Thursday, January 16, 2020

Preventing Wildfires

How to prevent wildfires
Coastal Rainforest in Tambrauw Mountains
Recent wildfires in Australia and other parts of the world have raised questions about ways that we can do to prevent them. Around 90% of them are caused by human activities. Wildfires can only happen if there are 3 important components:
  • Heat: Sun, lightning, eruption from a volcano, man-made fire from matches or campfire, and cigarette butts,
  • Flammable materials (dry wood, leaves) on the forest floor,
  • Oxygen.
Massive wildfires can spread quickly to all corners of the forest, to farmlands, and residential areas. Smokes that are emitted are blown by the wind to far away places including to big cities. For instance, wildfires in Sumatra island of Indonesia emitted toxic haze that reached cities in Sumatra, Singapore and Malaysia. City dwellers reported respiratory ilnesses. Thick smokes in the sky forced airlines to cancel or delay flights to affected cities.
To prevent bushfires or wildfires from happening again in the future, we must make sure that at least 1 or 2 components that I mention above can be removed or controlled. It is obvious that we cannot remove oxygen from the huge forest area. So, the components that we can remove or control are man-made heat source and the flammable materials. 
To prevent man-made heat source from being introduced into the forest, we need to provide educational information in public spaces. It can be a big infographic board installed at the entrance gate to a forest, which says that campers must put off their campfire with water. Notice boards can also contain infographics that ban smokers from tossing their cigarrete butts into the roadside bush. 
We need water to extinguish fire. Water tankers and firefighting devices are needed to stop massive forest fires. This could be carried out in forest areas that are accessible by roads. Wildfires that happen in remote mountaineous region can be stopped using water bomber airplanes or helicopters. Modern aerial firefighting aircraft such as Beriev Be-200 can quickly refill its tanks while flying low on the surface of a lake or sea. Older amphibious aircrafts, the PBY Catalina and Canadair CL-215, are also used as water bombers.
Roads inside the Forest
Countries that have got rainforest near residential areas build roads into the forests which they can use for recreational  or ecotourism purposes, thinning of forest, removing debris and putting off forest fire. The roads themselves also function as fire brakes. However, these roads must not be abused for doing more ilegal logging and pouching activities.
Using Forest Debris as Biomass Fuel
To remove flammable forest debris from rainforest, we can extract the fallen branches, twigs and leaves on forest floor, and use them as materials for house constructions and furniture making. The biomass can also be used as fuel for power plant. The simplest way is by using firewood as fuels for biomass cooking stoves. Wood as fuel for home cooking can be cut into small pieces or turned into pellets. The introduction of LPG cooking stoves that use cheaper and "cleaner fossil fuel" has pushed biomass cooking stoves out of the market.
Proper public education about the advantage of using biomass fuels for home cooking in preventing forest fire can significantly increase the market share of this biomass cooking stove again.
Livestock Animal as Firefighter
Bringing livestock to forest, and bush areas for grazing can effectively create fire-brake zones that prevent future accidental wildfires.
Artificial Water Reservoirs
Some countries build hundreds of water reservoirs or man-made lakes using recycled water to support their agricultural industry. The same water can also be used to extinguish wildfires if it occurs again in the region. - written by Charles Roring
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We need Rainforest
We use Natural Resources Faster than What the Earth can Replenish

Thursday, January 9, 2020

We need rainforest

Everyone of us needs rainforest whether we realize it or not. Tropical rainforest absorbs carbon dioxide gases that we emit when we breath, or when we drive our cars and motorcycles or when we cook in the kitchen  and warm our rooms using firewood, gas or kerosene. During the day when the sunlight reaches the forest, it is used by trees to perform photosynthesis. With the help of sunlight, plants turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. The oxygen that is released into the atmosphere will later be used by all living organisms to survive.
In recent years, the long-term rise of the earth's temperature, famously known as global warming, has attracted the attention of international communities. Tropical rainforests play vital role in absorbing green house gases. More people now visit rainforest as tourists who want to see the beauty of its biodiversity and scenery or as researchers who want to know more about the complex relationships of organisms that live inside the rainforest.
Our understanding about rainforest is getting better now with the availability of videos, uploaded in video sharing websites like Youtube and Facebook by people who visit rainforests. The videos can be about birds, reptiles, mammals, insects or the life of indigenous people in the rainforest.
Tropical rainforest in West Papua province of Indonesia
Tropical Rainforest in Indonesia
Our Renewable Resources for Everything
Construction and Household Materials
Rainforest produce trees that are exploited by humans to make various kinds of timber products. When they are sent to furniture industry, they will be turned into office and dining tables, chairs, bookshelves, cabinets, photo-frame, dressing table, and a lot more. Wood is still a very important materials for house and building constructions. Tribes who live near or in the forest take wood, bamboo, rattan, leaves, and other kinds of fiber to build houses and household equipment. Traditional fisherman often go to the forest to cut trees as their raw materials for making boats.
Resources for Foods
When we walk inside rainforest, we will see various kinds of plants. There are the ones that produce fruits such as mango, matoa, rambutan, durian, langsat, jackfruit and a lot more. There are also bamboo shoot, mushrooms, and young leaves or buds from such plants as fern, gnetum gnemon that are used as  vegetables. For carbohydrates or staple foods, the indigenous people in South-east Asia harvest sago flour, banana, cassava, and bread fruit. Aren and coconut trees produce sap that can be used to make palm sugar. The same sap can also be fermented and distilled to make alcoholic liquor.
Rainforest is the source of protein. Tribes still go to rainforest to set-up traps or to hunt animals such as deer, boar, or wallaby. They catch fish in the river by using hook and line, fishing spears or traps.
Traditional Medicines
Indigenous people who live in and around the forest go to the forest to get plants that can be used to make herbal medicines. Hundreds of species of flower plants have got oils that can be extracted for making essential oils. They are important ingredients for food, medicine and cosmetics.
Our Source of Ground Water
Good and healthy forest in mountainous regions can keep higher percentage of rain water which can later be used by human during dry season. Water is the essence of life. We drink it, we use it when we cook our food, and we use it while taking a bath or washing our clothes. We need water to water our farmlands. We also use water when we wash our motorized vehicles. If we can preserve rainforest, we can continue to survive in this planet.
All living organisms in rainforest are connected in a complex food chain that supports a balanced ecosystem of the rainforest. For instance, when coastal birds catch fish at sea and eat them while sitting on branches of coastal trees, their poops that fall on the ground will become manure that fertilize the forest.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

How to Reduce Dependency On Fossil Fuels

We live in the era where most of our energy needs come from fossil fuels. We travel by cars and motorcycles that use gasoline and diesel fuel, we use electricity at homes supplied by utility companies whose generators run on coal, diesel or compact natural gas. We travel to cities in overseas countries by aircrafts that use jet fuel (avtur). Everyday we emit greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming. We may used up our oil in the next 50 years and coal in the next 100 years.
Take up cycling as an environmentally friendly lifestyle
Cycling lifestyle is good for our health & environment
Renewable Enery and Hydrogen are now being considered as the most suitable solution to reduce CO2 emmision. Electricity generated drom solar and wind powerplant can be used to electrolized water to produce green hydrogen. When brought to -253 °C, the hydrogen will become liquid. This fuel can be used for a large varieties of application including cars, ship, airplanes, factories and a lot more. Countries like Japan, Germany, South Korea, Australia, the United States, French, Spain, China and etc. are investing huge amount of money on building hydrogen society. The policy of shifting from fossil fuel economy to hydrogen economy is seen as the solution for creating an environmentally friendly society. 
In addition to addoption of carbon neutral economy through the use of hydrogen, there are a lot of conventional ways that we can do to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels:
  • Conserve Energy - The simplest way to do is by reducing our use of fossil fuels. At nights when we sleep, we turn off the lights in our houses. When we go to nearby shops whose distance is less than 1 km, instead of riding motorcycles, we can walk. When we travel by cars or motorcycles, we can use gps aided navigation software such as google map and waze to help us find the shortest route for us. This free to use application greatly help us in saving fuel. Most of us now use LED lights. This technology converts around 95 percent of electrical energy into lights and only 5 % that becomes heat. We can also install solar thermal collector to heat water at homes instead of using electricity.
  • Create fuel efficient vehicles. This can clearly be seen in aviation industry. Aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus, Comac, Irkut, and ATR are developing passenger planes that use less fuel. Certain parts of modern aircrafts are made of carbon fiber and other compound materials that are lighter but strong and safe for long flights. Jet Engine manufacturers such as CFM International, Pratt and Whitney,  MTU, Rolls Royce, Aviadvigatel and etc. use advanced materials such as monocrystalline metal compounds, CMC (Ceramic Matrix Composites) to make high bypass jet engines that are lighter, powerful but consume less fuel. In the automotive industry, the trend is also the same. The availability of GPS Navigation Apps such as Google Map and Waze greatly help motorcycle and car drivers to reach their destinations efficiently.
  • Take up cycling as our lifestyle - countries like China, the Netherlands, and Denmark, Sweden, Japan, and Norway have got significant percentage of their populations who use bicycles in their daily life. Bicycle manufacturers have improved their products by creating lighter but stronger bikes for their users. There are also with gears that can be used to climb steep slopes. Shimano is one of the leading companies that manufacture derailleur gears for mountain bikes. This technology has greatly helped cyclists when they want to ride their bikes in hilly countries. Electrical bikes with rechargeable batteries are now available in the market. If an owner recharges his or her electric bikes using electricity that is produced by photovoltaic or other renewable energy resources, he or she has reduced the use of fossil fuels.
  • Use organic fertilizer - In agricultural sector, we use natural gas to make nitrogen fertilizer. We also use train, large ships, and big trucks that use diesel fuel to transport it from factories to farmlands. We can reduce the use of this synthetic fertilizer or urea by using organic fertilizer. Traditional farmers in Asian countries have done this since ancient times for their rice crops. Certain farmers apply crop rotation methods to increase the productivity of their farmland without significantly increase the use of urea fertilizer.
  • Increase the use of renewable energy - Solar power (both photovoltaic and concentrated heat), hydropower, wind, and ocean thermal conversion as well as biomass are needed to completely replace fossil fuels. Huge percentage of our energy is spent for transportations. With the development of electric vehicles, we are now seeing electric cars that can be recharged faster and that can travel in longer distances. Technological companies are now investing huge amount of their money on trying to create batteries that are smaller but can store energy in higher density.
Some readers may disagree when I mention biomass in the last point above because the burning of wood and other organic materials to create heat and generate electricity is not a wise plan. I understand that wood burning will produce carbon dioxide and other toxic gases. However, proper preparation of the fuel materials before burning coupled with good and well thought design of the powerplant can reduce the emission of toxic gases and other harmful particles into the atmosphere. The extraction of scrab lumber, forest debris, and agricultural wastes is important in removing highly flammable debris from the forest and its surroundings. In other words, biomass powerplants that use forest debris play significant roles in reducing forest fire. The extraction of forest debris enhances the health of the forest itself.
It is not easy to create a modern carbon neautral society that 100% use renewable energy and other environmentally friendly means to survive. We have got the technology to do that. All we need now is strong will and serious commitment to achieve it. - written by Charles Roring
Also read:
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Renewable Energy can Support our Life

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

We Use Natural Resources Faster than What the Earth Can Replenish

Rapid increase of human population has triggered rapid increase in the exploitation of renewable and non-renewable resources. The way we extract natural resources is faster than what nature can replenish. 


In big coastal cities, people drill wells and extract huge amount of groundwater. They use freshwater for their daily household needs. Freshwater is also pumped from coastal aquifer to supply various kinds of industries in and around the cities. Because city dwellers consume water faster than what nature can supply, the negative impact that they suffer is the intrusion of seawater. This will lead to rapid decrease in the supply of potable drinking water.
How to increase water supply
There are 4 ways that we could do to increase our supply of freshwater:
  • Reuse or recycle water
  • Increase storage
  • Conserve water
  • Find new sources
The above methods can also be applied to other natural resources. Coastal countries that are facing serious short supply of fresh drinking water tend to build giant desalination plants. Some of them include Ras Al Khair and Shoaiba Power and Desalination Plant in Saudi Arabia; Sorek, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Palmachim, Hadera seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants in Israel; Taweelah and Fujairah desalination plant in UAE. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of other countries that desalinate seawater to get pottable drinking water. These systems are usually expensive to build and energy intensive to operate.
Freshwater River in lowland region of Manokwari regency
Freshwater river in lowkand area of Manokwari regency
To prevent this phenomenon, safe level groundwater has to be maintained. This can be done through the control and management of freshwater extraction, the creation of catchment areas to absorb rainwater into the ground instead of directing it into canals that lead to the sea. The catchment areas are usually located inside the green zones where there are city parks, and urban forests. In places that have been severely affected by seawater intrusion, the construction of rainwater harvesting systems can be built. The depletion of natural resources is not only limited to ground freshwater but also to other renewable and non renewable resources.

Fossil Fuel

Since the introduction of external and internal combustion engines, our use of fossil fuel is increasing exponentially. We extract coal, oil, and natural gas. They are non renewable resources that will one day deplete. We often see on televisions and in the internet the news about territorial disputes among countries that share borders in places that have got fossil fuel deposits. A clear example of this is the Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait which led to Gulf War from 1990 to 1991. The war was waged by a coalition of armed forces from 35 countries against Iraq. Territorial conflicts over oil fields such as South Sudan and Sudan; Iran and Iraq; civil war in Nigerian delta have caused the loss of a lot of human life. To reduce dependency on fossil fuel, the use of renewable energy has to be encouraged.

Rare Earth Materials

Certain components inside our smart phones, modern electronic devices, and electric vehicles, are made of rare earths such as europium dysprosium,, lanthanum, neodymium, gadolinium, yttrium, terbium, and etc. Very few countries have got large rare earth deposits. China and Australia are now the main exporter of these important materials. The recent trade war between the US and China may lead to problems related to more China's restrictions on the export of these important materials to its competitors.

Overerfishing, Destruction of Coral Reef and Marine Pollution

At sea, large fishing vessels catch enormous amount of fish and other marine animals. Fishing companies that use large trawler vessels and bottom trawling nets have caused massive damages in sea floor ecosystem. The use of explosive and poisonous materials for catching fish also bring damages to our marine environment.
Forest Products and Agricultural Produce
Depletion of resources also happen to renewable ones such as forest products and agricultural produce. The extraction of wood or timber products from tropical rainforest and its conversion into monoculture plantations have caused serious damage to our environment.
For instance, Java, the most populated island in Indonesia. Its forests are not able to supply enough timber materials for people living in the island. Other commodities such as palm oil, rubber, cocoa beans, and coffee have to be imported too. Such products are supplied by other near by islands, i.e. Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua. Java is still an important producer of rice, and sugar.  - written by Charles Roring
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World Population and Over Exploitation of Natural Resources
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Renewable Energy Can Support Our Life

This is the photograph of traditional windmills in the Netherlands. Dutch people used them to pump water from wetland over dikes and into rivers. When a wet- or swampy land has been transformed into dry land, it can be used for farming or for building housings, business and office buildings for people. Windmills were also used to grind grains, and to drive sawmills. According to holland dot com, there are more than 1,000 windmills in the country. As cultural heritage of Dutch people, windmills have now become tourist attractions. People make them as museums, or restaurants.
Windmills in Holland to pump water for drying wetlands.
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