What is Bioremediation

What is bioremediation? Bioremediation is a gift of the growing biotechnology field to the world that is facing the threats of severe forms of environmental pollution. As the name suggests, bioremediation is made by joining two words; bio (related to biology) and remediation (to provide a remedy). Therefore, in the process of bioremediation, living organisms (plants, microorganisms) are used as potential sources to clean wastes from contaminated water or soil. Isn't it fascinating to discover that cultures of bacteria can eat up tons of wastes!Bioremediation for oil spills has become popular in the recent few years. It has been used to clean pollutants, especially hydrocarbons from seas during oil spill incidents. 

What is Bioremediation Process: An Overview

If you are wondering that how can organisms help in reduction of pollution, then you need to understand various steps involved in the bioremediation process. Metabolism is an essential process carried out in the cells of all organisms, be it bacteria, fungi or human beings. Metabolic activities are continuously in operation in the cells through various types of chemical reactions. Generally, the process of metabolism is carried in two ways:
  • Anabolism: In this phase of metabolism, cells construct molecules from smaller units present in the body. This process requires energy that is provided by another phase, catabolism.
  • Catabolism: Cells break complex molecular structures to simpler elements to release energy. Complex chemicals like lipids, nucleic acids, proteins are broken into simpler units like mono-saccharides and amino acids respectively. The energy released in catabolism is used to conduct tasks in the anabolism process.
The chemicals present in pollutant areas, soils, rivers and seas are treated by bioremediation process. If proper bacteria culture are placed in seas that face severe water pollution, the anabolism and catabolism processes going on in these cells will gradually take up necessary minerals from the pollutants and clean the water body. Microorganisms need variety of chemicals for cell building that includes phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sodium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, etc. All these chemicals are found in abundance in contaminated areas.

There are various types of bioremediation processes, named after the specific treatments or methods that are used in the process. If the contaminants are treated at the site, it is said to be in situ treatment and if the contaminated material is taken elsewhere for treatment, it is known as ex situ. In situ treatment is always a difficult task, as tackling natural conditions like soil quality, weather, etc., are difficult. In Phytoremeditation, transgenic plants are used for storing toxic chemicals like lead or mercury in their above root parts, which are harvested after sometime. In Biostimulation, nitrogen and oxygen is mixed in the water to stimulate the growth of bacteria. The water body is monitored carefully to know if the bacteria growth is causing a drop in the pollution. In another type of bioremediation, known as Intrinsic bioremediation, microorganisms grow naturally in contaminated soil or water to clean water. In Bioaugmentation, specific microorganisms are added in the soil or water to clean them up.

Nature has been designed in such a way that it maintains ecology and has self cleaning mechanisms. The ever growing field of biotechnology uses this very simple concept to provide us a cleaner environment. Scientists are trying to study and develop various microorganisms that can be used to clean specific pollutants. The field of genetic engineering is expanding by leaps and bounds and researchers are working towards producing pollutant specific microorganisms. 

After wastes are over in a contaminated area, the bacteria will naturally die due to lack of food. Therefore, bioremediation has no side effects and it doesn't produce any secondary environmental pollutants! Moreover, it is an extremely cost-effective method for cleaning huge areas of environmental pollution. So did you get what is bioremediation? It is, indeed, one of the most sought after mechanisms for bioremediating oil and gas industry water, not to mention soil pollution.

UN Climate Change Conference Brings Grim Warnings, Angry Protests

The second meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol is being held in Kenya, and tensions are running high.
By Linda Orlando

The United Nations Climate Change Conference got underway last week in Nairobi, Kenya, with speakers issuing stark warnings that the growing problem of climate change is going to quickly become one of the greatest challenges in the history of mankind.

"Climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious threats that humanity may ever face," said the President of the conference, Kenyan Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana. The President continued by saying that the crisis will affect the poorest people most severely. For those communities, resources that should be used for projects to further economic development will instead have to be used for health care crises, water shortages, or food stock failures. "We face a genuine danger that recent gains in poverty reduction will be thrown into reverse in coming decades, particularly for the poorest communities on the continent of Africa," Kibwana said.

The two-week conference is the 12th meeting of the 189 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is also the second meeting of the 166 parties to the Kyoto Protocol. It is the first UN climate summit to take place in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa is considered to be the most at-risk continent from rising global temperatures, which have been blamed on greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that Africa produces the least amount of greenhouse gases of the planet’s inhabited continents. In Kenya itself, global warming is blamed for altering weather patterns that have resulted in a devastating cycle of drought and floods, endangering centuries-old cultures and traditional ways of life.

Grace Akumu of Climate Network Africa, an environmental group is attending the UN conference as an observer. She had some harsh criticism for African delegates to the conference for not doing enough to seek assistance for Africa to adapt to global warming. "Africa will be the most affected continent by climate change (yet) the African ministers are very weak," said Akuma, slamming Kenya’s environmental minister for "not extracting anything meaningful" at the talks. "The countries will see for themselves who is betraying them in the negotiations," she said.

Akuma’s group organized a protest over the weekend, where thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Nairobi to denounce delegates for failing to agree on urgent measures to address the problem of global warming. More than 2,000 demonstrators, led by a marching band, wore shirts reading, "Our climate, our survival." One banner held by community leaders, environmental activists, and school children said, "Western leaders, it’s time to take responsibility." Another featured a photo of U.S. President George W. Bush, along with the words, "Wanted for crimes against the planet," referring to Bush’s refusal to agree to mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bush administration has staunchly refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol agreed to by 166 other countries, which seeks to cut emissions that scientists say are partly responsible for a 0.7-degree Celsius rise in temperature since 1900. Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is also under fire and must explain to the global summit why Ottawa has essentially abandoned the Kyoto Protocol despite Canada promising to agree to it. Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert said Ottawa's abandonment of Kyoto "casts a pall on the value of Canada's word" to the international community.

"If a country such as Canada can treat its signature on a treaty as a passing inconvenience, how many other nation-states will feel entitled to shrug off cumbersome obligations in the future?" she wrote.

One of the marchers in the weekend protest was Jackie Pasoi, 24, a Maasai woman from southwest Kenya. The Maasai tribe is a livestock-dependent community whose herds have been repeatedly wiped out by drought, the most recent of which hit Kenya and other areas of eastern Africa earlier this year. "Our livestock is finished because rain patterns are no longer the same," said Pasoi. "We are suffering." Akuma echoed the sentiments of Pasoi and other demonstrators. "They’re losing their livestock, they’re losing their lives," she said.

Others demanded an immediate end to the out of control deforestation that has resulted in a loss of trees, which convert carbon dioxide from greenhouse gases into oxygen. "People are cutting down trees," said student Brian Seiro, 15. "When people to that, the rains don’t’ come as we expected, and people starve." Last month, the UN World Food Programme said that it is still $44 million short of the necessary $225 millions required for a drought emergency operation to help 3 million people in Kenya who have been affected by the drought.

On Wednesday, the High Level Segment of the conference opened with addresses from President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, President Moritz Leuenberger of the Swiss Confederation, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Ninety-two ministers from different countries around the world were expected to attend. The opening speeches were webcast live on the Internet and broadcast on television by Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

Climate Changes Could Cause Worldwide Crisis, says Report

A new report released by the National Intelligence Council makes dire predictions about a global destabilization scenario that could be in our near future.
By Anastacia Mott Austin

Citing their report that climate change "...will aggravate existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions" in some countries, members of the National Intelligence Council say that a possible worldwide crisis looms in our near future.

Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National Intelligence, testified this week before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Though the 58-page report itself is classified, Fingar released some of the report's dire predictions, including the fact that global disease may spread as refugees from low-lying coastal countries try to flee disaster conditions.

Fingar added that potential host countries may not be equipped to handle the possibility of millions of desperate refugees, and the fragile political systems in place may give way under the pressures caused by a global humanitarian crisis.

The report, called "National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030" consisted of input from retired military personnel, from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and all 16 United States' intelligence agencies.

The report emphasized that while climate change by itself will not cause a worldwide destabilization, the effects of global warming will cause a series of worsening situations that all contribute to political collapse and human crisis.

"Climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure," said Fingar. "But the impacts will worsen existing problems - such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions."

Fingar stated that the most affected countries will be in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and central and southeast Asia.

Of Africa, Fingar says, "Without food aid, the region will probably face higher levels of instability, particularly violent ethnic clashes over land ownership."

Some areas of Africa may see their agricultural output decrease as much as 50% by 2020.

In addition, the report states that as many as 50 million more people than today could suffer from hunger by the year 2020, and 1.2 billion might face "water stress."

Fingar emphasized that while the United States may not feel the initial effects of global warming as keenly as some other nations, a worldwide crisis would eventually make itself felt even in comparatively prosperous nations like America. "The United States depends on a smooth-functioning international system ensuring the flow of trade and market access to critical raw materials, such as oil and gas, and security for its allies and partners," said Fingar. "Climate change and climate change policies could affect all of these with significant geopolitical consequences."

Reaction to the report ran predictably along party lines. Republican House committee member Darrell Issa (R-Ca) called the report "a dangerous diversion of intelligence resources."

But Democrat Committee Chairman Ed Markey told reporters, "Human beings all over the planet face death or damage or injury if we do not act."

Apple Quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over Climate Change

Apple is the latest company to drop out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its disapproval of the chamber’s stance on climate change.
One has to be careful when reading the headlines about this type of story. The list of companies that has recently abandoned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, citing climate change as one of their primary reasons for leaving, is long and prestigious. In addition to Apple, companies such as PG&E, Exelon and PNM Resources have all recently dropped their membership, while others like Nike, Johnson & Johnson and General Electric have been openly critical of the chamber’s policies on climate change. The quick assumption would be that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not taking a strong enough stance against climate change – and that assumption would be wrong.

Instead, critics of the chamber are upset that they are taking "too strong" a stance on the issue and, in the process, opposing legislation that is likely to pass through Congress and become law. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has set the bar extremely high with regards to its position on climate change, seeking a comprehensive and international approach to the problem. Many see that goal as unrealistic and sure to create legislation that will never make it into law. So companies such as Apple and PG&E, who for various reasons can benefit from some of the existing legislation, are making calculated PR moves by dropping out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The stories will emerge that Apple is taking a stand in favor of legislation designed to address climate change, when in reality Apple is supporting legislation that is not as strong as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would like it to be. And, likely it’s supporting legislation that is beneficial to Apple. It should be noted that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a membership of over 3 million companies and that the vast majority of its membership remains in good standing.

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