Progress on some environmental fronts only proves that we are capable of “creation tending”. That means we are also obligated to do more. (And that those who rationalize a “disposable Earth” before the Book of Revelations comes true... are doing the devil’s work.).
From The Progressive Policy Institute:
World chlorofluorocarbon consumption, 1986: 1.08 million tons
World chlorofluorocarbon consumption, 2006: 0.04 million tons
What They Mean:
The Americans who observed the first "Earth Day" in 1970 must have been short of breath. That year, American factories and cars pumped 197 million tons of carbon monoxide, 27 million tons of nitrogen dioxide, 12 million tons of soot and ash, 31 million tons of sulfur dioxide, and 220,000 tons of lead into the air. Four decades later, after two versions of the Clean Air Act, the air is better.
By 2005, the air-pollution output had fallen to 89 million tons of carbon monoxide, 19 million tons of nitrogen dioxide, and 2 million of particulate matter; lead, at 3,000 tons, is all but gone. National figures for "fishable" and "swimmable" rivers and lakes have also improved, and the nest-pair count for bald eagles in the lower 48 states has risen from 417 in the 1960s to almost 7,100. Meanwhile, the national GDP has tripled in real terms (from $3.8 trillion to $11.4 trillion in 2000 dollars) as employment has risen from 71 million to 137 million.
Four decades later, with environmentalism focused as intently on climate change and other global issues as on local and national concerns, is it possible to repeat the achievement? Though international environmental policy is far less developed than national laws, a look at one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements -- the 20-year-old ban on use of "chlorofluorocarbons" -- offers reason for optimism.
Chlorofluorocarbons, known as "CFCs" for short, are carbon atoms or chains with the halide elements fluorine and chlorine substituted for hydrogen atoms. First synthesized by an American named Midgley in 1928, they were used between the 1930s and 1980s (along with some related chemicals) as refrigerator coolants, and sometimes as industrial solvents and cleansers too. Their makers regrettably did not know that CFCs react easily with ozone gas, which, floating about 15-35 kilometers above the earth, blocks ultraviolet light and so helps to prevent skin cancers. Early in the 1970s, scientists found that high-atmosphere CFCs had begun to thin the belts of ozone in the stratosphere and troposphere; and by the 1980s a large hole in the ozone layer had developed above the Antarctic.
Governments banned further production of CFCs in 1987. At that time, the world was using about 1.1 million tons of CFCs a year. Two decades on, the total is down to 43,000 tons, with the residual emissions said to be mainly from old refrigerators and fire extinguishers rather than new products. CFCs persist in the atmosphere for varying periods, and concentrations are only now beginning to decline. The shortest-lived gas of the group, methyl chloroform, is now all but gone; others will decline at slower rates, with the most persisting lasting until the 2050s and 2060s. Nonetheless, ozone-depleting chemical concentrations peaked in the late 1990s, and have now fallen by about 8.5 percent, declining first in the lower atmosphere and more recently in the stratosphere.
The U.N. Environmental Program's most recent assessment finds that ozone layers outside the poles are showing signs of recovery, and that the "hole" in the ozone layer above Antarctica has stopped growing. The o zone layer generally will likely return to natural rates by 2065 or 2070, as today's children pay for their grandchildren's college bills.
Other topical matters:
(Note: I am way too swamped to even spare the time to hot link all these tidbits that I've gathered. Most are worth pasting. Good luck all!)
http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2007/05/09/keith-henson-back-in-jail-space-elevator-will-have-to-wait/ A matter on which I do not express opinions, but one which remains of topical interest to those who are interested in stuff like religion, transparency and the vaunted influence of science fiction authors... for well or ill.
http://www.physorg.com/news96287560.html New research shows that black holes are not the ultimate destroyers that they are often portrayed to be in popular culture. Instead, warm gas escaping from the clutches of enormous black holes could be one source of the chemical elements that make life possible.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18053937/ Russia is working on a space transport system that could eventually lead to the industrialization of the moon. Backers of the idea argue that the potential benefits - such as resource harvesting or pollution outsourcing - easily outweigh the risks and necessary investment capital.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/business/30energy.html?_r=2&ref=business&oref=slogin&oref=slogin Money is flowing into alternative energy companies so fast that “the warning signs of a bubble are appearing,” according to a report on investment in clean technology by a New York research firm, Lux Research. The report also suggests that companies that make equipment to cleanse air or water, or that process waste, have been overlooked by investors.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/050307R.shtml Agrichar is the term for what is left over after the energy is removed from biomass: a charcoal-based soil amendment. The agrichar process takes dry biomass of any kind and bakes it in a kiln to produce charcoal. Various gases and bio-oils are driven off the material and collected to use in heat or power generation. The charcoal is then buried in the ground, sequestering the carbon that the plants had pulled out of the atmosphere. The end result is increased soil fertility and an energy source with negative carbon emissions.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/technology/07copy.html?ex=1179201600&en=69c70399fc6dc794&ei=5070&emc=eta1 Agh, nobody ever listens to me! I proposed this exact thing to NASA in 1983.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502143631.htm Rice University scientists today revealed a breakthrough method for producing molecular specks of semiconductors called quantum dots, a discovery that could clear the way for better, cheaper solar energy panels.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6773&m=15453 Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered to their surprise that nerves in the mammalian brain's white matter do more than just ferry information between different brain regions, but in fact process information the way gray matter cells do.
http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/18618/ The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is now considering a project, dubbed the human microbiome, to sequence the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies.
http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/C4F1278703F2238BCC2572BC00157CC9 The US military plans to test an internet router in space, in a project that could also benefit civilian broadband satellite communications. Potential non-military benefits of DoD's Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) program include the ability to route IP traffic between satellites in space in much the same way packets are moved on the ground.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6734&m=15453 The founder of the ambitious "$100 laptop" project, which plans to give inexpensive computers to school children in developing countries, revealed Thursday that the machine for now costs $175, and it will be able to run Windows in addition to Linux.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6767&m=15453 Shades of GATTACA! US to outlaw corporate prejudice based on genes
http://physorg.com/news97255464.html -- Pratim Biswas and his group have developed a method to make a variety of oxide semiconductors that, when put into water promote chemical reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The method provides a new low cost and efficient option for hydrogen production.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6721&m=15453 Large swaths of garbled human DNA once dismissed as junk appear to contain some valuable sections, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California-Santa Cruz. The scientists propose that this redeemed DNA plays a role in controlling when genes turn on and off.
...(there... that oughta hold the little buggers....)