Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Finalists

The 2015 British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has recently come to a close, and, as always over the last fifty-one years, the results are fantastic and fascinating to see. Below check out a brief slideshow of some finalists below, which met the judges’ goals: “outstanding images that raise awareness of nature’s beauty and fragility, while also championing the highest ethical standards in wildlife photography. From intimate animal portraits to atmospheric landscapes, groundbreaking photojournalism to innovative technique, the 2016 jury wants to see it all.”

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The Decision is To Bee

Researchers are using micro sensors to learn about the problems bees face. PHOTO: BBC

Researchers are using micro sensors to learn about the problems bees face. PHOTO: BBC

Around here, we understand the importance of bees. That explains the numerous posts on these winged creatures. If you must know right away, bees are guardians of the food chain and keepers of biodiversity, thanks to their super power of pollination. Precisely why it’s a cause for worry when we hear of their numbers dwindling. Now, an international group of scientists, beekeepers, farmers and technology companies is using cutting-edge technology to help find out why honey bee populations around the world are crashing.

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Nature’s Wisdom The Only Teacher

The Marudam School in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. For starters, it’s run by an NGO – The Forest Way – a registered charitable trust involved in education, afforestation, environmental education, organic farming and more. Also, it receives no funding from the government. The school, set in an organic farm and powered by renewable energy, teaches its students about conscious living that respects the environment.

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On the Tail of the Tiger

A captive tiger at Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru, India. PHOTO: Rosanna Abrachan

A captive tiger at Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru, India. PHOTO: Rosanna Abrachan

The world has seen the population of individual wild tigers dwindle from 100,000 in 1913 to just about 3,200 now. Classified into six species, a majority of these surviving cats belong to the specie panthera tigris tigris, more popularly known as the Bengal tiger, that are found in India. Here too, their population, estimated to be between 20,000-40,000 at the turn of the 20th century, reduced to fewer than 2,000 by the 1970s, mostly due to hunting and poaching. It has now inched to 2,226, making India home to 70% of the world’s total tiger population.

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A Backyard Solution to Oil Spills

Waste like human hair, sawdust and bird feathers can clean oil spills from water. PHOTO:  Nation of Change

Waste like human hair, sawdust and bird feathers can clean oil spills from water. PHOTO: Nation of Change

Biosorption is a property of certain types of inactive, dead, microbial biomass to bind and concentrate heavy metals from even very dilute aqueous solutions. And Nikhilesh Das discovered just this, at the age of 13, demonstrating reuse and effective waste management. Scalable models of these and we may just have a potent option to deal with oil spills that destroy marine ecosystems for years together.

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India’s First Carbon Neutral Film

What radical policy the government adopts and implements to leave a strong footprint in the paradigm of global climate remains to be seen but micro steps are already being taken by individuals in various other sectors. Carbon offsetting is entering mainstream conversations and niche spaces like film making are thinking green. The first example of a carbon neutral production was George Clooney’s Syriana (2005). And now, the unit of the Bollywood movie Aisa Yeh Jahaan,  starring Palash Sen and Ira Dubey among others and directed by Biswajeet Bora, has become India’s first ‘carbon-neutral’ movie.

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What’s Behind the Prawn Sandwich?

Your cheap prawn sandwich may be destroying Sri Lanka's mangroves. PHOTO: Aldi

Your cheap prawn sandwich may be destroying Sri Lanka’s mangroves. PHOTO: Aldi

A swelling appetite for shrimps and prawns in America, Europe and Japan has fuelled industrial farming of shellfish in the past few decades. The industry now has a farm-gate value of $10 billion per year globally and the prawn in your sandwich is much more likely to have come from a pond than from the sea. While the industry is dominated by the likes of China, Vietnam and Thailand, a large number of other countries have invested heavily in cultivation too.

 One is Sri Lanka, which saw the industry as a passport to strong economic growth and widespread employment. Just outside the world’s top ten producers, it accounts for approximately 50% of the total export earnings from Sri Lankan fisheries. More than 90% of the harvested cultured prawns are exported, going mostly to Japan.

Prawn aquaculture has been likened to slash-and-burn cultivation—find a pristine spot, remove the vegetation and farm it for a few years before moving on. But the analogy is misleadingly benign. Slash-and-burn systems on a small scale can be sustainable, since the cut plots can recover afterwards.

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Join the Big Butterfly Count

By spending just 15 minutes counting butterflies, you’ll be taking part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey and helping protect these precious insects. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

By spending just 15 minutes counting butterflies, you’ll be taking part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey and helping protect these precious insects. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Butterflies aren’t just a beautiful sight, fluttering between flower heads on a sunny summer’s day, they are crucial indicators of the health of our environment. Alas the majority of UK butterflies and moths are still in major decline, they need constant monitoring and protecting. You can help do just that by taking part in Butterfly Conservation’s annual Big Butterfly Count.

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By the Power of Hydrogen

Hyundai Motor Co's Tucson fuel cell SUV

Hyundai Motor Co’s Tucson fuel cell SUV

Hyundai Motor Co believes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the future for eco-friendly cars despite challenges of limited infrastructure and slow sales. South Korea’s largest automaker has sold or leased 273 Tucson fuel cell SUVs since beginning production in 2013, lower than its 1,000 target, mostly in Europe and California. Fuel cell cars represent a bigger opportunity than electric cars because competition is less fierce. Hydrogen-powered cars also give more flexibility to designers. They can be scaled to big vehicles such as buses as well as small cars.

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Meet the Godwit in North Korea

A godwit made international headlines in 2007 when she was confirmed to have flown for seven days and nights without stopping to a feeding ground in China. That was the longest nonstop flight by a land bird ever recorded. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

A godwit made international headlines in 2007 when she was confirmed to have flown for seven days and nights without stopping to a feeding ground in China. That was the longest nonstop flight by a land bird ever recorded. 

To the untrained eye, it’s just a lot of birds on an otherwise deserted stretch of muddy, flat coastline. But for ornithologists, North Korea’s west coast is a little piece of paradise each spring — and both the birds and a dedicated group of birdwatchers travel a long way to get there. The birds being watched aren’t exactly household names — bar-tailed godwits (Limosa Iapponica), great knots (Calidris Tenuirostris) and dunlins (Calidris Alpina).

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A Brick to Breathe Easy?

MIT students have created a brick that could end pollution from dirty brick kilns. PHOTO: CoExist

MIT students have created a brick that could end pollution from dirty brick kilns. PHOTO: CoExist

India’s brick industry, spread out over 100,000 kilns and producing up to 2 billion bricks a year, is a big source of pollution. To fire to hot temperatures, the kilns use huge amounts of coal and diesel, and the residue is horrendous: thick particulate matter, poor working conditions, and lots of climate-changing emissions. MIT students have created an alternative. The Eco BLAC brick requires no firing at all and makes use of waste boiler ash that otherwise clogs up landfills.

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When Gardens Go Vertical

A vacant lot In Jackson, Wyoming is all set to become a vertical farm. PHOTO: CoExist

A vacant lot In Jackson, Wyoming is all set to become a vertical farm. PHOTO: CoExist

Jackson, Wyoming, is an unlikely place for urban farming: At an altitude over a mile high, with snow that can last until May, the growing season is sometimes only a couple of months long. It’s also an expensive place to plant a garden, since an average vacant lot can cost well over $1 million. But the town is about to become home to a vertical farm. On a thin slice of vacant land next to a parking lot, a startup called Vertical Harvest recently broke ground on a new three-story stack of greenhouses that will be filled with crops like microgreens and tomatoes.

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Making Solar Follow Through

Part of a completed solar project on an old golf course in the Miyazaki prefecture. (Kyocera)

Part of a completed solar project on an old golf course in the Miyazaki prefecture. (Kyocera)

In Japan, country club memberships famously went for millions of dollars in the late 1980s. Then, too many courses were built in 1990s and 2000s during a real estate boom. Now the nation faces the question of what to do with its abandoned golf courses. Meanwhile, Japan’s energy strategy in the aftermath of Fukushima calls for roughly doubling the amount of renewable power sources in the country by 2030. It is already building solar power plants that float on water. Perhaps inevitably, then, the nation has turned to building solar plants on old golf courses.

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Goodbye Styrofoam

Dunkin’ Donuts is debuting a new cup made of polypropylene, and is slowly being rolled out in New York city’s more than 500 stores. PHOTO: New York Daily News

The city still runs on Dunkin’, just a little bit differently now. Dunkin’ Donuts is debuting an eco-friendly coffee cup in New York that will keep their steamy java hot, but won’t violate the Styrofoam ban that took effect on July 1. The new cup is made of polypropylene and is slowly being rolled out in the city’s more than 500 stores. It features a slimmer-looking design and — unlike the old containers — can be recycled in the city’s system with plastics.

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The Incas and their Hand-built Roads

An exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian concludes that the ancient Incas were great environmentalists. PHOTO: BBC

An exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian concludes that the ancient Incas were great environmentalists. PHOTO: BBC

The Inca Road is one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering in the world. By the 16th Century it had helped transform a tiny kingdom into the largest empire in the Western hemisphere. And to the envy of modern engineers, substantial parts of the 24,000-mile (39,000-km) network survive today, linking hundreds of communities throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Incredibly, it was constructed entirely by hand, without iron or wheeled transportation. A new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC shows why the Incan kingdom built a lasting infrastructure.

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Where is the US’ Water Going?

In the U.S, about 42 percent of irrigated agriculture depends on groundwater, and the depletion of major aquifers will affect not only future food production but also urban areas that need freshwater from these sources. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Freshwater in the United States is really on the move. Much of the water pulled from underground reservoirs called aquifers gets incorporated into crops and other foodstuffs, which are then are shuttled around the country or transferred as far away as Israel and Japan, according to a new study. It shows how reliance on a finite supply of groundwater for agriculture threatens global food security. More than 18% of the U.S. supply of so-called cereal grains like corn, rice and wheat depends on a limited supply of groundwater found deep below the earth in aquifers, researchers found.

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Green Talk on the High Seas

Phytol-based herders aren’t a universal remedy for oil spills, but in certain scenarios they could become the go-to mitigation strategy. PHOTO: Bloomberg

In May, an oil pipeline in Santa Barbara County burst, pouring some 21,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Despite clean-up crews’ efforts to contain it, the oil slick stretched along the coast for miles, serving as a glaring reminder that spill mitigation strategies are still lacking. When oil tankers crash and inevitably spill oil into the open seas, a go-to clean-up method is corralling the rapidly spreading oil and burning it. But in some places, like the ice-strewn Arctic ocean, physically corralling that oil with boats and boons is practically impossible. But here’s a plant-based, eco-friendly molecule that could be used to clean up the inevitable spills of the future.

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Coca-Cola Thinking Plants

BUSINESS THE BITE Coca-Cola debuts 100% plant-based bottle as companies go eco-friendly (+video)  csmonitor icon Latest News MORE EMAIL Subscribe Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company's growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. By Ellen Meyers, Staff writer JUNE 4, 2015 About video ads Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles WSBTV - Atlanta Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles Coca-Cola debuted an updated version of its PlantBottle, its first bottle made from 100 percent plant materials at the Expo Milan 2015 on Wednesday. The Atlanta-based beverage giant did not specify when the 100 percent plant-based bottles would be available to consumers. However, the company said it wants its current version of its PlantBottle, made of 30 percent plant-based materials, to be used in all of its products by 2020. “Our vision was to maximize game-changing technology, using responsibly sourced plant-based materials to create the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” Nancy Quan, the company’s global research and development officer, said in a press release. Recommended: Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! Since the 2009 launch, Coca-Cola has distributed more than 35 billion bottles in nearly 40 countries using its current version of PlantBottle packaging, according to the release. The company estimates that the packaging helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! PHOTOS OF THE DAY Photos of the day 06/16 In 2011, Coca-Cola licensed the technology for making PlantBottles to H.J. Heinz to use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company said it plans to use the same material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. Coca-Cola says the new bottles will be the world's first entirely plant-based PET bottles. PET, known as polyethylene terephthalate, is a plastic resin and the most common type of polyester, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). It was discovered and patented in England in 1941, but it was not until the late 1990s when more companies and manufacturers started to make and use PET containers for products. NAPCOR says PET is appealing for both consumers and manufacturers for its low weight, strength, and recyclability, and its use in packaging materials, like bottles, has ticked up over the past few years. However, PET has its drawbacks. It can be an expensive packaging material to produce, according to a 2004 report from the Recycling Operators of New Zealand. RONZ also found that “PET acts as a gas ‘sieve,’ slowly allowing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. This means the shelf life of beverages can be limited by the reduction, over time, in carbonation and oxygen degradation of flavours.” In other words, the carbonation in soda could go flat faster.  In terms of recycling, quality and quantity of supplies are also still major concerns. For reclaimers – professional recycling centers – PET packaging can be harder to clean than other plastics, Reclaimers still reported high levels of contamination in PET containers in 2013, according to NAPCOR’s 2014 report on recycling activity for PET containers. That complication can mean less PET materials are actually reused. In fact, only 22.6 percent of recycled PET containers in the US went on to be used in other products.   NAPCOR also reported that domestic collection of PET containers in the US is growing, but it is not enough to meet current and potential demand from reclaimers. That's led them to import PET from places like Canada, Mexico, and Latin America. While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola's latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola’s latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made 30% of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company’s growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. Can it be sustained? That remains to be seen.

Since its introduction in 2009, PlantBottle packaging has been distributed in a variety of packaging sizes across water, sparkling, juice and tea beverage brands—from Coca-Cola to DASANI to Gold Peak. Today, PlantBottle packaging accounts for 30 percent of the Company’s packaging volume in North America and 7 percent globally, some 6 billion bottles annually, making The Coca-Cola Company a large bioplastics end user.  In 2011, the company licensed PlantBottle Technology to H.J. Heinz for use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company announced plans to use the same renewable material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. And in 2014, the first reusable, fully recyclable plastic cup made with PlantBottle Technology rolled out in SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks across the United States. More.

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Fishing for Life

Greece is now heavily investing in open-ocean fish farming to meet demand.  PHOTO: Gerald Brimacombe

Greece is now heavily investing in open-ocean fish farming to meet demand. PHOTO: Gerald Brimacombe

The traditional Greek fisherman casting a net from his small wooden caique is a postcard image of the Mediterranean. In the past, these fishermen supplied tavernas and fish markets. But fish stocks are so low now that many say they can’t make a living. Reason? Commercial trawlers scoop most of the fish out of the sea, there’s over-exploitation of marine wealth, and fishing regulations are lax. National Public Radio tells this story from the port of Laki, a fishing village on the Aegean island of Leros:

It’s a sunny afternoon on the port of Laki, a fishing village on the Aegean island of Leros. The seaside tavernas are filled with happy tourists and local families listening to traditional violin music and eating fresh grilled fish. But fisherman Parisi Tsakirios is not celebrating. He’s on his wooden fishing boat, cleaning a bright yellow net. Two days at sea, he says, and barely a catch.”We caught just 20 pounds of fish,” says Tsakirios, who, at 29, has been fishing for 15 years. “We can sell that for 200 euros (about $225). But fuel costs almost as much, so we’ll be lucky if we make 20 euros (about $22).”

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Sweden, Take Our Trash, too?

With Swedes recycling almost half (47 percent) of their waste and using 52 percent to generate heat, less than 1 percent of garbage now ends up in the dump PHOTO: Shutterstock

With Swedes recycling almost half (47 percent) of their waste and using 52 percent to generate heat, less than 1 percent of garbage now ends up in the dump PHOTO: Shutterstock

Now, to ask someone to take your garbage will be met with censure in any part of the world, but not in Sweden. Since the country’s waste incineration program began in the 1940s, 950,000 homes are heated by trash; this lowly resource also provides electricity for 260,000 homes across the country, according to statistics. But there’s a problem: there is simply not enough trash.

Americans, in general, are bad at recycling. In 2010, U.S. residents recycled 34% of their waste—an embarrassing amount compared to European countries like the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, where people recycle almost all of their waste. In Sweden, people are so diligent about recycling that just 4% of all trash ends up in landfills, It’s a heartening statistic, but it has led to a problem for the country—there’s not enough garbage to power the country’s large waste-to-energy program. Sweden’s solution: import trash. More.

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