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Week 29, 2013 -News at a Glance!

Here’s a snapshot looking back at all the most important news in environment and climate change (click to enlarge).

Renewable Energy, Floods, Missing People, top soil loss, climate change

1. Energy Harvesting Tiles Give New Meaning to “Power Walking”

Get your dance on!!!  Turns out, there are a number of surprising places where we can get renewable energy from. One such method of “energy harvesting” are tiles being manufactured by a British company called Pavegen. Founded by entrepreneur Laurence Kemball-Cook, the tiles convert kinetic energy from footsteps into off-grid power. And it’s working: During the London Olympic games, the tiles were placed on the floor of a subway station and  powered the station’s lights.

Kemball-Cook hopes to begin mass producing the tiles and expand their use throughout metropolitan areas. He foresees anywhere from dance floors to sidewalks as being prime locations for these stomp-powered energy generators. Source: BBC News.

2. Aftermath of Indian Floods: 5,748 Declared Missing 

As India recovers from severe flooding that claimed the lives of over 500 people, the government made a grim decision: As of July 15, any individuals who are unaccounted for will be pronounced dead. Their families will in turn be entitled to 500,000 rupees ($8,300 USD). In the event that a relative does show up, the family will be legally responsible for returning the money.

Now India begins the process of rebuilding. In the Rudraprayag district alone, floods and landslides simply washed away 41 roads and 28 bridges, leaving only one road for aid workers to use in order to reach victims in the area. An additional way to put the disaster into perspective is this: One surviving bridge is normally 70 feet above the water it transverses. After the storm, water was touching the base of the bridge. That’s higher than a six story building.

In total 250 villages will have to be completely rebuilt, and the government says it will take careful consideration of environmental factors when designing the new settlements. For now, many are simply waiting and hoping their relatives will find a way home. Source: The New York Times India Blog.

3. American Midwest Finally Gets Rain- But Loses Its Soil

Drought struck areas of the United State just can’t get a break: Now too much rain is wreaking havoc on the farmland vital to the country’s food supply. Heavy rainfall in the area is accelerating soil erosion- and without adequate soil it’s nearly impossible to grow crops. The Environmental Working Group studied information collected by Iowa State University’s Iowa Daily Erosion Project and found an alarming statistic: “1.2 million acres of farmland may have lost more precious topsoil in five days [of torrential rain] than what is tolerable over an entire year.”

Photos of farmland at risk (or severely damaged) by soil erosion were taken by EWG members during a recent survey of Iowa. The pictures aren’t as striking as the homes leveled by Hurricane Sandy or any of the recent massive floods from all over the world- but we have reason to be just as concerned by them if they signal a future inability to produce food… Source: NPR.org

4. Rebuilding in Germany’s Flood Disaster Zones

Earlier this month, 6.01 trillion gallons of rain fell on Germany in just seven days. That’s enough water to fill over 9 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Soldiers were deployed to provide humanitarian aid, and parts of this prosperous country looked like war zones after the storm dissipated. The flooding has caused at least $15.6 billion of damage, including large portions farmland and infrastructure. Countless homes and livelihoods were also lost.

In a heartening show of solidarity, communities banded together to help one another cope with the disaster as best they could and the German newspaper “Der Spiegel” called the organized response “impressive”. But experts predict that flooding of this intensity will become more common in the region. “In the 1990s we had ‘once-in-a-century’ floods. Then we had them again in 2002, and now in 2013 we are seeing the same again,” said climate expert Mojib Latif. “What used to happen once in a century could well become an event that recurs every decade or so.” Source: Spiegel Online.

5. Countries Fail to Establish New Antarctic Marine Reserves

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) held a rare extra meeting specifically to discuss the possibility of increasing the amount of protected Antarctic waters. Had the meeting been successful, the new legislation would have more than doubled the world’s area of protected ocean.

So what happened? Unfortunately, in order to pass such a proposal there must be a consensus among all nations who belong to CCAMLR. And it just so happens that Russia has major fishing interests in the proposed conservation areas… but according to organizations present at the talks, the Russian representative simply “challenged the legal basis” of the conservation plan. Surely Russia is only concerned with international law in this case…

There’s still hope for proponents of the plan- its fate will be decided at the next annual meeting of CCAMLR this October. But losing the battle now still stung: “”After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing,” lamented Steve Campbell, Director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance. Source: BBC.

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