Tag Archives: natural

The United States continues to go green – CO2 emissions near 1990 levels

CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Isn’t that great news?

I think we need some uplifting climate change news with all the “doom and gloom” stories out there. Let’s keep it going.

The United States has cut its CO2 output more than any other country in recent years, with our output dropping since 2007.  We are now close to 1990 levels and may be able to fit in with the Kyoto Protocols.

Of the fossil fuels, natural gas releases the least amount of air pollution and CO2. It is a homegrown source which improves our energy independence and stability, as well as keeping our money at home.

Coal has gone from producing half our energy to only one-third.

Good news!

 

** Fracking for natural gas – it is unknown how destructive this new, hugely popular process is. 

 

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Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to

The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.

According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.

The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.

In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.

Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:

Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. - The Economist

Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.

For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.

 

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China doubles loans to Africa, now $20 billion, and agrees to operate responsibly

China said Thursday it would offer $20 billion in new loans to Africa, underscoring the relationship’s growing importance, as Chinese companies agreed to operate more responsibly on the resource-rich continent.

Beijing has poured money into Africa over the last 15 years, seeking to tap into its vast natural resources, and China became the continent’s largest trading partner in 2009.

But its aggressive move into the continent has at times caused friction with local people, with some complaining Chinese companies import their own workers, flout labour laws and mistreat local employees.

Addressing African leaders including South African President Jacob Zuma and Kenya Premier Raila Odinga, President Hu Jintao said the loans would focus on supporting infrastructure, manufacturing and the development of small businesses.

 

Source: Yahoo! News - China doubles loans to Africa to $20 billion

 

 

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Jane Austen’s beautiful 200 year-old ring goes up for auction

A ring once owned by author Jane Austen will be auctioned by Sotheby’s later this month. Austen, the author of the much-loved novels “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma,” never married or had children, but the ring has remained in the possession of her family since her death in 1817. Scholars had been unaware of its existence, and it is expected to sell at auction for $31,000 to $46,000.
 

 

The ring is made of gold with a cabachon blue stone of natural turquoise. It is, as Sotheby’s auction house notes, in a simple style Austen wrote of sympathetically in her work. In “Mansfield Park,” Fanny Price is given a gold chain by her cousin Edmund, who tells her, “I consulted the simplicity of your taste.”

The ring will be offered at Sotheby’s English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations auction on July 10.

 

Source: Jane Austen ring goes up for auction

Super athlete – box jumping – standing leap onto 62″ inch tall box

We’ve been awed all week at the history-making US Bobsled team. The bobsled and skeleton athletes from the USA have won medals so far in every event – including the first-ever gold medal in the men’s 2-man won by Steve Holcomb and Steve Langton.

Maybe you at home are sitting there thinking “Hey, that doesn’t look too bad, maybe I could make the team. I’d just have to push a little and enjoy the ride.” Well, before you start making room for your Olympic medals, check out this video of star brakeman ‘Super’ Steve Langton training on the box jump.

Langton is regarded by every athlete we’ve spoken to as nearly superman in his natural ability. Langton is a 6’2″, 230lbs sprinting machine. Like many bobsled athletes, he’s a former track athlete. He’s the champion in the inaugural Push Start World Championships. And he can leap onto a 62″ box from a standing start – that’s over 5 feet.

via Daily House

 

Then, there’s senior cornerback, Justin Bethel, from Presbyterian College, who at 6-feet jumps on these boxes at roughly 60 inches off the ground:
 

Inside the forbidden land – environmental photos of Russia from National Geographic

For an American, these photos are truly breathtaking. For most of our lives Russia has been an impenetrable vast region, indeed the largest country in the world, with millions of acres of natural wonders.

My own heritage brings me back to Belarus (the first photo below). Enjoy these photos from National Geographic Russia and their Google+ page.

I apologize for the captions since they are Google Translations from Russian (I’m also amazed that I can auto-translate a language in a browser with one click).

"Snow-white spring in the Belarusian forest." Photo by: Christine Lebedinskaya.

 

Fog in the mountains near Chemal, Altai. Photo by: Michael Evstratov

 

Moon. River Teriberka, Murmansk region. Photo by: Aleksandr Bergan

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Ballona Wetlands – 600 acres of Los Angeles coast will soon be restored

In a first step toward restoring one of Southern California’s few remaining wetlands and opening it to the public, the state has approved spending $6.5 million for planning a massive restoration of the degraded Ballona Wetlands.

(In the plan) initial proposals call for spending $100 million to remove concrete levees and truck out tons of sediment dumped on the property, allowing water from Ballona Creek and the sea to flow into the wetlands. Bike paths would be built atop earthen flood-control berms on the reserve’s perimeter and public boardwalks would allow visitors access to the site without disturbing plants, birds and other wildlife.

“We have the potential at Ballona to restore this degraded and damaged habitat and return it to a beautiful, sustainable natural refuge for people and wildlife,” Luce said.

The vast coastal wetlands once spanned 2,000 acres at the mouth of Ballona Creek, covering much of what is now Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey and Venice. Only a quarter remains today, much of it a dry, fenced-off expanse of brush that is littered with garbage in places, surrounded by high-rises and subdivisions and criss-crossed by congested boulevards.

Developers and environmental activists wrangled over the site for decades before the state agreed in 2003 to spend $139 million to acquire it as an ecological reserve.

via LA Times

 

And, nationally wetlands are still disappearing:

A national wetlands inventory released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that between 2004 and 2009, the lower 48 states lost a net average of 13,800 acres a year. That compared with a slight annual gain in wetlands during the previous six year-period.

“Wetlands are at a tipping point,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “While we have made great strides in conserving and restoring wetlands since the 1950s, when we were losing an area equal to half the size of Rhode Island each year, we remain on a downward trend that is alarming.”

via LA Times