Climate Adaptation


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The gypsum mining processA gypsum mine

The gypsum mining process, from Georgia Pacific:

At corporate-owned quarries and mines, gypsum is drilled and blasted from the excavation site. This process involves careful inspections of the excavation site, followed by precision undercutting and topcutting prior to blasting.

The rock is then transported to a crusher. Aside from reducing the gypsum to a manageable size, crushing may include a process that dries the rock to remove any free moisture. At this point, we conduct a select grading of rock (commonly known as land plaster).

The rock undergoes a fine grinding process prior to calcination, where the chemical composition of mined gypsum is transformed into a hemi-hydrate of calcium sulfate, making it suitable for commercial applications.

Depending on the calcination method, the resulting plaster exhibits distinct properties and characteristics that affect its suitability for specific applications.

Natural Tree 4-step lifecycleArtificial Tree 4-step lifecycle LCA overview of impacts

Life Cycle Analysis of a Natural Christmas Tree vs an Artificial Christmas Tree. You know you want to read this. You’ve always wondered to yourself, “Self, which tree is better for the environment and my conscience?”

The life cycle of each is divided into four steps:

Natural Tree:

  1. Production in a nursery for 4 years
  2. Production in a field for 11 years
  3. Use at home
  4. End of life (Figure A).

Artificial Tree:

  1. Production at a plant in Beijing (including distribution)
  2. Client transport
  3. Use at home
  4. End of life (Figure B).

Read the full report here.

A tale of air pollution. Why do Republicans want air in the U.S. to look like this?


A Tale Of Two Countries of the Day: Redditor hayzen77 recently traveled from Australia to China and snapped these “before and after” shots following takeoff and prior to landing.

Surge72 correctly notes that these two photos were taken at varying altitudes, “thereby increasing the contrast between the two photos.” Still, as mikecngan points out, while the comparison may be a bit skewed, “China still sucks”:


"On October 4th 2010, the wall of a wastewater reservoir (bottom, right) for the Ajka alumina processing plant broke, sending 35 million cubic feet of corrosive ‘red sludge’ downhill into nearby villages and ultimately the Danube River. This ecological disaster has claimed eight lives and devastated many more by destroying homes, livestock, and crops. Meanwhile workers are rushing to build emergency dams to stem a second flood that is expected to occur should another wastewater reservoir wall collapse.

This ongoing situation is the latest reminder of the environmental risks associated with the thousands of hardrock metals and minerals operations around the world. The site in Hungary was listed as “risky” by an environmental non-governmental organization in 2006, yet this warning did not spur the type of response required by regulators and corporate executives to prevent the flood. Last summer the same type of disaster struck at a copper mine in southeastern China, where 2.4 million gallons of waste water laced with acidic copper spilled into the Ting River.”

More @WRI

Keystone goes mainstream. PBS Newshour airs a “debate” over the Keystone XL Pipeline between environmentalist Bill McKibben and capitalist Robert Bryce

The proposed pipeline would carry oil from Canadian tar sands fields to Texas refineries, but the project has sparked high-profile protests. Jeffrey Brown discusses the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research’s Robert Bryce and environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Source: PBS NewsHour

Click for must see photos at In Focus.


Floods Follow Drought In China

Huge parts of China have been affected by some of the worst drought conditions in decades. Fishermen, farmers, and wildlife have been enduring hardships for months now. In an effort to alleviate the crisis, China’s Three Gorges Dam has been discharging water to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. However, since early June, a series of torrential rainstorms has been pounding southern China, overwhelming parched farmlands and triggering some of the worst flooding since 1955. So far, 175 have been reported dead and 86 missing. Chinese officials say they plan to double investments in water conservation projects, as the country deals with a shortage of 40 billion cubic meters of water each year. (Reuters/China Daily)

See more photos at In Focus

Above: China’s Growing Sands. A beautiful and frustrating short documentary on China’s environmental destruction, especially water usage.

20% of China’s land area is desert, and spreading. 

There’s an interesting part about farmers switching to night grazing. Some regional governments have passed laws against cattle and other herd animal grazing on the plains in order to protect the grasslands from overgrazing and increased desertification and degradation. The law also bans certain farmers from buying new cattle, essentially regulating herd counts.

At risk of prosecution, the farmers are turning out their herds at dusk, and retrieve them before sunrise. In other words, they’re raising cattle and sheeps during the night. A crazy human adaptation.

UPDATE: Sorry the video is displaying weird. Click here.

"Humans make nature." That’s how biologist Erle Ellis defines the Anthropocene in this interview with The Economist. The article, Welcome to the Anthropocene, is getting a lot of buzz.

oil-soaked cormorant, kuwait, iraq 1991saddam's flaming oil fields kuwait, iraq

Tide of Destruction: The Two Gulfs. Steve McCurry 2010/1991. McCurry is one of the world’s greatest photographers. The photos above were taken in Kuwait, Iraq in 1991 after Saddam Hussein set his oil fields on fire. Twenty years later, it still remains one of the world’s worst environmental disasters.

Saddam’s army deliberately spilled as much as six million barrels of crude as they blasted pipelines, and emptied loaded tankers into the Persian Gulf.  Everything that wasn’t spilled into the water was set on fire.

Source: Steve McCurry’s Blog

Drought turns China’s largest freshwater lake into ‘prairie’

One of the world’s largest lake, river and wetland systems has dried up. Nine of the eight Poyong Lakes in Xingzi, China are dry, and are turning into grasslands. A combination of diverted water from the Three Gorges Dam project and unusually dry weather has lead to the drought. More dramatic photos at the bottom of the article, here (click the numbers, 1,2,3,4, etc.).

The size of the water area is just one-tenth of the area during the same period in 2010. 

US Fish and Wildlife releases Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines

Guidelines for siting wind turbines with respect to the:

  • Migratory Birds Treaty Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • and both the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts

The guidelines encourage developers and cities to take a tiered approach to building wind turbine systems in order to reduce bird collisions, minimize environmental damage while clearing land, consider impacts on immediate ecosystems from building a turbine, and monitoring the success of the project after it’s been built.

Summary here. Guidelines, here (PDF).

UPDATE: My concern, as a city planner, is with safety. Apparently they’ve exploded. I wrote about exploding turbines, here.

TVA Ordered to Shut-down 18 Coal Plants in North Carolina

Source: Al’s Blog