October 2008


The IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) is in the process of releasing the first of the 2008 assessments on how climate change is affecting species populations. The first results of that assessment have been published and these show that 35% of the worlds’ birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of coral reefs in warm water areas are particularly susceptible to the vagaries of climate change.

The assessment is done every year and leads up to the yearly Review of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, long considered the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plants and animals. This years publication, entitled a “Review of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, was released this month in Barcelona, Spain.

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In Canada and in the United States there are more people talking about adding “smarts” to the power grid. This would mean investing in modernizing the infrastructure and expanding it as well. As a recent example, Google has teamed up with GE in a plan to develop a smart grid. Since there has been so little investment of time or money in the power grid infrastructure, all of this is for the better. If we want to tap the full potential of renewable energy and make the best of conservation methods then this upgrade of the grid is a must. We need a flexible and controllable grid that allows for demand management.

From what I’ve read about it, it seems that the power on the grid is flowing and it will always move towards and through the path of least resistance. What we really need are devices that allow us to use the capacity of the grid more efficiently with less waste and make the grid overall easier to manage as renewables are introduced. The devices that are currently available are called FACTs (Flexible AC Transmission devices) and they are easier to manage and they allow for a grid where distributed generation is growing.

Someone in Canada has come up with a new kind of FACT that can be “retro” fitted to existing grid equipment. This will make this option much more economical for conservative utilties who cannot afford the time and expense of a complete makeover or the introduction of entirely new equipment. I know this is kind of boring compared to building huge wind farms and constructing solar domes, but such basic engineering devices and inventions are the solutions to our real world problems right now.

In the tedious, working world of upgrading to renewable energy and encouraging the conservation of resources, the swift development, testing and introduction of these sorts of retro devices are necessary. We must add significant amounts of renewable energy to the north American power grid and the faster we do that the better. This is something that has been talked about and to a small extent toyed with, but very little has ever been done in reality. It is time for changes in this area and any idea or invention that pushes this along at a faster rate is truly priceless. If we are going to change our world for the better, it will have to happen in this way.

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I had never heard of this but when I read about it on Clean Technica I was fascinated. Did you know that Einstein actually invented a refrigerator that doesn’t use electricity? He apparently invented this interesting item in 1930.. and it makes me wonder why we decided to use the plug in model instead. Especially since we are now having an energy crisis and need to consider appliances and machinery that runs on something other than petroleum powered electricity.

I realize that the Einstein invention was probably in need of some upgrades and from what I’ve read, it wasn’t very efficient. It was not popular among those who used it. Of course, the idea is a good one, not running on electricity and actually running on ammonia, butane and water. The principle behind it was that water boils at a much lower temperature at high altitudes where air pressure is lower than it does when you’re at sea level, where air pressure is higher.

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I saw an article on Reuters about how many of the world’s most common birds have suffered steep declines in their numbers over recent decades. This is considered to be a sign of a deteriorating global environment and a biodiversity crisis according to Birdlife International.

“Birds provide an accurate and easy-to-read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world’s biodiversity,” said Mike Rands, chief executive of the alliance of conservation groups.

The intensified levels of industrial scale agriculture and equally large scale and effective fishing operations are only a part of the threats to birds. Logging and the replacement of natural forests with singular plantations dedicated to one crop are also destructive to birds. They have no where to nest, to fish or to feed. Still, according to Mr. Rands, the long term effects of climate change may be the most serious of all stress placed on birds.

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Ok, I know. Everybody loves those big LCD screens, flat panel monitors and TV sets. Add HiDef and your world becomes the sofa in front of the world in your living room. I agree, this is very cool. But I hate to bum everybody out with some bad news. According to an article in the India Times, which was first reported from Washington, DC, a recent study has found nitrogen trifluoride to have a really negative and devastating climate impact. Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) is a chemical which is found in the LCD panels of several electronic devices and this study discovered this chemical to have a global climate impact 17,000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2). Kind of takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it?

According to a report in ENN ( Environmental News Network ), NF3 is found in the LCD panels of cell phones, televisions, and computer monitors, as well as in semiconductors and synthetic diamonds. This chemical is not one of the greenhouse gases monitored by the Kyoto Protocol, due to the fact that LCDs were not produced in significant quantities when it was first drafted. But, here’s the ugly. This chemical is found to stay in the atmosphere for 550 years and there is no force of nature known to remove it. This is that little panel on the face of your cell or the big one on your TV.

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Here in Florida, where it’s almost always sunny and hot, we have always known that “whiter is cooler”. What I mean by that is you are a big dummy if you walk around out here on pavement in the dead of summer in black Ts and jeans. Everybody knows to wear white T shirts or white cotton tanks and light colored shorts. If you don’t, you’re gonna boil. So now I see this little item on the internet here about how whitening rooftops and putting reflective materials on sidewalks could cool everything down considerably and in that process, help the planet. This idea is just so much common sense that I don’t know why we didn’t think of it years ago.

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I found this online at Science Daily and it freaked me out. I mean, they are finding that toxic chemicals in plastics may be the cause of metabolic syndrome, a condition that makes people fat, slow and sick. This report was based on new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and this research implicates the primary chemical used to produce hard plastics-bisphenol A (BPA)-as a “risk factor” for metabolic syndrome and its consequences. When I saw this, I was immediately feeling anger as I thought “what if they find” that plastic is making America obese? I mean, wouldn’t that just take the cake?

Getting back to the Science, this report states that in a laboratory study, using fresh human fat tissues, the UC team found that BPA suppresses a key hormone, adiponectin, which is responsible for regulating insulin sensitivity in the body and puts people at a substantially higher risk for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome, as I’ve read about it online, is also a cause of Diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of risk factors that include lower responsiveness to insulin (insulin resistance) and higher blood levels of sugar and lipids (cholesterol). According to the American Heart Association, about 25 percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome. Left untreated, the disorder can lead to life-threatening health problems such as coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

And they are saying that some chemical in plastic bottles, forks, containers, bags, etc.. is causing this? Seriously. I find this unsettling.

The article also refers to Nira Ben-Jonathan, PhD. This doctor and her team are the first to report scientific evidence on the health effects of BPA at environmentally relevant doses equal to “average” human exposure. Previous studies have primarily focused on animal studies and high doses of BPA. Think of how many bottles, forks, bags, wrappers, bowls, etc… your family uses every day.

Scientists are now estimating that over 80% of the people they have tested have measurable BPA in their bloodstream. The UC study was designed to mimic a realistic human exposure (between 0.1 and 10 nanomolar) so that a more direct correlation between human exposure and health effects could be drawn.

Ben-Jonathan is a professor of Cancer and cell Biology at UC and has studied BPA for more than 10 years. She has been quoted as saying that “people have serious concerns about the potential health effects of BPA. As the scientific evidence continues to mount against the chemical, it should be given serious attention to minimize future harm.”

“Experimenting with human tissue is the closest we can come to testing the effects of BPA in humans. It’s a very exciting breakthrough because epidemiological studies looking at BPA effects on humans are difficult since most people have already been exposed to it,” she concedes.

To conduct this study, the UC team collected fresh fat tissue from Cincinnati patients undergoing several types of breast or abdominal surgery. These samples included three types of fat tissue: breast, subcutaneous and visceral (around the organs). This tissue was immediately taken to the laboratory and incubated with different concentrations of BPA or estrogen for six hours to observe how the varied amounts of BPA affected adiponectin levels. The effects of BPA were then compared to those of estradiol, a natural form of human estrogen.

The researchers found that exposing human tissues to BPA levels within the range of common human exposure resulted in suppression of a hormone that protects people from metabolic syndrome.

“These results are especially powerful because we didn’t use a single patient, a single tissue source or a single occurrence,” Nira Ben-Johnathan has noted. “We used different fat tissues from multiple patients and got the same negative response to BPA.”

According to the source quoted in Science Daily, UC’s Eric Hugo, PhD, Terry Brandebourg, PhD, Jessica Woo, PhD, J. Wesley Alexander, MD, and Christ Hospital surgeon Jean Loftus, MD, participated in this study. The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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