Thursday, August 14, 2008

websites on global warming

This site shows how the rise in average temperature will have far-reaching effects on the Earth's climate patterns and on all living things.


Climate Neutral Network-A coalition that works to develop a competitive marketplace for products and services that have little or no effect on the Earth's climate.


Eco-The Climate Action Network Online-Newsletter published at the UN Climate Talks by a worldwide network of non-governmental organisations working on strategies to combat climate change.


GOES Satellite imaging Technology-This site offers advanced satellite imagery of the Earth's surface, wind, and water patterns.


Green Playbook-This online tool offers tips, tools and strategies to help local governments take immediate action on climate change by rapidly advancig green buildings, neighborhoods and infrastructure.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wishing the grey skies away

Wishing the grey skies away

THE Olympic Games finally kicked off with a blast in Beijing after days of being shrouded in a muggy haze.

It was a relief for the world's athletes who congregated in China for the biggest event of the year when the Beijing skies cleared up - there were moments last week when the quality of the ah- seemed too hazardous for the Games to go on.

It is definitely a relief for the organisers, as the air quality in the Chinese capital has been their most pressing problem for a while now.

The Chinese government reportedly spent US$17bil trying to clean it and since July 20,
it had banned half of the city's three million cars from the streets, closed factories, and halted most construction, hoping it would reduce the levels of pollution.

Despite all its efforts, clear skies remain an elusive target. In the end, it will come down to the wild card of weather: rain and wind, To stay abreast with China's fickle air quality throughout the Games, especially if you are going to Beijng or waiting lot your favourite outdoor event to begin, check out AIRNow at

The website offers daily air quality index (AQI) for different countries ill the world, so once you've checked on China, you can check the air quality in other parts of the world, including Malaysia.

The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you, The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.

While all the world's environmentalists are coming down hard on China for its AQI, it is good for us to try and understand the circumstances that are causing the air pollution. To learn more, go to

This website provides not only the various sides of the story but also a wider context of the issue.

Malaysia may be thousands of miles away from China, but we have our own persistent haze problem. Only last Sunday, we woke up to hazy skies triggered by forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra island. Forest fires from Indonesia caused by traditional farming
methods created a choking haze, which shrouds the region annually.

In Malaysia, air quality is described as the Air Pollutant Index (API), The API is an
indicator of air quality and was developed based on scientific assessment of the presence of pollutants and its impact on health. The API system of Malaysia closely follows tile Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA).

To learn how the API scale and terms are used in describing the air quality levels, go to the official website of Malaysia's Environment Department at -index-api-reading-0

Daily readings of the API index can be obtained at

It will tell you if the API exceeds 500, which is a state of emergency,

Usually, this means that non-essential government services are suspended in the affected areas. Sometimes all the ports, offices, shops and restaurants will be closed too.

For the latest news on global incidences of air pollution and its effects, the best site
to visit is

If you are wondering what the effects of air pollution are, try

According to this medical depository, different people can react very differently to air pollution; some people may notice chest tightness or cough, while others may not notice any effects.

Even a healthy, high-performance athlete in much better physical condition than the rest of us will be physically affected from days or weeks of working out in an environment with a high API.

Another useful website for pointers on staying healthy in a hazy environment is

Although stakeholders - scientists, environmentafists, economists, politicians -are still debating about how to control air pollution, many agree that one of the main causes is the rapid population growth and development in countries like India and China.

Rapid development will also lead to a higher release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases contribute to other environmental problems such as global warming and climate change. Read about it at

If you don't want to be bogged down by facts, check out the map of the warming world and other changes in the climate system at

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sightings of hornbills in the forest are no longer as common as before.

Rare Sight

In what minght deceivingly seem like an encouraging indicator to the casual bird watcher, hornbills nave oeen spotted flying in clusters over certain areas in Malaysia.

But don't be fooled. Those familiar with the bebavioural tendencies of this enigmatic bird know that the unusual sightings may be a sign of disturbances in the forest ecosystem.

"Hornbills typically fly for miles and miles foraging for food, but now that large tracts of forests have been removed, you see more clusters of them concentrated in specific areas," explains avid birdwatcher Mohd Raft Abdul Kudus.

"This is not agood sign, It suggests that hornbills have been robbed of their food source and large trees that they need for nesting."

Rafi spends his weekends exploring various well-known birding spots in Malaysia, which include Lake Kenyir, Pulau Pangkor, Langkawi, Genting Highlands, Taman Negara and the peat swamps of Lanjut in Pahang.

"I've noticed the number of hornbills dwindling in all these places. It's not easy to see them anymore," he laments.

Malaysia is home,to 10 of 54 known species of hornbills worldwide, eight or nine of
which are found in most parts of the country. Only the plain-pouched hornbill is exclusively seen in Perak's Belnm-Temenggor forest, where all 10 species can be found and five are known to nest.

According to the IUCN-World Conservation Union Red List, the world's main authority on globally threatened biodiversity, six of the 10 species found in Malaysia are classified as "near-threatened", while the more elusive plain-pouched is currently considered to be "vulnerable".

"An experienced boatman told me that you could count up to 15,000 plain-pouched hornbills flying in Belum-Temengor five years ago during the peak season for mass migration, Now the numbers have been reduced to 2,000 or 3,000," says Raft.

Fewer birds
If current trends are anything to go by, the globally threatened birds face a challenging predicament due to Malaysia's rapidly evolving landscape.

Similar thoughts are echoed by Allen Jeyarajasingam, co-author of the essential Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore.

"We definitely have lower numbers now, especially in Selangor. You could see more hornbills in the 70s, but that was a different time," be says regretfully.

Volunteers with the Malaysian Nature Society's (MNS) Hornbill centred. That lorest is reputed to be one of few remaining frontiers that can support sizable populations of large birds such as the hornbill.

"From my many trips to Temenggor, 1 have seen significant changes to the landscape.
The non-sustainable logging of old-growth forests and increased construction of access roads has opened up more land," says Lira.

"Orang asli villagers are also clearing the forests to plant rubber," he said, reiterating that the sheer size of a hornbill demands large trees with existing hollows or crevices to
nest in.

Lira reveals that the highest count recorded by MNS in Belum-Temenggor was 2,400 plain-pouched hornbills in 1993, but now they count roughly 1,500.

"It looks like there has been a reduction in numbers but we have to continue surveying the area for a few more years before we can conclusively state that there is a decline," he explains. More studies

MNS conservation officer Ravinder highlights the need to better understand hornbills.
"We are currently collecting information about the nesting spots in BeIum-Temenggor
through the ongoing survey, which was initiated in 2004 she says.

She admits that research efforts so far have barely scratched the surface of all there is to know about the birds.

"Our main obstacle is funding but we will soon employ radiotagging methods for a more comprehensive study on the numbers and distribution of hornbills."

Lim says once they have the necessary data, they could inform the state Forestry Department so they logging is prevented in the outlined areas.

"It would also be wise to replant fruit trees and not just timber trees as the hornbills
have lost an important food source due t6 the clearing of forests."

Both could not stress more on the importance of extending gazettement of the Royal Belum State Park to include Temenggor forest reserve.

"We recently sent a delegation to speak with the Chief Minister of Perak about this and response so far has been very encouraging," says Ravinder, offering hope for our feathered friends up north.

But who's taking care of hornbill habitats located outside of Belum-Temenggor?
Raft, who has been actively birding for four years now, spoke peat swamps anG suP-coastal swamps in south-east and midwest Malaysia, where the population of wrinkled hornbills is now concentrated," he said.

Raft cites the work of Dr David Wells, an acclaimed ornithologist from Universiti Malaya who has written several articles on horn- bills. "He reckons that the status of the wrinkled hornbill should be moved up from 'near-threatened' to 'vulnerable'."

MNS senior conservation officer Yeap Chin Aik expresses his own words of caution: "Already one can only find hornbills in well-forested areas. If our forest cover continues to decline, the current 'near-threatened' species will become 'vulnerable', a very unenviable promotion."

Indonesian homemakers turn trash into fashion frills.

Flash from trash

USED detergent labels and toothpaste tubes from Indonesia are going from landfills to fashion frills on bags and wallets sold in Singapore, Australia and the United States.

The fad known as "trashion" has gained mainstream acceptance with chic, urban designers worldwide now posting big profits by using leftover, discarded and found materials to create jewellery, clothing and housewares.

But in Indonesia, where half the population of 235 million live on less than US$2 (RM6) a day, homemakers, disabled workers and local entrepreneurs are the ones embracing the eco-ftiendly fashion. The goal, they say, is to reduce pollution while providing jobs to the poorest of the poor,

Aswin Aditya, founder of the Jakarta-based company Plastic Works, buys plastic packaging from trash scavengers for US$0.66 (RM2) a kilogramme. His nine employees cut, sew and craft it into wallets, umbrellas and shower curtains that sell for between US$25 and US$85 (RM7S and RM255).

One of the destinations is Monsoon Vermont, an lntemet-based eco-shop in the United States that receives around f,O00 products a month, be said.

Recycling facilities are virtually non-existent across most of Indonesia, where landfills
are spilling over and where uncollected rubbish is often burned or ends up clogging streets and waterways. For some, the trashion industry is seen as a tiny but viable solution to unmanaged, growing consumer waste.

"What we do is small, but every little bit helps," said Aditya, who trains homemakers to produce goods suitable for export.

Indonesian designers, meanwhile, are showing their support for eco-fashion on the

Computer-chip dresses and frocks made from plastic wrap wowed audiences in March,
when models strutted their stuff during Eco Chic, an Asia-wide fashion show launched in Jakarta to help transform trash into brute couture.

Ann Wizer, director of the Jakarta-based non-profit design venture XS Project, says her
goal is to raise awareness about waste production and environmental degradation. But as
the potential for profits increase, prominent designers and corporations also are adopting
earth-friendly measures.

She urged consumers to be aware of businesses that appear green but are actually business ventures.

"This isn't about making money, it's about positive change," the former designer said.

That means providing jobs to a country suffering from widespread unemployment.
Regardless of the model, the money from the sale of trashion products goes back to the
communities that craft them. Both Plastic Works and KS also support local projects in
health and sanitation.