Archive for ‘Technology’

Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.

Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
be co-dependent.

“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.

Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.

Paul explains:

“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”

Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.

Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
of petroleum.

“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”

Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.

Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.

During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.

“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”

In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is  interconnected with every living being on the planet.

“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”

Source: Positive News UK

Date: 14 September 2010

Germany sets out zero-carbon road map

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Government report insists country could decarbonise electricity supplies by 2050

Germany has become the latest country to signal that it could decarbonise its electricity network with the release of a major new report arguing that it could switch to an entirely renewable energy supply by 2050.

Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, says the country could phase out fossil fuel power plants and replace them with existing renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Germany’s transition towards renewable energy is already under way, with the country well established as the world’s largest generator of solar energy and second-largest producer of wind energy after the US.

According to figures from the German government, the country already generates 16 per cent of its energy from renewable sources

A number of countries such as the Maldives, Norway, New Zealand and Costa Rica have set a target of becoming carbon neutral.

Source: Germany sets out zero-carbon road map - businessgreen

Date: 08 July 2010

Water well upgrades offer solution for Syria’s drought-hit northeast

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

An innovative approach to water resource management in Syria is estimated to be helping 18,000 people hit by a three-year long drought.

UNDP and its partners are upgrading a network of ancient water sources under the barren terrain of the country’s northeast, where water shortages have led to large-scale population displacement in recent years.

More than one million people, have been affected by the drought which has driven tens of thousands of families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour.

Beginning in 2009, the Government of Syria, Spanish Development Agency and UNDP began rehabilitation of Roman- and Arab-built wells that were constructed some 2000 years ago.

Well rehabilitation involves cleaning and pumping out stagnant water, widening and deepening wells to increase water capacity, analyzing water quality, and finally handing over to local authorities and communities. The upgraded wells provide access to safe drinking water and undoubtedly improve quality of life.

These wells also contribute to sustainable and environmentally-friendly local development, protect traditional ways of life and reduce pressure on rural residents to migrate to urban centres, a move that can have devastating social and economic impacts.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, particularly in the Middle East where populations are expanding and fresh water supplies are diminishing fast.

Source: Water well upgrades offer solution for Syria’s drought-hit northeast – Reliefweb

Date: 08 July 2010

Hotels in France embrace the virtues of going green

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Wood-burning stoves, in-room recycling, fine cuisine featuring local produce: from bed-and-breakfasts to five-star palaces, France’s hotel industry is opening its eyes to the lucrative advantages of going green.

Director general of Concorde Hotels, Bernard Granier said: “our goal is to limit our impact on the environment and considerably reduce our carbon emissions,”

The chic Fouquet’s Barriere, wants to cut its CO2 output — offers guests the use of a hybrid car or an electric scooter.

At the stately Bristol — leftovers from its three-star restaurants and kitchens are put through an industrial-sized processor that extracts water used to clean the floors.

Outside the French capital, more modest establishments are going beyond the usual norm of installing energy-efficient lightbulbs or asking guests to refrain from using too many bath towels.

The Temmos group of five three- and four-star hotels in the French Alps is striving to have all its properties bedecked with European Eco-label and international Green Globe certification.

Having recognised how going green can be good for business, the Gites de France network of bed-and-breakfasts has doubled to around 100 its number of certified “eco-gites” with such features as solar heating.

Source: Hotels in France embrace the virtues of going green – france24

Date: 06 July 2010

Renewables account for 62 percent of the new electricity generation capacity installed in the EU in 2009

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The “Renewable Energy Snapshots” report, published today by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, shows that renewable energy sources accounted for 62 percent of the new electricity generation capacity installed in the EU27 in 2009. The share rose from 57 percent in 2008. In absolute terms, renewables produced 19.9 percent of Europe’s electricity consumption last year.

In 2009, and in absolute terms, about 19.9% (608 TWh) of Europe’s total electricity consumption (3042 TWh) came from renewable energy sources. Hydro power contributed with the largest share (11.6%), followed by wind (4.2%), biomass (3.5%), and solar (0.4%).

With regards to the new capacity constructed that same year (27.5 GW), among the renewable sources, 37.1% was wind power, 21% photovoltaics (PV), 2.1% biomass, 1.4% hydro and 0.4% concentrated solar power, whereas the rest were gas fired power stations (24%), coal fired power stations (8.7%), oil (2.1%), waste incineration (1.6%) and nuclear (1.6%) (see figure1).

As not all installed technologies operate continuously 24 hours a day, figure 2 shows the expected yearly energy output (TWh) from the new capacity. The new gas-fired electricity plants will deliver yearly 28 TWh, followed by wind and PV with 20 TWh and 5.6 TWh, respectively.

If current growth rates are maintained, in 2020 up to 1400 TWh of electricity could be generated from renewable sources, the report concludes. This would account for approximately 35-40% of overall electricity consumption in the EU, depending on the success of community policies on electricity efficiency, and would contribute significantly to the fulfilment of the 20% target for energy generation from renewables.

However, it also advises that some issues need to be resolved if the targets are to be met. Particular areas of focus include ensuring fair access to grids, substantial public R&D support, and the adaptation of current electricity systems to accommodate renewable electricity. The study highlights that cost reduction and accelerated implementation will depend on the production volume and not on time.

Wind energy: with more than 74 GW of total installed capacity in 2009, it has already exceeded the 2010 white paper target of 40 GW by more than 80%. The European Wind Association’s new target aims for 230 GW of installed capacity (40 GW offshore) by 2020, capable of providing about 20% of Europe’s electricity demand.

Biomass: if current growth continues, electricity output from biomass could double from 2008 to 2010 (from 108 TWh to 200 TWh). However, other energy uses such as heat and transport fuels compete for this particular source, which could potentially hinder the development of bioelectricity. Being storable for use on demand increases its importance as a source of electricity.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP): installed capacity is still relatively small in Europe: 0.430 GW in May 2010, about 0.5% of the total, but is steadily increasing. An estimated 30 GW could be installed by 2020 if the European Solar Industry Initiative ESII is realised. Most CSP projects currently under construction are located in Spain.

Solar Photovoltaic: since 2003, the total installed capacity has doubled each year. In 2009 it reached 16 GW, which represents 2% of the overall capacity. The growth will continue, as for 2010, installations of up to 10 GW are expected. Solar photovoltaic has also exceeded the capacity predictions formulated by in the EU white paper on renewable sources of energy.

Other sources of power: technologies such as geothermal, tidal and wave power are still at the R&D stage, so they have not yet been included in the Renewable Energy Snapshots. Yet, they are likely to be introduced to the market within the next decade. As far as hydro generation is concerned, no major increase is expected, as most of the resources are already in use. However, pumped hydro will play an increasingly important role as in a storage capacity for the other renewable energy resources.

Source: Renewables account for 62 percent of the new electricity generation capacity installed in the EU in 2009 – physorg

Date: 05 July 2010

Japan donates 10 million dollars for Galapagos solar energy

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Japan has donated 10 million dollars to Ecuador to help fund a solar energy project in the Galapagos Islands, a UN-designated World Heritage site, Ecuador’s Electricity Ministry said Friday.

An agreement between Quito and the Japan International Cooperation System Company will help start a plan to introduce “clean energy with solar generation systems to be located on Baltra Island,” one of 13 islands that form the archipelago, the ministry said in a statement.

The project, part of a larger push for cooperation between the governments of Japan and Ecuador, aims to “mitigate the effects of global warming, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases,” the statement added.

According to the ministry, the money will be use to buy equipment, facilities and “a photovoltaic system.”

The Galapagos were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO some three decades ago in acknowledgement of the area’s rich flora and fauna both on land and in the surrounding sea.

Source: Japan donates 10 million dollars for Galapagos solar energy – france24

Date: 03 July 2010

ADB plans to build wind power projects in 5,000 villages nationwide

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The Asian Development Bank plans to put up small wind power projects in about 5,000 villages in the country.

Jiwan Acharaya, ADB specialist on Regional and Sustainable Development Department, said the small wind projects hope to provide reliable supply of power in the countryside.

“[Small wind] is a sustainable solution for rural, remote and dispersed markets, reducing energy import dependence, and entailing no fuel price risk or constraints,” he said.

Acharya said the wind power projects would have a capacity of 100 kilowatts each.

The Philippines ’ wind power generating potential stands at 76,600 megawatts, studies show.

Source: ADB plans to build wind power projects in 5,000 villages nationwide - positivenewsmedia.net

Date: 02 July 2010

Trees a ‘low-cost’ solution to air pollution and biodiversity loss in cities

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Native woods and trees in urban areas, including gardens, provide haven for wildlife, reduce air pollution, surface run-off and flooding

Reversing the declining numbers of native trees and woods in cities would provide numerous benefits at ‘relatively little cost’, says a report from the Woodland Trust.

As well as access to green space, the report, ‘Greening the Concrete Jungle’, says trees provide a wide range of free ecosystem services including reducing the risk of surface water flooding and improving air quality that could save millions in flood defence and healthcare costs.

The UK has one of the world’s highest rates of childhood asthma, around 15 per cent, particularly amongst lower socio-economic groups in urban areas. Research shows asthma rates among children aged four to five falls by a quarter for every additional 343 trees per square km, as they help keep the air clean and breathable and reduce ambient temperature.

Trees are also able to reduce the pressure on the drainage system during flooding. The University of Manchester has shown that increasing tree cover in urban areas by 10 per cent reduces surface water run-off by almost 6 per cent.

A major international study published earlier this year, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), put the global value of services provided by forests and biodiveristy at between £1.2-2.8 trillion a year.

Despite these ‘invisible’ benefits, the report says urban tree cover is actually deteriorating in many areas, with concerns over tree safety and insurance claims as well as development. Many places have seen a decline in older trees with large spreading crowns, replaced with smaller, more manageable alternatives. Smaller crowned trees have less capacity to intercept rain.

Fewer than 10 per cent of city dwellers have access to local woodland within 500m of their homes. Evidence suggests proximity to a wood encourages physical exercise, whilst a woodland walk lowers the heart rate and mental stress.

The Woodland Trust said socially disadvantaged groups were the most likely to lose out with around two-thirds of urban trees in private or less accessible public grounds. It is campaigning to plant 20 million native trees annually accross the UK for the next 50 years.

“Towns and cities also tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society – physical and mental health problems, childhood obesity and asthma, differences between rich and poor, air pollution, soaring summer temperatures, flash flooding, energy conservation, diminishing wildlife – so they are a good place to start when trying to illustrate just where green space can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost,” said report author Mike Townsend.

Source: Trees a ‘low-cost’ solution to air pollution and biodiversity loss in cities - theecologist

Date: 02 July 2010

Singapore Outlines Plans To Encourage Use Of Green Technologies

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

This is critical in keeping Singapore vibrant, green and an attractive place to live, work and play, said Minister Raymond Lim at the opening of the World Urban Transport Leaders Summit 2010.

He outlined key plans to encourage the development and use of green technologies in Singapore.

  • Urbanisation: Crisis or Opportunity
  • The Impact of Urban Transport
  • Sustainable Transport Strategies to Meet the Challenges
  • Making Public Transport a Choice Mode — Expansion of Mass Transit
  • Demand Management for Road Usage
  • Green Technologies
  • Electric Vehicles

The Taskforce has taken a multi-pronged approach to drive the EV test-bedding programme. To encourage the take-up of electric vehicles—which are priced much higher than petrol and diesel-driven vehicles— vehicular tax exemption will be given to attract participation in the test-bedding trial.

Singapore will now be a step closer to going electric.

Source: Singapore Outlines Plans To Encourage Use Of Green Technologies - thegovmonitor

Date: 01 July 2010

Using the rays of the sun to convert sea- to drinking water

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Fraunhofer ISE intends to contribute to the development of solar-powered water desalination plants such as the one shown here, in Gran Canaria. (© Fraunhofer ISE)

Many of the world’s remote areas with water shortages also have three things in abundance: Sun, wind and sea. How renewable energies can be harnessed more effectively in the future to transform salty seawater and brackish water into drinking water is the subject of a current study issued by an EU initiative dubbed “ProDes”.

Worldwide, more and more people are obtaining their drinking water either from the sea or from increasingly salty inland sources. Analysts at Global Water Intelligence, an industry service, estimate that in 2008, desalination facilities around the world produced nearly 52 million cubic meters (12 billion gallons) of water each day – the equivalent of four or five times the daily production of water in Germany.

When it comes to desalination plants run on renewable energies, the spectrum ranges from simple solar distillation plants with a capacity of a few liters a day to wind-powered reverse-osmosis plants capable of desalinating up to nearly 2,000 cubic meters (half a million gallons).

“The more remote the location, the more worthwhile and profitable it is to use plant systems run on renewable energy and to set up a water treatment operation that is not dependent on an external energy supply”, Wieghaus observes.

“ProDes” was launched in October 2008 as an “Intelligent Energy” project of the EU Commission.

Source: Using the rays of the sun to convert sea- to drinking water – physorg

Date: 01 July 2010

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Livestock's Climate Impact

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Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change

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The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)

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Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)

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