Archive for July, 2008

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has cleared the path for Google to introduce its controversial Street View service (called by some the ‘burglar’s charter’). The watchdog is satisfied that Google will provide an effective reporting service that allows individuals to contact the company and have their personal images such as faces and car number plates blurred. The Office also pointed out that lengthy delay between the images being taken by Google’s roaming photographic cars and publication meant that the chances of using the system to track people were very slim.

Source: Guardian

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Despite being at war with private shareholders of its Russian venture TNK-BP, having been hit by the Texas City refinery explosion, having troubles with pipeline fractures at the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska, facing allegations of irregular propylene gas trading, and having generated non-operating item losses in the vicinity of US$ 2-3bn, BP profits rose 23% in the first half of this year (see an article in today’s Guardian). BP of course won’t be the only oil company raking in profits on the back of ecological vandalism, global warming, peak oil and growing global injustice. There has to be something wrong with our ethical values if those who are largely responsible for all those problems are the ones who profit the most rather than being held responsible.

The leaked trailer for Oliver Stone’s new movie “W.” (or dub-ya, as in the initial film poster sketches). Shooting apparently will begin in a couple of weeks, and the plan seems to be to release the film while Bush is still in the Oval Office, and maybe even before the upcoming presidential election.

Unlike his previous movies JFK (1991) and Nixon (1995) it’ll be Stones’ first one to portray a still serving president, and dub-ya won’t be looking good 🙂 . EW.com writes that a bootlegged script indicates “the film will feature such flag-waving moments as the Commander-in-Chief nearly choking to death on a pretzel while watching football on TV and a flashback of him singing the ”Whiffenpoof” song as a frat pledge at Yale, not to mention scenes in which he refers to his advisers by dorky nicknames — ”Guru” for Condoleezza Rice, ”Turdblossom” for Karl Rove, ”Balloon Foot” for Colin Powell — while discussing plans for the invasion of Iraq with the coolness of a late-night poker game.” Sounds like a promising nigth out 😉 .

Eddie Perfect

Posted: July 28, 2008 in creativity
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I just discovered Eddie Perfect – I shouldn’t really have overlooked him so far. On the eve of Australia’s Election 2007, Eddie Perfect told us what it’s all about on the ABC’s “Sideshow with Paul McDermott”. It’s awesome, it’s true, and it’s all in this song. Anyway, this is his MySpace site. And YouTube has more of his songs here

Meet Me In The Middle of the Air

Posted: July 28, 2008 in creativity
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A gorgeous rendition of the song written by Paul Kelly. Performed on the Oct. 13th (2007) episode of The Sideshow by Tripod and Eddie Perfect, a capella.

In loving memory of Ewa Kamirski

Global population growth is looming as a bigger threat to the world’s food production and water supplies than climate change, a leading scientist says.

Speaking at a CSIRO public lecture in Canberra yesterday, UNESCO’s chief of sustainable water resources development, Professor Shahbaz Khan, said overpopulation’s impacts were potentially more economically, socially and environmentally destructive than those of climate change.

”Climate change is one of a number of stresses we’re facing, but it’s overshadowed by global population growth and the amount of water, land and energy needed to grow food to meet the projected increase in population. We are facing a world population crisis.”

In the past four years, the price of rice in Thailand had risen from $A200 a tonne to $A800 a tonne, and India had banned rice exports in a bid to ensure the country had sufficient supplies of this staple food, Professor Khan said.

”It would be a mistake for Australia’s governments to assume they can adapt to declining water availability within the Murray-Darling Basin by deciding staple crops like wheat and rice can be grown in other countries. We need smarter ways to improve water efficiencies so we can continue to grow those crops.”

Before taking up the UNESCO post in Paris earlier this year which involves supervising sustainable water development projects in 190 countries Professor Khan led CSIRO’s irrigation systems research and was founding director of the international centre for food security at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga.

Original article published in the Canberra Times; thanks to Climate Ark for the link.

There is a lot of focus on CO2 when it comes to public awareness about climate change. Apart from CO2 though not being the only factor contributing to it, there is also very little awareness of the effects of air pollution on terrestrial environments, such as lakes, rivers, fauna and flora. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and The Nature Conservancy in the US has produced the first major research analysing  large-scale effects that four air pollutants are having across a broad range of habitat types. And the outlook is not good: the report, “Threats From Above: Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems and Biological Diversity in the Eastern United States” (to which over 32 experts contributed), has found that air pollution is degrading every major ecosystem type in the that area.

The four pollutants assessed were sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and ground-level ozone, largely originating from smokestacks, tailpipes, and (of course!) agricultural operations. While initially airborne, these pollutants eventually return to the earth surface, where they contaminate the soil and water. They often travel long distances before reaching the ground; the eastern United States for example is located downwind from large industrial and urban pollution sources, which makes it receives the highest levels of deposited air pollution in North America.

This is bad news for vulnerable wildlife, forest productivity, soil health, water resources, and ultimately, economies. Mercury contamination for example results in fish being unsafe to eat. Acidification kills fish and strips nutrients from soils. Excess nitrogen pollutes estuaries, to the detriment of coastal fisheries. And ground-level ozone reduces plant growth, a threat to forestry and agriculture.

New air quality standards are critical to protecting natural resources. At the heart of the report is a call to action. Currently, U.S. air quality standards are determined by direct impacts to human health, with regulations targeting emission levels; they do not take into account where airborne pollution is actually deposited in the landscape or how this pollution compromises our soil and water resources and resident plants and animals.

To safeguard ecosystem health, a new way of thinking about air pollution is needed, one that moves beyond measuring what is put up in the air, and captures actual impacts to natural areas, wildlife, and the services they provide.

The authors of the report urge U.S. policymakers to establish air quality standards that are based on ‘critical loads’. This is defined as the maximum level of deposited pollution that ecosystems can tolerate before harmful effects occur. By establishing thresholds, pollutants can be regulated in a way that preserves functioning ecosystems. In some areas, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, federal agencies have already adopted this approach to evaluate the threat from air pollution. It is also being used to regulate air pollution throughout Europe.

Establishing ‘critical loads’ will require renewed investment in monitoring programs for air pollution and the ecosystems it affects. While there may be initial costs to ramping up monitoring efforts, the alternatives such as fishless lakes, dieing forests and the yet unknown effects of biodiversity loss will certainly result in much higher future economic costs. And while the material argument unfortunately is the primary one in our world, there are more intangible consequences too, such as those for our bond to nature or ethical concerns in regards to our impact on other species.

Air pollution is a complex problem. Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) gases from smokestacks and vehicles react in the atmosphere to form sulfate (SO4) and nitrate (NO3) particles as well as sulfuric and nitric acids in clouds and rain. Mercury (Hg) is also emitted to the atmosphere from coal burning and incinerators. Agricultural activities contribute to the nitrogen pollution problem by releasing ammonia (NH3). All of these gases, particles and dissolved chemicals can be deposited to natural ecosystems downwind of the sources. Nitrogen can accumulate in ecosystems and cause nutrient imbalances, while acid precipitation can strip important nutrients such as calcium (Ca) from the soil and mobilize toxic metals such as aluminum (Al). Acid and aluminum harm trees in the forest and fish and other aquatic animals in streams and lakes.

View the report at http://www.ecostudies.org/Threats_from_Above.pdf.

This post is based on an article published by Physorg.com.