Posts tagged with ‘environment’

Global e-Waste Growing to 65.4 Million Tons by 2017
A new study by a coalition of NGOs, and industry, science, UN and government bodies, attempts to map the flow of e-waste around the globe. In doing so, it predict a huge surge in our collective discarded junk, with the United States and China generating the most waste.
Via The Independent:

[S]oaring international demand for electric and electronic products is fueling a global rise in e-waste, which is set to reach 65.4 million tons annually by 2017.
The grim forecast is from a new study released today, which has mapped more than 180 countries.
It reveals that, in only five years, the yearly amount of e-waste will rise 33 per cent from the 49 million tons of used electrical and electronic items generated last year…
…Mobile phones form the bulk of the 14 million used electronic products exported, with most used phones destined for Hong Kong, and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Old computers are generally sent to Asian countries, while heavy items such as TVs and computer monitors end up in places such as Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay and China.

The exportation of our unwanted electronics has strong, local health concerns. Take, for example, Guiyu, China. The town has become a dumping ground for old computers, phones and other gadgets with an industry arising that tries to strip valuable metals from, say, say microchips.
Side effect, according to the BBC:

The soil in Guiyu has been found to be so saturated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and tin that groundwater has become undrinkable.
According to China’s Shantou University, the town has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, and local children suffer from an extremely high rate of lead poisoning.

Image: A woman in Guiyu, China strips electronics of their valuable parts. Select to embiggen.

Global e-Waste Growing to 65.4 Million Tons by 2017

A new study by a coalition of NGOs, and industry, science, UN and government bodies, attempts to map the flow of e-waste around the globe. In doing so, it predict a huge surge in our collective discarded junk, with the United States and China generating the most waste.

Via The Independent:

[S]oaring international demand for electric and electronic products is fueling a global rise in e-waste, which is set to reach 65.4 million tons annually by 2017.

The grim forecast is from a new study released today, which has mapped more than 180 countries.

It reveals that, in only five years, the yearly amount of e-waste will rise 33 per cent from the 49 million tons of used electrical and electronic items generated last year…

…Mobile phones form the bulk of the 14 million used electronic products exported, with most used phones destined for Hong Kong, and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Old computers are generally sent to Asian countries, while heavy items such as TVs and computer monitors end up in places such as Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay and China.

The exportation of our unwanted electronics has strong, local health concerns. Take, for example, Guiyu, China. The town has become a dumping ground for old computers, phones and other gadgets with an industry arising that tries to strip valuable metals from, say, say microchips.

Side effect, according to the BBC:

The soil in Guiyu has been found to be so saturated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and tin that groundwater has become undrinkable.

According to China’s Shantou University, the town has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, and local children suffer from an extremely high rate of lead poisoning.

Image: A woman in Guiyu, China strips electronics of their valuable parts. Select to embiggen.

Google Streetview Comes to the Galapagos
There are some good gigs in the world. Say, for instance, being part of the Google Streetview or Charles Darwin Foundation teams that are collecting panoramic images of Galapagos islands for inclusion in Streetview later this year.
Via the Google Lat Long Blog:

It’s critical that we share images with the world of this place in order to continue to study and preserve the islands’ unique biodiversity. Today we’re honored to announce, in partnership with Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), that we’ve collected panoramic imagery of the islands with the Street View Trekker. These stunning images will be available on Google Maps later this year so people around the world can experience this remote archipelago…
…Our 10-day adventure in the Galapagos was full of hiking, boating and diving around the islands (in hot and humid conditions) to capture 360-degree images of the unique wildlife and geological features of the islands with the Trekker. We captured imagery from 10 locations that were hand-selected by CDF and GNPD. We walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra.
…Life underwater in the Galapagos is just as diverse as life on land. We knew our map of the islands wouldn’t be comprehensive without exploring the ocean that surrounds them. So for the second time we teamed up with the folks at the Catlin Seaview Survey to collect underwater panoramic imagery of areas being studied by CDF and GNPD. This imagery will be used by Catlin Seaview Survey to create a visual and scientific baseline record of the marine environment surrounding the islands, allowing for any future changes to be measured and evaluated by scientists around the world.

Image: Shooting a group of Sea Lions at Champion Island in Galapagos. Via Google Lat Long and Catlin Seaview Survey.

Google Streetview Comes to the Galapagos

There are some good gigs in the world. Say, for instance, being part of the Google Streetview or Charles Darwin Foundation teams that are collecting panoramic images of Galapagos islands for inclusion in Streetview later this year.

Via the Google Lat Long Blog:

It’s critical that we share images with the world of this place in order to continue to study and preserve the islands’ unique biodiversity. Today we’re honored to announce, in partnership with Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), that we’ve collected panoramic imagery of the islands with the Street View Trekker. These stunning images will be available on Google Maps later this year so people around the world can experience this remote archipelago…

…Our 10-day adventure in the Galapagos was full of hiking, boating and diving around the islands (in hot and humid conditions) to capture 360-degree images of the unique wildlife and geological features of the islands with the Trekker. We captured imagery from 10 locations that were hand-selected by CDF and GNPD. We walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra.

…Life underwater in the Galapagos is just as diverse as life on land. We knew our map of the islands wouldn’t be comprehensive without exploring the ocean that surrounds them. So for the second time we teamed up with the folks at the Catlin Seaview Survey to collect underwater panoramic imagery of areas being studied by CDF and GNPD. This imagery will be used by Catlin Seaview Survey to create a visual and scientific baseline record of the marine environment surrounding the islands, allowing for any future changes to be measured and evaluated by scientists around the world.

Image: Shooting a group of Sea Lions at Champion Island in Galapagos. Via Google Lat Long and Catlin Seaview Survey.

How polluted is the ocean near Daiichi Japan? — rogerwhart
Timely of you to ask.
From today’s New York Times.

Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain.
Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s discovery of leaks in water storage pits at the wrecked Fukushima atomic station raises the risk the utility will be forced to dump radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean…
…While the company has since built a makeshift sealed cooling system, underground water is breaching basement walls at a rate of about 400 tons a day and becoming contaminated, according to Tepco’s estimate.

The company has two options, reports Bloomberg. One is to build above ground storage facilities but with 400 tons of contaminated water pouring in a day, it can only build so much. The second option, which Bloomberg says the company is hesitant to do but isn’t ruling out, is to dump the water into the ocean.
Back in November, Nature had this to say:

The Fukushima disaster caused by far the largest discharge of radioactivity into the ocean ever seen. A new model presented by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts estimates that 16.2 petabecquerels (1015 becquerels) of radioactive caesium leaked from the plant — roughly the same amount that went into the atmosphere.
Most of that radioactivity dispersed across the Pacific Ocean, where it became diluted to extremely low levels. But in the region of the ocean near the plant, levels of caesium-137 have remained fixed at around 1,000 becquerels, a relatively high level compared to the natural background. Similarly, levels of radioactive caesium in bottom-dwelling fish remain pretty much unchanged more than 18 months after the accident…
…a fresh analysis by oceanographer Jota Kanda at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology suggests that not one source, but three, are responsible. First, radioactivity from the land is being washed by rainfall into rivers, which carry it to the sea. Second, the plant itself is leaking around 0.3 terabecquerels (1012 becquerels) per month, he estimates.
But Kanda thinks that the third source, marine sediment, is the main cause of the contamination. Around 95 terabecquerels of radioactive caesium has found its way to the sandy ocean floor near the plant.

Becquerels? That would be a unit of radioactivity. To get at the science of all this, we suggest you ask this guy. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
Image: Satellite view of Daiichi, Japan (indicated by the red pin), via Google Maps.

How polluted is the ocean near Daiichi Japan?rogerwhart

Timely of you to ask.

From today’s New York Times.

Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain.

Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s discovery of leaks in water storage pits at the wrecked Fukushima atomic station raises the risk the utility will be forced to dump radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean…

…While the company has since built a makeshift sealed cooling system, underground water is breaching basement walls at a rate of about 400 tons a day and becoming contaminated, according to Tepco’s estimate.

The company has two options, reports Bloomberg. One is to build above ground storage facilities but with 400 tons of contaminated water pouring in a day, it can only build so much. The second option, which Bloomberg says the company is hesitant to do but isn’t ruling out, is to dump the water into the ocean.

Back in November, Nature had this to say:

The Fukushima disaster caused by far the largest discharge of radioactivity into the ocean ever seen. A new model presented by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts estimates that 16.2 petabecquerels (1015 becquerels) of radioactive caesium leaked from the plant — roughly the same amount that went into the atmosphere.

Most of that radioactivity dispersed across the Pacific Ocean, where it became diluted to extremely low levels. But in the region of the ocean near the plant, levels of caesium-137 have remained fixed at around 1,000 becquerels, a relatively high level compared to the natural background. Similarly, levels of radioactive caesium in bottom-dwelling fish remain pretty much unchanged more than 18 months after the accident…

…a fresh analysis by oceanographer Jota Kanda at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology suggests that not one source, but three, are responsible. First, radioactivity from the land is being washed by rainfall into rivers, which carry it to the sea. Second, the plant itself is leaking around 0.3 terabecquerels (1012 becquerels) per month, he estimates.

But Kanda thinks that the third source, marine sediment, is the main cause of the contamination. Around 95 terabecquerels of radioactive caesium has found its way to the sandy ocean floor near the plant.

Becquerels? That would be a unit of radioactivity. To get at the science of all this, we suggest you ask this guy. — Michael

Have a question? Ask away.

Image: Satellite view of Daiichi, Japan (indicated by the red pin), via Google Maps.

Massive Iceberg Breaks off Greenland

Via the Guardian: “It’s like watching ‘Manhattan breaking apart in front of your eyes’, says one of the researchers for filmmaker James Balog. He’s describing the largest iceberg calving ever filmed, as featured in his movie, Chasing Ice. After weeks of waiting, the filmakers witnessed 7.4 cubic km of ice crashing off the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland. Chasing Ice, released in the UK on Friday, follows Balog’s mission to document Arctic ice being melted by climate change.

Photographing the Invisible
Marcellus Shale Documentary Project is a collaborative effort by photographers to document the effects of fracking throughout Pennsylvania. Its director considers it a modern-day equivalent to the 1935-1944 Farm Security Administration mission that sent photographers across the United States to document the challenges of rural poverty.
A profile by the New York Times though gets to a singular difficulty: “The problem facing [the] photographers… is that what they wish to describe cannot be seen — an invisible gas buried deep underground.” 
Solution? Focus on people, places and processes. Via the Times:

The group’s photographs depict a heavy industrial process scattered across a rural landscape: amid miles of lush green forest or farmland, suddenly there is a shaved patch. Atop the clearing is a battery of drilling equipment: a tall derrick, bright klieg lights and lined troughs full of chemical wastewater. In some photographs, a long, steel pipeline snakes through the frame. In others, the flare from a drill rig lights the night sky. There are pictures of people, too: farmers who leased their land for drilling, homeowners with enough methane in their groundwater to light a tap on fire; and here and there, an industry employee.

Image: A natural gas pipeline under construction in Franklin Township, by Noah Addis, via the New York Times.

Photographing the Invisible

Marcellus Shale Documentary Project is a collaborative effort by photographers to document the effects of fracking throughout Pennsylvania. Its director considers it a modern-day equivalent to the 1935-1944 Farm Security Administration mission that sent photographers across the United States to document the challenges of rural poverty.

A profile by the New York Times though gets to a singular difficulty: “The problem facing [the] photographers… is that what they wish to describe cannot be seen — an invisible gas buried deep underground.” 

Solution? Focus on people, places and processes. Via the Times:

The group’s photographs depict a heavy industrial process scattered across a rural landscape: amid miles of lush green forest or farmland, suddenly there is a shaved patch. Atop the clearing is a battery of drilling equipment: a tall derrick, bright klieg lights and lined troughs full of chemical wastewater. In some photographs, a long, steel pipeline snakes through the frame. In others, the flare from a drill rig lights the night sky. There are pictures of people, too: farmers who leased their land for drilling, homeowners with enough methane in their groundwater to light a tap on fire; and here and there, an industry employee.

Image: A natural gas pipeline under construction in Franklin Township, by Noah Addis, via the New York Times.

NASA Animation of Temperature Data from 1880-2011

Via The Climate Desk, “a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and PBS’s new public-affairs show Need To Know.” 

Your Freaky Fish of the Day
Via Ocean Defender:

Behold the beautiful and otherworldly Blanket Octopus. Like the Argonauts (to which they are closely related), they live near the ocean’s surface, and can be found in both tropical and subtropical waters. There are four known species (the one depicted here is apparently T. gracilis, aka the Palmate Octopus), all of which share the same astounding anatomical and behavioral traits unique to this genus. Let’s begin with the name. As should be obvious from the image above, the female Blanket Octopus has two arms (the dorsal and dorsolateral, if you want to get technical about it) which are significantly longer than the rest and are connected to two other arms by a massive sheet-like membrane (the webbing is absent from the other four arms). It seems this “blanket” is unfurled when the animal feels threatened, presumably to make it appear bigger to any potential predator. Young individuals practice an altogether different defensive strategy. Apparently immune to the venom, they have been observed to carry pieces of the stinging tentacles of the Portuguese Man o’ War. The Blanket Octopus also exhibits one of the most extreme examples of sexual dimorphism of any animal: males, at 2.4 cm (or smaller), are minute, while the females can exceed 2 m in length.

FJP: That’s some kinky possibilities.

Your Freaky Fish of the Day

Via Ocean Defender:

Behold the beautiful and otherworldly Blanket Octopus. Like the Argonauts (to which they are closely related), they live near the ocean’s surface, and can be found in both tropical and subtropical waters. There are four known species (the one depicted here is apparently T. gracilis, aka the Palmate Octopus), all of which share the same astounding anatomical and behavioral traits unique to this genus. Let’s begin with the name. As should be obvious from the image above, the female Blanket Octopus has two arms (the dorsal and dorsolateral, if you want to get technical about it) which are significantly longer than the rest and are connected to two other arms by a massive sheet-like membrane (the webbing is absent from the other four arms). It seems this “blanket” is unfurled when the animal feels threatened, presumably to make it appear bigger to any potential predator. Young individuals practice an altogether different defensive strategy. Apparently immune to the venom, they have been observed to carry pieces of the stinging tentacles of the Portuguese Man o’ War. The Blanket Octopus also exhibits one of the most extreme examples of sexual dimorphism of any animal: males, at 2.4 cm (or smaller), are minute, while the females can exceed 2 m in length.

FJP: That’s some kinky possibilities.

How Much Water Does it Take to Make Your Food?
Today is World Water Day. 
The UN has a site about water and food security issues here.
Image: 142 liters of water are needed to produce the 8 tomatoes, 1.5 slices of bread and portion of butter to make this meal. Via the UN World Water Day Flickr account.

How Much Water Does it Take to Make Your Food?

Today is World Water Day. 

The UN has a site about water and food security issues here.

Image: 142 liters of water are needed to produce the 8 tomatoes, 1.5 slices of bread and portion of butter to make this meal. Via the UN World Water Day Flickr account.

Job Growth in the U.S. by Industry Job Growth in the U.S. by Job Title

The bad news? The Newspaper industry claimed the title of the fastest shrinking industry in the U.S. The good news? Online publishing was one of the fastest growing industries during the same time period.

According to Linkedin:

The fastest-growing industries include renewables (+49.2%), internet (+24.6%), online publishing (+24.3%), and e-learning (+15.9%). Fastest-shrinking industries were newspapers (-28.4%), retail (-15.5%), building materials (-14.2%), and automotive (-12.8%).

In terms of post-recession recovery, IT, marketing & advertising, computer software, and insurance are the largest industries that fell heading towards the end of the recession in 2009 but in 2011 are at or above their 2007 employment level. Financial services is starting its recovery and real estate appears to have bottomed out. Several industries such as newspapers, supermarkets and telecom have continued to shrink throughout the sample period.

In terms of job titles, The Economist presented Linkedin data to show that:

one of the fastest-growing job titles in America is “adjunct professor” (an ill-paid, overworked species of academic). One of the fastest-shrinking is “sales associate”

As the Economist points out, an adjunct professor is someone a university convinces to work for peanuts in exchange for the word “professor” somewhere in his resume. I assume if “adjunct professor” jobs are growing, “professor” jobs are declining.

Soup

While researching the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Mandy Barker began collecting sea junk of her own and had researchers send her trash they too were finding in the ocean.

The result: Soup, a series of narrative photo collages.

Via Design Boom:

For each still, individual pieces of plastic are photographed on a black background as well as in combination with other articles of a similar size. barker then overlays these images with one another, illustrating the smallest up to the largest items of trash, creating a feeling of depth and suspension in the final visual. the sequence of the photographs reveal a narrative which begins with the initial attraction of plastics to sea creatures, their attempted ingestion, ending with their ultimate death represented through ‘soup: ruinous remembrance’.

Images: Selected photo collages from Soup, by Mandy Barker.

Click any to embiggen.

Cash Dollar Award for Environmental Reporting

The Grantham Prize for environmental reporting is the world’s largest cash prize for journalists. 

The Economist’s James Astill won the $75,000 2011 award for an eight-part series exploring the environmental effects of deforestation.

January is the deadline for the 2012 competition so if environmental reporting is your gig, point your browser this way for contest rules and submission guidelines.

Mali Celebrates African Photographers
Via the BBC:

Hundreds of artists, collectors and curators have gathered in Mali to celebrate one of Africa’s biggest photography exhibitions, Bamako Encounters. Ecological concerns are a major theme this year. This work is from the series A Vanishing Wetland by Nigerian artist Akintunde Akinyele.

Mali Celebrates African Photographers

Via the BBC:

Hundreds of artists, collectors and curators have gathered in Mali to celebrate one of Africa’s biggest photography exhibitions, Bamako Encounters. Ecological concerns are a major theme this year. This work is from the series A Vanishing Wetland by Nigerian artist Akintunde Akinyele.

It’s Getting Hot in Here
A super-duper, hyper massive study conducted by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project confirms that the earth really is warming. 
Created by UC Berkeley scientist Richard Muller, the study was funded by strange bedfellows as diverse as Bill Gates and the Koch Foundation, and essentially took data sets from major previous studies, reanalyzed them, adding new data points to the mix and has concluded that global temperature has risen about 1 degree celsius over the past 50 years.
Climate change is a disputed topic in American politics and the study’s authors hit the debate from the get go:

The most important indicator of global warming, by far, is the land and sea surface temperature record. This has been criticized in several ways, including the choice of stations and the methods for correcting systematic errors. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study sets out to to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner that addresses this criticism. We are using over 39,000 unique stations, which is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies.

Importantly, BEST is releasing all their data so anyone and everyone can take a look at it.
As The Register notes:

The study – the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project – was set up by a University of California astrophysicist who was concerned about the “climategate” dustup over email messages hacked from the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA) that led many observers to believe that climate data had been fudged to exaggerate global warming.
The core of UC Berkeley scientist Richard Muller’s concern was not, however, that the UEA scientists were getting a raw deal; in his opinion they had brought the worldwide criticism upon themselves.
"I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Muller told BBC News. "Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."…
…The BEST team, however, had a stated goal of neither proving nor disproving global temperature increases. As expressed by project cofounder Elizabeth Muller, Richard’s daughter, the goal was to conduct an analysis so data-rich and objective that it would “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid claims of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.”

It’s Getting Hot in Here

A super-duper, hyper massive study conducted by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project confirms that the earth really is warming. 

Created by UC Berkeley scientist Richard Muller, the study was funded by strange bedfellows as diverse as Bill Gates and the Koch Foundation, and essentially took data sets from major previous studies, reanalyzed them, adding new data points to the mix and has concluded that global temperature has risen about 1 degree celsius over the past 50 years.

Climate change is a disputed topic in American politics and the study’s authors hit the debate from the get go:

The most important indicator of global warming, by far, is the land and sea surface temperature record. This has been criticized in several ways, including the choice of stations and the methods for correcting systematic errors. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study sets out to to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner that addresses this criticism. We are using over 39,000 unique stations, which is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies.

Importantly, BEST is releasing all their data so anyone and everyone can take a look at it.

As The Register notes:

The study – the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project – was set up by a University of California astrophysicist who was concerned about the “climategate” dustup over email messages hacked from the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA) that led many observers to believe that climate data had been fudged to exaggerate global warming.

The core of UC Berkeley scientist Richard Muller’s concern was not, however, that the UEA scientists were getting a raw deal; in his opinion they had brought the worldwide criticism upon themselves.

"I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Muller told BBC News. "Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."…

…The BEST team, however, had a stated goal of neither proving nor disproving global temperature increases. As expressed by project cofounder Elizabeth Muller, Richard’s daughter, the goal was to conduct an analysis so data-rich and objective that it would “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid claims of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.”

climateadaptation asked: Excellent catch on the CIA FOIA request denial. I happen to follow climate and national security and this cracks open some research. Many thanks! m

That’s great that our Internet scouring cropped up something useful for you. Finding bits others can run with is what we’re trying to do.