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Updated: 24 weeks 2 days ago

Essential House Features Kinetic Walls to Maximize Space Efficiency

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:47
Previously covered on Jetson Green, the E.D.G.E. (Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment) House was a 360-foot modular concept home that was designed by Revelations Architecture and won the AIA Small Projects Award in 2011. Taking inspiration from E.D.G.E., architect Dan Yudchitz collaborated with his father, Bill Yudchitz who is principal architect for Revelations, on [...]

Essential House Features Kinetic Walls to Maximize Space Efficiency

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:47
Previously covered on Jetson Green, the E.D.G.E. (Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment) House was a 360-foot modular concept home that was designed by Revelations Architecture and won the AIA Small Projects Award in 2011. Taking inspiration from E.D.G.E., architect Dan Yudchitz collaborated with his father, Bill Yudchitz who is principal architect for Revelations, on [...]

BOOK REVIEW: Bridgette Meinhold’s Urgent Architecture Showcases 40 Sustainable Housing Solutions for a Changing World

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

James&Mau's Casa El Tiemblo is an energy-efficient home made of four stacked shipping containers. Urgent Architecture is an organized, straightforward, no-nonsense collection of prefabricated, adaptable, affordable and disaster/emergency housing. Ms.
    

INTERVIEW: Home Improvement Legend Bob Vila Talks to Us About Green Building

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Bob Vila’s name has been synonymous with home improvement since he helped launch This Old House in 1979. After nearly thirty years of producing and hosting television shows about the world of home design and improvement, he now showcases many of his ideas
    

BOOK REVIEW: Bridgette Meinhold’s Urgent Architecture Showcases 40 Sustainable Housing Solutions for a Changing World

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

James&Mau's Casa El Tiemblo is an energy-efficient home made of four stacked shipping containers. Urgent Architecture is an organized, straightforward, no-nonsense collection of prefabricated, adaptable, affordable and disaster/emergency housing. Ms.
    

INTERVIEW: Home Improvement Legend Bob Vila Talks to Us About Green Building

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Bob Vila’s name has been synonymous with home improvement since he helped launch This Old House in 1979. After nearly thirty years of producing and hosting television shows about the world of home design and improvement, he now showcases many of his ideas
    

CityHEART is an Interactive Sculpture Made from Upcycled Bicycle Wheels

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Architect and artist Casey Milbrand wrote a love letter to his hometown of Buffalo by creating a gorgeous upcycled sculpture called CityHEART. Made from twenty five disused bicycle wheels, the heart-shaped sculpture invites locals to interact with public
    





CityHEART is an Interactive Sculpture Made from Upcycled Bicycle Wheels

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Architect and artist Casey Milbrand wrote a love letter to his hometown of Buffalo by creating a gorgeous upcycled sculpture called CityHEART. Made from twenty five disused bicycle wheels, the heart-shaped sculpture invites locals to interact with public
    





Despite Concern, Plenty of Hope for Great Lakes

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Northern pike (Esox lucius) are one of many aquatic species that depend on healthy Great Lakes to thrive. (Image credit: Shedd Aquarium/Solomon David)

August brought challenging news for the Great Lakes. Researchers announced the expansion of a in Lake Michigan near Green Bay. Fed by phosphorus from agricultural and urban runoff, the dead zone at times covers 40 percent of the bay's freshwater estuary, creating an oxygen-deprived area that drives out aquatic life. Estuaries are critically important nurseries for juvenile fishes and other animals, and dead zones in these waters can have a ripple effect across aquatic food webs, threatening not only native species but also the fishing and recreational industries that rely on healthy Great Lakes. One of the dead zone's primary sources, the Lower Fox River, is already on the USEPA's list of priority restoration projects under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), but the dead zone's growth is a tough blow for these troubled waters. Thankfully Shedd Aquarium's Dr. Solomon David is in the field studying pike migrations which are basically smack in the middle of the dead zone and we're consulting with our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay about incorporating the dead zone topic into our current work. Dead zones aren't the only Great Lakes issue in the news: Microplastics are another hot topic. These tiny bits of plastic come from many sources including industrial chemicals and some skin exfoliating products. Scientists are studying the role that microplastics might play in carrying pollutants through the Great Lakes, as well as whether fish mistake the round plastic beads for food; if so, the plastics potentially could work their way up the food chain to top predators--including us. While the news can feel overwhelming, there are plenty of reasons for hope. As we learn more about the connections between humans and the Great Lakes, many people and companies are taking action to help our region's waterways. One thing you can do: turn your concerns into action and ask others to join you in protecting them. Because we care about the lakes, several companies have listened and are choosing to making a difference in reducing microplastic pollution: H2O , Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, The Body Shop, L'Oreal and Colgate-Palmolive have publicly committed to phasing out the use of these ingredients. This is welcomed news for our lakes.

An ArcelorMittal volunteer collects trash from Chicago's 12th Street Beach during a Shedd-hosted Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach event. (Image credit: Shedd Aquarium/Bill Beneventi)

To solve these basin-wide challenges, corporations, governments, and the public must continue to work together to create effective solutions, no matter how big or small, that transcend state and provincial boundaries. Look around our region, and you'll see many people engaged in such efforts. In Wisconsin, municipalities and farmers are partnering to test adaptive management strategies that could reduce phosphorus runoff and have a positive impact on dead zones. The states of Michigan and Ohio have teamed up to address the increased algae blooms that are plaguing Lake Erie. And closer to home, Shedd Aquarium works with the Chicago Park District, volunteers, and companies like ArcelorMittal, Coca-Cola, and others to keep plastic and other pollutants out of Lake Michigan through the Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-A-Beach program. This kind of work may not make the headlines, but it is happening all the time, everywhere in the Great Lakes. These efforts should be inspiring, but we have much more work to do. We must keep pressing forward with partnerships that advance Great Lakes conservation, as well as creative programs that invite basin residents to develop their love for the lakes. Of course there are also things that we can do right now, like properly disposing of trash, choosing microplastic-free products, and keeping phosophorus runoff out of our local waters. If you're already taking lake-friendly actions, share them with me in the comments section.

Guns and the Environment: Conservation Begins With Wildlife

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46
Americans have been arguing about hunting and the environment since our founding. Once British rule disappeared, many of the Colonial regulations and laws that governed hunting no longer applied, and many of these laws were repugnant to Americans because they reflected the English tradition that allowed only the upper classes to engage in outdoor sport. But hunting by everyone, particularly commercial hunters, resulted in the depletion or extinction of many species. As early as the 1840s, whitetail deer and wild turkeys were disappearing, then the passenger pigeon and the heath hen became extinct, and the great buffalo herd was reduced to a tiny fraction of its former size. By 1900, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts realized that management of wild game was the only alternative to the complete loss of many species and the ending of hunting altogether. Enter two visionaries: Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell. Both were Easterners, Ivy Leaguers, elitists. They were also captivated by wilderness and both purchased Western cattle ranches in 1884. Grinnell had his first taste of the outdoors when he accompanied General George Custer to the Black Hills in 1874 (he wisely declined Custer's invitation to take part in the 1876 expedition.) Roosevelt's father founded the Museum of Natural History in New York City and Theodore explored the Adirondacks as a teenager before making extensive trips to the West. Grinnell, editor of Forest and Steam magazine, founded the Audubon Society in 1886. The following year, Grinnell and Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club. At this point, America's foremost naturalist, Grinnell, and America's foremost outdoorsman, Roosevelt, created the modern conservation movement. And what did these two men share besides a love of wilderness? They shared a love of hunting. Most of the original conservationists were hunters -- Roosevelt, Grinnell, Audubon, Olmsted, Parkman, Pinchot. Even Thoreau considered himself to be an "outdoorsman" (I am indebted to John Reiger for this information). Whether it was the establishment of nature sanctuaries, the saving of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the creation of forest preserves, hunters instinctively understood the connection between protecting animals and preserving habitat. These hunters turned conservation-activists also understood that striking a balance between survival of animals on the one hand, and requirements of hunters on the other, required management of both. And management meant enlisting government at every level -- local, state, federal -- because wild animals, birds and fish all migrate. So an alliance developed between hunters, conservationists and government agencies that resulted in the creation of the National Parks System, the Migratory Bird Act, the Duck Stamp Act and the Robertson-Pittman Act which so far has pushed more than $2 billion into conservation and hunting programs. This alliance no longer exists due to the polarization of the gun control debate. If the NRA and the NSSF believe that the Federal Government is a threat to law-abiding shooters, they aren't about to align themselves behind programs that might give government more control over guns. At the same time, environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon believe that only the federal government has the resources to control environmental threats arising from new technologies for energy extraction. It's not an argument over conservation per se, it's an argument over the role of government. Right now there is a hot contest in California (A.B. 711) over whether to ban all lead ammunition. The NRA and its hunting allies like Boone & Crockett and Ducks Unlimited oppose the measure; the Audubon Society and its allies are promoting the ban on lead ammo in California and nationwide. These groups should not be fighting one another. They should be sitting down together, acknowledging their common heritage and history, and finding ways to make sure that what Roosevelt and Grinnell said 125 years ago still holds true today: Conservation Begins With Wildlife.

Wildfire Stories 2012: Fire Weather

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46
There has to be a moment. Imagine the fire nearly out. Your smokejumper or hotshot or engine crew is nearby, each of you working the still burning stumps, the residue on the ground that might still catch a bit of wind and grow again toward fire. Tired, exhausted really, but also proud. The rush of physical work done well. But you get to think a bit now, to look at the forest or hillside in a bit of context. You feel good, but in truth there is nothing happy about this moment. You stand there in the black, a thousand or a million acres still smoldering. Homes turned to charcoal and people dead. "How the hell did this happen?" you wonder. And you look at the sky. Ed Delgado, the Fire Weather Program Manager at NIFC, takes a sip of coffee and moves some paper on his desk at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. His eyes never leave his computer screen. Short hair, neatly cut and turning grey, glasses, somewhere in his forties, he could just as easily pass as your kids' principal as the guy who wonders how weather will bring hell to the forests and grasslands. "You have to understand the interactions between weather and fuels. And then how that combination affects fire," he says. "The better you understand that, the more specific you can be with your forecast, the better you can apply things, what's important and what's not. You begin to recognize patterns that have certain effects on fuels. For example, there's that hurricane in the Pacific. Fabio. When we first saw that was starting to move towards the States, or had the potential, we immediately started to key on what impact that had. And California is always a bad area, so we started thinking lightning. They had dry fuels and a low snow pack. How is this going to affect them this time of year if they get fire? They don't typically have a lot of fire this time of year, but there are circumstances that make us a little more cautious." "Typically," he continues, "we don't worry about California until September, October, when they get the Santa Ana winds coming out of the interior. But now, because of the extreme conditions down there people pay a little more attention. You've probably heard on the news that 61% of the country is in moderate to extreme drought right now, and it's the worst since the Dust Bowl. To me that's a little alarmist. It's not exaggerated, it's just alarmist because there are different stages of drought. But of course that all ties back into fire." I ask about lightning strikes. In morning briefings there is always a count, how many positively charged strikes, how many negative. "I don't buy into that," he says. "Why not?" "Well, the idea is that positive strikes are hotter than negative strikes." "And they fall outside the rain shadow." "Well, yes and no," he says. "They do tend to have instances where positive strikes strike outside the core of the storm. But I also don't buy the idea of wet versus dry thunderstorms as being a major difference between fire starting situations and non-fire starting situations, mostly because there are other things people don't talk about. They say the positive strikes are hotter than negative strikes, but a negative strike is 1500 degrees minimum. That's going to start a fire. It doesn't matter. It's like the difference between a flame thrower and a volcano. They're both going to start fires. One's just bigger than the other." "And the thing with wet versus dry, again, it really depends on the fuel itself. If the fuels are wet they're not going to burn; if they're dry they will burn. Now rain will tend to slow it down if it's a fine fuel. If lightning strikes in grass and it happens to be raining, it may not ignite. But if lightning strikes a dead tree or something, the rain's not going to put it out. And we don't get that much rain out here with thunderstorms anyway, so unless you're dealing with something like a monsoon down in the southwest this time of year, it depends on the fuels." "The hardest part for us is that we're in a transition period between El Niño and La Niña," he continues. "And while those aren't the only things we think about, they are key drivers of weather patterns and, being in the transition where we're not at one extreme or the other we have far more outcomes possible. It's all about timing and when are things going to start transitioning one way or the other." "So right now anything's possible." "Right now anything is possible," he says. "Last week, back in April we were looking at what we call analog years, where we look at years that have developed similarly to this year in the past and then we try to predict. It's just a really crude way of getting an idea of what our range of possibilities is. It's not a forecast. It's just that past performance is a indication of future. So we try to find out what range of possibilities we've had historically. And that narrows down what we need to focus on. We had a situation where if we transition to an El Niño we were going to have a really, really wet year in the west. If we didn't transition by a certain time it was going to be really hot and dry. So it was going to be hot and dry or it was going to be wet. It's not easy for a forecaster to resolve that." "And everyone said thank you, that's going to be really helpful." "Oh my God," he says. "Before I left the weather service, I was working in the Greenville, South Carolina forecast office. I was there in January we had a big storm, or the potential for a big storm. Up and down the east coast all the offices had to coordinate these big, major storms, especially all along the I-95 corridor. A big storm could paralyze that part of the country. Since we were the southernmost office, we were going to be first impacted by the storm. We led the call and we were all pretty much in agreement that the storm was going to move out to sea and it wasn't really going to affect the east coast very much." "Uh oh," I say. "I was the forecaster on duty and we had a zero snow forecast. I was working the night shift. I went home and when I woke up later that afternoon there were sixteen inches of snow in Charlotte. Ended up with twenty. It ended up all up the east coast, all the way to Boston and Philadelphia, two feet of snow." Ed looks at the many weather maps on his computer screens. "But for now, what we're dealing with now is this low. We had a little trough, two close lows. The first one is gone, it lifted out, and now we have this one that's dropped in on northern California. So as the ridge builds over the plains the moisture starts moving back to the west. Right now it's kind of hanging across the eastern half of the Great Basin. And we're watching Fabio, to see what that does." "Right now," he says, "we're largely not interested too much in the eastern U.S. They're basically out of fire season, although it will start to pick up in the southeast around November. Florida, they burn almost all year long. Summer months tend to be sort of a low for their fire season. Georgia and the Carolinas, their fire season will start picking up in the interior part of those states because that's more where the timber is and more of the deciduous trees and you're dealing with the leaf litter fires in those areas. And then farther north--a very brief period up here in the Virginias. You might get some fires up there in November after the leaf fall, if it's been a dry late summer and early fall. The leaves will burn pretty well and it's a whole different firefighting regime out there. They tend to use leaf blowers instead of shovels and Pulaskis."

Fracking In Britain: Cuadrilla Resources Freezes Plans For Drilling Near Balcombe, West Sussex

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Oil exploration at a site in rural England that sparked anti-fracking protests two weeks ago will be put on hold later this month and reconsidered next year with the freeze hailed a "cautious victory" by campaigners.

Shale gas driller Cuadrilla Resources on Tuesday withdrew an application to extend drilling and horizontal well testing at a site near Balcombe village in West Sussex beyond Sept. 28 when its current permit expires and said it would submit new plans.

The new application for a six-month extension will cover the same well testing as in a 2010 proposal and will not seek permission for extra drilling or any drilling known as fracking, a move Cuadrilla may hope will allay local community fears.

The application will not come before the council's planning committee until next year after further local consultation.

"Our decision to make a new application ... is to resolve any potential legal ambiguity around how the planning boundary should be drawn for a subsurface horizontal well," the company said in a statement.

"As this is a new planning application, the County Council will consult with interested third parties and we will have the opportunity for further engagement with Balcombe residents about our well testing plans."

Balcombe was the site two weeks ago of angry protests following an almost month-long standoff over the nascent shale gas extraction industry in Britain.

Police detained 36 people and dispersed hundreds who tried to block access to the Cuadrilla site in two days of direct action against fracking which retrieves gas and oil trapped in rock formations with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.

Desperate to stimulate a U.S.-style production boom and offset dwindling North Sea oil and gas reserves, the Conservative-led government has backed fracking as an "energy revolution" that can create jobs and lower energy prices.

But activists argue the government should invest in renewable energy rather than fracking, fearing the process may trigger small earthquakes and pollute water supplies.

Ewa Jasiewicz, spokeswoman for the No Dash for Gas group, said environmental campaigners and community groups saw the freeze on Cuadrilla's plans as a "cautious victory".

Cuadrilla, which is drilling a conventional oil well in Balcombe, is the only company to have fracked a shale gas well in Britain, making its activities a target for protesters.

"We are not out of the woods yet but we are cautiously optimistic that this means they won't come back and it should be seen as a victory for community groups and climate activists who have come together," she told Reuters.

Earlier this year Centrica, parent of British Gas, paid 40 million pounds ($62.8 million) for 25 percent of a major gas-bearing formation in Lancashire in northern England, owned by license operator Cuadrilla and its Australian private-equity backer A.J. Lucas.

World Bank Targets Pollution Action Through Funds For Developing Nations

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

OSLO, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The World Bank said on Tuesday it was planning "aggressive action" to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants blamed for causing climate change, in a shift also meant to protect human health and aid crop growth.

Of its funding to poor nations, almost 8 percent - $18 billion from 2007-12 - goes to sectors such as energy, farming, waste and transport that have a potential to cut emissions, a bank report said.

The bank said it would shift policy to insist that such projects in future - it did not predict levels of funding - included a component to curb air pollution.

"We will try to turn it (the funding) into aggressive action" to cut the pollutants, Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting a 38-nation group in Oslo looking at ways to cut short-term air pollution.

"Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world," Kyte said.

The bank would look for new ways to help, for instance, reduce pollution from public transport, curb methane emissions from rice irrigation, and improve the efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns.

Soot comes from sources ranging from wood-burning cooking stoves to diesel engines. Methane comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter and from farming, for instance from the digestive tracts of cattle and sheep.

Environment ministers at the meeting in Oslo of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, set up 18 months ago in Washington as a new front in combating climate change, also outlined projects to cut air pollution in areas from forestry to gas flaring.


FIRST AID

The focus on short-lived air pollutants is meant to complement efforts to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities that a U.N. panel of climate scientists says is the main cause of global warming.

In a statement, members of the coalition said that cutting the short-term pollutants could reduce global warming by up to about 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) by 2040-50.

That would help achieve a goal, set by almost 200 nations in 2010, of limiting a rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times to avoid more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

And cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health - six million people worldwide die early every year from air pollution, it said.

"First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people's health," Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said.

Reducing pollutants "can also help rural economies, with current estimates showing the potential to save about 50 million tonnes of crops each year", the statement said. Pollution poisons plants and can block sunlight, stunting growth.

The coalition statement did not refer to an academic study last month that suggested the temperature benefits of an assault on the short-lived pollutants might be far less, only 0.16 degree Celsius (0.3F) by 2050.

Drew Shindell of NASA, the head scientific advisor to the coalition, said that report wrongly assumed that air pollution would fall with economic growth. "That doesn't automatically happen," he said. (Editing by Pravin Char)

Despite Concern, Plenty of Hope for Great Lakes

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

Northern pike (Esox lucius) are one of many aquatic species that depend on healthy Great Lakes to thrive. (Image credit: Shedd Aquarium/Solomon David)

August brought challenging news for the Great Lakes. Researchers announced the expansion of a in Lake Michigan near Green Bay. Fed by phosphorus from agricultural and urban runoff, the dead zone at times covers 40 percent of the bay's freshwater estuary, creating an oxygen-deprived area that drives out aquatic life. Estuaries are critically important nurseries for juvenile fishes and other animals, and dead zones in these waters can have a ripple effect across aquatic food webs, threatening not only native species but also the fishing and recreational industries that rely on healthy Great Lakes. One of the dead zone's primary sources, the Lower Fox River, is already on the USEPA's list of priority restoration projects under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), but the dead zone's growth is a tough blow for these troubled waters. Thankfully Shedd Aquarium's Dr. Solomon David is in the field studying pike migrations which are basically smack in the middle of the dead zone and we're consulting with our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay about incorporating the dead zone topic into our current work. Dead zones aren't the only Great Lakes issue in the news: Microplastics are another hot topic. These tiny bits of plastic come from many sources including industrial chemicals and some skin exfoliating products. Scientists are studying the role that microplastics might play in carrying pollutants through the Great Lakes, as well as whether fish mistake the round plastic beads for food; if so, the plastics potentially could work their way up the food chain to top predators--including us. While the news can feel overwhelming, there are plenty of reasons for hope. As we learn more about the connections between humans and the Great Lakes, many people and companies are taking action to help our region's waterways. One thing you can do: turn your concerns into action and ask others to join you in protecting them. Because we care about the lakes, several companies have listened and are choosing to making a difference in reducing microplastic pollution: H2O , Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, The Body Shop, L'Oreal and Colgate-Palmolive have publicly committed to phasing out the use of these ingredients. This is welcomed news for our lakes.

An ArcelorMittal volunteer collects trash from Chicago's 12th Street Beach during a Shedd-hosted Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach event. (Image credit: Shedd Aquarium/Bill Beneventi)

To solve these basin-wide challenges, corporations, governments, and the public must continue to work together to create effective solutions, no matter how big or small, that transcend state and provincial boundaries. Look around our region, and you'll see many people engaged in such efforts. In Wisconsin, municipalities and farmers are partnering to test adaptive management strategies that could reduce phosphorus runoff and have a positive impact on dead zones. The states of Michigan and Ohio have teamed up to address the increased algae blooms that are plaguing Lake Erie. And closer to home, Shedd Aquarium works with the Chicago Park District, volunteers, and companies like ArcelorMittal, Coca-Cola, and others to keep plastic and other pollutants out of Lake Michigan through the Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-A-Beach program. This kind of work may not make the headlines, but it is happening all the time, everywhere in the Great Lakes. These efforts should be inspiring, but we have much more work to do. We must keep pressing forward with partnerships that advance Great Lakes conservation, as well as creative programs that invite basin residents to develop their love for the lakes. Of course there are also things that we can do right now, like properly disposing of trash, choosing microplastic-free products, and keeping phosophorus runoff out of our local waters. If you're already taking lake-friendly actions, share them with me in the comments section.

Guns and the Environment: Conservation Begins With Wildlife

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46
Americans have been arguing about hunting and the environment since our founding. Once British rule disappeared, many of the Colonial regulations and laws that governed hunting no longer applied, and many of these laws were repugnant to Americans because they reflected the English tradition that allowed only the upper classes to engage in outdoor sport. But hunting by everyone, particularly commercial hunters, resulted in the depletion or extinction of many species. As early as the 1840s, whitetail deer and wild turkeys were disappearing, then the passenger pigeon and the heath hen became extinct, and the great buffalo herd was reduced to a tiny fraction of its former size. By 1900, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts realized that management of wild game was the only alternative to the complete loss of many species and the ending of hunting altogether. Enter two visionaries: Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell. Both were Easterners, Ivy Leaguers, elitists. They were also captivated by wilderness and both purchased Western cattle ranches in 1884. Grinnell had his first taste of the outdoors when he accompanied General George Custer to the Black Hills in 1874 (he wisely declined Custer's invitation to take part in the 1876 expedition.) Roosevelt's father founded the Museum of Natural History in New York City and Theodore explored the Adirondacks as a teenager before making extensive trips to the West. Grinnell, editor of Forest and Steam magazine, founded the Audubon Society in 1886. The following year, Grinnell and Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club. At this point, America's foremost naturalist, Grinnell, and America's foremost outdoorsman, Roosevelt, created the modern conservation movement. And what did these two men share besides a love of wilderness? They shared a love of hunting. Most of the original conservationists were hunters -- Roosevelt, Grinnell, Audubon, Olmsted, Parkman, Pinchot. Even Thoreau considered himself to be an "outdoorsman" (I am indebted to John Reiger for this information). Whether it was the establishment of nature sanctuaries, the saving of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the creation of forest preserves, hunters instinctively understood the connection between protecting animals and preserving habitat. These hunters turned conservation-activists also understood that striking a balance between survival of animals on the one hand, and requirements of hunters on the other, required management of both. And management meant enlisting government at every level -- local, state, federal -- because wild animals, birds and fish all migrate. So an alliance developed between hunters, conservationists and government agencies that resulted in the creation of the National Parks System, the Migratory Bird Act, the Duck Stamp Act and the Robertson-Pittman Act which so far has pushed more than $2 billion into conservation and hunting programs. This alliance no longer exists due to the polarization of the gun control debate. If the NRA and the NSSF believe that the Federal Government is a threat to law-abiding shooters, they aren't about to align themselves behind programs that might give government more control over guns. At the same time, environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon believe that only the federal government has the resources to control environmental threats arising from new technologies for energy extraction. It's not an argument over conservation per se, it's an argument over the role of government. Right now there is a hot contest in California (A.B. 711) over whether to ban all lead ammunition. The NRA and its hunting allies like Boone & Crockett and Ducks Unlimited oppose the measure; the Audubon Society and its allies are promoting the ban on lead ammo in California and nationwide. These groups should not be fighting one another. They should be sitting down together, acknowledging their common heritage and history, and finding ways to make sure that what Roosevelt and Grinnell said 125 years ago still holds true today: Conservation Begins With Wildlife.

Wildfire Stories 2012: Fire Weather

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46
There has to be a moment. Imagine the fire nearly out. Your smokejumper or hotshot or engine crew is nearby, each of you working the still burning stumps, the residue on the ground that might still catch a bit of wind and grow again toward fire. Tired, exhausted really, but also proud. The rush of physical work done well. But you get to think a bit now, to look at the forest or hillside in a bit of context. You feel good, but in truth there is nothing happy about this moment. You stand there in the black, a thousand or a million acres still smoldering. Homes turned to charcoal and people dead. "How the hell did this happen?" you wonder. And you look at the sky. Ed Delgado, the Fire Weather Program Manager at NIFC, takes a sip of coffee and moves some paper on his desk at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. His eyes never leave his computer screen. Short hair, neatly cut and turning grey, glasses, somewhere in his forties, he could just as easily pass as your kids' principal as the guy who wonders how weather will bring hell to the forests and grasslands. "You have to understand the interactions between weather and fuels. And then how that combination affects fire," he says. "The better you understand that, the more specific you can be with your forecast, the better you can apply things, what's important and what's not. You begin to recognize patterns that have certain effects on fuels. For example, there's that hurricane in the Pacific. Fabio. When we first saw that was starting to move towards the States, or had the potential, we immediately started to key on what impact that had. And California is always a bad area, so we started thinking lightning. They had dry fuels and a low snow pack. How is this going to affect them this time of year if they get fire? They don't typically have a lot of fire this time of year, but there are circumstances that make us a little more cautious." "Typically," he continues, "we don't worry about California until September, October, when they get the Santa Ana winds coming out of the interior. But now, because of the extreme conditions down there people pay a little more attention. You've probably heard on the news that 61% of the country is in moderate to extreme drought right now, and it's the worst since the Dust Bowl. To me that's a little alarmist. It's not exaggerated, it's just alarmist because there are different stages of drought. But of course that all ties back into fire." I ask about lightning strikes. In morning briefings there is always a count, how many positively charged strikes, how many negative. "I don't buy into that," he says. "Why not?" "Well, the idea is that positive strikes are hotter than negative strikes." "And they fall outside the rain shadow." "Well, yes and no," he says. "They do tend to have instances where positive strikes strike outside the core of the storm. But I also don't buy the idea of wet versus dry thunderstorms as being a major difference between fire starting situations and non-fire starting situations, mostly because there are other things people don't talk about. They say the positive strikes are hotter than negative strikes, but a negative strike is 1500 degrees minimum. That's going to start a fire. It doesn't matter. It's like the difference between a flame thrower and a volcano. They're both going to start fires. One's just bigger than the other." "And the thing with wet versus dry, again, it really depends on the fuel itself. If the fuels are wet they're not going to burn; if they're dry they will burn. Now rain will tend to slow it down if it's a fine fuel. If lightning strikes in grass and it happens to be raining, it may not ignite. But if lightning strikes a dead tree or something, the rain's not going to put it out. And we don't get that much rain out here with thunderstorms anyway, so unless you're dealing with something like a monsoon down in the southwest this time of year, it depends on the fuels." "The hardest part for us is that we're in a transition period between El Niño and La Niña," he continues. "And while those aren't the only things we think about, they are key drivers of weather patterns and, being in the transition where we're not at one extreme or the other we have far more outcomes possible. It's all about timing and when are things going to start transitioning one way or the other." "So right now anything's possible." "Right now anything is possible," he says. "Last week, back in April we were looking at what we call analog years, where we look at years that have developed similarly to this year in the past and then we try to predict. It's just a really crude way of getting an idea of what our range of possibilities is. It's not a forecast. It's just that past performance is a indication of future. So we try to find out what range of possibilities we've had historically. And that narrows down what we need to focus on. We had a situation where if we transition to an El Niño we were going to have a really, really wet year in the west. If we didn't transition by a certain time it was going to be really hot and dry. So it was going to be hot and dry or it was going to be wet. It's not easy for a forecaster to resolve that." "And everyone said thank you, that's going to be really helpful." "Oh my God," he says. "Before I left the weather service, I was working in the Greenville, South Carolina forecast office. I was there in January we had a big storm, or the potential for a big storm. Up and down the east coast all the offices had to coordinate these big, major storms, especially all along the I-95 corridor. A big storm could paralyze that part of the country. Since we were the southernmost office, we were going to be first impacted by the storm. We led the call and we were all pretty much in agreement that the storm was going to move out to sea and it wasn't really going to affect the east coast very much." "Uh oh," I say. "I was the forecaster on duty and we had a zero snow forecast. I was working the night shift. I went home and when I woke up later that afternoon there were sixteen inches of snow in Charlotte. Ended up with twenty. It ended up all up the east coast, all the way to Boston and Philadelphia, two feet of snow." Ed looks at the many weather maps on his computer screens. "But for now, what we're dealing with now is this low. We had a little trough, two close lows. The first one is gone, it lifted out, and now we have this one that's dropped in on northern California. So as the ridge builds over the plains the moisture starts moving back to the west. Right now it's kind of hanging across the eastern half of the Great Basin. And we're watching Fabio, to see what that does." "Right now," he says, "we're largely not interested too much in the eastern U.S. They're basically out of fire season, although it will start to pick up in the southeast around November. Florida, they burn almost all year long. Summer months tend to be sort of a low for their fire season. Georgia and the Carolinas, their fire season will start picking up in the interior part of those states because that's more where the timber is and more of the deciduous trees and you're dealing with the leaf litter fires in those areas. And then farther north--a very brief period up here in the Virginias. You might get some fires up there in November after the leaf fall, if it's been a dry late summer and early fall. The leaves will burn pretty well and it's a whole different firefighting regime out there. They tend to use leaf blowers instead of shovels and Pulaskis."

Fracking In Britain: Cuadrilla Resources Freezes Plans For Drilling Near Balcombe, West Sussex

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Oil exploration at a site in rural England that sparked anti-fracking protests two weeks ago will be put on hold later this month and reconsidered next year with the freeze hailed a "cautious victory" by campaigners.

Shale gas driller Cuadrilla Resources on Tuesday withdrew an application to extend drilling and horizontal well testing at a site near Balcombe village in West Sussex beyond Sept. 28 when its current permit expires and said it would submit new plans.

The new application for a six-month extension will cover the same well testing as in a 2010 proposal and will not seek permission for extra drilling or any drilling known as fracking, a move Cuadrilla may hope will allay local community fears.

The application will not come before the council's planning committee until next year after further local consultation.

"Our decision to make a new application ... is to resolve any potential legal ambiguity around how the planning boundary should be drawn for a subsurface horizontal well," the company said in a statement.

"As this is a new planning application, the County Council will consult with interested third parties and we will have the opportunity for further engagement with Balcombe residents about our well testing plans."

Balcombe was the site two weeks ago of angry protests following an almost month-long standoff over the nascent shale gas extraction industry in Britain.

Police detained 36 people and dispersed hundreds who tried to block access to the Cuadrilla site in two days of direct action against fracking which retrieves gas and oil trapped in rock formations with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.

Desperate to stimulate a U.S.-style production boom and offset dwindling North Sea oil and gas reserves, the Conservative-led government has backed fracking as an "energy revolution" that can create jobs and lower energy prices.

But activists argue the government should invest in renewable energy rather than fracking, fearing the process may trigger small earthquakes and pollute water supplies.

Ewa Jasiewicz, spokeswoman for the No Dash for Gas group, said environmental campaigners and community groups saw the freeze on Cuadrilla's plans as a "cautious victory".

Cuadrilla, which is drilling a conventional oil well in Balcombe, is the only company to have fracked a shale gas well in Britain, making its activities a target for protesters.

"We are not out of the woods yet but we are cautiously optimistic that this means they won't come back and it should be seen as a victory for community groups and climate activists who have come together," she told Reuters.

Earlier this year Centrica, parent of British Gas, paid 40 million pounds ($62.8 million) for 25 percent of a major gas-bearing formation in Lancashire in northern England, owned by license operator Cuadrilla and its Australian private-equity backer A.J. Lucas.

World Bank Targets Pollution Action Through Funds For Developing Nations

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:46

OSLO, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The World Bank said on Tuesday it was planning "aggressive action" to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants blamed for causing climate change, in a shift also meant to protect human health and aid crop growth.

Of its funding to poor nations, almost 8 percent - $18 billion from 2007-12 - goes to sectors such as energy, farming, waste and transport that have a potential to cut emissions, a bank report said.

The bank said it would shift policy to insist that such projects in future - it did not predict levels of funding - included a component to curb air pollution.

"We will try to turn it (the funding) into aggressive action" to cut the pollutants, Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting a 38-nation group in Oslo looking at ways to cut short-term air pollution.

"Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world," Kyte said.

The bank would look for new ways to help, for instance, reduce pollution from public transport, curb methane emissions from rice irrigation, and improve the efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns.

Soot comes from sources ranging from wood-burning cooking stoves to diesel engines. Methane comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter and from farming, for instance from the digestive tracts of cattle and sheep.

Environment ministers at the meeting in Oslo of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, set up 18 months ago in Washington as a new front in combating climate change, also outlined projects to cut air pollution in areas from forestry to gas flaring.


FIRST AID

The focus on short-lived air pollutants is meant to complement efforts to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities that a U.N. panel of climate scientists says is the main cause of global warming.

In a statement, members of the coalition said that cutting the short-term pollutants could reduce global warming by up to about 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) by 2040-50.

That would help achieve a goal, set by almost 200 nations in 2010, of limiting a rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times to avoid more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

And cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health - six million people worldwide die early every year from air pollution, it said.

"First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people's health," Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said.

Reducing pollutants "can also help rural economies, with current estimates showing the potential to save about 50 million tonnes of crops each year", the statement said. Pollution poisons plants and can block sunlight, stunting growth.

The coalition statement did not refer to an academic study last month that suggested the temperature benefits of an assault on the short-lived pollutants might be far less, only 0.16 degree Celsius (0.3F) by 2050.

Drew Shindell of NASA, the head scientific advisor to the coalition, said that report wrongly assumed that air pollution would fall with economic growth. "That doesn't automatically happen," he said. (Editing by Pravin Char)

Stink Bug Populations Could Harm Late-Season Harvests

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:23
Halyomorpha halys, better known as the stink bug, was accidentally introduced into the United States in 1998. Being known as an invasive species in recent years, this bug has infested homes from the East Coast to the Midwest, causing significant damage as an agricultural pest. Surveys in Oregon have also reported the presence of the stink bug and researchers at Oregon State University warn of an increased risk of damage to late-ripening crops this year after discovering record levels of the pest.

Stink Bug Populations Could Harm Late-Season Harvests

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:23
Halyomorpha halys, better known as the stink bug, was accidentally introduced into the United States in 1998. Being known as an invasive species in recent years, this bug has infested homes from the East Coast to the Midwest, causing significant damage as an agricultural pest. Surveys in Oregon have also reported the presence of the stink bug and researchers at Oregon State University warn of an increased risk of damage to late-ripening crops this year after discovering record levels of the pest.