Sunday, March 8, 2009

Climate change already affecting European wildlife, study shows

The goldfinch is one of the species affected by climate change. Photo: Rob Waterhouse

European bird populations are already being affected by climate change, according to a new report, which has found significant parallels between observed changes of bird population and projections of change based on global warming.

The study, published in scientific journal PLoS One, is the world's first indicator of climate change impacts on wildlife on a continental scale.

Of the 122 bird species studied, 30 are projected to increase their range, including the hoopoe, goldfinch and collared dove, while the remaining 92, including the wood warbler, snipe and lapwing, are projected to decrease.

“Those birds we predict should fare well under climate change have been increasing since the mid-80s, and those we predict should do badly have declined over the same period," said co-author Dr. Stephen Willis from Durham University. "The worry is that the declining group actually consist of 75 per cent of the species we studied.”

The paper's lead author, Dr. Richard Gregory from the RSPB, said: "Although we have only had a very small actual rise in global average temperature, it is staggering to realise how much change we are noticing in wildlife populations.

"If we don’t take our foot off the gas now, our indicator shows there will be many much worse effects to come."

The EU is using the indicator as an official measure of the impacts of climate change on the continent’s wildlife.

Scientists from the RSPB, Durham University, the European Bird Census Council, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, the Czech Society for Ornithology, and Statistics Netherlands contributed to the report. To read the full report, click here.

Source: RSPB


Friday, March 6, 2009

Rocks may hold carbon storage solution, say geologists

Mountains such as these in California hold rocks able to store CO2

A team of geologists has mapped areas of the US containing rocks which pull carbon dioxide from the air, a process they hope can be harnessed to slow global warming.

Called ultramafic rocks, these rocks - such as peridotite, dunite and lherzholite - contain minerals that react with carbon dioxide to form limestone and chalk, effectively removing the CO2 from the air.

According to Sam Krevor, the lead author of the report from Columbia University's Earth Institute and the US Geological Survey, the United States' 6,000 square miles of ultramafic rocks could hold more than 500 years' worth of the country's carbon dioxide output.

"We're trying to show that anyone within a reasonable distance of these rock formations could use this process to sequester as much carbon dioxide as possible," said Krevor.

Generally formed deep underground, the rocks are brought to the surface under geological conditions such as plate collisions, meaning that the majority of the US rock formations are located in coastal mountain ranges in areas such as California in the west, and along the Appalachians in the east.

Mineral carbonation is a version of CSS (Carbon Capture and Storage) technology. However unlike standard methods, where liquid or gaseous CO2 is injected into spaces underground, mineral carbonation results in a harmless solid.

Scientists are working on methods to increase the speed of the reaction, which typically takes thousands of years under natural conditions.

The geologists hope that more studies of ultramafic rocks will be carried out on a global scale. In May, Juerg Matter, from Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is taking part in a project to inject basalt formations with water saturated with CO2 from a nearby geothermal power plant. A similar project is planned for Wallula, Washington, by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Source: The Earth Institute at Columbia University


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

green is black: eco-fashion for the fashion-forward

The fashion industry has traditionally had a lot to answer for when it comes to environmental responsibility. According to the US Council for Textile Recycling, 68 pounds per person of textiles are thrown out each year in the US alone, most destined for landfills.

While natural fibres like cotton may seem an ecologically sound choice, many methods used in textile production - such as the use of carcinogenic pesticides - have a hugely damaging human and environmental impact, while a hefty carbon footprint is generated by manufacturing and shipping.

In keeping with an increased global awareness of environmental issues, a growing number of designers are working with sustainable, organic and recycled fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp and bamboo to create unique designs that put paid to the stigma attached to eco-clothing. The emphasis is on quality pieces that will last – a contrast to “fast fashion” and “disposable” clothes.

Greened! spoke with Kerry MacMullin, owner of ethical and eco-friendly clothing and accessories store green is black, about bringing green garments into the fashion mainstream.

G: What led you to start green is black?

KM: I started the business because, after long boycotting all new clothing (in favour of second-hand shopping) due to the questionable labour practices and environmentally irresponsible textiles, I was frustrated that there was nowhere that I could find those things that were un-findable at second-hand stores, and had nowhere to send people who saw my lifestyle and wanted to make changes, but still wanted to buy new.

G: What in particular do you dislike about the mainstream clothing industry with regard to the environment?

KM: Two aspects top the list for me. Firstly, the fabrics - synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are petrochemical by-products, and regular cotton (not organic) accounts for just under 25 per cent of all the insecticides used globally. Also, by outsourcing the manufacturing to China the textiles cross the ocean twice - which requires a lot of fuel.

G: You started out as an online store - what prompted you to open a real-world store?

KM: Interestingly, green is black is soon going to go back to being chiefly an online store (we are closing the doors on March 28). I wanted people to have a chance to look at, touch and try on the eco-ethical fashions that are largely only available online. I wanted the concept to be out there and visible so that people would be encouraged to ask questions and give feedback. Selfishly, I wanted the opportunity to interface with like-minded individuals. And trying to get press for an online business is hard; with a storefront it's a lot easier. Press for a business of this nature is absolutely integral to its success. The store front is no longer economically possible; plus I need more time to dedicate to developing a line of accessories made with reclaimed and recycled materials.

G: What green initiatives have you taken in running your store?

KM: I power the building with Bullfrog Power, carbon offset all of my energy usage and shipping with Zero Footprint, and use a paper-free credit card transaction system. There are also the little things: all the fixtures (display pieces, racks) in the store are second-hand, all our hangers are wooden - some vintage - we don't fax, rarely print, use a laptop instead of an energy-guzzling desktop and we don't air condition the store in the summer.

G: Do you have any new lines/labels coming in that you're particularly excited about?

KM: I'm really excited about TOMS shoes - we have them coming in in a few weeks’ time. For every pair that is purchased in the developed world a pair of shoes is donated to a developing nation. Their ridiculously hot boots were developed because they needed a higher-end product in order to fund the donation of a special boot, needed in a region of Ethiopia where there is a soil-borne pathogen.

G: Which celebrity would you most like to dress in green is black clothing?

KM: I'm going to say Madonna. She's the most influential of those who made PETA's worst-dressed list for 2009. She's a timeless beauty, so it would be nice to see her wearing and endorsing eco-ethical fashion.

Items pictured are available from, or at green is black, 624 Yonge St., Toronto.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Thousands gather at Capitol Power Plant for coal protest

Environmental protesters have gathered at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC to demonstrate against the use of coal-fired power stations.

An estimated 2,500 demonstrators, from groups including Greenpeace, are blocking entrances to the power station - as of this moment, all of the five gates are occupied.

Demonstrators targeted the 99-year-old Capitol Power Plant for the rally because of its symbolic nature and proximity to the political heart of the US. Around 49 per cent of the fuel burned at the plant is coal. It does not provide electricity, but supplies the Capitol with steam and cold water. In 2002, the Capitol Power Plant was the second largest source of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in Washington.

The protesters hope to raise awareness of problems with coal, and promote legislation to reduce greenhouse gases.

A small number of counter-protesters are in attendance at the demonstration.

Today's events follow recent talks between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama to increase investment in "clean coal" development.

Follow the protest live on Twitter here.

Live video streaming here.

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