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Bull shark charges Queensland diver, impales itself on spear – video

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 16:38

Danny Henricks was spear fishing off the north Queensland coast when a bull shark shot out of the depths towards him. Luckily, he had the presence of mind to thrust the spear towards the charging shark, which became impaled. Henricks said of the terrifying encounter, which occurred in December: ‘I lunged forward with the gun a little bit just before he got there but most of it was his force.’ Henricks told the ABC he held on to the spear – which was driven through the shark’s mouth – before abandoning it and swimming to the surface

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Government review likely to back Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 16:00

£1.3bn plan is seen as ‘pathfinder’ for six bigger plants, which could generate more than 10% of UK’s electricity

Plans for a pioneering tidal power lagoon in Swansea Bay are expected to be supported by a government-commissioned report this week, potentially unlocking a multibillion-pound series of projects harnessing electricity from the rise and fall of the tide around the UK.

When ministers last year ordered a review to see if the technology could affordably provide green energy to the UK, it was widely seen as a way to kill off an ambitious project at Swansea proposed by Tidal Lagoon Power.

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Parks Victoria staff used work credit cards for KFC to lure feral cats

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 15:20

Credit card bill was $2.2m last year, and was also used to spend $347 at a jewellery store, $898 at a bike shop and $5,000 at JB Hi-Fi

Parks Victoria staff have justified the use of their taxpayer-funded credit cards on hundreds of dollars worth of KFC because it is an effective bait for luring feral cats.

On Monday Victoria’s environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced an external auditor would undertake an independent review of Parks Victoria’s credit card transactions over the past four years.

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Queensland community action prevents Santos from freely dumping coal seam gas waste

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 13:19

Challenge by Western Downs Alliance prompts environment minister Josh Frydenberg to revamp approval of development

Legal action by a Queensland community group has forced the federal government to stop Santos freely dumping coal seam gas waste water in Surat Basin rivers and streams.

A federal court challenge by the Western Downs Alliance has prompted the minister for environment and energy, Josh Frydenberg, to revamp his approval of the Santos gasfield development, in what has been hailed as a victory in protecting the Dawson river.

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Warming world harming insects' reproduction, says study

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 12:12
A warming world is harming insects ability to reproduce, which could have long-term consequences, scientists warn.
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Primate tool-use: Chimpanzees make drinking sticks

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 12:10
Critically endangered chimpanzees in Ivory Coast craft extra-absorbent drinking sticks, researchers observe.
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Sandpipers go the extra 8,000 miles to have as much sex as possible

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 11:24

Small birds were observed travelling to as many as 24 different breeding sites in Alaska within six weeks, further than flying from Paris to Moscow

A bird smaller than a city pigeon has been recorded flying 13,000km (8,000 miles) in just one month to have sex with as many females as possible

In behaviour never witnessed before, male pectoral sandpipers were observed travelling to as many as 24 different “breeding sites” in northern Alaska within a single season, a team of scientists wrote in the journal Nature.

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New candidate for 'missing element' in Earth's core

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 11:04
Scientists believe they have established the identity of a "missing element" in the Earth's core.
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Chimp drinking culture caught on video

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 10:13
Critically Endangered chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast craft extra-absorbent drinking sticks, remote cameras reveal.
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UK throwing away £13bn of food each year, latest figures show

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 10:01

Waste and recycling advisory body says 4.4m tonnes of household food waste thrown away in 2015 could have been eaten

UK households binned £13bn worth of food in 2015 that could have been eaten, according to new figures which suggest that progress in reducing the national food waste mountain has stalled.

Despite concerted efforts to reduce food waste through the entire supply chain, a new national update from the waste and recycling advisory body Wrap revealed that an estimated 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in 2015 – up from 7m tonnes in 2012.

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Fracking concerns must be listened to | Letters

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 05:57

As public health researchers we noted your article on fracking (Friends of the Earth ticked off over claims in anti-fracking leaflet, 4 January) and wish to highlight the following: fracking operations involve pumping millions of litres of water containing fracking fluids underground and a small percentage of wastewater contains returned fracking fluids. Estimates vary depending on geological conditions but recent research suggests typically 4-8%. It is well established in peer-reviewed studies and government reports that fracturing fluids and wastewater have contaminated ground and surface waters.

An early peer-reviewed study on chemicals in fracking fluids found 25% could cause cancer and mutations, 37% could affect the endocrine system, 40-50% could affect the brain/nervous system, kidneys, immune system and cardiovascular systems. More recent studies support these findings, including a systematic evaluation that examined 240 fracking substances and found evidence suggesting 43% were linked to reproductive toxicity and 40% to developmental toxicity.

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Desperate exodus of the climate refugees | Letters

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 05:57

In the last six years, some 140 million people have been forced to move because of climate-related disasters (Mongolian herders fly steppe blighted by climate extremes and social change, 5 January). Climate change is driving long-term environmental damage and sudden catastrophes, presenting a global long-term threat to human security. According to the UN, by mid-century, one in 30 people could be displaced, many as a result of climate change. Existing global inequalities are exacerbated by the injustice of climate change which severely affects the poorest and most vulnerable, those who have contributed least to the climate crisis. Although climate change and enforced migration are increasingly linked, those displaced have no legal standing under existing international refugee and asylum law.

Record-breaking increases in global temperature mask the unequal impact of planetary warming. Temperature increases in Mongolia have risen by more than double the global average over the past century. Elsewhere, in Somalia, Darfur, Syria and across sub-Saharan Africa, the chronic effects of drought, water scarcity and agricultural crises in rural areas no longer able to sustain their peoples have driven hundreds of thousands of migrants into cities and across borders. Safe haven is provided overwhelmingly by other poor countries, whilst richer countries respond by building walls and fences and a political debate that is toxic and often racist.

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Can Facebook help you make your home more sustainable?

The Conversation - Tue, 2017-01-10 05:33
Social media might help you navigate the confusing world of sustainability. ra2studio/shutterstock.com

Facebook has always been controversial, with many users worrying about how the information they post might be used. Lately, the social media behemoth has also been criticised for facilitating the spread of fake news.

But over the past 18 months I have learned that the technology of Facebook groups offers an effective way for people to collaborate on common interests – in my case, on enhancing the sustainability of our homes and lifestyles.

As part of a research project, I created a public Facebook group where members initially discussed and decoded a particularly sophisticated space-heating heat pump (otherwise known on mainland Australia as a reverse-cycle air conditioner). Predictably, our discussions quickly expanded to include other aspects of home economics, aesthetics, comfort and sustainability.

Today the group is called My Efficient Electric Home. Membership has doubled over the past two months. It now includes more than 550 people, from every state and territory of Australia as well as New Zealand and other countries.

It’s global, but it can quickly become local. The other day a member living near Cairns, Queensland, posed some questions about solar panels and tropical swimming pools. Shortly thereafter another member, also from around Cairns, chimed in with (hopefully!) the answer.

My efficient electric home

Our stated purpose is for group members to discuss methods of space heating, water heating and cooking using electricity rather than fossil gas or wood. Our focus on electricity recognises a future in which renewable energy is the fuel of choice, whether it is sourced from a central or neighbourhood grid, or generated and stored at home.

The Electric Home of the Future, as envisaged in the past. Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1939

As a “public” group, millions of Facebook users from anywhere on the planet can find us and passively observe our discussions. For those who wish to engage more actively, becoming a member (by making a request to the group admin) allows users to ask or answer questions, post information and receive notifications about our group’s activity. Some of our members belong to dozens of Facebook groups, but for others, like me, My Efficient Electric Home was their very first.

Ours isn’t the only internet group to discuss sustainability and energy efficiency. Various online resources such as the Whirlpool forum have been around for years, covering topics ranging from computer software to travel. Moderated sites such as the Alternative Technology Association and Choice have covered home-sustainability topics.

And of course we can’t forget the hundreds of comments left by readers of my previous home-energy-related articles right here on The Conversation. However, an attraction of Facebook over simpler message boards is Facebook’s wide range of features.

How it’s working

Members of our Facebook group can upload photos, videos, data files of energy use or generation, research reports, manuals for appliances, energy bills and letters from utility companies, links to other sites, relevant news articles, and more.

Thinking of switching off gas? Tim Forcey

Facebook’s technique of “rolling-up” and “cascading-down” discussion threads means that topics of less interest quickly sink from immediate view (although they are never lost). Months-old discussions are easily resurrected whenever a member adds a new comment or question. For example, subjects such as space-heating can lie dormant during the summer months, but become front-of-mind when winter again approaches.

Unlike some other discussion forums, we encourage commercial contacts and transactions (which are eventually taken offline by the customer and vendor), and subsequent feedback. I recently mined the data available within our group and found that our discussions may have influenced more than A$400,000 worth of member purchases. And we can only guess at the number of other onlooking householders who have been influenced by our publicly-visible discussions.

That said, not every discussion thread at our site centres on commercial transactions or choosing which appliances to buy. Researchers have surveyed our group to gain insight into our membership’s views and opinions. Some members are encouraging others to use their home experiences to join in pushing governments toward more progressive policies and regulations, ranging from removing disincentives for using heat pumps to limiting woodsmoke particulate pollution.

Making sense of sustainability

Many people find it difficult to source reliable information about improving their home’s comfort or reducing their environmental footprint. Every person and every home is different – often there are no simple answers to people’s needs and wants.

As the pace of technological change accelerates, the information available on government and other websites, although originally posted with good intent, quickly loses touch with the current market and may even mislead. The relative prices of gas and electricity can quickly change. Efficient home-energy technologies that have been proven overseas can suddenly appear on the Australian market.

For all its alleged malign influence in the world, information posted to Facebook is undeniably fast, topical and current. Groups like ours might be a useful way for people to find the information they need.

The Conversation

Tim Forcey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Categories: Around The Web

Obama says shift to green energy is 'irreversible' despite Trump

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 04:55
Renewable energy will continue to grow in the US despite the antipathy of the incoming Trump administration.
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Obama puts pressure on Trump to adhere to US climate change strategy

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 03:31

The US president has been writing for academic journals to pre-empt arguments Trump or Republicans are likely to use to roll back his key accomplishments

Barack Obama called the adoption of clean energy in the US “irreversible” on Monday, putting pressure on his successor, Donald Trump, not to back away from a core strategy to fight climate change.

Obama, penning an opinion article in the journal Science, sought to frame the argument in a way that might appeal to the president-elect: in economic terms. He said the fact that the cost and polluting power of energy had dropped at the same time proved that fighting climate change and spurring economic growth were not mutually exclusive.

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US plans to save polar bears are toothless, says climate scientist

The Guardian - Tue, 2017-01-10 02:32

US strategy offers no direct action to address threat of greenhouse gases on decline of sea ice habitat

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has released its plan for the recovery of threatened polar bears, acknowledging it will take no direct action to address the primary threat of greenhouse gases on the decline of sea ice habitat.

Related: This is the polar bear capital of the world, but the snow has gone

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Mother-baby bonding insight revealed

BBC - Tue, 2017-01-10 02:00
Scientists say mothers hold babies on the left to help in bonding - and this is not unique to humans.
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Wildscapes and confronting ourselves

ABC Environment - Mon, 2017-01-09 21:20
Moral philosopher Raimond Gaita and poet Nick Drake discuss their journeys into wild landscapes, that hold up a confronting mirror to ourselves, our ethics and our politics.
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Invitation to comment on Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox

Department of the Environment - Mon, 2017-01-09 17:08
The Department is seeking comments on the Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). Consultation period closes 24 April 2017.
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Rebirth of a native woodland

The Guardian - Mon, 2017-01-09 15:30

Windermere, Lake District The wood is coming back to life, aided by a man on a mission

Not everyone’s idea of a retirement present, perhaps, but three years ago Hamish Ross bought himself a wood to the east of Windermere, roughly triangular and bordered by a dry-stone wall. “The first thing we did was fix the walls and put up a deer-proof fence,” he said, leading me through the new gate. “They’d been getting in for decades – eaten everything. The under-storey had completely disappeared. Now, we get excited about brambles.”

As we walked along, he pointed out the line of 10 conifers he’d kept for shelter – all that remained of an acre of neglected Sitka spruce and larch. With the dense tangle gone, light could once more filter onto the ancient woodland floor, helping the 900 indigenous saplings that Hamish has planted over the past couple of years. Reaching to a couple of metres high, they were woven through the centre of the wood amid mature trees and fallen giants. An assortment of buds – elegant orange beech tips, the red bulbs of lime, fat nut-coloured horse chestnut and downy crab apple – adorned their branches. This winter, he will be planting 350 more.

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