Best of our wild blogs: 5 Feb 13

MRT through the Nature Reserve: "the line goes 'through' primary forest and good secondary forest."
from Habitatnews

A berried passion
from The annotated budak

Barn Swallow’s worn tail feathers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Harmful Algal Bloom Workshop 6-7 Mar 2013 UTown
from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

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Save our knoll, urges Punggol residents' group

Proposed road will harm last natural feature in Punggol Waterway, it says

Grace Chua Straits Times 5 Feb 13;

RESIDENTS living near a forested hill in Punggol are urging the authorities not to build a proposed road through what they say is the last natural feature left around the Punggol Waterway.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the road is meant to serve planned developments around the knoll. A spokesman said the road would "provide greater connectivity and access" for Punggol residents.

The hill is in a 500m by 100m green space sandwiched between the Punggol 17th Avenue estate and the Punggol Waterway.

"The forested knoll provides the waterway with its best view and its most scenic backdrop," said retiree Tan See Ting, 61, who has lived in the area for 15 years.

Although the hill is "not super rich" in wildlife, it is home to squirrels, parakeets, monkeys and other species, he added.

The tranquil Punggol 17th Avenue estate consists of about 80 homes as well as the St Francis Xavier Catholic seminary and the Marina Country Club.

Mr Tan said a neighbour had alerted him in 2008 to proposals for the road and another larger, parallel trunk road between their estate and the Punggol Waterway in development plans.
In February 2008, he and a group of neighbours went to see then-MP Charles Chong about the plans.

Their appeal against the road was turned down two months later.

In November 2011, they submitted a petition, which had more than 80 signatures, to their MP, Dr Janil Puthucheary.

They met him and representatives of the URA, the Housing Board, Land Transport Authority and National Parks Board.

Last March, the URA told the group that the road would serve future developments while the Punggol Waterway Park and the green space south of it "will more than offset for the loss of the knoll".

Now the group is concerned that if it waits until the next masterplan regarding land use is published, it would be too late, said Mr Lee Nyuk Sze, 55, director of an import-export firm.

Despite concerns about the trunk road too, he added: "It's too late for us to ask them to relook the major trunk road system. Ideally, we would have wanted both roads not to be built."

He noted that when the area is served by LRT trains, residents would have enough transport links to get to the town centre.

The URA confirmed that it had received feedback from the residents and had been engaging them to explain the developments.

The spokesman said: "The land use plan is being reviewed and will be exhibited as part of the next masterplan review."

Said Mr Lee: "The brief ought to be, is there anything worth preserving? If not, okay.

"But if we willy-nilly go in, erase everything, and if there was something that we ought to have retained, it's too late."

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10 steps to a greener Chinese New Year

Tan Cheng Li The Star 5 Feb 13;

The Lunar New Year festivities do not have to be a burden on the environment. Here are some ideas to celebrate the season while caring for the Earth.

1. Don’t eat endangered species

The Chinese’s penchant for exotic food is harming wildlife. One dish to avoid is shark fin soup. As many as 73 million sharks are killed every year, many for their fins, and nearly a third of shark species are threatened with extinction, according to a 2011 report by the Pew Charitable Trust’s global shark conservation campaign. Facai moss is another food to avoid. The harvesting of facai (which grows on the roots of grass) has turned millions of hectares of grasslands in China into desert. China outlawed the sale of facai in 2000. Thus, facai available on the market is illegal. Artificial facai can be a good alternative. Abalones and sea cucumbers are also harvested in many countries with little or no management in place, causing them to be easily over-fished.

2. Sort your waste

Have a few bins, boxes or bags ready for the different recyclables. That way, it will be easier to sort the trash for recycling when the festivities end.

3.Buy in bulk

Refrain from offering drinks in single serving cans or TetraPaks. Buy big bottles instead and serve the drinks in glasses. You’ll have less trash at the end of the day.

4.Eat your greens

Chinese New Year meals often feature lots of meats, which are unhealthy for your body and the planet. Let’s change tradition and include more vegetables on the menu.

5.Beware of food additives

Look out for harmful chemical colourings, artificial flavourings and preservatives in seasonal delicacies such as preserved fruits and meats, pickled vegetables, candies, cookies and dumplings. Food dyes which have provoked concern are Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3 (erythrosine), Yellow 5 (tartrazine) and Yellow 6, while the additives are sulphites, nitrates, butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene.

6.Skip the fireworks

Toxic chemicals and heavy metals are used in the manufacture of fireworks, which also contribute to air and water pollution.


Bring our own bag when shopping, to reduce consumption of plastic bags.

8 Cook just enough

Tradition dictates that lots of food must be prepared to symbolise wealth and abundance. This, however, translates to wastage. So, don’t overcook, and turn leftovers into another dish. And don’t forget to compost the kitchen waste, including mandarin peel.

9.Don’t add to waste

If you’re having guests over, don’t give in to the convenience of disposable ware. Conventional tableware is so much classier and friendlier to the environment, too.

10.Reuse and recycle

When the festivities end, pack up all the red- and gold-coloured decorations for use again next year.

Angpow for Mother Nature
Meng Yew Choong The Star 5 Feb 13;

Spare a thought for the environment when you give the traditional red packets during the festival.

THIS week, thousands of folks will dutifully line up at bank counters to exchange wads of old (though not necessarily soiled) bank notes for brand new ones – all in the name of tradition.

For the Chinese, it is a must to use crisp, new notes to fill an angpow, the red envelope containing cash that is given out during Chinese New Year for good luck.

The insistence of using only new notes for angpow, however, is far from being a benign practice. Each year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) prints and issues 100 million pieces of S$2 notes in the run-up to the Lunar New Year. But only about half of these new notes are actually required to meet normal circulation demand, meaning that an additional 50 million notes are printed just for the sake of tradition. The unfortunate consequence is that MAS would eventually have to accumulate these excess S$2 notes, and destroy these rather durable polymer (plastic) notes way before the end of their intended lifespan.

Printing bank notes creates a rather significant carbon footprint. In the case of Singapore, printing the extra 50 million S$2 polymer notes consumes more than 200,000kWh of electricity, in addition to 10 tonnes of ink. In the Malaysian context, that amount of electricity is enough to power 1,000 Malaysian homes for a month (each consuming close to 200kWh each month, or nearly RM44).

“This is a waste of precious resources and is not environmentally friendly,” said MAS in a press release last month.

Singapore is not the first to recognise the deletrious effects of using only new notes for angpow. Hong Kong, which is even more steeped in tradition, started the ball rolling as far back as 2006, when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) ran a campaign to bring about change in the way angpow is given out so that the environmental impact could be reduced.

For Hong Kong and Singapore, the way to go is persuading the public to accept “as-good-as-new” notes, which are fairly new bank notes retrieved immediately by banks right after the festivities ended and kept for the next season. MAS has embarked on an initiative this Lunar New Year to encourage the public to use as-good-as-new S$2 notes. “While MAS will continue issuing brand new S$2 notes, we hope the public will participate in the initiative. We can celebrate Lunar New Year with the giving of angpow, and do our bit in reducing wastage and preserving the environment,” said assistant managing director Foo-Yap Siew Hong.

Its Go Green initiative is supported by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) as well as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Our member banks will promote the use of the good-as-new notes at their branches, automated teller machines and websites. They will also deploy more service staff to promote these notes at the branches and encourage their own staff to use these notes,” said ABS director Ong-Ang Ai Boon.

Singaporean photographer Kwong Kwai Chung thinks it is a sensible move by MAS. “Sometimes, we don’t have time to go to the bank, and sometimes, if we get there, the notes we want are out of stock. As long as the notes look presentable, I will take them. Another advantage of slightly used polymer notes is that they are more easily sorted by hand. Have you noticed how new notes tend to stick to each other?”

Into its seventh year now, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s push to green the angpow-giving tradition remains on course. “As the Chinese New Year draws near, HKMA encourages the public to continue supporting the use of good-as-new notes, instead of brand new ones, for lai see (another Cantonese word for angpow). Good-as-new notes are perfectly suitable for use as lai see, given that Hong Kong’s currency notes are maintained at a high standard of cleanliness,” it said in a press release last month.

What are the chances of seeing a similar initiative happening here? If there is any comfort, Bank Negara has been quietly recirculating “almost new” RM5 polymer notes since its introduction in 2004. “While recognising the tradition of giving angpow and duit raya (during Hari Raya Aidilfitri), there is an increasing need to manage natural resources to preserve the environment and to enhance efficiency in the distribution of bank notes. Re-circulating the notes will reduce the need to print new notes,” it said in a written reply to The Star.

Bank Negara said that its move to introduce polymer RM1 (last year) and RM5 notes was already a green act in itself. Polymer notes generally last three times as long as paper notes. Wear and tear on paper money is costing us plenty. From 1985 to 1995, Bank Negara destroyed 4.9 billion pieces of torn and defaced paper notes. This works out to roughly 490 million pieces destroyed each year and this comes at a significant cost to the environment, other than to our coffers.

Being non-porous, polymer notes do not absorb water, oils and liquids, so they do not deteriorate as fast as paper notes. Polymer notes in bigger denominations have lifespans ranging from five to six years or more while smaller denominations like RM1 and RM5 last between two and three years compared to six and eight months for paper.

Naturally, opinions vary on whether as-good-as-new is good enough. For marketing specialist Wong Siah Ping, a red packet cannot qualify as an angpow if old notes are used. “A new note is pretty much the essence of an angpow, which must not only look like one, but also smell like one,” said Wong, who nonetheless is willing to reconsider her position if there is enough evidence to show that too much harm is done by rigid adherence to tradition.

For reporter Lee Mei Li, using new notes, especially when it comes to RM1 and RM5, hints that the giver had made the effort in welcoming the new year. “It’s always nice to have new notes because it shows that you made an effort to go to the bank to exchange the notes, and that you thought about Chinese New Year instead of doing it all last minute. However, slightly used notes is still OK for RM50 and above, as you don’t give that sum to many people.”

The arduous task of lining up for new notes every year easily riles up many, especially when they are told that their preferred denomination is out of stock. “Bank Negara doesn’t really print many new notes now, right? In the last few years, my bank offered only used RM5 and RM10 notes,” said another reporter, Wong Li Za. “But since the RM5 notes are polymers, they still look fairly new but not some of the RM10 notes. Personally, I like to give and receive crisp new notes. There is a feel-good factor there, compared to getting or giving old, brown or faded notes. I can settle for slightly used notes, provided they are in good condition.”

Writer S.M. Chiew’s way of coping with the annual hassle of going to the bank is by bartering with her children. “I change the old notes with the new ones that they get in their angpow from others. Many people would like to give new notes but don’t have the time to queue up in banks.”

Professor Yam Kah Kean, a specialist in Chinese culture at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, said one must not lose sight of the purpose of an angpow. “An angpow is a token to wish someone good luck and prosperity. It is the symbolism of giving and receiving of red packets that is important, and not so much what is inside the packet,” said Yam.

Half of Hong Kong seems to agree with him. According to HKMA, the share of as-good-as-new notes issued in the run-up to Chinese New Year has increased from 20% in 2006 to around 45% in recent years. Is it time then, that Malaysians consider giving an angpow for the environment, other than for luck?

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Malaysia: Sabah ban on destructive fishing nets hailed

New Straits Times 5 Feb 13;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government supports the proposal to ban the use of pukat tunda (trawl net) and pukat buaya (crocodile net).

State Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin, who is also state agriculture and food industry minister, said the ministry would meet fisheries officials here to see how they could support the decision upon its implementation.

"I agree with this ban. It is something I have spoken about strongly in the past as we know it contributes to the depletion of fish resources.

"Previously, we received a lot of complaints among the traditional fishermen operating in the coastal areas that the use of these nets affected their livelihood," he said at a Chinese New Year lunch here yesterday.

Yahya said this was because both nets dragged through the ocean floor and caught everything, including small fish, and were being used near beaches instead of just at deep sea.

On Sunday, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum had said in Alor Star that these two methods had been identified as dangerous techniques that had detrimental effects to marine life, adding that ministry was waiting for the right time to issue notice of the ban.

Johari had also stated that those who did not adhere to the ban once it was made effective would have their nets and boats seized by agencies under the ministry.

Yahya said the use of such nets had reduced as artificial reefs had been set up along coastal waters.

"The fishermen who still use the trawl or crocodile nets stay clear from these artificial reefs for fear of their nets getting entangled."

On another matter, Yahya said the two deaths caused by the consumption of toxic sea cucumber was an isolated incident.

He was commenting on the incident where two men, aged 51 and 54, had died on Thursday at Queen Elizabeth Hospital here after having eating a poisonous species of sea cucumber, known locally as pelanduk laut, at Kampung Suangpai in Kudat.

He advised that it was better to avoid eating anything that seemed "strange" or "new".

Ban on 'pukat tunda', 'pukat buaya' this year

New Straits Times 5 Feb 13;

ALOR STAR: Fishermen will be banned from using pukat tunda (trawl net) and pukat buaya (crocodile net) soon.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom said the two methods had been identified as dangerous techniques that would have a detrimental effect on marine life.

He said the ban would be imposed this year to preserve marine life and prevent a shortage of fish.

"Checks show the use of pukat tunda and pukat buaya has a negative impact on the ecosystem," he said after presenting new boat licences to 240 fishermen in Kuala Kedah near here yesterday.

"If both these fishing nets continue to be used, the fish population would decline and affect the livelihood of fishermen."

Johari said fishermen who did not adhere to the ban would have their nets and boats seized by agencies under the ministry.

On another matter, Johari said the ministry would revoke boat licences of fishermen caught selling government-subsidised petrol.

"The subsidised petrol is a government initiative to minimise operating costs of fishermen.

"However, we have found that some of them have abused this by selling it to others for quick money."

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Malaysia: Thai cop held over ivory smuggling

The Star 5 Feb 13;

ALOR SETAR: It would have been a foolproof way to smuggle elephant tusks the use of a police van.

Except that the suspect, a Thai policeman in plain clothes, did not count on his colleagues searching the vehicle where they found 20 elephant tusks in fertiliser bags and unregistered weapons.

The suspect, in his confession, claimed that he was hired to smuggle the elephant tusks from Malaysia.

Police Colonel Chalard Polnakarn said that the man was charged with violating Thailand's Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act (Warpa).

The arrest at the Baan Pala checkpoint in the Pratew district, more than 590km from the Padang Besar checkpoint, has triggered an investigation by the Kedah Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

Its director Rozidan Md Yasin said he was aware of the Feb 2 seizure by Thai police.

“The individual arrested claimed that he smuggled the elephant tusks from Malaysia.

“But to date, we cannot confirm that it was smuggled to Thailand through Bukit Kayu Hitam,” he said yesterday.

Perlis Perhilitan director Muhamad Bokhari Fardin said that they were also investigating.

The wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia regional director, Dr William Schaedla, said Malaysia and Thailand must work together to curb ivory smuggling through their respective borders.

Dr Schaedla said that in the past 18 months, Malaysian Customs officers seized some 12.5 tonnes of African elephant ivory and that the seizures were on the rise.

Most recently, over 2,300 pieces of ivory were seized in Port Klang.

“While Malaysian Customs does inventory on seized tusks, there is no clear protocol at the national level to manage ivory stockpiles.

“Such a system should be a high priority for Malaysia to ensure no seized ivory finds its way back into the black market.

“Thailand, a major consumer of ivory, allows the carving and sale of tusks from domestic elephants.

“However, current systems in Thailand are not able to show that the vast amount of ivory available in the country is from domestic and not African elephants, making laundering of ivory all too easy,” he said in a statement yesterday.

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Malaysian Nature Society: Proposed Penang undersea tunnel link redundant

The Star 5 Feb 13;

GEORGE TOWN: The proposed undersea tunnel linking the island to the mainland, which is part of a RM8bil infrastructure package unveiled by the Penang Government, is redundant, said an environmental group.

“The Penang Bridge is not that congested. The second Penang Bridge will also be completed soon. So, a third link between the island and the mainland is not necessary,” said Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar.

Kanda Kumar was commenting on the package, comprising the 6.5km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam undersea tunnel, a 4.2km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass, a 4.6km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass and a 12km road connecting Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had been quoted in online news portals as saying that the state executive council had decided to award a company the tender to construct the four roads.

Although Lim did not name the company, it is known that the package of projects will begin in 2015.

The group, said Kanda Kumar, was also concerned that the tunnel would lead into a mangrove area in Seberang Prai, which was visited by thousands of migratory birds, including endangered species from Siberia, Japan and China.

A public transport system, he added, should first be put into place before such mega projects were implemented.

However, Penang Consumer Protection Association president K. Koris Atan said he was in full support of the projects.

Meanwhile, at another press conference, Lim said the state government was prepared to face objections over the projects.

“We will bite the bullet and let the people decide whether they want these roads or not. Our proposed roads will cut through reserve land and uninhabited areas so there is no question of relocating residents,” he said.

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Japanese whaling industry 'dead in the water', says animal welfare group

Charity says industry struggling to survive despite government bailout and calls for resources to be diverted to whale-watching
Justin McCurry 4 Feb 13;

Japan's whaling industry is "dead in the water" and cannot survive without huge taxpayer subsidies, according to a study.

The report, to be published on Tuesday by the charity International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), draws on Japanese government data for the first time to build a case against the use of millions of dollars in public subsidies to prop up the industry amid a dramatic decline in consumption of whale meat.

Last year those subsidies included ¥2.28bn (£15.6m) siphoned off from the budget for reconstructing the region devastated by the March 2011 tsunami.

The report, seen by the Guardian, calls on the government to divert resources to Japan's fledgling whale-watching industry as a "pro-economy, pro-whale" alternative to its annual "research" hunts in the Antarctic. "Whaling is an unprofitable business that can survive only with substantial subsidies and one that caters to an increasingly shrinking and ageing market," the report says.

Annual subsidies, channelled through the Institute for Cetacean Research, average about ¥782m (£5.3m), it said, adding that the government spent at least ¥30bn (£205m) on whaling between 1987 and last year.

In addition, part of a separate profitable fisheries programme is being used, in part, to fund the refitting of the whalers' factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, which will enable the fleet to operate for at least another 10 years.

Japan refuses to abandon its whaling programme, despite years of opposition from countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Patrick Ramage, the director of Ifaw's global whale programme, said that was due in part to the influence wielded by politicians representing coastal fishing communities with links to whaling, and bureaucrats at the fisheries agency.

"There's also the fact that Japan doesn't appreciate foreigners telling them what to do, and that allows them to play the cultural imperialism card," he said.

The report says official claims that whaling is a historical and cultural necessity are "profoundly and increasingly untrue".

Studies conducted on Ifaw's behalf by the Japan-based E-Square and Nippon Research Centre show whale meat consumption has fallen to about 1% of its 1960s peak, when it was a vital source of protein. Current stockpiles of unsold whale meat have increased to nearly 5,000 tonnes, about four times greater than they were 15 years ago.

"With growing wealth and modernisation, the people of Japan have lost their yen for whale meat," the report says. "Yet fisheries officials and other government figures continue to siphon off millions of taxpayer yen to prop up an industry that is effectively dead in the water."

Prof Masayuki Komatsu, a former agriculture ministry official who teaches ocean and marine resource policy at the national graduate institute for policy studies in Tokyo, agrees that whaling in its current form is economically unsustainable. His solution, however, is to increase the annual whale catch in the Antarctic and north-west Pacific so prices drop enough to attract a new generation of consumers.

"For older Japanese, whale meat is something special that you are happy to pay a premium for," he said. "But young people have never experienced the taste. It's not special to them and there are plenty of other sources of protein they can turn to. Japan needs to sell whale meat at a competitive price, similar to that of pork or chicken, and to do that it needs to increase its annual catch."

According to an Ifaw survey published late last year, 89% of Japanese people said they had not bought whale meat in the past 12 months.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, but a clause in the ban allows Japan to catch up to about 1,000 mainly minke whales in the southern ocean every winter, and to sell the meat on the open market. Komatsu believes the IWC ban should be lifted to allow Japan to catch "at least" 1,000 whales a year.

The cost of sending the fleet to the Antarctic and clashes with the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group have forced the fleet to return with a fraction of its quota of about 950 whales in recent years. Late last year, the whalers left port several weeks late and are expected to take only about 300 whales, Komatsu said.

Australia, which last week demanded Japan's whaling fleet leave its exclusive economic zone as it prepares for this winter's slaughter, has taken its campaign to end the Antarctic whale hunts to the international court of justice in the Hague. A ruling could come this year.

"The fisheries agency is using international opposition to whaling to build domestic support," Ramage said. "But I don't think that argument is selling any better than all that whale meat now sitting in warehouses. Whatever judgment the court makes, it won't change the reality that in the end, the decision on whaling is going to be made in Tokyo."

The Ifaw report calls for the development of whale watching along Japan's coastline, a move that, unlike the Antarctic hunts, "will turn a profit and directly benefit costal communities".

Ramage said: "Whale watching is an economically beneficial alternative that's taking off in Japan and deserves government support."

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High Food Prices Seen by Olam CEO as Result of Population Growth

Isis Almeida Bloomberg News 4 Feb 13;

Food prices that doubled in the past 10 years are more the result of population growth and increased demand for protein-based diets than any cyclical reasons, according to Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam International Ltd. (OLAM), the Singapore-based commodities trader.

Three of the biggest annual gains in food prices in the past 20 years occurred since 2007, with the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s global food price index climbing to a record in 2010. Wheat and soybeans led commodities gains last year and corn jumped to a record in August.

“We’ve had a long period of food real price declines and food surpluses and we’ve had three very rapid food crises,” Verghese said at the Kingsman sugar conference in Dubai yesterday. “The price inflation that we’ve seen in the three episodes is more a structural story and not a cyclical issue.”

The United Nations’ Food & Agiculture Organization has said global food output must rise 70 percent by 2050 to feed a world population expected to grow to 9 billion from 7 billion now and as increasingly wealthy consumers in developing economies eat more meat. Agriculture has “good demand growth,” Chris Mahoney, director of agricultural products at Baar, Switzerland- based trader Glencore International Plc (GLEN), said at the conference yesterday.

“In just seven years, the world will need not only to produce, but to move 20 percent more food and also store it, transport it and process it,” Mahoney said. “Without the transport, logistics infrastructure and processing capacity, production even if it keeps pace with demand will be unable to reach the consumer.”
Global Demand

Global oilseed demand is growing at about 3 percent a year, while corn consumption is rising a “little less,” according to Mahoney. Wheat, rice and sugar demand worldwide are expanding at or just below 2 percent a year, he said.

“What concerns people, and perhaps it should, is that the demand side of the equation is clear and it’s predictable, but this demand growth will largely need to be met by yield gain, not by additional planted area and the true potential for yield gain is perhaps known by only a few,” Mahoney said.

High food costs contributed to civil unrest across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, toppling governments in Tunisia and Egypt. The U.S. State Department estimates that surging food prices triggered more than 60 riots worldwide from 2007 to 2009. In India, about 60 percent of what people spend is on food, compared with 70 percent to 80 percent in Africa, 45 percent in China, 9 percent in Europe and about 10 percent in the U.S., according to Olam’s Verghese.
‘Serious Problem’

“When you have 50-percent price inflation in the core commodities and 70 percent of your consumption basket is spent on food, then you have a serious problem,” Verghese said.

High food prices are needed to send farmers a signal to increase plantings, Verghese said. Countries from India and Egypt to Vietnam and Indonesia banned exports of rice, a staple for half the world, during the 2008 food crisis. Russia in 2010 banned cereal exports after the country’s worst drought in at least half a century destroyed crops and cut production.

“Price controls are precisely the wrong thing to do when you want to induce a supply response,” Verghese said. “You are distorting the price signal to the farmer to try to increase its production.”

Producing ethanol and biodiesel from food crops is “questionable,” Mahoney said. As many as 150 million tons of grains globally are used to produce ethanol, he said. Making ethanol from corn is inappropriate, Vergehese said.

Read more!

Ozone hole changed ocean

The University of New South Wales Science Alert 5 Feb 13;

The formation of the Antarctic ozone hole has caused changes in the way waters in the southern oceans mix, with possible impacts on climate change, a new study suggests.

To trace the movement of ocean waters from the surface into the ocean interior - a process known as ventilation - researchers analysed ocean concentrations of a chemical that was used in hair spray cans, refrigerators and air conditioning systems before it was phased out in the 1990s because it was destroying the ozone layer.

The study, by an international team which includes Associate Professor Mark Holzer, a mathematical scientist at UNSW, is published today in the journal Science.

They found that surface waters are mixing into the subtropical deeper ocean at a higher rate than 20 years ago, while the reverse is true for waters closer to Antarctica.

Dr Holzer said the find was consistent with the fact that surface westerly winds in the southern hemisphere, which drive the ventilation of the southern oceans, have strengthened in recent decades.

Other studies have attributed this wind intensification to the thinning of the ozone layer.

“It is fascinating that changes in the stratosphere have had an effect down to at least 1500 metres depth in the ocean,” said Dr Holzer, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science.

The movement of surface waters into the deeper ocean governs the ocean’s uptake of heat, oxygen and carbon from the atmosphere.

“And all of these are potentially important for changes in the global climate. Ventilation is the way the ocean communicates with the atmosphere,” Dr Holzer said.

The team, led by Professor Darryn Waugh, of Johns Hopkins University, used measurements made in the southern oceans in the early 1990s and in the mid- to-late 2000s of a chemical compound called chlorofluorocarbon-12, or CFC-12.

CFC-12 was first produced commercially in the 1930s and its concentration in the atmosphere increased rapidly until the 1990s, when it was phased out by the Montreal Protocol that governs ozone-depleting compounds.

Higher concentrations of CFC-12 than predicted for an unchanging ocean were found in deep water from about 25 to 45 degrees south, reflecting an increased influx of surface water to these latitudes in the past 20 years.

The study concluded the opposite was the case for polar deep waters, where there has been increased upwelling.

Dr Holzer said the use of CFC-12 was an interesting twist: “The very substance that contributed to destroying ozone is helping us figure out what is happening in the oceans.”

Professor Waugh said that recovery of the ozone layer during the next 50 years could slow down the changes in ocean ventilation, but continued increases in greenhouse gases could also have an effect on ventilation.

The combined impact of these two factors on the oceanic uptake of heat and carbon remained an “open question”.

“Any changes in southern ocean circulation have the potential to change the global climate,” Professor Waugh said.

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