Thursday, 24 February 2011

Snippets from the Interwebs 4



Teaser for Sixth Extinction Documentary from 6thExtinctionDoc on Vimeo.

The 6th Extinction is a grassroots documentary project. Few people realize that we are in the midst of a mass extinction crisis that rivals that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   The extinction rate has risen to more than 1000 times the pre-human rate and far outpaces the rate of evolution. Of the 45,000 species evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2008, 17,000 faced at least a high risk of extinction in the wild. Orang-utans, rhinos, tigers, bees, polar bears, chimpanzees, blue-finned tuna…the list of species in trouble is extensive with some scientists predicting that half of all species will go extinct in this century.


Heinz Ketchup is Going “Green” with Coca-Cola

coke and heinz
coke plant bottle
At a press conference on 23rd February 2011, the Coca-Cola Company and H.J. Heinz Company announced a strategic partnership that enables Heinz to produce its ketchup bottles using Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging.

This shift in packaging will be the biggest change to Heinz’s iconic ketchup bottles since the company first introduced plastic in 1983.  Heinz plans to convert to PlantBottle globally, beginning with the 20-ounce variety of Heinz Ketchup, which will be rolled out to US consumers this summer. The plastic bottles which are PET, and thus full recyclable have received awards. They are,  so far made from a 30% plant based material but the intention is to move towards a 100% plant based plastic


Biofuels have had a bit of a bad press. Dubya Bush’s government went gung ho for corn (maize really – they’re Americans you know…) to ethanol production which had elements of pork barrel politics about it

Joule's Helioculture™ platform has a production cycle with up to 50 times the efficiencies of biofuel production to convert sunlight and waste CO2 directly into clean diesel fuel that can substitute directly for the fossil fuelled product. Based on empirical measurements, Joule can directly produce 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually, as compared to 3,000 gallons of biodiesel produced indirectly from algae.


Requiring only sunlight and waste CO2, this system can produce renewable diesel fuel in virtually unlimited quantities at costs as low as $30/barrel equivalent

Here’s a link to an accessible Press release about the process from a couple of days ago (Feb 17th).  Here’s a link to a scientific paper



Not widely reported in the Sun, Mail or Express newspapers was the Global Compact LEAD. Whassat? I hear you cry.


Taken from Triple

“U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced the creation of the Global Compact LEAD on January 28, 2011 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. A total of 54 companies are members, including Intel, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell, Tata Steel, Total and Unilever. Participating companies are also part of the UN Global Compact, which requires members to commit their company’s to align their strategies and operations with ten “universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.”

The companies have committed to the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability leadership



WindMade is a new “eco label” so people can tell if a product has been manufactured using wind power. Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas wants to make it easier to do. Announced just prior to the 2011 Zayed Future Energy prize, which Vestas won, the new consumer label is shown below.



It’s early days yet but I’ll be watching out for it. I remember campaigning for the Forest Stewardship Council standard (widely recognised logo below) to be applied to wood in the early 90’s – now it’s mainstream on an awful lot of timber and timber products such as paper.


Click for further info about Windmade


“Invasivore” Diet Making Headway as Next Locavore Movement

Locavores try to eat only food that is grown or made locally. Slightly “out there” is this new idea. Invasive species were introduced to areas by the process of  international trade. They often have few native predators so their numbers increase wildly without check. This idea encourages people to eat the invaders…


Reinsurer Munich Re assesses extreme climate events. Reinsurers are amongst the most hard nosed calculators of probabilities that there are – it’s their business. If they didn’t know what was really going on they would go out of business so when they say (click for link) that the last 12 months have shown exceptional destructive climatic events, maybe the denialist propagandists might just think again.


A compostable toothbrush from Australia. Aus $36 for a pack of 12. Invented by a Brisbane dentist, “The Environmental Toothbrush” is a simple solution. Made from bamboo, a natural cellulose fibre, they are 100% biodegradable, environmentally sustainable, and do not pollute the environment.


Electric vehicles tend to cost more than the fossil fuelled vehicles they are based on. Step forward Tata of India. From an article by Gizmag:

“The Tata Indica Vista EV hits the market early in 2011, carries four people, has excellent performance and can run 150 miles on a charge. Most importantly, the EV is based on a best-selling, mass-market car from the Indian market where it sells for less than US$9000 and its performance in the recent Future Car Challenge verifies its extreme energy efficiency.”


San Jose, California, bans plastic bags

In December, the San Jose City Council banned single use plastic shopping bags and prohibited retailers from giving away paper bags in a 10 to one vote. The ban will take effect on January 1, 2012. In 2012, retailers will have to charge 10 cents for a paper bag, and 25 cents in 2013. San Jose is the third largest U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags.


U.K. Prime Minister  David Cameron has been talking about a “happiness index” for the U.K. He has directed the Office of National Statistics to develop metrics to measure the UK’s “general well-being”. Using different ways to measure success than the brutally simplistic and out-dated GDP figures is a powerful way to make things better.


M&S early on delivering their sustainability goals – four years early! Companies are outpacing governments in being (somewhat) environmentally friendlier


Pedal powered lawn mower.. Get fit, save money!


TonyTheProf said...

Probably the largest mass extinction was the Cambrian.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of conservationists, species do become extinct. At some point the human race will follow suit. Rather like personal death, most people would rather not consider it. But while it is sad on a personal level, to see a species becoming extinct, we have to perhaps also learn to accept that part of this, at any rate, is part of the fabric of evolution. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

"Extinction is no shame. It is, in one sense, the enabling force of the biosphere. Since most species are extraordinarily resistant to major evolutionary change and since many habitats are fairly full of species, how could evolution proceed if extinction did not open space for novelty? Would I be writing, or you reading, if dinosaurs had survived and mammals remained, as they had for 100 million years, a minor group of small creatures living in ecological nooks and crannies that dinosaurs didn't penetrate?"

So extinction can also be an engine of change, opening up habitats to other species, and providing them with a different niche in which their may flourish.

We can try not to deliberately destroy species by hunting them to extinction, but we cannot hold the earth in forever in stasis, even if we cope with the greenhouse effect.

The most successful life on the planet will probably still be around for thousands of years after human beings - bacteria.

The Wellsian vision sees humanity terraforming and jumping from one planet to another for survival, but in the end, all suns also die.

Nick Palmer said...

We're all doomed eventually in 100s of millions of years but, in the interim period, never say die!