Sunday, October 28, 2012

New items for the new semester

Welcome to new students for this semester. To start off the semester I picked three new items from the last few days.

First is the issues of biodiversity and especially ecosystem services. This article from ARKive shows how some pesticides are killing bumblebees. These bees are very important for pollination of many crops. Loss of bee population is a loss of biodiversity and pollination is a good example of an ecosystem service. (See also this video from the BBC.)

Of course one of the big environmental topics is global warming. The biggest issue for this year is the fact that the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of this year. One thing agreed to in the last year's negotiations is the Global Climate Fund (GCF). Last week there was a meeting to setup the GCF (which has no money yet pledged). It agreed that the fund headquarters would be in South Korea. For this and other results of this meeting see this report from World Resources Institute.

One source of greenhouses gases (which cause global warming), that is often not recognized, is rice farming. Bacteria associated with the rice root system produce methane, a greenhouse gas stronger than carbon dioxide. This study shows that global warming may actually be increasing the amount of methane produced by rice. This is an example of a feedback mechanism.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Brazil imposes fines by biopiracy

One important area in the fight to keep biodiversity is the fight against biopiracy. For that reason it was good to see the Brazilian government taking action by giving fines to 35 companies for a total of US$44 million. The companies were fined for failing to share benefits from the exploitation of the biodiversity. Much of this exploitation comes at the expense of indigenous peoples.

For a previous action in South America on biodiversity, see this article.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lead Poisoning in Nigeria

BBC has an article about lead poisoning in Nigeria. The lead is contained in rock which also contain gold. People were collecting the rock, bringing it home, and then breaking it -- releasing lead dust into the air.

Lead is a very serious poison. It causes damage to organs and causes mental problems. It is also accumulative, meaning it continues to build up over time in the body.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Palm oil and Peatlands

I just discussed in class about the controversy about biofuels. An excellent example is the article titled Palm oil is a major driver of peatlands destruction in Indonesian Borneo.
First, if you want to know what a peatland is see the wikipedia article, Peatlands.
Palm oil has many uses, including as a biofuel, but much of palm oil is planted either in tropical rainforest or on peatlands, both causing damage to the ecosystems.
But in addition, destruction of peatlands causes release of methane, a greenhouse gas with an effect greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New stuff

A few things caught my attention this last week. First is the start of the World Water Forum, held every three years, in Marseille, France. These are always interesting to follow.

Secondly, a report on the BBC about Indonesia finding scrap metal exported from the UK contaminated with liquid and illegal mixed wastes. Shipping of wastes to developing countries, many of which have poor environmental and safety laws, is a serious problem.

Lastly, I always mention in my environment classes the possibility of island states disappearing due to sea level rise caused by global warming. The student's eye always seem to "Oh yeah". Well, just yesterday the was an article on Reliefweb entitled Migration not a matter of choice but survival, says Kiribati President. Kiribati is in negotations with Fiji for 6000 acres of land. It shows how serious the issue of global warming is to Pacific states.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ocean Acidification

A lot of discussion goes on about carbon dioxide and climate change, but another important aspect to increased carbon dioxide is the phenomena of ocean acidification.

This article by the BBC covers the subject well.