Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Environmental News Updates

Some random links that caught my eye this week, all around the themes of severe weather, climate change and attempts at making the transition towards sustainable energy.

The Boston Globe has a major photo essay on the recent floods and landslides in western China:

At midnight on Sunday, August 8th, a temporary lake caused by a recent landslide broke loose above the town of Zhouqu, in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China. The outflow slid down the valley as a wall of mud, wiping out houses and multi-story buildings, and killing at least 1,144 residents - with over 600 still reported as missing. More than 10,000 soldiers and rescuers arrived soon to comb through the mountains of mud that buried several parts of Zhouqu County. Engineers also worked to blast the debris that had passed through the town to partially block the Bailong River, causing further flooding. Collected here are images of the landslide-affected area of northwestern China, part of a series of disasters in Asia caused by recent heavy rains.

41 dramatic photos make up the piece, here.

On a more positive note, the New York Times reports on Portugal's success in producing 45% of its electricity through renewables this year, an increase of 17% on 2009. Wind, wave, hydro and solar power are all combining to make Portugal a world leader in renewables.

Prime Minister José Sócrates is quoted: “I’ve seen all the smiles — you know: It’s a good dream. It can’t compete. It’s too expensive....The experience of Portugal shows that it is possible to make these changes in a very short time.”

Meanwhile, the world's largest marine turbine - weighing 130 tonnes and capable of generating electricity for 1,000 homes - has been unveiled and is about to be deployed in the seas around Orkney. The turbine is capable of turning (and thus generating power) with both the rise and fall of the tides in some of the roughest seas in the world.

Finally, the Global Footprint Network has announced that August 21st is Earth Overshoot Day in 2010, defined as:

the day when human demand on nature surpasses what nature can renewably supply...as of August 21st, humanity will have demanded an amount of ecological resources equivalent to what it takes nature 12 months to produce.

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