China’s first all-electric planes to hit the market, for about US$160,000 each


RocketNews 24 (by Meg Murphy):

Global warming is just one of many reasons why we as humans should make more of an effort to reduce our impact on the environment. Much of the technology we use in our daily lives has made things a lot more convenient, and it’s wonderful being able to zoom to the other side of the planet in the space of a single day, but the environmental impact our cars, planes, and the like have had is something we should all be seriously concerned about.

But what if we could make air travel cleaner, and cheaper? Last year at the Shenyang Faku International Flight Convention in China, Shenyang Aerospace University and the Liaoning Universal Aviation Academy revealed China’s first all-electric plane, which it soon plans to begin mass producing for the foreign market.

The aircraft, named RX1E Ruixiang, has a wingspan of 14.5 meters and a body made of carbon fiber. It reportedly runs on a battery which requires only 10 kilowatts to charge, which in mainland China would cost less than US$1. Despite that, the plane can reach speeds up to 160 km per hour (99mph), and fly at an altitude of up to 3,000 meters (9,800 feet).

With a maximum flight duration 90 minutes – allowing it to travel up to 240 km – the RX1E isn’t quite ready to carry passengers and cargo internationally, but its a start. Hopefully the technology can be further developed and electric airplanes more widespread, allowing those of us with the travel bug to scratch that itch in a more environmentally friendly way.

Japan whaling ships return home from Antarctic with no catch

The Japan Coast Guard patrols Ayukawa port as a whaling fleet departs from Ishinomaki City on April 26, 2014

France 24:

Japanese whaling ships returned home from the Antarctic on Saturday for the first time in nearly 30 years with no catch onboard, after a UN court ordered an end to their annual hunt, local media reported.

The two ships — the 724-ton Yushinmaru and the 747-ton Daini (No 2) Yushinmaru — arrived at a port in western Shimonoseki city, a major whaling base.

It was the first return by Japanese whalers without catching any whales since 1987 when the country began the annual “research” hunt in the Antarctic, the Asahi Shimbun said.

The two ships did not face any attacks by anti-whaling activists during their three-months voyage, the daily added.

Tokyo had said this season’s excursion would not involve any lethal hunting. Harpoons normally used in the capture of the giant mammals were removed from the vessels. Crew members on the two boats carried out “sighting surveys” and took skin samples from the huge marine mammals, news reports said.

The non-lethal research came after the International Court of Justice — the highest court of the United Nations — ruled in March last year that Tokyo was abusing a scientific exemption set out in the 1986 moratorium on whaling.

The UN court concluded Tokyo was carrying out a commercial hunt under a veneer of science.

After the ruling, Japan said it would not hunt during this winter’s Antarctic mission, but has since expressed its intention to resume “research whaling” in 2015-16.

In a new plan submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its Scientific Committee, Tokyo set an annual target of 333 minke whales for future hunts, down from some 900 under the previous programme. It also defined the research period as 12 years from fiscal 2015 in response to the court’s criticism of the programme’s open-ended nature.

By collecting scientific data, we aim to resume commercial whaling,” agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters in the city as he attended a ceremony for their return.

Japan killed 251 minke whales in the Antarctic in the 2013-14 season and 103 the previous year, far below its target because of direct action by conservationist group Sea Shepherd.

Despite widespread international opprobrium, Japan has continued to hunt whales using the scientific exemption, although it makes no secret of the fact that the meat from the creatures caught by taxpayer-funded ships ends up on dinner tables.

Conservationist Li Weidong manages to photograph rare Ili pika for the first time in 20 years


Scientific American:

Meet the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), an endangered species that until last year, had not been seen in 20 years.

Discovered in 1983 and formally described three years later, the species had to wait another 10 years to be properly studied in its cliff-face homeland atop China’s Tian Shan Mountains in the northwest province of Xinjiang. In its 32 years on the record, just 29 individuals have been spotted, and it’s thought that the 2,000 or so adults estimated to exist back in the early 1990s has dwindled to less than half this, due to habitat loss and severely fragmented populations. A survey carried out between 2002 and 2003 turned up zero Ili pikas in 57 percent of the locations they’d been known to inhabit 20 years previously.

Needless to say, these little guys are in some serious trouble.

The image above was taken by Weidong Li from the Xinjiang Institute for Ecology and Geography, who had originally discovered the species. With a team of volunteers, Li had been scouring the mountains for signs of Ili pikas in early 2014, and as they were setting up their camera traps, they had an encounter with the curious fellow in the image above. “They found it hiding behind a rock, and they realised they had found the pika,” one of the team, Tatsuya Shin, told Carrie Arnold at National Geographic. “They were very excited.”

The Ili pika is one of the largest of the pika species, growing up to 250 grams and 20 centimetres long. Like other pika species, it’s evolved to live in cold climates, and makes its dens and burrows in the small crevices that cut into rocky mountainsides and cliff-faces. Pikas are known for the adorable peeps they make when they’re trying to communicate to each other, but for whatever reason, the Ili pika doesn’t seem to vocalise. (Although scientists have only seen 29 of them, so maybe they were just the quiet ones.)

Keeping Totoro’s Forest safe: Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki volunteers in conservation event

FM 5

RocketNews 24:

When Studio Ghibli’s classic anime My Neighbor Totoro first screened in the U.S., more than a few people assumed the titular forest spirit must be a traditional figure from Japanese myth or folklore. Considering how well-realized the character is, and the reverence the film treats him with, it’s not surprising that some people would arrive at that conclusion, but the fact of the matter is Totoro sprang directly from the active and ample imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

The acclaimed director did have a little real-world help creating the film’s settingthough, which is said to have been inspired by a patch of Japanese forestland called Fuchi no Mori. The forest helped light a creative spark in Miyazaki, and now he’s returned the favor by volunteering in an annual conservation event that helps keep the Fuchi no Mori green and healthy.

Fuchi no Mori straddles the Yanasegawa River, which serves as the borderline between Tokyo’s Higashimurayama and neighboring Saitama Prefecture’s Tokorozawa City. Literally meaning “The Abyssal Forest,” it’s also commonly referred to as Totoro’s Forest, because of its resemblance to sisters Mei and Satsuki’s country surroundings in the film.

Tokorozawa has been the 74-year-old Miyazaki’s home for the last 45 years, and in 1996 he made a donation of 300 million yen (US$2.8 million, at the time) in order to protect the forest from housing developments. The timing coincides with the production of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, the 1997 release with heavy environmental themes which was written and directed by Miyazaki, who had initially intended for the theatrical feature to be his last.

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Miyazaki has provided more than just monetary aid, though. As per the suggestion of the anime icon’s wife, Akemi, volunteers annually gather in winter to clear away underbrush and dead branches from Fuchi no Mori. Doing so allows both the indigenous sawtooth and konara oaks, as well as the maples and satinwood trees, which were introduced as part of reforestation efforts, to flourish in the coming spring.

This year, some 260 environmentally minded individuals answered the online call for participants, coming from as far away as Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. On January 18, they were joined by Miyazaki himself, who pitched in and worked side-by-side with the volunteers during the four-and-a-half-hour event.

Miyazaki’s hands-on approach has drawn praise, given that he’s both wealthy and old enough that society wouldn’t knock him for taking a pass on manual labor. But while some might have expected the famously stern animator, who is said to go for daily walks in the woods, to speak about the deep responsibility represented by the event, he downplayed the weight of what the group had set out to do. Instead, he passed it off as merely a natural and obvious course of events, saying:

Conservational activities are a function of the community’s attitude towards nature. For me, this forest is now a part of my lifestyle. I don’t think so deeply about whether or not I have an obligation to do this. Rather than hold meetings about these kinds of things, what’s important is for us to take action, with our own hands, as part of the flow of time.”

If he could talk, we’re sure Totoro would say the same.

FM 1


Coral in Japan’s Ogasawara Islands being threatened by Chinese poaching ships

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RocketNews 24:


While the vast majority of Japan’s population is crammed onto its four largest islands, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, the country’s territories extend much farther out to sea. For example, if you head about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of downtown Tokyo, you’ll come to the Ogasawara Islands, one of Japan’s most remote settlements.

We’ve talked about the Ogasawaras before, and how their beautiful ocean scenery has been helping to attract tourists, to the archipelago. Recently, though, the islands have been seeing an increasing number of extremely unwelcome visitors, in the form of ship coming from China to poach coral.

Japanese authorities and Chinese fishing fleets regularly butt heads in the disputed Senkaku Islands. Things are usually a lot more peaceful, however,  in the Ogasawaras, which presumably have less strategic importance due to their greater distance from mainland Asia and Taiwan.

The Japanese media has a lot more eyes on the ordinarily low-profile Ogasawaras these days, though, with reports of groups of as many as 200 Chinese vessels  gathering to harvest red coral, which is then transported back to China for sale. Xiapu County, a district of Ningde City on the coast of the East China Sea, is said to be the base of operations for many of the poachers.


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In order to recoup the fuel and labor costs for their voyage to Japan, some of the poaching vessels spend two months out of port, employing techniques such as camouflaging their Chinese markings in to avoid arousing suspicion. The coral they gather is then sold illicitly sold in Xiapu, and with more product available than what’s needed to supply local demand, buyers also come from Shanghai to purchase large quantities to resell in other markets that are more lucrative still.

Japanese fishermen in the Ogasawara complain that the poaching activities are already disrupting their catches. Environmentalists and tourism promoters are likewise angry over the illegal practice, given that the slow speed at which coral develops makes any damage an ecological tragedy.


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China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement denouncing the illegal gathering of red coral, and has expressed its intentions to work with its Japanese counterparts in addressing the problem. At least a portion of the Xiapu public is unhappy with the poachers as well, as illustrated by an interior goods shop with a notice posted reminding customers that, “Recent poaching of red coral on the open seas has been staining our town’s image.”

The authorities have also offered rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,640) for information regarding poaching activities, and anecdotal evidence points to black market sellers becoming less brazen and open in the trafficking of their ill-gotten goods. Here’s hoping the countermeasures continue to be effective, giving the Ogasawara Islands’ coral the earliest possible start on its healing process.


Coca-Cola giving away specialty bottlecaps in Vietnam to promote reusing their plastic bottles


RocketNews 24:


You have to hand it to Coca-Cola. Despite being the best-selling cola brand and one of the biggest companies in the world, they certainly don’t seem to rest on their laurels. Like a hungry up-and-coming business, they’re always coming up with new gimmicks in each of the 200 countries they operate in, whether it be personalized bottles in Japan or, like now in Vietnam, a set of functional caps which can transform your empty bottle into a water gun, pencil sharpener, night lights and more after you’re finished with it.

In the commercial for the Coca-Cola 2nd Lives campaign the company mentions that it is giving away 40,000 special bottle tops in Vietnam and then other places in Asia. The idea is to encourage people to reuse their bottles in both fun and useful ways.

There are sixteen different types of caps, such as:

1 – Water Guns

2 – Paint Brush

3 – Pencil Sharpener

4 – One of those spinny toy drum type things

5 – Spray Bottle

6 – Soap/Shampoo Dispenser

7 – Laundry Detergent Bottle

 8 – Weights

9 – Night lights

10 – Various Condiment Dispensers

11 – Bubble Blower



1,600 Panda World Tour Coming to Hong Kong


Image of 1,600 Panda World Tour Coming to Hong Kong


Threatened by human expansion, a limited diet and low birthrates, the giant panda has long been classified as an endangered species with estimates as low as fewer than 1,600 living in the wild. To raise awareness for this tragic circumstance, French artist Paulo Grangeon in collaboration with the WWFPMQ and creative studio AllRightsReserved, began placing 1,600 papier-mache pandas in various cities around the world including Paris, Berlin, Rome and Taipei.

This summer however, the pack will appear outside ten Hong Kong landmarks from the Hong Kong International Airport to the Giant Tian Tan Buddha statue. What’s more is that Grangeon will create four special edition pandas from recycled materials to go on display at PMQ to further promote the cause.

Be on the lookout for more images once the HK leg of the tour goes live in June.


Check out this link:


1,600 Panda World Tour Coming to Hong Kong


India takes bold conservationist step and declares dolphins as “Non-Human Persons”


Featured Image

The Indian government made history last month by being the first nation in the world to not only recognize the advanced intelligence and self awareness of the playful cetaceans, but also to grant them the protection that goes with being a “Non-Human Person”, namely their freedom and the right not to be held in captivity.

Dolphin India Takes Bold Conservationist Step and Declares Dolphins Non Human Persons

While dolphins will not be getting the vote any time soon, the new legislation outlaws ownership of dolphins for personal enjoyment.

The new legislation was announced by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, headed by Veerappa Moily. The ministry stated that “Dolphins should be seen as non-human persons and as such should have their own specific rights and it is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes”.

While this is the first time an animal has been recognized as a Non-Human person, three other countries (Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile) have also banned the use of cetaceans for entertainment. In India, Puja Mitra, a leading Indian animal rights activist, is credited with introducing the concept of non-human persons, an idea that has been gaining steam since a meeting of The American Association of the Advancement in Science in 2011.

The meeting featured a group of philosophers, conservationists, and animal behaviorists who attempted to gain support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetacean, which includes ten rights inspired by the principles of the equal treatment of all persons, including protection of their freedom and the protection of their culture. Many conservationists are also pushing to add the highly intelligent great apes – who have learned to communicate with signs and display an intelligence that has been compared to that of a human child – to the cause as well, granting them the protection of freedom.

DolphinHumanBrain India Takes Bold Conservationist Step and Declares Dolphins Non Human Persons



While here in the US it is common knowledge that dolphins are of advanced intelligence, animal rights activists and environmentalists have not made the kind of impact on legislation seen in India. In fact, dolphin shows in the US rake in millions of dollars in revenue, despite the detrimental impact on the animals – or should we say non-human persons –  performing. Research has shown that cetaceans in captivity have half the life span of their counterparts in the wild, and there really is no way to measure the psychological impact of being held in captivity for their entire lives. Having evolved in a vast ocean full of life and color, the world of a captive dolphin is not only significantly smaller than what they would have in the wild, but the constant sounds of the water filters and humans all around leaves them in a loud, empty space.

Dolphins do not just demonstrate the base definition of intelligence, which is the ability to learn, but also a more profound ability to empathize, solve problems, consider complex ideas and socialize like an expert. Let’s not forget to mention the size of a dolphins brain, which resembles two human brains put together. The late Carl Sagan put his view of how intelligent dolphins were rather succinctly when he said ”…while dolphins have come to learn English – up to 50 words used in correct context – no human being has been reported to learn dolphinese.”

With petitions in Canada, and massive protests in Japan to protect both wild dolphins and to shut down dolphin shows, it seems that India will not be the last to give credit where credit is due and try to protect our Non-Human friends of the ocean.

Check out this link:

India takes bold conservationist step and declares dolphins as “Non-Human Persons”


China destroys ivory stockpile in ‘significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants’


The Telegraph (UK): 

China has conducted its first, large-scale destruction of illegal, stockpiled ivory in a move described by conservationists as “a significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants”

A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, China

A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, China Photo: REUTERS

More than six metric tons of tusks, ivory ornaments and carvings were fed into crushing machines by forestry and customs officials in southern Guangdong province, where much of China‘s ivory trade is focused.

The ivory came from shipments from Africa intercepted by customs officers as well as from carving factories and shops in China.

It represented just a fraction of the illegal ivory China – the world’s biggest market for the product – holds in stockpiles, the government said.

One customs official said that its smuggling in to the country was increasing by 10 per cent each year.

Leading conservation groups have applauded the ivory destruction and say they hope the gesture was the first of many.

John Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the global group tasked with cracking down on the practice, said he hoped it would raise public awareness about the illegal ivory trade, which is thought to cause the death of 35,000 elephants in Africa each year.

China is sending a very powerful message both domestically, to the Chinese people, and internationally, that it is not prepared to tolerate the illegal trade in elephant ivory,” he said.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the director of Save the Elephants, said Monday’s move was “a significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants”, adding that China could change its citizens’ taste for wildlife products, as Japan and Britain had done.

Ivory has been prized as a safe investment by the country’s large and growing middle-class and exchanged between government officials or business partners when deals are struck.

Much of the ivory on the market in China is legal – bought from African governments selling off their stockpiles of seized tusks in 2008. But the continued demand also drives a trade in illicit ivory “laundered” with fake provenance certificates.

In the past year, China has come under concerted international pressure to stem the illegal wildlife trade, particularly since it emerged that poaching may be funding terrorists and fuelling conflicts in Africa.

Mr Douglas-Hamilton said that its leadership should be given credit for a “great shift” in recent years from its previous refusal to even discuss the problem.

Yao Ming, a famous Chinese basketball player, will this month appear alongside the Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham in a public service message broadcast on China’s main television stations about the evils of poaching.

Stiff penalties were recently handed down to eight Chinese citizens for smuggling and an article in the Southern Weekly, a major Chinese newspaper, about the impact of the ivory trade went viral.

However, the government still receives hefty revenues from selling its official stockpile to licensed carving factories.

China’s leadership also appears unwilling or unable to crack down on illegal traders – a survey by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2011 found that out of 158 shops and carving factories in four major Chinese cities, 101 were not licensed, or were selling smuggled ivory.

It also remains unclear what will happen to the ivory crushed on Monday. Some will be disposed of and some displayed in a museum exhibit but that the rest will be “preserved”, state-run China National Radio reported. The powder can be used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

Check out this link:

China destroys ivory stockpile in ‘significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants’


Artist Profile: Delicate paper bag trees created by Yuken Teruya

The amount of material waste that we leave behind is getting bigger and bigger year by year, yet the world of consumerism doesn’t ever seem to react to this issue. Sometimes it falls upon artists to promote awareness of certain cultural, societal or communal problems, which is exactly what Yuken Teruya does with his delicate trees cut from used paper bags.

Teruya takes traditional paper gift bags and cuts little paper trees out from them. The result is an exquisite little tree, somewhat resembling traditionally minimalistic Japanese art, framed in the paper bag that it once was a part of. The delicate art makes an equally delicate statement about paper bags being used wastefully as luxury gifts or shopping bags. According to the artist, each tree has a model. They are the trees that the artist saw in his neighborhood or from where he has traveled.

The artwork of Yuken Teruya became extremely popular when he exhibited his series of McDonald’s paper bag trees last year. This time, we have Teruya’s new collection of works from the exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth held this autumn along with a few old, yet equally admirable favorites.


Check out this link:

Artist Profile: Delicate paper bag trees created by Yuken Teruya