Monday, August 30, 2010

Illegal trade: Tiger cub found in luggage

A two-month old tiger cub was found sedated and hidden among stuffed-tiger toys in the luggage of a woman at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Sunday.

The 31-year old Thai national was scheduled to board a Mahan Air flight destined for Iran when she had trouble checking in her oversized bag. Airports of Thailand (AOT) staff suspected something amiss when they scanned the bag and x-ray images showed an item resembling a real cat. Officers from the Livestock Development Department and the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department were then called in to open the bag for inspection and discovered the tranquilized cub.

Investigations are underway to determine if the cub was wild caught or captive-bred, where it came from and the suspect’s intended final destination.

Tiger populations in Thailand and throughout Asia are critically threatened by poaching and trade to meet the international demand for tiger parts, products and, as illustrated in this case, live tigers.

Tigers are categorized as Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) and listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibiting international commercial trade. Both captive and wild caught tigers fall under the same regulations.

I really don't understand what makes people pay unrealistic sums of money for endangered animals, ignoring the fact that is so important to keep the animals in their natural habitats or sanctuaries where the possibity of breeding excists.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Non-stick pans can affect our hormones, new research suggests

Norwegian study highlights the effects of PFC and PCB chemicals on human health.

A group of chemicals found in common household items may be having dangerous effects on our hormones, new research suggests. A study on sheep and cells grown in the laboratory by Norwegian vets found that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) found in water resistant clothes and non-stick frying pans can affect the body's steroid hormones including oestrogen, testosterone and cortisol. These hormones are necessary for regulating a number of bodily functions in humans and animals, including our ability to reproduce.

The research also discovered similar effects caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of chemicals that have been banned since the 1970s but continue to persist in the environment.

Limit exposure

Study author Dr. Marianne Kraugerud, from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, said consumers could limit their exposure to both chemicals.
'To regulate uptake of PFCs, one could try to limit the use of clothes treated with water and grease repellent containing PFCs.

'It may also be wise to use cookware coated with non-stick "Teflon"-type coatings with care, especially when damaged. Alternatively, one may consider going back to the good old-fashioned cast iron frying pan,' she said.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can you make your pet go green???

Cats and dogs may not be immediately concerned with saving the Earth, but today's owners should find themselves engaging in green responsibility and choosing biodegradable/eco-friendly pet products. Going green isn't just for people.

Dogs as well as dog owners can help protect the environment we all share. In America alone there were 74.8 million dogs listed in 2008. That many dogs can make a significant impact on the environment. It only makes sense that pet owners include their furry family members in lifestyle changes that protect health and the planet we live on.

Small changes can add up and here are a few tips on how you can have your pet go green:
• Adopt pets from a shelter. Those who want a specific breed can find just what they're looking for at a breed rescue.
• Pick up after your dog, using paper or biodegradable poop bags. Never use plastic, which does not break down in the landfill.
• Feed dogs organic pet food that is free of hormones and chemicals that may be toxic to the canine body.
• Recycle household materials for bedding. Some of the family's old blankets or towels work well as do old pillow slips stuffed with foam packaging peanuts.
• Pay attention to packaging of pet items. Recycled, biodegradable, or none is best.
• Use shampoos and other grooming products that are free of phosphates, sulfates, and other chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

It might be hard for you to find the environmentally friendly pet products in your community. But how about asking your local pet shop, if they would consider taking the products in? If enought customers ask, I am sure they will give in to the pressure :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ecotourism in an ancient rainforest

Taman Negara National Park spans more than 2,500 square miles and is the oldest officially protected area in Malaysia. It is also Malaysia's largest national park and has been developed into a major destination for ecotourism.

Watch, as the BBC's Carmen Roberts takes us on a journey into a pristine rainforest that is over 130 million years old.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Goody" bag companies accused of being "fake green"

ACCC (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has instituted legal proceedings against Goody Environment Pty Ltd and Nupak Australia Pty Ltd.

The ACCC alleged that the companies engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false representations regarding 'Goody' brand plastic bags, in contravention of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The action concerns alleged representations by Goody Environment and Nupak that 'Goody' brand plastic bags, containing an additive supplied by Goody Environment and distributed by Nupak, were biodegradable and compostable in accordance with the Australian Standard AS4736-2006 for Biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other Microbial Treatment and could be legally supplied in South Australia.

The ACCC alleged that these 'Goody' brand plastic bags did not satisfy the Australian Standard's requirements as to biodegradability, disintegration and concentration of toxic or hazardous substances.
The ACCC seeked orders including:
• corrective advertising by Goody Environment and Nupak on their websites and in newspapers
• the publication by Goody Environment of a notice in a relevant magazine informing the public of the court orders
• letters to be sent by Nupak to its customers advising of the court orders
• the implementation of a trade practices law compliance and education training program by Goody Environment and Nupak
• findings of fact
• declarations that Goody Environment and Nupak contravened the Act
• injunctions including interim injunctions to restrain Goody Environment and Nupak from continuing to make these representations, and
• ACCC's costs.

The directions hearing was in Adelaide on the 15th of July and in response, Nupak has undertaken to refrain from making representations to the effect that 'Goody' plastic bags:
a. comply with the Australian Standard*;
b. comply with the requirements of State Legislation which proscribes the sale of plastic 'singlet' shopping bags; or
c. are biodegradable or compostable in accordance with the Australian Standard,
unless Nupak has first obtained independent scientific testing which substantiates such representations.

Nupak has also undertaken to send a letter to each Nupak customer supplied with Goody plastic bags informing them of the ACCC's action, the allegations and the undertakings by Nupak. The hearing of the ACCC's application for interlocutory relief against Goody Environment has been set down for 23 August 2010.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia corals to light up cancer cure fight

Australian scientists have discovered a cluster of brilliant shallow-water corals that could help in the search for anti-cancer drugs and to understand global warming, a researcher said Saturday.

The vividly fluorescent cluster was found in waters off Lord Howe Island, 600 kilometres (400 miles) east of the Australian mainland, with some displaying rich reds that were difficult to find and in high demand for studies of cancer cells, researcher Anya Salih said.

"The underwater buttresses and caverns are densely inhabited by hundreds of corals, all deeply pigmented by the most intense green, blue and many with red fluorescence," she said.

Salih said she had never seen such an abundance of highly red fluorescent corals, nor such an extraordinarily vibrant site.

"We are using these pigments to light up the workings of living cells and to study what goes wrong in cancer cells," said Salih, from the University of Western Sydney.

The gene producing the particular pigment -- red, green, blue or yellow -- would be attached to a molecule in both healthy and cancerous cells, and would enable scientists to track cell growth and change using a special fluorescent-sensitive laser microscope.

Salih is working with scientists from the University of California to explore how cancer cells differ from normal cells and how effective anti-cancer drugs are. She said red pigments were especially valuable because they allowed researchers to see deeper into tissues.

"These fluorescent molecules are transforming cell science and biomedical research," said Salih.

The corals were discovered by scientists tracking the recovery of coral bleaching linked to global warming at Lord Howe Island, and Salih said they were invaluable not only for her research but for understanding climate change.

"Earlier this year, the coral reefs of Lord Howe Island experienced a sudden mass bleaching event caused by warming of seawater. It's a sign that global warming is beginning to be a threat to coral survival even to the most southern reefs in Australia," she said.

But the fluorescent corals had been much less damaged by the bleaching, lending "support to the hypothesis that fluorescence can provide some level of protection to corals from temperature stresses due to climate change."

"Coral fluorescence is proving to be incredibly important in the biology of coral reefs and their ability to survive stressful conditions," she said.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is there such a thing as "fake green"??

In my work related research I have come across a very large number of business that declare themselves green or environmentally concious in their corporate social responsibility policy.

As a consumer it can be very hard to see through the smokescreen of a company's marketing strategy and figure out which companies are dedicated the reducing their carbon footprint and which companies are using a few green iniatives to attract the modern green consumer. Eco-friendly doesn't mean anything unfortunately marketers have figured out that people are willing to pay a premium, a little more, if it says eco on it. So sometimes it does even though it may not be eco-friendly at all.

I've seen companies using "supporter of Earth Hour" to promote their green iniatives. Excuse me!!! Swithcing off the lights for ONE HOUR every year does not make your company green. It's this kind of companies, I call "fake green". They support a public green initiative and use it as proof of their green-ness. Don't let this easy bought green initiatives fool you!!

There is actually an official term for the concept: Greenwashing: It’s greenwashing when a company or organisation spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimise environmental impact.

Make sure you look carefully next time you decide to buy green products. Spend some time researching the different companies before you make decide on the brand. There is plenty information available online - enough to enable you to make an informed decision!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Climate change will increase number of heart deaths

Climate change means a lot more than just rising water levels and the fact that we have to adjust to warmer weather. There is a lot more at stake, and now a new study shows that climate change will increase our health quite extremely.

Many more people will die of heart problems as global warming continues, experts are warning. Cllmate extremes of hot and cold will become more common and this will puts strain on people's hearts, doctors say. A study in the British Medical Journal found that each 1C temperature drop on a single day in the UK is linked to 200 extra heart attacks.

Heatwaves, meanwhile, increase heart deaths from other causes, as shown by the events in Paris during summer 2003. Over 11,000 people died in France's heatwave in the first half of August of that year when temperatures rose to over 40C. Many of these were sudden cardiac deaths related to heart conditions other than heart attack. That same summer, record-breaking temperatures led to 2,000 excess deaths in the UK. And experts predict that by the 2080s events similar to these will happen every year. The risks posed by extreme spells of hot and cold are largely within two weeks of exposure and are greatest for the most frail - the elderly and those with heart problems already, say experts.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surprising sustainable food outlets

When you think of sustainable dining, you probably don't think of fast-food restaurants like Subway and McDonalds. And yet, these fast-food chains are some of the few who have successfully pursued LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an internationally recognized third-party certification that a building meets high standards for energy savings, water efficiency, emissions reduction and improved environmental quality.

So far, only 38 restaurants have received LEED certification -- 40% of those are chain restaurants. For many of these large chain organizations, LEED certification is a relatively cost-efficient way for not particularly green companies to flex their corporate social responsiblity muscles.

It appears the big chains are taking a small step in the right direction: Subway currently has one LEED certified restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. "We believe that building stores in an environmentally responsible way is a good business practice," says Subway's public relations specialist Les Winograd.

McDonald's boasts two LEED-certified locations in Chicago, IL, and Cary, NC. "McDonald's is a great example of a company which, like many other organizations in the past few years, has implemented corporate social responsibility, including concern for the environment," says Marie Coleman of the U.S. Green Buildings Council. But two LEED-certified stores doesn't get them off the hook for the wastefulness, environmental pollution and massive deforestation they contribute to in order to develop monoculture plantations.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Demand for shark fin soup has led to illegalities

The Asian demand for shark fin soup has led to illegal killing of nearly 300,000 sharks off Brazil, an environmental group alleges.

The Environmental Justice Institute in Brazil has accused a seafood exporter, Siglo do Brasil Comercio, of illegally killing sharks and is suing for what it calls massive damage to the marine ecosystem.

The group is suing the company for $790 million in damages for its alleged sale of 290,000 sharks since 2009.

Many of the sharks were thrown back into the sea after their fins were taken for clandestine export, the group charges. "As we can't put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem," group director Cristiano Pacheco said.

"We think the shark fins were exported clandestinely, in containers, likely from the ports of Rio Grande do Sul to the Asian market," he said.

It is illegal to separate shark fins from carcasses in Brazil, but the high value placed by Asian diners on the fins has encouraged the illicit practice. Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed annually world wide for their fins to produce the high-end delicacy.

Once again I have to make my plead: Please keeps sharks in the oceans and out of the soup!!!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

US billionaires pledge 50% of their wealth to charity

Thirty-eight US billionaires have pledged at least 50% of their wealth to charity through a campaign started by investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. They include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN founder Ted Turner and entertainment executive Barry Diller.

"The Giving Pledge" lists all the families and individuals who have committed to the project. The site says the pledge is a "moral commitment" not a "legal contract".

Who are the billionaire philanthropists?

The campaign was started in June to convince US billionaires to give away at least half of their fortunes either during their lifetimes or after their deaths. "We've really just started but already we've had a terrific response," Mr Buffett said in a statement. He added: "The Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used."

Those who pledge their money to "philanthropic causes and charitable organisations" must publicly state their intention through a letter of explanation.

Other billionaires who have pledged large sums of their money include film producer George Lucas, philanthropist David Rockefeller and oil investor T Boone Pickens. "I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race," Mr Lucas wrote in his Giving Pledge letter.

The organisation says many of the donors have committed to donating sums far greater than the 50% minimum level. "While the Giving Pledge is specifically focused on billionaires, the idea takes its inspiration from efforts in the past and at present that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds," says

Mr Buffett along with Mr Gates and his wife, Melinda, held numerous dinners with US billionaires in the past year to promote the campaign and urge America's financial elite to pledge.

Mr Buffett, the chief executive of the investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, pledged 99% of his money to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and family charities in 2006. Forbes Magazine estimated Mr Buffett's wealth at $47bn (£29bn) in March. Bill Gates, who Forbes rates as the world's second wealthiest person, has also given away more than $28bn to his foundation.

There are 403 billionaires living in the US, according to Forbes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I get by with a little help from my friends

Study finds being sociable is good for your health, while loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

A life of booze, fags and slothfulness may be enough to earn your doctor's disapproval, but there is one last hope: a repeat prescription of mates and good conversation.

A circle of close friends and strong family ties can boost a person's health more than exercise, losing weight or quitting cigarettes and alcohol, psychologists say.
Sociable people seem to reap extra rewards from their relationships by feeling less stressed, taking better care of themselves and having less risky lifestyles than those who are more isolated, they claim.

Being lonely and isolated is as bad for a person's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. It is as harmful as not exercising and twice as bad for the health as being obese.

If this is true, imagine what a visit at your elderly relatives can do, not only for their quality of life, but also for their health... It might be worth planning an extra visit this month, if you want them to stick around as long as possible :-)