Best of our wild blogs: 15 Oct 13

Upcoming Event: The Green Heart inside the Red Dot
from Green Drinks Singapore

Weaving through Bidadari (Birdwatching)
from Rojak Librarian

Butterflies Galore! : Gram Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Copper-throated Sunbird – duetting nesting couple
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Two recces and a meeting
from Caryota Confessionals

Faster cheaper newer needs to be safer, healthier, fair – Story of Solutions from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Fri, 18 Oct 2013, 4.00pm @ CR1: Chua Thia-Eng on “Coastal and Ocean Governance in the East Asian Seas Region” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

12-13 Nov: Rigs-to-reefs workshop - can abandoned rigs be turned to reefs? from wild shores of singapore

Active restoration of Singapore's coral reefs: a study
from wild shores of singapore

Norway blacklists 2 Malaysian logging companies for 'severe environmental damage' in Borneo from news by Rhett Butler

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Malaysia: Singapore only operates lighthouse on Pulau Pisang

Sim Bak Heng New Straits Times 14 Oct 13;

JOHOR BARU: The Consulate-General of Singapore stated that Singapore has never disputed Malaysia's sovereignty of Pulau Pisang, off Pontian.

Singapore, however, does have the right to operate and maintain the lighthouse on the island.
In a statement, consul Nicholas Lee said under an indenture dated Oct 6, 1900, the Sultan of Johor granted the governor of the Straits Settlement the right, in perpetuity, to operate and maintain the lighthouse on a specific spot of ground on the island, which remained under the Sultan's sovereignty.

"The lighthouse was operated and maintained by the government of the Straits Settlement, and later by Singapore, which continues to do so up to the present.
"The Singapore government has consistently said that Pulau Pisang belongs to Malaysia, and has never disputed Malaysia's sovereignty," he said.

Lee was commenting on an article in the Streets "Agro Plan for Island" dated Oct 4, which stated that "In 2010, the 178ha Pulau Pisang was declared as part of the Johor Sultanate, ending years of dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over the ownership of the island off Pontian coast.

In the article, it was reported that the Johor Farmers' Organisation (JFO) wants to develop Pulau Pisang as a new centre for agro-tourism activities.
Such a move, besides helping to increase agriculture output, could also attract more tourists into the state.

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The Anthropocene: ‘One problem at a time’ just won’t do

Kevin J Noone Today Online 15 Oct 13;

Take a deep breath. Savour it for a moment. Now, consider this: None of our modern human ancestors ever breathed anything like it — and, the way things are going, nor will our descendants.

Since the Industrial Revolution began, human activity has substantially changed the atmosphere’s composition. Carbon-dioxide levels are higher today than they have been in at least 800,000 years. The amount of nitrogen and sulphur circulating through the Earth system has doubled. The ocean’s pH is changing at an unprecedented rate, reaching levels of acidity that marine organisms have not experienced in the last 20 million years.

Clearly, humans — who now occupy almost 40 per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface — are shaping many of the planet’s fundamental processes. According to Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, this shift is so profound that it amounts to the beginning of a new epoch: The Anthropocene.

While some scientists believe that the Anthropocene actually began when humans started farming and domesticating animals, others (including me) consider it to be a more recent development. But, regardless of when the Anthropocene began, it is clear that humanity’s impact on the planet increased substantially after World War II’s end.


Indeed, around 1950, the world seemed to have reached a tipping point, with practically every factor that heightened humanity’s impact on the planet — population, GDP, fertiliser use, the proliferation of telephones, and paper consumption, to name only a few — beginning to increase rapidly.

During this period, which the scientist Will Steffen dubbed the “Great Acceleration”, the human population became sufficiently large and connected, with high enough consumption, to become a major global force.

In a 2009 study, scientists concluded that, by crossing any of nine “planetary boundaries” — climate change, biodiversity loss, disruption of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, land use, freshwater extraction, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution — humans would increase the risk of fundamentally changing the Earth system.

Given that these boundaries are closely interlinked, allowing trends towards any of them to continue, especially at the current rate, would drive the environment into unknown territory, potentially causing serious damage to the systems that underpin human survival.


In order to cope with the unique challenges of the Anthropocene, humans need a new approach to management and strategic decision-making. Developing successful strategies will require abandoning long-held assumptions that worked in the past, but that have become counterproductive myths today.

One such myth is that it is best to tackle one problem at a time with straightforward, targeted solutions. While this approach may be appealing, it is inadequate to address today’s most pressing issues.

For example, producing and delivering nutritious food consistently to upwards of nine billion people by mid-century has implications for water and energy consumption, agricultural development and land use, the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and ocean acidification, not to mention biodiversity loss, such as through overfishing.

Given this, the Green Revolution’s narrow, production-focused approach cannot overcome food insecurity in the future, even though it produced truly impressive output increases in the past.

The world needs an innovative, comprehensive strategy aimed at optimising the entire food system — for example, by improving fertilizer and water use and food transportation and storage; by ensuring that adequate nutrition is accessible and affordable for all; and by changing communities’ eating habits to include less resource-intensive food.


The trouble is that complexity can be overwhelming, so people often prefer to break down complex systems into individual components. Rather than consider, say, eradicating extreme poverty and averting global warming in tandem — and developing mutually reinforcing strategies to achieve these goals — proposed solutions focus on one or the other, undermining their effectiveness.

Of course, addressing interconnected issues simultaneously carries its share of challenges. For one thing, no single person or group has enough knowledge or experience to solve all of the problems afflicting a complex system at once.

But a wider community — including governments, businesses, researchers, philosophers, faith communities, and even poets and artists — could devise and implement holistic strategies. Success will depend on participants’ willingness to cooperate and their commitment to put evidence before ideology.

Thus, the real challenge lies in marshalling such an inclusive community — something at which global leaders have not proved adept.


A second major challenge is that resources are limited, making it impossible to solve all of the world’s problems at once.

In this context, the ability to prioritise effectively is essential.

But, rather than emphasising one problem over another, the top priority should be building resilience into all global systems. Mechanisms aimed at solving a problem in one system should not be allowed to compromise another system’s resilience.

Another challenge will be to devise new metrics to replace GDP as the leading measure of human well-being. Even economist Simon Kuznets, the main architect of the concept of GDP, recognised that it does not account for many of the factors affecting human well-being; he argued that it should be used “only with some qualifications”.

In the Anthropocene, GDP must be part of an array of metrics for assessing economic, natural, and social capital — that is, the value of the goods and services produced, as well as the dignity of the ecosystems and social structures that underpin this output.

Navigating the Anthropocene effectively and ethically is perhaps the most daunting challenge that modern humans have faced. Overcoming it will require a smarter approach to strategic decision-making and a broader understanding of innovation. It is time for us to rise to the challenge. PROJECT SYNDICATE


Kevin J Noone is Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences and Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Applied Environmental Science at Stockholm University.

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Mass evacuation saves Indian lives as cyclone leaves trail of destruction

DaNita Bhalla and Sujoy Dhar PlanetArk 14 Oct 13;

A mass evacuation saved thousands of people from India's fiercest cyclone in 14 years, but aid workers warned a million would need help after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

Cyclone Phailin was expected to dissipate within 36 hours, losing momentum on Sunday as it headed inland after making landfall from the Bay of Bengal, bringing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) that ripped apart tens of thousands of thatched huts, mangled power lines and tore down trees.

Authorities in the eastern state of Odisha said the death toll stood at 15 people, all killed as the storm slammed in from the ocean. Most died under falling trees and one was crushed when the walls of her mud hut fell in.

The low number of casualties stands in contrast to the 10,000 killed by Odisha's last big cyclone in 1999.

The building of hundreds of shelters since, warnings which started five days before the storm and mass evacuations - often by force - minimized loss of life, aid officials said.

Almost a million people in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state and adjacent Andhra Pradesh spent the night in shelters, some after wading though surging rivers to higher ground. Others sought safety in schools or temples.

"The loss of life has been contained this time with early information and speedy action of government," said Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid India.

Indian media commentators were effusive in praise for the evacuation operation and for accurate forecasting by India's Met office. Before the storm, some foreign forecasters had warned that India was underestimating its strength.

Authorities cancelled the holidays of civil servants during the popular Hindu Dussehra festival, deployed disaster response teams with heavy equipment as well as helicopters and boats for rescue and relief operations.

Over the years, organizations like the Red Cross have mobilized thousands of volunteers across the cyclone-prone region, who are not only trained in basic first aid but also help with evacuations and relief distribution.

Drills are organized so people know what to do when an alert is issued, locking up their homes, leaving cattle in safe places and taking only a few clothes and important documents with them.

"The 1999 cyclone was a real wake-up call for India. It was at a time when economic growth was high and India was seen as developing rapidly. It was embarrassing to be seen to be not taking care of their people, even with all this development," said Unni Krishnan, head of disaster response for children's charity Plan International.

The death of at least 89 worshippers at a temple celebrating Dussehra in central India on Sunday was a reminder that disasters with many casualties remain common. In July floods and landslides killed nearly 6,000 people in India's Himalayan foothills.


Phailin left a trail of destruction along the coast, overturning cars and large trucks. Storm surges from the sea submerged farmland near the coast, while heavy rain flooded towns inland.

Along the highway through Ganjam district in Odisha, the countryside was ravaged. An electricity tower lay in a mangled heap, poles were dislodged, lines tangled and power was out in much of the state. In villages, cranes lifted trees off crushed houses.

A barber shop was tilted to one side. The students' common room at Berhampur University was a gaping hole, its facade knocked out by the cyclone.

"The wind was so strong I couldn't get out of here," Gandhi Behera, a cook in a nearby snack shop said.

The Indian Red Cross said its initial assessments showed that over 235,000 mud-and-thatch homes owned by poor fishing and farming communities had been destroyed in Ganjam district alone. It expects thousands of people to need help in coming days.

Plan International said it was concerned about the health and sanitation needs of close to a million people and the impact of the storm on people's livelihoods.

"They cannot stay in the shelters for long as they are overcrowded and sanitation issues will crop up with the spread of diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery, especially amongst young children," Mangla Mohanty, head of the Indian Red Cross in Odisha, said by phone from Ganjam district.

In some parts of the state, people were making their way through destroyed farmland toward their broken homes. Dozens crammed onto mini-trucks and others trudged with sacks of belongings. Mothers carried babies in their arms.

"There are no farms left. Everything has disappeared into the water," said S. Dillirao, a paddy farmer, as he stood on his inundated land.

Seawater had swept into his fields. "There's no way a single crop will grow here now," he said.

(Additional reporting by Nita Bhalla and Sujoy Dhar; writing by Sanjeev Miglani; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Andrew Roche)

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Global warming will increase intensity of El Nino, scientists say

Matt McGrath BBC News 14 Oct 13;

Environment correspondent, BBC NewsScientists say they are more certain than ever about the impact of global warming on a critical weather pattern.

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs in the Pacific Ocean but plays an important part in the world's climate system.

Researchers have until now been unsure as to how rising temperatures would affect ENSO in the future.

But this new study suggests that droughts and floods driven by ENSO will be more intense.

The El Nino part of the equation sees a warming of the eastern and tropical Pacific, while its cooler sister, La Nina, makes things chillier in these same regions.

Impacts across the world

Like water in a bathtub, the warmer or cooler waters slosh back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. They are responsible for rainfall patterns across Australia and the equatorial region, but their effects are also felt much further away.

During the Northern Hemisphere winter, for example, you can get more intense rainfall over the southern part of the US in a warmer El Nino phase.

For years, scientists have been concerned about how this sensitive weather system might be changed by rising temperatures from global warming.

Now, in this new paper, published in the journal Nature, researchers give their most "robust" projections yet.

Using the latest generation of climate models, they found a consistent projection for the future of ENSO.

According to the lead author, Dr Scott Power from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, global warming interferes with the way El Nino temperature patterns affect rainfall.

"This interference causes an intensification of El Nino-driven drying in the western Pacific and rainfall increases in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific," he said.

Models in agreement
According to Dr Wenju Cai, a scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who was not involved with the study, the paper is "significant".

"Up until now, there has been a lack of agreement among computer models as to how ENSO will change in the future," he explained.

"This paper is significant in that there is stronger agreement among different climate models in predicting the future impact.

"This study finds that both wet and dry anomalies will be greater in future El Nino years. This means that ENSO-induced droughts and floods will be more intense in the future."

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