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Americans Feeling Better About Environment

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) — Americans are happier with the overall quality of the environment than they were last year at this time, a Gallup poll indicated.

Forty-six percent of those asked rated the environmental quality as “good” or “excellent,” up from 39 percent in March 2009, Gallup’s annual Social Series Environmental survey, released Monday, found.

The results of the poll, conducted March-7, are the most positive since 2002, Gallup says.

The public’s rating of the environment in the last two surveys — dating to March 2009, just after President Barack Obama’s inauguration — is far more optimistic than in the 10 years prior to his taking office, Gallup found.

“Public optimism about the environmental outlook surged among independents and Democrats in surveys bracketing the shift in presidential administrations from George W. Bush’s to Obama’s,” the survey said.

But perception of environmental quality also rose slightly among Republicans in the latest poll.

The telephone survey of a random sample of 1,014 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Asian Survivors Remember Tsunami Victims

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Dec. 26 (UPI) — Memorial services were held in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh Saturday to remember those killed five years ago in a devastating tsunami, witnesses said.

About 150,000 people died in and around the Indonesian city Dec. 26, 2005, when an undersea earthquake off Sumatra triggered large waves that killed a total of 250,000 people in 14 countries. Indonesian Vice President Boediono said a prayer at a mass grave site of the tsunami victims, CNN reported, while grieving residents wept and left flowers.

One woman who said her teenage children died in the tsunami told the U.S. broadcaster: “We are only human. We’ll never really forget. We still feel the trauma. And when there is another earthquake, all we can do is run and pray.”

Other tsunami-affected areas also held remembrances. In Thailand, Buddhist monks chanted prayers and grieving relatives came to the beaches to hold pictures of lost loved ones. Hundreds of tourists returned to Phuket island to hold a moment of silence to commemorate the catastrophe, the BBC reported.

Services were also held in Sri Lanka Saturday, where mourners prayed next to mass graves and observed silence at the exact moment the tsunami hit, the British broadcaster said.

“This time of year is a period for reflection for many people around the world,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a statement. “For the people of Sri Lanka it brings back acutely painful memories, but also for the first time in many years, a genuine sense of hope.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 6.0 magnitude undersea earthquake struck near Indonesia Saturday, but CNN said there were no reports of injury or damage and no tsunami warnings were issued.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Natural Disasters, Nature & Ecosystems, Other, People0 Comments

Red Snapper Population Sees Increase in Gulf of Mexico

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 27 (UPI) — The red snapper population in the Gulf of Mexico appears to have rebounded thanks to the efforts of U.S. government regulators, scientific data suggests.

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune said Sunday a new scientific assessment of the fish species’ population numbers in the gulf indicate the red snapper population is growing although overfishing still remains a point of concern.

Roy Crabtree, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s southeast regional administrator, praised the apparent reversal of the lengthy trend of major overfishing threatening the red snapper population.

“We’ve been trying to end the overfishing of red snapper for over 20 years, and this is the first time we’ve been able to do it,” Crabtree said. “I think a lot of fishermen have endured a lot of pain over the last few years, so hopefully things start to change for the better.”

The reversal of fortune for the species’ population comes after the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council set the red snapper quota to 5 million pounds in 2008.

The Times-Picayune said the catch limit for sport and commercial fishers was one of lowest for Gulf snapper in history.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Aquatic Life, Conservation, Fish, Nature & Ecosystems, Regional0 Comments

Swiss Alps Wildlife Hurt by Increase in Winter Tourism

BERN, Switzerland, Dec. 27 (UPI) — Swiss authorities say they are urging winter tourists to be aware of their impact on wildlife in the Alps.

With the booming popularity of winter sports such as free-ride snowboarding and snowshoe walking, Alpine wildlife — especially its deer population — is being impacted as never before, and officials are becoming concerned that human activity is threatening their survival, Swissinfo reported Sunday.

In response, Swiss federal wildlife officials, in cooperation with environmental groups and tourism managers, have launched an international awareness campaign urging visitors to stick to established routes, the Web site said.

Swiss mountain ranger Andres Overturf wouldn’t point fingers at any particular sport or activity, but noted that skiers, snowboarders and cross-country snowshoe hikers are all impacting wildlife by taking unpredictable paths.

“Animals can get used to human presence off-piste but only if people stick to the same routes and zones,” Overturf told Swissinfo, saying wild animals are losing crucial retreat spaces and must expend much physical energy to run away through high snow and cold temperatures.

“Added to this is food scarcity and often there is not enough time to rest because of the stress,” he said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollution, Animals, Business & Economics, Consumer Products, Ecosystems, Mammals, Nature & Ecosystems, Pollution & Toxins, Recreation & Travel, Walking0 Comments

Venomous Prehistoric Bird Named Sinornithosaurus Found in China

LAWRENCEVILLE, Kan., Dec. 23 (UPI) — A fossil found in China is the first venomous raptor in the lineage leading to modern birds, scientists at the University of Kansas say.

The turkey-sized Sinornithosaurus thrived nearly 128 million years ago in northeastern China, Larry Martin, a university paleontologist, said this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This thing is a venomous bird for all intents and purposes,” Martin said. “It was a real shock to us and we made a special trip to China to work on this.”

Sinornithosaurus, closely related to the four-winged glider Microraptor, had depressions on the side of its face that housed poisonous glands to deliver venom through its teeth, university researcher David Burnham said.

“The prey would rapidly go into shock, but it would still be living, and it might have seen itself being slowly devoured by this raptor,” Burnham said, noting the gland arrangement was similar to that found on modern fanged snakes.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Birds, Nature & Ecosystems, Prehistoric Animals0 Comments

California Boy Charged with Arson in Wildfires

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Dec. 23 (UPI) — A 16-year-old boy was charged with arson Wednesday in a pair of destructive California wildfires.

Ricky Sean Lukacs was charged as adult by the San Bernardino, Calif., County District Attorney’s Office after being linked to up to 14 fires, the Victorville (Calif.) Daily Press reported.

Prosecutors allege Lukacs was responsible for starting the Aug. 30 Oak Glen fire and the Aug. 31 Pendleton fire, which together with other fires he is suspected of starting, burned about four square miles in California’s High Desert country.

The Daily Press said Lukacs is scheduled for arraignment Monday in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Office, Other, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: Climate Talk Progress Held for Ransom

LONDON, Dec. 21 (UPI) — The new global treaty was held hostage by some countries opposed to a deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday.

After nearly two weeks of stalled talks on a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol for curbing greenhouse gases, the countries approved a five-page document that recognizes the need to limit global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius in 10 years, but doesn’t require signatories to take steps to address climate change. As explained by U.S. President Barack Obama Friday, countries will list “concrete commitments” into the document’s appendix, and would be subject to international consultation and analysis, leading to a hoped-for more binding document later.

Brown said the agreement — considered weak by environmental groups and some European leaders — called for reform of the way such negotiations occur, The Guardian reported.

Brown said the deal a “first step toward a new alliance to overcome the enormous challenges of climate change.” He also called on countries to show resolve to turn the agreement into a legally binding treaty.

“The talks in Copenhagen were not easy,” Brown said. “We must learn lessons from Copenhagen and the tough negotiations that took place. Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down these talks. Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries.”

Looking ahead, Brown said the global community should consider international body to handle environmental stewardship.

“I believe that in 2010 we will need to look at reforming our international institutions to meet the common challenges we face as an international community,” Brown said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy & Fuels, International Relations & Treaties, Nature & Ecosystems, Policy, Law, & Government, Pollution & Toxins, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

California Updates Tsunami Maps for 30 Coastal Communities

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 18 (UPI) — Doorknob hangars saying “Be Tsunami Ready” are being distributed throughout San Francisco to coincide with updated inundation maps, officials said.

The hangars, printed in English and Chinese, show a map of the areas likely to be swamped by a major tsunami, including all of Ocean Beach east to 46th Street and the zoo.

Newly updated inundation maps released Thursday by the state cover shorelines in 30 California coastal communities and show every harbor and inlet that would be threatened by a major sea wave, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

Major earthquakes along the Aleutian islands in Alaska could trigger tsunamis as far south as California. The 1964 Alaskan quake, with a magnitude of 9.2, killed 11 people in California when it sent waves 7 to 21 feet high between Crescent City and Monterey, state geologist John Parrish said.

“The danger is always present, and it could be worse,” Parrish told the Chronicle.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Earthquakes, Maps, Natural Disasters, Nature & Ecosystems0 Comments

U.N. Climate Summit Produces Forest Saving Pact

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 16 (UPI) — Climate change negotiators meeting in Denmark moved closer to a pact that would pay countries for preserving forests and other landscapes, negotiators said.

If signed as anticipated, the agreement for the compensation program would provide a system by which countries could be paid for conserving ebbing natural assets based on their contribution to reducing emissions, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Environmental groups at the U.N-sponsored summit in Copenhagen, Denmark said the pact could be the biggest accomplishment of the summit.

“It is likely to be the most concrete thing that comes out of Copenhagen — and it is a very big thing,” said Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Environmental groups support such a program because forests absorb carbon dioxide, the primary gas linked to global warming. Rain forest destruction, which releases the tree-stored CO2, is estimated to make up about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

A final draft of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation was to be presented Wednesday to summit participants, but likely won’t be announced until the end of the week when world leaders arrive, the Times said. Yet to be resolved are how to address the rights of indigenous people living on forest land and how a forest is defined.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Conservation, Effects Of Air Pollution, Global Warming & Climate Change, Nature & Ecosystems, Other, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

50,000 to Be Evacuated from Volcano Area

LEGAZPI, Philippines, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated Tuesday from areas near the Philippines’ Mayon Volcano, local reports indicated.

The Philippine News Agency said that authorities were evacuating 50,000 residents from the area after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology predicted Monday night that a “full-blown eruption” was likely within weeks or even days, CNN said.

The Institute’s Alex Baloloy reportedly told PNA that the alert level for Mayon was raised to “level 3,” meaning an eruption was imminent, after seismic instruments had detected 83 volcanic quakes.

CNN said residents of Albay province had flocked to the area to observe the lava flows from Mayon, a perfectly-shaped volcano rising to a height of 8,077 feet. It has erupted 49 times since the year 1616, volcanologists say.

The Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office told PNA that 9,946 families, or 47,285 people, would be taken out of harm’s way over the next three days.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Office0 Comments

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