• Incredible Images from the Land of the midnight sun

    What is it like to live in a place where there is never-ending sunlight? BBC Assistant Producer Willow Murton describes how when days have no end, the midnight sun becomes a state of mind.I pull off my eye mask and open my eyes. The sun shines bright above me. I look at my watch. Three o’clock in the morning? I sit bolt upright, lifting my head from the make do pillow. Reindeer hair sticks to my cheek. Simon the sound recordist mutters as he rigidly stares out ahead of us. Beth the researcher alongside us is, like me, struggling with sleep deprivation and the daylight. I am still trying to focus my eyes in the dazzling night of the Arctic summer. Suddenly I see the figures along the ice edge. Five men, spread out along the horizon, all poised, waiting...watching for their target. Simon swears. We aren't hunters but we know the rules. We mustn't do anything, we mustn't move, cannot move from our dogsled bed. I spot our tripod and camera, no cameraman anywhere nearby. I am filled with a dreadful nauseous realization – this could be the moment that we have spent over a year working towards. Months of careful negotiations and awkward logistics all for us to sleep through our only possible chance of filming a narwhal hunt. We can only sit and watch in confused disbelief... At that moment, the silhouette of a whale crests the ice edge. I wonder how on earth I am going to explain this to the team back in Cardiff. Surreal scenes like this are surely what you are supposed to wake from rather than wake up to. It's late Spring in Northern Greenland, there is no reference to time as the sun never sets so the days blend into each other. In the full glare of the midnight sun this is a place where anything seems possible and where dreaming and being seem to meet. >> Read the Full Article
  • 4th of July Parades, Fireworks, and Waste

    It's not the Fourth of July without a parade and fireworks — plus lots of trash and some not-so-healthy toxins and pollutants. Rhode Island prides itself on hosting the oldest parade in the nation. The Bristol tradition draws some 100,000 spectators, who leave behind about 64 tons of trash, according to the Department of Public Works. Progress has been made in recent years to control waste by requiring vendors to haul out their own garbage. Stapling paper yard-waste bags to trees and telephone poles along the parade route also has encouraged spectators to help with the clean up of bottles, cups, balloons and other debris. "We flood the parade route with those bags and it's a huge help," said Jim Sylvester of Bristol's DPW. None of the waste, however, is sorted for recyclables. It's not well known, or at least not well publicized, that fireworks — from sparklers to professional displays — leave behind a fair amount of waste, while releasing noxious gases and heavy metals. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change is endangering the Polar Bears, court rules

    A U.S. federal judge upheld the status of polar bears as a species threatened by climate change, denying challenges by a safari club, two cattlemen's organizations and the state of Alaska. The ruling on Thursday by District Judge Emmet Sullivan confirmed a 2008 decision that polar bears need protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their icy habitat is melting away. The legal challenges -- some contending polar bears don't need this protection, others maintaining the big white bears need more -- were launched after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service included this Arctic mammal on its list of threatened species. >> Read the Full Article
  • Car Racing and Energy Efficiency–Strange Bedfellows? Not Anymore

    INFINEON RACEWAY, SONOMA, CA — Hershel Allen noticed something different at Infineon Raceway on June 25th at this noted motorsports complex in California's Sonoma Valley: sheep grazing on the hill behind the grandstand. >> Read the Full Article
  • Nautical Air Emissions

    In the United States, several federal agencies and laws have some jurisdiction over pollution from ships in U.S. waters. States and local government agencies also have responsibilities for ship-related pollution in some situations.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) today announced an agreement to jointly enforce U.S. and international air pollution requirements for vessels operating in U.S. waters. The requirements establish limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and require the use of fuel with lower sulfur content, protecting people’s health and the environment by reducing ozone-producing pollution, which can cause smog and aggravate asthma. The most stringent requirements apply to ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coast of North America. International rules (MARPOL 73/78)have six Annexes of the Convention cover the various sources of pollution from ships and provide an overarching framework for international objectives. In the U.S., the Convention is implemented through the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. Under the provisions of the Convention, the United States can take direct enforcement action under U.S. laws against foreign-flagged ships when pollution discharge incidents occur within U.S. jurisdiction. When incidents occur outside U.S. jurisdiction or jurisdiction cannot be determined, the United States refers cases to flag states, in accordance with MARPOL. These procedures require substantial coordination between the Coast Guard, the State Department, and other flag states. >> Read the Full Article
  • Economic Indicators Point Toward Growth in Renewable Energy

    While scanning the horizon in sea of mostly grim economic news, I found three gems - - - news reports or economic indicators, if you will, that point to solid and profitable growth in the renewable energy sector of the economy in the near, 3-5 year term. These indicators point toward a shift in the financing, production, consumption and distribution of alternative energy, predicated on advances in technology that will bring the productions costs down to a competitive plateau with conventional fossil fuels. I suspect the time it takes from "innovation in the laboratory" to diffuse into the commercial market place has to be reduced from years to months or less, in order for this to work. When investors like General Electric, Google, and MIT, direct research and investment on this scale - - - it just might tip the balance. 1. The cost benefit ratio of "coal fired" electricity vs "solar" will equalize or fall in favor of solar. In a recent report from Bloomberg news, Mr. Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co., predicts that solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels within 3-5 years. A combination of rising energy prices with lower production cost and higher efficiency will make solar cost competitive with conventional coal fired electric generation. General Electric (GE) plans to invest in "advanced" solar panel manufacturing and expects to open a plant in 2013, employing over 400 people and make enough solar panels to power 80,000 homes. If this business plan unfolds as predicted, watch for explosive growth on all fronts the Solar industry. >> Read the Full Article
  • Canada, other countries block Chrysotile asbestos from U.N. hazardous list

    Chrysotile asbestos will not be listed as a hazardous industrial chemical that can be banned from import after countries including Canada and Ukraine blocked consensus, a United Nations spokesman said Friday. The decision was taken at a meeting of states that have ratified the Rotterdam Convention despite the treaty's scientific review body having recommended the inclusion of "white" asbestos on health grounds, a U.N. spokesman said. "Several countries declared in plenary problems they had with the inclusion of chrysotile (asbestos), including Canada, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam," U.N. spokesman Michael Stanley-Jones told a news briefing in Geneva. Australia, Chile and the European Union (EU) were among those seeking the inclusion of chrysotile on the 2004 treaty's trade "watch list" of chemicals and severely hazardous pesticides which exporters must share information on. >> Read the Full Article
  • In the News: Serengeti highway cancelled

    In what is being hailed as a victory for conservationists and the wildlife of the Serengeti, the Tanzanian government has cancelled plans for a controversial highway that would have dissected the Serengeti National Park. >> Read the Full Article
  • House OKs speed-up of Arctic oil/gas permitting

    The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that would speed up approvals for drilling in the Arctic by removing regulatory hurdles that have stymied development of the area's vast oil and gas resources. The Republican-controlled House voted 253 to 166 in favor of the bill, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency to approve or deny applications to drill on the outer continental shelf within six months. "Current impediments have delayed development of the Beaufort and Chukchi sea for over five years," the bill's sponsor, Republican congressman Cory Gardner, said in a speech on the House floor. "These are areas that have already been approved for drilling; the revenues for the leases have already been collected by the federal government," he said. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Weather

    We all complain about the weather. It is a great topic of conversation. Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather is part of what life is about. However, everything has its price. New research indicates that routine weather events such as rain and cooler-than-average days can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion in the United States based on 2011 data. Rain, snow, and hot or cold temperatures can all have economic impacts. The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and every other sector of the economy is sensitive to changes in the weather. The impacts can be felt in every state. >> Read the Full Article