Category Archives: Environmental

News and current work being carried out that could potentially damage the environment and or planet.

#Lava approaches vacant lots in #Hawaii subdivision #KilaueaVolcano


by JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER.
In this Sept. 6, 2014 aerial photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava advances from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. Lava issued from several spots along a deep ground crack earlier this week, as shown by the distinct fingers of lava making up the flow front. The thick smoke plumes show the flow front moving downslope towards the north. Lava from one of the world's most active volcanos has been advancing at a slower pace the past few days and is now moving parallel to a sparsely populated subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island. Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says the lava from Kilauea volcano is still at least a mile away from any homes in Kaohe Homesteads. (AP Photo/Tim Orr, U.S. Geological Survey)In this Sept. 6, 2014 aerial photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava advances from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. Lava issued from several spots along a deep ground crack earlier this week, as shown by the distinct fingers of lava making up the flow front. The thick smoke plumes show the flow front moving downslope towards the north. Lava from one of the world’s most active volcanos has been advancing at a slower pace the past few days and is now moving parallel to a sparsely populated subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island. Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says the lava from Kilauea volcano is still at least a mile away from any homes in Kaohe Homesteads. (AP Photo/Tim Orr, U.S. Geological Survey)

HONOLULU (AP) — Lava from one of the world’s most active volcanoes could soon reach three vacant lots in a rural subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island, but officials are hopeful homes will be spared.

Based on the lava’s movement of about 200 to 300 yards a day, the flow from Kilauea volcano was expected to reach the lots in Kaohe Homesteads in coming days, Hawaii County spokesman Kevin Dayton said.

The large lot closest to the flow is owned by the state, while the other two are privately owned, he said.

“The fact that it’s veering somewhat to the north as opposed to the east is a hopeful sign,” Dayton said.

While no evacuations have been ordered, residents were asked to remain on alert and be prepared for possible changes in the lava’s course.

The slow-moving molten rock could spread and slow even further in coming days as it moves from a steeper grade to more level land, Dayton said.

On Friday, the lava was about 3 miles from Pahoa Village Road and 3.5 miles from Highway 130, Dayton said. Highway 130 is a lifeline for the mostly rural Puna district, which would be cut off from the rest of the island if lava crosses the busy two-lane highway.

In preparation for that possibility, work was to continue into the weekend and next week to turn little-used, defunct roads into alternate routes.

Lava could reach the highway within weeks.

State and county officials plan to survey one of the unpaved roads for any archaeological or cultural elements that need to be preserved, Dayton said.

The flow has snaked more than 10 miles through thick forest since it first was observed emerging from a vent in late June. The state announced Friday that Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve would be closed until further notice because of dangers from the flow.

This Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, aerial photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a smoke plume from the June 27th flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. Lava from one of the world's most active volcanos has been advancing at a slower pace the past few days and is now moving parallel to a sparsely populated subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, Tim Orr)This Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, aerial photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a smoke plume from the June 27th flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. Lava from one of the world’s most active volcanos has been advancing at a slower pace the past few days and is now moving parallel to a sparsely populated subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, Tim Orr)

It has engulfed trees and other vegetation in its path, sending up large smoke plumes, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a Friday update. However, rainfall in the area has prevented fires from spreading from the lava, officials said.

Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa.


Associated Press.

#Germany: Life after #lignite: how #Lusatia has returned to #nature


A landscape wounded by coal mining is being transformed into Germany’s lake district.

By Peter Mellgard in Pritzen.
A flooded Lake Zwenkau in Zwenkau, Germany.A flooded Lake Zwenkau in Zwenkau, Germany. Photograph: Jan Woitas/Corbis

Down a single lane road lined by oak trees, about 90 minutes southeast of Berlin, the tiny village of Pritzen sits on a peninsula that juts into Lake Altdöbern. It’s something of a miracle that Pritzen still exists.

Neighboring villages were demolished in the 1980s to make room for an expanding lignite strip mine and Pritzen was slated to be swallowed up next. By 1987 almost all of the 500 or so residents had packed up and left, chased away by the suffocating dust and noise from the mine and the threat of the imminent destruction of their homes.

But then in 1992, after three quarters of the town had already been bulldozed or dismantled, including the centuries-old church and its cemetary, the decision was made to close the mine.

Pritzen still stood, barely, clinging to the edge of a precipice that dropped 70 metres into the mine. Sensing a miraculous change of fortune, villagers began to return. They rebuilt their demolished homes and began replanting their fields and gardens. The steeple from the vanished village of nearby Wolkenhain, its beams dating back to 1485, was erected where the old Pritzen church once stood.

The Vattenfall lignite mine and cooling towers of the lignite-fired power plant in Jaenschwalde, Griessen, Germany.The Vattenfall lignite mine and cooling towers of the lignite-fired power plant in Jaenschwalde, Griessen, Germany. Photograph: Patrick Pleul/DPA/Corbis

“It is a prominent example of a wounded landscape,” said Katja Sophia Wolf, the head of the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) student house in nearby Großraschen and one of the leaders of the Pritzen revitalisation project. “Many houses were destroyed by the mine. The character of Pritzen was changed completely.”

Lignite mining has a long history in this region, called Lusatia. The first mine was started in 1844, along with briquette factories that compacted the lignite into burnable bricks, and related manufacturing and metallurgy industries. A flood of workers arrived for new jobs. Under the East German government, the mines were nationalised and expanded. By 1975, Germany had become the world’s largest coal producer, and by the time the country was reunified the industry employed 140,000 people. With the mines came environmental destruction and pollution of the air, ground, and water on a massive scale.

Lignite mining also wreaked havoc among the region’s small villages. According to the Archive of Lost Places, a museum, 136 small and medium towns have been swallowed up by the mines, their residents resettled or evicted. 25,000 people have lost their homes over the years. Just last month, thousands of people protested at Kolkwitz, forming a human chain four-mile long in protest at plans to demolish the Lusatian village for a new lignite mine.

Nevertheless, Lusatian lignite was essential to the German economy and a vital source of regional pride and jobs in the region. “Prior to industrialisation, Lower Lusatia was desperately poor. Only with the energy industry did modest prosperity arrive in our area,” said mayor Holger Kelch of university city Cottbus.

Then came reunification. Almost all the mines in southern Lusatia were closed. A pressing question arose: what to do with the deep, expansive open pits that scar the area and other messy leftovers from decades of rampant lignite mining? And how to repair the environment? It was a puzzle, but also an opportunity.

A young woman skates past an explanatory sign that shows what adjacent Bärwalder See lake, near Boxberg, once looked like.A young woman skates past an explanatory sign that shows what adjacent Bärwalder See lake, near Boxberg, once looked like. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

To solve it, the government set up the Lausitz and Middle Germany Mining Administrative Company, or LMBV, in 1994. “Our duty is to rehabilitate all the former state-owned mining areas from the GDR period,” said Jörg Schlenstedt, an engineer at LMBV. “The mines were closed down but their legacy was not finalised. Recultivation, rehabilitation, transformation. That’s our job.”

LMBV floods the old mines, turning them into lakes. It treats and cleans water polluted by mining. It replants forests, sells land to be used for fields of solar panels and wind turbines, and encourages agriculture. Even the fish are returning, colonising the artificial lakes by way of new canals that didn’t previously exist or were too acidic to support life. “We can’t bring the area back to its former state, but our aim is to create a useful, natural landscape that provides new chances to the people living here, and also for the next generation,” said Schlenstedt. “All the old natural functions of this area, from before mining, will work again.”

LMBV created 24 artificial lakes in this part of Lusatia and 140 sq km of water surface is newly available for swimming and boating. “That’s one-third more lake area than there was before lignite mining,” said Uwe Steinhuber, a spokesman for the company. The Lusatian lake district is now Europe’s largest artificial lake area.

It has been a long and difficult process. “When we first went to look at one of the mines, it was like a journey to Mars,” said Wolf of IBA, a century-old organisation that deploys artists and architects in formerly industrial areas around Germany. Photos of the excursion show Wolf and her colleagues trudging through an alien landscape, obscured by swirling clouds of grey dust so thick it blocked out the sunlight.

Like LMBV, IBA also works to help this region recover from mining, but in different ways. “IBA didn’t want to hide the industrial heritage, but to show it,” said Sören Hoika, who now runs tours to the completed IBA attractions. “The idea is to build a connection to the past and to the environment.”

An aerial view of Zwenkau lake in Zwenkau, Germany. Flooding old mines have created huge network of lakes in Lusatia.An aerial view of Zwenkau lake in Zwenkau, Germany. Flooding old mines have created huge network of lakes in Lusatia. Photograph: Jan Woitas/EPA

IBA came to Lusatia in 2000 and stayed 11 years; 30 projects for new landscapes appeared across the region. They include marinas and sandy beaches that offer incoming tourists boating and watersports opportunities, a former power plant restored for art exhibits and techno parties, towers where tourists can gaze over the former mines, and a former mine purposely left untouched, its low ridges and basin floor slowly being retaken by grass, marshland, insects, and birds.

The rehabilitation process has not been free of hiccups and opponents, and decades of lignite mining have left scars that will take many years to heal. Recently, parts of the River Spree turned rust-orange, a result of the increased iron hydroxide dislodged from the soil by years of mining. The river flows north through the Lusatia mining areas, collecting harmful chemicals along the way. There are fears that the polluted water could reach the protected forest and river haven of Spreewald, and even all the way to Berlin.

Some residents, especially those who have lived here for many years, dislike the changes. “They are very conflicted,” Höika said. “They want to be proud of their past. That was one of the most important things IBA had to learn. How to work with locals, how to celebrate the mining history and at the same time create a nice and interesting new area.”

“Their whole lives they believed this was an area where work is important,” Wolf added. “It was dirty and polluted because it had to be. When they first learned that IBA had brought people to see the mess and the destruction, they were ashamed.”

Still, most residents hope the future belongs to tourism. 500,000 tourists stayed overnight last year in the lake district , according to Marcus Heberle at the tourism board. Beside the new lakes there are hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and theatres; guides offer tours along an industrial heritage route, showing off the vast briquette factory in Knappenrode and an 11,000-ton conveyor bridge in nearby Lichterfeld. Coal may have scarred this land, but its legacy is driving new life into the region. “By 2025, we hope to have a million guests per year,” Heberle said. “The people want to come.”

Bathers enjoy the water at a beach at Bärwalder See lake near Boxberg, Germany.Bathers enjoy the water at a beach at Bärwalder See lake near Boxberg, Germany. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

For Pritzen, where these changes are less noticeable, the fact that the town is still here – and now a scenic lakeside village – is remarkable. The flooding of the old mine began in 1998 and the water level is still rising. For now, the village remains a sleepy place, as if the trauma of its close brush with destruction still lingers.

“We don’t get too many visitors,” said Ute Dabow as a few Pritzen residents gathered around her mobile bakery, parked at Pritzen’s only intersection, to buy bread and baked goods on a chilly late summer day. The fragrant smell of pine and tilled earth wet from the previous night’s rain wafted across the silent streets, mingling with the aroma of Dabow’s fresh brotchen and pastries. Oak trees shadowed a soccer field overgrown by weeds.

“It’s much better than it once was,” said Herbert Glatz, a retired farmer and lifelong Pritzen resident who was born here in 1935. “The mine was extremely loud. The dirt and dust was so thick it would block out the lights of cars on the streets.” Some people are returning and building new houses, said Herbert’s granddaughter Michaela. “This” – she gestured across the street – “all this is new.”

Around the village, IBA installed a handful of sculptures, turned one of the only old barns that survived the mining era into a place for art exhibits and performances, and set up “The Hand,” a Stonehenge-like circle of concrete pillars built atop a small hill overlooking the lake. Defaced by graffiti and overgrown by waist-high weeds, the sculpture looks somewhat forlorn. But it provides a picturesque panorama of the new landscape.

In the distance, across the glinting waters of the lake, windmills turned slowly. Beside a bike path at the bottom of the hill, the dancing leaves of aspen trees shivered in the breeze. All was quiet except for a faraway rumble of construction machinery, as the lake silently continues to fill, obscuring the scars of the area’s exploited past.

Families enjoy landscape art near Pritzen.Families enjoy landscape art near Pritzen. Photograph: IBA Archive


Environment | The Guardian.

Russia’s Baikal, Biggest Lake in the World, ‘Becoming a Swamp’ #Russia #LakeBaikal #EnvironmentalDisaster


Lake Baikal
Pollution is reducing the world’s largest and deepest lake to a swamp, according to recent findings cited by Siberian media outlets Monday.

Invasive species of algae, including the Canadian waterweed, are multiplying on Lake Baikal’s shores, environmental group Baikal Ecological Wave said in comments carried by Sia.ru.

Algae thrives on liquid waste, including fuel and excrement, hundreds of tons of which are accrued by local tourist sites and then dumped into the lake each year, environmentalists said.

Waste management companies — whether due to negligence or bad-faith — improperly dispose of the crud, which then flows into the lake, the report said.

Local ships also generate up to 25,000 tons of liquid waste every year, almost all of which is disposed directly into the lake, the environmentalists said.

The Baikal in eastern Siberia is the world’s biggest freshwater lake by volume. The lake, which has an unmatched maximum depth of 1,642 meters, is also the world’s clearest and oldest at 25 million years, and hosts a unique ecosystem.

Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been sustaining environmental harm ever since a paper mill was opened on its shores on 1966.

The Kremlin was long reluctant to shut down the mill, the main employer in the nearby city of Baikalsk, but eventually closed the flagging enterprise last December.


The Moscow Times.

Ukraine: Energy hackers share energy-saving ideas at TeslaCamp #Solar #GreenTechnologies #RenewableEnergy


 Anastasia VlasovaIryna Matviyishyn.Volunteers of Greencubator register guests at the outdoor TeslaCamp near Kyiv on Aug. 30, 2014. © Anastasia VlasovaVolunteers of Greencubator register guests at the outdoor TeslaCamp near Kyiv on Aug. 30, 2014. © Anastasia Vlasova.

On Aug. 29-30 Ukrainian energy hackers came up with new ideas of improving energy efficiency in Ukraine.  The outdoor, solar-powered hackathon, a collaborative  event attended by software developers and other specialists, called TeslaCamp, took place in Oseshchyna village, in Kyiv Oblast. It was organized by the Greencubator community, a group that promotes energy saving projects, ideas and efforts.

Progressive specialists and young innovators from the energy sector shared their diverse vision of saving and reproducing energy, simultaneously introducing new inventions that could be used in everyday life.

KhackerSpace inventors from Kharkiv fix their new device, a three-dimensional printer aggregated at $500-600.</em> © Anastasia Vlasova.KhackerSpace inventors from Kharkiv fix their new device, a three-dimensional printer aggregated at $500-600. © Anastasia Vlasova.

Roman Zinchenko, 37, a co-founder of Greencubator, is sure that any transformation is possible with human potential: “The energy corps is a very important task for our organization (Greencubator), and now we consider the aspect of energy leadership as well. In these terms our entire state policy is an idea of exposure. In order to cope with all the jumble of problems Ukraine’s got, we need new perspective leaders who can offer fresh and effective ideas.”

Besides talks about the cross-section of information technology and energy sectors, TeslaCamp attracted green innovators like Dmytro Briukov, 25.  A member of HackerSpace (Kharkiv), he demonstrated a modern self-constructed 3-D printer. “This device works due to the MDM (Mobile device management) technology but is original in the process of printing as it augments the form layer by layer instead of clipping it,” Briukov comments.

Solar panels in the technical zone of TeslaCamp, a solar-powered hackathon. © Anastasia VlasovaSolar panels in the technical zone of TeslaCamp, a solar-powered hackathon. © Anastasia Vlasova

It took him a half year to implement his idea into reality and he believes his technology is less costly and faster than other 3-D samples. Although it needs more time to become practically popular, it could be very beneficial in medicine, defense and the space industry.

Greencubator invited not only start-ups but people whose conceptions of energy efficiency have received recognition. Olesya Arhypchuk, 28, from Radekhiv (Lviv Oblast) promotes her father’s development that helps to save gas with burning off natural resources and, moreover, in such way to produce coal. “In fact, my father, Anatoliy Arhypchuk, an entrepreneur, made out the way how to profitably heat hospitals, schools, et cetera with biogas getting bio-raw staff which further can be sold. The system can be easily connected to city boilers and is definitely lucrative,” the woman says.

During the Hackathon, an event when software developers and other specialists collaborate, developers introduced a new 3-D printer.</em> © Anastasia VlasovaDuring the Hackathon, an event when software developers and other specialists collaborate, developers introduced a new 3-D printer. © Anastasia Vlasova

Another practical device being already ordered is a satellite with an interceptor that diverts mobile phone signals and distributes Wi-Fi in distant areas like mountains. Diana Dobronogova, a deputy head of IMC in commercial issues, says their development can work autonomously and has no analogues working in any conditions: “The advantage of our device is offline work which is possible even underwater, without recharging for a week,” Dobronogova says.

The inventions of the Greencubator participants may influence Ukraine’s energy system in the future. “This year is crucial for the energy system too. We have to deal with our dated methods and shift to sustainable energy solutions,” Zinchenko states.

A volunteer of Greencubator, a group that promotes energy efficiency and members of KhackerSpace examine an energy saving development.A volunteer of Greencubator, a group that promotes energy efficiency and members of KhackerSpace examine an energy saving development. © Anastasia Vlasova

(Kyiv Post staff writer Iryna Matviyishyn can be reached at ira.matviishyn@gmail.com).


Kyiv Post.

Renewable energy capacity grows at fastest ever pace #Wind #Solar #GreenTechnologies #RenewableEnergy


“Green technologies now produce 22% of world’s electricity”. 

. Wind turbines in China. Investment in renewable energy exceeded $250bn last year. Photograph: Carlos Barria/ReutersWind turbines in China. Investment in renewable energy exceeded $250bn last year. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters.

Wind, solar and other renewable power capacity grew at its strongest ever pace last year and now produces 22% of the world’s electricity, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday in a new report.

More than $250bn (£150bn) was invested in “green” generating systems in 2013, although the speed of growth is expected to slacken, partly because politicians are becoming nervous about the cost of subsidies.

Maria van der Hoeven, the executive director of the IEA, said governments should hold their nerve: “Renewables are a necessary part of energy security. However, just when they are becoming a cost-competitive option in an increasing number of cases, policy and regulatory uncertainty is rising in some key markets. This stems from concerns about the costs of deploying renewables.”

She added: “Governments must distinguish more clearly between the past, present and future, as costs are falling over time. Many renewables no longer need high incentive levels. Rather, given their capital-intensive nature, renewables require a market context that assures a reasonable and predictable return for investors.”

Hydro and other green technologies could be producing 26% of the world’s electricity by 2020, the IEA said in its third annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. They are already used as much as gas for generating electrical power, it points out.

But the total level of investment in renewables is lower now than a peak of $280bn in 2011 and is expected to average only $230bn annually to the end of the decade unless governments make increasing policy commitments to keep spending higher.

The current growth rate for installing new windfarms and solar arrays is impressive but the IEA believes it is not enough to meet climate change targets, triggering calls in Brussels from green power lobby groups for Europe to adopt tougher, binding targets.

Justin Wilkes, the deputy chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association, said: “The IEA report hits the nail on the head when it comes to ambitious national targets for 2030. Not only is a 27% target too low but it doesn’t oblige member states to follow through. Europe’s heads of state need to agree in October on a binding 30% renewables target if real progress is going to be made to improve Europe’s energy security, competitiveness and climate objectives.”

The IEA – a Paris-based agency established to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries – says that in Brazil, Chile and South Africa onshore wind is already a preferred option over new fossil fuel plants such as coal or gas.

Onshore wind, despite being the most economic of the renewable power technologies in Britain, is still opposed by parts of the Conservative party, while offshore wind remains controversial because of its high costs.

New figures released on Thursday by the industry body Energy UK show wind provided a little over 4% of Britain’s power generation in July compared with 42% for gas, 24% nuclear and 17% for coal.


The Guardian.