March 31, 2014

Climate Change “Stories”

To better educate and engage the public, environmental organizations like Climate Wisconsin, Facing Climate Change, and Aspect have begun recording digital climate change “stories” as told by local residents. The goal for filmmakers is to create a relatable, contextualized narrative around climate change that will encourage dialogue and inspire action.

Though WI is know for its brutal winters, extreme heat is responsible for more deaths in the state than all other weather disasters combined.

In Wisconsin, higher than average temperatures year-round are curtailing ice fishing in Madison, and fly fishing in Viroqua. Across the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, surfing enthusiasts complain that they are now more prone to ear and other infections as heavy rainfall regularly overwhelms waste drainage systems causing toxins and sewage to spill into the sea.

Local industry is also feeling the sting of climate change. In Idaho, declining mountain top snow pack is resulting in a reduced stream of fresh water feeding the Columbia River Basin, which has caused the closure of several potato farms that rely on the river to irrigate their crop.  In Washington State, oyster and clam farming is quickly becoming unviable due to the rising acidity of the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast.

From the inability to take part in recreational activities to threatening local economies, it is clear that the effects of climate change are becoming palpable. What’s your climate story?

Check out these awesome projects:

Climate Wisconsin: Stories From a State of Change

Facing Climate Change: Stories from the Pacific Northwest

Aspect (UK)

 

 


February 19, 2013

Chalk it up to the Sea Urchin: An Unlikely Source of a Stable Mineral

I wish I had thought of this first, but apparently scientists have discovered that sea urchins convert CO2, that harmful stuff that’s trapping heat in our atmosphere, into chalk. Check out the article in Telegraph about it! Those little guys use nickel ions to transform carbon dioxide into exoskeletons for themselves. That’s cool on its own, but there is talk that we can adopt this urchin technology by suspending nickel nanoparticles in vats of water at factories, and in doing so, capture the carbon dioxide as it’s pumped through. The nickel can be recycled, and not only is the chalk useful (used to make cement, plaster casts in hospitals, etc.), but it’s also a stable mineral, so it poses no threat to the environment. You can find this study in the Catalysis Science & Technology academic journal if you’d like to investigate it further. I’m personally curious about just how much this could cut down on factory CO2 waste and how soon and easily we could begin to implement it globally!

And this is maybe not as pragmatic, but if you’re interested in some other unlikely (and incredible) animals that evolution may or may not have been playing practical jokes on, check out this Tumblr, WTF Evolution!


October 22, 2012

Then I saw her face / Now I’m a believer!

Not a trace  /  Of doubt in my mind!

Okay – this post isn’t about The Monkees… it’s not even about monkeys. But I’m happy to say that more people are believing in climate change these days, and they are also more sure of their beliefs. A study done in conjunction by Yale and George Mason’s Centers for Climate Change Communication has shown that general belief in and understanding of global warming has increased from 57 percent in January of 2010 to 70 percent in September of 2012, and the number of people who do not believe that global warming is happening has decreased in recent years by nearly half. For the first time since 2008, over half of Americans say that they believe that global warming is the result of human activity.  There’s lots of interesting data in this thing about people’s trust in scientists and scientific information, and about people’s growing concern about the threat that climate change poses to us now and in the future.

These changes in attitude about global warming may stem in part from people’s belief that weather in the United States has been getting worse. Over the past two years a record number of extreme weather events have occurred such as heat waves, widespread droughts, floods, wildfires and violent storms. There will be more work done to examine the public perception of the issues, and there’s still a lot more progress to be made, but I can tell you, I’m a believer and there’s not a trace of doubt in my mind!

CLICK HERE FOR THE STUDY!

To read the Washington Post article that this map is related to click here.


August 27, 2012

Achieving Athletic and Environmental Excellence

So… who out there spent some amount of last month hunkered down in front of the TV watching really incredible men and women swim, bike, horseback ride, volley, and dive for coveted medals?  I know I did.  That’s right, folks, I’m talking about the 2012 Olympics, and while most of you probably know it took place in London this year, many of you may not know the big reason why the city was chosen to host.  London made a radical proposal to host the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as we’re heading into environmental crisis mode over CO2 emissions, it was the perfect bid to win them the gig.  Now I have always been a skeptic when it comes to these lofty declarations of green plans of action, but after checking out Kevin McCloud’s video which explains how the plans were realized, I’m warming up to our friends across the pond, even though they  only gave Canada one gold medal this year and it was for bouncing on a trampoline…

The name of this plan for sustainability is Towards a One Planet 2012, and it was developed in association with WWF and BioRegional to show the world how it is possible to live within its means.  It’s a set of green guidelines, if you will, to help demonstrate how essentially easy it would be to reduce our carbon footprint worldwide.  Together, these organizations focused on four areas of the Games that they believed would have the most impact on the participating community.  The first was, of course, the venues themselves.

The Olympic Park is the largest new urban parkland development in 150 years, and 60% of the materials used to build it were brought by rail or river, thus keeping its carbon footprint to a minimum.

The second focal area of community sustainability was London’s Active Travel Programme.  This basically consisted of a constant reminder from the Games to walk or bike around the Park whenever possible.  The site was structured to be easily accessible using such simple methods thus attempting to cut down traffic and of course, carbon emissions.

The third centers around food intake (and outtake) throughout the Games arenas.  The goal was to offer affordable, diverse food supplied by local food service companies thereby bolstering business in surrounding communities.  As far as waste goes, they declared they could achieve a zero-waste-to-landfill Games by offering hoards of various recycling bins that are different colors depending on the kind of waste they take (there are numbers on the bottom of all food/beverage-related products you can buy that designate the corresponding bin).  While it sounds fairly simple, a great deal is left up to the masses here – let’s hope they’re all environmentally conscious!

The final spoke of this plan has to do with people improving their local communities.  It’s called the Changing Places Programme, and it involves inspiring individuals to get out there and make a difference in and around the places they call home.  You can see here how volunteers of the Games jumpstarted this outreach program in and around the Park itself.

Sounds like a pretty sizable endeavor, doesn’t it?!  The reports on how close they came to reaching these goals aren’t yet complete, but the updates look very promising.  I just wish I had seen more commercials about these initiatives and fewer from BP!


February 24, 2012

GOP = Green Organization Positive?

Seems sometimes like our neighbors down in the U.S. stereotype the Democrats as the ones who care about the environment, and the Republicans just want things to stay the same, but that might not be true.  At least, governor-wise.

There’s a news article that says Republican governors in the States are putting in place policies that promote a “green economy,” and in some cases they’ve even done a better job than their Democratic colleagues.

Here’s the deal:  A report just came out from the National Governors Association which shows that between June 2010 and August 2011, 28 states enacted more than 60 new “clean” economic development policies. Among those states, 16 — more than half of ‘em — have Republican governors. In five of the those states, the policies were started under Democratic governors and were continued by the Republicans who replaced them.  Which means that eleven of those Republican governors were doing it on their own.

“Clean” means aiming to build local supply chains to meet the growing demand for clean power. Policy-wise, that includes tax breaks for renewable energy manufacturers, grants for clean-tech start-ups andprograms that train folks for green jobs.

Installing solar panels in Colorado. Part of a nutritious green economic development policy breakfast. Good job, guys.

Sounds good to me.  You know, a lot of Canadian news focuses on what’s happening with our “downstairs neighbors,” even far up where I am.  So it’s nice to hear a bit of good news that shows people defying their stereotypes — ‘specially with all that political bickering they got going on down there all the time — and doing green stuff that hopefully helps keeps my icebergs right where I want ‘em.


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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
     
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