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News from The Treetalker

Large wind and solar farms in the Sahara would increase heat, rain, vegetation

September 6, 2018

Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors that may be beneficial — or detrimental — to the regions in which they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region.

read the article here.

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Map by Eviatar Bach

GOING THE DISTANCE  Painted ladies travel 12,000 km each year, farther than any known butterfly migration

By Leah Rosenbaum, June 20, 2018

Though found across the world, the orange-and-brown beauties that live in Southern Europe migrate into Africa each fall, crossing the Sahara on their journey; analysis of butterfly wings suggests that the butterflies head back to Europe in the spring. The round-trip is about 2,000 more than successive generations of monarchs are known to travel in a year. Some tenacious individuals even make the return trip in a single lifetime.

Read the article here.

061818_LR_butterfly-est_feat

A Leader in the War on Poverty Opens a New Front: Pollution
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, Aug. 24, 2018

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is resurrecting the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement started by Martin Luther King Jr. He sees the climate and environment as issues on par with poverty and racism.

He and Al Gore are bringing attention to the problem of coal ash, its pollution of local drinking water and the health of citizens and workers in the area.

Read the article here.

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News from The Treetalker

WWF“What does ‘protecting people and forests,
supporting economic growth’ mean to you?”

Forest News, Gabrielle Lipton, July 12, 2018, Dateline: Indonesia

At the 2018 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit, Forest News spoke to the director for The Nature Conservancy about rethinking the way forests factor into development, if they are to keep giving us the things we want and need.

The initial economic growth of these countries has been fueled by harvesting and selling of timber. This area holds about 60% of the world’s population, and as people’s lifestyle improves, forested land disappears in favor of agriculture, animal husbandry and mining. This results in poor air quality because of carbon emissions.

The organizations attending the Summit are working to advance ideas about ways to help the population’s economic growth continue to expand without cutting down all the trees.

Read this article here.

Xavier Cortada

T Agitprop—12 Artists on Climate Change, by Zoe Lescaze of the New York Times, August 22, 2018

A strongly visual article about the work of 12 contemporary artists who focus on several different aspects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, or connections to other living species and our affect on them, the destruction of beautiful natural landscapes, the extraction of resources from the land, the impact of more powerful storms on society and critically endangered species and the issue of extinction.

Visit the article for a look at some of their works and their stories.

Xavier Leoty:AFP

From Angelique Chrisafis, in France, for The Guardian, August 24, 2018
Choose a Side: the Battle to Keep French Isle McDonald’s-Free

The Mayor of Ile d’Oleron, the second-biggest island off mainland france after Corsica, is a major tourist destination is leading the fight, saying the island is “not about mass consumption.” Others say, “Oleron is a beautiful place, it’s important to protect it. We don’t need McDonald’s in a place that is pioneering local organic food, sustainable development, zero waste and alternative ways of living that aren’t about mass consumption.”

The battle has been going on for 4 years. Recently, a court in Poitiers ruled that the town had no legal basis to stop McDonald’s and must let them come in or pay fines on a daily basis. The verdict on the appeal is due next month.

Read the article here.

Dmitry Kostyukov:NYT

Also from the New York Times:
Paris Bees at Work From Notre-Dame to the Luxembourg Gardens
Paris has seen a marked rise in urban beekeeping, with more than 1,000 hives atop landmark buildings as well as in community gardens across the city.
By Alissa J. Rubin, August 24, 2018

Hives have been on the roof of the Opera Garnier for over 30 years; there are hives on top of Notre-Dame Cathedral, and Luxembourg Gardens have been home to honeybees for over 150 years. They also give apiculture classes, with perhaps 200 people graduating every year.

Paris officials want to ensure that there will be enough bees to service the trees and flowers of the many local parks, gardens and cemeteries. “Perhaps one reason people now want to keep bees is that it’s a way of participating in the protection of the environment.”

Paris has all but ensured the relative purity of its honey by eliminating the use of pesticides in city parks and gardens, and forbidding pesticides on plantings on home terraces and roofs, as well as cemeteries.

Read the article here.

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Remember, Secret Voices from the Forest—Volume Three: The East is now available, $32.95 on Amazon.

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News from The Treetalker

Three from the BBC

Britain has been suffering through a tremendous heat wave this summer. Parks, gardens crops are all brown and withered. See this article in the NY Times for details on that. But rain has finally returned, by the bucket load, apparently, with accompanying floods, of course.

As a result of the heat wave, there were huge wait times in cross-Channel rail services at the Euro Tunnel, leaving customers waiting, sometime for more than 5 hours in 30C heat (that’s the high 80s, for old-timers like me), often with no facilities.

The queues on the UK side were apparently due to large numbers of passengers headed out for vacations in France, but since the air conditioners in the train were overwhelmed by the heat, the service was unavailable.

They ran additional trains a night, to make up for the time losses, and staff left a water hose running for children and dogs, and a refrigerated van was providing bottles of water. Read the article (and there are lots of pics and video) here.

©howardwalmsley

©Howard Walmsley

BBC Weather forecaster Matt Taylor said there had been a “drastic change” from the heatwave to cooler, wetter and windier conditions.

I’ll say! Apparently, “more than a month’s worth of rain fell within a few hours in Northern Ireland on Saturday. Belfast saw 99mm of rain and homes were flooded in County Antrim. A cleanup operation continued on Sunday. Flights from Edinburgh, Birmingham, Luton and Stansted were delayed on Saturday and some cancelled after temporary restrictions were put in place during thunderstorms across Europe on Friday.”

Flights from several airports were delayed or cancelled; flooding was widespread.

Saturday was the first day since 23 June that nowhere in the UK had temperatures above 25C.

Matt Taylor said the cooler conditions would continue over the next few days, but added that it “doesn’t mean that summer is done with us yet”!!

See pics, video and the rest of the article here.

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Brits use yellow and orange for precipitation

And from a scientific point of view–Mary Halton, the BBC News Science reporter explains why rain after a dry spell smells so good to us. “Known as petrichor, the scent has long been chased by scientists and even perfumers for its enduring appeal.”

This scent is actually produced by an abundant soil bacteria as they create a molecule called geosmin. The drops of water hitting the ground cause it to be released into the air. Humans are extremely sensitive to it. But, although we love the smell, we don’t like the taste. Go figure.

Read the rest of the article, and see pics and videos (the BBC seems to be partial to lots of video) here.

©SciencePhotoLib

©Science Photo Library

And one more thing…Blood Moon this last week. Go to CNN’s page of wonderful pics for more like this from all over the world.

Aris Messinis:AFP:Getty Images

Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Also SPOTLIGHT ON the Black Tupelo Tree

 Although Black tupelo produces a good quality honey, the most prized “Tupelo Honey” comes from its cousin, Nyssa Ogeche, the White tupelo tree, which only grows in North Western Florida and Southern Georgia. Because of its high fructose content, this honey resists crystallization for many years, and must be certified by pollen analysis to be the real deal. Beehive keepers clean out their hives before and after the White tupelo blossoms, to keep the honey as pure in content as possible.
The blossom season only lasts about a month, and, according to the folks at the Savannah Bee Company, “Biologists estimate that it takes two million Tupelo tree flowers to produce one pound of honey, and one honeybee produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon in its lifetime.”  This company sponsors an educational program for elementary school children called “The Bee Cause Project.” By installing open-window beehives in classrooms for the children to observe a hive in operation, and teaching them the role of bees in food production, they learn the importance of the smallest creatures to our lives.

Jennifer BehnkinMO Dept.Conservation

MO Dept. of Conservation/Jennifer Behnkin

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News from The Treetalker

July 20, 2018 – In her blog for Scientific American, Jennifer M. Archambault wrote about Using Herbicides to Save Endangered Snails.

The habitat of the rare, tiny Panhandle pebbles snail, which consumes algae and other microorganisms and is integral to maintaining the ecological balance in river systems, is threatened by an invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla. Introduced through the aquarium trade in the 1950s into the ponds and canals of Florida, it has worked its way into many southern states and is on the Federal Noxious Weeds list. Humans aid in its spread, as it can easily propigate from small fragments on boat motors or fishing equipment. After much field study and testing, it was found in a pilot study in the Eno River in North Carolina that, with applications of a herbicide, the hydrilla is dramatically thinning, and the snails’ population is growing. A great deal of work is left to do to control the hydrilla in the greater Southern water system, but the data gives hope. Read Jennifer’s blog post here.

From ScienceDaily, July 5, 2018. Bacteria-powered solar cell converts light to energy, even under overcast skies!

U of BC researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy. Their cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light. This innovation could be a step toward wider adoption of solar power in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where overcast skies are common. This is great news, particularly since it’s from Canada, where the government hopefully cares about its environment more than the current administration in the U.S.

“We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell. These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.” Read the article here.

Another article from ScienceDaily, June 18, 2018

Cementless fly ash binder makes concrete ‘green’
Engineers use byproduct from coal-fired power plants to replace Portland cement. It is made primarily of fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. If you noticed an article in the NY Times this week that reported the EPA is easing standards on the disposal of toxic coal ash, this development could provide some way of cleaning up some of the messes created by these plants. Read more about this new composite, environmentally friendly material here.

Another, related article about this sustainable alternative to traditional concrete using coal fly ash is here. This article mentions that the production method doesn’t require heating, which is one of the other polluting aspects of concrete manufacture. The cement less binder also aids groundwater and mitigates flooding, because water can pass through it, unlike cement. Read this article here.

Also, Focus On the Anhinga.

This bird quickly spears a fish with its sharp bill, then flips it into the air and swallows it head first. Sometimes the Anhinga spears the fish so hard it has to return to shore to get the fish off its bill by banging the fish against a rock.
Also known as snakebird, the Anhinga sometimes swims slowly underwater stalking fish around submerged vegetation, but when hunting at the surface, it stretches its head and neck flat out on the surface of the water, above its submerged body. With head and neck stretched out, it has the appearance of a snake is gliding through the water.
The Anhinga’s feathers are not waterproofed with oils, and can get waterlogged, but this helps it stay submerged for long periods of time. Afterwards, it will perch for long periods with its wings spread to dry them. If it tries to fly with wet wings, it has difficultly getting airborne, so it has to take off by flapping energetically and running on the surface of the water.
Once in the air, it is a graceful flier and can go long distances without flapping its wings, using thermals for soaring, and can achieve altitudes of several thousand feet.

 

 

 

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News from The Treetalker

Pollution is changing the fungi that provide mineral nutrients to tree roots, which could explain malnutrition trends in Europe’s trees.

To get nutrients from the soil, trees host fungi, known as mycorrhizal fungi, in their roots. These fungi receive carbon from the tree in exchange for essential nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which they gather from the soil.

A huge, 10-year study of 13,000 soil samples across 20 European countries has revealed that many tree fungi communities are stressed by pollution, indicating that current pollution limits set by European countries may not be strict enough, that they may need to lower the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus levels allowed for soil amendments. To read all of this article, click here.

Imperial College, London

Imperial College, London

Study shows evidence of convergence in bird and primate evolution.

Neuroscientists have identified the neural circuit that may underlay intelligence in birds, according to a new study. “An area of the brain that plays a major role in primate intelligence. . .transfers information between the two largest areas of the brain, which allows for higher-order processing and more sophisticated behavior. In humans and primates, these specific nuclei are large compared to other mammals.”

Birds have a similar structure that has similar connectivity, located in a different part of the brain, which does the same thing – circulates information between the cortex and the cerebellum.

The study determined that the structure in parrots is much larger than that of other birds, with the relevant structure two to five times larger in parrots than in other birds, which has developed independently, involving sophisticated behaviors such as use of tools and self-awareness. Read the rest of the article here.

Andrew Iwaniuk

Andrew Iwaniuk

From the Washington Post Energy and Environment Newsletter. July 6, 2018, Lindsey Bever reporting.

Hawaii just banned your favorite sunscreen to protect its coral reefs

According to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, coral reefs are crucial to marine and human life.

In addition to protecting sea creatures, the Smithsonian said, the reefs provide food, medication and tourism jobs, among other things — at a value of $30 billion to $172 billion per year.

Hawaii’s state lawmakers passed legislation in May that would ban skin-care companies from selling and distributing sunscreens on the islands that contain two chemicals deemed damaging to coral reefs. The chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems.”

The bill was opposed by various companies and business associations and even some dermatologists, who worry that the ban may discourage people from wearing sunscreen at all. (Blah-blah – no surprise that Big Money doesn’t care about anything other than making more money.)

Read the full article here.

Caleb Jones:AP file

Caleb Jones/AP

From NBC News, Associated Press, June 15, 2018.

Lions and tigers and bears are increasingly becoming night owls because of us, a new study says.

Scientists have long known that human activity disrupts nature. Besides becoming more vigilant and reducing time spent looking for food, many mammals may travel to remote areas or move around less to avoid contact with people. (I know how they feel.)

The latest research found even activities like hiking and camping can scare animals and drive them to become more active at night.

Researchers analyzed 76 studies involving 62 species on six continents, including lions in Tanzania, otters in Brazil, coyotes in California, wild boars in Poland and tigers in Nepal. The study suggests that animals might be “playing it safe around people.”

Read the complete article here.

Shivang Mehta Photography

Shivang Mehta Photography

From NBC News, June 7 2018, Brandon Specktor reporting.

Climate change killed the aliens, and it might kill us too!

Professor Adam Frank, astrophysicist at the U. of Rochester, NY published a new paper in May that “aims to take a 10,000-light-year view of human-caused climate change.”

Using mathematical models based on the disappearance of the lost civilization of Easter Island, Frank and his colleagues simulated how various alien civilizations might rise and fall if they were to increasingly convert their planet’s limited natural resources into energy.

The results, as you might expect, were generally pretty grim. Of four common “trajectories” for energy-intense civilizations, three ended in apocalypse. The fourth scenario — a path that involved converting the whole alien society to sustainable sources of energy — worked only when civilizations recognized the damage they were doing to the planet, and acted in the right away.

“The last scenario is the most frightening,” Frank said. “Even if you did the right thing, if you waited too long, you could still have your population collapse.”

Read the rest of this interesting “what if?” article here.

Michael Osadciw:U of Rochester

Illustration by Michael Osadciw/U of Rochester

Also, on my “Spotlight On” page, a bit about our favorite summer plant, Poison Ivy.

poison-ivy

Again, don’t forget, Volume 3 of Secret Voices from the Forest is available now on Amazon – you can get there directly via this link.

Have a great week!

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News from The Treetalker

Focus on: the Rainbow Snake

    Highly aquatic, this beautiful snake can be found among floating vegetation in freshwater streams, along riverbanks and in cypress swamps and marshes of the coastal plain of southern North America. Not a great deal is known about

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Herpsofnc.org

this non-venomous species, as it is very reclusive and spends most of its life in the water or hiding in available cover.
As an adult, the Rainbow snake eats only American eels. Landlubbers such as myself probably never consider that eels are fish, with a complicated life cycle that begins in the Sargasso Sea. Visit this page for the rest of the article.

Young gorillas are working together to destroy poachers’ traps in Rwanda

Reblogged from Eben Diskin, June 5, 2018 – visit here for the full article:

Joakim Odelberg.jpg

Photo: Joachim Odelberg


The famed Highland Gorillas of the Rwanda National Park have apparently learned how to dismantle the traps that poachers have been setting for them, and have teamed up to do the job.  Kick ass! Read the original – it’s not very long.

Bringing more Green power to the Res, with Renewable energy:

Rachel Hamalian, volunteer from Trees, Water and People, reports from Pine Ridge about the Lakota Solar Enterprises. They say this about themselves:
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“In partnership with Trees, Water & People (TWP), Lakota Solar Enterprises founded and now operates the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), where Native Americans from around the country come to receive hands-on training in renewable energy applications from fellow Native American trainers. RCREC’s facilities also include demonstration solar air furnaces, a solar electric system, straw bale home demonstration sites, a wind turbine, green houses and garden, buffalo from the Red Cloud herd, and wind break and shade trees. In addition to educating about the benefits of renewable energy, RCREC’s workshops are creating green jobs for residents of Pine Ridge, S.D., as well as visiting trainees from other tribes. As tribal leaders learn how to incorporate sustainable technology into housing plans, employment training, and energy strategies, the impact will increase exponentially.”

from the NY Times weekly newsletter, Climate Fwd:

from June 27, 2018, both positive and negative. Please visit the page for the stories in their entirety. The reporters are Henry Fountain, Livia Albeck-Ripka, John Schwartz and Brad Plumer

Getty images

Bad News for Ozone Layer Recovery  (Getty Images)

1)  Research by an investigative reporter from the Times, stationed in Beijing, has shown that there’s a high probability that several businesses in China are supplying and/or using CFC-11, even though it’s long been banned. This could delay the restoration of atmospheric ozone by 10 years or more.

Maine Lobster – Greta Rybus for The New York Times

2)  Apparently climate change can be bad for some, good for others. There has been a recent boom of Maine’s lobster fishery. Warming waters and conservation efforts by the lobstermen has helped the industry increase by 500%.

Carl de Souza:Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

3)  Brazil isn’t doing so well in it’s efforts to protect its rain forests, with more than 3 million acres cleared by ranchers, farmers and miners. Not only are fires set deliberately, to clear the land, but a severe drought last year caused the fires to spread rapidly, out of control, making the losses much worse. Double-whammy, causing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere to increase ever more.

In all the world’s tropical forests lost roughly 39 million acres of trees. This is only slightly less than the total losses from 2016. Tropical forests are shrinking overall, with losses outweighing the gains. And they’re just talking about tropical forests. . .

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Arkansas Rig – Andrea Morales for The New York Times

4)  From a new study that came out in mid-June, in the journal Science, we see that much, much more methane (the main component of natural gas) is leaking from domestic oil and gas operations than the industry admits – nearly 2 ½ percent – you might think, “That’s not much,” but in truth, it’s enough to fuel 10 million homes for a year.

Methane has the capacity to warm the planet 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide, over a 20-year period, if it escapes into the atmosphere before being burned. If the rate of leakage rises above 4 percent, it could actually be worse for climate change than burning coal!

The good news is that most of the leakage is fixable at a relatively low cost, and the fix would pay for itself with income from the saved gas, which is estimated to be some $2 billion a year. Exxon Mobil, the largest gas producer in the country, hopes to reduce its methane emissions by 15 percent over the next year and a half.

Not sure if that’s a sufficient sense of urgency.

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That’s all the news for this posting. Don’t forget, Volume 3 of my series, Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, is brand new, and available through Amazon. Here’s the link.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

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The Treetalker

spanish-moss-and-cypress

Focus on: Spanish Moss—This familiar plant, seen draping off Live oak and Bald cypress trees all along the Gulf Coast, is not a moss at all. Rather, it is an epiphyte, which attaches itself to tree trunks and branches, rather than rooting in the soil.
However, it is not parasitic, and does not compete with its host for food. It takes in nutrients and moisture directly from air and rain, through the scales on the long gray “stems.”—thus the common name, “air plant;” but because it is so exposed, it is unable to tolerate airborne pollution or excessively cold temperatures.
It is the only member of the bromeliad family—which includes orchids and pineapples—that is indigenous to the North American continent.
Although today Spanish moss is mostly used in flower arrangements and as packing material, it was once utilized as stuffing for furniture, mattresses, automobile seats and the walls of homes as insulation. In 1939, over 10,000 tons of moss were processed for these purposes.

Environmental Happenings:— This week, some articles from the NY Times special newsletter, “Climate Fwd:” You can access the report at this link. 
The articles were written by
By John Schwartz, Brad Plumer and Livia Albeck-Ripka for the article, published on May 30, 2018.

* 1) Creating an ice rink in the deserts of Nevada? Boy, there’s an energy guzzler!

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** 2) Most of us environmentally-minded folk have heard that the methane produced by livestock accounts for 26% of all methane emissions in the U.S. (Do they consider what people might be adding to that figure?) Some scientists—of course—are trying to develop a drug to counter the problem; however, one Canadian farmer discovered, by accident, that his cows were healthier and produced less gas when they ate seaweed that had washed up on the shore. Turns out some types of seaweed contains a substance that neutralizes the methane-producing stomach enzyme.

Ah, nature always finds a way. . .

So the scientists are testing new diets, with some promising results.

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*** 3) final article in this report: “Aspirational recycling.”

You may also have heard recently that China, who has been one of the world’s main importers of recyclable waste (geez – who would WANT that job?), has recently said it will reject shipments that are more than 0.5 % impure – like, when people don’t wash things out, or put other kinds of garbage in the recycling bins – apparently messy cardboard pizza boxes are a big offender, along with all those things we think are #1’s and #2’s, but are actually #5’s or something else (like the lids of just about everything!)

So, “rinse stuff out and read the numbers in the little triangles on the bottom of the item” is the main takeaway, but do read the article.

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My new book, Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, Volume Three: The East has just come from the printer. Buy at Amazon—I’m the only one selling it!  $32.95 + shipping.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

And finally, my latest blog post, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” in which I (sort of) express my views on current events.

For all these articles, visit my personal website.

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