Estonia Cleans Up!

You probably didn’t hear about it, but in 2008 Estonia cleaned up 10,000 tons of trash in their forests by recruiting 50,000 people. How? Through an extensive media campaign and a good dose of networked collaboration.

The “Let’s Do It!” website is here, but in Estonian. So here’s a video in English!

Based on the success in Estonia, the campaign has gone worldwide!

North American Governments Agree to Protect Wilderness

With so many reports of Canada and the US flouting international agreements on environmental reform, it’s nice to see that we care about something. Canada, America and Mexico have just drafted a memorandum of understanding on protecting wilderness areas in the three countries.

The three nations have long cooperated on wilderness management – programs have straddle the U.S.-Canadian border since 1910 and the U.S.-Mexican border since the 1930s. Yet the memorandum of understanding is the first multinational agreement on wilderness protection, according to Vance Martin, president of the Wild Foundation.

“It’s not very easy to do anything internationally, even when the countries are neighbors,” Martin said.

With the agreement, wildlife officials said, ecological monitoring efforts such as migratory species tracking, air and water quality tests, and staff training will be better managed across the seven agencies responsible for such tasks in North America.

Read more at Worldchanging

Optimistic Take on Economics and Climate Change

We’ve just seen the first big win in the fight to stabilise the world’s climate

Green Futures has an interview with Lester Brown and Brown has a neat take on the current state of the human relationship with how we use the environment.

Sound business sense, says Brown. “Unlike the Texan oil fields, there’s no way they’re going to deplete the wind! So when you build the infrastructure – the wind farms, the transmission lines and so on – you’re basically there for the long haul. Sure you’ll have to replace parts from time to time, but once it’s there, it can last as long as the Earth itself.”

And once you make that decisive shift to renewables, he adds, you start benefiting from all kinds of positive feedback loops. “For example, in the US, we use [a huge amount of] freight fuel to transport coal. If you phase out coal, you have a dramatic drop in diesel fuel use, and an associated fall in carbon emissions. It’s the same with water. If you have wind farms in place of thermal power plants (whether coal, gas or nuclear), water demand drops precipitously.”

Carbon Monitoring for Action

CARMA is an organization that monitors carbon produced by power plants around the world. They have an interactive map to visualize what parts of the world are the worst offenders, you can also see which companies are the worst polluters. It’s great to see a site that puts all of this information into one place for activists and researchers to access easily.

The objective of is to equip individuals with the information they need to forge a cleaner, low-carbon future. By providing complete information for both clean and dirty power producers, CARMA hopes to influence the opinions and decisions of consumers, investors, shareholders, managers, workers, activists, and policymakers. CARMA builds on experience with public information disclosure techniques that have proven successful in reducing traditional pollutants.

For several thousand power plants within the U.S., CARMA relies upon data reported to the Environmental Protection Agency by the plant operators themselves as required by the Clean Air Act. CARMA also includes many official emissions reports for plants in Canada, the European Union, and India. For non-reporting plants, CARMA estimates emissions using a statistical model that has been fitted to data for thousands of reporting plants in the U.S., Canada, the EU, and India. The model utilizes detailed data on plant-level engineering and fuel specifications. CARMA reports emissions for the year 2000, the current year, and the future (based on published plans).

The Truth About Recycling

The Economist looks into the truth about recycling and they have discovered some neat things. Of course, there are some complications with recycling, and it’s important to remind ourselves that nothing is perfect, but it’s good that we aim for perfection. Recycling is a really really good thing to do.

Based on this study, WRAP calculated that Britain’s recycling efforts reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 10m-15m tonnes per year. That is equivalent to a 10% reduction in Britain’s annual carbon-dioxide emissions from transport, or roughly equivalent to taking 3.5m cars off the roads. Similarly, America’s Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling reduced the country’s carbon emissions by 49m tonnes in 2005.

Recycling has many other benefits, too. It conserves natural resources. It also reduces the amount of waste that is buried or burnt, hardly ideal ways to get rid of the stuff. (Landfills take up valuable space and emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas; and although incinerators are not as polluting as they once were, they still produce noxious emissions, so people dislike having them around.) But perhaps the most valuable benefit of recycling is the saving in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin feedstock. “If you can use recycled materials, you don’t have to mine ores, cut trees and drill for oil as much,” says Jeffrey Morris of Sound Resource Management, a consulting firm based in Olympia, Washington.

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