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Monday, 31 October 2011

It's All in the Family

On October 31, according to forecasts, the 7 billionth person will be born. A few weeks before this milestone, Adnan Mevic, whom the United Nations declared Baby 6 Billion in 1999, celebrated one of his own. He turned 12.
More than 200,000 people are added to the population each day, and we're expected to keep growing for years to come, reaching anywhere from 8 billion to 11 billion mid-century.
The idea of living sustainably, of "going green", has recently become a buzzword when talking about everything from energy to water to agriculture. We certify energy-efficient LEED buildings. We build electric cars. We invest in solar power. But in terms of our own numbers, we are anything but sustainable.
Of course, consumption is a big part of the problem. With less than 5% of the world's population, the US consumes about one-fifth of the world's energy. We're among the top countries in the world in terms of per-capita emissions, and the average American is responsible for about 200 times as much carbon as the average Ethiopian.
But it's the poorest areas of the world, those least responsible for the generation of greenhouse gases, that are disproportionately feeling the effects of climate change.
Over-exploitation and habitat loss as a result of population pressures is also accelerating the extinction of plant and animal species, undermining the poor in parts of the world where people are heavily dependent on nature for livelihoods. Areas of rapid population growth overlay those with high numbers of threatened and vulnerable plant species, and much of the coming growth is expected to take place in the tropics, where ecosystems harbour the planet's richest forms of biodiversity.
Responding to climate change and protecting plant and animal species requires integrated solutions from governments, businesses and advocates. We need to reduce land-based pollution and stop destructive fishing practices that weaken coral reefs. We need land use reforms, government incentives for developing biofuels and alternative energy sources, and education. However, doing any of that without also making efforts to slow population growth makes an uphill climb even more difficult.
It's unpopular to apply sustainability to the concept of population growth, as the word "population" evokes worries about state control and limits on reproductive freedom. But slower population growth can not only lessen vulnerability to climate change impacts, it also has the potential to significantly reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. Following a slower population growth path could reduce fossil fuel emissions by an extra 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon per year by 2050.
About half of those reductions would come from fertility decline in the United States and developing countries, and could be achieved simply through meeting existing demand for family planning services. More than 200 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy, but need modern contraception. The emissions reductions that could be expected through meeting these family planning needs would be roughly equivalent to the reductions that would com

Friday, 28 October 2011

How Does Loss Of Biodiversity Affect You?

Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. It is the link between all organisms on earth, binding each into an interdependant ecosystem, in which all species have their role. It is the web of life.

The Earth’s natural assets are made up of plants, animals, land, water, the atmosphere AND humans! Together we all form part of the planet’s ecosystems, which means if there is a biodiversity crisis, our health and livelihoods are at risk too.

But we are currently  using 25% more natural resources than the planet can sustain As a result species, habitats and local communities are under pressure or direct threats (for example from loss of access to fresh water).

Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives.

Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.

For humans that is worrying.

Very worrying indeed.

Read more: http://p1n.in/tuZ

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Supermarket Tomatoes Are Bad!

Excerpted from the new book "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit"
In Vermont, where I live, as in much of the rest of the United States, a gardener can select pretty much any sunny patch of ground, dig a small hole, put in a tomato seedling, and come back two months later and harvest something. Not necessarily a bumper crop of plump, unblemished fruits, but something. When I met Monica Ozores-Hampton, a vegetable specialist with the University of Florida, I asked her what would happen if I applied the same laissez-faire horticultural practices to a tomato plant in Florida. She shot me a sorrowful, slightly condescending look and replied, "Nothing."
"Nothing?" I asked.
"There would be nothing left of the seedling," she said. "Not a trace. The soil here doesn’t have any nitrogen, so it wouldn’t have grown at all. The ground holds no moisture, so unless you watered regularly, the plant would certainly die. And, if it somehow survived, insect pests, bacteria, and fungal diseases would destroy it." How can it be, then, that Florida is the source for one-third of the fresh tomatoes Americans eat? How did tomatoes become the Sunshine State’s most valuable vegetable crop, accounting for nearly one-third of the total revenue generated?
From a purely botanical and horticultural perspective, you would have to be an idiot to attempt to commercially grow tomatoes in a place like Florida. The seemingly insurmountable challenges start with the soil itself. Or more accurately, the lack of it. Although an area south of Miami has limestone gravel as a growing medium, the majority of the state’s tomatoes are raised in sand. Not sandy loam, not sandy soil, but pure sand, no more nutrient rich than the stuff vacationers like to wiggle their toes into on the beaches of Daytona and St. Pete. "A little piece of loam or clay would go a long way," said Ozores-Hampton. "But, hello? -- this is just pure sand." In that nearly sterile medium, Florida tomato growers have to practice the equivalent of hydroponic production, only without the greenhouses.
Read more: http://p1n.in/tuB

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bye Bye Javan!

WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) have confirmed the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam.

Genetic analysis of 22 dung samples collected by a Cat Tien National Park - WWF survey team from 2009 – 2010 affirm that the samples all belonged to a rhinoceros that was found dead in the park in April 2010, shortly after the survey was completed. The findings, presented in a new WWF report, also point to poaching as the likely cause of the death, as the rhino was found with a bullet in its leg and had its horn removed.

The tragic discovery comes after a 2004 survey conducted by Queen’s University, Canada, that found at least two rhinos living in the park at the time.

“The last Javan rhino in Vietnam has gone,” said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF-Vietnam Country Director. “It is painful that despite significant investment in the Vietnamese rhino population conservation efforts failed to save this unique animal. Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage.”

Read more: http://p1n.in/tuT

Monday, 24 October 2011

Solar Energy In India

In light of recent extreme weather events, as well as long-term disruptions related to climate change, a major new report calls for different approaches to decision making by national leaders. The report, entitled “Decision Making in a Changing Climate”, explores challenges and offers recommendations for national-level government officials to make informed and effective decisions to respond to the changing climate. The report, produced by the World Resources Institute, UNDP, UNEP, and the World Bank, is the latest edition of the influential World Resources Report.
“Climate change is a vast, complex, and urgent issue for national leaders. What’s clear beyond doubt is that the decisions leaders make today will have a profound effect on their countries’ ability to find real, lasting solutions to adapt to this global crisis,” said Manish Bapna, Interim President, the World Resources Institute. “This report provides decision makers with concepts and information they need - drawn from real world experiences - to make smart choices and ensure that decision making is effective and durable in the light of these challenges.”
The challenges of climate change are made clear by the array of recent extreme weather events from massive droughts in the Horn of Africa to record rainfall in the United States to wildfires in Brazil. According to the global insurance company, Munich Re, there were more than 950 natural disasters in 2010, 90 percent of which were weather related, costing a total of at least $ 130 billion.
“Climate change is not solely an environmental issue. It is an issue that needs to be taken into account in order to ensure that human development is sustainable over the long term” said Olav Kjorven, Director of the Bureau for Development Policy at UNDP. “Governments must start now to incorporate climate risks into plans and policies across all sectors, including urban development, coastal planning, agriculture, water and forestry management, and electricity production.”
Drawing on input from over 100 experts in over 35 countries, the report includes 12 case studies of innovative, real world responses to climate change, such as wildfire management in Brazil, information sharing on agriculture in Mali and glacial flood management in Nepal. These countries demonstrate how some are rising to the challenge of adapting to climate change.
Yet, adaptation efforts worldwide are still failing to meet the challenge.
“Under present trends, the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa, and other people around the world, could be lost due to shifting hydrological patterns, higher temperatures and more extreme weather events,” said Andrew Steer, World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change. “This doesn’t need to happen. Good policies for climate resilience and low-carbon development can be put in place at reasonable cost. The good news is that many developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are taking action to do just that.”

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sceptics Will Be Sceptics.

The world is getting warmer, countering the doubts of climate change sceptics about the validity of some of the scientific evidence, according to the most comprehensive independent review of historical temperature records to date.
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, found several key issues that sceptics claim can skew global warming figures had no meaningful effect.
The Berkeley Earth project compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s from 15 sources around the world and found that the average global land temperature has risen by around 1C since the mid-1950s.
This figure agrees with the estimate arrived at by major groups that maintain official records on the world's climate, including Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the Met Office's Hadley Centre, with the University of East Anglia, in the UK.
"My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly sceptical," Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project, said.
"Some people lump the properly sceptical in with the deniers and that makes it easy to dismiss them, because the deniers pay no attention to science. But there have been people out there who have raised legitimate issues."
Muller sought to cool the debate over climate change by creating the largest open database of temperature records, with the aim of producing a transparent and independent assessment of global warming.
The initial reluctance of government groups to release all their methods and data, and the fiasco over emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in 2009, gave the project added impetus.
The team, which includes Saul Perlmutter, joint winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, has submitted four papers to the journal Geophysical Research Letters that describe their work to date.
Going public with results before they are peer-reviewed is not standard practice, but Muller said the decision to circulate the papers before publication was part a long-standing academic tradition of sanity-checking results with colleagues.

Read more: http://p1n.in/tua

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Oil & Corruption

Rumours that a deeper, darker ocean flows beneath the cold coastal waters of Greenland have triggered a scramble to drill for oil off the world’s largest island.

And if prospectors hit pay dirt – a potential 52 billion barrels of oil equivalent – then it won’t be virgin white pack ice and a pristine marine environment alone that risk becoming sullied. Reputations, business deals and politicians may be tarred and sticky too.

Because where oil is found then history tells us that corruption will follow.

Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index 2010 highlights the connection: Russia, the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of oil, ranks 154 out of 178 countries for corruption. Its low standing spells trouble for the Russian Arctic, where oil-fever is increasing as sea ice recedes. In August, state oil company Rosneft signed a £1.9 billion deal with ExxonMobil to drill for 40 billion barrels under the South Kara Sea.

Meanwhile Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly head of Russian oil company Yukos languishes in jail on charges of fraud that many believe are politically motivated – Yukos is now part of Rosneft – and this week a high court battle begins between another two oil-rich oligarchs. Boris Berezovsky claims he was intimidated by Roman Abramovich into selling his shares in the oil company Sibneft for a knock-down price. Berezovsky fled Russia in 2000 after falling out with Vladimir Putin. Russia’s powerful president is also alleged to be Europe’s richest man.

Greenland does not yet feature on the corruption index – which has Iran and pre-war Libya (fourth and 17th largest oil producers in the world) tied at 146 and Iraq and Afghanistan at 175 and 176 respectively – but that will change if oil is found. Its ability to spread and taint is already well documented elsewhere in the world.

Nigeria, Venezuela and Ecuador...

Last month a report revealed the extent of damage wrought to Nigeria’s Niger Delta by 50 years of oil drilling by Shell. A succession of governments effectively relied on the company to police itself and clean up spills. Almost 80 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue comes from oil and gas, which has earned Africa’s largest oil producer an estimated $600 billion since the 1960s. Approximately 70 per cent of its people live below the poverty line.

In 2009, Shell paid £9.6m to settle a legal action accusing it of complicity in the execution in 1995 of nine Ogoni tribal leaders including playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, who were campaigning to stop the destruction of their environment. The settlement meant it did not have to answer charges of colluding with the military dictatorship of the time to clamp down on protests and had whole army units in its pay.

A confidential 2009 cable published by Wikileaks last year also found Shell boasting that it had company spies in ‘all the relevant ministries’ of Nigeria’s government.

Read more: http://p1n.in/tu3

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Resource Abuse!

WHEN Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan went on an “indefinite” fast in February to protest the Centre’s “continued discrimination” against the state, one of his grudges was the delay in the allocation of a coal block to a joint venture of two companies that has invested thousands of crores of rupees in setting up industries in the backward region.
Chouhan called off his fast minutes after beginning it. But there is no let up in the demand for Mahan coal block. The Centre has bent all rules to suit the interest of the companies, Essar Power and Hindalco Industries.
So much so that instead of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests which is the statutory authority to grant forest clearance, for the first time, a Group of Ministers (GoM) is considering whether to divert more than 1,000 hectares (ha) of dense forest to Mahan Coal Ltd. It is a Rs 5,000-crore joint venture between the London Stock Exchange-listed power company Essar and the aluminium-manufacturing unit of Aditya Birla Group. The GoM is headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and includes coal and power ministers.
The Union coal ministry had in 2006 allocated the coal block in Singrauli district to a 1,000 MW power plant proposed by Essar and a 650 MW captive power plant of Hindalco. The coal block was given environmental clearance in December 2008. But before getting forest clearance, Mahan coal block was declared a no-go area, a zone where mining is prohibited because of dense forests. The concept was introduced by former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010.

Read more: http://p1n.in/tul

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Can we feed them all?

Within the next century, the world's population will likely swell to 9 or 10 billion. And according to new research, we can feed them all if we make some radical changes in the way we grow our food.
As the world's population approaches 7 billion, 1 billion of those people continue to go hungry. It's a huge problem around the word—from the deadly famine in Somalia to the dismal hunger statistics here in the United States. Meanwhile, annual increases in agricultural yields have begun to slow down, and our methods of cultivating crops continue to degrade land, water, biodiversity, and climate. It's not hard to imagine a dystopian future where huge chunks of the population will suffer from chronic hunger while our natural resources are depleted.
But Nature magazine brings some good news to the age-old battle between civilization and Earth: It's not a zero-sum game. Scientists have figured out how we can feed a growing world that doesn't come at the expense of the planet. There are a few basic (but radical) steps we can take to sustainably double our food production. Here's the strategy:
  • Halt farming in places like tropical rainforests and wild lands, which are ecologically valuable but have low food output.
  • Make underused expanses of land in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe more efficient, boosting current food production by nearly 60 percent.
  • Make better use of water, fertilizers, and chemicals
  • Stop eating so much meat, especially in developed countries.
  • Stop wasting food—about one-third of all food grown is either discarded, spoiled, or eaten by pests.
Read more: http://p1n.in/tut

Monday, 17 October 2011

They're Called Smartphones After All!

Apps designed to integrate with your electricity meter and help you save are just starting to hit the market. What's available, and what's on the horizon?

Smartphones are energy hogs. Just think about how much longer the battery in your cell phone from five years ago lasted as compared to your Android or iPhone's battery now. But while smartphones quickly suck up battery power, they can make up for it in other ways—namely, by helping you save energy in other parts of your life. Welcome to the world of the energy app.
At the moment, energy-saving apps are mostly geared towards high-end home energy management systems. The Control4 Mobile Navigator, for example, works with Control4's home control systems, which can automate everything from lighting and shades to thermostats and sprinkler systems. Forgot to turn your lights off? You can do it from the office. Control4's app simply extends the functionality of the brand's touch screens, keypads, and remote controls by allowing home control from anywhere. Similar apps are available for Wiser Home Control and eQ-3 branded energy management systems.
Do you have a rooftop solar array? SunPower’s Solar Electric Home Energy Management System lets you keep track of energy generated by SunPower-branded solar systems in real time. The app also offers information on the lifetime energy production of the panels, daily production, daily usage, and net energy use.
If you're lucky enough to have a smart meter installed in your home or apartment, the app options expand even more. Tendril Vantage Mobile allows select utility customers to monitor home energy use in real time, monitor dynamic price changes, and control smart meter-connected thermostats and appliances remotely. Utilities are getting in on the act, too—Irish utility company Bord Gáis Energy plans to release an iPhone app that offers detailed information about energy consumption and costs. Utility companies in other countries won't be far behind.