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How wildlife is thriving in the Korean peninsula's demilitarised zone

The Guardian - Fri, 2012-04-13 21:20
The forces that lock humans out of the DMZ have allowed other species to thrive. Could a remnant of violent conflict become the symbol of a greener, more peaceful future?

• In pictures: wildlife in the DMZ
The world's most dangerous nature reserve

A thin green ribbon threads its way across the Korean Peninsula. Viewed from space, via composite satellite images, the winding swath clearly demarcates the political boundary between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Its visual impact is especially strong in the west, where it separates the gray, concrete sprawl of Seoul from the brown, deforested wastes south of Kaesong. In the east, it merges with the greener landscapes of the Taebaek Mountain Range and all but disappears.

From the ground, the narrow verdant band manifests as an impenetrable barrier of overgrown vegetation enclosed by layers of fences topped by menacing concertina wire and dotted with observation posts manned by heavily armed soldiers. That a place so steeped in violence still teems with life seems unimaginable. And yet, the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the peninsula. It is the last haven for many of these plants and animals and the centre of attention for those intent on preserving Korea's rich ecological heritage.

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Iceland's volcanoes may power UK

The Guardian - Thu, 2012-04-12 03:59
The energy minister is to visit Iceland in May to discuss connecting the UK to its abundant geothermal energy

The volcanoes of Iceland could soon be pumping low-carbon electricity into the UK under government-backed plans for thousands of miles of high-voltage cables across the ocean floor.

The energy minister, Charles Hendry, is to visit Iceland in May to discuss connecting the UK to its abundant geothermal energy. "We are in active discussions with the Icelandic government and they are very keen," Hendry told the Guardian. To reach Iceland, which sits over a mid-ocean split in the earth's crust, the cable would have to be 1,000 to 1,500km long and by far the longest in the world.

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Is the EU taking its over-fishing habits to west African waters?

The Guardian - Mon, 2012-04-02 23:01
The UN says EU trawlers are out-muscling 1.5 million fishermen, who themselves warn west Africa could 'become like Somalia'

Mauritania's waters are crowded. Twenty-five miles out to sea and in great danger from turbulent seas are small, open pirogues crewed by handfuls of local fishermen, taking pitifully few fish. Also here within 50 miles of us are at least 20 of the biggest EU fishing vessels, along with Chinese, Russian and Icelandic trawlers and unidentifiable pirate ships.

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World water day – in pictures

The Guardian - Fri, 2012-03-23 11:44
Photographs from around the world on the day marked by the UN to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of resources Continue reading...
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Appetite for shark fin soup 'causing decline of blue sharks in UK waters'

The Guardian - Sat, 2012-03-10 02:06
Study says blue shark population off UK coast is targeted by fisherman using 'wall of death' method, before being sent to Asia

The demand for shark fin soup in Asia is probably the major cause of the alarming decline of blue sharks off the British coast and much of the Atlantic, the authors of a new study claim this week.

Scientists from the UK and Portugal have tracked the ocean predators to busy fishing grounds, where they believe they are being deliberately targeted by fishermen with "walls of death" from long-line fishing that can stretch as long as 100km.

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How do we know how warm or cold it was in the past?

The Guardian - Thu, 2012-03-08 02:04
This Q&A is part of the Guardian's ultimate climate change FAQ

See all questions and answers
Read about the project

Scientists today measure the Earth's surface temperature using thermometers at weather stations and on ships and buoys all over the world. Such thermometer records cover a large fraction of the globe going back to the mid-19th century, allowing scientists to determine a global average temperature trend for the last 160 years.

Before that time not many thermometer records are available, so scientists use indirect temperature measurements, supported by anecdotal evidence recorded by diarists, and the few thermometer records that do exist. Scientists must rely solely on indirect methods to look back further than recorded human history.

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Too many deer for too few people – a self-defeating study of the Highlands | George Monbiot

The Guardian - Fri, 2012-03-02 23:00
A paper by the Scottish Gamekeepers' Association argues in favour of deer-stalking by the rich on the grounds that it is uneconomic

I've read too many daft reports in the course of this job, but I don't remember any as self-defeating as this. This morning the Scottish Gamekeepers' Association launches its study on the economic importance of red deer to Scotland's rural economy. It succeeds in demonstrating the opposite of what it sets out to prove.

The association represents people working for the big estates of Scotland, which are visited at certain months of the year by a small number of exceedingly rich people, who come to shoot stags or grouse.

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Does building turbines use more energy than they produce?

The Guardian - Wed, 2012-02-29 19:00
The average windfarm produces 20-25 times more energy during its operational life than was used to construct and install its turbines

Critics of wind energy often claim that the energy used to construct a wind turbine outweighs the energy produced during its lifetime in operation. This is not correct. An evidence review published in the journal Renewable Energy in 2010, which included data from 119 turbines across 50 sites going back 30 years, concluded that the average windfarm produces 20-25 times more energy during its operational life than was used to construct and install its turbines. It also found that the average "energy payback" of a turbine was 3-6 months.

A life-cycle analysis published in 2011 by Vestas, a Danish turbines manufacturer, of a 100MW onshore windfarm consisting of 33 3MW turbines concluded, unsurprisingly, that the siting of the turbines is crucial in maximising the energy return ratio. "Doubling the distance to the grid from 50 km to 100 km typically increases [negative]

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Fishing skippers and factory fined nearly £1m for illegal catches

The Guardian - Sat, 2012-02-25 04:26
Police uncover 'serious and organised' criminality in £63m scam to breach European fishing quotas

An inquiry into the UK's largest fishing scandal has uncovered "serious and organised" criminality by Scottish trawlermen and fish processors in an elaborate scam to illegally sell nearly £63m of undeclared fish.

Three large fish factories and 27 skippers have pleaded guilty to sophisticated and lucrative schemes to breach EU fishing quotas, in what one senior police officer described as "industrial level" deception.

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Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science

The Guardian - Wed, 2012-02-15 13:30
Libertarian thinktank keeps prominent sceptics on its payroll and relies on millions in funding from carbon industry, papers suggest

Heartland claims fraud after leak of climate documents

The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.

DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an "insider" at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.

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The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows

The Guardian - Thu, 2012-02-09 04:10
Meltwater from Asia's peaks is much less than previously estimated, but lead scientist says the loss of ice caps and glaciers around the world remains a serious concern

Live Q&A: What does the Himalaya glacier study mean for climate change?
In pictures: the best images of the Earth from space

The world's greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.

The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.

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Penn State defies Facebook campaign calling for it to drop climate lecture | Leo Hickman

The Guardian - Sat, 2012-02-04 02:13
University cites its First Amendment commitment in supporting its climate scientist Michael Mann's right to give lecture

In an uncharacteristically angry post at the New York Times's Dot Earth blog, Andy Revkin has hit out at a "shameful attack on free speech". It relates to a Facebook campaign which is calling on Pennsylvania State University to "disinvite" Professor Michael E. Mann, the director of its Earth System Science Center, from giving a lecture next week entitled: "Confronting the Climate Change Challenge."

The Facebook campaign has been initiated by a seemingly conjoined group called the Common Sense Movement/Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee. Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress has investigated the people behind it and describes it as a "coal-industry astroturf group". Here's a video from the Common Sense Movement's "I Am Coal" campaign, which gives an insight into its worldview...

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Glacier thief arrested in Chile

The Guardian - Thu, 2012-02-02 09:25
Police hold man on suspicion of stealing five tonnes of ice from a glacier in Patagonia to sell as designer ice cubes for cocktails

In pictures: The world's melting glaciers

Climate change sceptics have acquired a new explanation for why glaciers are retreating: it's not global warming, it's theft.

Police in Chile have arrested a man on suspicion of stealing five tonnes of ice from the Jorge Montt glacier in the Patagonia region to sell as designer ice cubes in bars and restaurants.

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China's largest freshwater lake dries up

The Guardian - Wed, 2012-02-01 00:04
Drought and new Three Gorges Dam blamed as fishers forced to seek other work and freight trade comes to a halt

For visitors expecting to see China's largest freshwater lake, Poyang is a desolate spectacle. Under normal circumstances it covers 3,500 sq km, but last month only 200 sq km were underwater. A dried-out plain stretches as far as the eye can see, leaving a pagoda perched on top of a hillock that is usually a little island. Wrapped in the mist characteristic of the lower reaches of the Yangtze river, the barges are moored close to the quayside beside a pitiful trickle of water. There is no work for the fisheries.

According to the state news agency Xinhua, the drought – the worst for 60 years – is due to the lack of rainfall in the area round Poyang and its tributaries. Poor weather conditions this year are partly responsible. But putting the blame on them overlooks the role played by the colossal Three Gorges reservoir, 500km upstream. The cause and effect is still not officially recognised, even if the government did admit last May that the planet's biggest dam had given rise to "problems that need to be solved very urgently".

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World's giant trees are dying off rapidly, studies show

The Guardian - Thu, 2012-01-26 17:00
Ecological 'kings of the jungle' being toppled by forest fragmentation, severe drought and new pests and diseases

The biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are dying off rapidly as roads, farms and settlements fragment forests and they come under prolonged attack from severe droughts and new pests and diseases.

Long-term studies in Amazonia, Africa and central America show that while these botanical behemoths may have adapted successfully to centuries of storms, pests and short-term climatic extremes, they are counterintuitively more vulnerable than other trees to today's threats.

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What is the best way to draught-proof stripped wooden floors? | Caramel Quin

The Guardian - Fri, 2011-12-16 21:40
The small gaps between boards add up to the equivalent of a small window. No wonder your toes are feeling chilly

You wouldn't leave a window wide open if the heating were on. But if you have stripped floorboards, the chances are that you're doing the equivalent. Cold air naturally circulates below ground floor floorboards, and the small gaps between boards in an average-sized room add up to the equivalent of a small window. No wonder your toes are feeling chilly. According to the Energy Saving Trust, just filling gaps between floor and skirting boards will save around £20 – and 100kg of CO2 – annually, paying for itself in less than a year.

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Livia Firth: the woman who turned the red carpet green

The Guardian - Sun, 2011-12-04 10:07
Standing in the spotlight alongside her movie star husband, Livia Firth rejects big labels to wear reclaimed fabrics. Now she's turning her hand to design

She is seen as the world's most glamorous champion of "eco style" and has been dubbed "the queen of the green carpet". Now Livia Firth is moving into design: last week she revealed she is working on a line for the online retailer Yoox's eco brand Yooxygen, in partnership with Reclaim To Wear, which helps designers recycle textile surplus and waste.

Upcycling – or remaking cast-off items into something different and better – is something of a Firth speciality. She first drew attention to Reclaim to Wear when she wore one of its 1950s strapless cocktail dresses in silver satin to the Venice film festival. For the Paris premiere of The King's Speech, starring her husband Colin Firth, she famously wore an outfit made of one of his old suits.

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Q&A: 'Climategate'

The Guardian - Wed, 2011-11-23 03:08
In November 2009, over 1,000 private emails between climate change scientists were stolen and published online. The uproar that followed briefly shook the public's faith in global warming science, and prompted investigations that debunked sceptics' allegations that the mails showed the planet wasn't warming. Yet still the scientists have questions to answer

It is the controversy over a set of over 1,000 private emails and many other documents that were stolen or leaked from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009. All the emails involved CRU staff, principally the CRU head Phil Jones, but in correspondence with many of the world's leading climate scientists, including the main researcher behind the "hockey stick" graph, Michael Mann. CRU's speciality was reconstructing records of the Earth's past temperatures from thermometer data and "proxy" such as tree-ring measurements.

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Getting to cycle the New York marathon | Matt Seaton

The Guardian - Tue, 2011-11-08 04:06
The chance to ride the course – as a bicycle escort for the wheelchair racers – proved an unforgettable experience

I was supposed to be running in this year's New York Marathon, but injury brought my training to a shuddering halt. To say I was disappointed to have to pull out (even if the many people in my position do get to defer their entry to next year) is typically-English understatement, so when the opportunity arose to ride the 26.2-mile runner's course on my bike on race day, I jumped at it.

I still had a smidgeon of envy for the runners, as New York dawned in perfect conditions, chilly but brilliant, on Sunday morning. But I couldn't be churlish about it for long: after all, how many people get to parade on their bike for the whole closed-road course, complete with cheering crowds?

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India plans 'safer' nuclear plant powered by thorium

The Guardian - Wed, 2011-11-02 02:09
Use of relatively low-carbon, low-radioactivity thorium instead of uranium may be breakthrough in energy generation

India has announced plans for a prototype nuclear power plant that uses an innovative "safer" fuel.

Officials are currently selecting a site for the reactor, which would be the first of its kind, using thorium for the bulk of its fuel instead of uranium – the fuel for conventional reactors. They plan to have the plant up and running by the end of the decade.

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