Environment Forum

from Photographers' Blog:

A global view of Earth Hour

The world turned off its lights on March 26 for an hour from 8.30 p.m. local time as a show of support for tougher action to confront climate change.

A global celebration of Earth Hour 2011 from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

I was given the assignment to not only photograph the event from Taipei, Taiwan, but to produce a multimedia video that showcased the world's landmarks without lights as part of the fifth annual Earth Hour.

The Taipei 101 building is seen before Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Taipei 101 building is seen during Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Reuters online team in Toronto and I had decided to produce a video to illustrate the event with pictures by our photographers around the world. The idea was to fade before pictures with the lights turned on into the exact same image without the lights on.

The most challenging part of this was coordinating with the chief photographers around the world to advise their staff photographers of exactly what I needed in the pictures to make the transitions in the video seamless.

The temple of the Parthenon is pictured after Earth Hour in Athens, March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/John Kolesidis

The temple of the Parthenon is pictured during Earth Hour in Athens, March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/John Kolesidis

These were the instructions given out to everyone:

- No Verticals. It's hard to fit a vertical photograph into a video production. You often have to crop it into a horizontal or have large spaces of black on the two sides.

Pure water from solar power; will it catch on?

water1 Remote villages in developing countries might benefit from these twin 40-ft long containers (left) — a water purification system driven by solar power — as a substitute for noisy diesel-powered generators, trucks bringing in water or people spending hours every day walking to fetch water.

That’s the hope of the makers, environmental technology group SwissINSO Holding Inc. The small company has recently won its first contracts to supply the systems to Algeria and Malaysia and is aiming to sell 42 units of what it calls the world’s “first high-volume, 100 percent-solar turnkey water purification system” in 2011.

The system, an interesting-sounding technology in a world where more than a billion people lack access to fresh water, could also have extra uses from disaster relief to construction sites or to helping armies stay healthy in remote regions.

from Tales from the Trail:

White House commission wades into “Deep Water”

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSIONThe great thing about presidential commissions is that they can soberly consider complicated matters and then offer unvarnished reports on what to do. The tough part is when that information rockets around Washington, as occurred after a White House commission issued its final report on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The "Deep Water" report, apparently titled in reference to the doomed BP Deepwater Horizon rig, blames the deadly blowout and oil spill on government and industry complacency, and recommends more regulation of offshore drilling and a new independent safety agency. But as my colleague Ayesha Rascoe reports, the commission lacks the authority to establish drilling policies or punish companies.

Within minutes of the report's release, and even as commission co-chair William Reilly was bragging about bringing the report in on time and under budget, interest groups started the PR barrage, with industry critical and environmental outfits largely complimentary. Two Democratic members of Congress said they'd introduce legislation to implement the commission's recommendations.

How to make communities see green over REDD?

A villager collects rattan among rubber trees near a village in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's part of Borneo island. Rubber and rattan provide good incomes to villagers and represents a key way to support livelihoods for investors in a large forest preservation project nearby, who are working with local communities to make the project a success. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

A villager collects rattan among rubber trees near a village in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's part of Borneo island. Rubber and rattan provide good incomes to villagers and represents a key way to support livelihoods for investors in a large forest preservation project nearby, who are working with local communities to make the project a success. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

Forests are the lifeblood for millions of people around the world. Murniah, a 40-year-old mother of one in Mentaya Seberang village in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan Province, knows this only too well.

Large areas to the west of her village on the Mentaya river have been converted to palm oil. Good for a short-term boost in incomes but not so good for the environment.

Making REDD work for illegal loggers

Hendri, 27, an illegal logger cuts down a tree in a peat swamp forest in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island. Illegal logging remains a project for forest conservation projects because timber represents quick income for villagers needing work or to feed families. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

Hendri, 27, an illegal logger cuts down a tree in a peat swamp forest in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island. Illegal logging remains a problem for forest conservation projects because timber represents quick income for villagers needing work or to feed families. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

It took just 30 seconds to fell the tree. Hendri, 27, a skinny Indonesian from Central Kalimantan on Borneo island, skilfully wielded the chainsaw more than half his height. The result is a thunderous crash and a tree that is quickly cut into planks on the forest floor near by.

And the reward for this effort? About 125,000 rupiah, or roughly $12 per tree measuring 30 cm or more in diameter. Hendri and the three other members of this local gang of illegal loggers make about $45 a day (not including expenses and bribes) cutting down between 4 and 5 trees and slicing them into planks with a chainsaw, using no protective gear. They work for about 10 days at a stretch.

from Reuters Investigates:

Oil under ice

Still there

Still there

BP's Macondo Gulf spill would be nothing compared to the effect of a drilling accident in the Arctic, Jessica Bachman reports from "the foulest place in all of Russia."  Scientists and Russian officials are just starting to wake up to the fact that "if something happens on the Arctic Barents Sea in November it would be, 'OK, we'll come back for you in March,'" Jessica says.

But quite what Russia would do about that is not at all clear. The Russian government gets more than 50 percent of its revenues from oil and gas and Prime Minister Putin's stated aim is to keep producing more than 10 billion barrels a day through 2020. Environmentalists aren't the only ones who are worried.

from The Great Debate:

Bottom-up biodiversity

ENVIRONMENT-BIODIVERSITY/

By Karol Boudreaux
The opinions expressed are her own.

At the recent UN biodiversity conference in Japan, participants were tasked with finding a new approach to preserve threatened ecosystems.

In the end, government and UN officials, NGO representatives and others reached an agreement that some are calling historic. The executive director of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said: "This is a day to celebrate in terms of a new and innovative response to the alarming loss of biodiversity and ecosystems." But how different is it?

The new "Aichi Target" (named after the prefecture in Japan where the meetings took place) creates a 10-year strategic plan to meet 20 goals for stemming species loss. It is set to take effect in 2020 but will need to be ratified by nearly 200 signatory nations, then implemented at the national and local levels by government officials, and then funded in order to work. This is yet another highly complex and inefficient process to address a very important problem. A more effective model would be to keep things simple.

Muddled up in climate politics

Piero Quinci handles his dog as Monique Johnson (R) looks on near a beach front polling place at the Los Angeles County lifeguard station in Hermosa Beach, California November 2, 2010. REUTERS/David McNew

Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.

For those of us hoping for substantive climate or energy legislation in the near future, Tuesday’s election was a mixed bag at best.

And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.

from The Great Debate UK:

Preparing for the next tsunami

-- Lord Hunt is a visiting professor at Delft University and emeritus professor at University College London, and former director-general of the UK Meteorological Office. Dr Simon Day is a researcher at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, University College London. The opinions expressed are their own --

INDONESIA-VOLCANO/The devastating tsunami that struck the Indonesian islands of Mentawai may have caused about 450 deaths, with hundreds more still missing, and compounds the disaster caused in the country by the eruption of Mount Merapi in Java. Following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, the Mentawai Islands were engulfed with estimated three-metre waves that affected thousands of households.

What has shocked many about this latest disaster is the fact that, more than five years after the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, when at least 187,000 people died (with 43,000 still missing), there were no greater preparations against the devastation.

from Tales from the Trail:

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington's scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances -- energy vampires, he called them.

"Garlic doesn't work against these vampires," Chu wrote. "But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet." Then he linked to the Energy Department's "energy star" page .

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