Friday, November 29, 2013

REPOST: Green technology

Technology is often associated with waste and harmful elements that are damaging to the planet. However, in recent years, a new kind of technology has emerged that can change this general view: green technology. Learn more about it in this article from
There are a lot of ways in which technology has transformed modern life, and it is simply wonderful just how much easier each new development has made our lives. However, for many years, with each new development came a new and more harmful challenge to the earth. Whether it is the non recyclable materials that are used, or harmful emissions from the processes that make them, there is a lot of new technology that is not what we would call eco-friendly. However, in the last decade or so, there has been a wave of new, green technology, a sort of “green revolution”. New, efficient technology is replacing the old, and it is transforming the way in which we live, and more importantly, our impact on the environment. Here are a few of the best new green innovations that have replaced less efficient tech.

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Temperature Control

If there is one place where it literally pays to save energy, it is in your home. The cost of wasting energy is high, and it takes its toll when you get round to paying your bills every month. However, new technology means that we no longer have to waste energy by overheating or using too much air conditioning in our homes. When you are out, it is so easy to leave your heating running, so that it is nice and warm for when you get back. However, with the smart thermostats that are on the market these days, you don’t have to worry about that, because you can program it to follow your habits precisely. This means that, while you do not have to waste energy by heating or cooling an empty house, it will still be the right temperature for when you get home. With a system from industry leaders like Vivint or ADT, you can also automate your lighting, add solar power, and control everything from your phone, making it the ultimate green machine.

Green Cars

Automobiles are often held up as one of the largest contributing factors towards global pollution. However, in recent years, car manufacturers have made great strides towards completely eco-friendly practices. Companies like Toyota and Honda are often celebrated as some of the most eco-friendly companies in the world, let alone the automobile industry. They are constantly working on using green-friendly production processes, and have released a number of fuel efficient vehicles and hybrid cars.

Green Appliances

Furthermore, you can transform even the most traditionally environmentally unfriendly parts of your home. That is to say, your appliances. Companies like General Electric (GE) are starting to take notice of the effect that they can have on the environment, and GE has started a large green initiative that encourages energy efficiency in all of their products. You can even check on for an extensive list of energy efficient products to use in your home. In all of this, there is a lot that we can take away about the impact that our purchasing decisions have on the environment. But the one thing that we learn is that the future is green, and the future is now.
A business development manager from San Diego, Janique Goff is an advocate of green technology and continues to be involved in various projects that are pro-environment. Follow this Twitter page for more updates about green technology.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

REPOST: How to tell a sustainable business from a greenwashing one: Interview with Paul Gilding recently spoke with environmentalist and author Paul Gilding about his take on sustainable business practices, greenwashing companies, and government policies on climate change.

Paul Gilding
Paul Gilding, a writer and sustainability advisor based in Australia, is one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Responsible Business Forum in Singapore this November 25 to 26. Image: Sustainable RSM

Paul Gilding has been fighting the good fight for over 40 years, from heading the well-known non-profit Greenpeace International and establishing his own sustainability-focused companies, to working with chief executive officers of many global companies.

The Australian environmentalist is also the author of the internationally acclaimed book called “The Great Disruption”, which discusses the critical juncture that humanity finds itself in, a period of transformation starting with how businesses operate and can grow the economy without adding to further environmental and social impact. Responsible businesses are those that recognise that society’s success is their success, he says. Truly sustainable companies “do good things in order to make money”, he explains, whereas a greenwasher merely does good things after they’ve made money.

Despite the worsening climate conditions and the implications it has on food, water and energy security, Gilding, who lives in southern Tasmania, believes that people will act within this decade, and the impetus to drive this change will be led by the private sector.

This November 25 to 26, he will be a keynote speaker at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. He will be sharing his insights on the changing economic landscape and how businesses that innovate and act sustainably will triumph.

In this wide-ranging interview, Gilding speaks to Eco-Business about the green economy transformation, human nature and how history has proven we can respond strongly to global crises.  

You’ve spent more than three decades seeking to change the world and yet sustainability is still at its infancy in many parts of the world. What made you start then and why do you continue to do so until now?

I guess it’s the same with what has always been said to me from the science of climate change and risks and resource constraints – that we face very serious issues as humanity. My motivation is not so much protecting the environment – it is needed terribly – but protecting the stability of civilisation and humanity. And to do that we have to protect the ecological systems and the social systems which we depend on. That was my motivation 30 years ago and that is my motivation today. The big difference today is there's so much more urgency.
Read the rest of the interview here.

Saving the environment is Janique Goff's passion. Visit this blog for her thoughts on green initiatives, environmental preservation, and sustainable business.

Friday, September 27, 2013

REPOST: Biotechnology: The start-up engine

A company composed of biotech elites, Third Rock Ventures took risks as they ventured the industry of biotechnology. Find out how the Boston-based company gained success in this article from
Bioengineer Mikhail Shapiro got a rude shock one day when he arrived for work at Third Rock Ventures, then a brand-new venture-capital firm headed by a handful of biotech elites. Only three weeks into his internship, Shapiro found a notice on the door: “Closed for business.” Inside, 'For sale' signs hung on desks, equipment, everything — even the office's giant gumball machine. The company had folded, a note explained, because it could not raise enough money.

Kevin Starr (right) and Mark Levin founded one of the hottest venture-capital firms in biotechnology.
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Kevin Starr, a partner at Third Rock, still beams with pride over that 2007 prank, which he and his confederates had filmed to capture Shapiro's reaction. “You could tell Mikhail was thinking, 'I knew that was going to happen to these guys!'” he recalls.

Few would fault Shapiro, now a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for his credulity. By 2007, the technology bubble of the early 2000s had burst, and investors were baulking at the long timelines and high failure rates involved in getting biotechnology products to the market. People laughed, says Starr, when he and Third Rock's other founders told them that the company wanted to raise US$378 million to create an investment fund to build biotech companies from scratch. “They advised us to aim for about a tenth of that.”

But Third Rock, based in Boston, Massachusetts, did raise its initial fund, and it has not slowed down since. The company has brought in $1.3 billion and invested in more than 30 young companies, many based on cutting-edge research in fields such as cancer epigenetics, gene therapy and medical diagnostics (see 'Due diligence').

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Products are only just starting to trickle out into clinical testing, but this year brought several signs that the firm has bet well. In January, Third Rock sold off Lotus Tissue Repair — a tissue-engineering company with an experimental therapy for a devastating rare disease that weakens skin. The deal could garner a 20-fold return for Third Rock if Lotus meets certain milestones. In March, Third Rock's third round of funding — $516 million to launch up to 16 more companies — had so many aspiring investors that the firm had to turn some away. And this summer, two of Third Rock's companies went public, their share prices soaring the moment they hit the market. As Nature went to press, a third firm — cancer diagnostics company Foundation Medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts — was preparing to follow suit.

“For a long time, people said investing in these early-stage companies was not a great idea,” says Robert Langer, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge who has spun off dozens of companies from his research (see Nature 458, 2224; 2009). “Third Rock has taken that risk and I think it's paying off.”

Laid-back biotech

Since 2007, Third Rock has expanded its offices on Boston's trendy Newbury Street — a neighbourhood filled with high-end boutiques and cafes. On a flaming day this summer, Starr sits in his office arrayed in silver jewellery, camouflage shorts and a green T-shirt that reads “Beach Punk 1982”. A standard business shirt bides its time on a hanger behind the door.

Starr's laid-back style has found lots of attention in the business press, and it serves as a reminder that he does not have to be here. In 2003, he left a post as chief operating officer of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based biotech powerhouse that had just launched the blockbuster cancer drug Velcade (bortezomib). Millennium founder Mark Levin retired some time after Starr, and the two did the usual things that young retirees with plenty of money do — travelling the world and producing independent films and Broadway shows. In 2006, Starr says, during an annual pilgrimage to the golf courses and blackjack tables of Las Vegas, Nevada, Levin turned to him and said, “Hey Kev, why don't we just go do something again?”

Venture capital has a pivotal role in transforming science into medical advances, supporting companies during the long, lean, research-intensive years before they have any hope of turning a profit. In the United States, biotech soaks up billions of dollars in venture capital each year, second only to the software industry. In the mid-2000s, infusions into fledgling companies made up just a tiny fraction of that investment. Most of the money was going to established companies, often with products already in clinical testing. But the pharmaceutical industry was tightening internal research budgets and looking to small biotechnology firms for new medicines.
Amid that changing landscape, Starr and Levin saw an opportunity. There would be demand for innovative biotechnology companies, yet few venture capitalists were in a position to fill it. Through a series of meetings at Starbucks, Levin and Starr assembled a skeleton crew of biotech nobility and mapped out their ideal venture-capital firm.

Standing out

Levin, Starr and Bob Tepper, former head of research and development at Millennium, wanted to do things differently from typical venture capitalists, who sift through ideas and business proposals from external researchers, help to set up a company and then hand over control to a newly recruited executive team. Starr says that he and his co-founders wanted to recreate some of the magic they had felt at Millennium, carrying over its 'anything is possible' mantra. They would hire only the best people, even if that meant interviewing candidates for months. And, rather than relying on proposals from the outside, they would focus on the hottest science, mostly investing in companies conceived by Third Rock's team. “Last year we saw 982 outside plans,” says Starr. “We invested in zero.”

All venture capitalists need to understand the science behind their investments, but Shapiro, who has since worked with other venture-capital firms, says that Third Rock is unique in how far its members personally immerse themselves in the details. “It's a bunch of nerds,” he says. “You're in a commercial setting, but the rigour of the science was as high as it was at MIT or Caltech.” Of the more than 40 employees now at Third Rock, only Levin, a chemical engineer by training, had worked in venture capital before. The rest had trained in the trenches as scientists, physicians and biotech business leaders. “They have decades of real, hands-on experience,” says Michelle Dipp, a venture capitalist at the Longwood Fund in Boston. “It's an incredibly talented team.”

Third Rock also takes its time handing over the reins of its companies to outside executives; it often waits 18 months or longer. That is important for luring top talent, says Langer. “A lot of good chief executives are not willing to take the risk with a new company,” he says. “With Third Rock, rather than getting the company when it's a newborn baby, a new executive is getting a pretty active 2-year-old.”

Finding newborns to raise means exploring promising ideas, something that Third Rock spends about one-third of its time doing. Those that pass muster get up to $2 million and must go through a rigorous and lengthy screening process that employees refer to as the 'Third Rock Ultra Killer Kriteria' (TRUKK). Independent labs must be able to replicate key findings and find no warning signs of toxicity for drug candidates.
A San Diego, CA-based business development manager, Janique Goff is a supporter of environment-friendly technologies and projects. She has been promoting companies involved in biotechnology for several years now. More links to related articles can be found on this Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

REPOST: The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy

Depending on usage, smartphones and other digital devices can consume more energy than other electronic appliances in the average home. Bryan Walsh of Time exposes the mechanics of large energy consumption. This article plus annotations on the details of energy consumption and production can be viewed in full at

A server room at a data center. One data center can use enough electricity to power 180,000 homes
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Which uses more electricity: the iPhone in your pocket, or the refrigerator humming in your kitchen? Hard as it might be to believe, the answer is probably the iPhone. As you can read in a post on a new report by Mark Mills — the CEO of the Digital Power Group, a tech- and investment-advisory firm — a medium-size refrigerator that qualifies for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating will use about 322 kW-h a year. The average iPhone, according to Mills’ calculations, uses about 361 kW-h a year once the wireless connections, data usage and battery charging are tallied up. And the iPhone — even the latest iteration — doesn’t even keep your beer cold. (Hat tip to the Breakthrough Institute for noting the report first.)

As our lives migrate to the digital cloud — and as more and more wireless devices of all sorts become part of our lives — the electrons will follow. And that shift underscores how challenging it will be to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions even as we become more efficient.

Here’s an example: the New Republic recently ran a story arguing that the greenest building in New York City — the Bank of America Tower, which earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) highest Platinum rating — was actually one of the city’s biggest energy hogs. Author Sam Roudman argued that all the skyscraper’s environmentally friendly add-ons — the waterless urinals, the daylight dimming controls, the rainwater harvesting — were outweighed by the fact that the building used “more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan,” consuming more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old (though recently renovated) Empire State Building.

Why did an ultra-green tower need so much electricity? The major culprit was the building’s trading floors, full of fields of energy-thirsty workstations with five computers to a desk:

Assuming no one turns these computers off, in a year one of these desks uses roughly the energy it takes a 25-mile-per-gallon car engine to travel more than 4,500 miles. The servers supporting all those desks also require enormous energy, as do the systems that heat, cool and light the massive trading floors beyond normal business hours. These spaces take up nearly a third of the Bank of America Tower’s 2.2 million total square feet, yet the building’s developer and architect had no control over how much energy would be required to keep them operational.

I think — and others agree — that the TNR article was unfair. There’s lots of silliness in the LEED ratings system — see this Treehugger post for evidence — but it’s not the Bank of America building itself that’s responsible for that massive carbon footprint. It’s what’s being done inside the building, as those hardworking computers suck electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fact that a skyscraper with so many cutting-edge, energy-efficient features can still use so much energy because it needs to play a full-time role in the cloud underscores just how electricity-intensive the digital economy can be.

That’s because the cloud uses energy differently than other sectors of the economy. Lighting, heating, cooling, transportation — these are all power uses that have rough limits. As your air conditioner or lightbulb becomes more efficient, you might decide to then use them more often — in energy efficiency, that is what’s known as the rebound effect. But you can only heat your home so much, or drive so far before you reach a period of clearly diminishing returns. Just because my Chevy Volt can get 100 miles per gallon doesn’t mean I’m going to drive back and forth to Washington each day. So it stands to reason that as these appliances become more efficient, we can potentially limit and even reduce energy consumption without losing value — which is indeed what’s happened in recent years in the U.S. and other developed nations.

But the ICT system derives its value from the fact that it’s on all the time. From computer trading floors or massive data centers to your own iPhone, there is no break time, no off period. (I can’t be the only person who keeps his iPhone on at night for emergency calls because I no longer have a home phone.) That means a constant demand for reliable electricity. According to Mills, efficiency improvements in the global ICT system began to slow around 2005, even as global data traffic began to spike thanks to the emergence of wireless broadband for smartphones and tablets. As anyone who has ever tried to husband the battery of a dying smartphone knows, transmitting wireless data — whether via 3G or wi-fi — adds significantly to power use. As the cloud grows bigger and bigger, and we put more and more of our devices on wireless networks, we’ll need more and more electricity. How much? Mills calculates that it takes more electricity to stream a high-definition movie over a wireless network than it would have taken to manufacture and ship a DVD of that same movie.

Look at our smartphones: as they become more powerful, they also use more power. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo called this the “smartphone conundrum” in a piece earlier this year:

Over the next few years, at least until someone develops better battery technology, we’re going to have to choose between smartphone performance and battery life. Don’t worry — phones will keep getting faster. Chip designers will still manage to increase the speed of their chips while conserving a device’s power. The annual doubling in phone performance we’ve seen recently isn’t sustainable, though. Our phones are either going to drain their batteries at ever increasing rates while continuing to get faster — or they’re going to maintain their current, not-great-but-acceptable battery life while sacrificing huge increases in speed. It won’t be possible to do both.

And that’s just our phones. What’s unique about the ICT system is that companies keep introducing entirely new product lines. In 1995, you might have had a desktop computer and perhaps a game system. In 2000, maybe you had a laptop and a basic cell phone. By 2009, you had a laptop and a wireless-connected smartphone. Today you may well have a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet and a streaming device for your digital TV. The even more connected might be wearing a Fitbit tracker, writing notes with a wi-fi-enabled Livescribe pen and tracking their runs with a GPS watch. And there will certainly be more to come, as the best minds of our generation design new devices for us to buy. In a piece yesterday, Manjoo reviewed the Pebble, the first — but almost certainly not the last — major “smartwatch.” At a moment when young people are buying fewer cars and living in smaller spaces — reducing energy needs for transportation and heating/cooling — they’re buying more and more connected devices. Of course the electricity bill is going to go up.

None of this is to argue that energy efficiency isn’t important in the ICT sector. Just as the Bank of America Tower’s green features keep its gigantic electricity demand from ballooning even more, efficient smartphones and laptops can slow the growth of the cloud’s carbon footprint. But grow it will. Energy efficiency has never been a big part of the sales strategy for digital devices, probably because electricity is still cheap in the U.S. and it’s something we pay for in bulk at the end of the month. Compare the feeling of paying your utility bill to the irritation of forking out $3.50 a gallon to fill up your car. The costs of electricity are hidden in our society.

That includes the environmental costs. The full title of Mills’ report is The Cloud Begins With Coal: Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure and Big Power, and it’s sponsored by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Unsurprisingly, the report argues that coal — still the single biggest source of electricity in the U.S. — essentially powers our wonderful cloud. (And it is wonderful! The cloud generates a lot of value for all the electricity it uses.) Coal is hardly the only source of electricity that can keep the ICT system going — cleaner natural gas is already gaining, nuclear provides carbon-free base-load power, and renewables are growing fast. Certain aspects of the ICT system will also help reduce energy use, as smart grids and smart meters promote conservation. But users of the wireless cloud are likely to grow from 42.8 million people in 2008 to nearly 1 billion in 2014 — and that’s just the beginning, as smartphones spread from the developed to the developing world. We already have a gigantic digital cloud, and it’s only going to get bigger. What we need is a cleaner one.

*A note on the calculations on smartphone energy use. This comes from an email by Max Luke, a policy associate at the Breakthrough Institute, which posted on Mills’ study:

Last year the average iPhone customer used 1.58 GB of data a month, which times 12 is 19 GB per year. The most recent data put out by a ATKearney for mobile industry association GSMA (p. 69) says that each GB requires 19 kW. That means the average iPhone uses (19kw X 19 GB) 361 kwh of electricity per year. In addition, ATKearney calculates each connection at 23.4 kWh. That brings the total to 384.4 kWh. The electricity used annually to charge the iPhone is 3.5 kWh, raising the total to 388 kWh per year. EPA’s Energy Star shows refrigerators with efficiency as low as 322 kWh annually.

Breakthrough ran the numbers on the iPhone specifically—the Mills’ endnotes (see page 44 in the report) refer to smartphones and tablets more generally—but Luke notes that Mills confirmed the calculations.

As I noted in the update at the top of the post, these estimates are at the very high end—other researchers have argue that power use by smartphones is much lower. And the Mills study itself has come in for strong criticism from other experts, as this MSN post notes:

Gernot Heiser, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and co-author of a 2010 study on power consumption in smartphones, echoed Koomey’s sentiments that Mills’ work was flawed.

Writing to MSN News, Heiser said Mills’ work “seems blatantly wrong.” He said Mills overestimates the amount of power used by a modern smartphone, in this case a Galaxy S III, by more than four times.

“I’d have to have a quick look to see how they arrive at this figure, but it certainly looks like baloney to me,” Heiser said.

Gang Zhou, an associate professor of computer science at the College of Williams and Mary, was less direct in attacking Mills’ claims, but nonetheless said his measurements for the power consumption of smartphones was at least “one or two magnitude” higher than they should be. Nonetheless, Zhou said the subject of data center electricity usage is an important issue and it “should raise concern.”

Still, I think the takeaway from this isn’t about the energy use of individual brands or even whole classes of devices. The point is that as our always-on digital economy grows more extensive—and it will—we need to be more aware of the energy demands that will follow. The study from CEET in Melbourne that I noted in the update at the top of the post assumes much lower power consumption by individual devices than Mills’ work, but it still raises the alarm about the growing energy demand from cloud services.

As I write above, the nature of a smartphone or a tablet makes it hard to realize how much energy it may be using—especially given the fact that the electricity is often produced at plants far away from our outlets. At a gas station, for instance, the immediate cost and the smell of petrol is a potent reminder that we’re consuming energy. The digital economy is built on the sensation of seamlessness—but it still comes with a utility bill.
Janique Goff believes that technology still plays an important role in saving the environment, despite pitfalls it needs to overcome before it could be called “green.” Get updates on her environmental advocacies here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Was the starved polar bear a victim of climate change?

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An emaciated polar bear found dead in northern Svalbard has prompted scientists to look into the possibility of the animal’s demise due to climate change. The Guardian reports that that the polar bear, which was found dead in July, was examined by scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute in April in the southern part of Svalbard and appeared to be in great shape.

Dr. Ian Stirling of Polar Bears International examined the dead polar bear and believed that climate change was the culprit for the animal’s death. In particular, the lack of sea ice on which to hunt seals forced the bear to search for food outside beyond its territory. The animal was found 250 km away from where it was last spotted.

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However, not all scientists are convinced that the polar bear was a victim of climate change. In fact, some experts believe that the bear’s death was used as a photo-op by global warming alarmists. Dr. Susan Crockford, a zoologist, even wrote in her blog that the scientists in Svalbard "knew this bear was going to die back in April … they simply waited, with a photographer on hand, until he died. It was an orchestrated photo-op."

The discussion on whether climate change killed the polar bear is expected to continue until a fact-based explanation is presented. But in this debate, one thing remains: A polar bear died in its desperate attempt to look for food.

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Janique Goff believes that climate change will have a tremendous impact not only to animals but more importantly to mankind. Learn more about the environmental causes she supports here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

REPOST: Tasmania's old growth forests win environmental protection

The World Heritage Committee now lists as a World Heritage Area nearly 200,000 hectares of Tasmania’s old growth forest, The Guardian reports.

Scoured out old growth forest tree at Mt Field National Park, Tasmania Photograph: James Lane/AAP Image

Almost 200,000 hectares of Tasmania’s old growth forest have been world heritage listed, bringing hope that a three-decade fight between environmentalists, politicians and loggers is over.

The World Heritage Committee has extended the heritage listed boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by more than 170,000 hectares after accepting a proposal from the Australian government which will give the areas the highest level of environmental protection in the world.

The old growth forest areas now added to the heritage listing are in the Upper Florentine as well as within the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valley.

Logging will continue in the forest in areas Environment Minister Tony Burke described as “less contentious”.

The proposal the government put to the World Heritage Committee was the work of people within the forestry industry as well as environmentalists, including Miranda Gibson who famously spent 457 days living in a tree in the old growth forest in a campaign for extended environmental protection.

Speaking from Hobart where she had watched a livestream of the World Heritage Committee handing down the decision, Gibson said she was thrilled and had contemplated returning to the tree if she was unhappy with the decision.

“It’s good to know I don’t have to go back to the tree unless I want to visit,” she said.

“The hardest part [of living in the tree] was not knowing how long I would be up there or if the loggers would come and log around me.

“It was obviously also very isolating.”

Gibson started living at the top of the 60 metre eucalypt tree in December 2011 and was driven out by bushfires in March this year. By then the proposed extended areas for world heritage listing had been granted temporary protection.

She decided to campaign from the ground until the committee handed down their official decision.

Environmentalists have been fighting for protection of more of the old growth forests in Tasmania for years, while the forestry industry argued it was vital for jobs in the state that logging of some parts be allowed

“Today is the result of decades of people standing up for the forest,” Gibson said.

“It is testament to the strength of the community we have been able to achieve this.

“If it was not for individuals standing up over the past few decades there would be many parts of the forest that would already be gone.”

While the natural values of the forest have been listed there is still a fight for the cultural values to be recognised.

Burke said the government would continue to consult with Indigenous communities in Tasmania to have the cultural values considered by the World Heritage Committee.

“For the first time it’s [an environmental agreement] been done, not through a political process, but through a genuine community process where industry and environment groups came up together with a package that they thought would deliver what each of them wanted most,” he said in a statement.

“We have the conservation groups saying the high conservation areas are being protected and for the people who look at it from an industry perspective this is part of that entire package that has resulted in 30 years of conflict in Tasmanian forestry being resolved through an extraordinary agreement that made it through the stakeholders made it through the parliament and now has been endorsed by the WH committee as being a conservation outcome of international importance.”

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is home to tall eucalypt forests, glacial landforms and alpine and sub-alpine environments. The Styx-Tyenna area has the highest concentration of tall eucalypt forest in the world.

The area is also important habitat for rare and threatened species such as the endangered wedge-tailed eagle and the Tasmanian Devil.

Greens Leader Christine Milne tried with former leader Bob Brown to have the areas of the forest world heritage listed in 1989 but the pair’s efforts were thwarted by then-Premier Michael Field who drew up conservation boundaries environmentalists have long criticised.

“It’s fantastic that after so many years of campaigning conservationists around Tasmania, and indeed the world, can celebrate the protection of these magnificent wild forests that contain the tallest flowering plants on earth and an array of wonderful wildlife,” Milne said.

“In recognising the decades of work of conservationists I want to pay tribute to the late Helen Gee who was involved for 40-plus years and whose book For the Forests is a wealth of information on all those people who, in many cases, put their bodies in front of the bulldozers.

“We can all smile broadly knowing that at last Tasmania’s forests of outstanding universal value are now protected for all time.”

For more updates on the environment and ecological of environmentalist Janique Goff, visit her Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

National Geographic's best hikes

As is its wont, National Geographic has released a new list of the world’s best hikes, a new turn for nature-lovers who are tired of the same old trails. The predominant feature of these trails is history—NatGeo chose them specifically for their power to reveal the culture and narrative of the populations that live there.

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1. Mt. Kailash Pilgrimage, Tibet: This is sacred territory held dear by Hindus and members of its Ayyavazhi sect, Buddhists, and Jains. China has made inroads into the trail, though the mountain itself remains closed off to climbers. It also hosts the breathtaking Lake Manasarovar, known for its pristine, icy blue waters.

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2. The Way of St. James via the French way, Spain: Among all the featured trails, this one traverses a quietly gentrified Europe as a trade route dating back to the ancient Roman era through the Middle Ages. It is best for a spring sojourn, with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site unleashing a bevy of cozy inns and restaurants that will restore weary travelers.

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3. Shackleton's route, South Georgia Island, Antarctica: A bit out of the way is this snowy trail, an agglomeration of glaciers and crevasses that tempt daring adventurers. Sea explorers led by Ernest Shackleton came upon it after a ship mishap, an inhuman and potentially fatal struggle across mountains to give this modern heritage site its unintended name.

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4. Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal: If skipping from stone to stone is your thing, then this trail—GHT for short—is a breathtaking, moving view of the Himalayas. Nepal has one of the most tapped yet preserved paths for mountaineers, and this trail is where a friendly reconnoiter with Sherpa, its centuries-long inhabitants, could happen.

For the complete list, click here.

A passion for the environment drives Janique Goff to research and discuss the most beautiful sights in the world. Follow this Facebook page for more information on exciting sights for environmentalists.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living in the age of extreme weather

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Widespread drought, thousands of tornados, exceptionally heavy monsoons, and record flooding are leading some people to conclude that the age of extreme weather has finally commenced. And rightly so. The past couple of years have witnessed extremely bad weather that the “breaking of records” was the best indication that recent disturbances were outside the normal range.

And as climate continues to change, scientists believe there will be more heat waves, droughts, and floods as the atmosphere continues to warm. Hurricanes may be more frequent, too -- or more powerful.

With the likelihood of such extreme weather disturbances occurring more frequently, how can people prepare?

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The destruction brought about by the massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20 has opened up discussions on tornado-proofing cities to reduce and even eliminate loss of lives when twisters occur; a survival plan of sort for America’s tornado danger zone. Many believe that with the right policy and the right incentives, doing so is possible.

Efforts championing disaster preparedness are always welcome. However, preparedness should also come with understanding why extreme weather is happening in the first place. Although many still believe that weather disturbances are more weather than climate change, it cannot be discounted that some of the recent floods, droughts, and heat waves can also be attributed to human-induced climate change.

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The discussion on climate change will never wear out Janique Goff, a champion supporter of various ecological initiatives. Learn more about her environmental advocacies here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cash in on recycling electronic waste

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Of all the materials that can be recycled, metals are the most valuable. There are huge incentives to recycle metal waste in both ecological and economic standpoints that it remains the most cost-effective and energy-efficient form of recyclable material. The sheer amounts of energy and money saved from mining and smelting—both environmentally destructive and heavily polluting industries—justify its cost.

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And with the rising number of people using (and disposing of) consumer electronics, a new relatively untapped potential for recycling has emerged. Recycling obsolete laptops, old cellphones, and other consumer electronics en masse can have a very positive effect on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency states that recycling one million cellphone units can recover 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium, while recycling one million laptops can conserve the energy equivalent of more than 3,500 American homes.

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Many electronics retailers and charities throughout North America readily accept old and broken electronics, though there are special considerations to be made when recycling old batteries.

Although this practice is not unknown and is growing in popularity, recycling consumer electronics has yet to gain traction. Only about one percent of consumer electronics are recycled in the United States alone. Humor site calls this one of five unsung ways people can effectively (and effortlessly) save the world.

For more updates on the environment and ecological initiatives, visit Janique Goff’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gold from ivory: Stop the crime

Image source: British Campaign Furniture

 Markets for ivory, legal or underground, abound. Many people buy and sell ivory for its beautiful qualities. Unfortunately, only a few actually know where this material comes from. The best ivory in the world cannot be produced by man; it can only be brought to the earth by Mother Nature, specifically by elephants.

Image source: African Wildlife Foundation
 Many organizations, like the World Wildlife Organization (WWF), constantly battle against abuse on nature, specifically on wildlife. Many entrepreneurs and environmentalists, like Janique Goff and Doug and Kris Tompkins, also help in the cause. However, this is not where it ends.

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This article by Dekila Chungyalpa of WWF speaks of four Buddhist teachers from Thailand who are preaching against ivory trade and calling the attention of the Thai government to shut down this kind of business. To see this practice truly and totally abolished means that there is a need to bring the fight to the people. To borrow the words of the mentioned article, the success of this endeavor relies on giving back “the reins of conservation to local champions.” It is only when the people have clearly understood what is wrong and eventually act upon a solution to solve the problem will the crisis be truly averted.

Learn how you can help save the planet by following Janique Goff’s Twitter page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Warning: Styrofoam food containers are dangerous

If you think that seeing your kids playing styro-snow is cute, then think again.

The extruded polystyrene foam, or colloquially known as styrofoam, is everywhere. Nonetheless, it being ubiquitous does not mean it is safe. Perhaps people just got used to it and thought of it as part of their everyday life.

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Styrofoam and food

Since styro is 98% air and 2% polystyrene, a minimum of 100 degrees Celsius is enough to separate the air and toxic produce carcinogens and neurotoxins, which are dangerous to humans. Hence, when food is heated in a styro container, it gets contaminated by substances called styrene and benzene, which may lead to irritation of the stomach, convulsions, coma, and death. Even the FDA warns the Americans on purchasing instant food with non-microwave-safe labels because these can cause different life-threatening illnesses.

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Styrofoam in the environment

Extruded polystyrene foam takes more than 200 years to decompose because it is non-biodegradable and a non-renewable source—a valid reason why most landfills in the world are chiefly comprised of unrecyclable plastics and polystyrene foams. However, eliminating polystyrene is becoming more and more difficult every day, since the entire global commercial industry is dependent on this cheap and practical packaging material. In a larger scope, the chlorofluorocarbons present in all extruded polystyrene products have the capacity that is more powerful than carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to destroy the already-deteriorating ozone layer and worsen global warming.

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Styrofoam and such hazardous materials may rank atop Janique Goff’s list of things to campaign against. Visit this MySpace page for her latest activities.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Beeware of food supply drop: How bee population decline impacts agricultural yield

Climate change has taken its toll for more than a century now. The past decades may have seen its effects less violently, but the recent natural tragedies suggest that its impact is escalating big time. In fact, it is harming even the tiniest members of the biosphere, fuelling a chain reaction that affects many other forms of human activities particularly agriculture.

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Bees, via pollination, contribute to a sizable crop yield in America. However, their present population has rapidly dwindled as compared to their number more than 50 years ago. The culprit is believed to be climate change and its associated factors, such as diseases spread by parasites and the spraying of crops with pesticides. This ecological catastrophe is plaguing the agriculture sector on a large scale.

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Unless immediate actions are taken, food supply in the US can be put in peril. The farmers’ inability to meet production quota can become a permanent dilemma and consequently, shelves in food stalls and grocery stores might become nearly empty. For example, in February 2004, there were inadequate honeybees for all the almond blossoms in California, resulting in farmers failing to meet expected yields.

“There are shortages that pop up from time to time,” says Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at Princeton University. “Whether there are more [shortages] than there were 20 years ago, one would guess yes, as there are fewer bees to go around, but it's not well documented.”

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While honeybees are not yet totally extinct, it is better that everyone helps in fighting the many ill industrial activities of man that possibly cause the insects’ population decline. People should also help expand green horizons through reforestation and increase the production and use of renewable energy. Small contributions can make a huge difference.

Janique Goff is an active supporter of programs and causes that gear toward eco-preservation and sustainable development. This blog provides more information about her advocacy for nature.