“DEEP GREEN: Solutions to Stop Global Warming Now” wins Activist Award

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Global Warming

I havent seen this film yet, but theLos Angeles Times has called Deep Green a template for getting off fossil fuels and the Oregonian praises the film for offering hope instead of despair. Sounds good.

Heres more on the film, a direct copy of an email I received from Lyla Foggia (looks like exactly what is needed at this moment in time):

In a film filled with light-bulb moments, none seems to burn brighter than the realization that the race to stop global warming is well underway yet the U.S.has barely left the starting gate. Hard as it is to believe, China long regarded as the Darth Vader of global carbon emissionsis spending 600% more annually than the U.S. on green initiatives, even with a GNP only one-third the size.

What gives? Barbara Finamore, Director of the Natural Resource Defense Councils China Program, points out in DEEP GREEN: Solutions to Stop Global Warming Now: China did its own study and discovered that climate change is going to affect all of the areas where they are most vulnerable: their water supply, flooding, droughts, disease, and agriculture.

Explains Deep Green filmmaker Matt Briggs:For too long, China has been used as an excuse for inaction on the climate crisis.It doesnt matter what we do in the United States, because so many Chinese are wasting energy and killing the planet anyway. But our research showed that this was changing, and we decided to go to China to see for ourselves.We caught the beginning of what is now an accelerating greening of China. Europe has led the way on most efforts to stop global warming, so we searched for the best diverse global warming solutions in seven countries.Plus, we found many areas of strength and brilliant solutions in the United States.

Directed by Briggs and photographed by Beijing-based cinematographer Andrew Clark (National Geographic Channel, BBC, and CNN), among others,Deep Greenfeatures compelling examples of breakthrough technology, practical ingenuity andbrilliant ideas, while searching out the best minds and applications leading to the creation of living buildings, electric transportation, sustainable farming, clean energy, and reforestation. Blended with the enthusiasm and passion with which other countries and cultures are embracing the challenge, Deep Green provides an inspiring perspective, along with specific suggestions on what one person can do to lower their carbon footprint and restore the natural world.

Over three years in the making, Deep Green is the culmination of a quest that began in the 1990s for Briggs, when he started noticing the effects of global warming on our national forests.Concerned, he attended scores of conferences, including the first of ten Bioneers in 1999.Prior to shooting a single frame, Briggs also spent four years pouring over the latest research through scientific journals and more than 400 books.Notably, when Deep Green began principal photography in July 2007, many of the solutionssuch as the first solar thermal plants, hybrid electric cars, and living buildings had not advanced beyond the concept stage, or were just being built while we were shooting the movie.The science and the literature caught up.This became a seven year project and the science got stronger and the solutions got better.Now we know that over 75% or most of global warming is man-caused, and we know how to fix it, says Briggs.

Among the widely-respected authorities featured in the film are Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, bestselling author Michael Pollan, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Dr. David Suzuki, former CIA Director James Woolsey, electric transportation guru Edward Kjaer, and Finamore.

From the beginning, Briggs imagined a way of inspiring a new generation of green achievers through the universal appeal of animationso he commissioned 11 world class short films from the award-winning Bent Image Lab in Portland, Oregon.Included are eight humorous vignettes featuring the distinctive line-drawing style ofFrench-born artist Pascal Campion and the free-standing environmental shorts:The Krill is Gone about the devastating impact of CO2 on the worlds oceans, and Trees on how cutting down our forests creates even more CO2.Both feature the voice of SpongeBob legend Tom Kenny, along with a commanding performance by his wife, Jill Talley, as the ditzy krill.

Deep Green, The Krill is Gone, and Trees have been featured in film festivals around the world.Among them, the Artivist Film Festival in Los Angeles and New York selected Deep Green and The Krill is Gone as its 2010 winners of the Best Environmental Preservation Award for Feature Film and Short Subject respectively.Krill was also named the recent winner of the Blue Ocean Film Festival Award for Childrens Programming.

TheLos Angeles Times has called Deep Green a template for getting off fossil fuels.TheOregonian has also praised the film for offering hope instead of despair.ThePortland Tribune noted:Deep Green doesnt have super heroes, flying monsters, 3-D, big stars, love interests or comedy of questionable taste. What it does have is energy, passion, imagination.Among the others, theExaminer.com reported: Deep Green is an eye-opening film that utilizes science, technology, reality and compassion to highlight not only the responsibility each individual has for reducing mankinds carbon footprint on the planet to solve the global warming crisis.Deep Green does a great job of explaining why energy conservation is critical to the survival of living things on the planet

DVDs of Deep Green are available through Amazon.com for $15.99.To purchase multiple copies at discount or a license to exhibit the film publicly, call 503-635-4469 or email matt@deepgreenmovie.com.For more information about the film, visit www.DeepGreenMovie.com.

Hungarian Toxic Sludge Reaches Danube River

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills

Hungary’s toxic sludge spill, which has killed four people, reached the Danube river, threatening to contaminate the waterway’s entire ecosystem, officials have said.

The sludge reached the Danube’s Mosoni Branch, about six miles from the main branch of the river this morning, according to Tibor Dobson, head of the disaster relief services.

The industrial accident triggered by the collapse of walls at the factory reservoir on Monday has been described as an ecological disaster and is now threatening the entire ecosystem of the Danube, Europe’s second longest river which runs from Hungary through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine before flowing into the Black Sea. Toxic sludge from alumina in Hungary is an ecological catasrophe.

Hungarian villagers whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by the wave that poured out of an aluminium plant reservoir earlier this week have demanded compensation from the company blamed for the disaster.

Authorities have ordered a criminal inquiry into the accident, which killed at least four people, injured 120 and left three people missing.

After bursting from the reservoir and flooding three villages on Monday, the sludge – a waste product of aluminium production that can contain heavy metals – ended up in the Marcal River, part of the tributary system feeding the Danube, some 45 miles to the north.

It is feared it could contaminate the Danube, one of Europe’s biggest rivers.

Angry villagers gathered outside the mayor’s office in Kolontar, as they berated a senior official of MAL Rt., the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company that owns the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant, demanding compensation.

Local officials said 34 homes in the village were uninhabitable. However, furious residents said the disaster had destroyed the whole community by making their real estate valueless.

“The whole settlement should be bulldozed into the ground,” bellowed Janos Potza, straining to be heard above his neighbours. “There’s no point for anyone to go back home.”

“Those who can, will move out of Kolontar. From now on, this is a dead town,” fumed Beata Gasko Monek.

Visibly shaken, Jozsef Deak, the company’s operations manager, said it would not shy away from taking responsibility if found guilty. He spoke from the passenger seat of a police cruiser, using its speaker system as villagers crowded around.

Two days after the red torrent disgorged an estimated 35 million cubic feet of toxic waste, it was not known why part of the reservoir collapsed.

National Police Chief Jozsef Hatala was heading the investigation into the spill because of its importance and complexity, police spokeswoman Monika Benyi said. Investigators would look into whether on-the-job carelessness was a factor, she said.

The huge reservoir, more than 1,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide, was no longer leaking and a triple-tiered protective wall was being built around its damaged section.

(source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/hungary/8047873/Hungarian-toxic-sludge-reaches-Danube-river.html)

The Oil Spill’s Effects on Deep-Sea Ecology

May 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills

The Great Unknowns in Gulf Oil Spill

by Ian Yarett
May 24, 2010

The deep water of the ocean is the largest habitat on earth but it’s also the least understood, making the effects of this deep-sea spill without precedent.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico falls into a distinct category from any other oil catastrophe; it’s the first blowout in history to release oil in such deep waters, nearly a mile below the surface.

As a result, scientists say, the impacts of this spill are likely to go far beyond the oiled birds and dead sea turtles, spoiled beaches and wetlands that we think of when we think “oil spill.” A substantial piece of the total impact is likely occurring under the sea, invisible (for now at least) but no less ominous than the more traditional shoreline effects. Far below the sea, the spill threatens organisms of all kinds and, indirectly, the ecosystem at large, though the extent of the danger is still obscured.

Oil on the surface of the ocean is a known quantity, says Ed Overton, an oil-spill expert at the Louisiana State University who is analyzing water, sediment, and other samples for NOAA’s scientific-support team. “It’s going to cause very substantial and noticeable damage—but it won’t take very long to find the marsh loss and coastal erosion and impact on fisheries,” he says. The effects of oil in the water column and at the sea floor, on the other hand, remains a mystery.

The first scientific mission to assess deepwater impacts of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, conducted from the research ship Pelican and funded by NOAA, discovered massive plumes of dispersed oilup to 30 miles long by seven miles wide and hundreds of feet thick. Though the data collected by the Pelican was criticized by NOAA as being too preliminary to draw conclusions from, scientists say the finding is not surprising and is in line with the results of previous studies.

One such study, a 2003 report by the National Research Council, considered what the effects of a deepwater well blowout might be and predicted that such an event, particularly of a reservoir rich in gas (as the Deepwater Horizon reservoir appears to be) would generate diffuse underwater plumes of microaerosolized oil much like what the Pelican scientists found.

A few years earlier, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) organized a study in 2000 in which scientists released oil into deep seas off the coast of Norway, but could only account for a small amount of it on the surface—suggesting that much of it remained in the water column. (While the conditions of this study aren’t identical to the conditions of the current spill, Overton says the general findings could be expected to apply).

Conventional wisdom suggests that oil is lighter than water and therefore floats, but that’s not entirely the case when a complex mixture of crude oil and natural gas is gushing from a well a mile below the surface, at high temperature and pressure, as is happening right now in the gulf. In this case, the gas can effervesce out of the oil, aerosolizing it into tiny droplets, much the way a fine mist emerges from the top of an aerosol can. Some of these droplets may be neutrally buoyant, meaning they move to a point in the water column where they neither rise nor sink, possibly resulting in underwater “plumes” like the ones reported. Adding subsea dispersants, which similarly break up the oil and are intended to prevent it from reaching the surface, may exacerbate this and could have toxic effects themselves.

A major impact of subsea oil plumes is that they lead to a bloom in oil-chomping microbes. These bugs eat the oil, but use oxygen in the process—meaning that oxygen levels in the water can drop rapidly and threaten the organisms living there. Samantha Joye, one of the principal investigators for the Pelican mission, says her team found that water within the plumes was 30 percent less oxygenated than normal. That’s not enough of a drop to suffocate organisms—but she worries that it could get there relatively soon.

There is plentiful life in the deep sea that’s in danger: fish, deep-sea corals, gelatinous zooplankton like jellyfish, and benthic-dwelling sharks, not to mention the diverse communites of shrimp, crabs, worms, and other critters that live near natural methane seeps. “It’s like a lush jungle down there,” Joye says. Even if oil exposure doesn’t kill these organisms, it could have chronic, long-term effects, like impaired growth or reproduction.

Over time, any impact on the deep-sea communities is likely to have more broad effects, since the whole ocean is connected by various biological processes. “All the different zones of life are interactive in one way or another,” says Lisa Levin, a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

And any oil in the deep-sea environment could persist for a long time. The majority of oil on the surface evaporates, washes up on shore, or is degraded by natural weathering and oil-eating microbes. In the deep sea, on the other hand, it’s dark and still, meaning no weathering and no evaporation. Microbial degradation is pretty much the only mitigating process—but it’s slow. As a result, there’s some possibility that deep-sea oil could get churned up by storms and have a limited shoreline impact sometime in the future, Joye says.

It could take years to find out the extent of the oil’s subsea impact, but the scientists interviewed for this article stressed the importance of beginning the search immediately, even before the gushing well is capped. “If you don’t look you won’t find,” says Rick Steiner, a marine biologist who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill back in 1989. “Hats off to the Pelican for doing what they could out there, but they might have sampled 1 percent or less of the total volume of the impact.” Many other questions about the plumes remain, Joye says, including what’s happening inside them, how are they moving, whether they’re growing or shrinking, and if there are more of them.

It’s also essential to get an accurate measure of the amount of oil being released, as this would allow scientists to deduce how much oil could be hiding below the surface based on the size of the oil slick and estimates of other factors like evaporation.

On these points, the scientific community has been increasingly critical of the official response to the spill, alleging that both the government and BP have resisted entreaties to either investigate the spill’s magnitude and subsea impacts themselves or to allow independent scientists to do so.

“These deepwater effects are not going to mess the beaches up, and they’re not going to have an immediate impact on the shrimp fishery, but they could have long-standing impacts,” Joye says. These hidden impacts—and the way they are handled—could one day be considered the Deepwater Horizon’s legacy.

source: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/05/24/the-great-unkowns-in-gulf-oil-spill.html

Sewage Beach

April 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

Summer’s almost here, and things are getting excrementally worse with our water.

By Eric Wolff

Is New York flushing away its summer fun? Our century-old sewer system is already so overburdened that it overflows 70 days a year—dumping 27 billion gallons of waste into the city’s waterways, just as high-rises are going up on their banks. (Even the ever-fetid Gowanus Canal is being lined with housing.) Last summer, two city beaches were closed because of high bacterial levels; experts say all this building is going to make the problem worse. And while it’s still pretty safe to kayak on the Hudson this summer, within ten years, “I could easily see beaches closing for much of the summer season,” says biophysicist Paul Mankiewicz of the Gaia Institute.

All it takes is a tenth of an inch of rain falling in an hour—a tenth!—for the sewer system to start emptying into the rivers. It’s partly a problem of neglect: In 1992, the city’s treatment plants were in such disrepair that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation sued under the Clean Water Act; the city has never allayed the DEC’s concerns, and the State Supreme Court upheld a $13.9 million fine against the city last April.

Meanwhile, the city’s population has edged over 8 million, and the Department of Planning is expecting at least 37,000 new apartments citywide in the next ten years. “We’re operating under the assumption the sewers can handle it,” says a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. “If we didn’t think so, developers wouldn’t get a permit to connect to the system. And that’s all we have to say.”

But even developers seem to recognize the issue. In part to deflect the anger of neighborhood activists, the developers of the massive Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn promised to build underground tanks to collect up to 800,000 gallons of storm-water runoff, and to install newfangled “waterless urinals.”

Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia have a broader wastewater policy that relies more on soil and parks to manage flow, but such ideas have not made headway in New York. “Wet-weather flows are not something they’re requiring builders to deal with at all,” says Brad Sewell, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council—instead, the city’s policy on sewage focuses entirely on projects whose cost is borne by the taxpayer: new pipes, new tanks, and improvements to treatment plans. “The city’s approach to this problem is not only irresponsible but a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” says Basil Seggos of the environmental group Riverkeeper.