Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

(Live Kryon Channelings was given 7 times within the United Nations building.)

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“… 4 - Energy (again)

The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!

Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much….”

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear > 20 Min)

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change
In a bid to combat climate change, US President Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan on Monday, marking the first time power plants have been targeted by mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
Google: Earthday 2013

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Back to nature' cuts flood risks

By Mark Kinver, Science and environment reporter, BBC News|

The annual cost of flooding is rising
in the US, the study says

Reconnecting flood-plains to rivers will help reduce the risk of future flooding, suggest US scientists.

A study by US researchers said allowing these areas to be submerged during storms would reduce the risk of flood damage in nearby urban areas.

Pressure to build new homes has led to many flood-prone areas being developed.

Writing in Science, they said the risks of flooding were likely to increase in the future as a result of climate change and shifts in land use.

"We are advocating very large-scale shifts in land use, "said co-author Jeffrey Opperman, a member of The Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Team.

"There is simply no way economically or politically that this could be accomplished by turning large areas of flood-plains into parks," he told the Science podcast.

"What we are proposing in this paper is a way that this strategy can be compatible, and even supportive, with vibrant agricultural economies and private land ownership."

The Nature Conservancy

For example, the authors explained, the flood season and growing season in California did not occur at the same time.

This meant that allowing the land to be submerged by floodwater would not result in a permanent loss of farmland or crops being destroyed.

In their paper, they said that man-made flood management systems, such as levees, also had an ecological impact.

"Control infrastructure prevents high flows from entering flood-plains, thus diminishing both natural flood storage capacity and the processes that sustain healthy riverside forests and wetlands," they observed.

"As a result, flood-plains are among the planet's most threatened ecosystems."

'Ecosystem services'

The reconnection programmes would deliver three benefits, they added:

  • Reduce the risk of flooding
  • Increase in flood-plain goods and services
  • Greater resilience to potential climate change impacts

In other parts of the world, Dr Opperman said that there was a range of agricultural strategies for private landowners that would be compatible with allowing areas to be flooded.

"There are emerging markets for ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and nutrient sequestration," he explained.

"These are services that flood-plains do provide, so with various climate policies there will be a price for carbon."

The researchers cited the Yolo By-pass, in California, US, in their paper as a successful demonstration of the idea they were advocating.

The scheme absorbed 80% of floodwater during heavy storms, they said, protecting the nearby city of Sacramento.

"During a March 1986 flood, the by-pass conveyed [about] 12.5bn cubic metres of water, more than three times the total flood-control storage volume in all Sacramento basin reservoirs.

"Without the by-pass flood-plain, California would need to build massive additional flood-control infrastructure," they observed.

The Yolo by-pass was created back in the 1930s, when a 24,000 hectare flood-plain was reconnected to the Sacramento River.

The scheme was introduced when it became apparent that a "levees only" approach would not offer the required flood protection.

"It's connected in an engineered way, which mean that when the river reaches a certain volume it flows over a weir and enters the flood-plain," Dr Opperman explained.

He added that the scheme also had numerous additional ecological benefits: "In recent decades, people began to notice that this area was a phenomenal habitat for birds.

"In the past 10 years, people recognised that native fish were moving from the river on to the flood-plain, and deriving all of the benefits that fish get from natural flood-plains.

"It was an excellent place for fish to spawn, and for juvenile fish to be reared."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

China defends Wen Jiabao's role in Copenhagen talks

Reuters, Beijng, Fri Dec 25, 2009 2:44am EST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday defended the role played by premier Wen Jiabao at climate change talks in Copenhagen this month after a barrage of international criticism blaming China for obstructing negotiations.

The Copenhagen meeting ended with a broad political agreement but left specifics to be ironed out in 2010, angering many of the poorest nations as well as Western groups who had hoped for a more ambitious commitment.

China insisted that firm targets agreed to by European nations not be included in the final deal, and Wen himself was absent from a final round of direct negotiations between national leaders. British climate minister Ed Miliband said China and its allies had "hijacked" talks, according to the Guardian newspaper.

In a long account of the Copenhagen meeting, Xinhua gave Wen credit for "the last minute attempt to exchange ideas and reach consensus" despite his belief that it was "impossible" to reach a legally binding agreement.

"China showed the greatest sincerity, tried its best and played a constructive role," Xinhua said.

Issues of verification of emissions cut pledges plagued the meeting, with rich nations saying China's efforts to slow greenhouse gas growth should be subject to international verification to ensure that Beijing is keeping its word. China has said such checks would violate its sovereignty.

"On the transparency issue in self-mitigation actions, Wen said China was willing to conduct talks and cooperation," Xinhua said.

China has made its own pledges to reduce carbon intensity, or the amount of emissions produced per unit of GDP, but blocked European countries from including their commitment to cut absolute emissions by 80 percent by 2050, as well as commitments to specific dates when emissions would peak.

Other Reuters sources had also said China blocked the inclusion of specific targets.

Xinhua acknowledged Wen's absence from the late night meetings on Dec 17, saying that Wen had not been informed, and had learned the Chinese delegation was included in the meeting list from another, unidentified foreign leader.

"Premier Wen felt quite astonished and was vigilant," Xinhua said, adding that China sent a vice foreign minister instead.

The U.S. administration has played up President Barack Obama's role in breaking through a deadlock by arriving unannounced at a meeting of the heads of China, Brazil, India and South Africa, all powerful developing countries concerned that emissions concessions could impede growth.

Xinhua said that meeting -- which occurred as the U.S. sought a meeting with China and was rebuffed from meeting the others -- represented Wen's efforts to reach consensus before bringing a final deal to the Western nations and poorest developing nations.

(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by David Fox)

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China vows unswerving efforts to promote climate talks

A backlash builds up against China

Eyewitness: How China sabotaged climate talks

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Islam-inspired green initiatives deserve Western support

The West should co-opt Islam in the fight for a better environment, says Evert Faber van der Meulen

NRC International, by Evert Faber van der Meulen, 22 December 2009 16:54, Opinion

A Danish imam reads the Koran in his mosque. (Photo AP)

Despite the disappointing agreement reached at the climate conference in Copenhagen, the US seems to have joined the EU in its commitment to binding carbon dioxide reduction schemes. This guarantees climate change will remain at the top of the agenda in the Western world in the coming years.

In the Islamic world, however, this is not the case. Hardly any country has put climate change on the agenda at all. This is made all the more tragic because Islamic countries will face the brunt of a changing climate. Desertification is a major threat in North Africa and the Middle East, and rising sea levels are expected to have dire consequences for the worlds’ poor in countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The 1.2 billion Muslims of this world currently produce a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Islamic countries are roughly responsible for ten percent of global carbon dioxide output, whilst 300 million US citizens alone produce more than 20 percent. But over the last ten years both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have risen by 4.5 percent annually in the Islamic world.

It is only a matter of time before the carbon dioxide output of Islamic countries will become a major problem, and the sooner these countries can be involved in global climate policy, the better.

One of the lessons learnt from the Western world is that it took time before climate change moved from the scientific to the political agenda. Individuals and NGOs played an important part in this process by bringing the existing scientific evidence to the fore. But what to do in countries where freedom of speech is limited and Western-style NGOs don’t exist?

We can look to the grassroots organisation that is able to reach the population at large in these countries: Islam. Born in the deserts of Arabia, where means of livelihood were scarce, early Islam already pleaded for modesty and humility, especially at a material level. Moreover, Islam sees humanity as the pinnacle of creation and therefore charged with the responsibility to safeguard this world.

Islam and the climate movement also have something in common, the colour green. Green is the colour of the prophet and represents paradise, because the desert people of early Islam imagined paradise to be a fertile green oasis.

Islamic ‘green’ initiatives are rare. Many Muslim countries are poor, and one cannot really blame the population that climate change is not its first priority. Of course, oil and gas are mostly found in Islamic countries, which gives them a vested interest in the non-sustainable energy mix. But equally important is that Islamic countries see climate policy as simply the next initiative produced by a Western neo-colonial mentality.

In the short term the West can do two relatively simple things. First, it should support the global Islamic initiatives that are taking place. For instance, in July of this year, the Muslim Association for Climate Change (MACCA) was founded by a number of influential Muslims, including several influential Islamic spiritual leaders. Western governments and NGOs could work together with such an organisation and supply funding and knowledge for concrete initiatives. A first initiative could involve supplying green power to all mosques worldwide, for instance.

Secondly, our own European Muslim minority could fulfil an important role as mediator between the West and the Islamic world. Especially in the UK, a number of Islamic organisations is already trying to enhance ecological awareness amongst Muslims in their own country and abroad.

As an example we can look at the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES). One of their most interesting projects involved the introduction of sustainable fishing methods in Zanzibar. During the 1990s, the World Wildlife Foundation had started a campaign in order to discourage local fishermen from using dynamite as their preferred method of fishing. The situation started to improve only when IFEES was asked for help in 2000. Via an Islamic educational program IFEES explained to the local populace that this fishing method was against Islamic values. As a result the population has now declared the area to be a ‘Hima’ (an Islamic reservation).

Finally, there is another reason why Islam should be involved in the debate on climate change. Generally western politicians and NGOs have terse discussions with Islamic countries on topics such as democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. Islamic leaders often interpret these discussions as veiled attempts to undermine Islamic values. However, the challenge posed by climate change is a global problem that affects both Islam and the West equally. In that sense climate change is not only a major problem, but also a golden opportunity to show that the world does have to sink into a ‘clash of civilisations’.

Evert Faber van der Meulen reads Islamic Studies and History (M.Phil) at Oxford University

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

White Christmas? It's green Christmas this year: Minister

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 12/22/2009 9:12 PM

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will distribute coconut tree and rain tree seedlings during the national Christmas celebration at the Jakarta Convention Center on Dec. 27 in a bid to encourage Christians to actively protect the environment.

Chairman of the event's organizing committee E.E. Mangindaan said Tuesday environment conservation would be the theme of the celebration.

“Green will be the dominant color of the stage decoration. It will be a green Christmas, not a white Christmas,” Mangindaan, who is the administrative reforms minister, was quoted by Antara.

The celebration comes on the heels of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen last week, in which Yudhoyono was among 110 world leaders in attendance.

First lady Ani Yudhoyono, Vice President Boediono and his wife Herawati Boediono, Cabinet ministers and other state officials are scheduled to join 6,000 people from across the country who will attend the celebration.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

World’s Largest Solar Energy Office Building Opens in China

Inhabitat, by Yuka Yoneda, 12/14/09

A vast fan-shaped compound in China has officially taken the title of “largest solar-powered office building in the world“. Located in Dezhou in the Shangdong Province in northwest China, the 75,000 square meter structure is a multi-use building and features exhibition centers, scientific research facilities, meeting and training facilities, and a hotel – all of which run on solar power.

The design of the new building is based on the sun dial and “underlines the urgency of seeking renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels.” Aside from the obvious sustainable nature of the solar panel – clad exterior, other green features include advanced roof and wall insulation practices resulting in an energy savings of 30% more than the national standard. In addition, the external structure of the building used a mere 1% of the amount of steel used to construct the Bird’s Nest.

The solar-powered building will be the main venue for the 4th World Solar City Congress.

Negotiators at UN Climate Change Conference 2009-12-19

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (1st, R) talks with Yvo de Boer (2nd, L),
Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark,
on Dec. 19, 2009. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Protecting the World's From Vision to Action

Climate change puts the health of the world's oceans at stark risk, but a global consensus has yet to be reached on which paths will lead to a solution. Every indecisive moment is a lost opportunity to bequeath a better world to future generations.

Speakers at the World Ocean Conference 2009, the first large-scale international event to bring together both ocean and climate change stakeholders and specialists, highlighted that oceans themselves play a key role in transforming the world's geography as temperature rise and that rising sea levels will have an impact on small-island developing states.

Governments, their development partners, nongovernment organizations, and the private sector must move quickly to adapt to or mitigate the impacts of climate change, speakers said. They must also, for the benefit of humanity, agree on ways to use marine resources sustainably.

Country delegates at the conference adopted the Manado Ocean Declaration, which recognizes that oceans play a crucial role in the global climate system and in moderating its weather systems, and that the oceanographic processes that result from this interaction will affect the rate of climate change.

This conference report goes beyond simply listing the proceedings and instead highlights key issues raised and solutions put forward by some of the more than 3,000 researchers, scientists, educators, and ocean experts from 74 countries who attended.

The report on the talks, held in Manado, Indonesia, is an important part of official preparations for the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of the Parties, to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

E-mail or fax the Publications Unit at + 632 636 2648 to order copies of this document. Applicable shipping cost will be charged.

Books, Periodicals, Studies, and Reports
ISBN: 978-971-561-867-0
Publication Date: May 2009
In stock

Related Article:

Protecting the World's From Vision to Action (PDF)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gain from the wind - helping build China's windmills

Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 14 December 2009 - 4:34pm | By Sigrid Deters

China has the dubious honours of being both the world's biggest polluter and the largest investor in green technology. It's a country that was, therefore, bound to be much in the spotlight at the climate conference in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, many Dutch companies have been hoping and trying to, and - in some cases - succeeding in, benefiting from China's green ambitions. Take the windmill company EWT. Together with its Chinese partner, EWT is building a windmill park on one of the steppes in Inner Mongolia.

Wind energy is experiencing explosive growth in China. In the last six years alone capacity has doubled each year and is forecast to go on doing so in the years to come. Windmill manufacturers all over the world have been trying to gain a foothold in this growth market. EWT is one of them. It's created a joint venture with CALT, a state-owned Chinese company which started out in the defence industry, but now wants to conquer the wind-energy market.

Together, these two companies are now building their first windmill park on one of Inner Mongolia's steppes. The total number of windmills is 55, all of them being built at the joint venture's own factory just 50 kilometres from their final location. EWT's man in Asia, Peter Pronk, expects the windmills will actually start to produce energy as soon as January 2010.

But the wind energy industry in China is not without risk. Firstly, government agencies are having trouble getting the country's electricity grid to grow as fast as the windmill parks. This is why some parks have ended up being completed, but are not connected to the electricity networks. On top of this, the market is an incredibly competitive one. Chinese businesses are growing fast and are able to produce at much cheaper rates than competitors from the West. So, although EWT-CALT have been able to collaborate most successfully so far, the question remains as to whether Dutch know-how in this field will also remain in demand in the future.

Octopus snatches coconut and runs

BBC News, by Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter

Octopus snatches coconut and runs

An octopus and its coconut-carrying antics have surprised scientists.

Underwater footage reveals that the creatures scoop up halved coconut shells before scampering away with them so they can later use them as shelters.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, the team says it is the first example of tool use in octopuses.

One of the researchers, Dr Julian Finn from Australia's Museum Victoria, told BBC News: "I almost drowned laughing when I saw this the first time."

He added: "I could tell it was going to do something, but I didn't expect this - I didn't expect it would pick up the shell and run away with it."

Quick getaway

The veined octopuses (Amphioctopus marginatus) were filmed between 1999 and 2008 off the coasts of Northern Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia. The bizarre behaviour was spotted on four occasions.

The eight-armed beasts used halved coconuts that had been discarded by humans and had eventually settled in the ocean.

Dr Mark Norman, head of science at Museum Victoria, Melbourne, and one of the authors of the paper, said: "It is amazing watching them excavate one of these shells. They probe their arms down to loosen the mud, then they rotate them out."

After turning the shells so the open side faces upwards, the octopuses blow jets of mud out of the bowl before extending their arms around the shell - or if they have two halves, stacking them first, one inside the other - before stiffening their legs and tip-toeing away.

Dr Norman said: "I think it is amazing that those arms of pure muscle get turned into rigid rods so that they can run along a bit like a high-speed spider.

"It comes down to amazing dexterity and co-ordination of eight arms and several hundred suckers."

Home, sweet home

The octopuses were filmed moving up to 20m with the shells.

And their awkward gait, which the scientists describe as "stilt-walking", is surprisingly speedy, possibly because the creatures are left vulnerable to attack from predators while they scuttle away with their prized coconuts.

The octopuses eventually use the shells as a protective shelter. If they just have one half, they simply turn it over and hide underneath. But if they are lucky enough to have retrieved two halves, they assemble them back into the original closed coconut form and sneak inside.

The shells provide important protection for the octopuses in a patch of seabed where there are few places to hide.

Dr Norman explained: "This is an incredibly dangerous habitat for these animals - soft sediment and mud couldn't be worse.

"If they are buried loose in mud without a shell, any predator coming along can just scoop them up. And they are pure rump steak, a terrific meat supply for any predator."

The researchers think that the creatures would initially have used large bivalve shells as their haven, but later swapped to coconuts after our insatiable appetite for them meant their discarded shells became a regular feature on the sea bed.

Surprisingly smart

Tool use was once thought to be an exclusively human skill, but this behaviour has now been observed in a growing list of primates, mammals and birds.

The researchers say their study suggests that these coconut-grabbing octopuses should now be added to these ranks.

Professor Tom Tregenza, an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Exeter, UK, and another author of the paper, said: "A tool is something an animal carries around and then uses on a particular occasion for a particular purpose.

"While the octopus carries the coconut around there is no use to it - no more use than an umbrella is to you when you have it folded up and you are carrying it about. The umbrella only becomes useful when you lift it above your head and open it up.

"And just in the same way, the coconut becomes useful to this octopus when it stops and turns it the other way up and climbs inside it."

He added that octopuses already have a reputation for being an intelligent invertebrate.

He explained: "They've been shown to be able to solve simple puzzles, there is the mimic octopus, which has a range of different species that it can mimic, and now there is this tool use.

"They do things which, normally, you'd only expect vertebrates to do."

Related Article:

Octopus snatches coconut and runs (Video)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mystery Volcano May Have Triggered Mini Ice Age

NPR, December 12, 2009

Researchers suspect the mystery volcano may have been somewhere near the equator.

Global warming may be making some people nervous now, but from 1810 to 1819, people worried because the Earth was colder than usual.

For an entire decade, the Earth cooled almost a full degree Fahrenheit. In fact, 1816 was known as the year without a summer. And until recently, scientists weren't quite sure why everyone was shivering.

The chill of 1816 has long been blamed on an Indonesian volcano called Tambora, which erupted the year before. But no one could figure out why the years before Tambora's eruption were also colder than usual.

Now, newly uncovered evidence in the ice of Antarctica and Greenland suggests that yet another volcanic eruption may have contributed to the worldwide dip in temperatures.

Jihong Cole-Dai, a chemistry professor at South Dakota State University, led the expeditions to Antarctica and Greenland. He tells NPR's Guy Raz that volcanoes dump large quantities of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. That material acts almost like a giant window shade, reflecting sunlight and lowering temperatures on the ground for years afterward.

But Cole-Dai says one eruption isn't enough to chill an entire decade. He knew something else had to have been going on. And he found evidence — layers of sulfur — in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica that showed another volcano had erupted some time in 1809, kicking off a sort of mini ice age.

Cole-Dai says his research team isn't sure exactly where the mystery volcano is, but they suspect that it was somewhere far from the Earth's poles — near the equator — and that it had to be large enough to blanket the planet in ash.

It's tempting to conclude that shooting a load of sulfur into the air might combat global warming. Not so fast, Cole-Dai says. It might be possible, but not ideal: The sulfur would linger in the atmosphere for a few years, cooling the Earth. But then it would come down again — as acid rain.

Related Articles:

Mount Tambora

Volcano Krakatau

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Willie Smits: Hanging around with orangutans

Chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute Amory Lovins says there isn’t enough natural habitat left for endangered Willie Smits is building his own rainforest.

Ode Magazine, Max Christern | Jan/Feb 2009 issue

Willie Smits, Nature conservationist. Borneo, Indonesia
Photo: Jay Ullal, Thinkers of the Jungle

It’s quiet in the forests of Southeast Asia, says Willie Smits. Too quiet. “These days, if you walk through the rainforests of Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos, you hardly hear a sound,” he says. No tropical birds, no mating calls from gibbons, no chirping, no growling. Smits has a ready explanation: “In all those countries, animals have been driven from their natural habitats in droves. Everything is pretty much gone, smuggled out of the forest and sold by traders, particularly to the wealthy Chinese. These are becoming the quietest forests in the world. The only place you still see and hear animals is Indonesia.”

Indonesia, the elongated archipelago in South Asia, has become a second home to the Dutchman Willie Smits. But there, too, the animals are being chased away in ever-greater numbers due to illegal deforestation. In recent years, he has seen it happen in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, where he has lived and worked as a forester, microbiologist and conservationist for three decades.

“The illegal deforestation and animal-smuggling activities have gotten worse here since President Suharto left,” Smits says. “Under his leadership there was still a monitoring system, but that has really fallen by the wayside.” He adds, however, that illegal deforestation and animal smuggling aren’t the only reasons for the accelerated deterioration. Climate change plays a major role. “The forest is confused. There is no longer any common flowering rhythm, and if we don’t do anything about it, the forests will slowly die out.” Smits has a plan to prevent that: Build his own rainforest, and in the process provide a home for his favorite primate, Borneo’s endangered orangutan.

Smits is back in his native Netherlands for a couple of days and is meeting with principals of the Rotterdam-based company Spie Controlec Engineering, which provides engineering, installation and maintenance services to a broad range of industries. The décor doesn’t fit with Smits’ adventurous life in the rainforest. We’re sitting in the cafeteria of the firm, just off one of the city’s beltways, eating cheese and sausage wrapped in plastic and drinking coffee from a machine. But Smits doesn’t seem at all bothered by his surroundings. As he tucks into a cup of split pea soup and an ox tongue sandwich, he explains his work clearly and with enthusiasm.

His latest project involving sugar palms is the primary focus. Together with engineers from Spie, he’s putting the finishing touches on a new invention: the Green Village Box, a shipping-container-sized factory in which yeast is added to the sugary sap from the palms and converted to ethanol. The colorless liquid is distilled and separated into its pure version, which fuels a generator to create electricity and heat as well as drinking water. It’s a true Willie Smits invention: original, natural, replete with crucial economic prospects for the local population. These locals use the ethanol as fuel, instead of wood or coal, ensuring no more trees need to be felled. Smits, 51, is a kind of rainforest inventor; so far, he has come up with 30 of his own inventions. But if you have to choose just one description of Smits, it would be the world’s most prominent protector of orangutans and their natural habitat.

When Smits got his degree at the agricultural university in Wageningen, he wanted to go somewhere no one had ever been. “I don’t like the dull and the routine,” he says, “so I wasn’t too excited about taking a job in Holland.” Consequently in 1980, Smits ended up in the middle of the Borneo rainforest. He met his wife there—an Indonesian woman who has played a pivotal role in his work. “She familiarized me with the Indonesian political scene and, thanks to her, I understand its structure and culture, which has been a tremendous help.”

As a young forestry engineer, Smits set up a gene bank for indigenous trees and did groundbreaking research into fungi that he calls “the key to the regeneration of the tropical rainforest.” He taught farmers to get more out of their land. And he lost his heart to the orangutans after finding one in a garbage dump. He took care of the primate and later rescued others from bars, nightclubs and tourist attractions, where they were used for entertainment. When Smits felt they were ready to return to their natural habitat, he ran into another problem: There wasn’t enough forest for the apes—and even if there had been, the animals were at risk from illegal wood poachers.

“That’s where I got the idea I’m still working on,” Smits says, “creating a forest just for the monkeys.” And that idea expanded into a unique project whereby Smits, in his words, “imitated nature.” For his forest, Smits sought a place no one would mistake for being in perfect shape. Instead, he wanted people to say, No one in his right mind would tackle this. He shows a slide of the landscape as it had appeared six years earlier: The ground is yellow and brown from fires that raged there each year; trees are scarce. Indeed, no sane person would start an ambitious forest project here. But Smits did.

The area spans 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) and has been developed one step at a time in recent years, with the help of the local population. If you look at Smits’ slides in chronological order, you see a miracle unfolding. The last photo in the series was taken earlier this year and shows a large green area with high trees as far as the eye can see. “I’ve planted over a thousand different types of trees here,” Smits explains. “The soil was a kind of ashy dirt because the grass that grew here couldn’t retain any water and the trees had been felled in massive numbers.” He used his fungi to break down the recalcitrant alang-alang grass and his gene bank to build up a new forest. Along the edges of the parcels, he planted rows of sugar palms, Smits’ magic tree. He now knows a sugar palm will only grow in forests with a wide diversity of trees. And collecting the sap from the tree is labor-intensive and difficult. But the locals have known the most effective ways to handle these problems for centuries. The rows of sugar palms also keep the fires away and so protect the rest of the forest.

Smits had the trees planted in long rows, with smaller plants and vegetation in between. The local population was closely involved from the beginning, and residents understand how they’ll benefit from this human-made patch of rainforest. It’ll mean a large future harvest of ethanol and an important source of energy. Given that, their economic future looks brighter, which is why they’re protecting the forest from illegal logging.

“We also have the technology to monitor whether trees are being cut down,” Smits explains as he shows photographs of the satellite systems and cameras he and his team use to track everything right down to the ground. “But the best protection of the forest ultimately lies with the people who live and work here. And the fact that they now see and feel that there is a bright future keeps the thieves away.”

More than 100 types of birds have made their homes in the forest. And they all bring in new seeds, so the number of plant varieties grows quickly. The forest is already large enough to create its own clouds. It rains more often above this area compared to adjacent stretches of unworked rainforest. “There is already 25 percent more rainfall. We’ve created our own microclimate,” Smits says.

In the near future, the first of his primates will be released here, making the original dream a reality. Nearly every day people express excitement about the successful development of the forest. “It is progressing so well,” Smits says. “All the threads are coming together. It’s working.”

On one of the hills in the forest, he built a beautiful eco-lodge together with the locals where tourists can experience what’s been created. Smits says they can’t believe their eyes.

His telephone chirps. In fluent Bahasa Indonesia, he speaks briefly with one of his co-workers on the land back on Borneo. He’s part of a big family there, he explains. Because of the forest, of course, but also thanks to the band, which plays rock as well as traditional Indonesian Dangdut music. “The band is one big family and all things family are good in Indonesia. We play at every party there and we always do it for free. They love that and it’s another way to get all the locals involved in the project. To make sure that this will never be a quiet forest!”

“Willie Smits is the world’s leading protector of orangutans and their habitat. Willie and his Indonesian team of hundreds have re-created a lush rainforest of several thousand hectares (some 8,000 acres) from parched and devastated grasslands. Soon this healthy forest, created one square meter at a time, will be ready for the rehabilitated orangutans, the original keystone species. The ecosystem is beautifully and comprehensively integrated with the local economy, making the people so much better off. This may be the finest example of ecological and economic restoration in the tropics.” -Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which advocates energy-efficient resource use and policy development

“Willie Smits is the world's leading protector of orangutans and their habitat. Willie and his Indonesian team of hundreds have re-created a lush rainforst of several thousand hetacres (some 8,000 acres) from parched and devastated grasslands. Soon this healthy forest, created one square meter at a time, will be ready for the rehabilitated orangutans, the original keystone species. The ecosystem is beautifully and comprehensively integrated with the local economy, making the people so much better off. This may be the finest example of ecological and economic restoration in the tropics.”

— AMORY LOVINS, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which advocates energy-efficient resource use and policy development

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