The Independent: Ecuador is negotiating a novel green energy deal, whereby it would agree not to drill for the some 846 barrels of crude oil beneath its surface, provided that rich nations invest half the market value of the oil—about $3.6 billion—in renewable energy developments to help the country further cut its carbon emissions. The oil in question lies beneath the Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse rainforests on Earth and home to two of the world’s last remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes. The plan is backed by Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and the oil-producing OPEC countries, and the United Nations Development Programme has agreed to be the independent administrator for the project’s trust fund.
Daily Mail: Earth’s northern latitudes have been experiencing spectacular aurorae because of a 1 August eruption on the Sun that emitted a cloud of electrically charged particles—a coronal mass ejection. The first solar flare in a long while that has been aimed directly at Earth, the “solar tsunami” was really the result of two simultaneous events from different locations on the Sun: a huge flare above a giant sunspot and an even larger eruption across the Sun’s surface. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in February, captured some high-quality views of the solar event, and Earth-based photographers captured some beautiful views of the resulting aurora.
CTV News: Canada has created a new kind of park, a “dark sky preserve,” where stargazers can congregate to view the heavens without light pollution from cities. Right now, the parks are gearing up for the upcoming annual Perseid Meteor Shower on 12 August. Although there are plenty of dark places in the world to stargaze, the sky preserves provide knowledgeable staff for guided tours of the event. The first sky park was founded in Ontario in 1999, and now there are more than 30 protected astronomy areas around the world—a dozen in Canada alone.
Science: In her Issues and Perspectives column, Elisabeth Pain describes the ways that scientists can participate directly in debates about policies that affect or are affected by their research. Nanotechnology, climate change, and human stem cells are three currently controversial areas where it could be in scientists’ best interests to engage policymakers. On the other hand, as Pain points out:
Be aware that, as you align your research questions more closely to policy issues, you’re also exposing yourself publicly. As the public debate about climate change reminds us, it can get nasty, so you’d better be prepared.
Pain’s article provides links to resources than can provide that preparation.