• Research into “transmutation”, the process by which long-lived nuclear waste is turned into short-lived isotopes, is now under way in the United States, Japan and the former Soviet Union. While transmutation research has been under consideration since the 1950s it previously was believed to be uneconomic because of the huge amounts of energy required. Scientists at the Japan Atomic Energy Institute and the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory believes that now accelerator technology makes transmutation look “promising”.
• Oil seed rape is an unusual plant since not only does it produce food oil but it can also produce fuel... bio-diesel which is believed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from motor vehicles by 98 percent, soot particles by 50 percent, and emits only that carbon dioxide which was once absorbed by the growing rape plant. Bio-diesel fuel is already available to motorists in Austria which has been researching the alternative fuel since the oil crisis of the early 1970s and is now building its second refinery.
• McDonald’s, in an outstanding example of corporate environmental leadership, has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for the last four years to reduce the company’s solid waste. McDonald’s innovative program is reducing the amount of packaging it uses; it is reducing the environmental damage caused by the manufacture of the packaging it must continue to use (e.g. reducing chlorine-bleached paper); and it is making rubbish more disposable by using plastics that are easier to recycle and other materials that can be composted. In 1990, 29 percent of McDonald’s packaging was made with recycled materials and the company is working toward the goal of setting 80 percent of its remaining garbage disposed of through composting rather that the use of landfills.
• The Rwenzori Mountains National Park, established last year in Uganda, includes the now officially protected snow covered Rwenzori Mountains. Unsullied by roads, the park is known for its climate diversity, giant plants and rare species of wildlife. With funding from the World Wildlife Funds, park officials hope to open the park soon to tourists.
• Today, 95 percent of all Indonesian women know about modern contraceptive methods and more than 48 percent of eligible couples are using family planning. Government financed family planning programs in this predominantly Muslim country has led to a drop in the crude birth rate from 44 per 1,000 in 1969 to 28 per 1,000 in 1990. And none too soon. Indonesia, which is only three times the size Texas, has a population of 18 7 million making it the fourth most populous nation in the world.
• Experts believe that biomass, or plant matter could become a significant source of energy. In Germany, for example, it could provide up to 15 percent of the country’s energy needs... more than nuclear power now contributes.
The Danes have pioneered this concept where botanists have been cultivating a fast-growing variant of China reed for nine years. The plant is used as raw material for paper production or dried and shredded and used as a replacement for coil or oil in power stations. Denmark currently has 57 straw-burning heating piano, that provide heat and, in some cases, electricity to small cities.
• In order to enhance the quality and quantity of fish protein consumed in developing tropical countries, UNDP’s Global and Interregional Programme will be providing $4.4 billion over the next 5 years to continue research into the Genetic Improvements of Farmed Tiliapas (GIFT). Aquaculture will play an increasingly important role in providing fish for consumption because so many traditional fishing grounds have been overfished and some fish are in danger of extinction. New methods of producing improved breeds of tiliapas and othe fine fish will be developed in this project.
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