Friday, July 31, 2009

New USDA Program has Funding to help Farmers with Water Conservation

The new Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), established by the 2008 farm bill, provides funds to farmers to help them establish practices that support water conservation. On July 30, Dave White, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that $58 million is accessible for 63 projects in 21 states. Click here for information about the projects and the amount of funding approved for each state.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bottled Water Ban in Bundanoon, Australia

According to the New York Times, a local controversy over bottled water has received international attention after the town of Bundanoon, Australia, banned bottled water.

The debate began because a Sydney-based bottling company wanted to use a local aquifer as a source for its bottled water. As residents began to dislike the increase in truck traffic that would accompany the usage of their aquifer, they also began to oppose the environmental impact of transporting water for packaging and then for distribution.

As awareness grew, it was proposed that perhaps the town shouldn’t support bottled water at all. 356 people attended the meeting to vote on the bottled water ban. By show of hands, only one objected.

The reason varies between ban supporters—besides the environmental implications, some people expressed concern about the chemicals in plastic and others saw it as an exhibition against the water plant.

The effects of the ban are voluntary, but the town’s retailers have decided to stop selling bottled water in September. Reusable bottles will be sold instead, with the intent that available water fountains can be used to fill the bottles.

Bundanoon’s ban has increased awareness about the bottled water debate. For more information, please see the full New York Times article here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Artificial Sweeteners Remain After Sewage Treatment

The potential heath effects of artificial sweeteners are still debated, but the controversy surrounding their effect on the environment is just beginning.

Researchers in Germany used a new analytical method to detect artificial sweeteners in waste and surface water. Out of the seven sweeteners they tested for, they found four: acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate, and sucralose. These sweeteners are making it through the sewage treatment process, indicating that sweeteners are polluting rivers and streams that receive water from sewage treatment plants. In previous studies, only sucralose had been detected.

Click here for more information on this research.

Forum on Forests and Climate Change: To Copenhagen and Beyond

Climate Change: Catalysing Synergies

Climate change is affecting the entire forest sector with all its stakeholders and is perceived as a common challenge. A decision for whether and how forests will be dealt with in the post 2012 climate arrangement is expected to be negotiated at the UNCCC COP 15 at Copenhagen, Denmark, in early December. In preparation for Copenhagen 2009, the XIII World Forests Congress invites the global community to a Forum on Forests and Climate Change, a unique occasion for debate which aims to produce a recommendation of a technical nature, which will be presented to the UNCCC COP 15.

Forests are linked with climate change in various ways - they are affected by climate change, when degraded or removed, they contribute to climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and they contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during afforestation and reforestation. Furthermore, the use of wood for products and fuel reduces GHG emissions from competing, more carbon-intensive products.

According to the FAO (2005), deforestation worldwide, mainly conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at an alarming rate (approximately 13 million hectares per year for the period 1990–2005). Deforestation and forest degradation result in immediate release of the carbon originally stored in the trees as CO2 emissions, particularly if the trees are burned, and the biomass decays. The IPCC WG III (2007) estimated emissions from deforestation in the 1990s to be at 5.8 GtCO2/yr, accounting for roughly 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC also notes that reducing and/or preventing deforestation and forest degradation are the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate global carbon stock impact in the short term, per hectare and per year, as the release of carbon as emissions into the atmosphere is prevented.

With the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report has come more certainty that climate change is an inevitable consequence of past and present human activities. Observations of current impacts of climate-mediated events on forests include diebacks and mass mortality and changes in tree physiology, forest biodiversity, forest growth and productivity. Forests interact intimately with climate and are also an essential part of many societies, especially in the developing world. Climate change is already affecting people and livelihoods and in despite of incomplete knowledge and uncertainties, forest adaptation is possible, but it is necessary to have a plan and act rapidly.