Environment Forum

In Gaza, it’s not easy being green

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– This story by Theodore May originally appeared in Global Post. –

In the small central Gaza town of Deir el Belah, one family has made a cottage industry out of green innovation.

“There was a period in Gaza when there was no gas or you had to wait for hours in line to get gas. So we made the oven according to our needs,” said Maher Youssef Abou Tawahina, who, along with his father, runs a hardware shop in town.

Abou Tawahina is referring to a solar-powered oven that he and his family invented two years ago. The oven, which sits in the family’s backyard, takes five minutes to heat up using electricity. Then, its glass ceiling uses the sun to continue the heating process. The oven is not quite hot enough for baking bread, he said, but it’s perfect for roasting chicken.

The idea of the solar-powered oven was so well received around Deir El Belah that orders poured in from around the neighborhood. Abou Tawahina said that he and his father built over 30 of them until the insulating glass became unavailable on the market.

A dozen miles up the road, in northern Gaza City, high energy costs also drove Waseem El Khazendar to innovate for his own survival.

from Photographers' Blog:

An aerial view of Sumatra Island

I joined a Greenpeace tour flying over Sumatra Island to take pictures of their protest over forest destruction.

Five photographers and a TV cameraman set off early in the morning, while it was still dark, in a new, single-propeller aircraft. No one told me it would be nearly three hours to get to Jambi on a small plane with no toilet. Luckily for me I had an empty bottle as an emergency measure.

This was the first time I’ve taken aerial shots, so I took so many types of pictures. I took every single detail that caught my eye -- forest, reflected light from the sun during sunrise, palm oil plantations, river, sea,  houses, everything.  When we started to take pictures, all five photographers jostled around one opened window. The wind blew very hard, pushing the glass against my face. After one hour, one of the other photographers gave up, and had to take a rest after throwing up all his breakfast. That made me happy – more room for me to take pictures.

Designers pitch ‘trashy’ island in Pacific

An artist's rendition of the urban portion of Recycled Island, courtesy of WHIM Architecture. REUTERS/Handout

From time to time we are reminded there is a floating pool of plastic bottles, caps, and broken down debris roughly the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Ocean.

There’s a collective disgust when it bobs back into view, like it did this week after the Guardian profiled a group of Dutch eco-architects and their ambitious design of a so-called Recycled Island made entirely of the trash now floating in the North Pacific, between Hawaii and San Francisco.

Most commentators acknowledge the award-winning architects‘ project, with costs still undetermined, is realistically never going to get off the drafting table.

That sinking feeling along the U.S. Gulf Coast

OIL-SPILL/The oil is no longer gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP well, and a final “bottom kill” is in prospect — though delayed by an iffy weather forecast. That means the environment’s on the mend along the Gulf Coast, right?

Not really. There’s the little problem of subsidence to deal with.

Because the Mississippi River has been channeled to control flooding, coastal wetlands have been starved of sediment. Without fresh sediment coming down the river, wetlands can’t keep up with erosion and protective marshes can turn into open water. Subsidence is what this phenomenon is called.

This sinking is already occurring near Venice, where marinas cluster around the toe of Louisiana’s boot shape. Take a look at a road that looks like a stream in a video clip I took in mid-July:

R.I.P. cap and trade? Not just yet

– Valerie Volcovici is a Washington, DC-based journalist for Point Carbon, a Thomson Reuters company that provides news and intelligence on environmental and energy markets. Any views expressed here are her own. —

The architects of the Western Climate Initiative couldn’t have asked for better timing for the release of the blueprints for their planned cap-and-trade system on July 27.

With national headlines the week before calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s legislation to set up a federal greenhouse gas emissions trading system “shelved”, “jettisoned” or even “dead”, the release of the highly technical details of the WCI’s cap-and-trade plans drew more attention than would have otherwise been expected.

The Green Gauge: Black mark on Enbridge

Gretchen King holds a protest sign as she joins residents in downtown Marshall to protest the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Enbridge’s stain on the Kalamazoo River in central Michigan pushed this Calgary-based energy delivery company to the headlines as details emerged about 840,000 gallons of crude that spilled from one of their pipelines into a creek on July 26.

Enbridge leads this installment of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines July 18 to August 9 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, 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. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Private sector’s role in reducing the use of ‘conflict minerals’

DRC

A view of a traditional gold mine, near the eastern Congolese town of Kamituga, a mining town.

The following is a guest host by Dunstan Allison Hope, managing director of BSR’s Information, Communications, and Technology Practice. He is also co-author of “Big Business, Big Responsibilities.” The opinions expressed are his own.

Buried in the 2,300-page U.S. financial reform bill that President Obama signed on July 21 is a little-noticed provision taking aim at a very different type of market: the international trade in so-called “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

from Tales from the Trail:

Should U.S. oil royalties pay for studies of BP spill’s environmental impact?

OIL-SPILL/Oil caused the mess in the Gulf of Mexico. Should U.S. oil royalties pay for scientists to study what happened, and what's still happening, to this complex environment?

At least one scientist thinks so. Ed Overton of Louisiana State University figures the billions of dollars collected in royalties by the now-defunct and much-reviled Minerals Management Service -- re-named and re-organized as the Bureau of Ocean Energy -- must have enough money to pay for research into the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill.

Speaking at a Senate hearing last week on the effects of oil-dispersing chemicals, Overton and other experts called the BP spill an unintentional "grand experiment" into what deep water oil exploration can do to animals, plants, water and land in the Gulf. As Overton put it, the oil and dispersants are out there now. Best to study them over the months and years ahead to figure out what they're doing to the environment.

from Global Investing:

State funds and environmental investing

An Australian local government superannuation fund has become the latest state-owned fund to invest in environmental funds.

Local Government Super (LGS), which manages around A$6 billion in assets for 100,000 local government employees in New South Wales,  has invested A$50 million ($45.96 million) into a portfolio which invests in small cap environmental technology stocks, run by London-based Impax Asset Management.

The portfolio will follow an investment strategy followed by one of Impax's fund, which returned 47.71 percent in the last five years, versus 20.10 percent for the benchmark MSCI World Index.

Irresponsible to declare Gulf oil crisis over

A barge hauls booming material near Grand Isle, Louisiana July 23, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Celano

– Dr. Bruce Stein is associate director for wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation. Any views expressed here are his own. —

Here at the National Wildlife Federation, we’re encouraged by reports of progress in permanently sealing the Gulf oil gusher and at removing oil from the Gulf’s surface. But we’re concerned that both BP and our federal government seem eager to declare the crisis over even as oil continues sullying the habitats on which the Gulf’s wildlife and seafood industry depend.

While Wednesday’s NOAA report touted that only a quarter of the oil is in marshes or still on the surface, it says another quarter was naturally or chemically “dispersed” beneath the surface.

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