Painting the countryside blue

large_blue_butterflyLarge blues were officially declared extinct in Britain thirty years ago, but the beautiful large blue butterfly has made an astonishing return.

Around 20,000 will be flitting through the countryside this summer as a result of reintroduction efforts, scientists say. It is one of the world’s most threatened species – and one of the most choosy.

Large blues can only live on closely grazed hillsides and meadows where a particular sort of red ant makes its home.

But changes in farming techniques meant this sort of habitat began to disappear until the last native large blue died out in 1979 – before making its latest comeback.

Sir David Attenborough said: ‘The restoration of the large blue butterfly to Britain is a remarkable success story, illustrating the power of ecological research to reverse
damaging environmental changes.’

Their decline used to be blamed on greedy butterfly hunters. However, studies led by Professor Colourful comeback: The large blue butterfly Jeremy Thomas from Oxford University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology showed that the loss of grazed hillsides where the red ant lives was the cause.

Europe to be powered by the Sahara?

BERLIN, (Reuters) – A 400-billion euro ($554 billion) project linking solar power produced in the Sahara to energy users in Europe and North Africa is a ‘win-win’ for both continents and could also promote integration around the Mediterranean, a German minister said.

Guenter Gloser, deputy foreign minister, told Reuters 20 gigawatts of concentrated solar power (CSP)—the equivalent of 20 large conventional power plants—could be harvested each year by 2020 if the project called Desertec got off the ground.

Residents of Tokyo has new way of fighting burglars

Tokyo (Reuters) – A Tokyo district plagued with burglaries has turned to planting flowers to beautify its streets and help stamp out crime.

“‘Operation Flower’ began about three years ago. By planting flowers facing the street, more people will be keeping an eye out while taking care of the flowers or watering them,” said Kiyotaka Ohyagi, a Suginami City official.

“The best way to prevent crime is to have more people on the lookout.”

Suginami, with a population of 528,800, saw a record 1,710 break-ins in 2002.

When a neighborhood watch group found that there were fewer burglaries in buildings on flower-lined streets, Suginami decided to kick off Operation Flower and asked volunteers to plant seeds on side streets and in front of their homes.

The flowers are part of a wider crime prevention campaign. The district also has 9,600 volunteer patrollers and 200 security cameras set up in areas where there are frequent break-ins. It also emails crime information daily to residents.

HIV in South Africa improving

From Associated Press….

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The number of new HIV infections among South African teens has dropped significantly, prompting hope that national efforts to tackle the epidemic have finally turned a corner after years of denial and delay.

A report by the Human Sciences Research Council released Tuesday said that although young people continue to have multiple sexual partners — which drives South Africa’s epidemic — they are increasingly heeding advice to use a condom.

“There is clearly light at the end of the tunnel,” said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. “There is real light.”

Motsoaledi, a respected medical doctor, became health minister last month. He must overcome the legacy of former President Thabo Mbeki, who denied the link between HIV and AIDS, and his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who mistrusted conventional anti-AIDS drugs and promoted beetroot and lemon.

New hope for Chinas’ polluted cities

pearl river tower 310mA new skyscraper that is being constructed in Guangzhou in southern China is being heralded as a change of direction for China’s green credentials.

The 310m Pearl River Tower is going to be off the electricity grid of China, in one of it’s most polluted cities, and will be run on a combination of wind turbines, solar panels and fuel cells. The building is expected to be finished in late 2010.

Other energy efficient features include a double-layer curtain-wall system to reduce heat absorption and slab concrete vaulted ceilings that enhance natural daylight. Chilled water will run through metal panels in the ceiling, helping to cool the building.

Hopefully China is finally waking up to the threat of global warming and can lead the world in sustainable building.