Best of our wild blogs: 3 Jul 16

Butterfly of the Month - July 2016
Butterflies of Singapore

Back at Pulau Tekukor
wonderful creation

Night Walk At MacRitchie Reservoir
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Growing allure of green jobs

Audrey Tan The Straits Times 2 Jul 16;

Ms Gracie Low, 22, has a lofty dream: She wants to help save the earth. The National University of Singapore undergraduate, who enters the workforce next year, is on the lookout for jobs that will let her help companies cut waste, whether through education, technology, research or policy.

"There are so many opportunities out there," she says.

Waste management may strike some as dirty work but more young people are realising the value of such green jobs. Attitudes towards these jobs have in recent years undergone a sea change, says Mr Wilson Ang, executive director of charity Global Compact Network Singapore which promotes corporate sustainability.

Singaporeans used to think these jobs were to be found only in government agencies like the National Environment Agency or water agency PUB, or involved signing up with a conservation group and being paid a pittance. Now, though, more are becoming aware that "green jobs" in the sustainability sector can earn them a fair wage and provide them with a chance to do meaningful work that helps protect the environment.

Mr Ang says a turning point was the collapse of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, when nations failed to agree on terms to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In the lead-up to that summit, businesses and trade unions had come together to show that a low carbon future was viable, compatible with economic progress and would create jobs, says Mr Ang, who has been involved in the climate movement since 2005. "Because of the failure, the climate movement realised that action needed to start from the ground up - with or without governmental policies in place. This helped build awareness among people, especially the young, that every industry can be greened," he adds.

Last December's Paris Agreement to fight climate change has fanned those sparks of interest into flames. Mr Ken Hickson, chairman of Sustain Ability Showcase Asia consultancy, says: "With almost 200 countries agreeing to take active steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it gave companies the affirmation they needed that going green makes business sense." He believes Singapore is in a prime position to drive investment in this area, given its track record of economic transparency and good corporate governance.

Companies like wind energy firm The Blue Circle have set up their headquarters here to invest in clean energy projects in Vietnam and Thailand. Demand in this sector is set to grow with much of Asia now coming face to face with challenges that Singapore has long grappled with, including rapid urbanisation, waste management and congestion.

"These present numerous opportunities for Singapore-based companies to export smart and sustainable urban solutions as cities in Asia race to be more smart, sustainable and liveable," says Mr Goh Chee Kiong, the Economic Development Board's (EDB) executive director of cleantech and cities, infrastructure and industrial solutions.

EDB includes in the sustainability sector renewable energy, energy efficiency, water treatment, environmental engineering and green building technology. The sector is estimated to contribute $6.2 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product and provide about 60,000 jobs.

Mr Ang expects the number of jobs to grow as more people become aware of the need to protect the environment and use resources more efficiently. The youth wing of the National Trades Union Congress is now promoting green jobs. In April, Young NTUC organised a Green Jobs Symposium to raise awareness of the viability of careers in the green sector.

What do these winds of change mean for jobs in "un-green" industries, such as oil refining?

This is a period of transition, says Mr Ang, and that means "un-green" jobs will not be phased out immediately. Workers, he says, have a chance to upgrade their skills and technological know-how so they can meet the needs of the changing economy.

Audrey Tan

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Palm oil firms ditch 'no deforestation' pact in Indonesia

Reuters 2 Jul 16;

Major palm oil producers and traders, including Wilmar and Cargill ditched a "no deforestation" private agreement in Indonesia, saying the government's recent efforts to strengthen its certification standards were sufficient.

Indonesia, the world's biggest producer and exporter of palm oil, moved in April to prohibit the use of new land to boost production.

The country, home to the world's third-largest tropical forests, has been criticized by green activists and other Southeast Asian nations on forestry policy and for failing to stop the region's annual smoke "haze" problem from forest-burning.

The government's anti-monopoly agency said in April it would investigate suspected cartel practices among the signatories to the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge, a landmark 2014 pledge by several private companies to cut deforestation.

Indonesia saw the pact as in direct competition with the government's own standards and too difficult for smallholders to comply with. Smallholders account for about 40 percent of its palm output.

"IPOP signatories have decided that recent groundbreaking policy developments in Indonesia have fulfilled the purpose of IPOP to help accelerate and promote this transformation toward sustainability and therefore its presence can be dissolved," the companies said in a statement.

Other signatories include Golden Agri-Resources, Indonesia's Asian Agri, Kadin and Astra Agro Lestari, and Singapore-based Musim Mas.

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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3 Orangutans rescued from Indonesian forest fires released back into wild

Reuters 1 Jul 16;

Three orangutans rescued when forest fires destroyed their Indonesian rainforest habitats were returned to the wild on Borneo island last week.

Karmele Llano Sanche, International Animal Rescue program director in Indonesia, made a three-day journey by car, boat and through the forest to release the animals in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park.

"You know, it's amazing to see a big orangutan like that moving across the forest, this is home, home, back home," Sanche said.

Sabtu, 25, was saved in March 2015 from a village near the IAR sanctuary in Ketapang, West Kalimantan province, one of the areas most affected by the fires last year.

Butan and Marsela, both around seven and eight years old, were also rescued by IAR when their home was destroyed by fires.

Deforestation and land clearing for pulp paper and palm oil plantations has depleted the habitat of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. Fires are often set by companies to clear the land.

Orangutans, which means "person of the forest" in Malay, are endangered animals. There are only about 60,000 left in the wild, down from around 230,000 a century ago.

(Reporting by Reuters Television, Editing by Karishma Singh)

3 orangutans returned to natural habitat in W. Kalimantan
Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 3 Jul 16;

An orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, has released three orangutans into their natural habitat at the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which is part of the Heart of Borneo, a conservation area located on the border of West and Central Kalimantan.

Conservation group Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia (YIARI) program director Karmele Llano Sanchez said she could not imagine that there would still be a bright future for orangutan populations in Indonesia if their natural habitat continued to disappear at a rapid pace.

“Orangutans are threatened with forest clearing, land burning, wildlife hunting and the illegal pet trade. Only if people are more concerned about orangutans, will they be safe, although it’s a bit too late now,” said Karmele.

The YIARI release orangutans into their natural habitats in stages. On June 28, Sabtu, an adult orangutan aged around 25 years, was released into its indigenous habitat. Sabtu was rescued from a plantation belonging to local people in Ketapang regency, in March. It was thought the orangutan fled to the human settlement following the burning in its habitat. On June 29, YIARI released two orangutans, namely Butan and Marsela, it had been rehabilitating since 2011 and 2012 respectively. The orangutans were rescued when they were around 2-3 years old. They were pushed out by the massive expansion of oil palm plantations in Ketapang.

“In their habitat, baby orangutans live with their mothers from when they are born until they are around 7-8 years old. If a baby orangutan is found alone, rest assured his or her mother has died,” YIARI program manager Gail Campbell-Smith said.

After the release, a YIARI monitoring team, supported by local people from villages near the national park, will still follow the orangutans using a radio-tracking facility for one or two years. They will record the orangutans’ activities and behavior, making sure that they can survive.

The YIARI is currently rehabilitating 100 orangutans and it is feared the number will continue to increase along with rapid habitat losses caused by ongoing forest clearing for plantation expansion. (ebf)

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Thick, Putrid Algae Bloom Overwhelms Miles Of Florida Coastline

NPR 2 Jul 16;

A massive bloom of blue-green algae has hit four southern Florida counties, blanketing beaches in foul-smelling muck and raising health and environmental concerns.

The green goo along Florida's "Treasure Coast" prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie counties earlier this week, and he later added Lee and Palm Beach counties. Scott "blamed the federal government for neglecting repairs to the lake's aging dike that's considered one of the country's most at-risk for imminent failure," as The Associated Press reported.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic colleague Bill Nelson both visited the impacted areas earlier this week and expressed alarm.

The bloom is caused by discharge from the polluted Lake Okeechobee, some 35 miles away. The New York Times explains:

"An aging dike system forces the Army Corps of Engineers to release controlled discharges through channel locks east and west from the lake to protect nearby towns from flooding. However, those discharges, which carry pollutants from agricultural lands that flow into the lake from the north, pour into rivers and lagoons downstream, which eventually dump into the ocean."
But when there's "too much polluted discharge," the Times reports, "the blend of fresh and salt water creates giant phosphorescent plumes of algae, making the water unsafe for human and aquatic life alike."

On Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would reduce the flow from Lake Okeechobee "beginning this weekend." In a statement, the Corps' Jacksonville District Commander Col. Jason Kirk makes the argument that they're in a difficult position. This year, he said, "our water managers have dealt with such large quantities of rain and runoff entering the lake that it would cover the entire state of Delaware." However, they felt "compelled to take action" after seeing the algae firsthand.

The Corps says it is managing a delicate balance, as spokesman John Campbell tells the Times: "We're constantly having to balance the potential of an environmental impact from releasing water against the very real public safety hazard of containing the water and the hazard that poses by putting pressure on the dike itself."

You can see the green ribbons of algae snaking along the shoreline and around docks and boats in this helicopter video released by Martin County:

The Times describes local residents in St. Lucie staying indoors because of the noxious odor or leaving the area altogether to stay with friends.

Other local residents are staging protests. According to the Martin County Sheriff, thousands gathered Saturday with a straightforward message: "Buy the Land"

They want to see Florida's Legislature purchase "land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage," using "money approved by state voters for environmental projects," as the AP reported. According to member station WQCS, "There was an agreement in the works when former Gov. Charlie Christ left office in 2011," which fell through.

As WQCS reports, it's not just the smell that people are worried about. An emotionally-charged emergency community meeting on the issue packed the hall "beyond capacity at 9 a.m. on a work day with people who wanted their voices heard."

Many of these residents are worried about the health impacts of the algae and some complained of itchy eyes and respiratory problems. Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla told them,

"We all know there's a health risk. But unless there are a half a dozen of you willing to fall in and die, somebody's going to be saying a year from now that you were hysterical, that there's no serious problem. I think, for those of you who have read the information on toxins that come from these algaes, it is an emergency. But we're going to need the EPA, we're going to need the CDC, we're going to need all the resources of the state of Florida, and we're going to need them to work together."
The Florida Department of Health said that at high levels, this type of algae can "affect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system, and skin." It said people should avoid contact with the bloom, and adds that "children and pets are especially vulnerable.

Conservation groups are also raising concerns about the impact of the blooms on local marine life. This widely-shared video shows a manatee surfacing above the slime and getting hosed off by a local family.

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