Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Environmental News Archive

As the environmental news intern for Ocean Futures Society, my job is to compile news articles from numerous sources to educate and update the OFS staff, members and interested individuals.

Thus, in the spirit of my job, I started the Environmental News Archive for all interested individuals in Singapore to enjoy a summary of weekly environmental news and any other interesting articles I come across in my job.

In fact, this website also has RSS feed for a change. I do not see damaging effects at the moment since comments are disabled.

RSS it!

Read full article here

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Importance of a Sensei

For a while now I have been hearing about the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

However, as many graduate students have told me, the importance lies not in the school but on who your advisor is. Yes, the importance of the age old concept of a "sensei". The master of whom I shall be apprentice to. The wizard of which I will be mickey mouse... O_O"

Honestly, today is the first time I looked into the program at Yale and damn I am really impressed by the following three faculty.

Prof William R. Burch, Jr
Professor of Natural Resource Management, and Social and POlicy Studies.
His work on wildland recreation behavior was among the earliest, and it has expanded to include parks, biosphere reserves, and ecotourist regions in rural and urban areas in Asia, South America, and Europe, as well as in North America.
He conducted some of the original work on community/social forestry systems, which continues with work in Nepal, Thailand, China, and inner cities of the United States. Community forestry strategies for urban neighborhoods have been applied since 1989.
Another area of research and application has been in developing a unified ecosystem management approach that fully includes human behavioral variables.

--> He does qualify some of my interests. Ecotourism, community forestry (but less indigenous knowledge) and a holistic management system that includes humans on top of biophysical concerns. He does work in Asia which is important.

Prof Carol Carpenter
Lecturer in Natural Resource Social Science and Anthropology.
Dr. Carpenter’s teaching and research interests focus on theories of social ecology, social aspects of sustainable development and conservation, and gender in agrarian and ecological systems. She spent four years in Indonesia engaged in household and community-level research on rituals and social networks. Her current interests involve the invisibility of women’s economic activities in agrarian households and the implications of this invisibility for sustainable development.
--> All that "social ecology" thing... I'm not sure what it means. Is that what budak was dissing? I like the sustainable development in community level. There's this woman gender ecofeminism thing which I am not part of but should be? It does involve sustainabel development and it may not be my interest but i recognize its importance. It's calling out to my weak feminist instincts. Satisfied the asia criteria as well. Erm... Poorest of my 3 choices.

Prof Michael R. Dove
Professor of Social Ecology
Professor Dove’s research focuses on the links between the resource-use systems of local communities and wider societies, between urban and rural, rich and poor, and less- and more-developed countries, with a special focus on the environmental relations of local communities. He spent two years in a tribal longhouse in Borneo studying swidden agriculture...
Recent collaborative research, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, examines the relationship between biodiversity and society in Southeast Asia. Other research and teaching interests include: human use of tropical forests and grasslands; the global circulation of environmental concepts; political dimensions of natural disaster and resource degradation; indigenous environmental knowledge; contemporary and historical environmental relations in South and Southeast Asia; the study of developmental and environmental institutions, discourses, and movements; and the sociology of resource-related sciences.

--> Again that social ecology thing. O_O" I would normally have thought it a good thing. Am i confusing it with social evolution? whatever. This is one of the strongest contenders - Dove or Burch. He has my favourite indigenous knowledge, rich-poor relationships, focus on asia, political ecology, study of NGO and global institutions, local communities... only problem is he doesn't do ecotourism and he's more on agrarian stuff (which is fine...) but... hmm who sounds stronger? Dove sounds a lot like Dr Carl actually O_O"

Indigenous work vs ecotourism. ARGH! WHICH DO I CHOOSE?

[update: reading through that again, im leaning towards ecotourism but im still torn. both dove and burch can do indigenous ecotourism. sianz.]

[update 2: refer to this phd student page where the main advisors seem to be Burch, Dove and this guy Kellert. Dove has a lot of students under him. And one of them is ecotourism. Sigh. dunno lah sianz. Besides, what the f am i going to be doing my phd on? lol ubin? haha yeah right. how badly do i want to do this? it's gotta mean a lot of time spent in some ulu asian country. sigh. i don't think im at that level yet.]

[update 3: getting quite depressed. sigh. don't think im ready to look at PHD. maybe just do masters first? sianz. did u know NUS has an env mgmt course? and theres always Schmacher college in Devon, UK. Or Yale straight away? There are scholarships for SEA students... but most of the PHD students listed are americans from the east coast, one california, one pakistani, 3 latinas. THATS IT!? grrr]

Read full article here

Lobster Soup to Debut at Hong Kong Disney

Lobster Soup to Debut at Hong Kong Disney:
"(07-15) 05:30 PDT HONG KONG, China (AP) --

Lobster soup and seafood bouillon will replace the controversial shark fin soup at Hong Kong Disneyland wedding banquets, a Disney spokeswoman said Friday.

Last month, Disney decided to scrap shark fin soup, a symbol of prestige in Chinese banquets, after environmentalists protested and threatened to stage boycotts of the park when it opens Sept. 12. The activists say that the shark fin industry is decimating the shark population.

The dish will be replaced by lobster soup and a dish with sea whelk, a bouillon with bamboo fungus and crab roe, Disney spokeswoman Irene Chan said.

'We are confident the change will not affect the attractiveness of our weddings,' Chan said. 'The dishes are specially designed, and these menu alternatives can reflect respect for Chinese culture.'

Guests waiting in line to have their weddings celebrated at the theme park's hotel when it opens have been notified of the changes and most have responded favorably, she said."

Wow if only all the sharks fin soup in all chinese restaurants in the world can be replaced by an alternative!!! THAT would be so awesome!

Read full article here

Ah, Wilderness!

Ah, Wilderness! - New York Times

Very intersting article. A must read especially for those who are interested in the US politics regarding the environment. This is an interview with the secretary of the US Dept of Interior which is ironically in charge of everything outdoors. They are the biggest landholder in the US! :o Something like the SLA I suppose.

Considering I did some research on the Endangered Species Act before, this article proved to be very interesting as she talked about some of the flaws regarding the act and boy are there many!

Read full article here

The price of buying organic

The price of buying organic - Food Inc. -

"Q: Why does organic food cost more than conventionally grown food?

A: There are a bushel of reasons why organic food costs more than conventional food.

For example, organic produce, meat and dairy simply cost more to produce than their conventional counterparts.

Limits on pesticides, for instance, mean more hand-weeding. They also mean farmers run a higher risk of losing all or part of a year’s crop.

“There aren’t as many tools in the toolbox to deal with pest outbreaks or diseases,” said Nancy Creamer, director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at North Carolina State University.

Some of the things organic farmers can’t use that conventional farmers can: Sewage sludge, which is cheap to buy, and chemical fertilizers, which are both cheap to buy and cheap to transport. Instead, organic farmers fertilize their land with compost and animal manure, which is bulkier and more expensive to ship, Creamer said.

While conventional farmers can use every acre to grow the crops that fetch the highest prices, organic farmers use crop rotation to keep their soil healthy. Instead of planting a cash crop on every acre every year, they rotate fields and plant “cover crops” that are plowed to improve the soil’s nutrients for the long term.

“When you’re rotating crops, you’re not necessarily growing all your highest value crops all the time, which is different than a conventional system,” said Catherine Greene, an agricultural economist at the USDA.

Organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed, said George Siemon, CEO of the Organic Valley co-op, the largest organic farmers’ co-op in the country. A ton of organic cattle feed can cost from $350 to $400 a ton versus $220 or less for a ton of conventional feed, he said.

Certifying food as organic also involves additional administrative costs.

The demand for organic food is greater than the supply, Greene said. But she added “we don’t have enough data to tease out how much (of the price difference) is due to higher-cost production versus the imbalance between supply and demand.”

Some of the cost difference comes from retailers, Siemon said, since some organic products don’t sell as quickly as their conventional counterparts. “The retailer wants to make the same amount of money, per space,” he said.

Finally, organic farming proponents say conventionally grown food includes invisible costs, including a higher incidence of some cancers and other diseases in farm workers and their children and contamination of water supplies.

They argue that large corporate farms can make money on high volume and low prices, but those low prices have pushed millions of family farms into bankruptcy.

Four million farmers have disappeared in the last 40 years, Siemon said.

“Farmers have seen organics as a glimmer of hope for their economic survival,” he said. “They’re trying to overcome bankruptcy pricing.”

One tenant of organic farming is sustainability, he said. “Shouldn’t that also be about economic sustainability?”

Chef Alice Waters, a champion of locally grown and organic foods, justified one farm’s $3 organic peaches to The New York Times.

“Maybe they’ll make $5,000 more a year,” she said. “Well, hooray. We’re not making millionaires here. We’re supporting sustainable agriculture.”"

Read full article here

The Mall That Would Save America

The Mall That Would Save America - New York Times:
"More mind-boggling than the sheer scope of Destiny is its agenda. Congel emphasizes that renewable energy alone will power the mall, with its 1,000 shops and restaurants, 80,000 hotel rooms, 40,000-seat arena and Broadway-style theaters. As a result, Congel says, Destiny will jump-start renewable-energy markets nationwide with its investments in solar, wind, fuel cells and other alternative-energy sources. But if Congel does manage to erect his El Dorado, will it really help cure our country's addiction to scarce and highly polluting fossil fuel? Or will it just be a cleverly marketed boondoggle that may create more environmental problems than it solves?

All by itself, the mall would boost America's solar-electric power capacity by nearly 10 percent. ''On every level, this project astounds,'' Senator Hillary Clinton said in April, claiming that the mall could make the area a hub for clean technologies and deliver a shot of adrenaline to upstate New York's ailing economy. To help foot the bill for Congel's project, Clinton and other politicians successfully persuaded Congress to provide financial incentives for mega-scale green development projects. (Destiny, of course, will face little competition to reap those benefits.)"

Oh right, a green mall...
is that an oxymoron?
The concept of extreme consumerism giving back to the environment through green generation but what of the goods that are being sold?

"An avid Bush supporter who already has 25 shopping malls to his name, Congel himself is not a man you would expect to entertain an eccentric clean-energy vision. It first seized him in 2001, soon after 9/11 -- and after the project was under way -- during a visit to the D-Day beaches in Normandy. ''There I was looking at those pure white graves of tens of thousands of kids that died for freedom,'' Congel reflects, sitting on the veranda of his 6,000-acre farm just outside Syracuse, where he has imported Russian wild boar and other exotic game for hunting. ''Today our kids are dying in a war for oil. Petroleum addiction is destroying our country, our economy, our environment.''

Then what of a mall?

Read full article here

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

More Golf Courses from now on?

Natural golf courses redefine green
More superintendents use fewer chemicals while enjoying the view
By Pete Iacobelli
The Associated Press
Updated: 3:40 p.m. ET July 1, 2005

OKATIE, S.C. - When Hugh Williams began golfing in his 20s, he was overwhelmed by the Lowcountry beauty that surrounded almost every shot that day at Crooked Oaks Course on Johns Island.

“Somebody’s got to maintain this and keep it around,” Williams thought, and a vocation came to life.

Williams, now superintendent at Oldfield Club in Okatie, is part of a growing wave of golf course superintendents, owners and industry leaders who value wildlife and natural habitat as much as low scores and regular customers.

“I think golfers want more than golf these days,” said Jen Peak with Crescent Resources, which builds homes on the Oldfield property.

Williams’ course recently was named a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, a designation achieved by fewer than 2 percent of layouts around the world.

Oldfield became the 13th course in South Carolina to get the stamp of approval from Audubon International, and the group’s Shawn Williams says the numbers are increasing. In the Palmetto State, 49 courses are registered with Audubon on the way to certification, Williams said.

Audubon International, which is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society, is an environmental education organization dedicated to sustainable development.

Osprey over the 11th
Decades ago, course construction often consisted of bulldozing land and mapping out holes with little regard for what was there before. Wildlife? It could find somewhere else to live.

Marvin Bouknight, Oldfield’s naturalist, said his wife once took a recreational management position in Charleston County up the coast. That county “has golf courses,” Bouknight recalled complaining. “You can bet there won’t be any wildlife out there.”

Now, Bouknight can look almost anywhere on Oldfield’s 860 acres, including the 18 holes designed by Greg Norman, and find something natural to enjoy.

There might be an osprey grasping a fish as it glides over the 11th fairway or bobcat footprints in bunkers or cheery colorful plants next to landing areas. On a recent wildlife tour, Bouknight found an atamasco lily, also known as the “naked lady,” next to one hole and was as excited as if he’d notched a double eagle.

“This is a good find, a real good find,” he said, smiling.

Audubon certification involves six ongoing steps, including satisfying questions about safe environmental planning, water conservation and wildlife and habitat management.

“The new-school superintendents, the younger guys coming up, are taught more” about environmental awareness, Shawn Williams said. “What I consider the baby boomer generation, they take a lot of pride in their yards, are more socially aware. They take more awareness about golf’s evolving nature.”

Sierra Club still critical
Eric Antebi, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, says the organization hopes golf courses always use environmentally sound tactics and adds that people should not be fooled into thinking courses are part of the natural order of things.

“The real question is whether or not golf courses are a net positive for the environment, and by and large they are not,” Antebi said by phone from the group’s San Francisco headquarters.

Chuck Borman is executive director of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association and was chief operating officer for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. He said superintendents and course owners always were strong environmental stewards, but did not have the choices available today.

Fertilizers that kept fairways lush were potentially harmful to natural habitat and water runoff routes were not as precisely planned as is possible with more modern courses, he said.

Superintendent budgets, which can range from $100,000 a year for a routine public course to $1 million or more for a high-profile resort layout, also play a role in how environmentally conscious a course can be.

Controlling pesticide use
Hugh Williams said letting areas such as banks of water hazards and collection spots around greens remain as they might have been before course construction helps maintain costs and save wildlife.

“Those are areas where you don’t need things like fertilizers and pesticides,” he said.

For those areas that do need maintenance, Oldfield picks out individual spots instead of the scatter-gun spray method seen in years past. A computer system allows Williams to control watering time. Sensors tell staffers when watering should stop.

An irrigation system collects runoff water and filters it so it can be used again. The Ocean Course, Pete Dye’s famed layout on Kiawah Island, uses a similar filtering technique to conserve water.

These days, wildlife often makes good business sense, too.

Oldfield’s golfers — the course has a relatively modest 12,000 rounds a year, Williams said — are treated to sights you’re not going to find at the local muni.

“People love to see wildlife on golf courses,” Borman said. “They love to see birds. They love to see trees.”

Tips on golfing, nature
Oldfield goes a step further.

On one side of the course yardage guide are the usual golf tips such as avoiding the live oak on the front side of the sixth green. On the other side, there are notes about natural attractions.

“The wildlife found in this area includes foxes, white-tailed deer, fox squirrels and a diverse population of birds including wild turkeys, wood storks and tricolored herons,” the guide says.

Borman says his organization holds seminars and lectures about the advantages of Audubon’s certification programs. He links interested course owners and superintendents with others who’ve gone through the process.

Oldfield’s Williams is ready to pass on what he knows.

“You can’t play a round of golf out here without seeing something you’ll remember,” he said. “That’s what we want.”
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2005


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