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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Toads can 'predict earthquakes' and seismic activity

BBC News, by Matt Walker, Editor, Earth News

Common toads sense danger

Common toads appear to be able to sense an impending earthquake and will flee their colony days before the seismic activity strikes.

The evidence comes from a population of toads which left their breeding colony three days before an earthquake that struck L'Aquila in Italy in 2009.

How toads sensed the quake is unclear, but most breeding pairs and males fled.

They reacted despite the colony being 74km from the quake's epicentre, say biologists in the Journal of Zoology.

It is hard to objectively and quantifiably study how animals respond to seismic activity, in part because earthquakes are rare and unpredictable.

Some studies have been done on how domestic animals respond, but measuring the response of wild animals is more difficult.

Even those that have been shown to react, such as fish, rodents and snakes tend to do so shortly before an earthquakes strikes, rather than days ahead of the event.

However, biologist Dr Rachel Grant of the Open University, in Milton Keynes, UK, was routinely studying the behaviour of various colonies of common toads on a daily basis in Italy around the time a massive earthquake struck.

Her studies included a 29-day period gathering data before, during and after the earthquake that hit Italy on 6 April 2009.

The quake, a 6.3-magnitude event, struck close to L'Aquila city, about 95km (60 miles) north-east of Rome.

Dr Grant was studying toads 74km away in San Ruffino Lake in central Italy, when she recorded the toads behaving oddly.

Five days before the earthquake, the number of male common toads in the breeding colony fell by 96%.

That is highly unusual for male toads: once they have bred, they normally remain active in large numbers at breeding sites until spawning has finished.

Yet spawning had barely begun at the San Ruffino Lake site before the earthquake struck.

Also, no other weather event could be linked to the toads' disappearance.

Three days before the earthquake, the number of breeding pairs also suddenly dropped to zero.

While spawn was found at the site up to six days before the earthquake, and again six days after it, no spawn was laid during the so-called earthquake period - the time from the first main shock to the last aftershock.

"Our study is one of the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake," says Dr Grant.

She believes the toads fled to higher ground, possibly where they would be at less risk from rock falls, landslides and flooding.

Sensing danger

Exactly how the toads sense impending seismic activity is unclear.

The shift in the toads' behaviour coincided with disruptions in the ionosphere, the uppermost electromagnetic layer of the earth's atmosphere, which researchers detected around the time of the L'Aquila quake using a technique known as very low frequency (VLF) radio sounding.

Such changes to the atmosphere have in turn been linked by some scientists to the release of radon gas, or gravity waves, prior to an earthquake.

In the case of the L'Aquila quake, Dr Grant could not determine what caused the disruptions in the ionosphere.

However, her findings do suggest that the toads can detect something.

"Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system," she says.

Ants ignore quakes

One other study has quantified an animal's response to a major earthquake.

Researchers had the serendipitous opportunity to measure how the behaviour of the desert harvester ant (Messor pergandei) changed as the ground began to tremble in the Mojave Desert, California, on 28 June 1992.

The largest quake to hit the US in four decades struck during the middle of an ongoing study, which measured how many ants walked the trails to and from the colony, the distributions of worker ants and even how much carbon dioxide the ants produced.

However, in response to that 7.4 magnitude quake, the ants did not appear to alter their behaviour at all.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Undersea volcano threatens southern Italy: report

Italy has some of the most active volcanoes in Europe

ROME — Europe's largest undersea volcano could disintegrate and unleash a tsunami that would engulf southern Italy "at any time", a prominent vulcanologist warned in an interview published Monday.

The Marsili volcano, which is bursting with magma, has "fragile walls" that could collapse, Enzo Boschi told the leading daily Corriere della Sera.

"It could even happen tomorrow," said Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

"Our latest research shows that the volcano is not structurally solid, its walls are fragile, the magma chamber is of sizeable dimensions," he said. "All that tells us that the volcano is active and could begin erupting at any time."

The event would result in "a strong tsunami that could strike the coasts of Campania, Calabria and Sicily," Boschi said.

The undersea Marsili, 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) tall and located some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history.

It is 70 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide, and its crater is some 450 metres below the surface of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

"A rupture of the walls would let loose millions of cubic metres of material capable of generating a very powerful wave," Boschi said.

"While the indications that have been collected are precise, it is impossible to make predictions. The risk is real but hard to evaluate."

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Experts: Undersea volcano may collapse, cause tsunami

Volcano tsunami could sink southern Italy 'at any time'

The undersea Marsili, 9,800ft (3,000m) tall and located some 90 miles (150km) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history

Yvo de Boer: 'Polluter pays' should become 'polluter loses'

NRC International, by Paul Luttikhuis, 30 March 2010 10:43

Yvo de Boer. (Photo Reuters)

Yvo de Boer is leaving his job as UN climate chief. "It will be another two years before we will have a climate treaty."

Most pieces of the failed climate summit in Copenhagen have yet to be picked up. Climate scientists in different countries are being questioned in parliamentary hearings to clear the impression that they have glossed over inconvenient facts - as might be deduced from e-mails hacked from the British University of East Anglia. Meanwhile, the IPCC, the United Nations' climate panel, has acknowledged mistakes in its reports - minor mistakes, but important enough to scrutinise its own procedures.

Amidst all this controversy, Yvo de Boer announced last month he will resign as the executive secretary of the UN's climate bureau to start working for accounting firm KPMG. This was another blow to international climate negotiations. If even De Boer no longer has faith in a climate agreement, who does?

One month after he handed in his resignation, De Boer (55) told NRC Handelsblad his departure had nothing to do with the difficult negotiations. "A job at KPMG is not something I decided on under the Christmas tree in the four weeks after the Copenhagen summit. I was in the making before that," De Boer said. "Of course I wondered whether this would be a good time to leave. But there is never a good moment. The negotiations are ongoing, but they have are of a different nature. I think it will be another two years before we will have a climate treaty.”

Sell the green growth story

De Boer takes the uproar over the blunders in the IPCC's report very seriously. "The support for climate policies has suffered some serious damage," he said. "But the average citizen doesn't realise that criticism is only aimed at the symptoms and not at the diagnosis. Both the story of themelting glaciers in the Himalayas, and that of African agriculture [the IPCC failed to include nuances to its claim agricultural production in some North African countries would decrease by up to 50 percent by 2020], do not challenge the concept of climate change itself, only the speed at which it is taking place."

The climate czar believes it is important for politicians and scientists alike to restore the confidence in the underpinnings of the policies. He welcomes the independent investigation announced by the IPCC. "In the end, people only become involved if they are really convinced this is better for them. Not just ecologically, but economically as well. If you can't credibly sell the green growth story, you might as well shut up," De Boer said.

"Recently, I spoke to the Indian environment minister. He told me: 'The people who have voted for me aren't worried about climate change, they are worried about where their next meal is coming from.' Only when those people realise that climate change is the reason their next meal isn't coming, or much later, or is more expensive, will they rally behind climate policies."

What can we earn by it?

More and more, science is taking a back seat in climate negotiations. "Even if we were to find out tomorrow that the entire IPCC report is a lie, that wouldn't change China's economic strategy," De Boer said. "A country like China can't continue to have an economic growth of 6 to 8 percent with its current model. This is why China is now the world's largest investor in solar energy, why they are working hard on wind energy and closing tens of thousands of factories that are inefficient. China hasn’t banned the production of Hummers because the SUVs are ugly - which they undoubtedly are - but because they don't want those horrible things on the Chinese roads."

De Boer wants the 'polluter pays' model to be replaced by a 'polluter loses' principle. "The question no longer is: ‘what will it cost us?’ but ‘what can we earn by it?’" De Boer said.

In that regard, De Boer said, the climate summit in Copenhagen was a success. Rich countries proved willing to reduce their emissions by 80 percent before 2050. "That cannot be attained through a little more efficiency, a little energy reduction and a road tax. It implies a fundamental shift. I feel we have embarked on that route, even if insecurity over energy supply played a bigger role than climate awareness. Deny climate change as a myth, for all I care, but look at energy prices, energy security and clean air."

Summits, treaties and protocols

  • UN climate chief Yvo de Boer believes no climate treaty can be reached until the 2011 summit in South Africa. Until then, his successor will have to organise talks about the continuation of the 1997 Kyoto protocol. Last year's Copenhagen agreement is no more than "a timetable" for a new international treaty, De Boer said.

  • About the lack of willingness to come to a treaty in Copenhagen, De Boer said: "Developing countries proposed a number of preconditions. They demanded the leadership of industrialised countries and financial support for implementing climate policies. They only wanted to enter into obligations that would not obstruct economic growth. In their reasoning, rich countries had their opportunity to become rich and have now discovered climate as a way to keep other countries poor. "

  • Although the Kyoto protocolis "a huge failure in its environmental performance" it deserves a prize for its design: an excellent set of rules about reporting on climate policies, on funding for developing countries, and on measurements of projects and international cooperation. But the effect of those rules in policy has not been successful. This has made developing countries suspicious of a new climate treaty, according to De Boer.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Proposal mandates stricter pollution controls for ships

The Washington Post, by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, March 26, 2010; 5:41 PM

To curb air pollution, large tankers, container ships and cruise boats will have to use low-sulfur fuels when passing through U.S. and Canadian coastal waters, under a proposal adopted by a United Nations rulemaking body Friday.

Vessels traveling within 200 nautical miles of most of the two nations' coasts will have to cut their fuel sulfur content by 98 percent. The rules approved by the International Maritime Organization will be phased in from 2012 and new ships will have to use advanced pollution control technology starting in 2016.

"This is a change that will benefit millions of people and set in motion new innovations for the shipping industry," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.

Rich Kassel, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, "Communities up and down the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts will feel the air quality improvements -- and the benefits will even extend hundreds of miles inland, reaching as far away as Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and the Grand Canyon."

While the cruise industry had opposed the plan for months, it did not object to the standards during Friday's vote in London, where the IMO is headquartered. Ramon Alvarez, a senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund, said only a small number of ships have switched to the low-sulfur fuel voluntarily because it's twice as expensive.

More than 30 U.S. ports are in metropolitan areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards.

"It will mean higher operating costs, but we believe the tradeoff is to successfully address the problems U.S. port communities have faced," said Chris Koch, president of the World Shipping Council.

S. William Becker, executive director for the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said the vote "demonstrates how effective the international community can be at solving a major health and environmental problem."

The United States and Canada jointly made the proposal a year ago.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

China steams ahead on clean energy

BBC News, by Richard Black, Environment correspondent

Projects like Donghai Bridge wind farm in Shanghai have pushed China ahead

China overtook the US during 2009 to become the leading investor in renewable energy technologies, according to a new analysis.

Researchers with the Pew Charitable Trusts calculate that China invested $34.6bn (£23.2bn) in clean energy over the year, almost double the US figure.

The UK emerges in third place among G20 nations, followed by Spain and Brazil.

The most spectacular growth has come in South Korea, which saw installed capacity rise by 250% in five years.

Globally, investment has more than doubled in the last five years, Pew finds, with the recent economic turmoil generating only a slight dip.


  • China - $34.6bn
  • US - $18.6bn
  • UK - $11.2bn
  • Spain - $
  • Brazil - $7.4bn

"Even in the midst of a global recession, the clean energy market has experienced impressive growth," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's campaign on climate change.

"Countries are jockeying for leadership.

"They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses."

The US still holds a marginal lead in the total amount of installed capacity, but will be overtaken by China during the course of this year if existing trends continue.

Diversification nation

China's target of having 30GW of installed renewable capacity in place by 2020 will soon be exceeded through wind alone, and new targets are in the process of being set.

"The government has taken a strategic decision that diversifying its energy supply should be a national priority," commented Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), who was not involved in the Pew report.


  • South Korea - 249%
  • China - 79%
  • Australia - 40%
  • France - 31%
  • India - 31%

(growth in installed capacity over last five years)

"It is now the world's leading manufacturer of solar photovoltaic cells, and more wind turbines are made in China than anywhere else."

However, China's use of fossil fuels is also expanding fast.

So far, renewables account for a small share of its energy supply, although the overall target is a 15% share of total energy by 2020.

Wind was the dominant sector in most of the high-investing countries, the exceptions being Spain, Germany and Italy where solar technologies commanded a majority share.

US investment fell by 40% during from 2008 to 2009.

"The US's competitive position is at risk in the emerging clean energy economy," said Ms Cuttino.

Spain's investment also dropped due to the recession, following several years of rapid increases driven by the desire to cut greenhouse gas emissions very quickly in order to reach its Kyoto Protocol target.

Pew notes that the UK achieved its third place through "large offshore wind deals, backed by the government", and by being "at the forefront of marine energy investments."

Pew based its analysis on the database maintained by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the international analysis and consultancy group.

Global cooling: What happens if the Iceland volcano blows

USA Today, by Doyle Rice, Contributing: Associated Press

Lava spews out of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland on March 21. The small volcano eruption that forced more than 600 people to flee their homes in Iceland over the weekend could set off a larger volcano. (By Fior Kjartansson, AFP/Getty Images)

The potential eruption of Iceland's volcano Katla would likely send the world, including the USA, into an extended deep freeze.

"When Katla went off in the 1700s, the USA suffered a very cold winter," says Gary Hufford, a scientist with the Alaska Region of the National Weather Service. "To the point, the Mississippi River froze just north of New Orleans and the East Coast, especially New England, had an extremely cold winter.

"Depending on a new eruption, Katla could cause some serious weather changes."

Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that has continued to belch lava, ash and steam since first erupting last weekend, isn't the direct problem. It's Katla, the noisier neighbor, that's the concern. If lava flowing from Eyjafjallajokull melts the glaciers that hold down the top of Katla, then Katla could blow its top, pumping gigantic amounts of ash into the atmosphere.

Scientists say history has proven that whenever the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla always follows -- the only question is how soon.

"If it (Eyjafjallajokull) continues to belch, then you worry," says Hufford.

What's key in having volcanic eruptions affect the weather is both the duration of the eruption, and how high the ash gets blasted into the stratosphere, according to Hufford.

For example, he says, Mount Pinatubo pumped ash for two days in 1991, and spewed it 70,000 feet into the stratosphere. This dropped temperatures worldwide about four degrees for about a year.

"When volcanic ash reaches the stratosphere, it remains for a long time," reports Hufford. "The ash becomes a very effective block of the incoming solar radiation, thus cooling the atmosphere's temperatures."

Scientists are continuing to monitor Eyjafjallajokull for signs of further activity.

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'Ladies and gentlemen, on your left you will see an erupting volcano': The stunning sight Caribbean holidaymakers saw from plane

The eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano, on the island of Montserrat,

sent ash up to 40,000ft into the sky

Asian Pollution Rides The Monsoon

Discovery News, Analysis by John D. Cox | Thu Mar 25, 2010 09:41 AM ET

Like a great smokestack, Asia's summer monsoon is blowing high into the atmosphere a climate-altering cocktail of industrial pollutants generated by the burgeoning economies of China, India and Indonesia, scientists report.

For years now, sensors at ground-based monitoring stations have been detecting low-level pollution clouds riding the westerly winds from Asia to North America, but this is the first research that shows how the monsoon winds carry industrial chemicals into the stratosphere.

Pollutants such as black carbon, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are lofted 20 to 25 miles into the atmosphere by a vigorous natural circulation that is part of the annual monsoon pattern.

"The monsoon is one of the most powerful atmospheric circulation systems on the planet, and it happens to form right over a heavily polluted region," said William Randel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, and lead author of the study published today in the online journal ScienceExpress. "As a result, the monsoon provides a pathway for transporting pollutants up to the stratosphere."

The scientists traced the land-based pollution plume by measuring the concentration of hydrogen cyanide, a chemical formed by burning of trees and vegetation, a byproduct of the clearing of Asian agricultural land during summer. Other circulation patterns originating in the Tropics contain only small amounts of the chemical.

While scientists know that the pollutants spend several years wafting around the globe in the stratosphere, Randel said more research will be needed to fully understand the atmospheric effects of the monsoon-borne pollutants. For example, sulfur aerosols impact the ozone layer that blocks harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the ground. Aerosol pollutants also interact with other greenhouse gases, such as water vapor, that influence the amount of solar heat reaching Earth.

IMAGE: Courtesy Science/AAAS

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

'Ladies and gentlemen, on your left you will see an erupting volcano': The stunning sight Caribbean holidaymakers saw from plane

Daily Mail, by Daily Mail Reporter, 11:06 AM on 25th March 2010

As in-flight entertainment goes, this certainly beats watching the latest Hollywood flop on a ten-inch screen.

Passengers flying off on a Caribbean holiday were stunned when they spotted a massive volcanic eruption, which sent a huge plume of ash skyward.

The explosion of the Soufriere Hills volcano, on the island of Montserrat, sent ash bellowing up to 40,000ft.

The spectacle was spotted by the pilot of a plane travelling to the island of St Lucia. He immediately alerted his passengers who dashed to the side of the 737 jet to catch a glimpse.

Front-row seat: A photo taken by a passenger from the window of her holiday jet shows the Soufriere Hills volcano erupting on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean

The mushroom-shaped cloud went so high that it even caused some flights to nearby islands to be delayed because of the danger of ash getting into the engines.

Hairdresser Mary Jo Penkala, who was flying with her partner Barry Steinfeld, grabbed her camera as soon as she saw the ash cloud.

Ms Penkala, 49, said: 'We were up in the air and I noticed an unusual cloud formation above the regular lower clouds you see when you are flying at a high altitude.

'The formation of the clouds looked very odd and I could see it was coming from an island.

Watch out: The eruption sent ash up to 40,000ft into the sky

'I could see bursts of cloud that seemed to be forming layers so I grabbed a camera and started taking pictures.

'I had no idea what it was until the pilot told us all to look out of the window on the left of the plane because there was a volcano going off on the island of Montserrat.

'He said he had been watching for a long time since it had started.'

Holiday snaps: Mary Jo Penkala on her holiday after the memorable flight

Ms Penkala, from Calgary, Canada, said the 737 plane's passengers, who were flying from Toronto, rushed to the side of the aircraft to grab a view of the spectacular sight.

She said because she was sitting on the left, passengers from the other side passed their cameras to her so she could grab some snaps.

She added: 'When we arrived at our resort in St Lucia everyone was talking about the volcano.

'We heard that some flights to the island had been delayed because the volcanic ash in the air was dangerous for the engines of the plane.

'Everyone who has seen the picture has been amazed. We were so lucky to see the volcano in all its glory.

'It was certainly an interesting start to our vacation.'

The huge cloud of ash is thought to have been caused by the partial collapse of the volcano's lava dome.

After a long period of dormancy, the Soufriere Hills volcano became active in 1995, and has continued to erupt ever since.

Its eruptions have in the past rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroyed the capital city, Plymouth, and caused widespread evacuations.

In June 1982 British Airways Flight 9 flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, in Indonesia, resulting in the failure of all four engines.

The Boeing 747, flying from London, was forced to glide as it fell 23,000 feet without power and some passengers wrote last notes to loved ones believing they would die.

Space view: La Soufrière erupting, seen from space

Captain Eric Moody made an announcement to the passengers that has since been described as 'a masterpiece of understatement'.

He said: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem.

'All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control.

'I trust you are not in too much distress.'

Incredibly, after 12 minutes with no power the aircraft exited the ash cloud and all engines were restarted, allowing the aircraft to land safely.

Global deforestation rate falling

Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 25 March 2010 - 11:26am

World leaders planting trees (Photo: EPA)

The rate of global deforestation has fallen over the last decade. The UN's Food and Agriculture organisation says this indicates that measures to combat the destruction of forests are beginning to have an effect.

Nevertheless, the FAO warns that over five million hectares of woodland are still being destroyed each year. This is an area larger than the whole of the Netherlands.

The average area of woodland lost annually over the last decade was 13 million hectares, compared to 16 million in the preceding ten years. Major reforestation projects in China, India and Vietnam have compensated for the destruction of some woodlands.

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Big food push urged to avoid global hunger

BBC News, by Richard Black, Environment correspondent

New strains of crops such as cassava will be needed in the tropics

A big push to develop agriculture in the poorest countries is needed if the world is to feed itself in future decades, a report warns.

With the world's population soaring to nine billion by mid-century, crop yields must rise, say the authors - yet climate change threatens to slash them.

Already the number of chronically hungry people is above one billion.

The report was prepared for a major conference on farming and development that opens next week in France.

The first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) will bring scientists, policymakers, aid experts, businessmen and pressure groups together in an attempt to plot a way out of the hunger crisis.

"It's a huge problem," said Sir Gordon Conway from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, the conference's keynote speaker.

"We have more than a billion people hungry at the moment, then on top of that we're going to have to feed a growing human population - we're looking at having to double food production by 2050."

The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 60s brought vast increases in yields of crops such as maize and rice to Asia and in South America.

But Africa remained largely untouched; and even in Asia, yields have plateaued.

Fertiliser use on Asian cereal fields has soared 40-fold in 50 years, but yields have only risen about four-fold.

Easy harvest

"In Asia, the Green Revolution created a sense of complacency, that we had solved the problem - and that lasted until the [food price] crisis of 2007," said Uma Lele, the former senior World Bank official who co-ordinated the report.

"What we are looking at now is a much more complex 'perfect storm', because all of the 'easy fruit' has been harvested during the Green Revolution."

There was no single, simple measure, she said, that could bring about the yield increases needed in poorer countries, and make sure that the increases were sustainable.

Ensuring all farmers had access to good information about farming methods would be a good start, she noted, but would require different mechanisms in different countries.

Access to facilities also needed to be improved, said Professor Conway.

"Everywhere you go in Africa you can buy Coca-cola or Pepsi-cola, but you can't buy a packet of seeds so easily," he noted.

Aid organisations working together with business had begun to transform that picture, he said; and when African maize farmers had access to the best techniques, their yields could jump fivefold.

But western donors were still more likely to put money into health or education projects than into agriculture, he added, despite the commitment that G8 leaders made at last year's G8 summit in Italy to spend $20bn on agriculture for development.

Crop development needs the full range of technologies, the report says

Despite the burgeoning wealth in South Asia, millions of people remain in stark poverty.

Ninety-seven percent of the chronic hungry live in South Asia or in Africa.

"These two regions of the world are going to be most affected by climate change," said Dr Lele.

"And that's where the majority if the world's poor live; if we don't invest in research now, that's where the problems will be in 10 years' time because developments don't happen overnight."

Combating hunger in these regions, said Professor Conway, meant using every level of technology available, from conventional cross-breeding through to genetic engineering that could specifically give new traits to crop strains.

The much-discussed Golden Rice - enhanced with Vitamin A - was in pre-commercial trials, following years of wrangling about patent issues, he said, and Chinese scientists had developed about 30 GM varieties that were almost ready for commercial release.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter

Yahoo News, By GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers –Wed Mar 24, 8:05 am ET

AP – In this photo taken Monday, March 22, 2010, Zac Browning, owner of Browning's Honey Co. Inc, shows a queen bee at a bee farm east of Merced, Calif. Browning keeps his hives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, through the winter, then brings them to California each year for the almond crop pollination. He said so many of his bees died in recent months in Idaho but weren't discovered dead until they arrived in California that he resorted to calling friends and colleagues on the East Coast and begged them to replenish his stocks so he could meet growers' demands in California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

MERCED, Calif. – The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.

And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the new study.

Scientists are concerned because of the vital role bees play in our food supply. About one-third of the human diet is from plants that require pollination from honeybees, which means everything from apples to zucchini.

Bees have been declining over decades from various causes. But in 2006 a new concern, "colony collapse disorder," was blamed for large, inexplicable die-offs. The disorder, which causes adult bees to abandon their hives and fly off to die, is likely a combination of many causes, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and pesticides, experts say.

"It's just gotten so much worse in the past four years," said Jeff Pettis, research leader of the Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. "We're just not keeping bees alive that long."

This year bees seem to be in bigger trouble than normal after a bad winter, according to an informal survey of commercial bee brokers cited in an internal USDA document. One-third of those surveyed had trouble finding enough hives to pollinate California's blossoming nut trees, which grow the bulk of the world's almonds. A more formal survey will be done in April.

"There were a lot of beekeepers scrambling to fill their orders and that implies that mortality was high," saidPenn State University bee researcher Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who worked on the USDA snapshot survey.

Beekeeper Zac Browning shipped his hives from Idaho to California to pollinate the blossoming almond groves. He got a shock when he checked on them, finding hundreds of the hives empty, abandoned by the worker bees.

The losses were extreme, three times higher than the previous year.

"It wasn't one load or two loads, but every load we were pulling out that was dead. It got extremely depressing to see a third of my livestock gone," Browning said, standing next to stacks of dead bee colonies in a clearing near Merced, at the center of California's fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Among all the stresses to bee health, it's the pesticides that are attracting scrutiny now. A study published Friday in the scientific journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) One found about three out of five pollen and wax samples from 23 states had at least one systemic pesticide — a chemical designed to spread throughout all parts of a plant.

EPA officials said they are aware of problems involving pesticides and bees and the agency is "very seriously concerned."

The pesticides are not a risk to honey sold to consumers, federal officials say. And the pollen that people eat is probably safe because it is usually from remote areas where pesticides are not used, Pettis said. But the PLOS study found 121 different types of pesticides within 887 wax, pollen, bee and hive samples.

"The pollen is not in good shape," said Chris Mullin of Penn State University, lead author.

None of the chemicals themselves were at high enough levels to kill bees, he said, but it was the combination and variety of them that is worrisome.

University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum called the results "kind of alarming."

Despite EPA assurances, environmental groups don't think the EPA is doing enough on pesticides.

Bayer Crop Science started petitioning the agency to approve a new pesticide for sale in 2006. After reviewing the company's studies of its effects on bees, the EPA gave Bayer conditional approval to sell the product two years later, but said it had to carry a label warning that it was "potentially toxic to honey bee larvae through residues in pollen and nectar."

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued, saying the agency failed to give the public timely notice for the new pesticide application. In December, a federal judge in New York agreed, banning the pesticide's sale and earlier this month, two more judges upheld the ruling.

"This court decision is obviously very painful for us right now, and for growers who don't have access to that product," said Jack Boyne, an entomologist and spokesman for Bayer Crop Science. "This product quite frankly is not harmful to honeybees."

Boyne said the pesticide was sold for only about a year and most sales were in California, Arizona andFlorida. The product is intended to disrupt the mating patterns of insects that threaten citrus, lettuce and grapes, he said.

Berenbaum's research shows pesticides are not the only problem. She said multiple viruses also are attacking the bees, making it tough to propose a single solution.

"Things are still heading downhill," she said.

For Browning, one of the country's largest commercial beekeepers, the latest woes have led to a $1 million loss this year.

"It's just hard to get past this," he said, watching as workers cleaned honey from empty wooden hives Monday. "I'm going to rebuild, but I have plenty of friends who aren't going to make it."

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington, D.C.

On the Net:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Colony Collapse Disorder:

The study in Public Library of Science One: