Archive for the ‘Express 197’ Category

Pollution Kills! Bad air & blood cancer. Dangerous PM2.5. Who Cares?

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

Cleaning up the air is good for the planet and your health. China is taking a serious hard look at tackling air pollution, with many approaches that will reduce greenhouse gases. This could not come sooner, with a study linking benzene in polluted air to incidence of blood cancer. Another dangerous component of air pollution, PM2.5, is receiving increased scrutiny in a joint research program between Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp and China’s Tsinghua University. Read more

How Cleaning China’s Dirty Air Can Slow Climate Change

By Charles Kenny for Bloomberg (5 August 2013):

Air pollution in China is becoming a serious political concern for the country’s leaders. It is by far the biggest environmental issue in China, attracting considerably more public anger than does climate change. That should come as no surprise, since air pollution has killed millions there. As a result, China is embarking on a debate about controlling pollution, comparable to what the U.S. and Europe went through 30 years ago—a journey that led to pathbreaking legislation such as the Clean Air Act.

There’s a big difference with China’s situation—and it’s one the rest of us should welcome. While the U.S. and Europe dealt with local air pollution through power plant scrubbing technologies and catalytic converters, which don’t do much to slow CO2 emissions, China’s response involves many approaches that will reduce greenhouse gasses. The same is likely to be true for the rest of the developing world: As nations get richer, emissions from fuel will loom as the large public health issues. Cleaner air in Asia, Africa, and Latin America will be a win for planetwide sustainability, which is one reason for a little more hope when it comes to the global environment.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Christina Larson noted earlier this year that the new normal in Beijing is “sending your kids to school wearing gas masks.” And she reported on the rising demand for pressurized canopies to cover school sports fields (so that children can play without coughing up black phlegm).

In part, the pollution problem is connected to a rapidly expanding vehicle fleet—including large diesel trucks burning dirty fuel. Also to blame is China’s coal industry: The country now burns about as much coal as the rest of the world combined. One reason for that is a discontinued policy that gave free coal for fuel boilers to everyone living in the north of China, much of which was consumed in inefficient indoor home heating systems. A paper co-authored by Yuyu Chen of Beijing University estimates that the 500 million residents of northern China lost more than 2.5 billion life years thanks to the free coal policy in the 1990s, and the policy’s impact lingers to this day, with higher levels of air pollution in the north.

Similar challenges afflict much of the developing world—and make air pollution by far the most serious, immediate atmospheric threat to health and welfare in poor countries. Forecasts (PDF) by the think tank DARA suggest that for the next 15 years, 80 percent of carbon-related deaths in the developing world will result not from CO2-related climate change but from local and indoor air pollution.

The West has shown the problem is manageable. In the 1980s, the U.S. and Europe faced similar (if not as catastrophic) air pollution trouble—with serious smog a recurring feature of life in Los Angeles, for example. America has seen a dramatic improvement in levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, lead, and small particulate air pollution since then. In the 1990s, the U.S. largely dealt with the acid rain problem by controlling sulphur dioxide emissions from the nation’s largest power plants—and overall emissions are down 69 percent since 1980.

Three decades ago, however, the most cost-effective ways to reduce local air pollution from power plants involved using technologies that removed particulates and sulphur dioxide but left in the CO2. Catalytic converters that reduced pollutants like unburned hydrocarbons from cars did nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Today, a number of cost-effective approaches for dealing with local pollution problems also have a salutary impact on the climate. For example, in June, China’s State Council reacted to the rising discontent over air pollution with a series of measures that directly curb local air pollution from refineries but also put in place sharper environmental controls likely to slow the growth of high-pollution industries. In addition, the State Council said it would provide price supports for the sale of solar power to the grid and mandate all solar power be purchased by grid operators. Meanwhile, China’s National Development Reform Commission has proposed capping overall coal consumption in the country. Beyond reducing the immense health costs of local pollution, these measures should help China meet its target of reducing the amount of CO2 produced per dollar of output by 45 percent before the end of the decade.

Lower-income countries still face a trade-off between expanding access to energy and reducing carbon use. For much of the population of the developing world, the cheapest way to get that energy remains through large-scale fossil-fuel plants. But with declining costs of alternate fuel sources and the rising willingness and ability to pay for cleaner air, that calculus is changing. Add in further technology advances and subsidies from rich countries as part of a global climate deal, and clean-air, low-carbon technologies will become the most cost-effective option in ever more cases. That should allow children in the developing-world megacities and worldwide climate campaigners alike to breath a little easier.




Air Pollution Linked to Blood Cancer

Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer, (29 July 2013):

The blood cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be linked with exposure to benzene from the environment, a new study finds.

The researchers found that among people living in Georgia, the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was greater than expected among people living in regions near petroleum refineries and manufacturing plants, including in the metropolitan Atlanta area, and in the area surrounding one site in Savannah. With increasing distance from the benzene-releasing sites, the risk of the cancer dropped — for every mile there was a 0.31 percent decrease in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“This means that even moderate changes in distance can substantial change the incidence rate reduction,” said study researcher Dr. Christopher Flowers, professor of Pediatrics and Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Metropolitan Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah had the highest rates in the state of several types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Most low-risk regions were located in the southern part of the state, according to the study published today (July 28) in the journal Cancer.

Although the study suggests a link between a population’s benzene exposure and its rate of lymphoma, the findings may not hold true at the individual level, the researchers said. The presence of benzene in the environment is not enough to know how much any one person is exposed to, or to calculate risks on an individual level.

“Currently, there is insufficient data to determine whether individuals living in any specific location are at increased risk and should be concerned,” Flowers said.

“Our findings are limited without similar studies to corroborate our results, but we hope that our research will inform readers of the potential risks of living near facilities that release carcinogens into the air, groundwater or soil,” said study author Catherine Bulka, researcher at Emory University.

Benzene, classified as a hazardous, cancer-causing chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a colorless liquid that quickly evaporates when exposed to air. It exists in products derived from coal and petroleum, and is used in making products such as plastics, detergents and pesticides. People are exposed to benzene mainly by inhaling contaminated air.

While exposure to benzene is a widely recognized cause of leukemia (a type of blood cancer affecting bone marrow), its association with lymphoma is less clear. Lymphomas are a group of blood cancers that affect white blood cells. The rate of lymphoma has increased by 4 percent each year since 1970, the researchers said.

About 70,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2013, and about 19,000 will die of the disease this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 70 percent of people diagnosed with the condition survive at least five years.

Although the increase in lymphomas cases has been in part driven by better diagnosis techniques and the epidemic of HIV, which increases risk of the cancer, these factors account for just half of the additional cases of lymphomas. This suggests that expanded industrial production and exposure to chemicals in the environment may be risk factors for lymphomas, the researchers said.

“There is fair amount of data now indicating benzene does cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but it’s still not universally accepted.” said Dr. Richard B. Hayes, professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at New York University, who was not involved in the study. “The evidence is growing, suggesting that benzene is associated with increased risk of lymphoma just as it is with leukemia.”

Hayes and his colleagues previously examined the link between benzene exposure and blood cancers. They followed 75,000 industrial workers between 1972 and 1987 in China,and found that benzene-exposed workers, who were employed in occupations such as painting, printing and footwearmanufacturing, were four times more likely to die from lymphoma than workers who were not exposed to benzene.

Currently federal regulations by Occupational Safety and Health Administration require benzene concentrations to be lower than 1 part per million parts of air in workplaces, during an eight-hour workday. But OSHA, along with other organizations, recommends levels be kept even lower, between two and ten times lower, because research shows levels that are currently legal can still be dangerous.

“There’s been successful attempts to regulate benzene exposure in the workplace, which has improved the environmental situation as well,” Hayes said. “But the fact that there are many people living in these areas close to releases, is something that needs to be further followed up.”

In the new study, the researchers used the population statistics of regions in Georgia, and the data gathered by the EPA on benzene releasing sites between 1988 and 1998.

They then investigated whether NHL incidence 10 years later, between 1999 and 2008, was higher in areas closer to benzene releasing sites where residents might have been exposed to benzene in the air or water for a long time. The data were adjusted for other factors such as population size, age and race.

When looking at rates of NHL across several subtypes of the disease, the researchers found that metropolitan Atlanta area was consistently identified as a hot spot, with more cases of each NHL subtype, whereas the smaller urban areas Augusta and Savanna had increased rates of only certain subtypes.

People living in urban areas are also exposed to other sources of benzene such as car exhaust and cigarette smoke, which may explain why urban areas had higher NHL incidence, the researchers said.

The researchers did not include in the study the levels of benzene concentrations in areas surrounding the sites, because it is disputed whether the amount of emissions reported by factories is accurate.




Toyota, China’s Tsinghua University jointly studying PM2.5 air pollutants

In Japan Times (11 August 2013):

BEIJING – Toyota Motor Corp. and China’s prestigious Tsinghua University are conducting joint research on air pollution, officials involved in the project revealed Saturday.

The research focusing on PM2.5, dangerous particulates with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns that are causing serious air pollution and health problems in China, is a rare instance of cooperation between the two countries at a time when the bitter sovereignty dispute over the Japan-held Senkaku Islands is intensifying.

Toyota and Beijing-based Tsinghua, one of the most renowned Chinese universities in engineering and technology education, intend to complete the research by March 2015, the officials said, adding that some interim results may be released earlier.

Under the project, Toyota, known for its hybrid vehicle technology, is providing data related to exhaust emissions and other information on automotive technology to Tsinghua. Based on the automaker’s data, Tsinghua is trying to discover the generating mechanism of PM2.5 particulates, the main cause of air pollution in China, according to the officials.

Toyota’s cooperation with the university dates back to 2003, when it launched a joint venture in China to make a full entry into its growing auto market. The two set up the Tsinghua University-Toyota Research Center in 2006.

The current PM2.5 project has been carried out at the center since April, according to the officials, although the start of the research has never been officially announced.

In 2009, China overtook the United States as the world’s largest auto market. As demand for cars and trucks is expected to expand for some time in China, particularly in inland areas, reducing exhaust emissions has become increasingly urgent.

Investment by the Chinese government alone in measures to combat air pollution over the next five years will amount to 1.7 trillion yuan (about ¥26.7 trillion).

By offering some of its know-how to the Chinese university, Toyota, for its part, is apparently trying to sharpen its environmental technologies to create future business opportunities.

Despite the soured ties between Asia’s two biggest economies, the Chinese government is also counting on Japan’s advanced technologies and expertise to alleviate air pollution problems that have stoked public anger toward the communist country’s leaders. When a Japanese business delegation led by then-Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho visited Beijing in March, Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian said, “Japan has the most know-how to cope with pollution.”

The Sino-Japanese relationship has sunk to its lowest point in recent times since Tokyo’s purchase last September of a significant portion of the Senkakus, which China calls Diaoyu and claims as an inherent part of its territory, from their private owner in Saitama.

Although the 35th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China will be marked Monday, there has been no high-level political contact for almost a year now amid the badly frayed ties. However, bilateral cooperation over environment issues is still taking place through various channels.


Electrifying! First Impression of the BMW i3 in its Singapore Debut

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

What impact will charging of electric vehicles have on the grid? A question on a few minds. In the US, for the last few weeks, only one electric car has displaced the Tesla Model S from the top of news stories—it’s the 2014 BMW i3. In Singapore – where electric vehicles are being tested -  the same BMW arrived on the scene and the Minster for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan gave it the once over. So did Ken Hickson and Kannan Chandran. Read more

abc carbon express was invited to have its first look at the new BMW i3 electric car. It was an event organised by Storm Magazine and BMW Asia.

Kannan Chandran let everyone know on Facebook that:

Electric cars from BMW will be on the roads in Singapore next year. The reaction to the BMW i3 and i8 ranged from curiosity at the production model i3 to jaw-dropping appreciation of the i8 concept car. As a sub-brand, the aim is to roll out small numbers here, to keep pace with infrastructure development.

The experts from BMW were on hand to answer queries from guests, and later fielded queries from surprise guest at the specially constructed structure at ION2, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

While this new brand is going to define the future of mobility, the electric cars are expected to comprise about 8% of the BMW global business. In Singapore, there are likely to be around 10 units of the i8 by the time it hits the road in the second half of 2014, but all cars have already been promised homes.

It prompted us to look at progress here and aboard in readiness for the electric car revolution.


By Antony Ingram in Green Car (9 August 2013):

For the last few weeks, only one electric car has displaced the Tesla Model S from the top of news stories–the 2014 BMW i3.

That’s an impressive feat considering Tesla’s news-making abilities, but not without good reason: BMW has a reputation for pleasing driving enthusiasts and the badge-obsessed alike, so its first full production electric car is a significant event.

Some–not us, sadly–have been lucky enough to drive the pre-production i3 already, and early signs are good.

Even under interior and exterior camouflage, as all drives have been so far, initial impressions are positive. Car and Driver calls it “roomy” and “airy”, while Autocar described the cabin as “thoroughly modern”.

“Modern” appears more than once, actually. While not unusual for an electric car, the i3′s minimalist dashboard design and quirky fingertip-reach drive, parking brake and power switch pod are particularly deserving of the term.

There’s a flat floor and good visibility, though some have reservations over the rear door frames, which Road & Track called “awkward to climb into”–even if the suicide-style rear doors do help access for children or loading luggage.

Quality is generally good too–BMW itself is promising 5-Series levels of fit and finish–though one reviewer did note a slight echoey, tinny feel to the doors on the prototype.


With a rear-mounted motor providing rear-wheel drive, the i3 at least sends its power to the axle most familiar to BMW fans. At 184 lbs-ft of torque, there’s also plenty of power available as soon as you hit the accelerator pedal.

Autocar describes initial step-off as “instantaneous…entertaining pace”. Autoblog agrees, suggesting the i3 is “every bit capable” of reaching its near-on 7-second 0-60 mph time. Road & Track notes that its 0-37 mph figure of 3.8 seconds is the important one as that’s where it feels quickest–and says that “it actually has more torque than the Mini Cooper S, and it weighs less”.

Opinions are divided on the way the i3 handles.

Autoblog suggests, “If you try to make the i3 live up to the well-honed definition of “Ultimate Driving Machine,” you are categorically missing the entire point of the i3″, something backed up by reports from others that the little i3 lacks steering feel. It is however accurate, on the coned-off course of BMW’s early media drives, and weighting is well-suited to city driving.

The largest dissenting voice emanates from Motor Trend. Its early review uses the dreaded “golf cart” term shaken off by previous electric cars–not because the i3 drives like one, but because it isn’t entertaining enough for a BMW. “I would have fretted about the car’s vanilla EV-feel if it were a Toyota,” the reviewer says, “…coming from a BMW, it’s baffling.”

Ride quality isn’t oft discussed in the early reviews–there’s only so much one can assess on a smooth runway surface.

Likewise range, at the 80-100 miles (plus 80 miles for the range-extended car) promised by BMW, can only really be tested once longer drives take place.

It looks then like the BMW i3 should do well in its target environment, that of crowded city streets. But for the true BMW driving experience, well-heeled buyers might be better waiting for the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.




Could Electric Cars Threaten the Grid?

Some neighborhood grids just aren’t built for huge spikes in power demand. The rise of the electric car has utilities scrambling to adjust.

By Kevin Bullis in Technology Review (16 August 2013):

Why It Matters

Electric cars can draw large amounts of power from the grid.

Plugging in an electric vehicle is, in some cases, the equivalent of adding three houses to the grid. That has utilities in California—where the largest number of electric vehicles are sold—scrambling to upgrade the grid to avoid power outages.

Last year in the United States, only about 50,000 electric cars were sold. And researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have calculated that the grid has enough excess capacity to support over 150 million battery-powered cars, or about 75 percent of the cars, pickups, and SUVs on the road in the United States. But there’s a catch. While power plants and transmission lines have excess capacity, things can get tight when it comes to distributing power to individual neighborhoods. And this is especially the case since electric vehicle sales aren’t evenly distributed. In California, for example, they’re taking off in Silicon Valley and places such as Long Beach and Santa Monica.

Electric cars being sold today can draw two to five times more power when they’re charging than electric cars that came on the market just a couple of years ago. But the impact of charging one depends on where it is on the grid and how it is charged. They don’t pose a problem if they’re charged slowly at conventional 110 volt outlets. And public fast-charging stations don’t impact the grid much because they are part of commercial grids that have transformers and other equipment sized to accommodate large loads.

The trouble arises when electric car owners install dedicated electric vehicle charging circuits. In most parts of California, charging an electric car at one of those is the equivalent of adding one house to the grid, which can be a significant additional burden, since a typical neighborhood circuit has only five to 10 houses. In San Francisco, where the weather is cool and air conditioning is rarely used, the peak demand of a house is much lower than in the hotter parts of California. As a result, the local grid is sized for a much smaller load. A house in San Francisco might only draw two kilowatts of power at times of peak demand, according to Pacific Gas & Electric. In comparison, a new electric vehicle on a dedicated circuit could draw 6.6 kilowatts—and up to 20 kilowatts in the case of an optional home fast charger for a Tesla Model S.

Utilities are keeping a close eye on power demand—via smart meters—to identify neighborhoods that need an upgrade. They’re also working with automakers to get customers to tell them when they buy an electric vehicle—an approach that’s identifying about 40 percent of new electric cars for Southern California Edison.

Utilities say that the upgrades they’ve performed so far would have been made anyway as part of routine grid modernization. But telling the utility that you are buying an electric vehicle essentially brings your neighborhood to the top of the list. The upgrades are paid for by all rate payers, not the electric car owners.

Both PG&E and Southern California Edison are also working to avoid grid problems by offering special rate plans for EV owners. These give customers discounts for charging at night, during off-peak hours.

Electric cars can typically be programmed to charge at certain times, rather than just charging as soon as they’re plugged in. If car owners set their cars to be completely charged by a certain time, say 6 a.m., this has the effect of staggering when cars start charging. The start time depends on how depleted the battery is—to finish at 6 a.m. might require starting at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., depending on how much charging is needed. So instead of a surge of power demand when people get home from work, the charging is spread out through the night.

It’s technically possible for utilities to communicate with cars to have them start charging when there’s excess power being produced, and stop when there’s a peak in demand. That way, utilities could use electric cars to help stabilize the grid, and avoid the need to use inefficient “peaker” power plants. Utilities could pay electric car owners to let them do this.

But such an approach depends on the choices that electric car owners make. If everyone decides to charge at home right away, and to charge at the fastest rate possible, that could strain the grid.

So far, it looks like most electric vehicle owners are often choosing to charge their vehicles slowly and at night, according to a study of electric vehicle owners by Southern California Edison. But as fast-charging, all-electric cars like the Model S sell in larger numbers, and as automakers seek to differentiate their electric cars by how fast they charge, that story could change.




First fast charger for electric vehicles at mall in Singapore

Bosch Software Innovations announced last oth that the first fast charger for electric vehicles (EVs) located in a shopping mall has been set up at Changi City Point Mall. This will allow the EV test-bed participants to charge their EVs at the mall within 30 minutes instead of six hours at a standard charging station.

The fast charger was set-up by Bosch as part of the Singapore EV test-bed and is fully integrated into the network of more than 50 charging stations so far.

All EV test-bed participants are given access to a mobile app provided by Bosch Software Innovations. Amongst others, the app comprises a map to locate a charging station and displays its availability in real time.

“In a fast-paced city like Singapore it is important to keep up with the latest developments. We decided to set-up a fast charger in Changi City Point to make the shopping experience with us as pleasant as possible. While customers stock up on necessities, check out a good buy or dine in one of our restaurants, they can charge their EV and comfortably continue their journey afterwards”, says Emily Fong, Senior Centre Manager, Changi City Point Mall.

”In addition to the charging station infrastructure itself, software plays a crucial role to intelligently network charging stations. On the one hand this allows seamless usage by all drivers with a single subscription. On the other hand, it also allows for other value-added services to be provided. This includes for instance roaming across multiple charging networks operated by different service providers. Bosch Software Innovations has been involved in the area of electric mobility for several years now and offers easy-to-use and comprehensive solutions for service providers, EV operators and manufacturers as well as fleet operators“, explains Thomas Jakob, Managing Director Asia Pacific, Bosch Software Innovations.

The EV test-bed which is participated by 47 organizations is co-lead by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) to assess different EV prototypes and charging technologies based on Singapore’s urbanised environment and road conditions to determine the feasibility of using EVs in Singapore. This test bed was launched in June 2011 and will end on December 2013.


Last Word: Writers and Books get a Big Boost

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

Straits Times Journalist (and part-time poet) Grace Chua (left) gets a well deserved award. And books – print and digital  – get a welcome boost at the Summit of the Book, where we meet the man – Ismail Serageldin (right) – charged with running one of the oldest literature treasure stores in the world at Alexandria, Egypt, where rioters come too close for comfort. We also come clean on three book projects we’ve kept close to our chest so far. Read More

Ken Hickson reports:

We met Ismail Serageldin, the keeper of the great Library of Alexandria at the Singapore Summit of the Book. An eloquent and educated lover of books and all literary treasures old and new. He told me – and  an audience at the National Library in Singapore  – of his mission to protect one of the great libraries of the world in The Library of Alexandra  along with the challenges faced every day in the troubled country of Egypt. He told us how library loyalists joined hands to circle the place and protect it from destruction. He told us of how some stray bullets came to close for comfort. We can read of his visit and his words in a Straits Times report, but first a report from the website of the library:

What Happened in the Library on the 14th of August

On August 14 2013, amidst the unfortunate violence and turmoil that Egypt has witnessed lately, the Library of Alexandria, a neutral cultural institution, was subjected to a number of attacks. The brave and heroic staff of the Library’s Internal Security team, alongside the Egyptian Police Force, protected the building from these irresponsible actions. Apart from the breaking of some glass panes on the Plaza, the bridge and the entrance to the Conference Center, as a result of random gunshots fired aimlessly, the Library remains intact. The Library’s security staff are competent and prepared to protect this international institution which so many Egyptians had protected, by forming human chains, during previous incidents. The Library of Alexandria hopes that peace, security and stability will reign for the benefit of our country.



By Janice Heng  in The Straits Times (19 August 2013)

Over 1,000 years ago, the ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt was destroyed. Two years ago, its modern counterpart seemed under threat again as an angry mob marched towards it during the Arab Spring.

But protesters themselves stepped forward to protect it, recalls Dr Ismail Serageldin, director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

In early 2011, protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak – with whom the library was associated – were sweeping Egypt. In Alexandria, Dr Serageldin watched one such protest approach.

“Standing there with a few of my colleagues, and watching 200,000 people coming and chanting… I think, ‘What am I going to try to tell them, will they listen?’

“Then out of the crowd, young people… start making a human chain, holding hands and saying, ‘This is the library! Nobody touches the library!’”

He and other library experts see a bright future for libraries even in the digital age: as archives, a means of connecting people with knowledge, and important community spaces people will protect.

Dr Serageldin and other experts are among 3,000 delegates from 150 countries in Singapore for two library-related conferences, the Second International Summit of the Book and the 79th International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ World Library and Information Congress.

The summit was held last Friday, with experts discussing the historical role of the book and the future of books and libraries. The Congress began on Saturday and runs till Friday. It includes an industry fair and free public talks. The congress theme is Future Libraries: Infinite Possibilities, and technology’s enabling role is a major topic.

To some, the rise of e-books may seem to sound the death knell for libraries, or even printed books. But librarians see no cause for alarm.

As Dr Serageldin says, classic texts of the ancient world were written and read on scrolls, before the codex – today’s book – arrived. “We don’t really care that, ‘My god, people have been reading scrolls for millennia, now they’re going to be reading codexes’.”

To librarians, it is content that matters, says Shanghai Library director Wu Jianzhong. “Printed books and digital books, they are all carriers of content.”

Mr Bill Macnaught, who heads the National Library of New Zealand, says that even if print gives way to e-books, libraries need not lose relevance. After all, many now lend e-books and even electronic devices to read them, making these available in the same way that they have long made available more books than anyone could buy.

Libraries are also archives, and technology aids this role in the digitisation and hence preservation of historical material, converting old documents into image files. This means someone elsewhere in the country need not go to the National Library in Wellington for research, but can look at a digital copy from their local library, says Mr Macnaught. “We’re making it easier to provide equity of access.”

So the digital age is not something for libraries to fear. But it does mean they have to go beyond being collections of books.

“In the past, we were just transactional,” says National Library Board chief executive Elaine Ng. You went in, borrowed a book, and that was it. “Today, the library space is about what people want, which is an experience.”

Before, when information was far less accessible, libraries were a source of knowledge. But with the rise of the Internet, libraries now have to reach out and work harder to get readers in, Mrs Ng adds. Architecture and design, for instance, have become more important in creating a “customer experience”.

Dr Serageldin lists four spaces which libraries should provide: “Noisy, messy, dirty, creative places” with a coffee bar, say, and whiteboards, where young people can let their imagination run wild; smaller rooms for group study; conventional quiet reading spaces; and a space which “reaffirms the role of the library as a centre of the community”, for events and exhibitions.

At Shanghai Library, creative space takes the form of a room with 3-D printers and a digital sandbox in which visitors can play with ideas. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina aims to recapture the spirit of its ancient predecessor, which was part academy, part archive. It now has research institutes, museums and art galleries, and a planetarium.

The library’s useful services and cultural vibrancy may have helped it earn a place in local hearts. But Dr Serageldin thinks there was more which spurred those young Egyptians to join hands to protect it. “The other aspect is the values we defended.” After all, the 700-odd lectures and debates at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina each year are not just interesting public events. They represent the library opening its doors to pluralism and discussion, and it is such values for which the library stands, he adds.

Freedom of expression, intellectualism, pluralism, rationality, science, debate, the arts – “We defend all of that,” he says.

Source: and


Joanna Seow In The Straits Times ()16 August 2013):

SINGAPORE – Straits Times environment correspondent Grace Chua has been named Singapore’s winner of this year’s Siemens Green Technology Journalism Award.

Ms Chua, 28, triumphed for her commentary “Towards a robust clean air strategy”, which covered a wide spectrum of causes and effects of air pollution, strategies proposed by academics, and government and private sector efforts to manage it.

Dr Faizal Yahya, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and one of the judges, said: “The article will be useful for policymakers and provides a brief but informative piece on an evolving clear air strategy in Singapore.”

This is Ms Chua’s second award in a year – last August, she bagged the City Developments Limited Environmental Journalist of the Year award.

She has been with The Straits Times for five years and was a recipient of the Singapore Press Holdings journalism scholarship in 2003. After her undergraduate studies, she completed a master’s degree in science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has since covered a wide range of topics such as land use change and biodiversity.

“The environment beat is fascinating,” said Ms Chua. “A lot of issues can be boiled down to environment and science, and you’re always learning something new with every story.”

In the Siemens contest, the second of its kind, Ms Chua faced four other journalists in Singapore. In all, Siemens had more than 170 entries from the Asia-Pacific region, including those from local news dailies, trade publications and online media.

Ms Chua wins $1,000 and a trip to the award ceremony in London, where she will also attend an environmental conference. She will be considered for the regional round of the competition along with six other country winners from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The results of this round will be announced next month.

Source: www.

Ken Hickson reports (23 August 2013):

Good things Comes in Threes

For those who might want to know what I’ve been up to on the writing front – after four years of relative quiet on the print front at least – this year I expect three books to see the light of day under my authorship.

  1. 1.     “Race for Sustainability”

It is expected to hit the bookshelves and the digital reader library early October. It is being billed thus by the publishers World Scientific:

Ken Hickson advocates and entertains in this portfolio of stories, profiles

and case studies, covering what he calls the four E’s of Sustainability:

Energy   Economy   Environment   Ethics

He writes convincingly and persuasively that we need to get on the fast


  • • To clear the air and drive to a sustainable, low-carbon future.
  • • To focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • • To stop the burning and stop wasting resources.


“Even with the latest and best vehicles, machinery, technology and

buildings, if we continue to use resources irresponsibly — to waste

food, water and energy — we are not even in the race.”


Expect to hear more about this from me and others. It has a wide selection of sustainability stories from near and far.


  1. 2.     “Forty: Building a Future in Singapore”

I’ll leave it to the publishers of this book to tell you more once it’s officially released by the end of this month. All I can say is: it is set in Singapore and profiles the people who have made a particular property company one of the best around when it comes to sustainability and safety, green buildings and green leases.


  1. 3.     Business Leadership Series

The first in an expected series on business leaders and leading businesses. It focuses on the achievements and legacy of one leading businessman who was instrumental in creating an iconic Singapore brand and taking on the world.


Expect an official announcement with more details in the coming weeks. The book is expected to be released by the end of this year.


And if three is not enough, we are re-working “The ABC of Carbon” (first released in 2009) and giving it an updated introduction and some new material to come out afresh in e-book form in the near future. To those of you who missed the original first edition (in print), there are still some copies around in Australia and Singapore.

Email me direct for more information or to place your advance order!