Environment Forum

Tiger among fluffy toys shows extreme smuggling tricks

tigerThe drugged tiger cub (left) hidden among cuddly toys in a bag at Bangkok airport  ranks as one of the most bizarre smuggling tricks.

Imagine the shock of X-raying the bag — as airport workers checking luggage did — and finding a live tiger among the fluffy tiger toys. Maybe it moved, or they spotted the outline of its skeleton among the other toys?

For a story about the two-month-old cub (photo courtesy of wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic) click here. A 31-year-old Thai woman was about to board a flight to Iran when they found the cub in her oversized bag.

It highlights how smugglers find extreme ways of packing away live creatures.

In July, officers at Mexico City’s airport arrested a man trying to smuggle 18 small monkeys from Lima wrapped inside his socks.

Women smugglers have several times been caught with endangered bird eggs hidden in their bras — an aid to incubation and far easier to hide on an international flight than a flapping, squawking parrot.

Norway: recovering ‘petroholic’ or prudent saver?


My name is Norway and I’m a petroholic.

“I’ve tried it all: Vaseline, kerosene, gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. I’ve even tried natural gas,” says a leaflet from the most controversial stand at Norway’s biggest oil and gas exhibition.

Situated next to lavish exhibits of dozens of oil and gas companies and hundreds of oil sector contractors, green group Bellona is preaching the sober message of the renewables revolution at the heart of Norway’s oil world – the ONS conference in Stavanger.

In a 12-step rehab plan for Norway, Bellona says the world’s No. 5 exporter of oil and No. 2 gas provider has based its prosperous economy on resource extraction that will not last, and is already exhibiting signs of a “petro hangover”.

Hemp car sparks a buzz

Undated promotional photo shows the Motive Kestrel electric vehicle. REUTERS/Handout

The blogosphere is abuzz about an electric car made of hemp developed by a team of Canadian companies who plan its debut at the EV trade show in Vancouver next month.

The compact four-passenger car, with its body made of hemp bio-composite, will have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and a range of 25 to 100 miles before needing to be recharged, depending on the battery, CBC News reported.

Calgary-based developer Motive Industries Inc. said hemp achieves the same mechanical properties as glass composite without the weight, an important goal when designing the body of a battery-powered vehicle.

UN panel once exaggerated costs of climate fight — by 1,000 times

putinHighlighting errors you made almost a decade ago isn’t often a good way to raise your credibility — but it might help the U.N. panel of climate scientists after controversy over mistakes in its most recent 2007 report.

In 2003, I was at a conference in Moscow at which Bert Bolin of Sweden, the first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was trying to persuade a largely sceptical audience of Russian experts that the fight against global warming was affordable.

His problem: a key part of the IPCC evidence he presented exaggerated the costs to the world economy by a mind-boggling 1,000 times.

The Green Gauge: CF Industries told to clean up

Christopher Greenwald

– Christopher Greenwald is director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. –

It never looks good when the EPA raps you on the knuckles for failing to take care of your surroundings. Such was the case last week for CF Industries, a fertilizer-maker now facing a price tag of more than $12 million to improve conditions at a facility in Florida.

Here are the highlights of companies in the news from August 8 to 23. Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

from The Great Debate UK:

Why Pakistan monsoons support evidence of global warming

-Lord Julian Hunt is visiting Professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The unusually large rainfall from this year’s monsoon has caused the most catastrophic flooding in Pakistan for 80 years, with the U.N. estimating that around one fifth of the country is underwater.  This is thus truly a crisis of the very first order.

Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and Western India in recent years.  For instance, in July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950 mm (37 inches) of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra.  Last year, deadly flash floods hit Northwestern Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.

from The Great Debate UK:

“Dutch dialogue” aids New Orleans restoration


-Han Meyer is Professor of Urban Design at Delft University of Technology.  He has been a principal organiser of the ‘Dutch Dialogues’ with New Orleans since 2005 and is Editor of ‘New Orleans-Netherlands:  Common Challenges in Urbanised Deltas’. The opinions expressed are his own.-

In August 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated large swathes of the U.S. Gulf Coast and overwhelmed New Orleans causing what then-U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff described as “probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes" in U.S. history.

Katrina’s punishing storm surge, strong winds and massive rainfall weakened flood protection infrastructure which then failed, flooding coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, including 80 percent of New Orleans:

CCS makes it into Oxford Dictionary of English

ccsIt’s not been a great year for greens, politicians and companies looking for progress on the fight against climate change. First came the disappointment at the Copenhagen meeting in December, then Senator Lindsey Graham pulled out of the Senate bill, then the Senate climate bill mutated into an oil spill bill —  and even that couldn’t get passed before the congressional August recess.

But climate backers might find a bit of happiness in the fact that bits of their lingo have officially made it into modern English discourse. Two climate related entries made it into the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English, which was published on Thursday. 

Here are the entries: Carbon capture and storage – the process of trapping and storing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels; and Geoengineering – manipulation of environmental processes in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming. Try that last one in your spell checker!

Scottish scientists brew up whisky biofuel

Professor Martin Tangey, Director of Edinburgh Napier University Biofuel Research Centre, holds a glass of whisky during a media viewing in Edinburgh, Scotland August 17, 2010. The University, which has filed a patent for a new super butanol biofuel made from whiskey by-products, 'pot ale' - a liquid taken from the copper stills, and 'draff' which is the spent grain, claims the bio-fuel gives 30 percent more output power than ethanol. REUTERS/David Moir

Scientists in Scotland have unveiled a new biofuel made from whisky byproducts that they say can power ordinary cars more efficiently than ethanol.

A research team from Edinburgh’s Napier University spent two years creating the biofuel butanol that can be used in gas tanks either as a stand-alone fuel or blended with petrol or diesel, they announced Tuesday. It is derived from distillation byproducts pot ale (liquid from copper stills) and draff (the spent grains).

Is this the answer for critics of corn-based, energy-intensive ethanol?

“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them,” Professor Martin Tangey, director of Napier’s Biofuel Research Center told the Financial Times.

Sierra Club rates green schools

USA-FORESTRY/BIOFUELThe Sierra Club has a new ranking of U.S. colleges and universities, and the greenest of them all is Vermont’s little Green Mountain College, which uses lots of cow-supplied biogas. The environmental group, which does an annual review, put more focus on energy sources this year, although it also gives points for water use, carpooling and more.

Big, deep-pocketed names like Stanford and Harvard are in the top 10, but many of the top-ranked are smaller colleges, like Dickinson in Pennsylvania. Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, ranked third – maybe the name helped?

The full list is here.

(Reuters picture of biomass waiting to be burned to generate electricity/Brian Snyder)