Does Tree House Building Sound Like a Good Time?

How about wind-turbine construction?  And a big family-friendly party in the midst of all the building projects? Sound like your kind of thing? Then you may want to make your way to Tecumseh, Missouri-based ecovillage East Wind Community during the first week of June for the Villages in the Sky festival.

Inspired by well-know events such as Burning Man and the Rainbow Gathering, the festival’s mission is

…to bring people together to explore the creation of sustainable energy: the kind that powers our appliances and the kind that creates momentum in our lives. In full celebration of the wind element, we’ll be leaving behind positive traces of the world we’re actively building together: tree houses and wind mills. Small scale wind farms and other renewable energy installations will be our work and tree house villages and zip line courses will be our play!

The overall goal will be the development of new ecovillages at the Villages in the Sky site… and, of course, a really good time. The organizers have already been testing out some of their ideas — at last year’s Burning Man, and at Central Virginia’s Acorn Community.



Melting Glaciers Nourishing Oceans With Ancient Carbon

Glaciers that naturally melt each summer along the Gulf of Alaska flush out huge amounts of organic material, made up mostly of dead microbes.
Those microbes had feasted on ancient carbon from boggy forests, which lined the Alaska coast between 2,500 to 7,000 years ago and were later trapped under glaciers.

Once released via glacial melt, the dead microbes provide a tasty treat for living microbes, which are at the base of the marine food web, researchers say. (See map.)

Previous studies had shown that carbon from living forests eventually makes its way into fish through the water cycle, so “fish are made out of the forest,” said study leader Eran Hood, an environmental scientist at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

(Related: “Glacier ‘Bleeds’ Proof of Million-Year-Old Life-Forms.”)

The new study reveals “the same kind of thing—the fish are probably made out of carbon from glaciers,” Hood said. “This is a surprising thing we didn’t know before.”

Glacial melt may even have a hand in maintaining Gulf of Alaska fisheries, some of the most productive in the country, he added.

Giant Water Pump

The Gulf of Alaska drainage basin is a giant water pump: It includes more than 10 percent of the mountain glaciers on Earth, and annual runoff from the region produces the second largest discharge of fresh water into the Pacific Ocean.

Hood and colleagues analyzed organic matter in runoff from 11 coastal watersheds in 2008, during the annual peak of glacial melting.

The team sampled streams running through watersheds with different amounts of glacial coverage.

Watersheds with no glaciers at all would be expected to contain less meltwater, while those dominated by ice would be filled with glacial runoff.

What they found is that streams fed by glacial melt had a surprising amount of easily digestible, or “bioavailable,” carbon.

In addition, the more glacially rich the water, the older the carbon—up to 4,000 years old.

Glacial melt is seasonal—ice builds up during the winter and sloughs off in the summer. But rising temperatures have set off a worldwide thaw of many glaciers and ice sheets, which collectively act as the second largest reservoir of Earth’s fresh water, Hood said.

If glaciers continue to disintegrate due to climate change, an initial bounty of carbon released into the oceans would be followed by the complete loss of a major source of nutrients, he said.

Marine ecosystems are nourished by many sources other than glaciers, Hood added.

Ocean upwelling, for example, is a natural cycle in which cold water filled with nutrients rises from the seafloor, feeding surface life.

But a sudden influx of fresh water from melting ice could also disrupt the ocean currents that drive upwelling.

No Expiration Date

The new study goes against a long-held belief that older carbon is less palatable to simple organisms, Hood added.

For instance, in most of the world’s water bodies, the older the carbon, the less easily microbes can digest it.

“That’s the stuff that’s been worked over—it’s no good,” Hood said. “But in our case the older it was, the more the microbes wanted to eat it.”

That’s mainly because glacial carbon is made of dead microbes that have been essentially preserved in ice.

The dead microbes contain more easily digestible nitrogen and not much lignin, a plant compound that’s tough for microbes to break down.

Overall, the contribution of glaciers to the productivity of rivers and oceans is “greatly underappreciated,” the study authors write.

“It’s good to understand the uniqueness of glacier ecosystems and the important role that they play as a source of water and nutrients,” Hood added.


Net Zero Energy Paradigm Homes

After the setting of 13 factory-built boxes and the completion of construction, these net zero energy homes were opened to three

low-income families in Lafayette, Colorado.  Referred to as the Paradigm Pilot Project, the development includes one single family home and a duplex.  The project was designed by HB&A Architects and built by All American Homes of Colorado for the Boulder County Housing Authority.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Paradigm Pilot Project was designed to maximize solar orientation and generate on-site energy from solar PV, solar thermal, and a ground-source geothermal heat pump (for the single family home).

In addition, the ceiling and floor truss materials came from waste lumber, the landscaping is partially drought-tolerant, the plumbing fixtures are low-flow and water efficient, and the appliances are Energy Star.

The housing authority intends to build upon the success and learning experience of the Paradigm Pilot Project with a potential project in Josephine Commons, a 153-unit, mixed income development also in Lafayette.  We’ll keep an eye out for permitting plans on this future eco community.

[+] Boulder County Housing Authority Builds Green by the Daily Camera.

Courtesy:Jetson green

Electric car Think to be assembled in U.S. in 2011

OSLO—Think, an electric car maker based in Norway, will assemble its vehicles in the United States next year and hopes to roll out more

than 20,000 units a year, the Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday, quoting the group’s chief executive

Think, which will receive local and state incentives, is expected to invest $43.5 million to modernize an assembly plant in Elkhart, Indiana, the Wall Street Journal said.

Several U.S. states had been in competition for the investment.

The newspaper reported that the project was to be officially announced in Indiana on Tuesday.

The plant would have an assembly capacity of more than 20,000 cars a year, but production would be “in the low thousands” in 2011, chief executive Richard Canny said.

The Think City, a small plastic vehicle that seats two adults and two children, is expected to sell for around $30,000, after a tax rebate of some $7,500, the Wall Street Journal said.

After teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Think was saved in August by a group of investors, including Ener1 of the U.S., the owner of Enerdel which supplies batteries for the Think cars.

Enerdel is the largest shareholder in the carmaker, holding 31 percent.

In northern Europe, production of Think cars was transferred last year from Oslo to a plant in the Finnish town of Uusikaupunki, where the Finnish group Valmet Automotive already assembles models for German sportscar maker Porsche.

The Think City has a maximum speed of 68 miles an hour and a range of 110 miles.


Lost” Amazon Complex Found; Shapes Seen by Satellite

Hundreds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes once hidden by forest hint at a previously unknown ancient society that

flourished in the Amazon, a new study says.

Satellite images of the upper Amazon Basin taken since 1999 have revealed more than 200 geometric earthworks spanning a distance greater than 155 miles (250 kilometers).

Now researchers estimate that nearly ten times as many such structures—of unknown purpose—may exist undetected under the Amazon’s forest cover.

At least one of the sites has been dated to around A.D. 1283, although others may date as far back as A.D. 200 to 300, said study co-author Denise Schaan, an anthropologist at the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil.

The discovery adds to evidence that the hinterlands of the Amazon once teemed with complex societies, which were largely wiped out by diseases brought to South America by European colonists in the 15th and 16th centuries, Schaan said.

Since these vanished societies had gone unrecorded, previous research had suggested that soils in the upper Amazon were too poor to support the extensive agriculture needed for such large, permanent settlements.

“We found that this picture is wrong,” Schaan said. “And there is a lot more to discover in these places.”

Wide-reaching Culture

The newfound shapes are created by a series of trenches about 36 feet (11 meters) wide and several feet deep, with adjacent banks up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Straight roads connect many of the earthworks.

Preliminary excavations at one of the sites in 2008 revealed that some of the earthworks were surrounded by low mounds containing domestic ceramics, charcoal, grinding-stone fragments, and other evidence of habitation.

But who built the structures and what functions they served remains a mystery. Ideas range from defensive buildings to ceremonial centers and homes, the study authors say.

It’s also possible the structures served different purposes over time, noted William Woods, a geographer and anthropologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence who was not involved in the research.

“For example,” he said, “in Lawrence there’s a Masonic temple—it is now a bar. There was a bank—it is now a restaurant called Tellers. These things happen.”

What most surprised the research team is that the earthworks appear in both the region’s floodplains and the uplands.

In general, the Amazon’s fertile floodplains have been popular sites for ancient civilizations, while the sparser uplands have been thought to be largely devoid of people, the researchers say.

What’s more, the earthworks in both regions are of a similar style, suggesting they were built by the same society.

“In Amazonian archaeology you always have this idea that you find different peoples in different ecosystems,” study co-author Schaan said.

“And so it was kind of odd to have a culture that would take advantage of different ecosystems and expand over such a large region.”

“Astounding” Population

The uplands sites appear to have been home to as many as 60,000 people, Schaan and her colleagues suggest in their paper, published this month in the journal Antiquity.

That figure is based on estimates of the social organization and labor that would have been required to build the structures hinted at by the remaining earthworks.

According to the University of Kansas’ Woods, the population estimate is reasonable, albeit rough, since so little is known about these complexes.

Answers may emerge as researchers continue to excavate the newfound shapes in the coming years.

But Woods is impressed by the possibility that so many people might have once lived in a region long thought uninhabited.

“Traditionally, if you would have asked an anthropologist or archaeologist how many people lived [in these Amazon uplands], they’d say almost zero,” he said.

“And so this is astounding that there is 60,000 people making a go of it where there aren’t supposed to be any.”


Environment Issues-How Much Energy Does It Take to Make Bottled Water?

producing, packaging and transporting a liter of bottled water requires between 1,100 and 2,000 times more energy on average than treating and delivering the same amount of tap water, according to a peer-reviewed energy analysis conducted by the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Oakland, California.

Popularity of Bottled Water is Rising
Bottled water has become the drink of choice for many people around the world, and sales have skyrocketed over the past few years. In 2007, for example, more than 200 billion liters of bottled water were sold worldwide. Americans alone purchased more than 33 billion liters for an annual average of 110 liters (nearly 30 gallons) per person—a 70 percent increase since 2001.

Bottled water has become so popular that it now outsells both milk and beer in the United States. Carbonated soft drinks are the only bottled beverage that U.S. consumers buy in greater quantities than bottled water, and per-capita sales of bottled water are rising while per-capita sales of milk and soft drinks are going down. The irony here, of course, is that a lot of bottled water is little more than tap water, which costs very little and is much better regulated and more rigorously tested than bottled water.

Adding Up the Energy Costs of Bottled Water
For the energy analysis, environmental scientists Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute assessed the energy used during each stage of bottled water production. They added up the energy it takes to make a plastic bottle; process the water; label, fill and seal the bottle; transport bottled water for sale; and cool the bottled water before it ends up in your gym bag or your car’s cup holder.

Writing in the February 19, 2009 issue of Environmental Research Letters [pdf], Gleick and Cooley report that manufacturing and transportation are the most energy-intensive processes involved in putting a bottle of water in your refrigerator.

The two scientists estimate that just producing the plastic bottles for bottled-water consumption worldwide uses 50 million barrels of oil annually—enough to supply total U.S. oil demand for 2.5 days.

Transportation energy consumption is harder to figure, because some water is bottled locally and travels short distances to reach consumers while other brands of bottled water are imported from distant nations, which increases the amount of energy needed to transport them. According to the report, imported bottled water uses about two-and-a-half to four times more energy than bottled water produced locally.

Overall, the two scientists estimate that meeting U.S. demand for bottled-water—assuming the 2007 consumption rate of 33 billion liters—requires energy equivalent to between 32 million and 54 million barrels of oil. The energy required to satisfy the global thirst for bottled water is about three times that amount.

Think Before You Drink
If you imagine that every bottle of water you drink is about three-quarters water and one-quarter oil, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of how much energy it takes to put that bottle of water in your hand.

Nature-Natural Rivers And Lakes

Main articles: River and Lake

A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing toward an ocean, a lake, a sea or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill; there is no general rule that defines what can be called a river. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; one example is Burn in Scotland and North-east England. Sometimes a river is said to be larger than a creek,[11] but this is not always the case, because of vagueness in the language.[12] A river is part of the hydrological cycle. Water within a river is generally collected from precipitation through surface runoff, groundwater recharge, springs, and the release of stored water in natural ice and snowpacks (i.e., from glaciers).

A lake (from Latin lacus) is a terrain feature (or physical feature), a body of liquid on the surface of a world that is localized to the bottom of basin (another type of landform or terrain feature; that is, it is not global) and moves slowly if it moves at all. On Earth, a body of water is considered a lake when it is inland, not part of the ocean, is larger and deeper than a pond, and is fed by a river.[13][14] The only world other than Earth known to harbor lakes is Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, which has lakes of ethane, most likely mixed with methane. It is not known if Titan’s lakes are fed by rivers, though Titan’s surface is carved by numerous river beds. Natural lakes on Earth are generally found in mountainous areas, rift zones, and areas with ongoing or recent glaciation. Other lakes are found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers. In some parts of the world, there are many lakes because of chaotic drainage patterns left over from the last Ice Age. All lakes are temporary over geologic time scales, as they will slowly fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin containing them.


Nature-Oceanic Activities

Oceanic activity

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, near the North Pole.

Some of the biodiversity of a coral reef.

Main article: Ocean
Earth’s oceans
(World Ocean)

An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface (an area of some 361 million square kilometers) is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas. More than half of this area is over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) deep. Average oceanic salinity is around 35 parts per thousand (ppt) (3.5%), and nearly all seawater has a salinity in the range of 30 to 38 ppt. Though generally recognized as several ‘separate’ oceans, these waters comprise one global, interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.[8][9] This concept of a global ocean as a continuous body of water with relatively free interchange among its parts is of fundamental importance to oceanography.[10]

The major oceanic divisions are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria: these divisions are (in descending order of size) the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean (which is sometimes subsumed as the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans), and the Arctic Ocean (which is sometimes considered a sea of the Atlantic). The Pacific and Atlantic may be further subdivided by the equators  into northerly and southerly portions. Smaller regions of the oceans are called seas, gulfs,bays and other names. There are also salt lakes, which are smaller bodies of landlocked saltwater that are not interconnected with the World Ocean. Two notable examples of salt lakes are the aral sea and the great salt lake.


Green technology: From steel mills to wind farms?

A Spanish wind turbine maker puts down roots in Pittsburgh. Yes, Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH — Steelworkers tending blast furnaces and rolling mills in Pittsburgh 30 years ago could not have imagined that their jobs would turn so green, or that they would be working for foreign companies that needed their skills.

Continue Reading at GlobalPost

Reality beckons for geothermal energy dream

EVERY time Resources Minister Martin Ferguson makes an announcement regarding geothermal energy he likes to quote the statistic that just 1 per cent of Australia’s geothermal resources could power Australia for 26,000 years.

But does he really believe it can even power Australia one time over? The pace and quantum of the government funding for geothermal suggests he is not entirely convinced.

He wouldn’t be the only one.

Continue Reading at TheAustralian