Monthly Archives: February 2008

Kenyan Birds and Sugar Cane


A flourishing wetland on Kenya’s northern coast is under serious threat from plans to grow vast amounts of sugarcane, partly for biofuel production. Developers want to transform nearly 20,000 hectares of the spectacular Tana River Delta, into sugarcane plantations with other parts of the Delta earmarked for rice.”This development would be a national disaster, wreaking havoc with the area’s ecosystem and spelling the end for wildlife across much of the Delta”, said Paul Matiku, Executive Director of NatureKenya. “Large areas would become ecological deserts. The Delta is a wildlife refuge with cattle herders depending on it for centuries as well. There is no commitment to mitigation for the damage that will be done and no evidence that local incomes will be in any way improved. The sugarcane scheme cannot be allowed to go ahead.”The Delta, covering 130,000 hectares in total, is one of Kenya’s largest and most important freshwater wetlands. It is a vast patchwork of habitats including savannah, forests, beaches, lakes, mangrove swamps and the Tana River itself. Local people live by the seasons, adapting to the regular floods that keep the area fertile through the year.The sugarcane scheme, submitted by Mumias Sugar Company and Tana and Athi River Development Authority, proposes nearly 50,000 acres of irrigated sugarcane, together with sugar and ethanol plants. Local community livelihoods are likely to be severely impacted by any large-scale irrigation project.

Read the rest at BirdLife International

An Ocean of Despair

Almost half of the world’s oceans have been ruined to some degree … often very severely … by human activity. You’ve heard a lot on the news and in the blogosphere about this lately. This increased interest is in part because of the recent production (Feb 15th Science) of a map of the ocean showing these impact.Here is the map:i-1ad466ce88f4a52acfcaf1b830db6cc8-ocean_map_small.jpgClick Here to View Larger Image Continue reading An Ocean of Despair

Very Large Parks are the Wave of the Future

i-7d35893be24aaef70df6fcdd0a3c03cc-tigersnowJLM1161.jpgAcross Africa, and to some extent Asia, existing large parks and preserves are being combined into very large parks in order to serve several important functions. One is to make the parks so large that there will be interior areas that are impractical for most poaching or other encroachment. Another is to allow movement of migratory animals into new areas when their populations grow (presumably with some degree of natural culling cycling the process down now and then). Another is to allow a park to always contain a minimal range of a certain habitat even when secular or long term climate variation reduces that habitat. Yet another may be to make the park more attractive to tourism.With animals like tigers, who have relatively low population densities, it is essential to have large contiguous areas in order to have a viable population size both for genetic diversity and to get past periods of decimation by periodic disease or starvation episodes. Continue reading Very Large Parks are the Wave of the Future

New Zealand announces measures for albatross


BirdLife International has welcomed the measures announced by New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to reduce the number of seabirds killed in New Zealand’s fisheries. This follows an incident last year where a single longline vessel fishing in the Chatham Rise area of New Zealand was responsible for the deaths of 36 albatrosses including 12 Critically Endangered Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita.”We are delighted that New Zealand is bringing its fishing practice into line with internationally recognised best practice. The New Zealand Minister of Fisheries should be congratulated on his decision”, said John Croxall, Chairman of BirdLife’s Seabird Programme.

Read the rest here at BirdLife InternationalOther posts on birds

The Coming Plague

You have probably heard that the current flu vaccine matches the current flue strains in the US very poorly, perhaps at about a 40 percent rate. Flu and the vaccine mismatch is a post at Effect Measure that will update you on this important issue. This is especially important because you need to understand what vaccines do, how they work and how they don’t work.

The simultaneous news of widespread flu and the mismatch of two components of this year’s seasonal vaccine (see here and here) seem to have synergized. That’s not so good in the view of many flu experts, who believe (correctly) that it leads to a misunderstanding of how the vaccine works (or doesn’t)

Then there’s the bird flu: Continue reading The Coming Plague

Linux and Instant Messaging

I don’t do much instant messaging, although I have found it useful for communicating with colleagues overseas for free. But, in the ongoing quest for the answer to the question “Right, but can I do that in Linux?” I offer the following link on Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications.Do I need to point out that “instant messaging” (communication across a network between different computers was invented on, by, and for Unix type machines. So of course, IM would be a natural with Linux. Not only that, but if you are sitting at your Mac communicating with someone half way around the world sitting at their PC, there are numerous Unix/Linux machines linking you up and doing the real work.

Another Absurd Patent

OH, and this…

“If all goes IBM’s way, it’ll soon constitute patent infringement if Bennigan’s gives you a free lunch for being inconvenienced by a long wait for your meal. Big Blue is seeking a patent for its Method and Structure for Automated Crediting to Customers for Waiting, the purported ‘invention’ of three IBM researchers, which IBM notes, ‘could be implemented completely devoid of computerization or automation of any kind.’ Can we count on IBM to withdraw this patent claim, or will Big Blue weasel out of its patent reform pledge again?”[source]