Sustainability

Nitrogen Fixation
October 9, 2013 12:51 PM - Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa , MONGABAY.COM

Nitrogen is colorless, odorless and tasteless, but all life on earth depends on it. Without it, our bodies cannot synthesize the nucleic acids that make up our DNA, or the protein-forming amino acids that are the very building blocks of our cells. Problematically, atmospheric nitrogen is relatively inert or nonreactive. This has created a unique biological dependency on a process called nitrogen fixation—where inert nitrogen from the atmosphere is converted into more reactive ammonia, a major component of soil fertilizers. A recent discovery has revealed just how reliant recovering forests are on nitrogen fixation, and how some forests can even manipulate it to speed up their abilities to 'heal' themselves. Many tropical forests today have been exploited for agriculture, mining, fossil fuel exploitation, and other human use.

Abengoa’s Gigantic "Salt Battery" Stores Utility-Scale Solar Energy
October 9, 2013 08:00 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

The global solar company Abengoa Solar has just announced that its massive Solana solar power plant has begun commercial operation in Arizona. The plant represents a transformational breakthrough in utility scale solar power, because it includes an energy storage system based on molten salt.

Solar for Sure
October 8, 2013 03:52 PM - The Vote Solar Initiative, Clean Techies

Yesterday, Governor Brown signed into law AB 327, a comprehensive rate reform bill to create more certainty for Californians who want to go solar, ensuring rooftop solar is here to stay in California! The Governor issued a signing statement for AB 327 directing the CPUC to ensure that customers who go solar under the current 5% program cap will get to stay under current program rules for the life of their solar array. That's important direction for the agency as it implements the bill in 2014.

It’s not easy being green — unless that is, you live on a boat. Part IV.
October 8, 2013 07:45 AM - Clare Kendall, The Ecologist

In her fourth and final blog Clare Kendall recommends trying a boat holiday - which tend to have serious green credentials........ If you've been inspired by the thought of canal boat living (see my previous blogs) why not try a narrow boat holiday. It's one of the greenest holiday options you can take.

Good news for European wildlife
October 8, 2013 06:16 AM - Luke Dale-Harris, The Ecologist

From Eastern Europe, Luke Dale-Harris argues that the extent to which the findings of a recently published report can be considered positive depend on one's perspective of rewilding......... A couple of weeks ago the unusual happened. Europe received positive news about the environment. Not just a claim that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as we previously thought, but the release of a report which shows, quite clearly, that for many species across large swathes of Europe, things haven't been better for decades.

New Fish Trap Reduces Bycatch and Increases Profits
October 7, 2013 03:46 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute have achieved a milestone in Africa: they've helped build a better fish trap, one that keeps valuable fish in while letting undersized juvenile fish and non-target species out. By modifying conventional African basket traps with escape gaps, the marine researchers have proven that the new traps catch larger fish, allow more undersized and non-target fish to escape, increase profits, and—most importantly—minimize the impact of fishing on coastal reef systems. The findings, say researchers, will help fishing communities boost profits while protecting their vital marine resources.

Australian Environmental Politics in Denial
October 7, 2013 01:18 PM - Daniel Yeow, Worldwatch Institute

Australia seems to be going backwards in time with regard to environmental politics. A startlingly high number of people there deny climate change. Most Australians do believe in it, but in a country that no longer has a science minister, the newly-elected conservative government is populated by "leaders" who believe that it is some kind of conspiracy. The media that the average Australian consumes is overwhelmingly populated by sources which are owned by people of a highly conservative and libertarian belief. Libertarianism—the belief that people should be free to do as they wish so long as they do not impinge on the freedom of others, is a decidedly human-centric philosophy and as such, large-scale environmental problems are generally not well-handled. In the minds of people like Rupert Murdoch, among others, environmental regulations are an unnecessary burden on people's freedom, and even if you don't really believe that, if that's what you read in the newspaper every day, then that's what you will be led to believe.

Sustainable Smartphones: Galaxy S4 vs. Fairphone
October 7, 2013 07:35 AM - Emil Dimantchev, Triple Pundit

Ever since Apple first shipped the iPhone in 2007, smartphone manufacturers have ignored the opportunity to make a product for green consumers. This has caused efforts to reduce smartphones’ planetary impact to proceed at a snail’s pace, until now.

Atmospheric aerosols and how they influence climate
October 7, 2013 05:57 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Climate models are evolving, and are getting more accurate, but they are still incomplete. Our atmosphere is very complex, and there are factors that even current models don't address, or address with an in-complete knowledge of the physical processes involved. This leads to inaccuracies that create uncertainty in the results of climatic projections. Aerosols are an important part of atmospheric dynamics, and their mechanisms of formation are not fully understood. University of Leeds experts have helped scientists get a step closer to understanding how aerosol particles are formed in the atmosphere and the effect these particles have on our climate. Working with scientists from the CLOUD experiment at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Geneva, climate change experts from the University have shown that amines — atmospheric vapours closely related to ammonia, largely derived from activities such as animal husbandry — combine with sulphuric acid to form highly stable aerosol particles at rates similar to those observed in the lower atmosphere.

What's holding up offshore wind energy in the US?
October 6, 2013 09:11 AM - Dave Levitan, Yale Environment 360

In June, after years of offshore wind power projects being thwarted in the United States, the first offshore wind turbine began spinning off the U.S. coast. The turbine was not a multi-megawatt, 400-foot behemoth off of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, or Texas — all places where projects had long been proposed. Rather, the turbine was installed in Castine Harbor, Maine, rising only 60 feet in the air and featuring a 20-kilowatt capacity — enough to power only a few homes. But it was a turbine — finally. Offshore wind power in the U.S. has struggled mightily to rise from the waves, even as other renewable energy industries have steadily grown. The country now has more than 60,000 megawatts of onshore wind, but still just the lone offshore turbine, a pilot project run in part by researchers at the University of Maine. Meanwhile, Europe has left the U.S. far behind, installing its first offshore turbine in 1991 and growing rapidly in the past decade. To date, the countries of the European Union have built 1,939 offshore turbines with 6,040 megawatts of capacity.

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