Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sign here to save the Rainforest

If you like online petitions (which I don't really) here's one that may be worth a look.  A bill has passed the Brazilian parliament relaxing the law on illegal logging. The petition calls on Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to save Brazil's precious forests by exercising her veto.

Brazilian protesters demand that president Dilma Rousseff veto a forest code approved
last month by the congress.    Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Last month President Dilma Rousseff's party lost a vote on the law, which critics fear will unleash a wave of deforestation, by 274 votes to 184.

The result confirms the Brazilian parliament's bias for the interests of large landowners, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster. It also reveals a tension within the current administration. The majority of members of the largest coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMBD), voted for the law.  President Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) voted almost unanimously against it.

Which is where the petition comes in.  It seems the president is both entitled to veto and politically disposed to do so, and therefore international encouragement through actions such as online petitions might just be the deciding factor. I suppose it's worth a shot anyway.

An extra factor is Rousseff's presumed desire to avoid embarrassment when she hosts the UN's Rio +20 Earth summit next month. More than 125 heads of state as well as 45,000 delegates are expected to attend the world's largest environment conference in a generation, pledging to protect forests and develop the "green economy".

The petition also urges the president “to prevent further murders of environmental activists and workers by increasing law enforcement against illegal loggers and ramping up protection for people at risk from violence or death. The world needs Brazil to be an international leader on the environment. Your strong action now will safeguard the planet for future generations.”
Logged Brazilian rainforest
I can't remember whether I've come across Avaaz before. It may be a site worth keeping an eye on.

Here's the story in The Guardian

Monday, May 7, 2012

Astronomy symposium venue sparks controversy

A 1610 portrait of Johannes Kepler by an unknown artist, probably in Prague.
Cork Astronomy Club went there to study his laws of planetary motion.
A Cork Astronomy Club symposium on Kepler’s laws, held recently in Prague, has given rise to divergent views.  At issue was the venue for this prestigious occasion in the astronomical calendar.  One club member who does not wish to be named said : “Holding it in Prague was an imaginative idea but the trouble was there were two many bars, and ultimately this negated the symposium’s serious purpose. Next year I think the committee should consider hiring a seminar room at UCC instead.”

Asked to recite Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion, the unnamed member said “Well actually I can only remember two of them and that more or less proves my point.”

A spokesperson for Cork Astronomy Club said: “Kepler did his most important work in Prague and we saw his house and Tycho Brahe’s tomb. But the point about all the bars is a fair one and we'll certainly give it due consideration in planning next year’s event.”

Other members praised the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square. 

Cork astronomers gather at the Prague
astronomical clock
Constructed in 1410 the clock was already nearly 200 years old when Kepler was in the city.  On the hour a figure of death pulls on a bell rope, the apostles pass by a window, and a real live trumpeter plays at the top of the tower, as shown in the video, at the end of which cheering Cork Astronomy Club members can be seen thronging the square hundreds of feet below. 

The clock displays the current zodiac sign and the Moon's phase, and tells the time in Old Bohemian Time, Sidereal Time and the Babylonian hour.

The symposium was held from 26th to 29th April.  Rumour has it that next year’s symposium will be held on an apple farm in Leicestershire and will be devoted to Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation.

After a punishing round of seminars, Cork astronomers relax in a Prague restaurant
Tomb of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in St Nicholas cathedral, Prague