Stories tagged earth day

Apr
22
2013

Tall order: Scientists are cloning giant redwood trees from California in an effort to reforest lost trees and combat climate change.
Tall order: Scientists are cloning giant redwood trees from California in an effort to reforest lost trees and combat climate change.Courtesy Victorgrigas
Start talking about giant cloning projects, and the conversation is going to quickly turn to Jurassic Park, the film that "what iffed" the cloning of dinosaurs. It was all for fun, if beyond hypothetical.

But giants of another kind, trees, are being cloned in an effort to help turn the balance of deteriorating conditions here on Earth. California's iconic, and incredibly tall, redwood trees are getting the cloning treatment. You can read the full details about the project here. And today, Earth Day 2013, the project is going global as clones of these redwoods are being planted in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany and the U.S.

Why clone just behemoth trees? The guys running the project surmise where better to find the strongest, hardiest genetic codes to withstand the coming climate pressures than in these huge redwoods, many which have lived for over 4,000 years.

The current crop of plantings come from the DNA of giant trees cut down about a century ago. Even though the bulk of the trees are just stumps today, those stumps are very much alive. They have live shoots emerging from the stumps, which the researchers can extract DNA from to serve as the basis for their cloning work.

The new plantings have a long way to go. They're only about 18 inches tall right now. The big challenge, the researchers say, is to find people and resources to nurture this little trees into viable, independent growers.

Redwoods are considered best suited to absorb massive volumes of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climate change.

What do you think? Is this a good application for cloning? Can these huge trees make a difference with climate change over the long haul? Should we be tinkering around with this kind of science?

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear, Earth Day. Happy birthday to you!
Stop it!: You are making Earth blush.
Stop it!: You are making Earth blush.Courtesy NASA

Today Earth Day turns 41 years young. Earth day was born in Wisconsin to loving "father" Senator Gaylord Nelson on Wednesday, April 22, 1970. Twenty million Americans left school and work to welcome Earth Day into the world and to protest the country's lack of environmental policy.

As a result, in December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established, and the 70s and 80s saw the birth of dozens of important environmental policies like the Clear Air and Water Acts.

If you want to learn more about Earth Day, check out the EPA's Earth Day page or this manuscript by Gaylord Nelson himself.

Gaylord Nelson: OG Earthdude.
Gaylord Nelson: OG Earthdude.Courtesy Library of Congress
So, you know, get natural!

Pull that mattress out of your yard! Stop flushing batteries down the toilet! Surprise your parents by having them come home to a brand new green roof! Buy some lead-free ammunition! Make your own soap out of fat rendered from things you find on the riverbank! Instead of watching TV tonight, turn off all the lights in your house, and chase your dog around in the dark! Practice photosynthesizing sugars from carbon dioxide! Offer to carry any motorcycle-riding neighbors around on your back, while you make "vroom-vroom" noises! Add a candle to your Gaylord shrine!

Earth Day is for everyone!

It's not every day that I agree with the NYTimes' John Tierney. But today, I do. He offers up seven rules for a new breed of environmentalist: the "Turq."

"No, that’s not a misspelling. The word is derived from Turquoise, which is Stewart Brand’s term for a new breed of environmentalist combining traditional green with a shade of blue, as in blue-sky open-minded thinking. A Turq, he hopes, will be an environmentalist guided by science, not nostalgia or technophobia."

Check out the rules. Are you a Turq? Does any of Tierney's advice surprise you?

Earth Day
Earth DayCourtesy Cornelia Kopp

Jon Foley, of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, has similar advice. "There are no silver bullets," he says. "But there is silver buckshot."

Human activities, rather than nature, are now the driving force of change on the planet. And experts say that there will be nine billion of us on the planet by 2050. Making sure that we all have the chance to survive and thrive will require a lot of innovation, and a lot of blue-sky thinking. Who's up for the challenge?

Apr
22
2009

Big wheel keep on turnin': Modern agriculture produces more food on less space than traditional forms.
Big wheel keep on turnin': Modern agriculture produces more food on less space than traditional forms.Courtesy Andrew Stawarz

Continuing our string of counter-intuitive ecological findings, today we read an article which argues that factory farms are good for the environment. It turns out that people need food. And the 6-billion-plus people on the planet today need a LOT of food. So much so, that 38% of the Earth’s land surface is dedicated to farming. That’s a lot. But, thanks to innovations like pest-resistant foods, artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and expanding irrigation, it’s less than half the area that would be necessary under more traditional farming methods.

(Genetically modified crops are particularly beneficial, as they require fewer chemicals, less fertilizer and help reduce erosion.)

This is not to say that big farms are not without their environmental impact. But that impact is a lot less than it would have been without these innovations. So, on this Earth Day, let us give thanks to the farmers for feeding us, and for doing it so efficiently.

Apr
22
2009

Earth flag
Earth flagCourtesy Dcoetzee

Why Earth Day is April 22

More than one billion people are expected to mark Earth Day today, April 22, 2009. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970, Patterned after that anti-Vietnam movement, he chose April 22 to maximize student participation.

Earth Day's purpose

During an address at the University of Wisconsin, Nelson summed up the purpose of Earth Day this way:

"Our goal is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human creatures and for all living creatures…. The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, between man and other living creatures will require a long, sustained, political, moral, ethical and financial commitment, far beyond any effort made before." Wired

Some Earth Day ideas from our Buzz blog

Clicking this link will take you to all our Earth Day ideas and posts.

Apr
21
2009

Money: it's a hit: Give the banker his props: rich societies pollute less and emit less carbon (per unit of energy used) than poorer societies.
Money: it's a hit: Give the banker his props: rich societies pollute less and emit less carbon (per unit of energy used) than poorer societies.Courtesy Steve Wampler

We’ve talked before about how rich cities also tend to be clean cities. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people in subsistence situations tend to scrabble for mere survival, without much regard to any other issues. Only after securing basic life necessities can they focus attention on externalities, such as the environment.

Now comes word that there is something of a linear progression going on:
the richer you are, the greener you are.

As their wealth grows, people consume more energy, but they move to more efficient and cleaner sources — from wood to coal and oil, and then to natural gas and nuclear power, progressively emitting less carbon per unit of energy. This global decarbonization trend has been proceeding at a remarkably steady rate since 1850, according to Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

The professors argue: “If the energy system is left to its own devices, most of the carbon will be out of it by 2060 or 2070.” All thanks to the free-market system, and the wealth that it brings to us all.

Money…it’s greener than you think!

Apr
21
2009

WWGD?: Control the population of Procambarus clarkii, the often-invasive vector for fungal crayfish plague, crayfish virus vibrosis, and several parasitic worms.
WWGD?: Control the population of Procambarus clarkii, the often-invasive vector for fungal crayfish plague, crayfish virus vibrosis, and several parasitic worms.Courtesy MGordon
Ahoy, Buzzketeers. Tomorrow is Earth Day, and today it is my brother MGordon’s birthday. And while the following letter is addressed to him, I think we can all take a little something from these Earth Day/Birthday suggestions. Pretend that today is your birthday, and ask yourself, “Besides holding hearings on the safety of oral contraceptive pills, what would Gaylord Nelson do today?” Think about it.

Dear MGordon, my only sibling, today it is your birthday.

Today marks the passing of another year in which you have somehow managed to evade the desperate grasp of Death’s horrible, snatching, skeletal paws. One more year above ground, one more year of breathing, another year of cells metabolizing nutrients, of DNA replicating, of tooth-brushing and nose-blowing.

One more year to be grateful that you have not yet been interred in the soggy, polluted ground of Biloxi, where what organisms can survive in the toxic soil will wriggle through your flesh, carefully avoiding the waxy and rank layers of adipose tissue that have already saponified in the basic, low oxygen environment. Another year delaying the cessation of all living bodily functions—an event no doubt distant, but as certain and inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise.

Speaking of tomorrow; tomorrow is the day we call Earth Day! And while you should party this night like it’s your last, on the offhand chance that you do survive until tomorrow you might consider partying in such a way that won’t fill you with crippling, nay, fatal Earth Day guilt.

Many of us over the appropriate age enjoy special occasions with one or two refreshing cans of malt beverage. It’s a fine tradition! Sadly, according to this graph in the Economist, it takes about 300 gallons of water to brew just one gallon of beer. Obviously beer isn’t like super-concentrated water—I expect this figure includes water for growing ingredients, cleaning equipment, hosing rat parts off the brewery floor, etc. Nonetheless, beer flaunts itself in the face of global fresh water shortages. What’s a good birthday alternative, then? Certainly not coffee, apple juice or orange juice! They’re all far worse than beer! No, I recommend warm tap water with 190 proof neutral grain spirits. It won’t reduce your “water footprint” to zero, but it’s better than beer, and it’s good enough for the planet that I want you to have an extra one… for me!

One of the best parts about this Earth Day Martini (Earthtini?) is its low reliance on packaging! Even better than recycling cans is not using cans at all! And if you want to be particularly green (you do, as a birthday present to yourself), try drinking them from your own cupped palms.

A birthday is a special day, and we all like to be treated special on special days. So it’s okay to expect your friends to drive you around on your birthday! (Especially if you’ve been drinking Earthtinis all night.) On any normal day, I’d recommend that you ride, as our parents would say, “buck” over the crossbars of a friend’s bicycle. However, on Earth Day, I think we should pay special attention to the fact that a significant portion of our bicycles and bicycle parts are manufactured in countries that don’t necessarily have very good environmental protection laws. So a relatively comfortable evening of riding buck might be emissions-free, but only at the expense of the air quality in China. Accordingly, I suggest that you have your friends carry you around piggyback (riding Buck, if you will).

Should midnight find you alive and conscious, perhaps that would be a good time to give props to the man Himself. I am, of course, referring to Governor Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day. Simply chanting “Gaylord! Gaylord! Gaylord!” as you’re carried through town should let people know that you’re all about Earth Day.

What else? Be sure that none of the hip-hop consumed on your birthday is too highly produced. All that extra studio time means more hours with the lights on, and more power for mixing boards. The coal-fired power plants that produce that electricity are responsible for about one third of the USA’s carbon emissions, as well as decent handful of other nasty pollutants. And here’s a little known fact: for every 10 seconds that autotune is used in a song, one humpback whale dies. (Ironically, so called “dirty rap” is generally quite Earth-friendly, so go nuts.)

This is all just the tip of the iceberg, really, but hopefully it can get you into the right pre-Earth Day mindset. Have fun, but always ask yourself, “What would Gaylord do?” (WWGD). Use lead-free ammunition (likewise avoid tungsten based ammo), dispose of needles properly, be sure that all adult entertainers wear biodegradable clothing (or pick up after themselves)… you get the idea!

This could be the best Bearthday ever.

Apr
21
2009

Tired of being told over and over again to recycle or to buy compact fluorescent bulbs? Conserving energy and reducing waste is important, but it's not always the most exciting way to help the planet. Or is it...?

This Earth Day you can combat your boredom and reduce your carbon footprint with one of these cool Do-It-Yourself projects from the website Instructables. Some are harder than others, but all of them are possible with a little time and elbow grease.

-Recycle old computer parts and keep them out of the landfill

-Turn an ordinary exercise bike into an energy bike

-Plant a garden...no green space required!

-Make a water retaining and filtering 'Rain Garden'

-Collect and reuse water with a rain barrel

-Build a double decker drum composter

-Make a five dollar solar thermal water heater

-Build this quick and easy bike trailer

-Make a boat out of recyclables and trash

-Use heat from your television or computer monitor to dry food

-Recycle water bottles into an algae bioreactor

Got other Earth Day project ideas? Share them here! Or better yet, upload your own instructions to the Instructables website and help other people have a fun and functional Earth Day everyday!

Happy Earth Day

by Liza on Apr. 22nd, 2008

Today's the 38th national celebration of Earth Day. Step outside, Buzzers, and appreciate this blue planet of ours, and then make a pledge to yourself to do more reducing, reusing, and recycling.