Concern for global warming is not a new craze

It is 80 years since the first calculations showed that the Earth was warming due to rising greenhouse gas emissions. Some people argue that concern for global warming is a modern phenomenon. And that scientists and environmental activists invented these worries to raise awareness of rising greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. Why are we suddenly so worried about carbon dioxide (CO2) when just a few decades ago there was talk of a new ice age? In the same breath, they might also question how changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere can really change the Earth’s climate.

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Posted in Climate change | Tagged

Volcanic activity, declining ocean oxygen triggered mass extinction of ancient organisms

Global climate change, fueled by skyrocketing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is siphoning oxygen from today’s oceans at an alarming pace—so fast that scientists aren’t entirely sure how the planet will respond. Their only hint? Look to the past. In a study to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Florida State University did just that—and what they found brings into stark relief the disastrous effects a deoxygenated ocean could have on marine life. While researchers have long surmised a link between volcanism, loss of oxygen and mass extinction, this study provides the first conclusive data.

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Posted in Extinction | Tagged

Deforestation leads to big hikes in local temperature

Researchers have discovered a correlation between deforestation and local temperature changes in many temperate mid-latitude locations around the world.
These increases were particularly high in North America. The study found that deforestation in heavily cleared regions of the central U.S. contributed as much as 1 degree Celsius to local maximum temperatures.
Overall, the study indicates that deforestation contributes around one-third to average hottest-day temperature increases in places that lost at least 15 percent of their forest cover.

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Posted in Deforestation, temperature | Tagged ,

Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments

There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits. Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress (Thompson et al., 2012) and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety (Beyer et al., 2014), while interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficits (Taylor and Kuo, 2009) and individuals with depression (Berman et al., 2012). A recent epidemiological study has shown that people who move to greener urban areas benefit from sustained improvements in their mental health (Alcock et al., 2014). In this paper we critically review evidence indicating that such mental health benefits are associated with the so-called “restorative” properties of natural environments. In particular we focus on the claim that interaction with (or just passive perception of) natural scene content can be linked to the restoration of limited-capacity attentional resources, in comparison to similar exposure to urban or built scene content.

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Posted in Environment, Health, Nature | Tagged , ,

Indigenous Environmental Knowledge – Critical Anthropological Perspectives

The first concerted critical examination of the uses and abuses of indigenous knowledge. The contributors focus on a series of interrelated issues in their interrogation of indigenous knowledge and its specific applications within the localized contexts of particular Asian societies and regional cultures. In particular, they explore the problems of translation and mistranslation in the local-global transference of traditional practices and representations of resources.

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The Making of Green Knowledge: Environmental Politics and Cultural Transformation

The Making of Green Knowledge provides a wide-ranging introduction to the politics of the environment and the development of environmental knowledge. Focusing in particular on the quest in recent years for more sustainable forms of socio-economic development, it attempts to place environmental politics within a broad historical perspective and examines the different political strategies and cultural practices that have emerged. The Making of Green Knowledge is a uniquely personal exploration of the relationship between sustainable development, public participation, and cultural transformation. Through a highly accessible mix of theory, practical analysis, and personal reflection it seeks to bring the making of green knowledge to life.

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Posted in Green Knowledge | Tagged

How The Sounds Of Nature Help Us Feel Relaxed

Sounds encountered outdoors, such as birds chirping, wind rustling in the treetops, or waves gently lapping at a beach, can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research from Brighton and Sussex Medical School lays out an explanation for just how this relaxation response works.

The scientists found that playing “natural sounds” affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and “green” environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and well being, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about.

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Posted in Nature | Tagged

Key biological mechanism is disrupted by ocean acidification

A team led by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) has demonstrated that the excess carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels interferes with the health of phytoplankton which form the base of marine food webs.

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants whose growth in ocean surface waters supports ocean food webs and global marine fisheries. They are also key agents in the long-term removal of carbon dioxide (CO2)

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Posted in Ocean acidification | Tagged

Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development

This paper distills core lessons about how researchers (scientists, engineers, planners, etc.) interested in promoting sustainable development can increase the likelihood of producing usable knowledge. We draw the lessons from both practical experience in diverse contexts around the world and from scholarly advances in understanding the relationships between science and society. Many of these lessons will be familiar to those with experience in crafting knowledge to support action for sustainable development. However, few are included in the formal training of researchers. As a result, when scientists and engineers first venture out of the laboratory or library with the goal of linking their knowledge with action, the outcome has often been ineffectiveness and disillusionment. We therefore articulate here a core set of lessons that we believe should become part of the basic training for researchers interested in crafting usable knowledge for sustainable development. These lessons entail at least four things researchers should know, and four things they should do. The knowing lessons involve understanding the coproduction relationships through which knowledge making and decision making shape one another in social–environmental systems. We highlight the lessons that emerge from examining those coproduction relationships through the ICAP lens, viewing them from the perspectives of Innovation systems, Complex systems, Adaptive systems, and Political systems. The doing lessons involve improving the capacity of the research community to put its understanding of coproduction into practice. We highlight steps through which researchers can help build capacities for stakeholder collaboration, social learning, knowledge governance, and researcher training.

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Posted in Knowledge, Sustainable development | Tagged ,

Sustainability in an urbanizing planet

Sustainability science is use-inspired fundamental research that links knowledge to action such that meeting the needs of society can be balanced with sustaining the life support systems of the planet (1, 2). Nowhere is this action-oriented research needed more than in urban areas that are now home to more than half of the world’s population, generating about 80% of the world’s economy (3) as well as over 70% of global energy use and global energy-related emissions (4). Depending on the literature and perspectives taken, urbanization and cities will be either key components to the transition to sustainability or major threats to sustainability.

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Posted in Sustainability, Urban | Tagged ,