Thursday, January 10, 2008

China Bans the Use of Plastic Bags

From: , Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate


China announced this week that production and use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail shops will be banned beginning June 1. This new law could have a considerably positive environmental impact, given that Chinese citizens "use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day." The law is part of a larger campaign to fight "white pollution" in China, which includes other forms of rampant plastic and styrofoam use as well.

This bold and surprising move demonstrates that the Chinese government is starting to take pollution concerns seriously. While a few city governments here in the U.S. have passed (San Francisco) or are considering passing similar legislation (New York), it is refreshing to see a national government as powerful and influential as the China make such a decision.

So, how will plastics manufacturers, retailers, and citizens react? Anecdotal comments from the AP story show that citizens and retailers welcome the move. Sturdier plastic bags will continue to be available and the manufacturing of cloth bags can be expected to rise. In addition, Reuters reported that the Chinese government "signaled it may tweak the tax code to give the recycling industry a boost."

Could this law trigger similar laws from other national governments? How could this work in the U.S.? I invite readers from the San Francisco region to comment on the effectiveness of plastic ban regulation in their city.

Brazil sees sharp farm growth, despite environment



By Raymond Colitt

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's farm sector will grow rapidly over the next decade and double some of its leading exports despite concerns over Amazon destruction and farmers' debt, the government said on Wednesday.

Critics say Brazil's rapidly expanding agricultural frontier has helped push farmers and loggers deeper into the world's largest rain forest, increasing destruction.

"We can still grow substantially without any deforestation," Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes told a news conference after presenting the government's 10-year farm sector outlook.

Brazil's production of ethanol derived from sugar cane would grow by 113 percent and exports of the biofuel by 270 percent over the next decade, the report said.

Brazil is to surpass the United States as the number one soy exporter, with foreign sales rising 40 percent to 50.5 million tons by the 2016/17 harvest.

"We see good prospects for strong growth," Stephanes said.

The government last month banned the sale of farm products from illegally deforested areas in the Amazon in an attempt to reverse months of increasing destruction.

It will impose fines for buying or trading goods such as beef or soy produced on illegally deforested properties.

A new zoning law is in the making that would regulate farming according to environmentally sensitive regions.

Still, conservationists question whether the government has the resources to implement controls, even though it sent hundreds of additional police last month to the vast Amazon region, part of which is dominated by local political bosses, land speculators and gunmen.

Increased agricultural production would come from improved yields and increasing the use of already cleared land. Only 3 percent of Brazil's total land was being used for soy production, Stephanes said.

Beef exports, which have grown 104 percent since 1994, would expand by a further 62 percent over the coming decade, the agriculture ministry projected.

In order to expand its already dominant position in many commodities on the international market, Brazil would have to become more aggressive in coming years, Stephanes said.

That included additional lines of credit for farmers, who have lost some capital after two consecutive bad crop years, he said.

The government's projections assume world per capita income growth of 3.05 percent through 2016, up from 2.86 percent over the past decade.

(Editing by Christian Wiessner)

Chimpanzees May Build Their 'Cultures' In A Similar Way To Humans

From: University of Liverpool


Historically, scientists believed that behavioural differences between colonies of chimpanzees were due to variations in genetics. A team at Liverpool, however, has now discovered that variations in behaviour are down to chimpanzees migrating to other colonies, proving that they build their 'cultures' in a similar way to humans.

Primatologist, Dr Stephen Lycett, explains: "We knew there were behavioural differences between chimpanzee colonies, but nobody really knew why. It was assumed that young chimpanzees developed certain behavioural characteristics from the genes passed down from their parents, but there was no evidence to clearly support this. It was also thought that because behaviour was dictated by biology, chimpanzees did not have a 'culture' in the same way that humans do."

By looking at how chimpanzees prepare their food, the research team discovered that one colony used stone tools to crack nuts, whereas another colony used wooden tools as well as stone. They found these methods of preparing food have spread 4000km from East to West Africa over the more than 100,000 years. The team also found this true of other techniques, such as grooming. The research suggests that behavioural variety is due to how chimpanzees socialise rather than genetics as previously thought.

To investigate the theory further researchers built an evolutionary tree of chimpanzee behaviour in East and West Africa as well as a genetic family tree. They had expected to find that those with similar genetic patterns also shared behavioural similarities. Instead, they found that some chimpanzees shared behavioural similarities with those that were genetically different from them.

Dr Lycett, added: "This explains why some colonies, for example, use similar methods for finding food, adopting certain behaviour and adapting different methods to suit their own environment. In this sense we can see for the first time that culture exists in our closest relatives."

The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

World's cheapest car - a climate change disaster

Fred Attewill and agencies
Guardian Unlimited

The Tata Nano
Crowds gather in New Delhi for the launch of the Nano, the Tata Group's 'people's car'. Photograph: Money Sharma/EPA

The world's cheapest car, a £1,290 four-seater designed to appeal to India's burgeoning middle classes, was unveiled in Delhi today as environmentalists warned of its drastic consequences for pollution.

Tata, the giant Indian company that designed and manufactured the Tata Nano, is marketing the car as a safer mode of transport for families who squeeze on to the back of motorbikes.

It will go on sale in India for 100,000 rupees but it will not be available in the Europe due to more stringent safety and emissions standards.

Speaking at the launch of the car today, the Tata chairman, Ratan Tata, said: "I observed families riding on two-wheelers - the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him holding a little baby.

"It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family. Tata Motors' engineers and designers gave their all for about four years to realise this goal.

"Today, we indeed have a people's car which is affordable and yet built to meet safety requirements and emission norms, to be fuel efficient and low on emissions. We are happy to present the people's car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility."

Tata, which hopes to buy Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford, also hopes also to create a "new market for cars which does not exist", making them accessible to India's booming middle classes recently made rich by an economy growing at around 9% a year.

This rapidly expanding market is potentially extremely lucrative, with the consultants McKinsey predicting the size of the Indian middle class will grow from 50 million now to 583 million by 2025.

The car has a 600cc engine in the boot, four doors and uses a lot of plastics as well as steel in its body frame. It is being manufactured at a new plant near Kolkata, with an initial capacity of 250,000 cars a year.

Tata believes it can eventually sell up to a million Nanos a year. Even though it is expected to be relatively fuel-efficient, such figures alarm environmentalists already concerned by the congestion and rising pollution levels in India's overcrowded cities.

"There is this mad rush towards lowering the prices to achieve mass affordability,' said Anumita Roychoudhury, of the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi.

"If vehicle ownership increases very rapidly, we'll have a timebomb ticking away. When you lower the price that drastically, how will you be able to meet the safety and emissions standards? There are no clear answers yet."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Rare Winter Tornado hits Wisconsin

Tornado Touches Down In Kenosha County

Homes Damaged In Wheatland

At least one tornado touched down Kenosha County Monday.Sgt. Gil Benn of the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department told 12 News six to eight homes were severely damaged in the town of Wheatland area, and an unknown number of cars were blown off the road on Highway 50 near O.Aurora Medical Group facilities in the area treated 12 people for storm-related injuries, but none of the injuries was major.

Of four treated in Kenosha, three were in good condition and one in fair condition. The hospital in Burlington had five patients, all with minor injuries, while the center in Elkhorn had three patients with minor injuries.Authorities told 12 News reporter Colleen Henry they are trying to evacuate the area around Highway 50 and 352nd Avenue because of gas leaks. They are also trying to find out if there are any injured people.We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said 1,700 customers in Wheatland are without power, and 4,000 customers in the city of Kenosha don't have power.
Paul Nevill
He said if anyone sees a downed power line, they should call 800-662-4797.Benn said that the sheriff's department has established a command post at Highways 45 and 50.Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth advised people to stay inside and avoid driving if possible because of downed power lines.Beth has activated the county's emergency operation center.If you live in Kenosha County and need to report damage, you can call 262-605-7926.Baden said there are reports of debris falling from the sky near Sturtevant.WISN 12 News reporter Nick Bohr was in Racine County and reported extremely heavy rain around Caledonia at 4:30 p.m. An earlier warning for Walworth and Rock counties has expired.Jurors in the Mark Jensen trial going on in Elkhorn had to be moved to the basement in the middle of testimony Monday afternoon.
Paul Nevill
At one point, Rock, Walworth, Kenosha and Racine counties had been under tornado warnings.A confirmed tornado was also spotted in Boone County, Ill., and the National Weather Service in Illinois confirmed there was considerable damage in that section of Northern Illinois.Both Baden and WeatherWatch Meteorologist Sally Severson said they can't believe they are seeing tornado warnings this early in January.Fog advisories remained in effect until 11 p.m. Monday.It hit 63 degrees Monday in Milwaukee, which contributed to the tornadoes. That is a record temperature.Copyright 2008 by


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