Today in We're Doomed: Wilkins Ice Shelf Hanging on by a Thread [Sky News]

From Celsias

The [Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica], located due south of the tip of South America, is currently hanging on by a rapidly diminishing 25-mile wide strip of ice which has narrowed to 1,640 feet at its narrowest point.

Another victim of climate change, the shelf was more than 62 miles wide as recently as 1950 and covered 6,000 square miles, or slightly larger than the U.S. state of Connecticut. As it breaks up, and pieces break free, the sea around the Shelf is fraught with icebergs as big as football fields.

In its demise, Wilkins follows in the footsteps of nine other shelves which have gone the same route in the past half-century; the three sections of Filchner (1986), the Larsen A (1995), several portions of the Ross A (2000), the Larsen B (2002), the Ayles (2005), and the Markham (2008). In total, Antarctic ice loss since 1950 exceeds 9,652 square miles, an area the size of Vermont, changing the face of a continent which has endured, intact (prior to the advent of the Industrial Revolution) for at least 10,000 years.

Related posts:
Today in We’re Doomed: This Summer’s Arctic Sea Ice Melting
Melting Arctic Sea Ice [Time-lapse Video]
Friday Photo: Waterworld
Link of the Day 052508: Vast cracks appear in Arctic ice [BBC]
Video: Climate Change – Wake Up, Freak Out — Then Get a Grip

[Link of the Day 022009] Foreign aid and Bad Government? Coincidence? I think not. [WSJ]

From Iqbal Quadir’s opinion piece in the WSJ: Foreign Aid and Bad Government

Barack Obama has talked a lot about changing the way America relates to the world, and few areas are as ripe for reform as our policies on foreign aid. They have contributed to economic stagnation in poor countries and deprived America of large export markets. Entrepreneurship, not aid, is essential to rejuvenate markets in the developing world and, in turn, help America prosper.

During the Cold War, the U.S. instituted a policy of sending money to governments in poor countries to buy their political loyalty. While studies show that sending aid to foreign governments creates allegiance, it does not lead to economic progress. Instead, it makes governments in poor countries dependent on the U.S. rather than their citizens’ taxes.


AIDG’s 1st Business Plan Competition in Northern Haiti

Konkou Biznis Ayiti


Extended Call for Applications: AIDG is Sponsoring a Business Plan Competition to Promote Biogas Development in Northern Haiti

US$50,000 in grants and early-stage financing is available for the winning proposal.

Boston, 12/30/08 – The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG), a technology R&D and small business development non-profit, is calling for innovative and dynamic ideas for its 1st business plan competition in Northern Haiti, KonKou Biznis Ayiti. The purpose of the competition is to help smart and passionate Haitian entrepreneurs solve some of the most pressing issues facing Haiti today.

This year’s contest focuses on biogas, a form of renewable energy that can hold an important place in the sustainable development of Haiti. This methane-rich carbon neutral biofuel can be substituted for charcoal, propane, kerosene and other combustible fuels for the purposes of cooking, heating or even electricity generation. The by-product of its production is a nutrient rich liquid fertilizer that can significantly increase yields of certain crops.

The team with the most promising idea for commercializing biogas in Northern Haiti will receive US$50,000 in grants and early-stage business financing for implementation over 2 years. In addition to the cash awards, the winning team with receive technical training on a number of biogas systems as well as training on the best practices of enterprise management.

Applications are accepted until March 6th. Five finalists will be announced March 16th and will compete in Cap Haitien for the grand prize March 29 – April 4.
To learn more about the business plan competition or to apply, visit

Key Contest Dates

* March 6, 2009: Deadline for submission of all business plans (5PM EST).
* March 16, 2009: 5 Finalists announced.
* March 29 – April 4, 2009: Finalists compete in Cap Haitien, Haiti for the grand prize.
* April 14, 2009: Winner/winning team announced.

For more info visit

Link of the Day 021109: The effect of global slowdown on recycling [Salon HTWW]

From Salon’s How the World Works “Rich man, poor man, recycling man“:

As the global economy has cratered, and prices for a vast array of commodities have suddenly gone from boom to bust, so too has the global market for recycled paper and plastic retreated with astonishing haste. This is in large part due to China’s drastically diminished appetite for waste materials that can be reprocessed into packaging materials for its massive export machine. A collapse in exports translates into reduced demand for packaging which suddenly means no more hunger for shredded water bottles.

Definitely clip through to the link that Andrew mentions in his piece. The Two Cultures, Recycling Edition

1000’s of Abandoned Glass Bottles in China, Any Ideas?

Duration: 1min 31sec

Link of the Day 020509: A quick guide to starting up your biodigester

AIDG biogas intern, James Duncan recently wrote up a great guide on how to start up small-scale biodigesters. The guide includes information on how to start up and idle your simple biodigester, the effects of temperature, the role of nutrients and a few basic troubleshooting tips.

Check out the guide at Appropedia:

If you have any suggestions on how to improve the guide, please leave them in the comments.

Link of the Day 020409: Electric car issues – "Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium" [NYTimes]

From the NYTimes:

In the rush to build the next generation of hybrid or electric cars, a sobering fact confronts both automakers and governments seeking to lower their reliance on foreign oil: almost half of the world’s lithium, the mineral needed to power the vehicles, is found here in Bolivia — a country that may not be willing to surrender it so easily.

This is a very interesting problem, especially for people concerned about indigenous rights:

For now, the government talks of closely controlling the lithium and keeping foreigners at bay. Adding to the pressure, indigenous groups here in the remote salt desert where the mineral lies are pushing for a share in the eventual bounty.

“We know that Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” said Francisco Quisbert, 64, the leader of Frutcas, a group of salt gatherers and quinoa farmers on the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. “We are poor, but we are not stupid peasants. The lithium may be Bolivia’s, but it is also our property.”

It’s times like these when I wonder when landfill mining will become en vogue.

Hat-tip PCH.

Link of the Day 020309: Google Foundation's SME Initiative "On the Back Burner" []

At least one in four businesses never reopens after a natural disaster I was walking down the street in NYC when I came across a sign like this one from saying that “At least one in four businesses never reopen [sic] after a natural disaster”.

This got me thinking not only about business closures due to natural disasters in developing countries, but also about businesses that never get opened in the first place. With this on my mind, I was very disappointed to learn to is “putting [its] SME initiative on the backburner” in 2009.

We still strongly believe that growing small businesses will help the poor, but one of Google’s ten organizing principles is, “it’s best to do one thing really, really well.” As we evaluated our efforts this past year, it became clear that given’s unique strengths – including the ability to tap Google engineers to build and link better pathways to information – we could have a greater impact on the lives of the poor by focusing our efforts on Inform and Empower. As a result, we’re putting our SME initiative on the back burner. We’ll continue to support the grants and investments that we’ve already committed under the initiative. We have observed and learned from many others addressing the challenges of financing SMEs — many of whom are seeing significant strong results — and we hope they continue with great success. At this time, however, we will not fund new efforts in the SME space.

Sigh. Well, from the sound of it, at least they will continue to support Believe, Begin, Become.

Snarky note: I find it ironic to hear that one of the Goog’s governing principles is to do one thing and do it well. Hasn’t the search giant just gotten into the cell-phone, cloud computing, and browser business? I’m just saying.