Best of our wild blogs: 22 Apr 11

21 Apr-2 May: Exhibition on "A decade of biodiversity conservation and discoveries in Singapore" from wild shores of singapore

Quiet at Pulau Jong
from wild shores of singapore

Pierre-Yves Cousteau dives in Singapore
from Compressed air junkie

Asian Koel feeding on MacArthur Palm Fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Ogre-Faced Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

What does Nature give us? A special Earth Day article
from news

Read more!

Singapore: 6 million plastic bags saved

AsiaOne 21 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE - SOME 6 million plastic bags were saved last year through NTUC FairPrice's Bring-Your-Own-Bag (BYOB) initiative.

This is a 16 per cent increase compared with the previous year of over 5.1 million plastic bags, said the local company in its recent press release.

As part of its efforts to promote environmental awareness to its customers, the FairPrice Cares! Campaign is back again for the second year, in support of Earth Day 2011. The campaign encourages customers to use reusable bags for shopping and recycle drink cans and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

To encourage community participation for this campaign, FairPrice Foundation will donate up to $30,000 to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and Singapore Disability Sports Council based on the number of cans or PET bottles recycled by customers and the number of FairPrice’s “Love Nature” recycled bags sold.

From April 22 to May 8, FairPrice Foundation will donate $1 for every can or bottle that customers bring in to recycle at the reverse vending machines at its Ang Mo Kio Hub Xtra hypermarket, City Square Mall supermarket and Marine Parade FairPrice Finest stores.

To further encourage shoppers to recycle, FairPrice will be giving out FairPrice “Love Nature” reusable bags for every 10 cans or PET bottles brought in for recycling.

The sales proceeds of FairPrice’s “Love Nature” reusable bags sold at all FairPrice stores will also go toward charity. Under the Green Rewards Scheme launched in 2007 where customers enjoy a 10-cent rebate for bringing their own bag with a minimum spending of $10, 6 million plastic bags were saved.

Commenting on the campaign, Ms Angela Soo, Chairperson for NTUC FairPrice Green Committee and Assistant General Manager for FairPrice Foundation said: “We are very encouraged by the increasing support from our customers in bringing their own bags when they shop at FairPrice and we thank our customers for sharing our love for nature. "We hope that through this campaign, we can encourage even more customers to take action in loving nature and also caring for the less fortunate amongst us.”

Preschoolers to say no to plastic bags
Initiative at stores also aims to raise funds for low-income families
Leow Si Wan Straits Times 22 Apr 11;

PRESCHOOLERS aged three to six can bag this chance to help the Earth, and 4,000 low-income families in the South West District.

In conjunction with Earth Day today, four organisations have jointly introduced an initiative to get preschoolers to reduce their use of plastic bags and, at the same time, raise funds for the needy.

The scheme involves 109 preschools - half of all in the district - and up to 120,000 children.

For each transaction at Dairy Farm Singapore stores where a participating preschooler and his family members decline to use plastic bags or choose to use re-usable bags, a sticker will be given.

For every 25 stickers collected by a child, a bag of essential necessities worth $25 will be prepared by Dairy Farm Singapore for a needy family.

Launched yesterday at Giant hyper-market in VivoCity, the programme brings together retailer Dairy Farm Singapore, South West Community Development Council (CDC), the National Environment Agency (South West Regional Office) and the Singapore Environment Council.

The Dairy Farm group comprises 796 stores including Cold Storage, Shop N Save, 7-Eleven and Guardian.

South West District Mayor Amy Khor said at the programme's launch: 'Over a three-month period ending June, our target is to raise $100,000 worth of these essentials such as rice and cooking oil to help 4,000 low-income beneficiaries.'

The needy families are nominated by the grassroots organisations of each constituency.

She hopes the programme will help children pick up environmentally friendly habits and develop compassion for the less fortunate.

South West CDC and Dairy Farm Singapore will jointly sponsor each goodie bag.

Daily Farm South Asia regional director Alex Tay said: 'As the biggest retailer with an islandwide network of stores in Singapore, we are in a good position to contribute and make an impact.'

Mayor Khor said the programme will be extended to other preschools if successful.

Parents and beneficiaries welcome its launch.

Madam Wong Yeh-Ping, 32, a senior manager whose two sons in Grace House Kindergarten will be involved, said: 'It's a good opportunity for the kids to have fun yet learn about using fewer plastic bags.'

For Mr Zulkeflee Abdul Razak, 37, a technician, the goodie bag will be useful to his family.

The father of three daughters aged between five and 18 said: 'The things in the bag, like vegetables, detergent and cooking oil, are things we can use and can help to save some money.'

Read more!

A helping hand for those going green in Singapore

Straits Times 22 Apr 11;

THE staff of Siloso Beach Resort are keen to expand their environmental initiatives but are often too busy conducting tours of its natural surroundings for guests.

With the launch of the Earth Helpers programme by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), they will be able to get a helping hand to do these tours, leaving them free to nurture other initiatives.

At SEC's Earth Day celebrations yesterday, chairman Isabella Loh said organisations have often raised the issue of having difficulty in finding the right people with the expertise and passion in managing or implementing environmental initiatives.

This is where the SEC comes in.

Under Earth Helpers, businesses and organisations keen on launching an environmental project - but lacking the resources to do so - will be invited to partner the SEC and tap on its staff and volunteers.

Management and staff from these organisations will also be encouraged to participate.

There are no restrictions on the type of projects that can be proposed but the commitment of organisations and how impactful the project is would count.

Moving beyond spreading general awareness, the SEC aims to engage at least 10 companies under the scheme this year.

It has more than 100 long-term, registered volunteers and hopes that this initiative will expand their number.

'It's a chicken-and-egg situation,' Ms Loh said. 'Volunteers will sign up when they see that there are projects that require their support.'

At next year's Earth Day celebrations, volunteers can look forward to being presented with awards under a new recognition programme announced yesterday.

Environmental journalism awards will also be given to media professionals from both traditional and new media.


Read more!

Old mobile phones offer "green" opportunities

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 22 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE : Old mobile phones are opening up a market for new business opportunities.

Almost 100 per cent of the materials in mobile phones can be recycled, such as precious metals, plastics and glass. For example, last year, Nokia recycled about 38 tonnes of "e-waste" in the region.

Globally, it is estimated that 44 per cent of old mobile phones are lying in drawers at home and not being recycled, providing potential for players to utilise and recycle the resources.

In the region, some industry players said that the area with the most participation from consumers coming forward to recycle their phones is Australia, but public participation in Asia is also on the rise.

Francis Cheong, senior sustainability manager for Southeast Asia Pacific at Nokia, said: "We started recycling programmes in Asia, some time in year 2000, and over the years, we have actually seen an increase in the number of public members coming forward to take part in the programmes. Although it is slow, but yes, it is increasing, for example last year, we saw an increase of up to more than 50 per cent of people coming forward to recycle their phones."

Materials from old mobile phones can be turned into plastic pallets, pipes and even furniture.

In fact, some industry players said that recycling the gold from 80,000 phones can create one gold bar.

But sustainability for phone providers is not just about recycling materials. Some are also repositioning factories to be closer to markets and cut their carbon footprint.

Neil Gordon, vice president (Sales for Southeast Asia Pacific) at Nokia, said: "We are building factories closer to the growth markets...With a scale that Nokia has, we will soon have 10 factories located around the world. (We) recently (announced) a new factory in Vietnam. One of the reasons we chose that location, of course, was proximity, also to our component suppliers. Again, we could make use of road transportation as opposed to flying components around the world, and again reducing our carbon footprint."

- CNA/ms

Read more!

Why You Won't Read This Earth Day Article (And Why That Doesn't Matter)

Stephanie Pappas, Yahoo News 22 Apr 11;

Earth Day turns 41 this year, but in some ways, environmentalism seems to be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 48 percent of Americans now believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997. Meanwhile, environmental concerns rank eighth on Americans' worry list, behind terrorism, illegal immigration and the size and power of the federal government.

Getting people to care about environmental threats -- especially distant ones such as climate change -- can be tough, environmental advocates say. But whether or not people care about the environment may not matter much at all.

"Many people do things that would be considered environmentally sound, even if they aren't doing it for environmental reasons," said Edward Maibach, a professor of communication at George Mason University in Virginia who has studied Americans' opinions about climate change. "Several groups are concerned, one is not. But all of them place a high value on conserving energy." [Read: The Carbon Footprint of Sex & Other Daily Activities]

"It's tapping into a broadly held value," Maibach told LiveScience. "People just think it's a good idea to save energy and to save money as a result of saving energy."

Who cares about climate?

Maibach and his colleagues conducted a nationally representative survey of American adults in 2008 to understand how the public thinks about climate change.

They found that 18 percent of people are alarmed, convinced of the seriousness of global warming and taking steps to alter their behavior. Another 33 percent are concerned, but not taking action. Another 19 percent of people are cautious, meaning they believe climate change is a problem but don't feel a sense of urgency about it. The disengaged (12 percent) and doubtful (11 percent), on the other hand, either don't know much about climate change or don't think it's a big problem. And 7 percent of people are dismissive, actively campaigning against a national response to climate change.

But surprisingly, all of the groups conserved energy at the same rates, said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, who was involved in the study with Maibach.

"The dismissive are conserving energy and saving energy as much as anyone else," Leiserowitz told LiveScience.

Part of the reason is that alarmed people are only beginning to translate their concern into action, Leiserowitz said. Another reason is that for too many people, conservation is a means to another end beside environmentalism. Some want to save money. Others see kicking foreign oil as a national security issue. Some Christian evangelicals believe protecting the Earth is a biblical mandate, Leiserowitz said.

"It's about thrift, conservation," Leiserowitz said. "These are core American values."

Can green be easy?

For that reason, convincing more people that climate change is happening may not be as productive as making it easier for people to be environmentalists -- even if they don't call themselves that.

"The real opportunity for us isn't to further bolster public opinion," Maibach said. "The real opportunity is for us as a society to figure out how to make it easier to perform these behaviors."

Maibach, Leiserowitz and their colleagues asked Americans about what sort of actions they thought were important for conservation and what actions they were actually taking. They found that almost everyone thinks that carpooling, biking instead of driving, reducing trash and other behaviors are important. But there were many gaps between what people believed and what they actually did. About 72 percent of people said carpooling or taking public transportation were important activities, but only 12 percent said they did either (another 2 percent said it wasn't important, but they did it anyway).

In contrast, people tended to engage in easier activities. Ninety-five percent of people said turning off unneeded lights is important, and 90 percent reported doing so.

It all comes down to barriers that prevent people from taking environmental action, Leiserowitz said.

"I would love to be able to take a bullet train from Connecticut to California, but I can't because my society hasn't provided me with one, whereas Japan and China and Europe have," he said. [Infographic: Full Speed Ahead for High-Speed Rail]

Making Earth Day count

So does Earth Day matter? It can be helpful, Maibach said, at least if it causes people to think about year-round environmental strategies.

"Earth Day is important in the sense that different cancer awareness days are important," said Mia Yamaguchi, the CoolClimate Network outreach coordinator at UC Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. "Maybe the average American isn't involved in or organizing an event, but they may be more likely to read an article or donate."

Yamaguchi said she doesn't want to see more people worried about the environment -- she wants to see action.

"There are many, many things that any one person can do to manage their own environmental impacts, which I think makes it really different from worries like the national debt or U.S. foreign policy," Yamaguchi said. In those cases, "I can probably write a letter to a politician, maybe donate to a cause," she said. "But if I actually start looking at what it would take to improve my vehicle's fuel efficiency by 5 miles per gallon, that makes a big difference."

The CoolClimate Network has a variety of online widgets for people interested in calculating their own energy footprint. In the meantime, April 22 is a good day to step back and remember the planet we live on, Leisowitz said.

"It's Earth Day," he said. "Go out and celebrate."

Read more!

Celebrate Earth Day with a Billion Acts of Green!

IUCN 22 Apr 11;

IUCN Member, Earth Day Network is calling for unprecedented levels of environmental action to mark Earth Day 2011 today.

For over 40 years, Earth Day—April 22—has inspired and mobilized individuals and organizations worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.

This year’s Earth Day theme is A Billion Acts of Green®, a global campaign that inspires and rewards individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that help reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

A Billion Acts of Green® is the largest environmental service and advocacy campaign in the world. From greening schools to hosting town hall discussions on clean energy investment and green jobs, Earth Day Network leads its network in thousands of Earth Day events and actions worldwide each year.

Acts of Green range from Earth Day events and community climate meetings to tree plantings, large-scale light bulb changes and workplace renewable energy retrofits. Simple individual gestures, like riding a bike instead of driving, or washing laundry in cold water, may also be recorded.

Every act registered will be counted toward the ultimate goal of amassing one billion actions in advance of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

To mark this year’s Earth Day, leading international organizations working to protect and manage the world’s forests are calling for governments across the globe to increase communities’ role in forest management. Doing so could contribute to lifting close to a billion people out of poverty, as well as improve the health and vitality of forests.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) comprise 14 international organizations including IUCN specializing in the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The group has come together to speak with one voice and send an unequivocal message: if we are to see an end to global poverty and the preservation of endangered biodiversity, communities living in and near forests must be involved in decision making about sustainable forest management.

“People who live in forests and are highly dependent on them for their food, fuel, and medicines, are often not those who control the decisions on how these resources are used and managed,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre , IUCN Director General. “Our work in countries across the world has proven that strengthening community rights over their own forests helps reduce poverty and also benefits forest biodiversity.”

The CPF has seen again and again that by increasing local people’s ownership in the management of forest resources, communities are often in a better position to start forest product-based business, from which they can earn better incomes. Such businesses encompass everything from processing and marketing of shea nuts and butter in West Africa, to community forestry enterprises managing forest concessions in Petén, Guatemala. The ability to build increased household wealth is critical as it often results in improved food security, investments in children’s education as well as increased engagement in community and social improvement activities.

For more information and to contribute your ‘Acts of Green,’ visit Earth Day Network’s A Billion Acts of Green website.

Read more!

India: Olive Ridleys grow to 10-year high

Gokul Chandrasekar Express News Service 22 Apr 11;

CHENNAI: It is a prosperous year for the Olive Ridley turtles visiting Chennai’s shores. Continuous and sustained efforts of conservationists, coupled with increased support from the government officials, has resulted in a steep jump in the number of Olive Ridleys nesting on Chennai’s shores. Conservationists estimate the number of hatchlings in 2011 to be the highest in a decade.

Ever since conservationists started monitoring Olive Ridley turtles breeding along Chennai’s beaches, only the year 2000 had seen a better turnout than the present year, making this the second best breeding season ever monitored in Chennai. About 9,000 hatchlings have already been released into the sea this year and another 3,000 hatchlings are expected to be released in the next few days, taking the count close to 12,000.

“The numbers are a sharp increase from about 7,000 hatchlings released last year,” said V Arun of Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). The number of turtles coming to South Chennai beaches to lay eggs has seen a steady increase every year since 2004, when it was at an all time low. “This could possibly be because of the deterioration of the North Chennai beaches,” explained Arun, who also felt that it was the volunteers’ efforts that was behind the success of the initiative.

Read more!

Scotland's First Marine Reserve Already Producing Benefits

ScienceDaily 20 Apr 11;

Scotland's first fully protected marine reserve, and only the second in the UK, is already providing commercial and conservation benefits, according to new research.

After only two years in operation, it is already showing positive signs for both fishermen and conservationists, according to a study by the University of York and the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST).

The research, published in the journal Marine Biology, shows that commercially valuable scallops and several species of algae known to promote biodiversity are much more abundant in the marine reserve, where fishing is banned, than in surrounding waters.

The study follows years of campaigning by COAST, whose efforts helped to turn a small area of seabed in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran into a marine reserve in October 2008. Many marine reserves are being developed in Europe and around the world, where they are showing a range of benefits. These areas of sea are protected from fishing and other extractive activities, allowing natural ecosystems to recover and flourish.

Lead author of the study, Leigh Howarth, who carried out the research during his MSc degree in the Environment Department at York, said: "Marine ecosystems can continue to recover for decades when protected inside reserves, the reason this study is so exciting is because this is just the beginning."

One of the most significant findings of the work was that the abundance of juvenile scallops was much higher in the reserve than outside. This was linked to the high levels of kelp and maerl, a type of algae that forms coral-like beds, inside the reserve where adult scallops were also larger and older. As stocks of scallops build up in marine reserves they can start to breed at high levels, helping to seed surrounding fishing grounds.

Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart, who supervised the project, added "It is brilliant that our results have provided a win-win scenario. Marine reserves like this can benefit both fishermen and conservationists."

Although scallops are not widely consumed in the UK, they are currently our third most valuable seafood species, worth almost £50 million in 2009. However, dredging for them can severely damage some sensitive seabed habitats.

The marine reserve at Arran is small, but highly significant. The UK and Scottish governments have recently passed Marine Acts, which will fundamentally change the management of our seas. Part of this process will involve setting up networks of marine protected areas around the UK coast, some of which will be fully protected marine reserves similar to the one off Arran.

Dr Beukers-Stewart added: "Despite some scepticism in the UK fishing industry about marine reserves due to their being largely untested in our waters, the work at Arran provides some very positive and timely evidence about their potential."

COAST chair Howard Wood explained: "The University of York's partnership with COAST is a highly progressive collaboration, because it provides meaningful research for a vital policy area."

But he added: "Without political will for genuinely changing the management of our seas it doesn't matter how many scientific papers are published. We hope the Scottish Government will take this study seriously."

Staff in the Environment Department at the University of York have supported the campaign and work of COAST for many years and the Department has also secured funding to continue monitoring the Arran marine reserve for a further three years.

Read more!

Gold mining blamed for hippo deaths in Sierra Leone

Yahoo News 21 Apr 11;

FREETOWN (AFP) – Villagers residing around Lake Sonfon in northern Sierra Leone have reported the deaths of at least 10 baby hippos this week, with experts saying illicit gold mining could be to blame.

Tribal chief Alimamy Lahai said, "We don't know what went wrong but we started seeing dead hippos at the rate of one or two a day and we reported the matter to conservation officials to investigate."

Senior Game Superintendent Keili Bangura in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife told AFP, "We have reports of hippo dying around the lake, which is a conservation area, and we are investigating the cause.

"We cannot rule out the matter of climate change affecting the mammals although concern has been raised at the high level of gold mining undertaken illicitly in the area."

Momoh Bangura, a retired conservation expert and tribal authority, said "these deaths are possibly due to the uncontrolled and unsupervised gold mining going on which is destroying the flora and fauna.

"It has also depleted the number of hippos and caused a huge drop in the level of water in the lake."

Lake Sonfon, in the districts of Tonkolili and Koinadugu some 200 miles (125 miles) north of the capital, is also home to rare species of monkeys, baboons and crocodiles.

Read more!

Ozone hole has dried Australia, scientists find

Richard Black BBC News 21 Apr 11;

The Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia's recent series of droughts, scientists say.

Writing in the journal Science, they conclude that the hole has shifted wind and rainfall patterns right across the Southern Hemisphere, even the tropics.

Their climate models suggest the effect has been notably strong over Australia.

Many parts of the country have seen drought in recent years, with cities forced to invest in technologies such as desalination, and farms closing.

The scientists behind the new study - led from Columbia University in New York - added the ozone hole into standard climate models to investigate how it might have affected winds and rains.

"The ozone hole results in a southward shift of the high-latitude circulation - and the whole tropical circulation shifts southwards too," explained Columbia's Sarah Kang.

Of particular interest was the southward migration of the Southern Hemisphere jet stream.

These high-altitude winds are key to determining weather patterns, in both hemispheres. Much of the cold weather felt in the UK over the last couple of winters, for example, was caused by blocking of the Northern Hemisphere stream.

The Columbia team found that overall, the ozone hole has resulted in rainfall moving south along with the winds.

But there are regional differences, particularly concerning Australia.

"In terms of the average for that zone, [the ozone hole drives] about a 10% change - but for Australia, it's about 35%," Dr Kang told BBC News.

Their modelling indicated that global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was also a factor - although natural climate cycles are also thought to be important, as Australia suffered severe droughts in the era before ozone depletion and before the warming seen in the late 20th Century.

"This study does illustrate the important point that different mechanisms of global change are contributing to the climate impacts we're seeing around the world," observed Professor Myles Allen of Oxford University, a leading UK climate modeller.

"It's very important to unpack them all rather than assuming that any impact we see is down simply to greenhouse gas-mediated warming."
No reverse

Ozone depletion is caused by chemical reactions in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere.

The chemicals involved derive from substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their relatives, which used to be staples in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosol cans.

Although the UN Montreal Protocol has significantly curbed emissions of these substances, they endure for decades in the atmosphere, and so their effects are still being felt.

The ozone layer blocks the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions.

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization revealed that the Arctic was experiencing the worst ozone depletion on record - a consequence of unusual weather conditions.

But the forecast is that even the Antarctic ozone hole - which is more severe than its Arctic equivalent - should be repaired by 2045-60.

Sarah Kang cautions that this alone will not restore prior climate conditions to Australia or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere.

"As the ozone hole repairs, it is going to work to reverse this trend; but there is also the rising trend in carbon dioxide, and that is acting in the same direction as the ozone hole," she said.

Australia's persistently dry weather has caused major impacts on communities, farms and nature.

In recent years, the volume of water flowing into the reservoirs of Perth, the Western Australian capital, has been just one third of what it was during most of the 20th Century.

The Murray-Darling basin, which lies in the highly populated southeast, is the subject of a somewhat controversial plan aiming to distribute water fairly against a backdrop of over-extraction, prolonged drought, natural climate variability and greenhouse gas-mediated global warming.

Ozone hole linked to southern rain increases
Yahoo News 21 Apr 11;

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is a significant driver of climate change and rain increases in the southern hemisphere over the past 50 years, US scientists said Thursday.

The findings by a team at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science are the first to link ozone depletion in the polar region to climate change all the way to the equator.

Researchers said the analysis should lead policy-makers to consider the ozone layer along with other environmental factors such as Arctic ice melt and greenhouse gas emissions when considering how to tackle climate change.

"It's really amazing that the ozone hole, located so high up in the atmosphere over Antarctica, can have an impact all the way to the tropics and affect rainfall there," said Sarah Kang, lead author of the study in the journal Science.

"It's just like a domino effect," she said.

Scientists say the Antarctic ozone hole, discovered in the 1980s, was created by the extensive use of manmade aerosols containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Since the signing by 196 countries of the 1989 Montreal Protocol, most CFC production around the world has stopped, and experts expect the hole to close by the middle of this century.

"While the ozone hole has been considered as a solved problem, we're now finding it has caused a great deal of the climate change that's been observed," said co-author Lorenzo Polvani, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The study used two independently drawn climate models -- the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model and the United States' National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model.

In four experiments comparing data on sea ice, surface temperatures, precipitation and the ozone hole, the analysis showed the hole was the main driver of heavy summer rains across eastern Australia, the southwestern Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific Convergence Zone.

"We show in this study that it has large and far-reaching impacts. The ozone hole is a big player in the climate system," said Polvani.

"This could be a real game-changer."

Next, the researchers plan to look at "extreme precipitation events," the sort that cause devastating floods and landslides.

"We really want to know if and how the closing of the ozone hole will affect these," said Kang.

Read more!