Sustainability

'Waterpod' Turns Desert Well-Water Clean
April 4, 2013 10:51 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Ever since the construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Draa Valley nearly 40 years ago, Sahara nomads have faced further desertification of the region, taking a heavy toll on water supplies. More than 330 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or around 40 percent of the population, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to a report published by British NGO WaterAid. While there are wells throughout the region, they often contain undrinkable brackish water that is inundated with salt.

Manufacturing Getting More and More Energy Efficient!
April 4, 2013 05:54 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The amount of energy we use to manufacture the products we use every day is a significant part of the energy needed to support out lifestyle. As the planet gets more and more populated, can we continue to make manufacturing more efficient, or are thee limits to this? A new report by researchers at MIT and elsewhere finds that the global manufacturing sector has made great strides in energy efficiency: The manufacturing of materials such as steel, cement, paper and aluminum has become increasingly streamlined, requiring far less energy than when these processes were first invented. However, despite more energy-efficient manufacturing, the researchers found that such processes may be approaching their thermodynamic limits: There are increasingly limited options available to make them significantly more efficient. The result, the team observed, is that energy efficiency for many important processes in manufacturing is approaching a plateau.

Synthetic Biology
April 3, 2013 06:02 AM - WIldlife Conservation Society

A new paper says a discussion on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology to conservation is necessary. The potential exists to re-creating extinct species and to create genetically modified super-species. An upcoming conference at Clare College in Cambridge, England, will examine the nexus of synthetic biology and conservation What effects will the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology have on the conservation of nature? The ecological and ethical challenges stemming from this question will require a new and continuing dialogue between members of the synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation communities, according to authors of a new paper. According to the paper, the field of synthetic biology—a discipline that utilizes chemically synthesized DNA to create organisms that address human needs—is developing rapidly, with billions of dollars being invested annually. Many extol the virtues of synthetic biology as providing potential solutions to human health problems, food security, and energy needs. Advocates also see in synthetic biology tools for combating climate change and water deficits. Critics warn that genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to native species and natural ecosystems.

Ontario Almost Totally off Coal Generation
April 2, 2013 02:15 PM - Keith Schneider, Yale Environment360

Ontario is on the verge of becoming the first industrial region in North America to eliminate all coal-fired electrical generation. Here’s how Canada's most populous province did it — and what the U.S. and others can learn from it. By most measures of environmental policy and progress, Ontario, Canada ranks well. Over the last half-century, Canada’s most populous province required cities and industries to treat every gallon of wastewater, dramatically reduced the level of sulfur and other pollutants that caused acid rain, and convinced the big and politically powerful pulp and paper industry to install state-of-the-art emissions control equipment.

Urea may have competition - Human urine
April 2, 2013 05:52 AM - Smriti Mallapaty, SciDevNet

Human urine is superior to urea, a common nitrogen-rich mineral fertiliser, according to the results of a study carried out in a farmer’s field outside Nepal's capital city. Researchers who tested the effects of applying different combinations of urine, compost and urea on sweet pepper, Capsicum annuum, found that urine synergises best with compost. Urine for the study was sourced from mobile public toilets in the city and compost prepared from cattle manure.

Using 'Biochar' To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
April 1, 2013 08:32 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

'Biochar' is the name for charcoal when it is used as a soil amendment. People add charcoal to land in order to increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity. In addition to these benefits, researchers are now saying that biochar has potential to mitigate climate change as it can help sequester carbon and thus cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

Oil Drilling and Production in the Brazilian Rainforest is the Newest Threat
April 1, 2013 06:04 AM - ALYSSA DANIGELIS, DISCOVERY NEWS

Remember when cattle ranching was the biggest threat to the Amazon rainforest? Now add the relentless quest for oil. The Ecuadorian government is currently planning to sell an enormous area of pristine rainforest to oil companies. Ever since I can remember being aware of the Amazon rainforest, my understanding was that big corporations were steadily razing it to make way for cows raised for beef. While illegal cattle ranching continues to be a major threat, oil interests have been hard to keep at bay.

Is Hemp Farming the next Green Job growth industry
March 31, 2013 08:00 AM - Nikolas Kozloff, Guest Contributor, MONGABAY.COM

Though Obama has frequently spoken of the need for more "green jobs," he has failed to acknowledge the inherent environmental advantages associated with a curious plant called hemp. One of the earliest domesticated crops, hemp is incredibly versatile and can be utilized for everything from food, clothing, rope, paper and plastic to even car parts. In an era of high unemployment, hemp could provide welcome relief to the states and help to spur the transition from antiquated and polluting manufacturing jobs to the new green economy. What is more, in lieu of our warming world and climate change, the need for environmentally sustainable industries like hemp has never been greater. Given all of these benefits, why have Obama and the political establishment chosen to remain silent? The explanation has to do with retrograde and backward beliefs which have been hindering environmental progress for a generation. A biological cousin of marijuana, hemp contains minute amounts of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical. Even though advocates say one would have to smoke huge amounts of hemp to get high, the plant occupies a highly dubious legal status in the U.S. During the 1970s, Congress declared hemp a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act, ridiculously lopping the plant in the same category as heroin. Though the authorities allow farmers to petition the federal government to grow hemp, the Drug Enforcement Administration or D.E.A. has proven incredibly resistant to such licenses and for all intents and purposes the crop has remained illegal [ironically enough, however, the U.S. imports many hemp-related products from abroad].

New Emissions/Gas Mileage Standards
March 30, 2013 07:51 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Once again, the EPA is tightening the fuel efficiency standards for autos and light trucks. It is also tightening the emissions limits that new vehicles will have to meet. This is, in general, a good thing since it will reduce gas consumption, and also reduce air pollutant emissions. Of course, not everyone is happy about this action. And the economic analysis of the cost/benefits seems to be overly optimistic. According to the EPA, the proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance. EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said "Today’s proposed standards — which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states."

The Future of Chocolate
March 28, 2013 08:46 AM - Maryam Heinen , Organic Consumers Association

Back in the Mayan age, around 1100 BCE, cacao was recognized as a "super" food, traded as a precious currency with a value on par with gold and jewels Bythe 17th century the Spanish added sugar (cane) to sweeten it and the rest is history. As other European countries clamored to get in on the action—and started exporting cacao trees to their colonies—Africa soon became the world's most prominent grower of cacao, even though it's not native to that continent. Today, cacao has devolved into a byproduct of itself. Instead of being viewed as the sacred fruit that it is, with all its nutritional benefits, cacao is largely seen as a candy bar, a mid-day fix, loaded with sugar, milk, and other substandard ingredients.

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