Soil Benefits from Organic Farming

The benefits of organic farming keep revealing themselves – it turns out that the soil itself benefits from farmers growing organic crops.

“Farmers interested in transitioning to organic production will be happy to see that with good management, yields can be the same, with potentially higher returns and better soil quality,” said Delate, who leads the project.

The U.S. organic ag industry continues to grow and was a $31 billion industry in 2011, Delate said. To market a crop as organic, it must be grown on land that has received no synthetic chemicals for three years prior to harvest.

Read more.

Thanks to @ThePeterKelly

Open Hand: Low Cost Robotic Hand

A funding campaign on IndieGoGo is focused on making an open-sourced robotic prosthetic hand. This is wonderful because the end product will be shared with everyone and the hand can be made essentially anywhere.

The Open Hand Project is open-source, which means all of the plans to make a robotic hand will be published online with no patents, anyone has the right to make their own and even sell it themselves. You’re funding the full development of the hand with the Open Hand Project, after that companies will be able to use the designs and sell the hands all over the world. This really helps get these devices out to developing countries and places where import taxes might otherwise increase the cost of distribution.

Contribute to their funding campaign!

France Bans Child “Beauty” Pageants

The bizarre practice of over-sexualizing prepubescent girls on stages in front of people has now been banned in France. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind these pageants and it’s nice to see that other people see the problematic behaviour behind them. Hopefully other countries will follow France’s example.

The Senate agreed to adopy tough sanctions to anyone flouting the law.

Under the new law, organizers of pageants under the age of 16 may now face up to two years in prison if they fail to comply with the ban and a fine of up to €30,000 ($40,000).

“Let’s not let our daughters think from such a young age that they will be judged according to their appearance. Let’s not let commercial interest impact on social interest,” Jouanno told the Senate.

Read more.

India Bans Shark Finning

Chinese demand for the fins of sharks (I have no idea what they are good for) has gone up over the past couple years. India is one of the largest exports of shark parts to China and the Indian government has decided to ban the act of removing fins from sharks.

Worldwide, sharks are in sharp decline, with some species’ numbers now 10 per cent of what they were three decades ago. Their demise threatens the health of ocean ecosystems, experts say, as the top predators are key to keeping fish and turtle populations in check. Tens of millions are caught every year.

Conservationists applauded the ministry’s move as key to ending a cruel practice threatening to push some shark populations to the brink.

“Given the perilous status of many shark species, we urge the state governments to act quickly and work to enforce the policy,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

More at the CBC.

Scotland Starts Europe’s Largest Tidal Wave Energy Installation

Tidal wave energy installations are nothing new, but installing it on a scale that can power 42,000 homes is. The other day, the Scottish government gave the go ahead for starting a wave-powered energy installation.

“This is a major step forward for Scotland’s marine renewable energy industry. When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40% of homes in the Highlands. This … is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398 megawatts.”

Speaking at the Scottish renewables marine conference, Ewing also announced that developers Aquamarine Power Limited and Pelamis Wave Power are to share a slice of a £13m wave “first array” support programme, part of the Scottish government’s marine renewables commercialisation fund.

Ewing said the tide is turning for the wave sector.

Read more at The Guardian.

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