Archive for June 30th, 2011

Average U.S. temperature increases by 0.5 degrees F


Average U.S. temperature increases by 0.5 degrees F

New 1981-2010 ‘normals’ to be released this week

Statewide changes in annual "normal temperatures" (1981 - 2010 compared to 1971 - 2000). (Credit: NOAA)

Posted 29 June 2011, by Staff, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),

According to the 1981-2010 normals to be released by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on July 1, temperatures across the United States were on average, approximately 0.5 degree F warmer than the 1971-2000 time period.

Normals serve as a 30 year baseline average of important climate variables that are used to understand average climate conditions at any location and serve as a consistent point of reference. The new normals update the 30-year averages of climatological variables, including average temperature and precipitation for more than 7,500 locations across the United States. This once-a-decade update will replace the current 1971–2000 normals.

In the continental United States, every state’s annual maximum and minimum temperature increased on average. “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s, so we would expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., NCDC director.

Using standards established by the World Meteorological Organization, the 30-year normals are used to compare current climate conditions with recent history. Local weathercasters traditionally use normals for comparisons with the day’s weather conditions.

In addition to their application in the weather sector, normals are used extensively by electric and gas companies for short- and long-term energy use projections. NOAA’s normals are also used by some states as the standard benchmark by which they determine the statewide rate that utilities are allowed to charge their customers.

The agricultural sector also heavily depends on normals. Farmers rely on normals to help make decisions on both crop selection and planting times. Agribusinesses use normals to monitor “departures from normal conditions” throughout the growing season and to assess past and current crop yields.

NCDC made many improvements and additions to the scientific methodology used to calculate the 1981-2010 normals. They include improved scientific quality control and statistical techniques. Comparisons to previous normals take these new techniques into account. The 1981-2010 normals provide a more comprehensive suite of precipitation and snowfall statistics. In addition, NCDC is providing hourly normals for more than 250 stations at the request of users, such as the energy industry.

Some of the key climate normals include: monthly and daily maximum temperature; monthly and daily minimum temperature; daily and monthly precipitation and snowfall statistics; and daily and monthly heating and cooling degree days. The 1981-2010 climate normals is one of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions. NOAA and its predecessor agencies have been providing updated 30-year normals once every decade since the 1921-1950 normals were released in 1956.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

People’s Tribunal against the Criminalization of Protest in Ecuador


People’s Tribunal against the Criminalization of Protest in Ecuador


Posted 28 June 2011, by Sofía Jarrín, Upside Down World,

During three days in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, hundreds of representatives from several Latin American countries gathered to share experiences and strategies during the Continental Conference in Defense of Water and Mother Earth. The event took place between June 17 and 23, and was organized as an act of resistance against development projects that threaten this vital resource, Yakumama, our mother water. A letter of intention by the organizers reads, “We hope this gathering will become a permanent process of fellowship to protect water and food sovereignty, to create a new social order in harmony with nature, with justice and equity.”

The conference began with a visit to sites where environmental conflicts have taken place, in Cochapata and San Bartolomé, more specifically, in the southern province of Azuay, both areas affected by mining companies. The delegation was composed of the Ombudsman, representatives of national indigenous organizations, the Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), Real World Radio, and a team of FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) International. There they witnessed cases of abuse of power by developers, often in complicity with state agencies, that are laying out mining projects despite clear opposition from the communities where they plan to implement them.

In Cochapata, for example, a community of about 7,800 people, there has been great resistance against the construction of a dam by the mining company Explorsur SA. Seven community leaders were accused of sabotage and terrorism for engaging in public protest, and were recently sentenced to eight years in prison. This occurred despite the fact that the Constituent Assembly had granted them amnesty in July 2008, recognizing their role as environmental defenders. Since then, all seven have been in hiding with serious financial and emotional consequences to their families. Unfortunately, like in many other cases, the courts favour private interests instead of communal decisions on how to manage land and water resources. Currently, there are more than 189 pending cases of terrorism and sabotage in Ecuador.

Back in 2007, at the beginning of his government, President Rafael Correa made a public statement setting the stage for what was to come. “Don’t believe in romantic environmentalists. Anyone who is opposed to development in this country is a terrorist,” he said about the community of Dayuma, Orellana province, who at the was time protesting the environmental devastation in their territory that resulted from oil drilling in the region. The protest was met with police repression and 25 people were detained.
For this reason, one of the main objectives of this conference was to expose these kind of cases, thus exemplifying the ongoing criminalization of protest in Ecuador. An integral part of the conference was a Court of Ethics that analyzed “the criminalization of defenders of human rights and nature.” This people’s court took place on Wednesday, June 22, with the presence a jury of four international authorities: Elsie Monge (Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights, CEDHU, Ecuador), Raul Zibechi (writer and journalist, Uruguay), Leah Isabel Alvear (poet and academic, Colombia), and Mary Hamlin (International Movement for People’s Health). They listened to more than four hours of testimonies and 17 cases of people accused of terrorism.
“Democracy can only be guaranteed when citizens are guaranteed their rights to protest and resistance,” testified Ramiro Avila, a lawyer and professor at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. “These laws are being used to suppress protest and should be immediately repealed.” Avila explained that the law under which the right to protest is criminalized in Ecuador dates back to the early republic, based on the Penal Code of 1920.
The current government of Ecuador, under President Correa, is driving an aggressive development program that is fueling social conflicts all around the country, mostly around mining and oil industries and the control of water sources. Unlike other countries such as Peru and Bolivia, large-scale mining is new to Ecuador and it’s expected to have severe consequences to its many ecosystems. According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, there are 1990 registered mining concessions in the country, causing serious concerns among civil society, particularly campesinos and indigenous people. “The social leaders are speaking out to defend their human rights, but instead of welcoming them the State is criminalizing their right to protest,” said Fernando Gutierrez, the National Ombudsman.
The most prominent case is that of four top indigenous leaders, all of them charged with terrorism and sabotage: Pepe Acacho, vice president of the National Confederation of Indigenous People (CONAIE), Marlon Santi, ex-president of CONAIE; Delfín Tenesaca, president of the Kichwa Conferedation of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI); and Marco Guatemal, president of Indigenous and Campesino Federation of Imbabura (FICI). They were tried for participating in marches against the Water and Mining Acts during the ALBA Summit in Otavalo in June 2010.
“Is it a crime to defend the water? Is it a crime to defend Mother Earth?” said Carlos Perez, an indigenous leader of Azuay. “Ecuador was pioneer in recognizing the rights of nature, thus the Constitution should be above a criminal code created in times of a dictatorship.” Ecuador was the first country to recognize the Rights of Nature in its Constitution of 2008.
The jury’s decision did not make itself wait. The verdict given was resolute, not only in acknowledging that people opposed to the government’s extractive activities are currently living in an atmosphere of fear and criminalization in Ecuador, but that the State is directly responsible for promoting and maintaining this situation. “These cases confirm that there is a systematic practice to discipline social protest and thus eliminate it,” reads the verdict. “While justice is employed to criminalize the defenders of nature, it remains passive before human rights violations committed against them and against nature.”
It furthermore recommends that the President refrains from making public statements that “delegitimizes and stigmatizes” defenders of nature and human rights. To the judicial powers it recommends to comply with the amnesty granted by the Constituent Assembly in 2008 to all people prosecuted of crimes against the State under a ambiguous Penal Code that is largely considered obsolete.
Although this Court of Ethics does not have jurisdictional powers, it does hope to fill up the space created by the State’s omissions of abuses committed against peaceful social protesters and its exoneration of private companies “that operate in the country with impunity.” Correa´s government has yet to pronounce itself before the court’s decision.
People’s Tribunal against the Criminalization of Protest in Ecuador

Dover website features sustainability resources for residents


Dover website features sustainability resources for residents


Posted 29 June 2011, by Staff, Foster’s Daily Democrat (Geo. J. Foster Company),

DOVER — The City of Dover has created an online resource of sustainability information for residents as part of the Sustainable Dover initiative. Residents interested in helping the environment, as well as making home efficiency improvements, can find a host of resources on the sustainability page.

“Our goal was to create a place for residents to find local and relevant sustainability information,” said Michele Alexander, Sustainability Coordinator for Dover. “After extensive research we culled the most user-friendly and comprehensive information sources together on one web page. The page offers links to information on energy efficiency, fossil fuel use reduction, local food, public transit and other green travel options including bike route information, the city recycling program, residential composting, zero waste, permaculture, and sustainable landscaping.”

Additional links on the site provide access to ongoing workshops through the Dover Public Library and the Greater Seacoast Permaculture Group, which hosts events on solar power, designing and building rain barrels, and other residential-related sustainability topics. The Children’s Museum is also included in the list as a resource for children.

The Energy Advisory Committee, the public advisory group overseeing the City sustainability planning efforts, assisted in this effort. More information on the Sustainable Dover initiative can be found on the City of Dover website, and the Sustainable Dover Facebook page.

“Residents seeking to lower their energy-related expenses or to become more environmentally-friendly in their everyday living can visit this webpage to access information tailored to their local area,” said Alexander.

For more information please contact the City of Dover Department of Planning and Community Development at email

Coconut Garden Permaculture In Action


Coconut Garden Permaculture In Action

Posted 28 June 2011, by Gena H, Care2,

Many times you will see videos of very serious and earnest people trying to convey the importance of communities joining in lifestyle with the land and the environment.

Perhaps there is another way to visualize the joining. Maybe if we could see the actual relationship we would get a move on and make this a functional reality.

Don’t get me wrong, the work of the scientists and activists are important but sometimes a lizard or a duck can show you the path to enlightenment. A little reggae doesn’t hurt either.

The video was recorded at the Lung Mee Permaculture Garden in the Surat Thani province in Southern Thailand.

I live in a urban environment so my definition and application of permaculture is going to be quite different than the visualization in the video. Still, we’ve got to start learning about what we need to do to move forward in a healing, sustainable manner.

Related Stories:

Returning People To Nature

9-Year-Old’s Science Fair Project Saves City Thousands of Gallons of Water

America’s Subsidy Garden

MP schools to begin new chapter with farm education


MP schools to begin new chapter with farm education

Posted 29 June 2011, by Milind Ghatwai, Indian Express,

Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday announced that syllabus in government schools will be changed next year to restore to agriculture the status it once enjoyed in Indian society. The change will be incorporated from Class II onwards by including practical aspects of agriculture to make it appealing to students.

Justifying the move, School Education Minister Archana Chitnis said the new generation was unable to understand the ill-effects of GM food and Bt seeds because it was clueless about agriculture.

“The era of globalisation has threatened our ancient agriculture tradition. The new generation will be able to take policy decisions on agriculture issues if they learn its practical side,’’ she said.

No new subject will be added but some of the existing chapters will be restructured, Deputy Director of Department of Public Instructions P R Tiwari, who is the project coordinator, told The Indian Express.

The state government has invited agriculture experts, NGOs and educationists to finalise the points to be included in the syllabi. Chitnis said the draft will be ready by October and the changes will come into effect from the next year.

Though agriculture is taught at higher secondary level, the course content does not reflect the expertise Indians had, and only praises the West for employing advanced techniques, said Tiwari. He added that even Class XI and XII syllabi will be suitably changed.

The government claimed that though agriculture is taught in other states, MP will be the first to restructure school syllabi in such a fashion.

Can we learn from Nature?

Can we learn from Nature?

What if we copy or mimic nature, can we gain valuable information on collecting and storing water?

Posted 27 June 2011, by Staff, Bank on Rain,

That’s what Biomimicry is……. copying nature, and in our case solving a problem related to water, a diminishing resource.

Look at plants—succulents in particular. Succulents have adapted to extremely arid climates via water storage in their leaves, stems and roots. Not unlike our ideas at Bank-On-Rain of storing rainwater for future use. We are ‘mimicking’ a biological system.

A Succulent

If we understand Biomimicry, and create technologies that “mimic” biological systems, I believe we can improve human efficiency related to the use of resources and in addition we begin to function more like our natural surroundings. Mother nature has it all figured out—she recycles everything and adapts to the most extreme conditions. We need to ask ourselves, “What can we learn from nature in order to fit in to our surrounding ecosystems?”

If we as humans functioned as nature does, would we not become more sustainable? Of course we would, and we would use resources provided by our natural environment in a cyclical rather than linear fashion. This is a key concept. Nature works in cycles, while our economy, our industry, our consumption, and our pollution of the natural environment works in a linear way, and unfortunately, all of these linear activities are proliferating with time.

So how can we work to design a greener planet? What can we find in Nature to inspire us?

The Stenocara beetle obtains drinking water directly from its surroundings—fog in the extremely dry Namib Desert. An array of hydrophilic (water loving) bumps covers the Stenocara’s back and are surrounded by a superhydrophobic (very afraid of water) surface. The beetle tilts its wings back into the fog, tiny droplets move from the hydrophobic to the hydrophilic bumps, and once the droplets are large enough, they slide into the beetle’s mouth. Crafty, huh?

Stenocara Beetle

The Stenocara beetle has inspired ‘biomimic’ solutions for water scarcity in areas with little rainfall; re-creating the genius of the beetle’s physiology to harvest fog water. The technologies produced by this inspiration include grassroots solutions for water scarcity in dry, developing areas as well as the prospect of water harvesting from industrial exhaust gases.

What are we doing at Bank-On-Rain to become more like our natural surrounding systems? We are cyclic, just as nature. We are supporting local business in developing countries, and especially those that use recycled resources as products for our systems. We are storing what nature provides us and using it appropriately for our needs. We are a non-profit organization supporting a cyclical economy—growing slowly and adapting to what comes, just as nature does.

This post was inspired by a #futrchat discussion on twitter hosted by @Urbanverse and a group of fun futurists. #futrchat was one of the first online chats I visited and I strongly recommend this monthly chat.

If you have any comments or suggestions of what we could or should be mimicking in nature, please leave a comment below or email us at

Emily Berg, Social Media Intern at Bank-On-Rain
Designing a Green Planet One Raindrop at a Time.

Follow us on twitter: @BANKONRAIN @EmilyBerg

Photo Credit (Stenocara beetle): JochenB

Dorrer, C. and Rühe, J.. “Mimicking the Stenocara Beetle—Dewetting of Drops from a Patterned Superhydrophobic Surface.” Langmuir 2008, 24, 6154-6158.

Garrod, R., Harris, L., Schofield, W., McGettrick, J., Ward, L., Teare, D., Badyal, J.. “Mimicking a Stenocara Beetle’s Back for Microcondensation Using Plasmachemical Patterned Superhydrophobic—Superhydrphilic Surfaces.” Langmuir 2007, 23, 689-693.

Book Reveals Secrets Of Nature’s Premier Architects: Birds


Book Reveals Secrets Of Nature’s Premier Architects: Birds

A Bald Eagle's platform nest

Posted 28 June 2011, by Belinda Lanks, Fast Company’s Co.Design, Mansueto Ventures, LLC,
A new book from Princeton University Press explores how birds build their egg containers — without the help of blueprints or CAD drawings.

We humans are builders and engineers. In that respect, we have something in common with our flying vertebrate friends — yup, birds — which often construct intricate nests with whatever materials might be at hand. A new book, Avian Architecture (Princeton University Press), by Peter Goodfellow, details (and clearly illustrates) various nest-building using “blueprint” drawings and thorough descriptions of the construction processes and engineering techniques of key species.

A spread detailing the "Velcro technique" practiced by Long-Tailed Tits.

This isn’t a lavish coffee-table book — information is privileged over visuals — but there’s plenty to marvel at, from the Cliff Swallow’s elaborate mud colonies that resemble barnacles affixed to rock faces, to the Sooty-Capped Hermit’s hanging, counterweighted cup-shaped nest. Our favorites are the examples of biomimicry — instances of us mirroring nature in our own architecture. But most of the nests are remarkable feats – especially when you consider that they’re built with the assistance of a single tool — a beak — which, as Goodfellow writes, is a little like “trying to make a ham and cheese sandwich with one hand behind your back.”

A Magpie Goose building its nest from reeds

Missouri River’s reach grows


Missouri River’s reach grows

Posted 29 June 2011, by Staff, Omaha World Herald,

A view looking to the west into Nebraska. Interstate 680 runs along the North side of Omaha. KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD

It’s still water, water everywhere the Missouri River touches, with no end in sight — as these photos attest.

Omaha’s Freedom Park, for instance, remains closed because of Missouri River flooding.

Many of the park’s artifacts have been removed. Those that couldn’t be have been relocated, anchored or otherwise protected from the high water.

Looking to the northeast up the Missouri River: Omaha's Freedom Park. KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD


$200,000 OK’d for flood costs


$200,000 OK’d for flood costs


Posted 29 June 2011, by Staff, Omaha World Herald (World Herald News Service),

COUNCIL BLUFFS — The Pottawattamie County Board approved a budget amendment Tuesday to pay for flood-related costs before the fiscal year ends June 30.

The board approved $200,000 in spending to go to the County Attorney’s Office, Geographic Information Systems and Information Technology.

Supervisor Loren Knauss said a large part of the funding for IT will go to purchase mirroring backup systems for computer equipment. GIS will spend funds to gather images from the flooding.

“Once the river crests, a pictometry flight will give us elevations of the flood,” Supervisor Melvyn Houser said.

Auditor Marilyn Drake said that additional departments, including the Sheriff’s Office, Conservation and Secondary Roads, also have spent additional flood-related money — mostly on personnel — but have managed to cover the costs within the fiscal year 2011 budget.