Newsletter 223


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Newsletter 223

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER223 t h issue, April 12, 2013 CHILE: U.S. Contributions to Atacama Large Milimiter/Submilimeter Array (ALMA) In this issue: The inauguration of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) took place on Wednesday, March 13, marking ALMA’s CHILE: U.S. Contributions to ALMA. transition from a construction project to an operational astronomy facility. ALMA will be the world’s most sensitive, highest resolution, BRAZIL: Strict Protection of Lands Has Slowed millimeter and sub-millimeter-wavelength telescope. Deforestation. Antarctica: Subglacial Lake ALMA is an international collaboration, created in a partnership Vostok Yields New Bacterial between the United States, Europe, East Asia and the Republic of Life Form. Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led by the U.S. National Energy: In Search of Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the European Southern Miracles. Observatory (ESO), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Long road to Chajnantor. One of the 66 ALMA antennas Water: Billboard Makes Japan. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified is been transported from the assembly and verification leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and site located at 2,900 mt altitude to its final destination Drinking Water Out of Air. at the Chajnantor Plateau (5,000mt.). Credits: ESO/ Science: Astrobiologists operation of ALMA. NAOJ/NRAO. Claim Meteorite Carried Space Algae.  U.S. contributions to ALMA are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and total USD $499 million. PERU: First Place in Energy This is the largest capital investment the NSF has made in a single facility. Supply for Economic Development.  Of the 66 high-quality antennas at ALMA, 25 are funded by the United States. Conservation: Global Debate on Endangered Species Traffic.  Another NSF contribution to ALMA is the “Correlator”, also built by the NRAO. Environment: Green Building Increase Worldwide  Annual operating costs of ALMA funded by the National Science Foundation total USD $34 million.  Total U.S. investments in astronomy in Chile, including both capital costs and long-term operations, amount Next events: to over a billion U.S. dollars. ALMA is located in the Atacama desert at an elevation of 16,500 feet above sea level – making it the highest April17-19, 2013 telescope array on Earth. The 66 radio telescopes at ALMA can be moved to span 10 miles of desert, creating nearly International Fair of 71,000 square feet of radio light collecting area, which will allow the generation of images to sub-arcsecond spatial Technologies Energy, Santiago, Chile resolutions. Observations with this array of antennas will no doubt provide a testing ground for theories of star birth and stellar evolution, galaxy formation and evolution of the universe April 22, 2013 Earth Day itself. It will reveal the inner workings of the central black hole “engines” which power quasars, and will make possible a search for June 5, 2013 World Environment Day planets around hundreds of nearby starts. June 28-29, 2013 "We are proud of the U.S. contribution to ALMA and the international Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & International Congress, partnership that has made ALMA possible. U.S.-Chile collaboration in Lima, Peru astronomy dates back to 1849. The data and science gathered from July 10-12, 2013 ALMA will contribute to other U.S. investments in Chile, including the Eolica, Buenos Aires, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, Las Campanas Observatory, Argentina and Gemini." said U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Alejandro D. Wolff. ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor Plateau. Antennas of the Atacama Large Milimeter/submilimeter Array Read more: (ALMA) on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean alma_us_contribution.html Andes. Credits: ESO/C. Malin. The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. BRAZIL: Strict Protection of Lands Has Slowed Deforestation By Tiffany Stecker When it comes to halting deforestation in the Amazon, areas of strict protection have fared bet- ter than forests that allow the sustainable use of resources, a study has shown. Lands managed by indigenous people are especially effective. The researchers assessed 292 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon across three designations: strictly protected areas, sustainable use areas and indigenous lands. "Our analysis shows that strict protected areas should not be discounted as a strategy to avoid deforestation," said said Christoph Nolte, a doctoral candidate in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, and lead author of the paper. "It provides evidence that strict protected areas can be placed in areas of high deforestation pressure, and that they can be effective instru- ments for reducing deforestation -- whether deforestation pressure is high or low."Photo credit: CIAT, International Center for Tropical Agriculture Despite the better score for strictly protected lands -- national parks, for example -- protectedFreitas. (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. areas of all types showed less deforestation on average than unprotected areas. "There are suc-cess and failure stories for all of them," Nolte said. "All of them exhibit considerable variation."Sustainable-use lands are those in which tourism, environmental education and the extraction of timber and mineral forest products are permit-ted in specific parts of the area under a sustainable management plan.Nolte and the papers co-authors observed over two time periods: the first from 2000 to 2005 and the second from 2005 to 2010. Since 2004, theBrazilian government has made a strong effort to protect the rainforest after years of clearcutting for agriculture. The creation of protected areas,along with two moratoria on the soybean and ranching sectors expanding into forestland and better law enforcement, have allowed Brazil todrop its 2012 deforestation rate by 27 percent from the previous year -- a record for the country. Brazil has reduced its rate of deforestation by 76percent from its baseline, almost reaching its goal of 80 percent by 2020.Indigenous Lands Effectively Stop Deforestation. Sustainable-use areas were more likely to be close to regions with high deforestation pressure,primarily from large-scale farming and ranching. Indigenous areas were more likely to be located in zones that faced the highest deforestationpressure. "What we found interesting in indigenous lands, especially in the first period, is that the deforestation rate was almost never a reactionto deforestation pressure," Nolte said. He presumes that the reason for this is that much of the deforestation was for the purpose of small-scalesubsistence agriculture. Nolte also pointed out that, contrary to what some may think, strictly protected areas have some communities living inthem.Read more at: Subglacial Lake Vostok Yields New Bacterial Life Form By John Thomas DidymusRussian researchers studying samples from Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in the Antarctica, say they have found a new microbial lifeform unknown to science.RIA Novosti reports that the Russian scientists say they have found in samples of water collected from the subglacial lake a new type of bacteriadifferent from known types. The samples were obtained for laboratory study in 2012 after a Russian team drilled almost 4 km (2.34 miles) intothe lake that is believed to have been covered by ice for more than a million years in a liquid state.According to the Daily Galaxy, due to its long isolation scientists believed the lake could contain new forms of microbial life and unique geochemi-cal processes. The Daily Galaxy explains that Lake Vostoks ice cover provides "a continuous paleo-climatic record of 400,000 years, although thelake water itself may have been isolated for as long as 15 million years."According to RIA Novosti, Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, saidthe species of bacteria found in the samples of water from Lake Vostok do not be-long to any of the 40-plus known subkingdoms of bacteria.The BBC reports Bulat, said: "After putting aside all possible elements of contamina-tion, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in theglobal database. We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified."He said they were giving special attention to a type of bacteria found in the sampleswhose DNA was less than 86% similar to known forms. According to Bulat, "A level of90% usually means that the organism is unknown."However, some experts have called for caution, saying the data needs verification byother experts.Read more at: Image credit: Under Creative Commons License.
  3. 3. E N E R G Y : In Search of Miracles By Justin GillisAt a legendary but secretive laboratory in California, Lockheed Martin is working on a plan that some employees hope might trans-form the world’s energy system: a practicable type of nuclear fusion. Some 900 miles to the north, Bill Gates and another Microsoftveteran, Nathan Myhrvold, have poured millions into a company developing a fission reactor that could run on today’s nuclearwaste. And on the far side of the world, China has seized on discarded American research to pursue a safer reactor based on anabundant element called thorium.Beyond the question of whether they will work, these ambitious schemes pose a larger issue: How much faith should we, as a soci-ety, put in the idea of a big technological fix to save the world from climate change? A lot of smart people are coming to see theenergy problem as the defining challenge of the 21st century. We have to supply power and transportation to an eventual popula-tion of 10 billion people who deserve decent lives, and we have to do it while limiting the emissions that threaten our collectivefuture.Yet we have already poured so much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere that huge, threateningchanges to the world’s climate appear to be inevitable. And instead of slowing down, emissions are speeding up as billions of once-destitute people claw their way out of poverty, powered by fossil fuels. Many environmentalists believe that wind and solar powercan be scaled to meet the rising demand, especially if coupled with aggressive efforts to cut waste. But a lot of energy analystshave crunched the numbers and concluded that today’s renewables, important as they are, cannot get us even halfway there. “Weneed energy miracles,” Mr. Gates said in a speech three years ago introducing his approach, embodied in a company called Ter-raPower.A variety of new technologies might help. Bright young folks in American universities are working on better ways to store electric-ity, which could solve many of the problems associated with renewable power. Work has even begun on futuristic technologiesthat might cheaply pull carbon dioxide out of the air. But because of the pressing need for thousands of large generating stationsthat emit no carbon dioxide while providing electricity day and night, many technologists keep returning to potential improve-ments in nuclear power. After all, despite its many problems, it is the one low-carbon energy source that we know can work on avery large scale. France gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors.Perhaps Mr. Gates can find a way forward. He is the world’s second-richest man and surely the premier American technologist ofthe era, following the death of Steve Jobs.His partner in TerraPower is Mr. Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft. Adept in geophysics, space physics,mathematics, economics, paleontology and gastronomy, Mr. Myhrvold is the man behind a $600 cookbook called “Modernist Cui-sine” and a slew of other wildly inventive projects. Their plan is to build something called a traveling wave reactor. In principle, itcould operate safely for a half-century or more without refueling, and could run on material that has been discarded from today’sreactors as hazardous waste, solving several problems at once. They have persuaded an energy veteran, John Gilleland, to run thecompany; he employs about 60 people and is laying plans to build a prototype reactor. “We sensed that nuclear had not beenpushed in an innovative sense for some time,” Mr. Gilleland said. “No one had taken 21st-century technology and modeling capa-bilities and just sort of started over.”Their method, like that of existing reactors, is based on fission, or splitting heavy atoms, then using the resulting heat to spin tur-bines and make electricity. Lockheed Martin is pursuing a more difficult course: fusion. It involves fusing hydrogen variants intoheavier elements, similar to the reaction that powers the sun. The company will not say much about the program under way at itslegendary Skunk Works facility in California, which developed the U-2 spy plane. But in a videotaped speech this year, a leader ofthe program, Charles Chase, suggested it was aiming for small, modular fusion reactors that could be built in factories. Mr. Chaseand his colleagues face long odds: 60 years of research on fusion has produced more disappointment than progress. “There’s reallyonly one guarantee, and that’s if we don’t try, nothing is going to happen,” Mr. Chase said in his talk.Among the new nuclear approaches, fission reactors based onthorium are especially intriguing, offering potentially hugesafety advantages. The basic concepts were proved in re-search by the American nuclear establishment in the 1960s,but the idea was ultimately abandoned by the Nixon admini-stration in favor of a riskier approach called breeder reactors,which turned into an $8 billion black hole.Read full article at: Image credit: Sean MacEntee (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  4. 4. W A T E R : Billboard Makes Drinking Water Out of Air By T.J. Dimacali Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) has developed a billboard that extracts potable drinking water from out of the air, taking advantage of the areas high levels of atmos- pheric humidity. “Each generator captures the air humidity and from there it goes to a reverse osmosis system. Each tank stores about 5.28 gallons of water. These 5 generators purify the vital liquid and its total is gathered in one tank,” a UTEC engineer told the Latin American Herald Tribune. The Herald Tribune pointed out that, although atmospheric humidity in Lima and surrounding areas in Peru is as high as 98%, the rain in the coastal desert region "is almost zero." Many people suffer from a lack of potable water, the article added. "Most of us draw water from the well. It’s not nice and it’s polluted," said Francisco Quilca, a resident of the Bujama district. But the billboard, which was part of a publicity stunt to attract college applicants to thePhoto by ilikeflowersalot (flickr user). Under Creative UTEC, offers a novel solution that has long been the stuff of science fiction.Commons License. In the science fictional universe of Frank Herberts Dune novels, the inhabitants of the desertplanet Arrakis use similar technology called "wind traps" to harvest water from the air.Over a period of three months, the UTEC project was able to produce almost 2,500 gallons of drinking water —equal to "the waterconsumption of hundreds of families per month," according to the Tribune.Read full article at: more at: Astrobiologists Claim Meteorite Carried Space Algae By Marcia MaloryA fireball that appeared over the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa on December 29,2012 was a meteorite containing algae fossils, according to a paper published in the Jour-nal of Cosmology. A team of researchers, led by Jamie Wallis of Cardiff University, believesthat these fossils provide evidence of cometary panspermia, the hypothesis that life origi-nated in outer space and comets brought it to Earth.Scientists at the Sri Lankan Medical Research Institute in Colombo forwarded 628 stonefragments that allegedly fell from the fireball to Cardiff University, where Wallis teamindentified three as originating from a carbonaceous chondrite. The structure of one ofthe samples led the Cardiff researchers to conclude that the fireball was once a comet.Electron microscopy revealed what appeared to be fossils of algae embedded within the This shows an image of a large (100 µm diameter) and very complex, thick-walled, carbon-rich (kerogenous) microfossil thatsamples. the scientists have tentatively identified as a hystrichosphere. Credit: to Wallis and colleagues, this confirms that life on Earth had an extraterrestrialorigin. The researchers even claim that what look like unusually long, thin flagella are proof that the microorganisms in the meteor-ite evolved in a low gravity, low pressure environment. Critics argue that there could be a simpler explanation. Modern organismscould have contaminated the samples. However, the researchers state that low levels of nitrogen in the fragments and the positionof the fossils deep within the rock matrix indicate that the fossils are of ancient origin. It is not even certain that the samples camefrom the fireball. The reported trajectory of the fireball and eventual landing place of the fragments came from eyewitness ac-counts, which can be unreliable.According to skeptics, lightning strikes could have formed the stones. However, Wallis and his colleagues say there were no reportsof lightning at the time, and heat generated by lightning would have destroyed the fossils. Another possibility is that the fireballoriginally came from Earth. A long ago asteroid impact could have ejected rocks and water with biological material into space.Some of this ejected material could have reappeared in the atmosphere last December. Incredibly, all of the fossils found in thesamples were of freshwater species that live on Earth. Their origin in space would imply that they had the same evolutionary his-tory as their terrestrial cousins—remarkable considering their vastly different environments.Read more at:
  5. 5. PERU: First Place in Energy Supply for Economic Development*According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Peru is placed number one regarding energy systems that contribute to economicgrowth. This was highlighted in WEF’s last global report on energy development.The WEF is one of the world’s main economic foundations and every year gathers business, political, press, and intellectual leadersfrom all the countries in Davos, Switzerland, where they analyze the most urgent economic issues.According to its most recent report called “The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2013”, Peru is 15th of a totalof 105 assessed economies, and in one of the three key parameters, considered “the energy system that contributes to growth”,Peru is in first place. Energy Efficiency. In this last classification, there are concepts such as energy intensity, power price, energyefficiency, relative fuel price, etc. The best 10 economies in this classification are Peru, Colombia, Switzerland, Singapore, Uruguay,Norway, Australia, Croatia, and Rumania.The document highlights that all these countries have a clearly-defined energy efficiency program and have implemented energypolicies steps.“Peru, Colombia, and Switzerland are top on the chart of economic growth anddevelopment, with an average score of 0.76 EAPI (Energy Architecture Perform-ance Index) versus world’s average of 0.45.”The WEF report highlighted that Peru and Colombia have reformed energy mar-kets and have taken advantage of natural resources to spur economic growth anddevelopment. The publication stresses for the Peruvian case, reforms made inenergy markets, the law on electric concessions to foment investments, risingcompetition and efficiency, as well as the development of the natural gas market.Read more: Photo by mouseshadows (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.-desarrollo-economicoC O N SE R VA T IO N : G l o b a l D e b a t e O n E n d a n ge r e d Sp e c i e s T r a f f i c *Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico presented in Bangkok (Thailand) their joint initiatives to regulate thecapture and trade of white-tip, hammerhead, and porbeagle species of shark, and manta rays, as well.The position of the Latin American countries, which count on the support of the European Union and the United States, was pre-sented during the first meeting of the Convention on International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES) that started on March 3.CITES is an agreement adopted voluntarily by 177 countries since 1973 and that has inventoried about 35 thousand species of floraand fauna, to regulate their international trade and avoid their extermination.In a previous meeting, most of these proposals achieved practically the consensus of the regional block made of Latin America andthe Caribbean, for these species of shark mentioned above were added to the CITES Appendix 2, regulating their fishing in order toprotect their population. “Everybody understand that their inclusion in Appendix 2 is not difficult, it does not stop fishing, but in-tends to make the species population sustainable” says Fabio Hazin, professor at Rural Federal University of Pernanbuco, Brazil.Approval of these proposals in the meeting might open the opportunity to regulation and legalization mechanisms for shark fishing,such as permit issuance, origin certificates, or fishing records.Hazin pinpoints that the current lack of regulations has resulted in a serious decline of sharkpopulations, whose reproduction cycles are slow. The Asian countries consider this unaccept-able. Thailand, the host country, alleges that these would harm its fishing industry.According to the conservationist NGO Pew Charitable Trust, 100 million shark are capturedevery year to fulfill commercial demand for shark fin in the Asian market, particularly in Chinaand Japan, which are in the top of the list of countries rejecting proposals presented by LatinAmerica. Photo by Santiago Hernández (flickr user). UnderRead full article at: Creative Commons License.peligro.html
  6. 6. ENVIRONMENT: Green Building Increase Worldwide By Angela Soriano In today’s world, respect for the environment is becoming more important when we think about designing new buildings. Furthermore, more people are seeking to live in sustainable environments and trying to adapt to climate change. In Peru, the construction market is growing, and companies want to gain a competitive edge by differentiating products and services through certifications, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for new constructions. Thus, cer- tain organizations, such as the Peru Green Building Council, promote green con- structions by recommending adequate materials, promoting new technologies, reducing construction´s impact on the environment, and contributing to energy efficiency through the implementation and certification of green buildings. According to the World Green Building Trends Market Report, more companies desire that their businesses operate in green buildings: 51% of companies world- wide expect that 60% of their work to be green by 2015. The most important point of this report is that it shows a global trend, and confirms that it will have an im- pact on the growth of the green construction market. And entrepreneurs and builders will need to compete and offer consumers more sustainable buildings.Green buildings reduce maintenance expenses through energy efficiency, water use, and waste management, thereby adding valuecompared to a regular building. Seventy six percent of the survey respondents affirmed that green constructions simplified opera-tional costs, and more than a third admitted that buildings had a higher construction value as quality control.At the same time, the growth of this industry involves innovation and development of new products and services for green con-struction markets. In 2012, 89% of the global industry reported that they were using sustainable products, specifying at least one,and it is expected that by 2017, 91% of the industry will use them. The most significant opportunities for products in the green con-struction market are in the following categories: electrical, mechanical and thermal protection, with at least 60% of the survey re-spondents of this report declaring that they had already installed products in these categories in 2012, and a majority thoughtabout doing it by 2017.Thus, Peru GBC is organizing the Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & Inter-national Congress, which will be held from June 28 th to June 29th atThe Westin Hotel & Convention Center in Lima, Peru. This green con-struction event will have leaders from European, Asian and AfricanGreen Building Councils. Furthermore, Richard Fedrizzi, president andfounder of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC is theowner of ¨LEED¨, the biggest building certification worldwide), aswell as current president and founder of the World Green BuildingCouncil, will participate in the event. Also, the most important minis-ters of the sector, professional organizations and the Peruvian Cham-ber of Construction (CAPECO) will share experiences and knowledgeto achieve a greener country in a forum.Finally, Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & International Congress willbring 2 days of expert speakers, networking opportunities, modulesof the leading companies of the industry. This is a perfect opportu-nity for creating new relations and connecting with colleagues in theindustry. It will allow you to share ideas with people that believe ingreen construction and think of it as the future of this industry. PeruGreen Build 2013 Expo & International Congress provides unlimitedopportunities for learning, to find new businesses and show innova-tive products.Read more about Peru GBC at: