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image0023.jpgStewart Brand is a cofounder of Global Business Network and the Long Now Foundation. Best known for founding, editing, and publishing the Whole Earth Catalog (1968-1985; National Book Award, 1972), he also has a long-standing involvement in computers, education, and the media arts.

From 1987 to 1989 Stewart ran a series of private conferences on “Learning in Complex Systems,” sponsored by strategic planners at Royal Dutch/Shell, AT&T, and Volvo. In 1988 he joined the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Institute, an organization dedicated to multi-disciplinary research in the sciences of complexity. In 1987, Stewart wrote The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT (Viking). It became a QPB Selection, won the Eliot Montroll Award, and has been translated into Japanese, German, Italian, and Spanish. From 1974 to 1985, Stewart founded, edited, and published CoEvolution Quarterly. He also served as editor-in-chief of the Whole Earth Software Catalog (Doubleday) from 1983-1985. During this time, Brand organized the first “Hackers’ Conference,” which was televised nationally and has since become an annual event. He also founded The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) a computer teleconference based in the San Francisco Bay Area. It now has 10,000 active users, and is considered a bellwether of the medium.

After receiving his degree in biology from Stanford in 1960 and spending two years as a US Infantry officer, Stewart became a photojournalist and multimedia artist, performing at colleges and museums. In 1968, he was a consultant to Douglas Engelbart’s pioneering Augmented Human Intellect program at SRI, which devised now-familiar computer interface tools. In 1972, for Rolling Stone, he wrote the first article about the computer lifestyle, entitled “Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums,” chronicling the fringes of computer science at Xerox PARC, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and MIT. That article became part of his book, Two Cybernetic Frontiers (Random House, 1974), which also introduced anthropologist/ philosopher Gregory Bateson to a wide audience. In 1974 he organized a “New Games Tournament,” which generated three books and became a genre in experiential education.

In 1994, eight years of research by Stewart into how buildings change over time (a form of organizational learning) came together in a richly illustrated book, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. Referred to as “a classic and possibly a work of genius,” the book has been used as a text by computer systems designers as well as building preservers, architects, and many lay building users.

Since co-founding The Long Now Foundation with Danny Hillis in 1996, Stewart has been involved with its growing number of projects. The 10,000-year Clock project aims to build a monumental timepiece inside a mountain in eastern Nevada; the first working prototype went on permanent display at the Science Museum in London. The Rosetta Project set about micro-etching 1,000 languages on a 3-inch nickel disk and wound up building the world’s largest website of living languages. Long Bets is another web project, this one to make a permanent repository and forum for “accountable predictions,” where each Prediction accumulates votes and discussion and can become a bet with real money at stake. The All Species Inventory was spun off as its own foundation, with the aim of discovering and cataloging every life form on earth within the current human generation. Another project, called Long Server, is attempting to help solve the very difficult problems in long-term preservation of digital materials. Stewart’s book, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, investigates the advantages of taking the very long term seriously, including some new ways to think about the future.

Many centuries ago, farmers in China first tried the sensible idea of using natural predators to control crop pests. Today, Dr. Zhao Jingzhao, President of the University of Hubei, renews the promise of this ancient technique. He has made tremendous advances with biological control which are setting examples for other countries.
image0022.jpgThe farmers Zhao works with combine this technique with a very modest use of chemical pesticides. That combination is known as integrated pest management.

China is the world’s biggest producer of cotton, and cotton is the chief crop in Hubei Province. People who work in the cotton fields of Hubei Province once relied solely on pesticides. But even as they spent more and more money on them, they saw their harvests dwindle, and that chemicals could make you ill.

Zhao set about to help those farmers. To do so, he has dedicated more than ten years of his life to studying various means of biological pest control.

image004.jpgNearly two thousand years ago, in the orange groves of China, farmers came up with a new way to do battle with insect pests. Beetles, mites, and stinkbugs plagued their trees. Farmers would release ants among the trees, and the ants would dine on the uninvited guests. The farmers knew which species of ants to use – how to breed the ants – and the ideal tie of year to put them to work.

Today, near Wuhan on the Yangtse River, 1,000 kilometers south of Beijing, Dr. Zhao Jingzhao is continuing this tradition by finding ways to control cotton pests with their natural enemies. Cotton has posed difficulties to its growers for hundreds of years – in China, in the United States, and in other countries.

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Spiders work better than pesticides

In China, the main cotton pest is the boll weevil – also a danger to cotton crops in other countries. Zhao’s efforts to perfect new methods of biological control have a certain urgency, because farmers and scientists are increasingly troubled by the costs and dangers of chemicals pesticide use.

Fifteen years ago Zhao turned his attention from rice cultivation to cotton in an effort to reduce the use of chemicals and to stop the poisoning of the environment. Spiders, he found, were the best answer. He conducted a nationwide survey analyzing the range of different spiders active in cotton fields. Rice paddies, fruit trees and corn fields were also studied. In looking for natural predators to control cotton pests, Dr. Zhao found that of 600 predators, more than 100 were varieties of spiders.

After Dr. Zhao and his colleagues select the best spider for a given region and a given pest, they then face the challenge of finding ways to maintain the population.
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In Zhao’s words:

“In Hubei Province, cotton is planted after the wheat harvest. During the harvest, and in the winter, we dig shallow holes and fill them with grass, and we also put grass among the branches of plants. The spiders stay in these grassy areas. This is a simple way to secure a healthy supply of spiders. Then, when the cotton blooms, they come out and eat the pests.”

Zhao is helping a new generation of Chinese farmers rediscover the merits of biological control. By setting the spiders loose in their fields, the farmers find that their crop yields increase. At the same time, they have cut down on chemical use by 80%.

The success that Zhao and his colleagues have had with natural pest control places their expertise in high demand. The United States is one of the countries with whom they exchange ideas.

Biological control began twenty centuries ago in China, but just one century ago in the United States. In 1889, California orange growers were losing their crops to a bug known as the cottony cushion scale. They successfully responded by enlisting the help of a small but hungry insect recently arrived from Australia, the seven-spotted ladybug.

In California’s San Joaqiun valley, as in Hubei, changes from pesticide dependence are underway.

California grows half the fruits and vegetables in the United States. Its farmers handle a lot of dangerous pesticides. One of the chemicals, parathion, has been used heavily on cotton and food crops. Parathion has killed more than fifty farm workers who have handled it. By drifting through the air or collecting in groundwater, it has poisoned many more people, with less-than-fatal, but nonetheless serious consequences. The risks of pesticides – on and off the farm, to children and to adults – have lead many farmers in the San Joaquin valley to turn to organic farming and to biological control. The movements toward integrated pest management are fraught with opposing opinions, but changes are nonetheless underway.

Farming practices in California are changing. In 1984, only 4,000 acres were entirely organic, with no pesticides at all. That number was up to 70,000 by 1990, and many more are under integrated pest management.

One difficult associated with integrated pest management is the cost of providing a continuous diet for the predators, when supplies of pests fall. In California and at the Department of Agriculture, work is underway to develop artificial diets for the beneficial insects, although thus far with limited success. In China, Dr. Zhao spent several years developing such a diet for spiders. He tried dozens of ingredients before he found a combination that worked. The ingredients are simple – egg, honey, sugar, several vitamins and enzymes, milk powder, and water.

Zhao encourages farmers to think of a farm, not as a short-term factory that produces a single annual product, but rather as part of a diverse ecosystem that has to be there for the long haul. He stresses the importance of planting a variety of crops rather than just one, that it is crucial to preserve and use a variety of seeds, and that it’s the ecologically healthy, balanced agricultural system that works.

Farmers in other parts of China, inspired by Zhao’s success, are applying integrated pest management to cotton and to other crops as well. Zhao’s discovery of a successful natural means of controlling the boll weevil, a centuries’ old problem, can now benefit cotton growers not only in China, but in other countries as well. Cotton farmers throughout Hubei now use fewer pesticides, yet produce bigger crops. Their standard of living is improving. They now spend less money on pesticides and make more from their crops, and they have fewer health problems, when Spiders, not pesticides, benefit China’s farming

Health dangers and pest resistance associated with pesticide use in agriculture.

Worldwide, about a million people are poisoned by pesticides each year; ten thousand of these victims die from such poisonings. The risks are greatest in developing countries. Ninety-nine percent of the deaths caused by agricultural chemicals occur in those countries.

Many farm workers cannot read the warning labels about careful use, because they do not know how to read or because the label is in a foreign language. The farmers may be totally unaware of the dangers of handling these chemicals. Often they don’t know that they should avoid reusing pesticide containers for food or water. And when they do understand the warnings, they often don’t have protective clothing or proper storage facilities.

Chemical pesticides have helped millions of people, yet are a mixed blessing. In 1958, the World Health Organization intensified the efforts to eradicate malaria. The insecticide DDT was found to kill the malaria-causing mosquitoes and the incidence of malaria fell dramatically.

Then suddenly, after only five years of spraying, the momentum reversed. Every two years the number of people suffering from malaria doubled. The mosquitoes had developed a resistance to DDT.

The startling realization of how quickly and effectively mosquitoes develop resistance to chemical control was to be seen again and again in the attempts to control insects – both those carrying disease and those plaguing farmers’ crops. The malaria story – an intensive pesticide campaign followed by new generations of pests who outlive any attempt to kill them – by now is a familiar one. It’s happened in efforts to wipe out insects that carry diseases, and it’s happened when farmers have tried to rid their fields of pests.

Nearly 25% of the world’s pesticides are used on cotton – in the United States nearly 50%. But despite this massive bombardment with chemicals, yields are declining in much of the world. In the United States, cotton growers in Texas and other states gave up vast acreage of cotton when pesticides became to costly and ineffective. With chemical dependence, shrinking yields, and decreasing income from crops, the agricultural picture is too often a grim one.

The recent disappearance, world-wide, of honey bees, may be due to the toxins in pesticides, which are used for many crops, pollinated by the honeybees.

Thinking Green

Think of a farm, not as a short-term factory that produces a single annual product, but rather as part of a diverse ecosystem that has to be there for the long haul. Understand, the importance of planting a variety of crops rather than just one; and, it is crucial to preserve and use a variety of seeds. Biological research shows that the ecologically healthy, balanced agricultural system is what works.

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Special Report: Going Green
For Job Market, Green Means Growth
Brian Wingfield
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Bio-Mimicry Engineer/Biologist
This field is so new, it’s tough to label those who practice it. Bio-mimicry is a new branch of scientific research that uses Mother Nature as a guide to solve engineering problems. For example, Australian company Biosignal uses seaweed as a model to develop technologies that repel bacteria rather than kill them.
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Renewable Fuels Engineer/Biologist
The financial rewards associated with the development of renewable fuels are driving much of the business community’s investment in the environment. As long as this money keeps coming in, there will be a need for engineers who can develop more efficient wind turbines and solar panels, and biologists who can develop cleaner–and cheaper–biofuels.

In 1999, as the dot-com boom reached new heights, environmental journalist Joel Makower launched an online publication covering business and environmental interests: two areas he believed would become more connected.

Smart bet. The tech bubble burst, but Makower’s publication, GreenBiz.com, boomed. Providing news and analysis, it’s the flagship publication for Greener World Media, a for-profit company he created last year with associate Pete May. “As the greening of business expands, it is filtering into every aspect of business,” from procurement to marketing to human resources, says Makower.

According to Kevin Doyle, president of Green Economy, a Boston-based firm that promotes an environmentally healthy workforce, the green industry in the United States in 2005 was about $265 billion employing 1.6 million people in an estimated 118,000 jobs. This information was adapted from the Environmental Business Journal, he says, and does not include the organic industry.

Green businesses have also been growing at a rate of about 5% annually during the last three years, Doyle says. Two particularly hot areas are global carbon credit trading, which doubled to $28 billion from 2005 to 2006, and construction and services associated with ”green buildings” that meet industry standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. Today, the green building industry is worth $12 billion; 10 years ago, it was unquantifiable.

The greening of industry is creating a constellation of new careers, and they’re not your everyday forestry professions. Many of them are environmental twists on old professions, like law, or in Makower’s case, journalism. Others are engineering careers tied to research in renewable technologies like wind energy and ethanol production. For instance:

— Emissions brokers: In a market economy, credits to emit greenhouse gases can be traded on an exchange, and brokers facilitate the deal. If the U.S. ever moves to a mandatory trading system, expect this field to boom.

— Bio-mimicry engineers: This new branch of science uses Mother Nature as a model for solving engineering problems. For example, Atlanta’s Sto Corp. created a self-cleaning paint that repels dirt whenever it gets wet, just like the lotus leaf does.

— Sustainability coordinators: Corporations from AstraZeneca to Wal-Mart are now employing managers to oversee the economic and environmental components of company efforts.

— Green architects: With an increasing focus on energy-efficient buildings, a growing number of architects and developers are getting certified to become specialists in green design.

Corporations assume that at some point in the future, governments will put a price on waste, says Doyle. So it’s better to invest now in clean technologies than to lose money if new regulations come into play. “People want to get ahead of the game,” he says.

Conversely, companies see new revenue streams in green technologies and social responsibility. Goldman Sachs, for example, has invested heavily in the wind industry. Earlier this year, Tyson Foods and ConocoPhillips jointly announced plans to make diesel fuel from chicken fat. And Silicon Valley venture capital firms, like Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, are shoveling money into the development of clean technologies.

Universities–particularly business schools–also see opportunity. Schools such as Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan offer joint M.B.A./environmental science masters degrees. Derrick Bolton, director of admissions at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, says many students are taking positions with corporations that have a commitment to the environment.

“They’re what I call the ‘and’ generation,” he says. “They don’t want to make money or support the environment. They want to do both.”

Students in Michigan’s dual degree program are encouraged to intern with both a non-governmental organization and a business while in graduate school. “Students coming in are very aware of the sustainability program,” says Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at Michigan. “It’s really just a matter of time before we’re going to start valuing carbon and valuing pollution.”

Makower’s advice to students pursuing a green job is to learn all they can about business. The most exciting things are happening in product design, research and development, manufacturing, and buildings and grounds. “If you go into the environmental part of a company, you become ghettoized,” he says.

But what if you’re no longer in school? Where do you find a green job?

The Web site of Business for Social Responsibility (bsr.org), a group that helps companies navigate sustainability issues, is a good place to start. GreenBiz.com also contains a job board. Others are ecojobs.com, which includes a broad array of positions from conservation to engineering to international opportunities. Greenjobs.com focuses on the renewable fuel industry.

Makower, who survived the dot-com implosion, says the green boom is no bubble. There’s a proven market, government backing and corporate buy-in. His take: Expect green business to grow even more over the next decade, and a new generation of green careers to blossom with it.

Ben Saunders

Target Health met and talked with Ben Saunders, who will amaze you with tales and images of his expedition in the Arctic. He was the first person in the world to cross, solo [and unsupported], the Arctic Ocean – that’s a 1,240 mile journey across one of the most challenging climates on the earth. After crossing areas of unprecedented thinning ice and open water – experiencing the effects of global climate change first hand – Ben has begun to raise international awareness on the changes. How does he do it? His answer is an inspiring one: “don’t underestimate what ‘man’ is capable of when we have a strong belief system about our goals and destiny.” Ben Saunders’ solo, journey across the frozen Arctic Ocean shows that the only limits of human potential are what we can dream of achieving.

Target Health Inc. is proud to be a contributor to The Millennium Villages project, supported by The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, the United Nations Development Programme, and the UN Millennium Project. Columbia University’s Professor Jeffrey Sachs MD is the Head of The Earth Institute.

NEW YORK, June 15, 2007 – A new initiative from Columbia University Medical Center will be the first to target chronic oral health problems in sub-Saharan Africa, where the vast majority of chronic diseases are left undetected and untreated. The initiative is the result of an anonymous $1.5 million gift to support the Millennium Villages, which aims to fight extreme poverty and related challenges such as disease, hunger and lack of access to water and sanitation though scientifically sound and sustainable interventions. A third of the gift will be devoted to supporting the oral health program.

Dr. Syrop in Ethiopia

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Dr. Steven Syrop and a patient in Koraro, Ethiopia

Chronic diseases will soon become the leading cause of health problems in the developing world, and oral health conditions are one of the most common chronic disorders, according to the World Health Organization. Initial Columbia research in the village of Koraro, Ethiopia, found that more than half of the population complained of oral pain. The generous donation will fund the first extensive initiative, led by Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine, to directly target oral health problems in sub-Saharan Africa with a sustainable prevention and treatment program.

“Oral health is important to total health, so it’s essential that efforts to improve the lives of impoverished communities include a dental component,” said Ira Lamster, DDS, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “The faculty and students of Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine are committed to addressing the global epidemic of chronic oral health problems through treatment and prevention programs.”

“There is currently no access to dental care whatsoever in the remote villages of the world,” said Steven Syrop, DDS, associate clinical professor of dentistry at the College of Dental Medicine, who is leading the dental component of the Millennium Villages. “There are only 48 dentists in the entire country of Ethiopia, and most are in the capital, Addis Ababa. We’re going to bring dental care to villages where there are no dentists.”

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Dental student Jeff Laughlin and Dr. Syrop in Koraro, Ethiopia

The health component of the Millennium Villages grew out of the United Nations Millennium Project and the World Health Organization Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, both of which showed the direct link between improving public health and economic growth. Those reports explained that health improvements can only happen through a broad range of inter-related public health reforms.

The Millennium Villages project, supported by The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, the United Nations Development Programme, and the UN Millennium Project, currently includes 12 sites in 10 sub-Saharan countries. It reaches more than 400,000 people with plans to increase its reach over time. The project empowers the local health care sector by supporting basic health interventions, building or upgrading clinics, and expanding the pool of community or village health workers. The participating villages are integral partners in the project and take responsibility for the interventions.

In addition to the oral health initiative, the new funding will support Columbia-led interventions to address chronic cardiovascular and mental health disorders in the region.

The dental component of the project is the result of research by Dr. Syrop and his team, who traveled to Koraro, Ethiopia, in the fall of 2006 to assess the oral health situation in the village of 5,100 people. In addition to the common complaint of oral pain, the team found a high incidence of hardened plaque (calculus) and gingival bleeding. Ninety-five percent of the people they examined had significant dental erosion because of the presence of sand in their food as a result of the arid environment and lack of water for rinsing crops.

“We were surprised by the extent of the oral health crisis in Ethiopia,” said Dr. Syrop. “In an area where the population has little access to sugary food and fermentable carbohydrates, we didn’t expect the problem to be as bad as it is. Developing a sustainable oral health program is an essential ingredient to improving the lives of these people.”

Teams of five or so Columbia faculty, staff and students will travel this fall to sub-Saharan countries, including Tanzania, Rwanda and Senegal, to collect data and assess the population’s oral health needs. They will use the data to develop a program for three or four villages initially, and then ultimately incorporate oral health as an integral component of improving health care at all of the Millennium Village sites.

The Columbia teams will train local health care workers to provide basic essential dental care, including extractions and control of infections. Additionally, the teams will introduce a comprehensive prevention program in the schools and the overall community by working with local teachers to develop a curriculum that is appropriate and sustainable for the individual village. They also will develop a prevention program to educate mothers about caring for the oral health of their young children.

“Treating and preventing oral health problems is one spoke in the wheel of improving conditions in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Syrop. “By improving their health, we enable this population to be more productive, helping them to improve their economic situation and lift themselves out of poverty.”

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Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. www.cumc.columbia.edu

As the Earth’s temperatures continue to rise, we can expect a signficant change in infectious disease patterns around the globe. Just exactly what those changes will be remains unclear, but scientists agree they will not be for the good.

“Environmental changes have always been associated with the appearance of new diseases or the arrival of old diseases in new places. With more changes, we can expect more surprises,” says Stephen Morse of Columbia University, speaking May 22, 2007, at the 107th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Toronto.

In its April 2007 report on the impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that rising temperatures may result in “the altered spatial distribution of some infectious disease vectors,” and will have “mixed effects, such as the decrease or increase of the range and transmission potential of malaria in Africa.”

“Diseases carried by insects and ticks are likely to be affected by environmental changes because these creatures are themselves very sensitive to vegetation type, temperature, humidity etc. However, the direction of change – whether the diseases will increase or decrease – is much more difficult to predict, because disease transmission involves many factors, some of which will increase and some decrease with environmental change. A combination of historical disease records and present-day ground-based surveillance, remotely sensed (satellite) and other data, and good predictive models is needed to describe the past, explain the present and predict the future of vector-borne infectious diseases,” says David Rogers of Oxford University, also speaking at the meeting.

One impact of rising global temperatures, though, can be fairly accurately predicted, says Morse. In the mountains of endemic areas, malaria is not transmitted above a certain altitude because temperatures are too cold to support mosquitoes. As temperatures rise, this malaria line will rise as well.

“One of the first indicators of rising global temperatures could be malaria climbing mountains,” says Morse.

Another change could be the flu season. Influenza is a year-round event in the tropics. If the tropical airmass around the Earth’s equator expands, as new areas lose their seasons they may also begin to see influenza year-round.

And extreme weather events will also lead to more disease, unless we are prepared. As the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events change, water supplies become more at risk, according Joan Rose of Michigan State University.

“Hurricanes, typhoons, tornados and just high intensity storms have exacerbated an aging drinking and wastewater infrastructure, enhanced the mixing of untreated sewage and water supplies, re-suspended pathogens from sediments and displaced large populations to temporary shelters. We are at greater risk than ever before of infectious disease associated with increasing extreme weather events,” says Rose.
There will also be indirect effects of climate change on infectious disease as well. For instance, says Morse, the effect of global warming on agriculture could lead to significant changes in disease transmission and distribution.

“If agriculture in a particular area begins to fail due drought, more people will move into cities,” says Morse. High population densities, especially in developing countries, are associated with an increased transmission of a variety of diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, respiratory diseases (such as influenza) and sexually transmitted diseases.

“I’m worried about climate change and agree that something needs to be done,” says Morse. “Otherwise, we can hope our luck will hold out.”

Source : American Society for Microbiology

Scary news that ice is melting in Antarctica!

Supposedly, if that continent remainded intact, the planet would not suffer from global warming as much. However, if the ice in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica is melting, then the sea levels will surely rise.

From Yahoo News

Rising temperatures caused a layer of snow blanketing a California-sized region of Antarctica to melt, US space agency NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Dire times: This image shows what a team of Nasa and university scientists say is clear evidence that extensive areas of snow melted in west Antarctica (in January 2005) in response to warm temperatures.

A team of scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of Colorado said new satellite imagery had revealed a vast expanse of snow melt in 2005 where it had previously been considered unlikely.

The NASA statement described the findings as “the most significant melt observed using satellites during the past three decades.”

Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, said it was the first time melting on such a scale had been detected.

“Antarctica has shown little to no warming in the recent past with the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula, but now large regions are showing the first signs of the impacts of warming,” said Steffen.

“Increases in snowmelt, such as this in 2005, definitely could have an impact on larger-scale melting of Antarctica’s ice sheets if they were severe or sustained over time.”

The melting occurred in multiple areas, including far inland, at high latitudes and high elevations, where melt had once been considered unlikely.

The melting was discovered using satellite scatterometry, a sophisticated imaging system which is able to distinguish between recently frozen ice or snow from snow that has been frozen for years.

The 2005 melt was intense enough to create an extensive ice layer when water refroze after the melt, the statement said. However, the melt was not prolonged enough for the melt water to flow into the sea.

Steffen said water from melted snow could penetrate ice sheets through cracks and glacial shafts known as moulins, which can cause the ice mass to slip and move toward the ocean faster.

Son Nghiem, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said while no further melting had been detected through March this year, more monitoring is needed.

“Satellite scatterometry is like an X-ray that sees through snow and finds ice layers beneath as early as possible,” he said.

“It is vital we continue monitoring this region to determine if a long-term trend may be developing.”

The full results from the study “Snow Accumulation and Snowmelt Monitoring in Greenland and Antarctica,” appears in a recently published book “Dynamic Planet,” the statement added.

Executive director of SELF, Robert Freling, is lighting up the developing world and empowering self-sufficiency by delivering solar power to more than 2 billion people on the planet living without electricity.

20070507_frog.jpgAccording to Cosmos Online, the population of amphibians are in decline at an alarming rate.

SYDNEY: Massive declines in amphibian populations are due to a combination of factors linked to changing climate, not a single issue, according to a new study.

Frogs, newts and relatives have been unable to adapt swiftly enough to cope with today’s unprecedented rate of global warming, said zoologist Andrew Blaustein of the Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, U.S., and this is driving them toward extinction.

Over the last 30 years, amphibian have been diminishing worldwide. Of the 5,743 species, 43 per cent are in decline, 32 per cent are under threat, and 168 have become extinct. Infectious disease, U.V. light, habitat destruction and pollution have all been cited as causes of the rapidly plummeting numbers.

The infectious chytrid skin fungus has had a particularly devastating impact on frog populations, especially in the tropics.

Climate linked

Now, Blaustein and OSU colleague Betsy Bancroft, argue that these causes are all linked to global climate change, and the inability of amphibians to cope with so many different pressures simultaneously. They detail their findings, the result of an extensive literature review, in the journal Bioscience.

“There have always been threats, and [amphibians] have been some of the most adaptive and successful vertebrates on Earth,” said Blaustein. “They were around before the dinosaurs, have lived in periods with very different climates, and continued to thrive while many other species went extinct. But right now, they just can’t keep up.”

Amphibians are considered by experts to be a ‘canary in the coalmine’ of environmental damage, due to a physiology that makes them highly sensitive to changes in their habitats, said Blaustein.

Due to their exposed and permeable skin, complex life cycle, and the fact that their eggs have no shells, they are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature and moisture. And while these characteristics have played a role in their evolutionary success, under present conditions, they seem to be contributing to their downfall, he said.

“Emerging disease”

Though global warming is a factor, this study underestimates the role of infectious disease, commented Michael Mahony, a conservation biologist at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. He argues that there hasn’t yet been a great enough rise in global temperatures to have such a rapid impact on populations.

The chytrid fungus, which was first identified in Australia, is highly infectious and highly transmissible among frog populations, said Mahony, and he has seen first hand how it can ravage amphibian species. “I have the dubious honour of being the only biologist to describe a new frog species and see it become extinct within two years,” he said.

After a million years, amphibians are survivors, added Mahony. “The bottom line is that around 1980, something catastrophic happened which led to the rapid extinction of hundreds of species of frogs in 30 years, and it wasn’t global environmental change. It was the release of [the chytrid fungus,] a new emerging disease which had never been seen before.


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