December 29, 2004
Businessweek interviewed Gretchen C. Daily, author of The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable, on her economic approach to conservation.
December 28, 2004
Doing research I came across some interesting country reports from the Library of Congress. The are buried in the government site so I posted excerpts.
December 26, 2004
I extend my condolences to the families and friends of all the victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis in southeast Asia. The next few days are going to be extraordinarily difficult for millions of people in the region and I encourage those capable of dong so to contribute to the Red Cross and other emergency service organizations.
December 25, 2004
Lemurs are primates found only in Madagascar. There are around 60 kinds of lemurs ranging from the 25-gram pygmy mouse lemur to the indri, a lemur whose haunting call is reminiscent of a humback whale. Like much of Madagascar's wildlife, lemurs are today endangered by habitat loss and, in some areas, poaching as a food source.
December 24, 2004
The EU is debating whether to place restrictions on the illegal timber trade. Currently around $1.6 billion worth of illegally logged wood is imported into the EU annually.
December 23, 2004
Each passing month, an average of two of the world's languages go extinct. UNESCO estimates that 50% of languages are endangered and that 96% of the world's 6000 languages are spoken by 4% of the world's population. Half of all languages occur in only eight countries: Papua New Guinea (832), Indonesia (731), Nigeria (515), India (400), Mexico (295), Cameroon (286), Australia (268) and Brazil (234).
December 22, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article on ethical tourism including tips on being an ethical traveler. These days there are countless tour operators promoting ecotourism but few actually live up to the intended label. The article cites David Weaver, a professor of tourism management at George Mason University, as saying the hard-core ecotourism crowd is maybe 1 percent. Just 38% percent of US travelers say they would pay more to use a travel company that seeks to protect and preserve the environment.
December 21, 2004
IMAZON, the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, released a study showing that around half of the Amazon rainforest is degraded or otherwise occupied by man.
December 20, 2004
On January 2 the state-run oil company of Brazil will begin laying a 240-mile pipeline through the Amazon rainforest. Despite years of opposition from Indian tribes and environmentalists, Petrobras will begin construction on the pipeline that the government hopes will bring more development to the Amazon region. The natural gas will be used to generate cleaner electricity than existing oil-powered generators.
December 19, 2004
The World Bank published a report entitled "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Langur" warning that southeast Asia's rapid economic development has come at the expense of its environment. Ironically, the World Bank has sponsored activities that have resulted in significant ecological damage in the region and is currently under fire for proposed cattle ranching project in the Amazon (see below -- December 15).
December 17, 2004
I updated the city population estimates part of the site. The section now includes such tables as "Cities with more than 1 million people" and "2005 population estimates for cities in Malaysia."
December 16, 2004
Madgascar is one of the world's most important countries in terms of biodiversity and cultural richness. In January I will be launching WildMadagascar.org, an educational site on Madagascar. In the meantime, here is a preview of some pictures from my recent trip to the country: Madagascar pictures.
December 15, 2004
Environmentalists have accused the world bank of funding a cattle-ranching in the Brazilian Amazon will result in further deforestation. According to the London Telegraph, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, has agreed to lend $110 million for the project which has been criticised by Robert Goodland, a former World Bank official, who says "The Bertin project violates the bank's environmental safeguards."
December 14, 2004
A recent article in The Economist reports that derivatives markets could be used to hedge against famine in places like the Sudan. According to the article, the World Food Programme -- the UN body that combats starvation -- is looking into the application of financial instruments generally used for catastrophes as a way to fund humanitarian efforts in hunger-stricken regions.
December 13, 2004
Brazil and Peru have announced a $700 million plan for a "Transoceanic Highway" that would link Brazil's Amazon river port of Assis to Peru's Pacific ports of Matarini, Ilo and San Juan, raising concerns over further deforestation in the region. Typically, roads in the Amazon encourage settlement by rural poor who look to the rainforest as free land for substistence agriculture.
December 10, 2004
Deforestation in Brazil is responsible for about 75% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions according to a presentation at the United Nations climate change conference in Buenos Aires. Brazil accounts for around 3% of global emissions of greenhouse gases, where as the United States releases about a quater of the world's greenhouse gas pollution.
December 9, 2004
In late September I spent some time in Palermo, Italy. Here are some pictures from the trip: Palermo pictures.
December 8, 2004
According to a new study by Duke University ecologists, rainforest fragments do not provide a refuge for threatened bird species typically found in primary forest. The study looked at forest fragments of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, which once blanketed the coast of the country. Today, though less than 10% of the original cover remains, more than 200 species of birds are endemic to these forests.
December 7, 2004
The Manila Times reports that lawmakers in the Philippines are debating whether to enact a total nationwide ban on all logging following floods and landslides that killed more than 600 people in Northeastern Luzon last week. Deforestation from illegal has been cited as the leading cause for the devastation. Some government officials are reluctant to support a total ban, believing it will adversely affect the country's timber industry.
December 5, 2004
According to a report released last month by the Audubon Society, nearly a third of North American bird species are seeing a significant decline in population. Populations of three species -- the Rusty blackbird, Henslow's sparrow, and the Common tern -- have declined more than 90% since 1966, while four other species have lost more than 80% of their individuals during that period. Scientists believe the leading cause for species loss is conversion of natural habitat to farmland and residential land development. Populations of urban species have been less affected.
December 4, 2004
The Yucatan peninsula has virtually no surface streams due ot its limestone foundation -- a relic of its past life as coral reef on the bottom of the ocean. Ground water sinks through the porous limestone and travels to the sea in underground rivers and caves (formed from millenia of acidified water dissolving conduits in the limestone). To date, almost sixty cave systems with more than 300 miles of passageways have been discovered. These underwater streams can be accessed through cenotes, sinkholes in the surface limestone. In areas where sun penetrates the surface, cenotes support luxuriant plant growth and are home to several freshwater fish species popular in the aquarium trade.
December 3, 2004
The 80-mile stretch of coastline south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico -- now called the Riviera Maya -- has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past decade, becoming Mexico's fastest-growing resort area. Places like Playa de Carmen and Tulum have gone from small villages to booming resort towns as developers bypass bureaucratic approvals to buy and build up beachfront lands as fast as possible. Mangrove swamps, which are largely responsible for the region's sparkling waters and stunning coral reefs, are the primary victim of land clearing for hotels and condominiums. The loss of these habitats threaten the very things (biodiversity, clean waters, and reefs) that attract visitors to this region.
December 2, 2004
According to preliminary data released today by the Brazilian govenment, this year's loss of Amazon rainforest could exceed 2003 levels. Satellite images suggest that 8,920 square miles to 9,420 square miles -- an area larger than New Jersey -- was razed this year.
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