Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Undeveloped land losses rising quickly

Like driving along rural roads and seeing farms and open land? Like having space between developments and shopping areas? If action is not taken soon much of what you see will disappear forever in the state.

At the current rate of development in North Carolina a substantial percentage of existing open space will disappear by 2027 according to the report:
  • The Triangle will lose 37 percent of its open space and farmland will disappear altogether.

  • The Charlotte area will lose 30 percent of its forests and farmland, including nearly a quarter of its woodlands, the highest rate of forest loss in the state, the report says.

An initiative has begun to encourage lawmakers to ask for a bond referendum to provide funding to procure open space and preserve it for the future. Unfortunately this competes for requests for funds for housing, schools and other needs that will likely win out. Read the article...
News and Observer
April 25, 2007
Wade Rawlins, Staff Writer

Report: undeveloped land
losses rising

If current development rates continue, at least 2
million acres of forest and farmland in North Carolina will disappear over the
next 20 years, says a report released today by Environment North Carolina, a
conservation advocacy group.

The report examines federal data about development rates in the past two
decades and uses that to project loss of farmland and forests in the next 20

Since 1987, the amount of developed land in North Carolina increased by 1.86
million acres, including 327,000 acres in the Triangle, the report says. Read more...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A bid to reclaim vanishing night

Looked up into the night sky lately? The stars don't seem as bright and plentiful as they were before.

Part of the problem is the ever increasing glow of outdoor lighting in and around developing areas contributing to "light pollution".

The following news commentary notes "the International Dark Sky Association estimates that 99 percent of the people in the United States and Europe live in light-polluted areas, unable to see traces of the Milky Way or many stars when they walk out of their homes and gaze skyward." This will forever change our view of the stars and night sky unless everyone chooses to reduce the amount of artificial light around homes and shopping areas.

Reducing night time lighting can help preserve the natural beauty of the night sky and efforts to reduce "light pollution will cut wasted energy and greenhouse gases from power plants" and help address global warming issues.
News and Observer
April 22, 2007
Catherine Clabby, Staff Writer

A bid to reclaim vanishing night

CHAPEL HILL - As the show begins, visitors to the Morehead Planetarium see a night sky free of polluting light. Projected onto the dome is a truly dark sky pricked by countless sparkling points. A narrow smudge -- our galaxy, the Milky Way -- is as clear as day.

Then the light grows to a brightness familiar outside the building. The number of stars visible in the virtual sky drops dramatically, to just a handful of tiny bright spots.

"I know, it's terrible," Morehead educator Amy Sayles says sympathetically to a multigenerational crowd of dozens who gathered at the planetarium for "Our Vanishing Night," a program leading up to the Earth Day observances today.

This year, a growing coalition showed itself in the Triangle asking the rest of us to turn down the lights. A group of amateur and professional astronomers has made this plea for decades. Now the astronomers are joined by a new ally -- environmentalists. Read more...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nuclear power in North Carolina

The debate goes on regarding whether to use more nuclear generated power or coal generation. But another concern is emerging about how to keep nuclear plants safe as spent fuel accumulates.

A News and Observer publication discusses an "emerging issue" regarding accumulation of radioactive waste at the Shearon Harris plant in southern Wake County...
News and Observer
April 15, 2007
John Murawski, Staff Writer

Nuclear foes see danger in waste
Harris plant starts relicensing process

The Shearon Harris nuclear plant has long drawn scrutiny over the safety of atomic power. But safety concerns are shifting to an emerging issue: the buildup of radioactive waste at the site in volumes never anticipated when the plant began operating 20 years ago.

Longtime nuclear critics plan to highlight the nuclear waste quandary during a two-year safety review as Progress Energy seeks to extend the Shearon Harris operating license into the middle of the century. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold the first public meeting on the Shearon Harris relicensing on Wednesday in Apex.

The nuclear waste issue is gaining momentum nationwide amid growing concerns that nuclear plants are potential targets for terrorism and sabotage. With no long-term solution in sight for disposing of nuclear waste, many nuclear plants are storing three times as much waste as the temporary pools were originally expected to hold. Unlike the nuclear reactors themselves, the storage sites usually are not heavily fortified against attack. Read more...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Corn going up, production increasing

Going green brings with it a cost. Increased use of corn for making ethanol fuel additives brings with it increased costs and encourages farmers to produce more corn. Planting more corn also means less of other crops will be produced. China and India have also indicated they will import more corn. The circle goes round and round. Read more about the impact on the economy and other costs...
News and Observer
March 31, 3007
Nafeesa Syeed and David Pitt, The Associated Press

DES MOINES, IOWA - An ethanol-fueled boom in prices will prompt U.S. farmers to plant more corn than they have since the year the Allies invaded Normandy. However, surging demand still could mean that consumers pay more for everything from chicken to cough syrup.

Farmers are expected to plant 90.5 million acres of corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual prospective plantings report, released Friday. That would be a 15 percent increase over 2006 and the most corn planted since 1944.

The move to plant corn is in large part because of a rush to produce corn-based ethanol, which is blended with gasoline. There are 114 ethanol refineries nationwide and 80 under construction. Read more...