Greenpeace is hailing “a great leap forward on securing the future of Canada’s remaining coastal rainforest”. The kermode (spirit bear), the wolf and the bald eagle are among thousands of species whose Great Bear Rainforest habitat should no longer be blighted by the threat of logging. British Columbian timber companies Interfor and West Fraser have finally agreed to a package of measures proposed by Greenpeace, following an intense global campaign targeting the trade and investments of companies involved in logging in the ancient forest. The companies will observe a moratorium, and have accepted permanent protection for 20 valleys. They and Greenpeace will be involved in continuing discussions on an overall consensus package, which has been forwarded to the provincial government for approval.
The Buenos Aires conference last December on damage to the ozone layer was also able to report a welcome success for an international environmental agreement. Although the biggest ever hole in the ozone layer was that over Antarctica in October 2000, the ban on ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is beginning to have an effect, scientists say. Recovery of the ozone layer is unlikely to begin for a few more years, but the closing of the ozone hole is now predicted by the middle of this century.
They are working on catching the wind in Utsira. The Norwegian island, well known to devotees of the shipping forecast, is the location for an innovative project by Norsk Hydro. Wind turbines will be used to power the manufacture of hydrogen, which will be stored on site for future use in fuel cells.
As the witches warned Macbeth, the writing’s on the wall when Burnham Wood comes up to Dunsinane. Chillingly, the cause of that turned out to be anthropogenic. Now some other odd and untimely phenomena could be heralding the disappearance of tree, plant and wildlife species in our woodlands. With much of the UK’s remaining forest cover reduced to small and isolated woods, the threat from climate change is especially acute. To survive, many species will have to move 150 km north, or 100 metres uphill, for each 1 o C increase in temperature. A worst case scenario provides the drama in the Trust’s report - A Midsummer Night’s Nightmare - but there’s also a constructive emphasis on what should and can be done to make our woodland more adaptable in the face of climate change. Now the Trust is promoting a mass observation campaign (0800 026 9650; www.phenology.org.uk) to record changes in the natural calendar. “The more we know”, says the Trust in its appeal for more recorders, “the more success we will have in finding long-term solutions.”
At this year’s annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), researchers came up with some startling stats on what we are doing to our world.
Ice now covers 15% less of the Arctic Ocean than it did 20 years ago. The Arctic permafrost is melting in places -which could aggravate the greenhouse effect by allowing the release of huge amounts of carbon hitherto locked up in the frozen soil.
Ice is vanishing from Africa. Its highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, has lost 82% of its ice cap since 1912.
Surveys from space reveal that half of the earth’s land area has been transformed by human activity. The breakdown shows that the grazing of livestock represents by far the most widespread use (26%), followed by ploughing for farmland (11%) and forestry plantations (11%), with 2-3% taken over by housing, industry and roads.
The AAAS’s Atlas of Population and Environment is published by the University of California Press. AAAS, +1 202 326 6417 www.aaas.org
The Danish government is planning a major boost for passive solar. Concerned that the heat has gone out of the non-domestic market over the last five years, Environment Minister Svend Auken has come up with proposals to make passive solar heating mandatory for all new commercial and office buildings where energy savings would cover the installation cost within 20 years - unless they are hooked up to district heating schemes.
Energy conservation and energy efficiency are the cheapest and fastest way to reduce carbon emissions. According to the Worldwatch Institute, efficiency measures alone could cut global carbon dioxide emissions from 5.6 billion tons to 2.6 billion tons a year by 2010.
“A quiet revolution in villages and market towns up and down the country” is what Countryside Agency chairman, Ewen Cameron had in mind. With foot-and-mouth, of course, he got a revolution that wasn’t so quiet. And despite everything that appears to have been changed forever by the current crisis, there’s still a lot of valuable material and ideas in The State of the Countryside, the third annual assessment by the Countryside Agency.
This is no static snapshot. On the contrary, Cameron sees it as a blueprint for rural renewal. It contains specific proposals - in particular for revitalising the former central role of market towns. To drive this along, the Agency plans to establish 20 ‘beacon towns’, which would provide a hub for the delivery of all kinds of service.
Something to celebrate, and a strong draw card for the beleagured West Country tourist industry: the Eden Project, sheltering a variety of exotic ecosystems within its interlocking giant biomes near St Austell in Cornwall, is now fully open to visitors.
Solar Sunslates are being marketed by Solar Century as the way to combine an attractive roofing job with the installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar power. The slates can be fitted to all or part of an ordinary roof. Each incorporates six PV cells, and the company says that 25-30 square metres of Sunslates (PV) “should produce enough energy to supply the average family home, effectively turning the individual property into a standalone power station”. Integrated connectors make the electrical installation work safe, simple and quick.
It seems that the UK distributors of the Korean KIA Carens and Sedona ‘multi-purpose vehicles’ (MPVs), which are probably best known as cut-price alternatives to the likes of the Renault Scenic, are looking for a radically different image. Having signed up as advocates of a ‘responsible’ approach to transport policy, they are describing their new ‘Think Before You Drive’ campaign as “the first time that a motor company has acknowledged the need to change attitudes to the car...and to promote integrated transport solutions that reduce dependence on motoring”.
All four prongs of their campaign do have something to be said for them:
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