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Environment

Carbon Expo: A marketplace to finance environmental change

Florian Kitt's picture

Carbon finance sounds boring and technical and not much fun. However, it actually does a lot of good and can help fund critical environmental preservation projects as well as introduce clean and renewable technologies in both developed and developing countries.

Shifting wildlife baselines: For the sake of the future, listen to your grandparents

Tony Whitten's picture
"I was swimming in the river near Godmanchester and I got the fright of my life when a large triangular dorsal fin broke the surface of the water just in front of me. It was so close I could have touched it."

Call for a green China: permanent improvement, with room for more

David Dollar's picture

Children perform during "Call for Green China" – a unique cultural tour to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues in China and possible solutions.
The old people in the park are saying that this was the best April in 20-plus years in terms of air quality here in Beijing. There has been permanent improvement based on some of the changes made for the Olympics: some factories relocated to less populous areas, restrictions on private car use, improved public transportation as an alternative.

Other factors are more long term – the sandstorms common when I lived here in 1986 are largely gone, owing to successful re-greening efforts west of here. There was a frenzied pace of construction as modern Beijing was being built, which has naturally slowed down – construction dust was a key part of air pollution here.

There is more room for improvement, but the progress was notable during a lovely April. One key issue going forward will be to continue to control private vehicle use.

Mongolia: tough decisions about the world's oldest nature reserve

Tony Whitten's picture

Bogd Khan Uul Strictly Protected Area (SPA) (41,651 ha) is located on the edge of Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and dominates the views to the south. It is the oldest continuously protected area in Mongolia and possibly the world, being first established in 1778. Its establishment preceded by almost 100 years that of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. There is evidence the area held informal protective status as early as the 12th century. Bogd Khan Uul holds significant historical and cultural importance (pdf) for the people of Mongolia. In 1995, Bogd Khan Uul was formally designated a 'Strictly Protected Area' in accordance with current Mongolian law. Bogd Khan Uul was further recognized for its ecological importance when it was awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status in 1997.

Hover over "Notes" for photo information.

So, if one were going to undertake a conservation project focusing on forests in the central part of Mongolia, one would reckon on including it, right? Wrong.

Deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia – mapping the "thwacking"

Tony Whitten's picture

Click map to enlarge.
Looking at the new maps of Sumatra's forests, the Once-ler in Dr Seuss' The Lorax would not conclude that we "cared a whole awful lot," but rather that we were cutting them down as fast as we please.

It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.

About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.

Short video clip on the impact of a nickel mine in Tanjung Buli, Indonesia

Tony Whitten's picture

On the trip back to the base of PT Weda Bay Nickel after our two days in the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park, we flew over the operating nickel mine at Tanjung Buli owned by publicly listed PT Aneka Tambang, but which has been operated since the opening in 2001 by a subcontractor.

Indonesia: The giant cuckoos, enormous gingers, and pretty leeches of Halmahera

Tony Whitten's picture

Judith Schleicher and I have just left the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera, which was the subject of my first blog post a year ago. We were there on the second supervision mission – something which must sound pretty dull. In fact it was a real pleasure to meet with friends in the project team again, to see how well they are doing, and pretty exciting to have two days and two nights in the forests of the northern block of the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park to see – despite the rain – some of the biodiversity and human impacts in the area. P.T. Weda Bay Nickel kindly allowed us to use their helicopter to get into the forest, landing at the junction of three abandoned logging roads within the northern (Lolobata) section of the national park.

Burung Indonesia is doing a fine job of executing this project and has already developed solid relationships with government, civil society and private entities to form a strong and informed constituency of concern for the protection of this new national park.

(After the jump: More about Halmahera Island’s wildlife – including birds, trees and leeches – and photos.)

How to flip-flop a trash nuisance into useful art

James I Davison's picture

A visit to the vast Pacific Ocean can make anyone feel insignificant. Yet despite its immense size, we've learned over the years that the old saying, "the solution to pollution is dilution," doesn't quite hold water (sorry for the pun) when it comes to trash, such as plastic bags. Garbage dumped in the ocean doesn’t just go away, it washes up on beaches or amalgamates in so-called "trash vortexes" in the Pacific.

An organization in Nairobi, Kenya, called UniquEco has been working to make good use out of a surprising type of debris that is apparently quite a nuisance there – flip flop-style sandals. Thousands of flip-flops that wash up on the East African shoreline every month apparently originate in Asia (link translated to English by Google – see the original page in Spanish here).

The organization, which also calls itself the "Flip-Flop Recycling Company", is taking the discarded footwear and having local artists turn handmade pieces of art and other products. They then resell some of the products to tourists and residents in Nairobi, while exporting the majority of the goods to distributors around the world, according to their website. Their online store has some pretty neat-looking items, including bags, wallets and even a chess set.

It's a pretty inventive and neat way to turn floating garbage into a useful form of revenue.

Grazing in a nature reserve the only choice for herders in Xinjiang Uighur region of China

Tony Whitten's picture

Just before Christmas my colleagues Judith Schleicher and Zeng Jun joined me on a visit to Lake Aibi in order to visit Kokobasto, a Kazakh nationality village situated north of the lake and within the Lake Aibi Nature Reserve in China's far north-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. When I last visited the village (as mentioned briefly in my rant about goats and an accompanying YouTube film), I was told that herders from the high summer pastures to the north came down to Kokobasto during the winter along with their livestock.

I had wanted to meet them and discuss herding practices, even though it was a particularly cold and bleak time of year.  In fact those shifting herders no longer come to Kokobasto, and my following YouTube film documents some of the meetings we had with a selection of the 250 inhabitants who live permanently in the village.

The villagers feel part of Tuoli County, Tacheng Prefecture, to the north, and they have their livestock grazing permit from there. But they actually live and herd their livestock in the nature reserve, which lies wholly within Jinghe County, Bortala Prefecture.

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