Villagers fight to keep their slag-heap: archive, 4 February 1957

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 10:00pm

4 February 1957: Cherished by locals, the amenity in Glamorganshire is said to be a product of far-sighted planning and silvicultural experimentation

Slag-heaps, as spoil-tips of all kinds are commonly miscalled, give endless trouble to planning authorities, national and local. The creation of a new one, for instance, requires planning permission, and is almost invariably opposed by amenity societies. But a new kind of trouble has arisen in Glamorganshire over a slag-heap (and this one really is a slag-heap) near Ysguborwen Bridge: the local residents are up in arms - in the name of amenity - because somebody is carting it away.

Glamorganshire people are traditionally awkward customers. Legend has it that when, in the years of depression, Cwm Rhondda’s spoil-tips were shovelled away to make work for the unemployed local residents complained of the draught. But there is nothing perverse about the campaign to save the tip at Ysguborwen Bridge, for it is covered with majestic elms, sycamores, and silver birches 50 to 70 feet high - a fine sight even in a January thunderstorm and a favourite resort for picnic parties when clothed in all the glory of its summer foliage. Moreover, it screens from public view the ugly spoil-tips of the River Level Colliery and a lot of unsightly opencast mining operations.

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Categories: Environment

The scientists harvesting energy from humans to power our wearables

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 10:00pm

An MIT lab has produced a device the size of a stamp that harvests energy from bending movements. Commercialising it could be a breakthrough for wearables

Inside a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sangtae Kim has been tinkering with a paper-thin device the size of a stamp. Kim is interested in harvesting energy from humans (though not the kind that turns people into batteries in the movie, The Matrix). He wants to harness motions, such as walking and running, to power sensors and wearable gadgets.

“It provides a new way of harvesting human energy,” Kim says of his prototype device, which he described recently in an article co-authored with his adviser, Prof Ju Li and other researchers.

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Crocodile turns up for a swim on Queensland beach near Cairns – video

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 6:39pm

Luke Downes captured this footage of ‘Snapper Jr’ casually floating towards swimmers at Kewarra beach near Cairns. While filming, Downes offered the crocodile a friendly greeting, but Snapper Jr didn’t stick around for long. Never fear, a wildlife expert has claimed that there are worse things in the water to worry about in that part of the world, like box jellyfish, which are capable of killing a person in under five minutes

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CSIRO confirms up to 350 job cuts, with climate research bearing the brunt

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 6:17pm

Redundancies part of strategy to increase collaboration with industry and boost commercialisation, agency chief says

Up to 350 positions at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will be made redundant, with its climate research divisions to bear the brunt of the job losses.

The chief executive of the national science agency, Larry Marshall, said the redundancies were in line with CSIRO’s 2020 strategy to increase collaboration with industry and boost commercialisation of science.

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Hazelwood mine manager charged with 10 offences over 2014 Morwell fire

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 6:14pm

WorkSafe Victoria charges Hazelwood Power Corporation with Occupational Health and Safety Act breaches over fire which covered town of Morwell in ash

The company responsible for managing the Hazelwood mine in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley has been charged with 10 offences following a devastating mine fire which burned for 45 days and left surrounding suburbs choked by ash.

The fire began on 9 February 2014 after embers from surrounding bushfires entered the mine. The nearby town of Morwell was among the worst affected, left blanketed in ash, and residents were exposed to toxic carbon monoxide. It was the largest and longest-running mine fire in the history of Victoria.

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AGL pulls out of coal seam gas across Australia, leaving farmers ‘ecstatic’

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 5:41pm

Energy company cites low oil prices for decision to cease exploration and wind down or sell its gas fields, with CSG opponents calling the move a well-earned victory

AGL is pulling out of coal seam gas in Australia, ceasing its exploration and winding down or selling its operational gas fields.

Plummeting oil and gas prices were cited by AGL as one of the main reasons for the decision in its announcement to the ASX on Thursday morning, as well as lower than expected production volumes from one of its fields in NSW.

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Categories: Environment

Call for urgent inquiry into world heritage forest fires in Tasmania

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 5:39pm

Experts say fires like those that continue to ravage Tasmanian forests, and look set to burn for days or weeks to come, could be the ‘new normal’

A national inquiry into the fires devastating world heritage forests in Tasmania is urgently needed, say conservationists and academics. The call comes as experts say fires like those could be the new normal.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has called for the public inquiry as dozens of fires continue to ravage the world heritage forests and look set to burn for days or weeks to come.

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Categories: Environment

From liquid air to supercapacitors, energy storage is finally poised for a breakthrough

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 5:07pm

Banks of batteries and other technologies could lower energy bills and help renewable power, says energy storage industry as it gears up for bumper year

“It doesn’t always rain when you need water, so we have reservoirs - but we don’t have the same system for electricity,” says Jill Cainey, director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network.

But that may change in 2016, with industry figures predicting a breakthrough year for a technology not only seen as vital to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy, but also offering the prospect of lowering customers’ energy bills.

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Categories: Environment

Activists condemn trophy-hunting club for 'turning wildlife into commodities'

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 3:18pm

Safari Club International draws hunters to Las Vegas for four-day convention billed as the ‘Ultimate Hunters’ Market’ – highlighted by auction of animal hunts

The world’s largest trophy hunting club was on the defensive at its giant annual auction in Las Vegas as animal rights advocates and conservation experts traveled from across the globe to condemn the industry that killed Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions.

The Safari Club International on Wednesday kicked off its elaborate four-day convention and “Ultimate Hunters’ Market” inside the Mandalay Bay luxury hotel and casino – drawing 25,000 people to the members-only show. In ballrooms and convention halls with signs describing the event as the “THE BIGGEST THE BEST”, hunters mingled with outfitters, gun makers, booking agents, taxidermists and other industry representatives and enthusiasts.

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Categories: Environment

Milking it: critics take aim at new environmental guidelines for dairy industry

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 3:00pm

The US dairy industry is outlining ways ranchers and producers can reduce their environmental impact. But do the new guidelines go far enough?

Brian Medeiros generally keeps the operation at Medeiros & Son simple and traditional. The Central California farm’s 2,500 cows get milked three times a day and the resulting milk is shipped to area processors and turned into cheese and butter.

“We’re not the newest, most fandangled-type facility,” said Medeiros, a second-generation dairy farmer.

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Video shows only known wild jaguar in US at home in Arizona mountains

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 2:31pm

The big cat, known as ‘El Jefe’, has been living in 25 miles south of downtown Tucson – half a century after the last verified US jaguar was killed by a hunter

The only known wild jaguar in the United States is seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson, Arizona in the first publicly released video of the big cat.

Related: Eastern Cougar extinct, no longer needs protection, says US conservation agency

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Categories: Environment

Michigan Governor Wants $30 Million To Help Pay Bills For Lead-Tainted Water

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 2:15pm

Flint residents are still being billed for water that's unsafe to drink. Tens of thousands of petitions have demanded a moratorium on residents' drinking water bills.

Categories: Environment

Flint water crisis: Michigan officials ignored EPA warnings about toxicity

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 11:37am

‘We all let the people of Flint down,’ authorities tells Congress in hearing that also highlights flawed water testing practices that persist in other major US cities

The Environmental Protection Agency warned of an unfolding toxic water crisis in Flint but was “met with resistance” by Michigan authorities, a fiery congressional hearing into the city’s public health disaster has heard.

Expert advice was dismissed, prompting Michigan’s government to issue an apology to the people of Flint at the hearing for sidelining people who raised concerns over dangerous levels of lead in in the city’s water.

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Finally, Kenyans can watch their own country's wildlife on TV

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 9:22am

A ground-breaking series of programmes on Kenyan TV is set to transform public attitudes toward wildlife conservation

Africa’s unique wildlife heritage attracts millions of tourists to the continent and contributes enormously to the economy. It is a tragic irony that this wildlife remains unknown to the majority of Africans.

Recently I have been involved in an initiative that aims to change this state of affairs. Launched in January, the TV series “NTV Wild” is a collaboration between NTV, Kenya’s leading TV channel, my NGO WildlifeDirect, and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

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Categories: Environment

Making a nuclear fusion device – timelapse video

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 9:19am

Timelapse footage showing the construction of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator nuclear fusion device at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald, north-east Germany. Scientists at the institute are conducting a nuclear fusion experiment on Wednesday which they hope will advance the quest for a clean and safe form of nuclear power

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EU parliament fails to close loopholes in controversial car emission tests

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 9:14am

MEPs fail to veto proposal that will allow cars to emit twice the limit of NOx pollution following pressure from pro-car industry countries

MEPs have failed to veto loopholes in air pollution limits on new diesel cars, despite public anger in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will now be allowed at twice the EU’s 80mg per km limit from 2019 and 50% more from 2021, despite the exemptions being deemed unlawful in a separate vote by the parliament’s legal committee last night.

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World's largest offshore windfarm to be built off Yorkshire coast

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 5:53am

Dong Energy makes final investmen decision on 1.2-gigawatt project that will power more than a million UK homes

The UK wind energy industry received a boost on Wednesday with the announcement of the world’s biggest offshore windfarm, to be built off the north-east coast.

Dong Energy said its multi-billion pound Hornsea project, which is expected when complete to power as many as 1m homes in the region, will occupy more than 400 square kilometres, situated about 120km off the Yorkshire coast.

The company, which has already put £6bn into wind power in the UK, said this was its largest investment in offshore wind to date. Dong, Denmark’s state-backed energy utility, told the Guardian it expected to invest another £6bn in the UK by 2020, in a fillip to the beleaguered wind industry.

Brent Cheshire, chief executive of Dong Energy in the UK, said: “We are making a major financial investment to construct this giant windfarm and this underlines our commitment to the UK market. Hornsea Project One will support the supply chain and help create local jobs.

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Categories: Environment

Measuring ocean heating is key to tracking global warming | John Abraham

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 4:00am

Taking the Earth’s temperature is a challenge, but a critically important one if we are to better understand the nature of climate change

Human emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are causing the Earth to warm. We know this, and we have known about the heat-trapping nature of these gases for over 100 years. But scientists want to know how fast the Earth is warming and how much extra energy is being added to the climate because of human activities.

If you want to know about global warming and its future effects, you really need to answer these questions. Whether this year was hotter than last year or whether next year breaks a new record are merely one symptom of a warming world. Sure, we expect records to be broken, but they are not the most compelling evidence.

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Categories: Environment

German scientists to conduct nuclear fusion experiment

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 1:52am

Angela Merkel to attend test in which team will heat hydrogen until it becomes plasma in bid for clean nuclear power

Scientists in Germany are poised to conduct a nuclear fusion experiment they hope will advance the quest for a clean and safe form of nuclear power.

In a test expected to be attended by Angela Merkel, the chancellor, researchers will inject a tiny amount of hydrogen into a special device and heat it until it becomes a super-hot gas known as plasma – mimicking conditions inside the sun.

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Indonesia and US join forces to police the seas | Johnny Langenheim

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/02/03 - 1:42am

A new strategic partnership to improve marine law enforcement and combat illegal fishing in Indonesia builds on existing progress

President Joko Widodo’s plan to establish Indonesia as a ‘global maritime axis’ took a step forward last week as US ambassador Robert Blake announced a partnership programme to help improve marine law enforcement and sustainable fisheries management in the world’s largest archipelagic nation.

According to the World Bank, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) costs an estimated $20 billion in lost revenue annually. Around a quarter of these losses occur in Indonesia, whose fishing industry is second only to China in size.

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