Tag Archives: Environment

Beijing’s Simple Yet Effective Idea to Get People to Recycle (Video)

China has become notorious in recent years for its high levels of air pollution. This, however, is only one of many issues facing China as the country’s middle class continues to grow.

Beijing, China’s capital city, is home to around 20 million people. As a result, the city produces a lot of trash.

On a number of occasions, academics have attempted to estimate just how much trash Beijing produces. They have all failed, due in large part to the fact that the massive trash collection industry in China is extremely unorganized.

So back in 2012, the government of Beijing came up with an innovative solution to their trash problem: reverse vending machines that reward people who recycle with credits that can be applied to phone cards or public transit costs.

A woman uses one of the new kiosks in a Beijing subway station (Courtesy of CCTV)

The machines are equipped with scanners that can identify what type of bottle you are recycling to determine its value. More valuable bottles get you more credit.

Beijing has contracted Incom, the company building the kiosks, to build 100 of the machines across the city (Incom thinks the number will eventually be in the thousands).

34 kiosks have been built so far. Check out the video below to see one of the machines in action and hear how local people are responding to them:

(h/t Pangea Today, The Guardian)

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Using Vacuum Tubes to Shoot Salmon Over Dams and Restore Their Traditional Habitats

Over the past hundred and fifty years or so, the waterways of the Pacific Northwest have seen more and more dams built across them.

The dams provide hydroelectric power, as well as making irrigation possible in otherwise dry, arid areas.

But they have also contributed to the rapid decline of the once thriving salmon populations of the region.

Columbia River Basin: fish and dams. Click to enlarge

The Columbia River Basin is a series of rivers which used to empty out into the Pacific Ocean. Young salmon would head out towards the ocean to mature while older salmon headed back to their home rivers and streams to mate and spawn.

But since the first hydroelectric dam in the Pacific Northwest was built in Spokane in 1885, the region has seen over 40 dams built along the waterways that make up the ancient salmon habitats.

Thirteen salmon species are listed as endangered and a number of otherds have already gone extinct.

One of the problems is that many dams lack fish ladders, which are basically series of steps that allow fish to get from one side of a dam to the other. This cuts off hundreds of miles of habitat to endangered salmon as well as their close relatives, the steelhead trout.

A fish ladder alongside the John Day Dam, on the Columbia River. Click to enlarge

Many people argue that these fish ladders are almost completely ineffective. One study showed that only 3% of fish that make it past the first fish ladder in a series of dams will reach the last one. The ladders are also not big enough to accommodate larger fish species like sturgeon.

But now, a team of biologists in central Washington has come up with a creative solution to this problem: vacuum-pressurized tubes.

The idea originated in 2009 with Whooshh Industries, a Washington-based company that started out making vacuum tubes for fruit transportation and harvesting.

Courtesy of Whooshh Industries. Click to enlarge

The concept was tested early last month. Biologists used Whooshh’s 40-foot flexible vacuum tubes to transport 90 salmon from a collection area to a tank truck waiting to transport them to a hatchery.

The biologists say that the tubes are less stressful than transporting fish by hand because it minimizes human contact and gets them back into water faster.

A biologist feeds a fish into the vacuum tube. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of HCN)

Whooshh is now working with state, federal and tribal groups to implement and improve the system. Though it’s still in its early stages, Whooshh has high hopes for the idea. Here’s Todd Deligan, who runs Whooshh’s fish-transport program:

“The ultimate goal would be to get fish to places they haven’t been able to access, like the upper Columbia… But that’s a very long-term goal. We’re not going over Grand Coulee (Dam) tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

Read the original story from HCN here. To learn more about the salmon of the Pacific Northwest, check out this awesome special from National Geographic: “Salmon: Running the Gauntlet”.

Think You Can Disprove Man-Made Climate Change? There’s $10,000 Up for Grabs If You Can

Dr. Christopher Keating is a former physics professor who taught at the University of South Dakoa as well as the U.S. Naval Academy. He is also author of the book “Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming”.

Recently, Keating posted a challenge on his blog: he offered $10,000 to anyone who could disprove man-made climate change using the scientific method. In the post, Keating said,

“I know you are not going to get rich with $10,000. But, tell me, wouldn’t you like to have a spare $10,000? After all, the skeptics all claim it is a simple matter, and it doesn’t even have to be original,” Keating wrote. “If it is so easy, just cut and paste the proof from somewhere. Provide the scientific evidence and prove your point and the $10,000 is yours! This is no joke. If someone can provide a proof that I can’t refute, using scientific evidence, then I will write them a check.”

Christopher Keating, Ph.D

Keating admits his bias, saying he’s sure he’ll never have to write the check because,

“The scientific evidence for global warming is overwhelming and no one can prove otherwise.”

But in response to those criticizing his ability to judge fairly because of his bias and his incentive to not lose $10,000, he had this to say:

“If I am a fraud, then I will be held up as an example of how climate scientists everywhere are frauds.”

Keating refuted the first submission because the data used by the skeptic was “cherry-picked” and only showed the last 14 years of average yearly temperature changes (in Celsius).

The graph submitted by the challenger

Keating responded by posting the same graph, but for the last 34 years, which showed a long-term upward trend.

The graph posted by Keating in his rebuttal, which goes back 20 years further than the graph above

The second submission was a little better. The submitter used data on naturally occurring climate change to argue that the current fluctuations aren’t a result of human activity. While Keating couldn’t dispute the data presented, he basically argued that just saying there was natural fluctuations in the past does not at all prove that the warming we’re now experiencing is natural.

In a recent interview with the College Fix, Keating added that the movement to deny man-made climate change is,

“…very similar to the one waged by tobacco advocates to deny a link between smoking and lung cancer.”

Keating is very confident in his findings and comes off as arrogant more than once in his responses (which I think detracts from his solid arguments). Also, the fact that he has the final say on whether a submission passes the test makes the competition somewhat rigged. However, he does do a great job of backing up his positions with solid data.

For anyone who wants to learn more about both sides of the argument, the exchanges between Keating and those refuting his claims are a pretty good place to start.

Worth noting: one of the biggest indicators of how we are affecting the climate is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since it started being recorded in 1958 (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

At the beginning of the industrial revolution, this number was at 300 parts per million. In the late 80s, it had risen to 350ppm. Now, carbon dioxide levels have risen above 400ppm for the first time in recorded history.

While levels that high have existed before (millions of years ago), the extremely rapid rise in carbon dioxide concentration over the last century is much faster than that concentration has ever risen in the past. Here’s a few reactions to that announcement from NASA scientists.

(h/t The Blaze)

2-Foot-Long American Bullfrog Sparks Concern In British Columbia (Photos)

Recently a man named Russ Schut was fishing in Sproat Lake, which is on Vancouver Island (Canada), just northeast of Washington state.

With just a worm as bait, Russ was able to haul in a 2-foot-long American bullfrog (which he released).

Russ Schut poses with massive bullfrog. Photo courtesy of Russ Schut

Schut posted this picture with the enormous frog thinking that it wasn’t particularly exceptional, other than being impressively large.

But according to GrindTV.com the photograph was noticed and has fueled concern that the,

 “…voracious amphibians are spreading unchecked across the British Columbia island’s landscape. Because they’re not native to the Canadian southwest and have few natural predators, such as alligators, water snakes, and kingfishers in their native American southeast, some of the bullfrogs are growing to abnormally large sizes.”

American Bullfrogs grow to an average length of around 7 inches and weigh up to 1.5 pounds, so the 2-foot-long Bullfrog caught by Russ Schut was defintly abnormal.

Gail Wallin works with the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. She told Alberni Valley Times that these frogs are,

“Big and voracious…And when you’ve got a species like that, that can basically out-eat some of the native species; it will take away the forage that native species would use and at times they can be aggressive on other smaller-sized, earlier life-cycle frogs.”

A current study at the University of Victoria is mapping the rate of the bullfrogs’ spread. Wallin has theorized that they were initially introduced to the area by people emptying their aquariums, unaware of the environmental consequences.

A bullfrog with its eggs

According to National Geographic, American bullfrogs can lay as many as 20,000 eggs, with tadpoles sometimes reaching lengths of 7 inches. These bullfrogs populate quickly and with few natural predators in the area they also populate effectively. Suitably, a group of bullfrogs is called an army, or colony.

Though native to the American southwest, they now range throughout the continuous U.S., as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico and Cuba. Their presence also has been documented in Europe, South America, and Asia.

As of now there is no plan to rid the region of the American bullfrog. Check out some images of the American bullfrog below.

The FAA Just Approved The United States’ First Commercial Drone to… BP?

When you think of drones, you probably think of covert military strikes or black ops surveillance. Some of you might even think of Amazon’s drone delivery system:

So it comes as a surprise to most people hearing that the Federal Aviation Administration approved the first commercial use of drones to none other than oil mega-giant British Petroleum, better known as BP.

The drone, designed by California-based drone manufacturer AeroVironment, made its first commercial flight in Alaska this past Sunday (6/8/2014).

The drone is a Puma-AE (All Environment) model, which is actually one of the most widely-used models in the U.S. military. It measures five feet long and has a 9-foot wingspan.

The Puma-AE drone (Image courtesy of AeroVironment)
The Puma-AE drone (Image courtesy of AeroVironment)

AeroVironment agreed to a five-year contract with BP. Though the drone will do some 3D-mapping and wildlife monitoring (as well as the occasional search-and-rescue mission), its main purpose will be to patrol hundreds of miles of oil pipelines in Alaska.

One of the main reasons that the FAA gave BP approval for the drone is that it will be flying predominantly over uninhabited wilderness; using drones in urban areas raises many more questions about safety and privacy.

Despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board actually ruled in March that the FAA had no jurisdiction to regulate small autonomous and remote-controlled aircraft, this approval suggests that the FAA intends to do just that.

Read more from Gizmodo here.

The Coolest Places On Earth: Fly Geyser, Nevada (Pictures)

On the Hualapai Flat in Northwest Nevada, about a third of a mile off of old Route 34, lies the Fly Ranch. In 1964, energy speculators dug wells into the area, looking for sources of geothermal energy.

The well they dug at Fly Ranch was either capped incorrectly or not tapped at all, because soon after the speculators left, dissolved minerals began to rise from the ground, accumulating into the mounds which continue to grow to this day.

Eventually, the built up pressure from the hot water in the ground was too much to hold back, and the water burst through, creating a geyser and some 30-40 pools in the surrounding 74 acres.

Unfortunately, Fly Ranch is privately owned so you can’t visit the geyser without special permission. You can, however, check out some more pictures of it below. Click an image to enlarge:

The brilliant colors on the geyser are a result of the thermophilic algae that grows on the rocks.

Thermophiles are just one example  of a group of organisms known as extremophiles. These organisms thrive under extreme conditions, such as the boiling hot temperatures of the water coming from the geyser.

Other extremophiles are known to live in extremely acidic, alkaline or even radioactive environments. Many are able to survive without oxygen and some even live in the frigid conditions of ice and permafrost.

What In the World Are “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” and Why Do They Have People So Excited? (Video)

Engineering couple Julie and Scott Brusaw invented “Solar Freakin’ Roadways” in 2006, and have been helping lead the Solar Roadway campaign since.

Check out the Solar Freakin’ Roadway’s video below and see what these futuristic roadways look like and how they work.

Solar Freakin’ Roadway’s hexagon-shaped solar panels can be used not only to collect solar power, but also to light highways and even melt snow and ice. What’s more, the Brusaws claim that their solar roadways have the potential to cut greenhouse gases by up to 75%!

As the designers point out in the video, these solar panels are not just for roads and highways- they can also be used for parking lots, playgrounds, and pretty much anywhere there’s asphalt. Imagine a world where these were everywhere: we’d be producing huge amounts of clean energy and frankly, it’d look pretty sweet!

These solar panels are rapidly gaining attention and leading a movement encouraging the use of Solar Roadways in hopes of making our planet a healthier place to live.

To learn more and/or help fund the project check out Solar Roadways Indiegogo page here.