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, January 27, 2009

Green fuel

The Jakarta Post, The Associated Press  |  Tue, 01/27/2009 12:00 PM 


 Workers sit on the wing and load biofuel for No. 3 engine of the Japan Airlines Boeing 747-300 as they prepare a demonstration flight powered by a sustainable biofuel at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Tuesday. Using a blend of 50% biofuel and 50% traditional Jet-A jet (kerosene) fuel, JAL conducted an hour-long demonstration flight Friday. 

The biofuel component to be used will be a mixture of three second-generation biofuel feedstocks: camelina (84%), jatropha (under 16%) and algae (under 1%). (AP/Katsumi Kasahara)

Top US biz strategist talks `change or die'

Edith A. Johnson, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 01/27/2009

"What exactly is the crisis?" How can we - the bigger we, the post-Obama swearing -in united we - determine the real root causes of the world's current crisis and harness our forces to find a better balance? 

American professor Peter Senge has been having conversations with forward-thinking business scions for the past 20 years. He has sat at the table when business leaders, even competitors like Coca Cola and Nestle, collaborated to rethink their basic approach to how their businesses affect planetary elemental concerns like breathable air, drinkable water, and renewable energy. 

"Money for a business is like oxygen for a person. You need it to live. But it's not the reason you live." 

United in Diversity, a well-connected NGO chaired by Sinar Harapan's Aristides Katoppo, sponsored Senge to help their crop of young minds, fellows in their IDEAS Indonesia program, think new thoughts about business, government, and third sector collaborations. 

The IDEAS fellows are themselves drawn from, the private sector, the NGO world and public service. With backing from MIT's Sloan School of Management and UID, some of the brightest are already forging relationships between these worlds early in their careers. 

One participant asked, "Indonesia's private sector does not work that way - it's all about chasing the money. Businesses vie with governments, and the public vies with both. Here it's all about survival." 

Senge responded with an example of an already done deal, EU product lifetime legislation. The EU negotiated for eight long years with European carmakers to craft revolutionary legislation. The gist? "If I make it, it's mine forever." Now, when Renault makes a car or Siemens makes a washing machine, they know they must take it back - they own their waste. 

And it's not only the Europeans who are going down this path. 

"The Chinese know they are in trouble with their use of coal to keep their industrialization process going. They are starting already to retool. They are talking about a circular economy, in which nature and industry feed off each other." 

The biggest businesses already know they are the most quickly affected by threats to the environment. Unilever collaborated with the WWF to form the Marine Stewardship Council, given the 48 percent depletion of fish stocks in our oceans. Unilever's conclusion was, "No fish, no fish sticks."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama acts to reverse Bush climate moves: officials

By Jeff Mason, Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:40am EST 


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will start reversing former President George W. Bush's climate change policies on Monday with steps to raise fuel efficiency standards and grant states authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars.


An administration official said late on Sunday that Obama, who took office last week, would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider a request by California to impose its own strict limits on automobile carbon dioxide emissions.


The request was denied under the Bush administration, prompting California and several other states to sue. The official said a final decision by the EPA would likely take several months.


Another official familiar with the policy shift said Obama would instruct the EPA to approve the waiver allowing California to impose the rules. The state asked the new administration last week to reconsider its request.


If the EPA reverses the previous ruling, more than 12 U.S. states could proceed with plans to impose strict carbon dioxide limits.


California wants to reduce the emissions by 30 percent by 2016 -- the most ambitious federal or state effort to address global warming.


Ailing carmakers, which have accelerated efforts to build more environmentally friendly vehicles, have fought the California statute, but braced for a policy reversal once Obama won the November 4 election.


Obama promised on the campaign trail to take aggressive action to fight global warming and reduce emissions blamed for heating the earth. He is scheduled to deliver remarks on jobs, energy independence and climate change in the East Room of the White House on Monday.




The White House official said Obama would also direct the Department of Transportation to move forward with setting 2011 vehicle fuel efficiency standards by March.


The president's memorandum would instruct the agency to reconsider how such standards are set for later years in a separate process, he said.


The Bush administration sought to finish the fuel efficiency regulation by December, but took no action due to the uncertain financial prospects of U.S. automakers.


Automakers, including big foreign manufacturers, have opposed the California waiver on grounds that approving it would create a confusing patchwork of state rules based on tailpipe emissions.


The California statute was intended to take effect for 2009 model year vehicles already in showrooms, while the federal government, according to Obama's order, will have its own new efficiency rules in place by March for cars made between 2011-2015. The federal standards are considered weaker.


Activists welcomed the moves.


"These actions are a clear demonstration that President Obama recognizes the urgency of moving America to clean energy and tackling the climate crisis in 2009," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, promised to work with the EPA to ensure the California waiver moved forward quickly.


Obama has spent his first few days in office overturning his predecessor's policies. On Thursday, he signed an order to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year and he lifted restrictions on Friday on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services abroad.


Shortly after his victory in the November 4 election, Obama reiterated his commitment to bringing the United States firmly back into the fold of nations trying to reach a global agreement to limit emissions once the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of 2012.

(Additional reporting by JoAnne Allen and John Crawley)

Related Article:

Gore highlights new US push on climate change

World's highest drug levels entering India stream

The Jakarta Post, Margie Mason, The Associated Press ,Patancheru | Mon, 01/26/2009 8:09 AM

When researchers analyzed vials of treated wastewater taken from a plant where about 90 Indian drug factories dump their residues, they were shocked. Enough of a single, powerful antibiotic was being spewed into one stream each day to treat every person in a city of 90,000.

And it wasn't just ciprofloxacin being detected. The supposedly cleaned water was a floating medicine cabinet — a soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments. Half of the drugs measured at the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment, researchers say.

Those Indian factories produce drugs for much of the world, including many Americans. The result: Some of India's poor are unwittingly consuming an array of chemicals that may be harmful, and could lead to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.

"If you take a bath there, then you have all the antibiotics you need for treatment," said chemist Klaus Kuemmerer at the University of Freiburg Medical Center in Germany, an expert on drug resistance in the environment who did not participate in the research. "If you just swallow a few gasps of water, you're treated for everything. The question is for how long?"

Last year, The Associated Press reported that trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals had been found in drinking water provided to at least 46 million Americans. But the wastewater downstream from the Indian plants contained 150 times the highest levels detected in the U.S.

At first, Joakim Larsson, an environmental scientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, questioned whether 100 pounds a day of ciprofloxacin could really be running into the stream. The researcher was so baffled by the unprecedented results he sent the samples to a second lab for independent analysis.

When those reports came back with similarly record-high levels, Larsson knew he was looking at a potentially serious situation. After all, some villagers fish in the stream's tributaries, while others drink from wells nearby. Livestock also depend on these watering holes.

Some locals long believed drugs were seeping into their drinking water, and new data from Larsson's study presented at a U.S. scientific conference in November confirmed their suspicions. Ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic, and the popular antihistamine cetirizine had the highest levels in the wells of six villages tested. Both drugs measured far below a human dose, but the results were still alarming.

Read the whole article ...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Electric carmaker Think recalls workers 

Here’s a bit of good news from the otherwise dreary alternative automotive world: Norwegian electric carmaker Think has put 44 laid-off employees back to work following the completion of a round of interim financing.


In December, Think halted production of its City battery-powered urban runabout and laid off half its workforce as financing to expand the company’s operations dried up. Then last week Think announced that it had obtained a $5.7 million bridge loan from investors led by Ener1, a battery maker who is supplying the City with lithium-ion power plants.


The financing has been completed and Think said Friday that it had rehired 44 workers in management, sales and supplier operations. But Think is hardly out of the Norwegian woods yet. The company still needs to raise around $40 million to resume full-scale production of the City and proceed with its plans to sell the electric car in select European markets outside Norway before expanding to the United States. Think has raised more than $100 million from European and U.S. investors, including General Electric (GE) and Silicon Valley and East Coast venture capitalists.


“We are very content that this first visible step in our plan towards restart now is in place,” said Think CEO Richard Canny, a former Ford (F) executive, in a statement. “We still need to raise the permanent capital, but this first call-back signals both internally and externally that Think is committed and able to turn the situation into a positive direction for the company.”

Drought, heat killing trees in western N.America

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:45am GMT 

Gray, needleless limber pine, the likely victims of drought, interspersed with orange, dead limber and ponderosa pine killed by Rocky Mountain pine beetles in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park are seen in this undated handout photo. (REUTERS/Jeremy Smith/University of Colorado)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trees in the western United States and Canada are dying twice as quickly as they did just 30 years ago, with rising average temperatures almost certainly to blame, researchers reported on Thursday.


These thinner and weaker forests will become more vulnerable to wildfires and may soak up less carbon dioxide, in turn speeding up global warming, they said.


The U.S. and Canadian researchers from a variety of agencies and universities studied trees in old-growth forests for more than 50 years to document the die-off, which they say is beginning to outpace replacement by new trees.


Warmer temperatures may be encouraging pine beetles and other organisms that attack trees, the researchers said. That, along with the stress of prolonged droughts, may be accelerating death rates.


"Average temperature in the West rose by more than 1 degree F (half a degree C) over the last few decades," said Phillip van Mantgem of the U.S. Geological Survey, who helped lead the study.


"While this may not sound like much, it has been enough to reduce winter snowpack, cause earlier snowmelt, and lengthen the summer drought."


Writing in the journal Science, the researchers said they found trees of various species, ages and sizes are dying faster at every elevation.


"Wherever we looked, mortality rates are increasing," Nathan Stephenson of the USGS told reporters in a telephone briefing.




Forests are usually called "carbon soaks" because plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, removing carbon from the atmosphere. But when trees die or burn, this carbon is released back into the atmosphere.


So a dying forest adds to the carbon that in turn helps warm the planet's surface.


The findings fit in with other studies and with changes that have become obvious -- such as the 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of pine forest that has been destroyed by mountain pine bark beetles in northwestern Colorado.


Thomas Veblen of the University of Colorado said new regulations may be needed to help the forests survive.


"We need to consider developing land-use policies that reduce the vulnerability of people and resources to wildfires," Veblen said.


"Activities include reducing residential development in or near wildland areas that are naturally fire-prone and where we expect fire risk to increase with continued warming."


Mark Harmon, a professor of forest ecology at Oregon State University, said the overall mortality rates are low but they add up.


"We may only be talking about an annual tree mortality rate changing from 1 percent a year to 2 percent a year, an extra tree here and there," Harmon said in a statement.


"Forest fires or major insect epidemics that kill a lot of trees all at once tend to get most of the headlines. What we're studying here are changes that are much slower and difficult to identify, but in the long run extremely important."


(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Will Dunham and John O'Callaghan)

Related Article:

Calif. facing worst drought in modern history

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Deep-sea sub discovers new animals off Australia

By Michael Perry, Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:31pm EST  


SYDNEY (Reuters) - A deep sea submarine exploration off Australia's southern coast has discovered new species of animals and more evidence of the destructive impact of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide on deep-sea corals.


The scientific voyage by U.S. and Australian researchers explored a near vertical slice in the earth's crust known as the Tasman Fracture Zone, which drops from approximately 2 km (1.2 miles) to more than 4 km (2.5 miles) deep.


"We set out to search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters," said Ron Thresher from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).


"Our sampling documented the deepest known Australian fauna, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, sea spiders and giant sponges, and previously unknown marine communities dominated by gooseneck barnacles and millions of round, purple-spotted sea anemones," Thresher said in a statement on Sunday.


Vast fields of deep-sea fossil corals were also discovered below 1.4 km (1 mile) and dated more than 10,000 years old.


The four-week expedition deployed a deep-diving, remotely operated, submarine named Jason, which belongs to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States.


Jason is about the size of a small car and was capable of collecting samples, and photographing and filming areas as deep as 6 km (4 miles). Jason made 14 dives lasting up to 48 hours each and reaching a maximum depth of more than 4 km (2.5 miles).


The researchers, from the California Institute of Technology and CSIRO, said some of the deep-sea coral discovered was dying and they had gathered data to assess the threat of ocean acidification and climate change on Australia's unique deep-water coral reefs.


"We need to closely analyze the samples and measurements we collected before we can determine what's caused this, as it could be the result of several factors, such as ocean warming, disease or increasing ocean acidity," said Thresher.


Carbon dioxide spewing into the atmosphere by factories, cars and power plants is not just raising temperatures, but also causing what scientists call "ocean acidification" as around 25 percent of the excess CO2 is absorbed by the seas.


Australian scientists have already warned that rising carbon dioxide levels in the world's oceans due to climate change, combined with rising sea temperatures, could accelerate coral bleaching, destroying some reefs before 2050.


(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

US vows 'huge' marine protection

The US is to establish what it calls "the largest area of protected sea in the world" around its Pacific islands.


By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News website 

Rose Atoll - "the highest proportion of live coral cover anywhere in the world"


Commercial fishing and mining will be banned in the protected zones which include the Marianas Trench, the deepest area of ocean on the planet.


The area totals 500,000 sq km (190,000 sq miles) of sea and sea floor.


While welcoming the protection package, environmental activists said that without curbing climate change, the other measures would be meaningless.


President George W Bush will formally announce the measure during an address on Tuesday evening in Washington.


Briefing journalists in advance, his environmental advisor James Connaughton said the move meant the US was "setting the mark for the world with respect to effective marine management".


"The conservation action is going to benefit the public and future generations through enhanced science, knowledge and awareness, and just good old-fashioned inspiration, because these places are exceptionally dynamic when it comes to the marine environment," said the chairman of the White House council on environmental quality.


The areas covered include some of the islands most remote from the world's large populations centres, which have not so far encountered the intense fishing present across much of the oceans.

They also encompass some of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, undersea volcanoes and hot seafloor vents, and submarine pools of sulphur thought to be unique on Earth.


War monuments


The measure involves establishing three new "national monuments" around different US territories in the Pacific.


Together they encompass the Marianas Trench and the long arc of volcanoes and undersea vents along the Mariana Islands chain, south of Japan and north of Papua New Guinea; coral reefs around the three northernmost islands of the Marianas; and eight more coral atolls and islands.


The Marianas group includes islands such as Saipan and Tinian which played significant roles in World War II, and Guam which is still a major US base.


One of the other places now receiving protection, Johnston Atoll, was formerly used to stockpile chemical weapons.


Mr Connaughton said the national monuments would be established in a way "that also fully respects our nation's national security needs by ensuring freedom of navigation for all vessels in accordance with international law and by ensuring that our military can stay ready and be globally mobile".

The pink corals of Palmyra Atoll can reflect on their new protection


The Marianas Trench, which reaches depths of about 11km (about seven miles), and the string of volcanoes and vents will be protected from mineral exploration.

The coral areas will also see a complete ban on commercial fishing out to 50 nautical miles from shore.

"It's very significant both from an ecological and biological perspective as well as in its political symbolism," said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group.


"In the Marianas alone, the area that's been protected contains some of world's most exceptional geology. Rose Atoll has the highest proportion of live coral cover anywhere in the world."


Brendan Cummings, oceans programme director at the Center for Biological Diversity which has brought several court actions against the Bush administration on climate change, also welcomed the commercial fishing ban but said curbing greenhouse emissions was also vital for the long-term preservation of corals.


"Unless we deal with global warming, all other protective measures for coral reefs will be rendered meaningless," he said.


"Ultimately, Bush's legacy as a climate criminal will far outweigh his ocean legacy, as any benefit coral reefs receive from this monument designation will be bleached away by warming seas."


As well as warming the oceans, rising carbon dioxide emissions are slowly reducing the alkalinity of seawater, which is also projected to have a detrimental effect on coral growth.


President Bush's administration has come under fire in recent months from environmentalists angered by its reluctance to cut carbon emissions, by its moves to weaken endangered species legislation and by its support for naval use of sonar systems that can kill whales.


But, said Mr Reichert, the outgoing president has "protected more special places in the sea than any other person in history".



Related Information:

WOC Website

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Global Warming Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

By James R. Lee, The Washington Post, Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Cold War shaped world politics for half a century. But global warming may shape the patterns of global conflict for much longer than that -- and help spark clashes that will be, in every sense of the word, hot wars.

We're used to thinking of climate change as an environmental problem, not a military one, but it's long past time to alter that mindset. Climate change may mean changes in Western lifestyles, but in some parts of the world, it will mean far more. Living in Washington, I may respond to global warming by buying a Prius, planting a tree or lowering my thermostat. But elsewhere, people will respond to climate change by building bomb shelters and buying guns.

"There is every reason to believe that as the 21st century unfolds, the security story will be bound together with climate change," warns John Ashton, a veteran diplomat who is now the United Kingdom's first special envoy on climate change. "The last time the world faced a challenge this complex was during the Cold War. Yet the stakes this time are even higher because the enemy now is ourselves, the choices we make."

Defense experts have also started to see the link between climate change and conflict. A 2007 CNA Corp. report, supervised by a dozen retired admirals and generals, warned that climate change could lead to political unrest in numerous badly hit countries, then perhaps to outright bloodshed and battle. One key factor that could stoke these tensions is massive migration as people flee increasingly uninhabitable areas, which would lead to border tensions, greater demands for rescue and evacuation services and disputes over essential resources. With these threats looming, the U.N. Security Council held a precedent-setting debate on climate change in April 2007 -- explicitly casting global warming as a national security issue.

Global warming could lead to warfare in three different ways.

Read the whole article ...

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Report: Toyota Developing Solar-Powered Car

Toyota aims to have the first all-solar commercial car


Jason Mick (Blog) - January 2, 2009 10:44 AM  


Toyota, maker of the Prius, is the indisputable king of the hybrid market, for better or worse.    Despite a downturn in hybrid sales, the company continues to push ahead, looking forward to the release of its upcoming third generation Prius.


However, more iterative improvements may not be enough to turn around sales; Toyota may have to look to something akin to what GM did when it threw its weight behind the all-electric Volt.  In response, Toyota is considering radical new designs which could turn the car industry on its head if successful.


A top business daily, The Nikkei, is reporting that Toyota is developing a new vehicle which will be powered solely by solar energy.  The report was released on Thursday, and Toyota was unavailable for comment.


Toyota has already planning to equip some of its upcoming Prius cars with smaller solar panels to provide power to the onboard electronics, but an all-solar car would require drastically more power.  If Toyota is indeed cooking up a solar vehicle, it would have the first commercial solar concept car.


According to the report, the new solar car will be covered in solar cells and will also be an electric plug-in, similar to the Chevy Volt.  It can plug into household sockets to harvest energy from solar panels on the home.  However, according to the report, the automaker eventually wants to ditch the plug and make the vehicle entirely independently solar-powered.


The report cites Toyota's economic struggles as a key reason for pushing the solar project.  December marked the announcement of Toyota's first operating loss in 70 years, a sobering turn of events.  In the U.S. and abroad Toyota is halting work at several plants. 


Toyota continues to push ahead on other solar plans, though.  It is outfitting its Tsutsumi plant in central Japan, which produces Lexus luxury cars and Camry sedans, with solar panels to provide part of its operating power.  The panels, amounting to 60 tennis courts in surface space, can produce enough electricity to power 500 homes.  This amounts to big savings in power costs and emissions, says Toyota.


The company is well situated to take on the solar market, too due to an important partnership with Panasonic Corp., whom it has battery deals with.  Panasonic previously did not have significant solar expertise, but with the acquisition of Sanyo Electric Co., a leader in solar energy, to be finalized next year, it will have new assets to bring to the table.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coral reef growth is slowest ever

Coral growth in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has slowed to its most sluggish rate in the past 400 years.


By James MorganScience reporter, BBC News



 Porites and other corals provide habitat for thousands of species



The decline endangers the species the reef supports, say researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.


They studied massive porites corals, which are several hundred years old, and found that calcification has declined by 13.3% since 1990.


Global warming and the increasing acidity of seawater are to blame, they write in Science journal.


Coral reefs are central to the formation and function of ecosystems and food webs for tens of thousands of other marine organisms.


The Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.


Dr Glenn De'ath and colleagues investigated 328 colonies of massive Porites corals, from 69 locations. 



 The largest corals are centuries old - growing at a rate of just 1.5cm per year.


By looking at the coral skeletons, they determined that calcification - or the deposit of calcium carbonate - has declined by 13.3% throughout the Great Barrier Reef since 1990.


Such a decline is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years, they write.


The researchers warn that changes in biodiversity are imminent, both at the Great Barrier Reef and at other reef systems throughout the world's oceans.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bikes back in fashion as eco-friendly alternative

By MAI IIDA, Kyodo News, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009.

While automakers are suffering from slumping sales amid the global economic downturn and accelerating efforts to develop green cars to spur new demand, the traditional green vehicle — the bicycle — is becoming more popular.

Work and play: Keizo Namiki, a 35-year-old software engineer, commutes to work by bicycle on Dec. 6 in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The 13-km journey takes him about 45 minutes. KYODO PHOTO

"Usually, bicycles sell well in the high season of summer and business is slow when it gets colder, but this year we have remained very busy," said Daisuke Nishikoori, manager of the Y's Road bicycle chain's outlet in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.

Consumers' growing awareness of health issues and the surge in gasoline prices to record levels in 2008 have increased bicycles' appeal, while a wider variety of lineups and fashionable outfits for cycling have attracted more people, he said.

At Nishikoori's store, imported sports bicycles, some of which cost more than ¥100,000, are selling well, as more retired men take to cycling as a hobby, he said. More customers are also becoming interested in commuting by bicycle, he added.

A Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute poll of 100 designated retailers nationwide showed sales of sports bikes had double-digit or sometimes triple-digit percentage growth rates every month through last November compared with year-earlier levels.

The robust sales come at a time when car sales from January to November fell 5.3 percent from the same period a year earlier, which is likely to make 2008 the worst year in terms of sales in over 30 years, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Bicycle magazines like Funride and Bicycle Navi have also seen double-digit growth in their recent circulation figures, and racing events are also drawing bigger crowds.

The publisher of Funride, which organizes the Mount Fuji Hill Climb race, plans to decide on the participants in its race by lot from 2009, as it had to close the race's entry list after just one day in 2008 due to a flood of applicants, said Ryo Takano, an organizer of the event.

"A good tail wind is blowing through the bicycle industry," said Kaoru Okubo, an official of the Bicycle Association (Japan).

But some cyclists complain that cycle ways have yet to become well developed and traffic rules concerning bicycle riding are still not very well understood.

In Japan, where cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks, the number of pedestrian-bicycle accidents is on the rise, increasing nearly fivefold over the past decade, according to government data.

Under the Road Traffic Law, cyclists are required to ride on roads unless there is a sign permitting them to ride on sidewalks, or if the cyclist is a child or an elderly person.

The government plans to extend cycle paths, given the increasing number of pedestrian-bicycle accidents, as well as the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 300,000 tons through the establishment of bike route networks to achieve the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.

In a project that began in 2008, the land ministry plans to lengthen cycle ways by designating 98 places around Japan, including Nagoya, as model sites for demarcating exclusive bike lanes on streets next to sidewalks.

But even in Nagoya, the bike lane network is still only one-tenth that of Paris, the land ministry said.

As part of environmental awareness efforts, Nagoya and auto parts maker Denso Corp., which is based near the city, encourage their employees to commute by bike.

In 2001, Nagoya doubled the amount of commuter allowance for its employees who bicycled to work, and halved the allowance for those who use cars. Since then, its bicycle commuters have more than doubled, a city official said.

Denso, a key Toyota Motor Corp. group firm, gives what it calls "eco points" that can be exchanged for goods and services to employees who commute by bicycle or take part in other designated activities, including taking courses to learn about preserving the environment and buying fair-trade products.

"Of course, it does not mean we do not want to sell cars," a Denso spokesman said, adding it is not good for the environment if car commuters do not carpool.

By promoting bike commuting and other environmentally friendly activities, Denso aims to encourage its employees to take a step, albeit a small one, to preserve the environment, the spokesman said.

One bicycle commuter in Tokyo, Keizo Namiki, 35, said cycling instead of riding on a packed train is good for his physical and mental health.