Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change

Producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gases than most entire countries do.

* Workers harvesting celery.

Reducing food waste_Ease climate change

More than a third of all of the food that’s produced on our planet never reaches a table. It’s either spoiled in transit or thrown out by consumers in wealthier countries, who typically buy too much and toss the excess. This works out to roughly 1.3 billion tons of food, worth nearly $1 trillion at retail prices. Aside from the social, economic, and moral implications of that waste — in a world where an estimated 805 million people go to bed hungry each night—the environmental cost of producing all that food, for nothing, is staggering.

The water wastage alone would be the equivalent of the entire annual flow of the Volga—Europe’s largest river. The energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of that wasted food, meanwhile, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.

Some sustainability specialists note that food waste can be mitigated by improving the “cold chain” which comprises refrigerated transport and storage facilities. Some of the discussions between them and environmental reporters, mainly, held the following question:  Does the issue of food waste seem to slip below the radar? The discussions led to a conclusion that usually we, the people coming mainly form developed countries, tend to take our food for granted. Since food is so plentiful, we are not aware of the tremendous amount that’s wasted and the impact that has on world hunger, political stability, the environment, and climate change. Yet when it comes to looking for ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions, food wastage is a relatively easy fix—the low-hanging fruit, so to speak—and it is literally rotting on our tables. It doesn’t require any new technology, just more efficient use of what we already have.

* Beef sits on display at a supermarket.

Food_Shelves

About a third of food waste is due to consumers buying too much and discarding the excess.

Food could hardly be a more important industry to humanity. Every living thing on the planet depends upon it. And yet a third of what we produce never reaches the table. Why are we so inefficient?

Food wastage comes in two forms. About one-third occurs at the consumer level, where we buy too much and throw it away. Approximately two-thirds happens at the production and distribution level. For example, a lot of food rots in fields, or is lost as a result of poor transportation networks, or spoils in markets that lack proper preservation techniques. We can make a big difference by transporting and storing our food under proper temperature conditions to extend food supplies. What can we do better? Where should industry’s and governments’ focus be on reducing food wastage?

Governments can enact food safety standards where they don’t exist. This will jump-start the system to properly transport and store perishable foods like meat, fish, dairy, and produce. It will also ensure that more food is safe for consumption. Industry has a role to innovate and scale technologies so they are affordable in the developing economies. Industry can also serve a useful role by raising awareness of the impacts of food wastage. This process will of course have its influence over the economy.

But surely, all of us could help. We can all take small steps that will accumulate to make a meaningful difference. Let’s buy just the food we need so we throw away less. Let’s bring meals home that we don’t finish in restaurants. Small changes will yield big results.

* Refrigeration containers are part of the “cold chain” that helps

keeping food from spoiling, a major source of food waste.

Refrigeration containerNow, let’s try and explain, what exactly the “cold chain” is.

The cold chain is the network that transports and stores perishable foods like meat, fish, dairy, and produce under proper temperature conditions to avoid spoilage. It involves technologies like marine container refrigeration, truck-trailer refrigeration, cold storage warehouses and rooms, and food retail display cases.

Also, we have to think about, making these cold-chain technologies affordable in the poor countries, where often the need is greatest. It means that we have to think differently. We can’t take today’s sophisticated refrigerated truck-trailer systems available in the U.S. and Europe and expect they can be immediately adopted in emerging countries. In many cases, the roads in these countries can’t accommodate large truck systems, the technical skill is not yet present to support the systems, and the economy can’t yet afford the systems. So we have to scale the technology to the local needs—smaller systems, fewer features, more affordable.

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BIOCHAR

Biochar is a charcoal-like material created when biomass is heated in the absence of air or with very small, controlled amounts of oxygen. It can be used to capture and store carbon. This is because charcoal is a stable solid and rich in carbon content, and thus, can be used to lock carbon in the soil *. Biochar also acts as a soil improver.

* – For an example, there is a sewage plant in Germany that heats sewage to create biochar. The process is so successful that the plant is carbon negative – actually locking away carbon that would otherwise be in circulation. Also, the German Institure UMSICHT, The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Energy and Safety Technology works on the topic of efficient production of energy from wastewater, as well as on the energetic usage of biochar.

Environmental Benefits of Biochar

Sustainable biochar is a powerfully simple tool to address some of the most urgent environmental problems of our time:

– Climate Change

Sustainable biochar can be used now to help combat climate change by holding carbon in soil and by displacing fossil fuel use. Biochar retains nitrogen, thus emissions of nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas) may be reduced. Turning agricultural waste into biochar also reduces methane (another potent greenhouse gas) generated by the natural decomposition of the waste. Just to simplify the process, the researches have shown that, this powerfully simple tool can store 2.2 gigatons of carbon annually by 2050.

– Soil degradation and food insecurity

As a soil enhancer, biochar makes soil more fertile, boosts food security, preserves cropland diversity, and reduces the need for some chemical and fertilizer inputs.

– Water pollution by agro-chemicals

Biochar improves water quality by helping to retain nutrients and agrochemicals in soils for use by plants and crops, resulting in less pollution.

– Waste Management

Biochar production offers a simple, sustainable tool for managing agricultural wastes. A combination of waste management, bioenergy production, and sustainable soil management can succeed with an approach involving biochar.

– Deforestation and loss of cropland diversity

By converting agricultural waste into a powerful soil enhancer with sustainable biochar, we can preserve cropland diversity and discourage deforestation.

Now, let’s explain what BIOCHAR is.

Biochar

Sustainable biochar is a powerfully simple tool to fight global warming. This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. Sustainable biochar is one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable.

Biochar is a solid material obtained from the carbonisation of biomass. Biochar may be added to soils with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value. Biochar is a valuable soil amendment.

Biochar can be an important tool to increase food security and cropland diversity in areas with severely depleted soils, scarce organic resources, and inadequate water and chemical fertilizer supplies. Biochar also improves water quality and quantity by increasing soil retention of nutrients and agrochemicals for plant and crop utilization. More nutrients stay in the soil instead of leaching into groundwater and causing pollution.

Biochar_2The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can hold carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years. Biochar is produced through pyrolysis or gasification — processes where biomass is being heated in the absence (or under reduction) of oxygen. In addition to creating a soil enhancer, sustainable biochar practices can produce oil and gas byproducts that can be used as fuel, providing clean, renewable energy.

Biochar and bioenergy co-production can help combat global climate change by displacing fossil fuel use and by sequestering carbon in stable soil carbon pools. It may also reduce emissions of nitrous oxide. It’s one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable. We really can’t afford not to pursue it.

Written by Juliane Petrovska,

B.Sc.Tech.Eng

Building CSOs capacities on EU Nature related policies

From 24.10 to 28.10.2011  in Valjevo, Serbia, was held training entitled “Building CSOs capacities on EU Nature related policies” organized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and it partners Ecologists’ Movement of Macedonia , Greens of Montenegro, Bird Protection and Study Society of Vojvodina (Serbia). It aim was to strengthen civil society organizations in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in order to increase their role in the implementation of key EU enviromental policies and strategies.

This training is part of the EU funded project “EU Environmental Policies and Strategies in South Eastern Europe: Capacity Building for the Implementation of EU Environmental Policies and Strategies in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia”.

Training participants had the opportunity to contribute on the topics:

• Ecological networks

• Green Infrastructure: development policy and practice implications

• Impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment of the environment

• NATURA 2000

• Policies for Rural Development

 The accession to EU is not a smooth process for Western Balkan countries, but a long journey with a number of challenges on the way. The process includes synchronization of the national legislation with the EU one, ensuring its implementation by introducing new acts at national level, genuine involvement of all stakeholders in the process of decision-making, improvement of regional cooperation etc. Additionally, raising awareness and capacity building for the implementation of the EU policies and strategies are of the utmost importance for a successful accession process.

CSOs are seen as the driving force for transformation of the society in the Western Balkans countries and establishing close cooperation and a functional network of skilled and knowledgeable CSOs is essential for achieving the above aim.

Barn owl – important and endangered …

Today is World Animal Day. With this post we want to arise public awareness about ecological and environmental role of one special species and contribute in their protection.

Birds of prey are important in the ecological balance; they scavenge and dispose of carrion, control rodent populations, and eat various pests that are harmful to crops. Owls that feed in agricultural areas provide benefits to humans by killing large numbers of small rodents which might otherwise eat crops in the field or in storage.

Barn owl (Tyto alba)

Barn Owls are specialist birds and highly adapted to suit their ecological role as hunters of small mammals in open habitat and low light conditions. Although small mammals are taken by a wide range of predators including buzzards, kestrels, cats, stoats and weasels (as well as other owls), none of these hunt in the same way as Barn Owls. The barn owl has exceptionally keen hearing and eyesight, making it a very effective hunter. It is said that a Barn Owl can actually hear a mouse’s heartbeat in a 30ft sq room.

Barn Owls are birds of open countryside. They typically forage by flying low over grassland habitat with frequent “hovering intervals” or by perching on fence posts and trees along field edges Barn Owls are found in open country such as agricultural areas, old fields and orchards, yet have a preference for pasture, sedge marshes and meadows. Prior to European settlement, Barn Owl habitat likely consisted of oak savannah adjacent to tallgrass prairie.

The Barn Owl’s diet consists primarily of small mammals, with a distinct preference for voles (Microtus spp.), shrews, moles, young rats, various species of mice, and occasionally birds, or frogs and large insects only if necessary. Estimates of adult food intake range from about 50 to 150 g/day, which is equivalent to 1–3 voles per day. It is estimated that a typical family of two adult and four young Barn Owls consumes about 1000 rodents during the 10-week portion of the year when young are in the nest.

Every Barn Owl’s home range is likely to contain a variety of predators that eat small mammals but none of these have an identical diet or hunting method. Although there is a good deal of overlap between species, there’s little direct competition because the Barn Owl’s ecological role is so unique.

Be aware that …

These helpful birds are, unfortunately, especially susceptible to extinction, partly because of natural evolutionary selection and partly because of human interference. Owls are, however, threatened by other activities of humans. They are exposed to toxic chemicals in forestry and agriculture, and this has taken a toll on some species of owls. One example is poisoning by exposure to the insecticide carbofuran, which is used to control epidemic populations of grasshoppers in prairie agriculture.

More important, however, have been the effects of habitat loss on owls. Urban, industrial, and agricultural development all degrade the habitat of most species of owls and other native species, causing large reductions in their populations and even their disappearance from many areas.

Help …

We are happy that in Macedonia there is organization which is taking care for the owl’s survival in the nature, preservation of their nests, offspring and hunting grounds. The purpose of  organization Macedonian Owl Trust is to facilitate the enlargement of the number of owls in our country by organizing activities for: mounting birds houses for nesting, implementation of monitoring of all recorded nests, feeding and tending of young owls with aim having them leave the nest in larger numbers.

If you want to help, too, now is the right time. This organization is in preparation for construction of houses for nesting which will be placed at various locations in the environment and help at preserving and increasing the number of endangered owls. You can donate wood materials (wooden boards or plywood) and tools and contribute in this process. You can find more information on Macedonian Owl Trust page.

 

We are part of event Blog Action Day : World Animal Day 2011

CELEBRATE animal life in all its forms by blogging, tweeting and hosting events to celebrate their magnificance and wonder.

Let’s protect the owls …

As we wrote previously, an important part of the Natura 2000 is Europa’s The Birds Directive. Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (this is the codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC as amended) is the EU’s oldest piece of nature legislation and one of the most important, creating a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union. Its was adopted unanimously by the Members States in 1979 as a response to increasing concern about the declines in Europe’s wild bird populations resulting from pollution, loss of habitats as well as unsustainable use. It was also in recognition that wild birds, many of which are migratory, are a shared heritage of the Member States and that their effective conservation required international co-operation.

I write this post in desire to emphasize great ecological necessity and as a warning of the possibility of extinction a very interesting group of birds from our region.

I’m talking about OWLS (part of the group Strigiformes).

Specifically, in ANNEX I in the DIRECTIVE 2009/147/EC among other bird species as protected are listed this owl types – Strigidae, Bubo bubo, Nyctea scandiaca, Surnia ulula, Glaucidium passerinum, Strix nebulosa, Strix uralensis, Asio flammeus and Aegolius funereu. Three of them, Bubo bubo, Strix uralensis and Asio flammeus, and living in Republic of Macedonia.

It is very important to know that the Republic of Macedonia has taken steps to protect owls through the legislation, too. Namely, the Law on Hunting, Official Gazette no. 26 of 24.02.2009, first in Article 3 defines “Game are certain types of animals and birds that live freely in nature or in a fenced areas that are intensively cultivated, breed, hunt and protect” and than in Article 5 states “Under the game in terms of this Law shall mean the following types of animals and birds” where among other species are listed:

116) Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo L.);

117) Long-eared Owl (Asio otus L.);

118) Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus Pont.);

119) Common Scops Owl (Otus scops L.);

120) Little Owl (Athene noctua Scop.);

121) Tawny Owl (Strix aluco L.);

122) Barn Owl (Tyto alba Scop.);

Under the same law “Game that is under protection: Eurasian Eagle Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Scops Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl” (Article 9, paragraph 2) and “permanently prohibit hunting: Eurasian Eagle Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Scops Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl” (Article 13). Also “Destruction and appropriation of offspring, destruction and scattering of homes, nests or eggs of game under the protection provided by this law is prohibited ” (Article 14).

What is not projected or regulated by any law is our consciousness, our way of conduct and care for own living place. This remains our responsibility.

Let’s protect the owls …

NATURA 2000 in Macedonia

Slowly but surely first steps for network NATURA 2000 were made in Macedonia. The Center for environmental research and information “Eco-sense” within the project “Together for Natura 2000”, held two seminars for associations working in the field of environmental protection.

NATURA 2000 065

The first seminar was held from 7 – 8.05.2011, in hotel Metropol, Struga, and was dedicated to Natura 2000 in its entirety, introduction what  the Natura 2000 represents and why it is important for Macedonia to work towards its implementation. Lecturers at the seminar were Andrea Stefan from Croatia (WWF) and Andrey Kovachev from Bulgaria (Society for the wild fauna “Balkani”). Special place on the seminar took activities for development of ecological network NATURA 2000 in Macedonia and the importance of Ber convention (designed for  Emerald areas – Emerald’s policy on protection of rare and endangered species of animals, plants and birds and it is the counterpart of the Natura 2000, but it is designed for those countries that are candidates for EU), which were presented by Robertina Brajkovska from “MED” organization. The conclusion of this seminar was that it is necessary to create a grouping of civil society organizations from Macedonia, who will work alongside the local implementation of the NATURA 2000.

The second seminar was held from 27 – 05.29.2011, at City Park Hotel, Skopje and it was dedicated to building coalitions, partnerships and joint activities of civil associations. Lecturers were from Poland, Pavel Pavlachik (Naturalists Club Poland), and Andrey Kovachev from Bulgaria (Society for the wild fauna “Balkani”) and they shared their experiences in the application process Natura 2000. The rest of the seminar was aimed at planning the following activities.

Result from the two seminars was a group that will work on Natura 2000 in Macedonia. It is composed of 14 civic organizations, including: Eco Osogovija – Probistip, Green Power – Veles, Biosfera – Bitola, Grashnica – Ohrid, MEZ – Gostivar, Ekumena – Strumica, Eco-sense – Skopje, IDSB – Skopje, Greener – Skopje, CeProSARD – Skopje, SD PEONI – Skopje, MED- ​​Skopje, KALEN Platform – Skopje and Eco Skop – Skopje. The group had its first meeting on 20.06.2011 in the premises of British Council in Skopje and decide in the future to operate under the name Coalition “Natura 2000” .

NATURA 2000

Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. It is an EUwide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive and1979 Birds Directive. This Directive provides declaration of areas with special protection (eng. Special Protection Areas – SPAs). SPA areas are declared mainly to protect the rarest and most endangered species on a European level, including migratory bird species.

The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The above directives included 230 types of habitat, over 1000 species of plants and animals and over 190 species of birds that are of great importance for Europe and the world.
In Natura 2000 areas is not prohibited to have human activities until those activities do not cause threat to those areas and species. In fact, NATURA areas do not present a strict sanctuary where any activities are prohibited. The selection of these areas is supported by scientific evidence and criteria which helps in protection of those species that are endangered, but are in great importance of environmental  chain, and protection of their habitats.

During  selection and declaration proceses of  areas from NATURA 2000 all Member States and candidates must pass three stages of dialogue with the European Commission. These three phases are:
Phase 1: Preparation of a national inventory of potential areas for ecological network NATURA 2000
Phase 2: Identify areas of importance for the EU (Sites of Community importance-SCIs)
3 stage: Nomination of special protection areas (Special Areas of Conservation-SACs)

NATURA 2000 is a flexible and contemporary, allows sustainable development for man and for nature. In the process of accession to the European Union, Macedonia is obliged to establish a network of “Natura 2000” areas. Under European legislation, the establishment of this network is one of the key points in the process of accession to the European Union.

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