Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

TED Tuesday: From redwoods to north pole November 3, 2009

Filed under: biology,ecology,forest,nature,TED — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Science writer Richard Preston talks about some of the most enormous living beings on the planet, the giant trees of the US Pacific Northwest. Growing from a tiny seed, they support vast ecosystems — and are still, largely, a mystery.
Lewis Pugh talks about his record-breaking swim across the North Pole. He braved the icy waters (in a Speedo) to highlight the melting icecap. Watch for astonishing footage — and some blunt commentary on the realities of supercold-water swims.
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This time, DON’T vote for “change” October 15, 2009

Filed under: earth,ecology,future,history,human interference — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Climate change is real … and climate change effects are long term. I want to focus on these two aspects of climate change today. In the past I’ve written about global warming, the tipping points of weather patterns to look out for, importance of replanting the rainforests and many other subjects relating to changing ecology of this planet … changing for worse.

I hope that I do not need to harp too much on the first aspect that the climate change is real. I believe, whether you openly accept it or not, each one of us have realised this by now through our own experiences. There is a debate over whether it is caused by humans or nature. I think the point is moot. Whatever the reason, as the most intelligent and technologically advanced Earthlings, we humans CAN and need to do something about it. If it is caused by us, we definitely need to negate the effects of our deeds on the planet and fellow Earthlings. And for a second if we believe it is natural, as Earthizens (technologically and socially advanced Earthlings) we bear the responsibility of changing the course of this natural phenomenon. After all, it is not going to be the first for us, is it?

The second aspect, however, needs more voice given to it. I do not think enough people realise that climate change is not instantaneous. The results of whatever substances released in the ecosystem that cause these changes are evident only decades later. I believe common people and policy makers alike do not understand this very well. Or the policy makers can mislead common Earthizens due to their ignorance of this fact. The “funny weather” we all are experiencing globally now is caused by emissions 25-30 years ago. And if we cut the emissions now, the effects will show a couple decades later. So we need to be patient and not short-sighted. By the way, ‘emissions’ don’t only mean gases (Green house gases have become synonymous with climate change) but also the liquid and solid forms which are sometimes more detrimental. This is another point on which the general public of the Earth needs to be educated.

To end this post I would say this. We need to do something about climate change because it is real. Whatever the cause the Earthizens have to try their best to slow and possibly revert it, either because we’re responsible for it or because we’re the only ones capable of doing so on Earth. The masses need to be educated about the long term effects of climate change and the power to act lies in their hands rather than a few policy makers.

Take action:

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Packaging: who needs it? October 1, 2009

Filed under: ecology,recycling,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
A guest post generously contributed by Bob Williamson, Founder & Chair, Greenhouse Neutral Foundation. Contact details and details of book ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day The Lights Went Out – Our Future World’ authored by Bob are given at the end of this post.

When going about busy daily lives for most of us in the developed nations, we rarely give much thought to the externalities either upstream, or downstream of our consumer society. Upstream from our individual consumption, we can site the resources used by manufactures; the raw materials, the water they consume, the energy and all the emissions associated with these activities. Downstream we can site not only the costs of collection, but the loss forever of these original consumed resources (all that energy and water) when recycling for reuse doesn’t happen. Downstream are also the environmental time bombs of toxic waste and landfill methane emissions we are leaving for future generations to deal with. The mounting piles of rubbish arriving daily at landfill sites around the world are testament to the profligate ways of our own current consumption and of the desire for ever rising profits by industry and commerce.

Finite resources are used in making and supplying all these goods to us and then almost instantly in the case of packaging, they are discarded to landfill. They take with them vast amounts of externalised consumed resources that are mostly hidden from our view ‘out of site and out of mind’. (example – an aluminium can in the smelting process alone will consume 25.75 litres of water!) See the PPI white paper which reports 37% of greenhouse emissions in the US are attributed to non-food products – “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” this report offers new insight into the impact of products and packaging on climate change.

I have lobbied long and hard for these consumed resources in products and disposable packaging to be brought to the foreground with the hope that we will change our habits with knowledge, to a future that is more in balance with the laws of nature. If we don’t, very soon we will need to live our lives with finite resource extinction. In the book I take a tongue in cheek look at packaging waste and suggest the ‘Unpackaged Movement’.

Here is an excerpt: Now what about that plasma TV, the fridge, or even the electric drill bought at the corner superstore? What exactly are we buying, the product or the packaging? Are we buying the TV, the electric drill or other consumer products, or the cardboard box and cardboard packing, the bubble wrap and the polystyrene foam? I have an idea here. We could start a movement, the Unpackaged Movement! One of my favourite songs from the 1960s got me thinking, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” Quite appropriate I think, as Arlo got busted for dumping garbage. I downloaded the lyrics off the Web and was going to put them in, but they would have been longer than the book so far, so here’s the gist of what happened and how it might be incorporated into present-day real life. As mentioned, Arlo got busted for dumping Alice and Ray’s (Alice’s husband) garbage, paid the fine of $50, and had to pick up the garbage in the snow. When called up for the draft, they wouldn’t take him because he had a criminal record. He suggested at the end of the song that if you wanted to get out of going to Vietnam, for your psychological evaluation you could walk in and sing a bar of “Alice’s –Restaurant” and walk out. He said if one person did it they would think he was a nut and wouldn’t take him. If two people did it they would think they were both crazy and they wouldn’t take either of them. If three people did it they would think it was an organization. And if fifty people did it they would think it was a movement.

So, here’s the plan: we all unpack our purchases at the store and leave them with the cardboard box and cardboard packing, the bubble wrap, and the polystyrene foam. “Here you go, you can have this, I just want what I came here to buy!” Now if just I did it they would think I was a nut. But if we could get a movement going, The Unpackaged Movement, all the packaging could stay where it belongs, with the person/company who is making the profit and make them responsible for waste that would normally fill our bins. (There is a P.S. here—I’ve put my money where my mouth is on this idea. The look on the guy’s face at the hardware superstore when I dropped in to deliver all their cardboard packaging and plastic back was a picture. “I bought this product at your store last week. But I don’t want the packaging. So you can have it back. Thank you.” I found the whole experience strangely exhilarating. I have some more in the trunk of the car for my next trip out.) End excerpt

There is indeed a PPS to this story since I wrote ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day the Lights Went Out – Our Future World’.

The unpackaged daily life of our family has become very personal.

On one particular occasion we needed a replacement kettle to the one that was designed to last a month outside the warranty period of 12 months. I returned to where we had bought the other Breville stainless steel electric kettle and bought the same model. When unpacked at home on the kitchen counter, my daughter dutifully packed the old one in the box that the new one came in; writing on it ‘PLEASE RECYCLE’ and on my next trip out I called back to the mega electrical store, walked up to the salesman I had seen the day before and said, “Hi.”

He replied “Can I help you sir?” looking at the box in my hand.

I said ‘Yes, I bought a kettle yesterday from you, the very same model I bought 13 months ago from this store. Here is the old one back, packaged up in order for you to send it back to Breville for recycling along with their box and polystyrene packaging. Thank you.”

Handing him the box, I savoured the look on his face, knowing full well of course, that its long journey of return to China would stop at the dumpster at the rear of the store. Still as I said in the book, if we all did it, then we would see a movement and eventually become extended producer responsibility and as it should be; ‘ZERO Waste’ to landfill.

Bob Williamson
Founder & Chair, Greenhouse Neutral Foundation

Author of ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day The Lights Went Out – Our Future World’
Hard cover book or e-book available for $9.99 from
Publishers YouTube Author review can be viewed at
Alternative email
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Foundation’s YouTube Channel
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Me = 2.7 Earths!!! July 8, 2009

Filed under: earth,ecology,future,human interference — Radiance @ 4:27 AM
I just used the WWF Australia’s Ecological footprint calculator (US folks can use this) and here are my results (the image is a screenshot of the webpage, click on it to see bigger image),

  • If everyone lived like me, we’d need 2.7 Earths to support us all.
  • It takes 4.8 global hectares of productive area (11.6 tonnes of carbon) to support my lifestyle.
  • Breakdown of my ecological footprint is, mobility: 32%, food: 26%, shelter: 18%, services: 13% and goods: 12%.

So….. I’d like to see you take the quiz and share your results with me! The purpose is not to make you feel good or bad about your lifestyle but to make you aware of your impact on the planet. After that if you chose to change your lifestyle, for better or worse of the Earth, it will be your decision.


TED Tuesday: Restoring a rainforest July 7, 2009

Filed under: ecology,forest,human interference,rtr09,TED — Radiance @ 12:00 AM

I have written about the speaker, Willie Smits, and his incredible work in sustainably replanting the rainforests in Samboja Listaria before. It was in connection with the RTR09 fundraising campaign that I was volunteer blogging for at the time. I had watched this talk that time but I didn’t start the TED Tuesday till much later. So today I’m sharing that fascinating talk with my readers. And also a few words from my previous post about him,

What made Dr. Smitts stand out as different from others for me was his reaction to the audience’s claps when he mentioned that there were a 1000 Orang-utans in the conservation centre he ran. The audience found this an impressive achievement and began clapping. Dr. Smitt immediately interrupted, “No, no, no! Wrong!!! This is an indication of our failure to sustain their natural habitat.” This told me that here was someone who really cared about the ecosystem and not about his achievements in saving it.


By piecing together a complex ecological puzzle, biologist Willie Smits has found a way to re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans — and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems.


Cicadas’ lifecycle: Mystery solved? June 18, 2009

Filed under: animals,ecology,mystery,nature — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
[Image source: Wired Science]
Here is one more of the nature’s fascinating acts of precision … the lifecycle of the cicada! The periodical cicada is one of the world’s longest-living insects, but nobody knows why it times its death with bizarre precision: It either lives for 13 years or 17 years, on the dot.

Now, as Wired Science reports, Japanese researchers have developed a model that may explain the animals’ mysteriously accurate biological clocks. Cicadas spend 99% of their lives underground, as juveniles. Once every 13 or 17 years, they emerge from the ground en-mass, feed on tree leaves, mate and leave behind the eggs that later fertilise and the parent cicadas die. However, this unique synchronisation of thousands of cicadas over long, prime number of years must have some strong reason behind it. A leading theory is that long, prime-numbered life cycles minimize the likelihood that the 13-year broods and 17-year broods will ever mate. Though this theory is mathematically sound, no one could say why the animals would need to minimize hybridization.
Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University has developed a mathematical model to explore the rationale. If 13-year and 17-year broods interbred, they might produce offspring with intermediate lifecycles. This could result in their emergence few years before or after the vast majority of their fellow cicadas. This is a problem because periodical cicadas find strength in numbers. They’re easy to catch and don’t bite or sting, so they easily become snacks for hungry predators. But by buzzing around with hundreds of thousands of other cicadas, the probability of any one being eaten is close to zero.
To read more about this exciting new theory that increases the awe about nature’s precision design, click on the link above in the post.
Citation: “Allee effect in the selection for prime-numbered cycles in periodical cicadas” by Yumi Tanaka, Jin Yoshimura, Chris Simon, John R. Cooley, and Kei-ichi Tainaka. PNAS, May 18 2009.

Sunday Spotlight: Connect2Earth June 14, 2009

Filed under: earth,ecology,future,recycling — Radiance @ 12:00 AM

While on YouTube some time back I came across this video uploaded by WWF on their channel. The advertisement of the competition seemed interesting and so I Googled the website. The website appeared very informative. The idea of being able to voice my opinions and vote for the ideas I feel are best for my planet attracted me to click on the ‘sign up’ and become registered on Connect2Earth. In their own words,

Connect2earth is your green online community, where you can tell the world why you care about the environment and why it should be protected. You care about the world around you; you marvel at a beautiful clean stream in the mountains; you worry when you read about species disappearing and you get angry when you see reckless abuse of our planet. You know that if we don’t do something now, your children will not enjoy the natural world you enjoyed.
We do too at connect2earth. And we’d like to hear your voice. Because together we can make a difference. On connect2earth you can say what you think and you can add your voice to existing debates on the environment. You can upload your films, images, or words, you can comment on other people entries, you can vote for what catches your eyes. Most of all, you can learn, connect and share.
From time to time we organize contests that give our community and our concerns more visibility on a worldwide level. The current contest gives you the chance to be part of COP 15 in Copenhagen in December 09.

Instead of saying anything more about what we can do for our planet through this great platform, I’ll leave you to do some clicking around. But, I’ll leave you with this promotional video from Connect2Earth which seems pretty apt to get the point through to us humans.