Environmental Policy

Brazil's forest code debate may determine fate of the Amazon rainforest
May 9, 2011 03:03 PM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Brazil's forest code may be about to get an overhaul. The federal code, which presently requires landowners in the Amazon to keep 80 percent of their land forest (20-35% in the cerrado), is widely flouted, but has been used in recent years as a lever by the government to go after deforesters. For example, the forest code served as the basis for the "blacklists" which restricted funds for municipalities where deforestation has been particularly high. To get off the blacklist, and thereby regain access to finance and markets, a municipality must demonstrate its landowners are in compliance with environmental laws.

What makes humans special? The Power of communication. New from BBC Earth
May 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Editor, BBC Earth

A human's need to communicate, can be observed from the first moments of life. The intuitive reaction of a newborn to cry, lays the stepping-stone for a process which at its heart, will enable every human to successfully communicate their experience of being alive. It has been said that words are man's greatest achievement. With the first utterances of symbolic language emerging 2.5 million years ago, slowly evolved by the first Homo sapiens — the solid foundations of modern articulation have decidedly been set. Yet many would argue that speech and language was developed not out of want, but out of need. Therefore in what ways do humans communicate”Świthout using words? Music has long been a way of communicating for necessity as well as pleasure. Such as the use of a lullaby to sooth, a folk song to warn and a chant to call to arms! But in what ways do we use rhythm and melody to communicate with nature itself?

Who is Top Banana in Sustainable Banana Business?
May 4, 2011 08:47 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

When it comes to fresh produce, establishing brand recognition is a tricky business. Many commercially grown fruits and vegetables are indistinguishable from one company to the next. Bananas are one standout exception largely thanks to the Chiquita company's groundbreaking ad campaign in the 1960's. The company also has a jump on sustainability marketing, having worked with the Rainforest Alliance since the 1990's. Now there's a new banana vying for attention in that arena: Dole has just announced that it is selling bananas from farms in South America that are certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

Air Quality Awareness
May 3, 2011 04:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Today is the beginning of Air Quality Awareness Week, a cooperative effort among EPA, state environmental agencies and the National Weather Service to remind the public to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. With the onset of warmer weather, the EPA urges citizens to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone air pollution and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when poor air quality is predicted. Air quality is defined as a measure of the condition of air relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. Air quality indices (AQI) are numbers used by government agencies to characterize the quality of the air at a given location. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects. To compute the AQI requires an air pollutant concentration from a monitor or model. The function used to convert from air pollutant concentration to AQI varies by pollutant, and is different in different countries. Air quality index values are divided into ranges, and each range is assigned a descriptor and a color code. Standardized public health advisories are associated with each AQI range. An agency might also encourage members of the public to take public transportation or work from home when AQI levels are high.

Sea turtle declines not all due to human impacts
May 1, 2011 08:03 AM - Rebecca Kessler, ScienceNOW

Humans are pushing sea turtles to the brink of extinction by entangling them in fishing gear, tossing plastic garbage into their habitats, and building resorts on prime nesting beaches, among other affronts. That's the going hypothesis, anyway. But a new study suggests that our transgressions are peanuts compared to natural oceanic cycles, at least for loggerheads. The findings don't let people off the hook, the authors say, but they do provide new insight into the ways climate can shape turtle populations. Loggerheads lay their eggs on subtropical beaches around the world. After hatching, baby sea turtles head out to sea where they spend years maturing. When females reach breeding age—25 to 35 years old for loggerheads—they clamber ashore to lay eggs on the beach. Nest counts are the main source of demographic data for sea turtles, but it's hard to estimate population size from these counts. Between the mid-1990s and 2006, loggerhead nests in Florida—one of the species' nesting epicenters—declined from roughly 55,000 per year to around 30,000. That drop and declines elsewhere prompted U.S. federal agencies to propose upgrading most loggerheads from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

NYC Finds Solar Energy Gold in Old Landfills
April 29, 2011 08:33 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

Landfill gas recovery is becoming a familiar fixture in the alternative energy scene, and now New York City has added a new dimension to the idea of extracting valuable resources from seemingly useless parcels of land. The city plans to build utility-scale solar installations on its old landfills, to the tune of about 50 megawatts.

Virginia Hybrid Car HOV Perk Is Tied to Police Budget
April 28, 2011 04:57 PM - HybridCars, Matter Network

Last week, Virginia passed yet another extension of its hybrid HOV law, which gives drivers of "clean fuel" vehicles access to the commonwealth's carpool lanes. The law has been extended annually since its original expiration date in 2006—even as the state's HOV lanes (and hybrid sales) swell. Could the extensions have anything to do with the fact that, with every registration for access, $15 goes to the state police's "HOV Enforcement Fund?"

Outsourcing Greenhouse Gas Emissions to the Developing World
April 27, 2011 09:59 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

In many developed nations, increased energy efficiency has effectively lowered emissions of carbon dioxide. However, the cuts in advanced economies are merely an illusion, as manufacturing and dirty industries have moved offshore to the developing world such as China and India. These countries produce goods cheaply which Western consumers like. But that cheap price is a reflection of not only lower wages for workers, but also lax pollution controls and environmental standards.

Fishing Season Begins Next Week in New England
April 26, 2011 09:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

For the northeastern United States, the new fishing year officially begins on May 1. This year will see the fishing season opened to more small-vessel owners and catch limits will be raised in response to rebounding fish stocks. Fishing has been an integral part of the economy of New England coastal communities, and now more fishermen will have the opportunity to partake.

Good News, more pine barrens, last Long Island wilderness, protected!
April 23, 2011 06:35 AM - Reuters, NEW YORK

New York state officials chose Earth Day on Friday to announce purchase of a large tract of land in Long Island's pine barrens as a preserve for hikers and other naturalists and a source for pure drinking water. The land, mostly surrounded by publicly owned property, had been sought for years by preservation advocates as an essential part of the 100,000-acre pine barrens in Suffolk County in eastern Long Island. Calling the pine barrens a "beautiful natural resource" as well as "an important source of clean drinking water," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the acquisition would preserve the area, in the heart of the Carmans River watershed, for generations. The 99-acre parcel was purchased from a local nursery, and will be paid for with New York state's Environmental Protection Fund's land acquisition fund.

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