Sustainability

Planting Trees Helps Fight Climate Change, but mainly locally
February 2, 2013 07:48 AM - Science Daily

Afforestation, planting trees in an area where there have previously been no trees, can reduce the effect of climate change by cooling temperate regions, finds a study in BioMed Central's open access journal Carbon Balance and Management. Afforestation would lead to cooler and wetter summers by the end of this century. Without check climate change is projected to lead to summer droughts and winter floods across Europe. Using REMO, the regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, researchers tested what would happen to climate change in 100 years if land currently covered in non-forest vegetation was converted into deciduous forest. This equates to more than a doubling of forest in Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Northern Ukraine, Northern Germany and France. But in already heavily forested countries such as Sweden the increase is smaller, at less than 10%.

Costa Rican scientists trial aquatic agriculture to boost food security
February 1, 2013 08:58 AM - Melissa Gomez, SciDevNet

Costa Rican researchers are pioneering 'aquatic agriculture' — the method of growing crops on freshwater lakes and reservoirs — to boost food security in the developing world. The technique involves creating floating rafts on which vegetables, grains and flowers can be grown. Terrestrial crops such as grains and vegetables have their roots directly in the water or can be potted, with water being drawn up into their soil from the lake by capillary wicks, Ricardo Radulovich, a professor at the University of Costa Rica's Department of Agricultural Engineering, explains.

Peatland Forest Loss and Climate Change
January 31, 2013 11:26 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth on LIne

The destruction of tropical peatland forests is causing them to haemorrhage carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, scientists say. The research, published in Nature, suggests peatland contributions to climate change have been badly underestimated. 'If you don't consider carbon lost through drainage then you underestimate the carbon losses from these deforested sites by 22 per cent,' says Dr Vincent Gauci of the Open University, one of the study's authors. 'And that's a conservative estimate; it could be much higher.'

Medicinal Plants Being Studied to Fight Malaria
January 30, 2013 06:10 AM - Esther Tola, SciDevNet

Traditional healers in Benin possess sophisticated knowledge regarding the treatment of malaria with medicinal plants, and strategies should be developed to exploit this and promote the plants' conservation, says a study. Researchers at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, documented more than 80 plants, which are believed to be antimalarial and used by traditional healers in southern Benin's Allada plateau, to evaluate traditional knowledge and techniques for treating malaria.

Massachusetts Leads the Divestment Charge
January 27, 2013 07:48 AM - LESLIE FRIDAY/ecoRI News

Harvard University is a world leader in higher education, but sophomore Chloe Maxmin wants her college to also blaze trails battling climate change. The social studies and environmental science major helps coordinate Divest Harvard, an offshoot of a 350.org-sponsored campaign pushing colleges, local governments, nonprofits and pensions to divest from the 200 companies with a majority of the fossil-fuel reserves. Maxmin's group started speaking to students in August about the urgency for action on global climate change while pitching divestment as a powerful financial tool. The group then launched a successful petition drive that placed divestment on last November’s student ballot and earned 72 percent support for a non-binding referendum urging Harvard to steer its $31 billion endowment away from fossil fuels. Divest Harvard's next step is to meet Feb. 1 with Harvard's Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to pitch its case.

Naples Plans to Tap Mt. Vesuvius as Core of Sustainable Energy Strategy
January 24, 2013 08:09 AM - Andrew Burger, Global Warming is Real

Dominating vistas around Italy’s Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24 in the year 79 AD, a cataclysm that brought an end to the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae and its denizens, preserving their remains in volcanic ash. The looming presence of Vesuvius is a stark reminder of the destructive power of volcanoes for residents of Naples, as well as the vulnerability of populations around the world who reside in their presence. Today, however, the city of Naples is looking to tap into and harness Vesuvius’ energy to improve lives, the environment and living conditions.

From Light Green to Sustainable Buildings
January 23, 2013 05:04 PM - Supriya Kumar, Worldwatch Institute

As more people move to urban areas in search of economic opportunities, the number of buildings that are needed to house them continues to rise. It is estimated that by 2030, an additional 1.4 billion people will live in cities, of which 1.3 billion will dwell in cities of developing countries. The increasing number of buildings has long-term impacts on both the environment and natural resources. Fortunately, a variety of policy tools hold promise for promoting sustainability in buildings, according to Kaarin Taipale, contributing author of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. The buildings in which we live and work are a major consumer of energy, responsible for some 30—40 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, a similar share of total solid waste, and 12 percent of all fresh water used. With the rate of urbanization reaching record levels, there will be more construction and buildings than ever before.

Europe is Worried that Oil Shale will be a big economic advantage for the US
January 23, 2013 06:14 AM - EurActive

A US industrial boost following its ability to tap abundant shale gas reserves is provoking fears that imperilled energy-intensive European businesses will find it harder than ever to compete. But calls for the EU to deliver a 'silver bullet' and emulate the US by tapping shale gas through 'fracking' remain controversial because of environmental and logistical concerns. Partly due to its shale reserves, the United States is expected to become almost self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2035 and will overtake Russia in gas production by 2015 and Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2017, a recent International Energy Agency forecast shows.

Botswana, Zambia & Costa Rica Toughen Hunting Regulations to Help Endangered Species
January 21, 2013 02:56 PM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Three developing countries have recently toughened hunting regulations believing the changes will better protect vanishing species. Botswana has announced it will ban trophy hunting on public lands beginning in 2014, while Zambia has recently banned any hunting of leopards or lions, both of which are disappearing across Africa. However, the most stringent ban comes from another continent: Costa Rica—often considered one of the "greenest" countries on Earth—has recently passed a law that bans all sport hunting and trapping both inside and outside protected areas. The controversial new law is considered the toughest in the Western Hemisphere. "The shooting of wild game purely for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve local fauna as a national treasure, which should be treated as such," Botswana's President, Ian Khama, said in last year's state of the nation address.

Why are British Fish Eating Plastics?
January 21, 2013 06:13 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth Online

Scientists have found tiny fragments of plastic in the digestive systems of fish pulled from the English Channel. The discovery, by a team from Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association, highlights the growing problem of plastic contamination of marine environments. Of 504 fish examined, more than a third was found to contain small pieces of plastic less than one millimetre in size, referred to by scientists as microplastics.

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