Saturday, February 25, 2006

Good environmental news from B.C.

It's good to look at the problems, but I think we need to hear good news from time to time as well! Here is an excerpt from a recent government of B.C. press release. Not chemically related , but the collaboration is particularly interesting, I think - it shows what can be done.

VANCOUVER – Provincial land use decisions for the Central Coast and the North Coast will preserve some of the most spectacular, ecologically diverse regions in the world, including critical Spirit Bear habitat, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today.

The combined Central Coast and North Coast Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) areas are approximately 6.4 million hectares, or more than twice the size of Belgium. The total combined protected areas for these regions are approximately 1.8 million hectares, or more than three times the size of Prince Edward Island.

“The agreement reached on these areas represents an unprecedented collaboration between First Nations, industry, environmentalists, local governments and many other stakeholders in how we manage the vast richness of B.C.’s coast for the benefit of all British Columbians,” said Campbell. “The result is a strong marriage that balances the needs of the environment with the need for sustainable jobs and a strong economic future for coastal communities"....

For the full report, see the Province of British Columbia news release for Feb. 7, 2006.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Erin Brockovich Revisited

I don't quite know what to make of this, but if it's true, it wouldn't surprise me.

Comments welcome.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

EPA Set to Close Library Network and Electronic Catalog

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

BUSH AXING LIBRARIES WHILE PUSHING FOR MORE RESEARCH — EPA Set to Close Library Network and Electronic Catalog

Washington, DC — Under President Bush’s proposed budget, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is slated to shut down its network of libraries that serve its own scientists as well as the public, according to internal agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition to the libraries, the agency will pull the plug on its electronic catalog which tracks tens of thousands of unique documents and research studies that are available nowhere else.

Thanks to OMB Watch via the SPARC Open Access Forum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Billionnaires create research prizes to spur ingenuity

This is great!

Here is my favorite excerpt:

A second prize is aimed at kicking America's self-proclaimed addiction to oil, by spurring research into greener vehicles. "This is a hot button that can effect our reliance on energy from around the world and our production of pollution, both of which are major problems from a national security standpoint and an environmental standpoint," Dr Diamandis said. "We're still using the internal combustion engine after 100 years, and getting 20 miles per gallon for the past 40 years. It's ripe for a major prize to break things open."

Read the whole thing here.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

SF Bay diversity eroding

Asian clams wreak havoc on SF Bay ecosystem.


More from Dave T and water supply in Africa


I was thinking that Chemists Without Borders could help with the decontamination aspect of the water that the Rotarians are supplying. The cooperative idea is a good one, especially the idea of a small user fee to reduce misuse. There are many things in your emails that CWB needs to consider before trying to implement our hyacinth/arsenic remediation project- I appreciate your input.

We have already been in contact with the UN (UNICEF). At UNICEF, Lynn Geldof:

has given us some good ideas as to where to look for help with our medicinal/vaccines projects. If you have other contacts that might be helpful for our cause, I would be happy to talk to them.

Please keep in touch- your input has been very helpful.




After a couple failed attempts to create a blog account (which I
likely would seldom if ever use anyway), I decided to take a pass on
that offer.

Thanks for posting my e-mail for those who want to read them.

I'm not a Rotarian, having been in class for 40 years at their
meeting times. Now retired, I'm enjoying not having to attend weekly
meetings so may not take up several invitations to join. But I
support their great efforts. My outsider view is that Rotary clubs
do a great job at raising money for beneficial projects both locally
and abroad.

We visited a number of such projects around Addis Ababa. In those
typical cases, money is raises in the US and administered by
Rotarians in Addis. The first water project we visited is still in
the planning stage. We travelled over some rough roads and
eventually had to hike the last mile or two when the road became
unpassable to both our bus and a 4 wheel drive utility vehicle.
Rotary is taking as low tech a solution as possible, diverting a
portion of a year round clear water stream from the hills into a
storage tank, then providing gravity fed piping to a few taps in the
village below. The village already has an irrigation ditch but the
appearance matches that of chocolate milk. The intent is to form a
local cooperative and charge each family a small users fee. The
cooperative will elect a local administrator. The fee should cover
any eventual maintenance costs, but the hope is that by charging a
small fee, the system will have less possibility of misuse, and the
community will feel some responsibility to make sure it continues to

We also visited a more elaborate completed project with funding from
a group in Karisruhe. That obtained water from a lowland spring,
collected it in a covered concrete storage tank, and used a field of
solar cells to pump water to a second storage tank on a nearby
mountain top. The water then flowed downhill to a dozen villages,
each with four spigots.

My original concept was to help while visiting by doing some water
testing since I was moderately well versed in testing and
interpreting results. I was surprised by the mix of low living
conditions with the availability of the latest technology such as
cell phone communications. I am still not clear of what CWB
collaboration might be useful. I have cell phone numbers but not any
e-mail addresses for our hosts in Addis. But perhaps I might obtain
e-mail addresses from our group's leaders and obtain their views on
how CWB might be of assistance.

In Uganda I was impressed with World Vision's similar concept of
hiring local people to provide their local assistance efforts, using
funding from US donations. I understand early on they decided that
sending volunteers to help actually wasted much of the donations on
transportation, lodging and such for the volunteers and that hiring
local people avoided that as well as providing employment. One of my
former students, now Senior Vice President for World Vision in the
US, joined us on our journey in Uganda. He might also have some
insight, or be able to gain some advice as to possible CWB

Finally, the UN presence was abundant in both countries. Presumably
they may already be providing such assistance where needed?

dave t

Saturday, February 04, 2006

EPA and particulate regulation

I used to live in Riverside, CA, so I know how bad the smog can get. Here is the money quote:

It was the first time since the committee was established under the Clean Air Act nearly 30 years ago that the committee had asked the EPA to change course, according to EPA staffers and committee members.

"We're in uncharted waters here," acknowledged committee Chairwoman Rogene Henderson, an inhalation toxicologist. She said their action was necessary because "the response of the administrator is unprecedented in that he did not take our advice. It's most unusual for him not to take the advice of his own science advisory body."

See the entire article here.


Letter from Dave T.

Here is a letter I received from Dave T, printed in its entirety:

Last Fall I discovered Chemists Without Borders when I was preparing
to accompany a Rotary group to Ethiopia and Uganda. With the group
scheduled to visit several potable water projects being developed by
Rotary, I considered taking along water testing kits and doing some
water quality tests. However I discovered that United States
regulations prohibits taking out of the US even simple Hach water
test kits such are used for teaching in our schools. So while we did
visit several water projects, I was unable to do any testing. We did
find that large areas have hand pumped wells where family members
routinely obtain presumably potable water and then carry it in 5
gallon plastic containers several miles for use in their homes.

Bottled water and Coke was universally available and widely sold in
both countries. The price of Coke was the equivalent of a few cents
per recycled glass bottle. There was very little variety of either
beverages or food.

I was impressed that while the standard of living remains low for
many people, televisions and cell phones abound, and Internet access
is being brought to schools and libraries. When we visited political
leaders and schools in both countries we received repeated requests
for "America, send us teachers." We found classes typically crowded
and many schools teaching two shifts of children each day.

While it is unlikely that a significant number of American teachers
will help in east Africa, I see no reason why American teachers
cannot modify current instructional chemistry lessons and experiment
directions and post them on a single web site or at least link to a
common site so that peoples in developing nations can easily access
free systematic instruction and gain secondary and higher education
without having to seek funding for study elsewhere. We could deliver
education at many orders of magnitude less expense than either
sending teachers or as Rotarians are currently doing, sending
shipping containers of discarded surplus library books.

I have been probing to determine whether effective instructional
activities might be developed for such use. I have posted both
photographs from Africa and test versions of chemistry and physics
lessons on my web site: URL I invite
CWB readers to contribute activity and experiment directions and
related instruction content as well as suggest other creative ideas
which could be further developed. This is another way that CWB could
cause an enormous benefit for these peoples.

PLease post comments!