Natural Environment Blog

Blogging for the Natural Environment

Category: Quick Facts (Page 1 of 5)

Global Water Crisis

There is more wastewater generated today than at any other time in history. Every product we manufacture, every structure we build, and every shower we take, we are using an exorbitant amount of water. According to the World Water Council, if population growth remains the same, clean water resources will be diminished within the next 20 years. Without a commitment to decrease excessive water use, our planet will continue to suffer.

There is also tremendous discrepancy between water use in the United States and water use in developing nations. The average individual in the United States uses 176 gallons of water per day compared to the 5 gallons used by the average African family. In fact, an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses during an entire day.

In many cases, the water found in Africa is contaminated and could cause serious, if not fatal, illness. Diseases, such as Hepatitis A, Guinea Worm, Typhoid Fever, and diarrhea are only some of the diseases associated with water contamination.

Waterborne illness is the leading cause of death in the world today. Despite medical advancements, technological improvements, and medicinal breakthroughs, water is the cause of nearly 3.575 million deaths per year. 1.1 billion people are without access to potable water and, assuming a solution is not found, that number will continue to increase.

In some places, women and children spend up to eight hours per day locating water sources and carrying it back to their homes. This water is full of contaminants, but must be used to cook, clean, and drink. These families are left with no option but to use water that is unfit for livestock, let alone human consumption.

Some companies have made the effort to invest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and decrease the amount of water used to create their products. Others have affiliated themselves with the cause and funded the creation of wells and/or the construction of water treatment facilities.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the impending water crisis. They do not realize the impact that wastewater can have on a global scale. Without a fierce commitment to decreasing the strain on our water resources and helping developing nations to procure some of their own, the water crisis will continue to have a detrimental effect on the global economy and overall well being. The procurement of clean water may seem like a relatively simple task; however, the success of future clean water initiatives will truly have an influence on our future, regardless of our location or economic background.

This article was provided by Darren Bradley. Darren is a firm believer in peoplewater.com and their drop for drop initiative plan.

Flowroute: Developments in Flood Modelling

This article discusses flood modelling, and how it helps industry professionals in creating flood management plans.

What is Flood Modelling?

Flood modelling helps architects, engineers, scientists, government agencies and others to create adequate flood management plans. It is also an integral aspect of the planning and design process for new buildings or commercial sites.

Examples of Flood Models

Examples of flood models include HEC-RAS (Hydraulic Engineering Centre model), TUFLOW and Flowroute™.

Some flood models are being used in increasingly innovative ways, enabling individuals and businesses to scope the depth, duration and extent of flood risk to individual properties with greater degrees of efficiency and accuracy. Flowroute, for example, is the technology behind the new RiskCentral flood reports service.

About Flowroute

Flowroute was co-developed with flood scientists at Cambridge University. It employs high-resolution digital elevation models to inform a physically realistic interpolation of fluid flow over topographic surfaces within the urban fabric; allowing water to flow down streets and around individual buildings.

Further development of Flowroute in recent years has rapidly improved performance times and scalability, and has introduced capabilities for flood prediction from a wide variety of sources.

Surface Water vs Coastal/River Flooding

Two thirds of the flooding that occurred in the UK during the summer of 2007 was as a result of surface water rather than river or coastal flooding. Despite this, the risk of surface water flooding in the UK and elsewhere is currently not well understood.

Until very recently, risk mapping and modelling tools have not been available to identify, and help prevent flooding induced by heavy rainfall events and ineffective drainage. With Flowroute, however, existing river and coastal flood modelling platforms have been built upon to enable modelling of flows from extreme rainfall events.

Benefits

The application of this technology has far reaching benefits, including:

  • improved insurance risk rating/loss estimation;
  • identification of critical assets at risk;
  • planning and business continuity management.

Technical Details

The Flowroute modelling approach utilises high resolution topographic information (in the form of LiDAR data), building outline data, industry standard rainfall predictions and, where available, a simplified representation of the drainage network to identify areas sensitive to surface water flooding.

Validation of the model results against observed flooding in the UK (summer 2007) has shown that Flowroute can be used effectively to predict, map and model those areas, and individual properties which are likely to flood during high-intensity rainfall events. The benefits of this approach include:

  • reduced losses from surface water flooding;
  • highly accurate prediction of flood extents and depths;
  • full customisation and integration within existing systems.

Furthermore, the River Flood Module of Flowroute incorporates a coupled 1-dimensional/2-dimenstional (1-d/2-d) hydrodynamic model specifically designed to simulate river dynamics and floodplain inundation in complex, congested urban areas in a highly computationally-efficient manner. The coupling of a 1-d river model with a 2-d floodplain routing algorithm provides considerable added realism and accuracy as compared to stand-alone 2-d routing algorithms. Flowroute is capable of simulating grids having tens of millions of cells for dynamic flood events and utilizes high quality sources of terrain information such as airborne LiDAR for routing flows around individual buildings.

This article was provided by James Hubbard on behalf of Ambiental. Flowroute is owned and developed by Ambiental. Further information on Flowroute can be found here.

Chlorophyll: The “Wonder Pigment” of Plants

Mother Nature is amazing. Just take a look at flowers and plants – we may not see them breathing and moving but we know that they are thriving. Plants seem to be able to function on their own. But do you know that these creatures will not be able to live without one very important pigment called chlorophyll? Almost all plants have chlorophyll. Even algae, such as chlorella and seaweed, also contain this pigment.

If you are not familiar with chlorophyll, read on and learn why it is important for plants.

What Is Chlorophyll?

A green pigment molecule found in plants, chlorophyll is crucial for photosynthesis because it absorbs energy from the sun. Chlorophyll helps convert water into glucose and carbon dioxide into oxygen. During photosynthesis, chlorophyll creates energy in the form of sugary carbohydrates, which is important for the growth and development of plants.

Chlorophyll is made of a porphyrin ring.

This is a circular and enclosed atom arrangement that allows electrons to “freely” float around, instead of being captured by a certain atom. These electrons are energy that can be absorbed by plant cells to help them grow.

To better understand how chlorophyll functions for plants, try to imagine how a person’s digestive system operates – it takes the raw materials and converts them into elements that can provide energy in the form of glucose. The only difference is that all that a plant needs is light from the sun, air absorbed through its pores, and water siphoned through its roots. The glucose produced during photosynthesis is absorbed into the cells of the plant and used to grow another bud or leaf. Sometimes, there is leftover glucose. In this case, the plant stores this glucose away as starch to be used for later.

Chlorophyll Turns Plants Green, Too!

Here’s another interesting fact:

Chlorophyll gives plants their beautiful color.

Ever wonder why most plants are green? This is also because of chlorophyll. If a plant has sufficient chlorophyll, it will have a lush, green color.

Try to observe some trees. Most of the year, they show off a certain green color, whether it’s teal, sage, or lime. However, when autumn comes, the plants turn into varying shades of red or golden-brown. This is because the plant loses the chlorophyll pigment, but gains other types of pigment. For example, the carotenoid pigment makes leaves look orange or yellow.

Can Humans Use Chlorophyll?

Due to its usefulness for plants, chlorophyll is now generating interest in the health community. Can this useful plant pigment work on people, too? No one knows for sure, but if you are looking for sources of chlorophyll, here are some possible options you can try:

  • “Green” chlorophyll drinks. These are made from powdered green veggies.
  • Chlorophyll supplements. These are available in a concentrated liquid form. Most chlorophyll supplements are dense and tasteless, and can be added to any type of drink. Try mixing it in water, smoothie or fruit shakes, or juice. When purchasing a liquid chlorophyll supplement, though, make sure that it is not refined and highly processed or loaded with additives and sweeteners. Only buy from a trustworthy source.
  • Raw green foods. Eat plenty of greens! Salads and a wide variety of veggies like Asian greens, spinach, lettuce, green capsicum, broccoli, asparagus, peas, kale, and beans are good chlorophyll sources. Any plant-derived food is okay, as long as it is green in color. This means that it contains chlorophyll.

The next time you see a plant or tree looking lush and green, think of chlorophyll and how it works its magic. You will definitely appreciate this unique pigment!

About the Author

Mishka Thomas is a blogger and a freelance writer. She is an avid gardener and is fascinated by the workings of the botanical world. At present, she is currently researching about chlorophyll in algae, including seaweed and chlorella. When she is not busy tending to her backyard garden, she loves to go parasailing, mountain climbing, and scuba diving. She lives with her family in Florida.

10 Memorable Quotes about Solar Power and the Environment

Solar panels in the Utah Desert. As C.G. Abbott predicted, “In time, manufacturing will to a great extent follow the sun.”

Solar panels in the Utah Desert. As C.G. Abbott predicted back in 1928, “In time, manufacturing will to a great extent follow the sun.”

When I was growing up in the 1970s I can’t remember anyone talking about solar power or environmental issues. So it is surprising to learn that so many forward-thinking people in the 19th and early 20th century were eloquently trying to raise the topic of the environment.

The topic is discussed far more openly today – and people really have started to listen.

Here are some great old and new quotes about man’s attempts to harness nature and produce energy.

1. Henry David Thoreau: “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
American philosophical writer Thoreau lived in the 19th century before the age of the aeroplane increased mankind’s already-sizeable carbon footprints. He would surely have approved of attempts to promote clean and renewable forms of energy.

2. Frank Shuman: “The human race must finally utilise direct sun power or revert to barbarism.
Shuman’s quote comes from a letter he wrote to the Scientific American magazine in 1913.
The American engineer invented curved solar mirrors which reflected the heat of the Egyptian sun and heated water; producing steam to power pumps which irrigated cotton fields.

3. C.G. Abbott: “In time, manufacturing will to a great extent follow the sun.
In 1928, American astrophysicist C.G. Abbot raised the possibility of deserts becoming great industrial areas through the development of solar power.
Today, his vision does not seem to be a mirage. The world’s biggest solar power installation is located in the Mojave Desert in the United States and a 12-square-kilometre solar farm is due to be constructed in a desert city in Morocco.

4. Albert Einstein: “The environment is everything that isn’t me.
This concept is far simpler that e=mc squared!

5. Sir George Porter: “I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy… if sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.
British scientist Sir George Porter made this claim in 1973. He would go on to be a major contributor to the public understanding of science through being president of the influential Royal Society scientific organisation.

6. Jimmy Carter: “Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.
US President Jimmy Carter made this statement in a televised speech in April 1977. He might not have been a particularly successful President but this quote shows his foresight. You can’t imagine his successor, Ronald Reagan, issuing a similar warning.

7. Warren Christopher: “Environmental degradation – like overpopulation, refugees, narcotics, terrorism and organised crime – is a worldwide problem that doesn’t stop at a nation’s borders.
Warren Christopher served as US Secretary of State under Bill Clinton and clearly saw protecting the environment as a global, rather than a national, problem.

8. Al Gore: “Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it’s a challenge to the moral imagination.
US politician Al Gore might have lost a presidential election contest against George W. Bush Jnr but he was a lot more successful at educating the public about environmental issues.

9. Robert Redford: “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defence of our resources is just as important as defence abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?
The American actor, who starred in films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, has long been an advocate of green living. His comments show that he is as articulate without a film script as he is with one.

10. Let’s end this article on a note of hope with a quote from Roger Tory Peterson: an educator who was one of the leading inspirations for the 20th century environmental movement. Not all is doom and gloom. We are beginning to understand the natural world and are gaining a reverence for life – all life.

James Christie writes for Strenson Solar: provider of solar panels in Brighton.

The Pain-Eliminating Power of Natural Foods

The number one thing that people turn to in today’s world to deal with pain is pharmaceuticals. This is understandable, as that is the most well known solution on the market for solving those kinds of problems.

The Problem with Pharmaceuticals

The problem is that pharmaceuticals are not ideal as a long-term solution, but since that’s all people have, it becomes just that. Nearly all of the synthetic chemicals produced in that industry have negative effects on body organs, especially the liver. Due to these effects, it is all too easy to overdose, and there are actually several hundred accidental overdoses of aspirin each year which lead to fatalities, not to mention the thousands that exist from intentional overdoses.

Natural Health by Eating Right

It is up to everyone who knows the power of natural health to spread this information, so people can learn of an alternative to what has been touted as the only choice. By eating the right things, especially nutrients that have specific pain-reducing properties, you can start to feel relief without turning to pharmaceuticals. This is especially true of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. These diseases happen because the body’s inflammatory-antiinflammatory response is malfunctioning, and often the root cause of this is something in the diet. Even when it is not, changing the diet to incorporate healing foods is a much better way to deal with pain.

The best part about this solution is that it makes you stronger over time, not weaker. Constantly taking pharmaceuticals puts a huge toll on the body that can shorten your lifespan and detract from your quality of life. Considering the unimaginable significance and importance of each moment of life, you should take every action possible to make your life the best it can be, and that means eating the right things.

Healing Foods

Foods rich in antioxidants are great for reducing inflammation, and that includes nearly every fruit and vegetable out there. Choose the fruits/vegetables that are richest in nutrients, such as pomegranates and alfalfa sprouts.

You also need to make sure you are getting a high-quality, total source of macronutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbs can be covered with sprouted bread, the highest quality bread available, whereas essential fatty acids and protein can be supplied by hemp seed. Hemp seed in itself has anti-inflammatory properties and is perhaps the greatest healing seed on Earth. Incorporate all of this together, and you have a recipe for a life of pain-free, high-quality living.

This article was contributed by Justin Kander who would like to let you know about Versativa Inspirin.

If you want to experience the revolutionary healing effects of natural foods immediately, then Inspirin is the solution for you. The product is a delicious combination of hemp seed, concentrated marine phytoplankton, whole fruits, and other carefully-chosen extracts. The effects range from helping with simple prolems like headaches stemming from stress, to immediately reducing the pain of serious diseases like fibromyalgia and cancer, as seen in these emotional testimonials. To try Inspirin, visit the Versativa Inspirin page, click “Get Started Now”, and follow the simple steps to become a preferred customer.

You can also contact Justin Kander at thehempsolution@gmail.com for more information or if you have absolutely any questions.

How To Build A Eco-Friendly House With Feng Shui

When people want to go green and to have a feng shui design in their house, they need to know several tips on how to build a Eco-friendly house with feng shui. Most homeowners do not think of feng shui when they are designing their home, since it is often difficult to redesign the layout of their homes. Homeowners can adopt several easy feng shui tips to build an Eco-friendly home.

Many homeowners decorate their homes with vases, candles, and pictures. The first tip homeowners need to do, is to add live plants throughout their home. People place large plants around the house, and then have several potted plants inside their home. Another way to incorporate live plants in the house is to grow aloe and herbs in the kitchen. Buy plants from local gardeners, to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping exotic plants to the home.

Homeowners who have Eco-friendly houses with feng shui allow natural sunlight to come through their windows. This increases the energy throughout the home, and the light will flow through the house. This is a great way to reduce energy costs, since the lights will not be on as often.

Another tip to keep in mind when building an Eco-friendly house is to remove furniture and other items that you do not like. This will hurt the positive energy flow throughout the house when there are items that people do not like. People who have an ugly couch or table should recycle them, or donate them to local charities. This will help keep items out of landfills, and helping the community at the same time. Bamboo furniture is environmentally friendly, and lasts a long time.

Another way to build an Eco-friendly house with feng shui is to reduce the amount of electronics throughout the house. People should get rid of the television in their bedrooms, and only have one in the living room. This will create a peaceful atmosphere when people are getting ready for bed.

Having electronics plugged into the outlet will keep a positive energy flow through to the electronics. People who are not using televisions, computers, coffee makers, and other items should unplug them when not in use. This will reduce homeowners’ utility bills, and save the fossil fuels in the environment.

When building a new home, it is important to get rid of everything that you have not used in a year or more. This will help create a positive energy flow throughout the home on moving day. People who want to remodel their current homes should host a yard sale to get rid of items that is disrupting the feng shui throughout the house. The items stay out of the landfills, and the money helps to buy sustainable and environmentally friendly furniture
for the house.

This post was contributed by Michael Schnippering. Michael is the founder of Feng Shui at Work. He is committed to the true art and science of Feng Shui. Over the years his Feng Shui practice has taken him to various parts of the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Colombia and Argentina. If you’d like to learn more about Feng Shui, read Michael’ blog and follow him on Twitter @fengshuiatwork

Statistics Behind World Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Chris over at Fly.co.uk recently informed me of an infographic on their website. The infographic shows some interesting statistics on world carbon dioxide emissions.

For example, according to the infographic, in 2009, China produced 6,200 million tonnes of CO2 compared to 5,800 for the United States. One only needs to look at the population of these two countries to see that something appears to be out of whack.

China has over 4 times the population of the US and yet, the US emits almost as much CO2 as China. Unfortunately, this gap is bound to widen as China becomes more and more prosperous.

As one would expect, the infographic has an airline/transport spin (no doubt due to the fact that its on a flight website), so there are some interesting statistics in that area.

A copy of the infographic is below. Due to its size, I’ve resized it to fit on this blog.

You can view the full-sized infographic here.

What is the Ozone Hole?

Satellite image of the ozone hole on 24th September, 2006.

Satellite image of the ozone hole on 24th September, 2006.

You may have heard about the “ozone hole” that’s located somewhere above us, in the Earth’s atmosphere. You may also have heard that it’s not really a good thing for us here on Earth. If you’ve heard this, you heard right.

But what exactly is the ozone hole?

The ozone hole is an area of extremely depleted ozone in the ozone layer above the Antarctic. The ozone hole is not present all year round though. It only occurs during the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere spring – between August and October. 

The problem with the ozone hole is that, it allows harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun to reach Earth. These UV rays are usually filtered out by the ozone layer, but when the ozone has been depleted (as is the case with the ozone hole), the UV rays are no longer filtered out.

Why are UV Rays Harmful?

Although in small doses, UV light can be beneficial, overexposure can cause sunburn and some forms of skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can also cause other problems for the skin, eyes and even the immune system.

UV rays don’t only affect humans. Studies have shown that hundreds of species of plants and animals display a negative reaction to increased UV rays. There are however, some species that react positively to an increased exposure to UV light.  

What Causes the Ozone Hole?

Here are the main factors that contribute to the ozone hole:

  • Stratospheric sulfate aerosols – In other words, volcanic eruptions
  • Stratospheric winds
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Sunspot cycle – an 11 year cycle that causes variation in the UV radiation produced by the sun
  • Stratospheric chlorine – coming mainly from man-made halocarbons

While we generally have little control over natural occurrences, we do have control over the man-made ones. You may have heard that chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) are causing the ozone hole to grow bigger. CFCs are a group of chemical compounds that consist of alkalines such as methane or ethane. They also have one or more halogens linked, such as chlorine or fluorine.

CFCs find their way into the atmosphere from refrigeration and propellant devices and processes.

Basically, man-made products are contributing to the increasing size of the ozone hole.

What’s Being Done About It?

Many countries have banned the use of most CFC-emitting aerosol products, such as fly spray, deodorants, and hair spray. The bans generally require that those types of products are produced in a way that doesn’t result in CFCs being emitted.

Such a ban was introduced in the U.S. in 1978, and although most CFC-emitting products were banned long ago, there are still some that are being phased out. For example, albuterol metered dose inhalers (MDIs) will not be available in the U.S. after 31 December 2008.

There is also an international environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. At present, 191 countries are involved in this agreement, which is designed to phase out substances that lead to ozone depletion. There is also a belief that, as long as the treaty is adhered to, the ozone layer will recover by 2050.

What is the World’s Largest Rabbit?

Amy, reportedly weighing 22 kg is possibly the worlds largest rabbit. Photo: Paul Lewis.

Amy, reportedly weighing 22 kg is possibly the world's largest rabbit. Photo: Paul Lewis.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the world’s largest rabbit is a Continental Giant called Amy.

Amy, from Worcester in the UK, is more than 120 cm (4 feet) long and weighs as much as a medium sized dog.  

Her weight? Well that depends on which report you choose to believe. In February this year, the Daily Mail reported that Amy weighs two and a half stone (15 kg). But then in March, it reported that the giant rabbit weighs three and a half stone (22 kg).

Perhaps she put on 7 kilograms within a month!

In any case, whichever weight it is, this could make Amy the heaviest rabbit in the world too.

Big Appetite

Amy’s owner, Annette Edwards, says that each day, Amy goes through enough rabbit food to fill a dog’s bowl, as well as two apples, a handful of carrots, half a cabbage and fresh hay.

But Mrs Edwards insists that Amy is quite healthy and not overweight.

“She is enormous but not because she over eats on junk but because she gets plenty of exercise and eats very healthily.”

“Amy is a fussy eater, the carrots must have their green tops still on, and the hay has to be fresh and green or she won’t go near it” she continues.

Other Large Rabbits & Previous Record Holders

Herman, a German Giant, weighing 7.7 kg

Herman, a German Giant, weighing 7.7 kg

There are a lot of large rabbits out there.

Here are some examples:

  • Herman, a German Giant reportedly weighing 7.7 kg (although he looks much heavier than that)
  • Rudi, also a German Giant, weighing 8.7 kg
  • Roberto, weighing in at 16 kilograms (possibly the world’s heaviest rabbit?)
  • Humphrey, weighing over 12 kg and still growing

Largest Rabbit Breed

The largest species of rabbit is the Flemish Giant. The largest Flemish Giant can grow to around 9.5 kg. The smallest weigh in at around 5 kg.

Flemish Giants are usually steel grey in colour. They are long with a large full head and the ears are long and erect.

The Flemish Giant’s diet should include plenty of fresh hay, fresh fruit and vegetables, a well-balanced dry rabbit mix and plenty of clean water.

Guinness Book of World Records

Amy or Roberto may be the largest and heaviest rabbits in the world, but they won’t be making it into the Guinness Book of World Records any time soon (at least, not for their size or weight).

Unfortunately, some rabbit owners cruelly over feed their rabbits in an attempt to get them into the record books. As a result, the Guinness World Records no longer lists the world’s largest (or heaviest) rabbit.

NASA’s Climate Time Machine

Did you know that in 2007, arctic summer sea ice reached its lowest extent on record?

Did you know that carbon dioxide levels are at their highest levels in 650,000 years?

And did you know that the global average sea level has risen 4 to 8 inches over the past century?

Well, if you’re into these kinds of statistics, you’ll probably be interested in NASA’s climate time machine. It’s an interactive tool that allows you to see how things have changed in recent years regarding the earth’s climate, sea levels, ice levels, and carbon dioxide emissions.

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