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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Xiapu

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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.

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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

 

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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