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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

With new tech tools, precision farming gains traction

Yahoo – AFP, Rob Lever, 29 June 2014

Andrew Isaacson watches from a tractor in a corn field as screens show where
 he has fertilized at the Little Bohemia Creek farm on June 17, 2014 in Warwick, 
Maryland (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Warwick (United States) (AFP) - At Little Bohemia Creek Farm, the tractor pretty much drives itself, weaving through rows of corn using GPS technology as it injects carefully dosed amounts of fertilizer.

Farm employee Andrew Isaacson sits in the cab -- his main job is to monitor computer screens that control the vehicle and sprayer.

"I just turn it around at each end," he says.

A trench made for injecting liquid fertilizer
 is seen between rows of corn at the Little
 Bohemia Creek farm June 17, 2014 in
 Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/Brendan
With computers guiding field operations "it makes it easier in some ways but at the same time it makes it harder. You have to put more information in".

The farm on Maryland's eastern shore is part of a growing "precision agriculture" movement that uses high-tech tools to replace seat-of-the-pants farming.

GPS auto-steered tractors cut down or eliminate overplowing and overlap that wastes fuel and time. Other technologies can sense just how much water is needed in a field to cut irrigation costs.

At Little Bohemia Creek, the tractor's sensors gauge the health of various segments of a field to deliver fertilizer and other chemicals more efficiently, which has an environmental benefit.

"This technology allows for more intricate data collection to make decisions," says Rich Wildman of the agricultural consulting firm Agrinetix, which provides technology advice at the farm.

This permits the farmer to "do more fertilization or seed planting to match the needs of a field within an inch variation," he said.

Various studies suggest farmers can save between 10 to 20 percent on fertilizer and chemicals, while improving yields.

- Farming in the cloud -

Little Bohemia Creek owner Jon Quinn, 48, is using for the first time this year the system called GreenSeeker, from California tech firm Trimble.

"I don't know if I'm using less nitrogen, but I'm putting it in the right place," Quinn explained.

If that holds true, the fertilizer will mainly be absorbed by the corn instead of running off into nearby rivers.

Paul Spies of the Chester River Association, an environmental group, said Quinn is one of a handful of farmers in the pilot project, which aims to show the benefits of this technology.

"You're asking farmers to alter what they have been doing for years," Spies said. "They want to see proof that it will work."

Quinn also participates in a "precision planting" project with Monsanto, using data from his field to determine how seeds fare in different soil types.

"I download it to my iPad, and it goes to the cloud so they can see it," he said.

These technologies mean farmers need to crunch big data.

A sensor that uses visible and invisible
light to judge crop health is used at the
Little Bohemia Creek farm on June 17,
 2014 in Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/
Brendan Smialowski)
"The real power is when you can take that data so farmers can see how different parts of the field yielded and think about (crop) management changes," said Joe Foresman, a specialist with the DuPont precision farming division Pioneer.

Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, a Purdue University agricultural economist, said that in the past 15 years, technologies such as GPS and auto-steering have become the norm in mechanized farming in the United States and other countries, from Australia to Kazakhstan to Sweden.

"The economics are incredibly clear," he said. "You make gains either with higher yield or lower costs, and sometimes with improved quality."

Purdue researchers found more than 80 percent of US farm equipment being sold includes these technologies, which would mean hundreds of thousands of farms.

For newer technologies like soil and crop sensors, mapping and analytics, Lowenberg-DeBoer said the picture is mixed, because specialized training is needed to reap benefits. Just seven percent of US farm dealers offered sensor-driven equipment in 2013, Purdue researchers found.

"It will transform agriculture but it's not clear now exactly how it will do it," he said.

- Bring in the drones -

Also on the horizon is the use of drones to provide real-time data to farmers to pinpoint crop problems in time to fix them.

"We can detect plant problems before they are detectable through the naked eye," said Dennis Bowman, a University of Illinois crop specialist who tests drones for farm use.

But drone use is limited while US authorities study safety issues -- an issue clouded by the more prominent drone applications for military and intelligence purposes.

"We would like to see common sense rules that look at the situation in agriculture," Bowman told AFP.

While corn and other grains have been the main focus of precision agriculture, Florida-based AgerPoint seeks to do the same for fruit trees and vineyards, using laser scanning to give producers data on plant health, and early hints on diseases and other problems.

A sensor is seen attached to a tractor
drawn liquid fertilizer applicator at the
 Little Bohemia Creek farm June 17, 
2014 in Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/
Brendan Smialowski)
"This next generation of growers want real-time access to all the data on their crops," said AgerPoint president Thomas McPeek. "The more informed the growers become, the better decisions they make and the more money they make."

The advances mean farmers need to consider upgrading equipment like tractors and combines, which give them real-time data to view on smartphones.

"They're all skeptical at first," says Bryan Peterman, a sales manager at Atlantic Tractor in Delaware.

"But this is a generational issue. You have the younger generation who use smartphones and iPads who are quick to use this. But we have to show the farmers that it is user-friendly and that it saves money."

Dale Blessing, who farms on several thousand acres in Milford, Delaware, said he decided to add a harvesting combine with auto-steering which sends data to the cloud and makes it available to him in real time.

"It's just more efficient," he said. "You can make more with less."

Victory for The Congo: Oil Company Halts Exploration in Africa’s Virunga National Park

Nation of Change, Christina Sarich, Friday 27 June 2014

Soco International will stop oil prospecting in Virunga, a world heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s the biggest success for conservationists in years. Hooray!

British Oil Company, Soco International, has announced a surprising decision to stop exploring in the Virunga world heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Conservationists claim this is one of their largest successes in years.

Virunga is one of the world’s oldest and most bio-diverse national parks on the planet. It offers beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes. It is home to half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas, as well as elephants, hippos, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, abundant bird life, and thousands of other life forms.

Soco, which operates in Angola and Vietnam, caused outrage when it was initially given permission to conduct seismic testing in Africa for the purpose of oil prospecting. Virunga is considered one of the world’s most volatile regions, and leading conservation groups collected the signatures of more than 700,000 people to halt the company’s plans.

The company told the WWF it would:

“. . .commit not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga national park unless Unesco and the DRC government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its world heritage status.”

While the WWF meditation may have helped the cause, it is likely that the involvement of prominent figures like Richard Branson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and US financier Howard Buffett, helped to put pressure on the British government, who then leaned on Soco to halt their exploration.

Soco stated:

"We will complete our existing operational programme including completing the seismic survey on Lake Edward which is due to conclude shortly. The Company confirms its previous statements that no Block V drilling commitments have ever been made. The conclusion of this phase of work will give the DRC government vital information it will need in deciding how to proceed in Virunga national park.”

Virunga was designated a world heritage site in 1979 but intense fighting among armies and militia such as the Mai Mai rebel group have made it one of the most unstable politically as well. It is also home to tens of thousands of people who fled to Virunga from genocide in Rwanda. The violence has been so intense, that park rangers have been killed and last month, the Virunga chief warden, Emmanuel de Mérode, was shot and seriously wounded.

Furthermore, Lake Albert, which provides water to more than 50,000 families, is also now protected from pollution that would likely ensue from oil exploitation.

"If free from the threat of oil, Virunga can be a source of hope for the people of the DRC. This park can become a leading economic driver for its communities", said Raymond Lumbuenamo, country director of WWF-Congo DRC.

Indian forest villagers rise up to halt UK firm's bid to clear land for mining

British firm Essar Energy's plans for open cast mine in Mahan forest plans could destroy villages and 5m trees.

The Guardian, The Observer, Gethin Chamberlain,  Saturday 28 June 2014

Children collect flowers in the Mahan forest, which is threatened by a coalmining
project run by the British-registered company Essar. Photograph: Greenpeace

India's new government faces a crucial test of its support for big business over plans to let a British-registered energy company cut down a tract of forest to make way for an open cast coalmine.

Essar Energy – owner of the UK's Stanlow oil refinery – and its partner, the Hindalco company, were granted permission to mine in the Mahan forest of Madhya Pradesh after a lobbying campaign which reached right to the top of the previous government.

In letters to senior figures, including the prime minister and finance minister, they argued that the coal was needed to fuel a power station and aluminium smelting unit that were crucial for the country's economic development.

But the plans have placed them on a collision course with the thousands of people who rely on the forest for their livelihoods and with environmental campaigners, including Greenpeace, who are determined to stop the mine.

Among those directly affected are more than 5,000 members of tribal communities with legal rights to use the forest. Greenpeace claims that the mine would mean the felling of more than five million trees, affecting the livelihoods of as many as 50,000 people, with at least two villages being razed. It has also raised concerns about the effect on wildlife, which includes leopards and sloth bears. Tigers and elephants are reported to be occasional visitors.

The deal is also one of several allocations of mining rights which are the subject of a criminal investigation into corruption. An official audit found many had been significantly undervalued and the political row over what became known in India as the "coal scam" further dented trust in the Congress-led government and helped consign it to defeat in this year's general election.

A similar standoff between the UK's Vedanta and villagers in Orissa over plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills ended in defeat for the company.

But the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) came to power promising to make it easier to do business in India and the billionaire owners of the two firms will expect it to make good on that pledge.

The decision to allow mining to go ahead in Mahan was granted despite staunch opposition from former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

A final decision is expected shortly but a report to new prime minister Narendra Modi this month from India's powerful Intelligence Bureau, labelling Greenpeace as "a threat to national economic security", suggests the environmentalists face a struggle.

The coal block was allocated by a Congress-led government in 2006 to provide coal for Essar's planned power station and to fuel an aluminium smelter owned by Hindalco. But environmental clearances proved hard to secure and by 2010 the companies were frustrated.

Essar chairman Shashi Ruia decided to lobby prime minister Manmohan Singh personally. On 5 March 2010 he wrote to Singh to "earnestly request" clearance, pointing out that 65% of the work on the power station had been completed and complaining that three years after being allotted the coal block, the company was still waiting on permission from the environment ministry.

The delay, Ruia argued, would result in "avoidable huge loss to us as well as the country". Singh copied the letter to the environment and forest minister, Ramesh, with a note asking him to deal with it "expeditiously".

Six days later, Ramesh met Ruia. In a note of the meeting sent to the prime minister's permanent secretary, he pointed out that "the Mahan coal block should never have been allowed in the first place" and that giving permission for mining would "open up a Pandora's box which we should avoid at all costs".

Undeterred, Ruia tried again. On 16 August 2010 he wrote to Singh to update him on progress with construction of the power station and to ask again for clearance. "I would be very much grateful if necessary instructions are given to the Hon Minister of Environment and Forests to expedite necessary forest clearances at the earliest."

Ramesh refused to bend. In a letter dated 8 July 2011, he wrote that he was unable to agree to clearance for the project and was particularly concerned that the coal block lay in the catchment area of the Rihand reservoir. Instead, he suggested that the power plants be supplied by the Sohagpur coalfield.

In the letter, Ramesh said that he had taken into consideration that the companies had already invested about £360m in the power plants and that the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had appealed to him twice to permit it on the grounds that it would boost economic activity in the state. But he complained that the investment had taken place without clearance and that "fait accompli has become far too common in forest and environmental clearances".

Shortly afterwards, he was switched to the ministry of rural development. A year later, his decision was reversed and in-principle approval was granted. In February this year, the project was given the green light. Even then, the decision came with conditions, among them the need for a resolution from the representatives of those living in the area – the gram sabha – supporting the project.

But the resolution, passed on 6 March 2013, is hotly contested. It contains the signatures of 1,125 people, although local campaigners say there were only 184 people present at the meeting. Greenpeace claims nine of the "signatories" are dead and has produced death certificates for two of those named. Several people have come forward to insist their signatures were forged. Among them is Kripanath Yadav, 36, of Amelia village. .

"Mahan forest is my provider, protector and God," he said. "I was born in the forest and I am aware that our constitution bestows on us rights on our forest.

"My signature along with several others including some people who are dead were forged during a gram sabha which was held to take people's consent on Essar's coalmine. "We don't want the mine, the jobs or the compensation that Essar tries to lure us with." Officials have promised a fresh vote in the next month.

Last month the former coal secretary PC Parakh was questioned for two days by detectives about a number of allocations, including the Mahan block, but no charges have yet been filed.

Priya Pillai, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, accused the company of wanting to press ahead at any cost. "There's a lot at stake for the company, therefore it seems they want to build their mine even if it means the law of the land is bypassed," said Pillai.

It is not just environmental issues that have dogged Essar of late. The company's decision to delist from the London Stock Exchange and take itself private upset institutional shareholders, which included Standard Life, Scottish Widows and at least two UK local authorities. Many investors were angered by a deal that they argued undervalued the company and left them millions of pounds out of pocket. The company share price stood at 420p when it initially floated in 2010 but the minority shareholders were offered just 70p when it delisted in May.

But Ramakant Tiwari, CEO of Mahan Coal, said the companies had been waiting since 2006 for permission, had invested heavily in the project and had stuck to the letter of the law.

"In such a scenario, it was but natural for both companies to represent their case before the government."

Friday, June 27, 2014

In Madura, Pioneering an Eco-Friendly Firewood

Jakarta Globe, Erwida Maulia, Jun 27, 2014

A farmer looks at a calliandra tree he has just cut down. (JG Photo/
Erwida MauliaIn Madura)

Bangkalan, East Java. Irham Rofii stands out from your run-of-the-mill Muslim preacher, even here on the island of Madura, off the coast of Surabaya, which is home to a bevy of high-profile clerics crowded with clerics and their Islamic boarding schools.

Irham also runs a school, but with a difference: He is known as a “green pioneer” in his community and, most recently, a biomass energy champion.

“It used to be overheated here in Madura. Now you’re arriving here drenched in sweat, but in the past we were scorched [by the sun],” the 48-year-old says, recalling how dry and barren the subdistrict of Geger in Bangkalan — one of four districts in Madura — was just a few years ago.

Irham took to planting trees in the area, which was a challenge given how nutrient-poor the soil was. Soon after he took charge of Darul Ittihad, the Islamic boarding school his father had founded, Irham began using his influence as a local religious and community leader to encourage residents to follow suit in planting trees.

The Islamic clergy holds strong sway over local communities in Madura, more so than in most other parts of predominantly Muslim-populated Indonesia, and the Madurese are said to trust their clerics more than government officials.

“So when I set the example, people came to believe that planting trees was good. So they began to do it too,” Irham says, adding that reforestation is now considered by local residents as an activity that has religious merit.

Geger has since been transformed from a once barren area. Houses sit along a road that cuts through the subdistrict, into Kombangan village where Irham lives, looking almost like intruders in an old-growth forest — when in fact it is the various trees and shrubs now growing densely in the area that were introduced recently and now provide shelter from the searing heat of the day.

“It used to be impossible to grow rambutan trees here,” said Irham, whose tree-planting campaign has earned him the nickname Kyai Hutan (Forest Cleric).

“If you’d been here two months ago, you could have easily picked the rambutan off the trees around here,” he adds, pointing to a tree not far from where we sit, as he addresses guests — local and foreign — who have come to see his latest project.

Having essentially created a forest where before there was none, Irham is now involved in another green project, one that has been going on for the past two years, this time on renewable biomass energy — more specifically, wood pellets.

The project was proposed by Yetti Rusli, an adviser with the Forestry Ministry, and approved for funding in 2012 by the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF). The ICCTF is a body under the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) tasked with managing funds from international donors to support climate change mitigation activities in Indonesia.

Trunks and branches are milled into small pellets that can be burned for fuel
with near-zero carbon dioxide emissions. 
(JG Photos/Erwida MauliaIn Madura)

Near-zero emissions

Upon a request from South Korea, which is set to boost its biomass energy use in order to cut carbon emissions, the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) conducted a study in 2011 to examine potential of four plants for development as energy wood pellets, an environmentally friendly alternative to carbon-heavy coal.

Yanto Santosa, a professor of ecology at IPB and an adviser to the ICCTF, says the four plants were red calliandra, Gliricidia, white leadtree and ear tree. The study found that pellets produced from each plant released near-zero carbon emissions and heat of around 4,600 to 4,700 calories per kilogram — nearly as much as coal at 4,800 to 5,500 calories per kilogram. Calliandra (Calliandra callothyrsus) came out the winner due to its high productivity.

“In its first year, calliandra may be harvested after nine months, and then after that every six months,” Yanto says. “Every time a calliandra tree is cut down, seven to nine buds will appear. [Farmers] probably only need to replant the trees after 15 years.”

The other plants tested, meanwhile, took longer to grow, which meant lower productivity.

“Higher productivity means faster absorption of carbon dioxide,” Yanto adds.

He says calliandra also has the highest density, which explains its less than 1 percent ash content, meaning the wood is highly combustible with near-zero emissions — a good indication of a clean fuel.

Noer Yanto, former official with the local forestry agency and who is also heavily involved in the wood pellet project in Geger, says calliandra has another advantage in that it can grow in nutrient-poor soil and degraded land. It does not require fertile soil to grow in, and in fact its nitrogen-fixing ability allows for other plants to grow more easily — making it perfectly suited for Madura.

Those are the reasons why calliandra, native to Panama and Mexico and introduced in Indonesia in 1936, was chosen as the raw material for wood pellets in the ICCTF pilot site, he says.

A total of 214 hectares in three villages in Geger have been dedicated to growing the plant — some interspersed with other plants — after Irham, Noer and Ghozali Anshori, another local public figure, encouraged members of the local farmer’s cooperative, Gerbang Lestari, to participate in the project. Gerbang Lestari was founded by Irham.

The cleric has even allowed a plot of his land to be used to house the factory that will process the wood. He got his students and residents to help build the factory together, with funds from the ICCTF.

“We want our students to be good not just in religion, but also in science and technology,” he says.

A total of Rp 2.5 billion ($207,000) has been allotted for the project, including Rp 1.2 billion for the wood pellet mill, most of whose parts were shipped from China.

The machine, half-assembled in Indonesia, was ready for use a month ago and has been on a test run since then, processing narrow calliandra trunks and branches into wood pellets.

Business interests and beyond

Daru Asycarya, a Forestry Ministry official supervising the project, says it has drawn the interest of several prospective buyers, including one from South Korea who wants to buy 300 tons of calliandra wood pellets per month.

No deal has been inked, though, Daru says, as the mill is still in the testing stage and only has a production capacity of a ton per hour or around 220 tons per month.

“We want to first make sure that we can produce prime-quality products that will be more widely accepted,” he says.

As for local customers, Daru says, some tea growers in West and Central Java as well as cement maker Holcim have expressed interest in the calliandra wood pellets for use in their operations.

“Many industries have now begun using biomass energy,” he says. “Semen Indonesia [a cement maker], for example, wants biomass to comprise between 30 and 40 percent of their energy source. They’ve begun looking at us.”

Syamsidar Thamrin, the ICCTF secretary, has other uses in mind.

She says the calliandra wood pellets can be an ideal solution for the electricity needs of many of the remote villages across Indonesia, especially on the smaller islands that remain beyond the reach of the national power grid run by state-owned electricity firm PLN.

“Wind power is not always economical. Solar cells remain expensive. Kerosene is cheap only because it’s subsidized. And don’t forget the cost of fuel shipment,” Syamsidar says.

“Calliandra, though, is cheap. I hope this project will be replicated, and later on scaled up for the whole of Madura. And in 10 or 20 years from now, I hope [calliandra wood pellets] will be used to support ‘power the villages’ programs,” she adds.

With as many as 24 million hectares of land across Indonesia categorized as degraded or barren, Yanto says there is a large potential for industrial-scale calliandra cultivation and a massive wood pellet industry that will benefit not only local farmers and communities with additional incomes, but also Indonesia with a new potential power source, and eventually the world, with reduced carbon emissions.

Indonesia is currently facing an energy crisis, with domestic oil reserves expected to be depleted by 2025 if no new reserves are found. Gas reserves are expected to last only for another 30 years, while only highly polluting coal is expected to stay around for longer — for the next 60 years, according to the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

But despite the situation, and the amounts of carbon the fossil fuels emit into the air, the development of sustainable and renewable alternative energy sources in Indonesia has been going at a snail’s pace.

Fossil fuels still dominate Indonesia’s energy mix, with less than 5 percent coming from renewable sources, namely hydro-electricity and geothermal power, according to 2010 data from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Syamsidar dismisses concerns that a wood pellet industry will turn out like the palm oil industry, which has led to the wholesale destruction of huge swaths of pristine forest to clear land for oil palm plantations. If that were to happen with the calliandra industry, experts say, it would go against the whole point of producing clean energy for lower emissions.

“Oil palm requires productive land. But with calliandra, we’re focusing on barren and degraded land,” Syamsidar says. “Rather than letting those lands stay abandoned, why not put them to use?”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

India's uranium mines expose villages to radiation

India plans to source a quarter of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. But this ambitious goal could come at a cost. Radioactive waste from uranium mines in the country's east is contaminating nearby communities.

Deutsche Welle, 25 June 2014

It's a hot summer afternoon in Jadugoda, a small town in eastern India. Four women wearing saris sit in a circle in front of a mud house, with smooth white walls and pink borders decorated with small shards of mirror.

Nearby, a woman pumps up water from a tube well. She then beats a miner's uniform that belongs to her brother. He works nearby, in the uranium mines.

Suddenly a gust of wind blows black dust from the mines into the courtyard. The women cover their faces and rush to cover the pots of water so they don't get contaminated.

Local activist Kavita Birulee says the villagers here are terrified of the radioactive waste. In Jadugoda, rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects are climbing. Birulee says she herself was thrown out of her home after suffering two miscarriages.

"My husband abandoned me. I was called a baanjh, which means sterile or infertile. I was dragged out of my in-laws' house," she said. "Uranium waste has ruined my life. This has made us social outcasts. Now, people are hesitant to marry their boys to Jadugoda girls."

Health-related deformities

Just 40 years ago, Jadugoda was a quiet and lush green locality with no dust or radiation pollution. The people here lived a quiet rural life. But things changed when the Indian government started mining operations here in 1967.

Uranium mining has caused serious
birth defects in nearby communities
Radioactive waste generated by three nearby government-owned mines has caused serious health-related problems in Jadugoda. The mines belong to Uranium Corporation of India Limited - or UCIL. They employ 5,000 people and are an important source of income for villagers in this relatively remote area. But the waste has put 50,000 people, mostly from tribal communities, at risk.

A recent study of about 9,000 people in villages near the mines has documented cases of congenital deformities, infertility, cancer, respiratory problems and miscarriages.

Nuclear scientist Sanghmitra Gadekar, who was responsible for conducting the survey on radioactive pollution in villages near the mines, says there was a higher incidence of miscarriages and still births.

"Also, laborers were given only one uniform a week. They had to keep on wearing it and then take it home. There, the wives or daughters wash it in a contaminated pond, exposing them to radiation. It's a vicious circle of radioactive pollution in Jadugoda," he said.

Social tensions on the rise

Besides health problems, the unsafe disposal of radioactive waste has given rise to new social divisions in the tribal heartland. Women from the Ho, Santhal, Munda and Mahali tribes, for example, are both sick and socially excluded. Jadugoda girls, who were married in far off places, are being abandoned by their husbands.

UCIL, for its part, has never admitted that there is any radiation pollution in Jadugoda. Instead, the company says they have raised the standard of living in this area. UCIL corporate communications head, Pinaki Roy, said that uranium ore found in Jadugoda is of low grade.

According to the Department of Atomic Energy, the plant needs to process 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) of ore to extract 65 grams (2.3 ounces) of usable uranium. This produces large amounts of radioactive waste when it is mined.

'What other option do we have?'

Worker safety is also a serious challenge. UCIL does provide safety gear, but not enough information about exposure, critics say. So, when workers return home, their families are exposed to radiation.

"There have been several problems. Everybody suffers from gastro-enteritis here," a worker told DW on the condition of anonymity.

"We know about the hazards of working in uranium mines," he said. But people here are still willing to risk their lives to make a living, he explains.

Uranium waste is pumped into this pond on UCIL's premises in Jadugoda

"Which one is more dangerous, death by starvation or death due to illness?" he asked. "Disease will kill us slowly, but how many days can you survive without food? If we don't work in these mines, what option do we have?"

Grim future

The mines are on the doorstep of the area's largest city, Jamshedpur. If radiation pollution isn't controlled, more people will be affected in the future. Local officials, however, are proud of their role in India's nuclear defense industry.

Anti-nuclear pollution activist Xavier Dias has been trying to alert locals about the dangers presented by the mines.

"When you are talking about Jamshedpur, you are talking about a thousand ancillary industries, a huge population," he said. "These are dust particles that fly around. They enter the water, the fauna, flora, the food system. And they are killers, but they are slow killers. They kill over generations."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

UN rejects Australia's 'feeble' bid to strip Tasmanian forest's heritage status

Unesco world heritage committee discards Abbott administration's request to open 74,000 hectares to logging, Karl Mathiesen, Monday 23 June 2014

World heritage forest in Mt Field national park, Tasmania. The Australian
 government is trying to revoke the Unesco listing of 74,000 hectares
of forest to allow logging

Unesco has unanimously rejected a “feeble” Australian government bid to reopen 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s world heritage area to logging.

At its annual meeting in Doha, the Unesco World Heritage Committee said the Australian government had failed to provide compelling evidence that areas added to the site only last year were detracting from the overall value of the area.

No committee members defended the Australian cause as the proposal was discarded in less than ten minutes. Portugal’s delegate said accepting Australia’s request would undermine Unesco’s ability to protect natural and cultural icons.

"The justifications presented [for] the reduction are, to say the least, feeble. Accepting this delisting today would be setting an unacceptable precedent, impossible to deny in similar circumstances in the future. If this committee cares for conservation according to responsible engagement of state parties to the convention when they submit their nominations, we cannot accept this requested delisting,” she said.

It is the second time in a week Unesco has issued a withering rejection of Australian attempts to open world heritage sites to development. On Wednesday, the committee warned that the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on a list of threatened sites because of Queensland’s approval of plans to dump material dredged from coal ports inside the park.

Australia told Unesco that some of the 172,500 hectares added under the previous Labor government were forests degraded by logging or contained plantations and that “the assessment work that included such areas in the property did not sufficiently take this in to account”. The new boundary would annex 43% of the original extension.

A representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which advises Unesco, rebuffed this assertion, saying: “The current proposal is extremely sparse in the material that has been provided and it doesn’t compare in quality to the clearly argued position in the proposal for additions that were made last year."

World heritage expert Alec Marr, who was part of a delegation of green groups in Doha, said: “The World Heritage Committee saw through the deception of the Australian government’s efforts here, and the high quality science and professionalism of the advisory bodies was exemplary.”

The areas in question were granted world heritage protection in 2013 after a protracted conflict between Tasmanian forestry and environmentalists ended in a ‘peace deal’ brokered by the Labor-Green state government. As part of this agreement, the Australian government asked Unesco to expand the world heritage area. The modification included tall eucalypt forests in the Styx, Florentine and Weld valleys.

The Liberals pledged during their 2013 election campaign to ask Unesco to roll back the extension, which it said “was put in place against the will of the Tasmanian people”. This would reopen these forests to logging. Although major timber user Ta Ann has said it would refuse to take logs from former world heritage forests.

Russell Falls, a waterfall deep in Mt Field national park. Photograph:
Barbara Walton/EPA

Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck has been involved in a running war of words with environmentalists about the relative level of degradation in the landscape. He has used his media page to post dozens of photographs of logging affected areas, which he says make a “mockery” of the rest of the world heritage area. Colbeck has argued that massive electoral swings to the federal and state Liberals in Tasmania have provided a clear mandate for the move to strip the world heritage status.

But former Greens leader Bob Brown said the attempt to annex the region was a ideological redrawing of old environmental battlelines. “The decision was driven by the Tasmanian Liberals who have run a vendetta against the Greens and environmentalists since they lost their battle to flood the Franklin in 1983,” said Brown.

Phill Pullinger from Environment Tasmania said the focus in Tasmania would now return to other forests to be protected under the peace deal. “This decision sends a clear message to the Tasmanian Government that the international community holds Tasmania’s forests in the highest regard, and it is a message that we hope the Tasmanian government listens to, by delivering on the remaining 400,000 hectares of agreed forest reserves.”

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), which also advises Unesco, said the extension in 2013 “appeared to contain significant cultural attributes”. Unesco requested Australia to assess the Aboriginal heritage of the area. Icomos said today that the government’s justification for delisting the areas had not considered the risk to cultural sites and urged Australia to finish assessing the area.

Pakana man and Aboriginal community elder Rocky Sainty said: “We can return home in celebration and assure our elders that Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage and culture is important to the world. As custodians, we have felt the weight of responsibility to protect the burial places of our ancestors, some of the oldest rock art in the world and our magnificent forests, from the Australian government’s irresponsible proposal.”

Related Article:

"... Some of you will walk into the forest and you'll feel it. It surrounds you with its love and beauty. Gaia speaks to you. The trees are pushing out oxygen with a benevolent system of photosynthesis. The plants give you oxygen and you give them carbon dioxide. What a system! Look around. Science will say that system happened by accident - a random occurrence. Do you believe that? What a beautiful system! The trees themselves know who you are. You walk into the forest and you feel it hug you, but perhaps another is next to you who came with a chainsaw. They don't care and they don't feel it. To them, the forest is only a resource. What's the difference between the two of you? There's no judgment here, I'm just asking you. What do you think the difference is? The answer: You're letting multidimensional awareness in and they are not. You see, you are becoming more aware of multidimensional soul communication. In this case, it's your enormous soul energy communicating with the other parts of the planet who are also multidimensional.

When you make the decision that it's OK to feel this energy, it will be there. Most of humanity so far has not made that decision. They block it. The law is this - this communication will come to you only with your allowance. The moment you open the door of allowance, you may begin to feel it. Those are our rules.

It's not just allowance for communication from the creative source, but also from an amazing number of what we would call other benevolent energies. These others are represented by groups with names that you have given them. They also cannot get through to you unless you allow it. That's their rule as well. Your names for them are Pleiadians, Arcturians, Sirians, Hathors or those from Orion. There are many more, but unless you open to the possibility of them, they can't communicate either.

Most of humanity will stand next to you as you communicate and think you're not well. That's the way it looks to them. Listen, dear ones, the benevolent groups who represent your DNA essence [your seed biology] and who know who you are are many. The amount of help you have on this planet is staggering, yet the majority of humanity will not allow awareness of it or let the possibility into their reality.. ..."

Organic farm in Benin looks to set example for Africa

Business Recorder – AFP, Tuesday, 24 June 2014

PORTO-NOVO: With his pilgrim's staff and panama hat, Father Godfrey Nzamujo nips up and down the paths of Songhai, the organic farm he created nearly 30 years ago to fight poverty and rural migration in Africa.

The small farm covered barely a hectare when it was set up in Porto Novo in 1985 but has since become a pilot project for the rest of the continent badly in need of new ideas to maximise yields.

The centre in Benin's capital now stretches over 24 hectares (60 acres) and employs an army of workers and apprentices, who toil from sunrise to sunset growing fruit, vegetables and rice, as well as rearing fish, pigs, poultry.

"Nothing is wasted, everything is transformed" according to Nzamujo's principle, with even chicken droppings turned into the bio-gas that powers the centre's kitchens.

Big plans

Songhai in tiny Benin has big plans for Africa. It already has similar operations in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone and wants to set up shop in 13 more west and central African countries.

Nzamujo's raison d'etre is how to help Africans increase yields through simple techniques, without using pesticides or fertilisers, and while cutting production costs and protecting the environment.

The Nigeria-born priest, who was raised in California on the US west coast, said he was shocked by the appalling images of famine in Africa on television at the start of the 1980s.

He then left to discover the continent to see how he could put to good use his university training in agronomics, economics and information technology and fight against poverty on his own terms.

After visiting a number of countries, he ended up in Benin where the country's then-Marxist government gave him a small plot.

"It was abandoned land, killed by chemical fertiliser and conventional agricultural practices. It didn't work," he told AFP.

"There were seven of us. We dug wells and watered with our own hands. And during the main dry season, this grey surface became green," he recalled with a smile.

Increased yields

Nzamujo's secret is in imitating nature, encouraging "good bacteria" present in the soil to maximise production without having to rely on chemicals.

Yields at Songhai speak for themselves: the farm produces seven tonnes of rice per hectare three times a year, up from one tonne per hectare once a year at the beginning of the project.

"Songhai is facing up to the triple challenge of Africa today: poverty, environment and youth employment," said Nzamujo proudly.

The cleric's system centres on local production and distribution, creating economic activity to tackle poverty head on.

At Songhai, jam simmers in large pots while chickens are roasted and soya oil, rice and fruit juice are packaged for sale in the centre's shop or served at its restaurant.

Discarded parts of agricultural machinery are reused to create ingenious contraptions and used water is filtered using water hyacinths.

The centre also has an Internet point and even a bank so that local people can avoid going into the city centre.

Interns and innovation

Youth employment is encouraged and some 400 farm apprentices -- selected by competition -- are trained every year. The 18-month course is entirely free.

Paul Okou is one of them. The 25-year-old from Parakou, northern Benin, would like to follow his parents into farming but is hoping to work in a more profitable way.

"My parents use traditional, archaic methods while at Songhai we learn the modern way, albeit makeshift," he said.

"What we used to do in two days now we do in two hours."

The apprentices are sent into villages where they apply what they have learned. Once in charge of a farm, they join the Songhai network and are checked regularly.

Songhai also welcomes interns who are paying for their own training.

They include Abua Eucharia Nchinor, a Nigerian in his 30s, and Kemajou Nathanael, a 39-year-old former salesman from Cameroon, who both want to open an organic farm in their respective countries.

According to Nzamujo, Songhai is not a cure-all for Africa's problems but tackles their root causes.

"Imagine if all the young people who hang around big cities did their training here and we equip them. Imagine the productivity of Africa today.

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Question: Dear Kryon: I would appreciate a perspective on the following: There seems to be two opposed schools of thought with respect to pesticides and their use. One group categorically states that they are very dangerous and that they are responsible for causing cancers etc... (there's a very long list!!) The other group naturally claims that they are perfectly safe with today's technological advances etc. 

Answer: The chemicals you are using today are dangerous to your health. The more they are used, the more it will be seen over time. We have indicated before that there are far better natural scientific solutions to protecting your crops. Use biology to balance biology. It is non-toxic and simply an alteration of what already exists.