Pigeons With Backpacks Are Monitoring Pollution In London

The environment and technology are often seen at odds with one another, with the advance of technology coming at the cost of the environment. While green technology like solar panels get more efficient and generate more electricity with the same resources, people are worried about the pollution and issues we’ve already generated. In the latest attempt to alert people about pollution a selection of pigeons with backpacks patrolling London reporting on the pollution in their area.

The scheme was created by Plume Labs, a firm that focuses on tracking and reducing exposure to air pollution. The scheme, pigeon air patrol, see’s a selection of pigeons equipped with air sensors on their back measuring everything they need to help raise “awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way” as reported by Romain Lacombe, the CEO of Plume Labs.

Lacome states that “Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing 10,000 people every year in London alone”, before mentioning that a similar system was being created that would allow humans to wear and track the air quality around them.

With the pigeons reporting the air quality around them by tweeting the information, the system is accessible to everyone. Tweeting your location to the account returns a report detailing the air quality in your area as well.

A Visual Photographic Collage Of China’s Air Pollution

China’s air quality is poor to say the least, recent reports of families having to use an air purifier in their own homes to avoid breathing the air is quite shocking. The atmosphere in China has become worse over time to the point whereby it is difficult to recall a situation when the countries skies were not full of pollution, luckily, China and its Weather Network has produced a visual representation and it’s certainly worth a look.

Below is a series of snaps which has been stitched together and conveys the Beijing sky conditions most for most of the time in 2015, it is quite revealing when you consider how toxic the pollution is and is particularly evident when you look at images labelled 2015-12-1 and 2015-12-25.    

Image Below appears to be a colour chart of images that represent around 300 days of 2015, how do I know? yes I did count them and I came to around 290 days which I rounded up to 300, so give or take it is close to a year in total. The image also conveys the levels of extremes that exist and how it can be a danger to anyone’s health.

Below is an image which is quite fascinating, the sky here looks pretty natural and there is a good reason for this,  “during the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War and the World Anti-Fascist War commemoration of the 70th anniversary of victory” celebrations, the government  imposed air “quality protection measures”, this included a shutdown of factories and a ban on cars and high emission facilities. The result was a dramatic change that started from August 20th and continued until August 24th, 2015.

These images are interesting because tech has been used to document a hot topic climate issue in today’s world.

Image courtesy of geonews

Scientists Accidentally Discover Orange Peel Can Decontaminate Water

Researcher in Australia made an accidental discovery that could save the lives of thousands of people. Dr. Max Worthington and Dr. Justin Chalker from Flinders University in South Australia, found a way in which to use orange peel to remove poisonous mercury from water.

“Mercury contamination plagues many areas of the world, affecting both food and water supplies and creating a serious need for an efficient and cost-effective method to trap this mercury,” said Dr. Chalker.

Dr. Worthington and Dr. Chalker were attempting to create a new plastic polymer (above) from everyday materials, with an angle on recycling discarded waste. The pair began experimenting with sulphur, a by-product of petroleum, and limonene, which is an oil obtained from orange peel.

“We ended up settling on sulphur because it’s produced in 70 million tonnes per year by the petroleum industry as a by-product, so there are not very many uses for it, and limonene is produced in 70,000 tonnes per year and so it’s relatively cheap,” Dr Chalker said. “It literally grows on trees.”

“We take sulphur, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and we take limonene, which is the main component of orange oil, so is produced in large quantities by the citrus industry, and we’re able to react them together to form a type of soft red rubber, and what this material does is that it can grab mercury out of the water,” Dr. Chalker added.

Toxicity tests determined that the new polymer was not harmful to the environment, so could be used to strip mercury from water without further polluting it. “That gives us hope that we’ll be able to commercialise and actually use this in the environment,” said Dr. Chalker.

Due to industrial activities such as mining and fossil fuel-burning power stations, mercury pollution in water is rife, with levels of the metal tripling since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The substance – which is thought to be responsible for diminishing reproductive rates of sealife, as well as the birds that feed on them – is incredibly harmful to humans, being linked to numerous health issues, including lower IQ in children and persistent fatigue. In large amounts, mercury poisoning can be fatal.

Images courtesy of The New Daily.

Russia Will Assist Japan’s TEPCO With Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

Ever since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant was struck by a Tsunami and an Earthquake back in March 2011 it has been crippled to a state of near-meltdown. Fukushima today acts as the most prominent argument against Nuclear technology as Chernobyl did pre-2011. Japanese TEPCO employees have had to pour water over the spent fuel rods for the last 2 years to prevent over-heating that might lead to another meltdown or even a chain reaction. The consequences of the “worst case scenario” would indeed have international consequences as radiation fallout obeys no borders.

That is why Russia have offered to come to the help of Japan in their TEPCO crisis. Russia have become international field leaders in decommissioning nuclear power plants after the Chernobyl disaster gave them ample experience. Eco News report that Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom – the state-owned Russian nuclear utility, has extended a helping hand to TEPCO.

“In our globalised nuclear industry we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Mr Asmolov told Bloomberg news agency. “It was clear for a long time that TEPCO was not adequately coping with the situation…It looks like TEPCO management were the last to realise this.”

Japan’s Fukushima crisis is being labelled as the world’s most serious Nuclear incident since Chernobyl. Experts say it is significantly more serious because the amount of nuclear fuel involved is much higher. Levels of radiation in close-by water sources are already unsafe for human habitation. The government had evacuated everyone in a 20km radius of the site but that no go zone is being gradually lifted as radiation levels start to fall.

Image courtesy of Reuters

Humans Have Used Up Yearly “Budget” Of Natural Resources For 2013

The concept of the Earth having “ecological limits” is hardly a new idea. Put simply there is the assumption that the Earth can only provide a certain amount of natural resources and cope with a certain amount of pollution in a sustainable way. The idea of Earth Overshoot Day, explained by the FootPrintNetwork.org, is that every year we exceed our annual sustainable limit and every year that limit is coming earlier. This year we reached the Earth Overshoot Day on August 20th 2013 while in previous years it came much later (earlier is worse/later is better).As the two images show we are now essentially “over our limits” for the rest of the year. If you imagined the Earth like a bank account we would effectively be overdrawn from now to the rest of the year. Though there is one key problem which is that we have been overdrawn for over 30 years now causing sustained permanent damage every year and we are becoming overdrawn “faster” every year.

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom and it is possible to change the way we interact with our world for the better. This isn’t a “carbon scaremongering” tactic to levy extra taxes upon people but this is an effort to explain to people that we must use resources more cautiously and we must treat the environment like the fragile being it is. In effect we must start living within our means, not on our current course of destructive over-consumption.

To read more about Earth Overshoot Day and its significance please see here.

Images courtesy of FootPrintNetwork

Hybrid-Electric Airliners Expected By 2050

While we already have hybrid-electric cars, such as the Toyota Prius, our aviation is still dominated by oil-based fuels. This will be problematic as oil supplies start to dwindle and become more expensive. That is why engineers and scientists with the European Aerospace Consortium EADS and Rolls-Royce are currently developing a hybrid electric propulsion system, Inhabitat reports.

The new aircraft is dubbed E-Thrust and due to its hybrid nature it will burn considerably less fuel than its totally oil-powered counterparts. There are many positive benefits of this for the airline industry. Firstly, less oil-fuel consumption should reduce overall costs of flying as oil prices continue to soar. Secondly, the reduction in oil-fuel consumption will reduce harmful emissions released by the airline industry. Finally, the electric engines run much quieter and will dramatically reduce noise pollution.

Should everything run smoothly and to timetable we can expect to see these new Hybrid-airliners operational by 2050. In my opinion this is a case of too-little too-late as oil supplies will already be dwindling and pollution from air travel will have already reached dangerous levels. As an innovation this is great but as a means of fighting climate change 2050 simply isn’t an ambitious enough target.

Image courtesy of Inhabitat

Serious Polluters In China To Face Death Penalty

Since China underwent rapid industrialisation the problem of containing pollution has been a growing issue for the Chinese government. According to a report by Inhabitat the Chinese government have just got serious on environmental pollution and under a new judicial interpretation Chinese courts could offer up much harsher penalties for environmental crimes. In fact for the most serious environmental offences the Chinese courts could hand out death penalties.

The reasons are relatively clear, some industries generate so much chemical, water and air pollution that they jeopardise public health and even indirectly cause deaths by contaminating water supplies and so forth. China proclaimed this new judicial document with the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Apparently dumping radioactive substances into sources of drinking water and nature reservers along with incidents that poison more than 30 people or force the evacuation of more than 5000, will be considered an environmental pollution crime for the first time. There are 14 new environmental crimes under the new interpretation.

Is the death penalty one step too far or is it a good thing China is now taking the environment more seriously?

Image courtesy of Inhabitat.com

UN Warns Of A Global Population Of 11 Billion People By 2100

The UN have been discussing fertility in Africa recently and according to their latest report, detailed by Mongabay.com, high fertility in Africa could push the population of the world to 11 billion by 2100. The African continent could see another 3.1 billion increase in population from 1.1 billion currently to 4.2 billion by 2100. This would mean that Africa would account for about 75% of population increase of the world between now and 2100.

The UN has revised its population projections claiming that reproductive rates in Africa just aren’t falling. In 2011 they estimated 10.1 billion people by 2100 but since fertility rates have remained high it is now believed we are more likely to see 11 billion.

This rising population is very much framed in crisis terms because overpopulation in Africa could further exacerbate current problems such as poverty, food shortages and environmental degradation. Nigeria will see the greatest population increase this century to the tune of 500% by 2100, India is second while the USA is eighth. China on the other hand is expected to decline by about 20% while Eastern Europe, Russia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Brazil and South East Asia are all also expected to decline.

“Right now, 222 million women in the developing world lack access to modern contraception. This has far-reaching consequences for their health, and their opportunities to get an education, earn an income, take care of their families, and determine their own futures,” said Suzanne Ehler, president of Population Action International, in a statement. “The fact that any woman does not have the tools to decide the size of her family is absurd. That 222 million women do not is a tragedy, and a huge opportunity for all of us to do more.”

Image courtesy of the UN

Derbyshire’s Toxic-As-Bleach “Blue Lagoon” Is Dyed Black To Prevent Swimmers

According to a story reported by the Daily Mail the so called “Blue Lagoon” of Derbyshire has just been dyed black by the local authorities to prevent swimmers. This is because government authorities say that this “Blue Lagoon” is actually a disused quarry. In fact the only reason why the waters of the “Blue Lagoon” are blue is because of excessive amounts of toxic chemical compounds which are apparently very dangerous. If that wasn’t bad enough car wreckages, dead animals, excrement and other rubbish are all known to be resting at the bottom of it.

Several specialists who have investigated it liken the quality of the water to swimming in bleach. Despite this toxic water quality locals have come back repeatedly without fail despite many warnings. It is easy to see why people would want to go for a swim but a Blue Lagoon in the UK? Really? As this story proves for us Brits, if it looks to good to be true then it probably is. Now that it is dyed black the attraction has very much warn off, one local business owner, Rachel Thomas, commented:

“It was absolutely beautiful to look at but was horrendously dangerous. It’s not pretty any more. They don’t think they’re on holiday in the Bahamas any more, they know they’re in Harpur Hill”

Image courtesy of the Daily Mail