and what other countries can learn from their successes.’ …

“Urban Danes cycle on an average almost 3 km every day. If other countries followed the example of Denmark and promoted cycling in cities, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Slovakia produces in a year.

“In Finland, most of industrial and district heating is provided with energy efficient combined heat and power production (CHP). If other countries used CHP like this, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Japan produces in a year.

“Iceland produces almost 30% of its electricity and most of its heat with geothermal energy. If countries with significant geothermal potential started using it like Iceland does, it would reduce emissions by more than Denmark produces in a year.

“Last year, almost every fourth new car sold in Norway was an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. If other wealthy countries used as many electric vehicles as Norway does, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Denmark produces in a year.

“Sweden has the world’s highest number of heat pumps per population. Scaling up the solution to selected European countries would cut emissions by as much as Cuba produces every year.

“In addition to direct emission reductions, the 15 solutions also create considerable co-benefits. These include improved air and water quality, higher energy security, more local jobs, lower fuel bills, less traffic jams, and sustained biodiversity.”

More here.

Photo: Cicero
Biking can help reduce global warming.

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In Denmark, a beekeeping program is not only beneficial to the environment but a good way for refugee workers to settle in to a new culture.

Jennifer Hattam writes at Take Part about bees atop Copenhagen’s convention center that pollinate crops, produce honey, provide employment, and help flavor a local beer.

“The honey and the beer are the fruits of the innovative project Bybi, named after the Danish word for ‘city bee.’ Its mission: to use urban beekeeping to create a greener Copenhagen, connect residents with the city around them, and bring together and employ people from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and the formerly homeless.

“Syrian beekeeper Aref Haboo is among Bybi’s small staff. He kept dozens of hives back in his home village while also working as a civil servant and agricultural consultant. Like millions of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, Haboo made the treacherous journey to Europe, part of it smuggled in the cargo hold of a truck, leaving behind his wife and three children to find a safer place for them all to live. A year ago, he was able to reunite his family in Denmark. …

“Haboo recently helped teach a season-long apiculture course to a mixed group of around 20 Syrians, Africans, and Europeans, who produced 450 kilograms of honey from hives in a Copenhagen park. Graduates who want to continue working with bees will receive support from Bybi, and proceeds from the sale of the first course’s honey will help fund training sessions.

“ ‘A lot of our residents have difficulties getting into the Danish labor market, whether because of language issues, skills gaps, or health problems. Working with Bybi is good for them in terms of getting out to meet people and doing something constructive, something they can be proud of,’ says Simon Christopher Hansen, cultural coordinator for the Copenhagen public housing association 3B. …

“With relatively high rates of winter mortality among honeybees in Denmark, Bybi’s urban hives also help ensure that bee populations stay healthy — along with the green environment they nurture and depend on.

“In a way, [social entrepreneur Oliver Maxwell, who founded Bybi in 2010] sees the hive as a model for Bybi and for humanity. ‘We’re looking at ways we can work together that protect our communities and enrich our environment,’ he says. ‘That’s what bees do: They create bigger apples, richer strawberries; they help everything thrive.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Bybi
Beekeeping in Copenhagen helps refugees and the environment.

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