Sunday, February 27, 2005

from a poem by Shel Silverstein -- Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

Shel Silverstein -- Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out: "[...]
At last the garbage reached so high
That finally it touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sahra Cynthia Stout said,
'OK, I'll take the garbage out!'
But then, of course, it was too late...
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sahra met an awful fate,
That I cannot right now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sahra Stout
And always take the garbage out!"

Stars take hybrid cars to the red carpet - (United Press International)

Stars take hybrid cars to the red carpet - (United Press International): "Forget the limo, Hollywood stars are taking low emission, Toyota Prius hybrids to the 2005 Academy Awards Sunday as part of Global Green's campaign to raise awareness of environmentally friendly vehicles.

About 15 celebrities including Gwenyth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johanson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Williams, Orlando Bloom, Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz, Morgan Freeman, Julie Delpy and Tim Robbins are all pulling up to the red carpet in hybrid cars.

This is the third year Global Green, the American branch of Green Cross International run by Mikhail Gorbachev, asked celebrities to use their status to help the environmental cause.

'Hybrid cars help us conserve natural resources and preserve the planet. Choosing a hybrid is something everyone can do today to help reduce our negative impact on the environment,' Bloom said. 'People can choose to change the way they drive to help reduce our impact on the environment.' [...]"

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey:
"The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) distributed a 42-question survey to more than 1,400 USFWS biologists, ecologists, botanists and other science professionals working in Ecological Services field offices across the country to obtain their perceptions of scientific integrity within the USFWS, as well as political interference, resources and morale. Nearly 30 percent of the scientists returned completed surveys, despite agency directives not to reply—even on personal time.

* Nearly half of all respondents whose work is related to endangered species scientific findings (44 percent) reported that they "have been directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making jeopardy or other findings that are protective of species." One in five agency scientists revealed they have been instructed to compromise their scientific integrity—reporting that they have been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document,"
such as a biological opinion;
Scientists: sign the statement on restoring scientific integrity in federal policy making to voice your concern about the Bush administration's misuse of science.
* More than half of all respondents (56 percent) knew of cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention;" and
* More than two out of three staff scientists (70 percent) and nearly nine out of 10 scientist managers (89 percent) knew of cases "where U.S. Department of Interior political appointees have injected themselves into Ecological Services determinations." A majority of respondents also cited interventions by members of Congress and local officeholders."

UCS Calls to Increase the Texas Renewable Energy Standard

UCS analysis shows that Texas can create jobs and improve its public health and environment by adopting a stronger renewable energy standard.

Increase the Texas Renewable Energy Standard:"In 1999, Texas enacted its RPS—requiring 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity by 2009—as part of legislation that restructured the state’s electricity market. Today, the Texas RPS is one of the most effective and successful in the nation. The state is ahead of its annual requirement schedule with nearly 1,200 MW of new renewable energy already installed.

Given the success of the existing law and the state’s vast renewable energy potential, at least two proposals have been made to increase the state’s standard. The Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) and a coalition of Texas environmental organizations are advocating for a long-term 20 percent by 2020 RPS, with one percent of the requirement set aside for distributed resources like solar energy and farm-based technologies.1 The Texas Energy Planning Council (TEPC) is recommending a more modest increase of the standard to 5,000 MW by 2015 (500 MW from non-wind renewable resources), with a goal of 10,000 MW by 2025. We project that the TEPC proposal would yield approximately 8 percent renewable energy in 2025. [...]"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Could a $50bn plan to tame this mighty river bring electricity to all of Africa?

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Could a $50bn plan to tame this mighty river bring electricity to all of Africa?: "One of Africa's biggest electricity companies yesterday unveiled plans to build the world's biggest hydro-electricity plant on a stretch of the Congo River, harnessing enough power for the whole continent.

The proposed plant at the Inga Rapids, near the river's mouth in the western Democratic Republic of Congo, would cost $50bn (£26bn) and could generate some 40,000MW, twice the power of China's Three Gorges dam.

The river is seen as ideal. Known as the 'river that swallows all rivers', it is fed by 10,000 streams that funnel into powerful rapids along its 2,900-mile course.

Rather than damming up the river entirely, the plan by South Africa's state-owned power company, Eskom - which has already won over independent experts - involves creating a 'run-of-river' plant in which water is siphoned off, channelled through turbines and then fed back into the river...

"But critics say even run-of-river plants can damage the environment, by blocking the migratory path of fish and stalling the flow of silt downstream.

There are also fears that electricity from the project, dubbed 'Grand Inga', will simply enrich corporate backers rather than reach Africa's poorest, many of whom live beyond the electricity grids. [...]"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hate Something. Change Something.

That's the central theme of Honda's new ad campaign in the UK, featuring their new quiet, clean diesel engines. Their point is that its ok to hate pollution because that hate will make you want to do something about it. Garrison Kiellor sings the clever song that Britons can't get out their heads. And the animation is cute, too.

See for yourself: go to this site (with a high speed connection), click make life better and watch movie.

Honda (UK)

Dispatch from a[n LA] conference on transportation and justice

Ansje Miller sends a dispatch from a conference on transportation and justice |
Grist Magazine | Dispatches | 21 Feb 2005
: "...In the afternoon, BRU unveiled its plan for the future of transportation in Los Angeles. The plan creates an integrated three-tier bus network for fast, reliable, countywide access that includes a freeway bus network, metro rapid bus, and expanded neighborhood and general services. This plan will create 576 new buses, 50 shuttles, and -- impressively -- 2,351,000 new bus in-service hours each year.

Clayton Thomas-Mueller, the Indigenous Environmental Network's oil-and-gas campaigner, taught us how switching to compressed or liquid natural gas was destroying indigenous communities where the gas is extracted. Thomas-Mueller pointed out that 'indigenous peoples are hit first and hit the hardest.' As many environmentalists are supporting a move to this form of powering transportation, this is an important lesson in our struggle to save not only our own communities, but communities across the planet.

And that, I believe, is one of the ways that this conference was different from so many gatherings on the fate of our planet. As Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center pointed out, 'The mainstream environmental movement wants less pollution in Iraq, less pollution in white communities.' Hopefully, the vision from this conference will create health, transportation, and economic justice for all of our communities. [...]"

Rising Waters: a documentary

ITVS: at-a-glance: "To skeptics, global warming is a myth. But for 70 million Pacific Islanders, a warmer planet is landing them in hot water. Scientists agree that the tropical Pacific Islands will be the first and hardest hit by global warming. Still, some question whether the danger is real, leaving islanders in a precarious state of limbo. RISING WATERS explores what it means to live under a cloud of scientific uncertainty."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Seattle Mandates Recycling

ENN: Environmental News Network [[Today's News Full Story ]]: "Starting in 2006, people in single-family homes won't get their trash picked up if they dump "significant amounts" of recyclables in their trash, defined by the city as more than 10 percent by volume. Owners of apartments, condominiums and businesses will face $50 fines.

So far, city officials say few people have complained. Most calls have come from people wondering how to comply with the new standards. [...]

"...In Madison, Wis., a liberal college town that embraced recycling enthusiastically when it began in 1991, a fine has never been imposed.

'Seventy percent of the population is going to walk across a bed of hot coals to recycle a bottle. They just do that. They believe in it,' said George Dreckmann, Madison's recycling coordinator. More than 90 percent follow the law, and Dreckmann said it doesn't make sense economically or practically to go after the few violators.

Recycling has been mandatory in Connecticut since 1991. Requirements vary from city to city, and enforcement has been the biggest challenge, said Judy Beleval, an environmental analyst with the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

'Some towns are good at it. Some towns are not so good at it,' Beleval said. 'In the beginning, most towns had a recycling coordinator. Over the years, because of budget cuts, that became the job of someone who was also doing 10 other things.'

Frank Gagliardo oversees recycling enforcement -- in 169 cities and towns, home to 3.5 million people -- for the Connecticut agency. 'We sort of have to pick and choose our battles,' he said.

Last summer, Pittsburgh started fining residents who weren't complying with a mandatory recycling law enacted in 1988 for large communities in Pennsylvania. As of late January, the city had issued about 660 tickets at $62.50 a pop. So far, no one's been slapped with a second fine, a whopping $500.

'Every time someone calls and complains about the citation, they say, 'Well, I didn't think you were serious,'' said Guy Costa, Pittsburgh's public works director. 'Now they're beginning to take us more seriously.' [...]"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

UN Global Population Report press release

click here and choose English to read the full report.

UN Press Release: "The world’s population has reached 6.5 billion this year, a billion more than 1993, despite low fertility in developed countries and high mortality in developing countries, a new United Nations report says.

It estimates that the world’s population could reach 7 billion in 2012 and could stabilize at 9 billion in 2050. The rate of growth has fallen, however, to 1.2 per cent now from 2 per cent in the late 1960s.

The report, covering population size and growth, urbanization and city growth, population aging, fertility and contraception, mortality and international migration, was released in advance of the next session in April of the 47-member Commission on Population and Development.

Based on the work of the UN Population Division, the report says, “Most developed countries exhibit fertility levels at or below the replacement level. Although most developing countries are far advanced in the transition from high to low fertility, some developing countries, mainly in Africa, still exhibit high fertility.”

In the last century, “mortality experienced the most rapid decline in the history of humanity, owing to better hygiene, improved nutrition and medical practices based on scientific evidence,” it says. In Africa, however, HIV/AIDS has markedly increased mortality.

Six countries account for the 77 million people added to the population each year since 2000: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, the United States and Bangladesh.

People are moving to urban centres and the urban population will account for half the world’s population by 2007. Urban dwellers are expected to increase to about 5 billion in 2030 from 3.2 billion today, it says.

The “urban agglomerations” – Tokyo, Mexico City, New York-Newark, Mumbai, São Paulo and Delhi – each has more than 15 million residents, the report says, but most urban dwellers live in towns of fewer than half a million people.

About 175 million people live outside of their countries of birth and 60 per cent of the world’s migrants live in more developed countries, the report says.

Presenting both opportunities and challenges in this century, it says, 'the current population picture is one of dynamic population change, reflected in new and diverse patterns of childbearing, mortality, migration, urbanization and aging.'"

Monday, February 21, 2005

In pictures: How the world is changing

This series of six locations around the planet is quite compelling:

BBC NEWS | In pictures: How the world is changing: "While the effect of human activity on the global climate is hotly debated, physical signs of environmental change are all around us."

A Sudden Change of Heart: Lessons from the Abolitionist Movement

Can social change alone resolve the crises of global environment damage and consequent climate change? You guys must know by now that I'm a champion of social movements. Science is amazing, and critical in these efforts, but I noticed a few things at the Houston/London conference. Not one Prius was parked in the garage. Conference materials were not printed on recycled paper. Lunch was tripple wrapped in plastic and cardboard. While the scientists and policy experts attending were undoubtedly brilliant in the long view, they weren't exactly walking their talk. The military depends on social movements with Hearts and Minds campaigns and disinformation activites. Why aren't we?

This is just a small excerpt from a longer, eloquent and readable essay on the brief social movement that swept the UK in the late 1700s. This movement is credited with the English abolition of slavery, despite the fact that slavery was economically advantageous and the English economy was dependent on it. If we're going to approach climate change from the aspect of social movements, this is a great place to start:

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: A Sudden Change of Heart: Lessons from the Abolitionist Movement: "Social values, it's commonly understood, move at glacial speed.

Yes and no: sometimes they can change astonishingly fast, a fact that many people overlook or downplay. A powerful case in point is the massive and relatively swift shift in attitudes and policy towards slavery in Britain during the Victorian era.

As the popular historian Niall Ferguson puts it in his highly readable Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British Empire and the Lessons for Global Power:

It is not easy to explain so profound a change in the ethics of a people. It used to be argued that slavery was abolished simply because it had ceased to be profitable, but all the evidence points the other way: in fact, it was abolished despite the fact that it was still profitable. What we need to understand, then, is a collective change of heart. Like all such great changes, it had small beginnings.
Small beginnings were necessary because overturning an ancient, almost universal practice was a seemingly impossible challenge. While considered barbaric today, slavery was accepted for most of human history as a necessary, if unsavory, part of the natural order of things. The Bible nor Christian tradition explicitly opposed it (although religious activists would later use the teachings of Jesus to support their cause), and slavery was easily rationalized by logic of the times which favoured a proto-social darwinian explanation for why people should be oppressed, for why the British Empire and white folks were at the top of the social hierarchy. Accidents of birth were justified in this way. (By the by, much of today's right wing economic policy is still highly influenced by these assumptions, however implicitly, when it comes to the 'have nots'.) So given this widespread social mindset and the fact that powerful entrenched economic interests supported the trade, it's truly amazing how quickly and decisively this practice was overturned.

So how did this happen? Through the efforts of a small but committed group of anti-slavery activists in the late 1700s. Remarkably diverse and equally as colourful, the champions of the abolition movement included religious leaders across dominations -- Quakers, Evangelicals, to Unitarians -- people like Granville Sharp and Zachary Macaulay who lead the Clapham Sect. We also had ex-slaver John Newton, enlightenment thinker Edmund Burke, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the industrialist and pottery king Josiah Wedgwood leading the charge.

Two new books recount this important story: Bury the Chains: The First International Human Rights Movement by Adam Hochschild; and Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial that Led to the End of Human Slavery by Steven Wise. [...]"

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Chuck Hagel's climate change legislature

Click here to listen to a PRI interview of conservative Republican Chuck Hagel on his newly proposed legislature in response to climate change.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Emily Gertz sends dispatches from Verdopolis, a confab on future green cities

file this blog post under W for Wish I was there... At last, the social and the theoretical collide.

Emily Gertz sends dispatches from Verdopolis, a confab on future green cities |
Grist Magazine | Dispatches | 10 Feb 2005
: "...It's a gathering where we dispense with arguing the moral imperative of fewer cars and more trees, and instead get on with figuring out how to design the bright green future for our growing cities. It's beyond anger, done with denial, and waist-deep into acceptance. And at this panel, we were accepting that human-caused climate instability has arrived, and making it better is both the right thing to do and a huge business opportunity. [...]"

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Coming of Kyoto

SPECIAL REPORT: The Coming of Kyoto - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE (Germany): "...What they have agreed to, of course, is a very watered-down treaty. No one can dispute the fact that Kyoto's goals are extremely modest. Indeed, few scientists believe Kyoto will make a big difference and most are hoping it represents a symbolic start of something much bigger. According to the German government, climate researchers estimate that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 60-70 percent in the mid- to long-term. [...]"

Air pollution 'harms unborn babies'

Herald Sun: Air pollution 'harms unborn babies' [16feb05]: "Babies' DNA can be damaged even before they are born if their mothers breathe polluted air, according to a study published today.

'This is the first study to show that environmental exposures to specific combustion pollutants during pregnancy can result in chromosomal abnormal"

UNEP Head Hails Entry into Force of Kyoto Protocol

Xinhua China - English: "The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the UN treaty. 'Without doubt, the fight against climate change must integrate the United States of America,' said Toepfer.

    'It is not possible to make an efficient environment policy without the United States,' said Toepfer, adding that the US is needed in this regard because it is a technology power as well as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

    Some analysts have argued that without the United States the Kyoto Protocol is more dead than alive.

    However, Toepfer said that UNEP is not so pessimistic, noting that many individual states in the United States are adopting or planning to adopt greenhouse gas reductions in line with the spirit of the protocol."

U.S. paper recycling reaches a record high

Yahoo! News - U.S. paper recycling reaches a record high
: "Americans are recycling paper at an all-time high, recapturing 300 pounds per person each year. That's about half the paper produced in the United States.

In addition to improvements in the tactics of waste-paper collection, recycling is gaining from China's suddenly ravenous appetite for U.S. scrap paper. Its hunger for recycled paper is fueled by its own shortage of wood pulp and a mushrooming need for boxes in which to ship its exports.

U.S. papermakers, who need scrap themselves, are struggling to compete against China's mills, which made off with about 6 million tons of American scrap paper in 2004. That's from a total U.S. paper recovery of about 50 million tons. Mills in India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea (news - web sites) also are ardent bidders for American scrap paper. [...]"

Redefining Progress - Jobs & Opportunities

Redefining Progress - Jobs & Opportunities: "current internship openings in the following areas:

COMMUNICATIONS AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS (2 internships, preferably graduate students or college seniors)
DEVELOPMENT (2 internships)"

Mocking our dreams

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Mocking our dreams: "...Why are we transfixed by terrorism, yet relaxed about the collapse of the conditions that make our lives possible? One reason is surely the disjunction between our expectations and our observations. If climate change is to introduce horror into our lives, we would expect - because throughout our evolutionary history we survived by finding patterns in nature - to see that horror beginning to unfold. It is true that a few thousand people in the rich world have died as a result of floods and heatwaves. But the overwhelming sensation, experienced by all of us, almost every day, is that of being blessed by our pollution.

Instead, the consequences of our gluttony are visited on others. The climatologists who met at the government's conference in Exeter this month heard that a rise of just 2.1 degrees, almost certain to happen this century, will confront as many as 3 billion people with water stress. This, in turn, is likely to result in tens of millions of deaths. But the same calm voice that tells us climate change means mild winters and early springs informs us, in countries like the UK, that we will be able to buy our way out of trouble. While the price of food will soar as the world goes into deficit, those who are rich enough to have caused the problem will, for a couple of generations at least, be among the few who can afford to ignore it. [...]

"But there's a much bigger problem here. The denial of climate change, while out of tune with the science, is consistent with, even necessary for, the outlook of almost all the world's economists. Modern economics, whether informed by Marx or Keynes or Hayek, is premised on the notion that the planet has an infinite capacity to supply us with wealth and absorb our pollution. The cure to all ills is endless growth. Yet endless growth, in a finite world, is impossible. Pull this rug from under the economic theories, and the whole system of thought collapses.

And this, of course, is beyond contemplation. It mocks the dreams of both left and right, of every child and parent and worker. It destroys all notions of progress. If the engines of progress - technology and its amplification of human endeavour - have merely accelerated our rush to the brink, then everything we thought was true is false. Brought up to believe that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, we are now discovering that it is better to curse the darkness than to burn your house down. [...]"

Automaker Rankings 2004

Automaker Rankings 2004: "The pollution performance of just a handful of corporations has a dramatic impact on the air we breathe and the climate we will pass on to future generations. The six largest automakers in the U.S. market—General Motors (GM), Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan—are responsible for more than 90 percent of the heat-trapping and smog-forming emissions from new automobiles today. This lackluster environmental performance gives the industry a negative image and increases concern among investors that automakers are poorly positioned in a global market where environmental stewardship is becoming a competitive priority.[...]

"Clear differences exist among the automakers when it comes to environmental performance.  Since our first automaker ranking report, for model year 1998 (MY98), a trend has emerged for the market leaders and laggards: Honda has consistently remained at the top, representing the cleanest of the Big Six automakers, while GM has consistently fallen in our rankings, from fourth place in our first ranking to last place in 2003, the latest model year for which data were publicly available. The difference between Honda and GM is most apparent in smog-forming pollution; Honda’s vehicles produce less than half the pollution of the fleet average, while GM’s produce nearly a third more than the average."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Electronics designers find it's not easy being green

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Electronics designers find it's not easy being green: "At the heart of these regulations is an economic notion stating that the best way to deal with pollution is to build its cost into the product. If companies must pay to dispose of their own products, they would have an incentive to design their products to be easier to recycle or more environmentally friendly and, thus, less costly to clean up. [...]

"Manufacturers expect tighter regulations to become the norm in some of their biggest markets. So they're changing the design process.

At Panasonic, designers conduct a 40-step review that, among other things, looks at the ability to recycle materials used in their prototypes, and how quickly products can be taken apart for recycling.

Because plastics are more difficult to recycle, designers are encouraged to use metals.

'Markets for recycled metals are much more advanced than for plastics,' Matsushita's Thompson said.

Designers also try to reduce the number of parts or materials used in a single product, making it simpler to sort and recycle. [...]"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Another World Is Here: Ratifying Kyoto at Home

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Ratifying Kyoto at Home: "On Wednesday, February 16, the Kyoto Protocol will come into effect, mandating participating nations to reduce their emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Canada has ratified Kyoto. The United States has not.

Have you?

Not literally, of course. Individuals can’t sign international treaties. They can, however, pledge to match its goals (summarized by World Resources Institute): a reduction of emissions in the United States to 7 percent below—and in Canada to 6 percent below—the 1990 level by 2008-2012."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jet pollution: drawing a line in the sky

Jet pollution: drawing a line in the sky: "Little is known about the global climate effects of airliner exhaust. Although jets create far less greenhouse gas than power plants or automobiles, they have an outsize impact because of where they spew it - the delicate upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, five to seven miles up from Earth's surface. And an expected boom in airline travel in coming years is likely to swamp any efficiency gains from the next generation of airliners, such as the just unveiled Airbus A380.

"The result: growing scientific concern that jets may be turning the skies into a hazier, heat-trapping place."

EPA funding for FY 2006

: "...Most of the EPA [6%] cut proposed for 2006 is from a reduction in funding for a revolving fund that states use to upgrade sewage and septic systems, and storm-water run-off projects. Funding for the fund fell $361 million, or 33 percent, in the Bush administration budget proposal.

Environmental groups say cities need the loans and grants to replace and upgrade aging sewage systems, some of which are over a century old.

'This year's cuts are really bad for clean water,' said Rob Perks at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the lower request actually offsets higher funds appropriated by Congress in 2004 and 2005, which will maintain the total commitment to the program of $6.8 billion through 2011, an EPA spokeswoman said. 'Federal funding of this program was never intended to be permanent,' she said.

The decision to cut the state water program was 'one of savings and making some tough choices,' Johnson said.

The administration's budget plan would hold steady a separate $850 million state fund for clean drinking water.

The EPA budget also would increase by $47 million funding to clean up 600 toxic 'brownfield' sites and add $28 million to remove toxic sediments from the Great Lakes.

Money for Superfund -- an industry program to clean up toxic waste sites -- would rise slightly to $1.28 billion."

Environment pact to come into force

Aljazeera.Net - Environment pact to come into force: "The UN plan to curb global warming comes into force on 16 February despite a US pullout and many countries way off course to meet promised cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2012.

The Kyoto pact is meant to rein in rising temperatures that many scientists say will cause more storms, droughts and floods and raise world sea levels.

Climate shifts could disrupt farming and wipe out thousands of species of animals and plants. The 141-nation protocol, which will force countries to cap emissions of gases, enters into force years after it was agreed to in 1997...

"But opponents of Kyoto dismiss it as wasted money built on scaremongering science. 'Put bluntly, the Kyoto protocol is one of the least good investments the world can make,' said Bjorn Lomborg, Danish author of The Sceptical Environmentalist.

He said Kyoto would cost about $150 billion a year to promote a shift to renewable energies and that the cash could be better spent on combating Aids, malaria and malnutrition or on promoting free trade. [...]"

West Africa: Food Security: W/Africa May Face Severe Crisis West Africa: Food Security: W/Africa May Face Severe Crisis - Ecowas: "...The report said the challenge comprises two important dimensions: the preservation of natural resources in a context of rising agricultural production and a reduction in poverty.

Highlighting these major challenges the report said the systems of production presently used in West Africa are not very efficient and are heavy users of land, animal, and water resources. 'The rise in production required to feed constantly growing population will have obvious disastrous effects on natural resources. It will likely accelerate desertification and climate changes, and compromise sustainable development of the countries'.

'ECOWAP's challenges will be thus to promote systems of production that are not only efficient but also respectful of the environment. These systems should make an effort to draw on the largely under-exploited potential that exists in areas of land management, irrigation, and technological innovation'.

On the other major challenge the report pointed out that the agricultural sector, by employing close to 65% of the sub-region's labour force, functions as a safety valve for the West African economies. [...]"

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Houston Climate Change Conference - Agenda for tomorrow

Houston Climate Change Conference - Agenda - British Consulate-General, Houston, TX, from BritainUSA: "Houston Climate Change Conference - Agenda"

Draining the Swamp

This topic is not just significant in that a Houston media source devoted 8 pages to an environmental article, it's also the topic of Rice's Environmental Law course taught by Jim Blackburn this semester.

Blackburn's the lawyer representing the city of Shore Acres versus the US Army Corps of Engineers. At stake? The ongoing expansion of the Galveston Bay ship channel will have ripples of ecological disasters from truck emissions for product transport to wet land destruction. And we haven't even gotten to the inevitable container and ship fuel leakages.

If there's a better topic to illustrate today's lecture, "Environmental Racism? Or Classism?" I haven't found it yet. Political and commercial interests versus jobs for the area made impoverished by environment-depleting industries. It's a long read, but it might be the most relevant of our semester. | Draining the Swamp | 2005-01-13: "A scorched-earth management philosophy is sucking the life out of our region's wetlands"

more from In Harm's Way

Remember the Chronicle's In Harm's Way Series? Here are some extras I didn't catch the first time around:

How the Chronicle Conducted the Study
Why We Did It: Reporter Dina Cappiello sums up the purpose of the study

City leaders dress down state's pollution monitors

I think this is the article Dr. Klineberg brought to class: - City leaders dress down state's pollution monitors: "City leaders on Monday questioned whether the state's environmental agency was responding fast enough to reports showing high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in southeast Houston and some East Harris County communities.

'What we are hearing today ... we've been talking about for 15 years,' said Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Alvarado, in a special City Council meeting called to address the high concentrations of pollutants in the city's air.

'I don't see the seriousness of the issue from your agency,' Alvarado said. 'Frankly, I just don't know if you get it.'

In their first public appearance in Houston since they released data showing that some residents are at greater risk of cancer because of toxic air pollutants, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials said that they have already taken steps in the communities where their monitors found high concentrations of pollution, and they would not quit working until the concentrations reached safe levels. [...]"

Monday, February 07, 2005

Support Your Local Farmer

This article expounds on the benefits of supporting local, organic farms. We have several great options to take part in this right here in Houston.

I'm on the board of Central City Co-op, a local organic farming co-op that provides shares of vegetables (a big box) every Wednesday for about $15. Just last fall Houston's Urban Harvest, a non-profit that creates organic gardens throughout the city, expanded to form a Saturday morning farmers' market in Midtown. Both of these organizations offer opportunities to volunteer for your vegetables, as well.

Win0405 earthwise: Support Your Local Farmer: "Leigh and Wenonah Hauter live and work on an eight-acre farm in Virginia's Bull Run Mountains. Every weekday between June and October, Leigh heads to one of five delivery locations in Washington, DC, and northern Virginia with bins of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and eggs. Customers line up to fill their bags, exchange friendly greetings but no cash, and head home to prepare meals using seasonal produce Leigh picked just hours before.

The Hauter farm is an example of community-supported agriculture (CSA),a movement that has taken hold on more than 1,000 farms across the country. CSA farmers sell yearly shares in their harvests to consumers in neighboring communities (the Hauters' shares start at $295 each). This arrangement helps defray farming costs and provides farmers with financial stability at the start of the growing season, when it is most needed. In exchange, shareholders receive weekly deliveries of produce and other goods as they come into season. In the first week of July, for example, shareholders received garlic, potatoes, basil, lettuce, and kohlrabi. [...]"

Ford + EPA: Diesel Makes A Comeback

Treehugger: Ford EPA: Diesel Makes A Comeback: "Hybrids have been getting a lot of press lately for being the next 'save the world' wagons, and we love them for that. But the truth is that diesel has always been more efficient than gasoline in a well tuned engine, and most diesel cars get as good or better mileage than comparable hybrid vehicles. Plus, these lucky folks get to take advantage of green alternatives like Biodiesel. But Diesel always had a major drawback; Incomplete combustion in the engines produce Nitrogen Oxide (NOX), which is a major component of smog, and is implicated in causing millions of asthma attacks every year.

Now Ford, along with the EPA, has developed a new clean-burning diesel engine that cuts NOX emissions, and gets 30-40 percent better mileage than regular gas cars. This is great in the short term, since we would be using less fuel, kicking out less CO2, and warming less globe. And, this could be a great first step toward reducing fossil fuel dependence, and pave the way to super efficient hybrid-diesel cars that finally get over a hundred MPG. We can only hope."

blogger tutorial

A few brave souls have posted to the blog, and I'd like to encourage the whole class to jump in. Questions, comments, reflections, or articles are all welcome and relevant. Blogger may seem intimidating, but learning it here in a low-stress environment can enable you to add "familiar with web applications" to your resume.

The "dashboard," or the page you get to upon signing on with your login name and password, has tools to explain blogging in general and Blogger as an interface. Any question you have is likely to be addressed at the Blogger Basics page or the Blogger Help page.

In class, I tried to demonstrate one tool that makes blogging articles simple and fast, called the Blog This button. It's an option you can choose when downloading the Google Tool Bar. Alternatively, visit this page and drag the Blog This button into your browser toolbar. By drag I mean click on the text and move your mouse with the button still pressed down, release the mouse when you get to your browser's toolbar. With this you can highlight text from any website, press Blog This, and the text you selected will automatically be linked and quoted on our class blog.

Finally, if you haven't logged in to Blogger yet because you need your invite email resent, please let me know through email or in class.

New Republican leaders emerging in battle against climate change

The task force report referenced here is the same referenced in the article I posted last week alongside responses from all over the net. So we can add the congressional response detailed in this article to the wildly wide scope of responses to the statement that in ten years climate change will reach a point of no return.

New Republican leaders emerging in battle against climate change | Grist Magazine | Muckraker | 04 Feb 2005
: "Last week, an international task force co-chaired by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) predicted a fast-approaching 'point of no return' for climate change -- possibly in as few as 10 years -- after which the crisis and its symptoms will be irreversible.

You probably didn't read about it in the U.S. papers, which largely ignored the findings -- just as you probably haven't been reading much about the Kyoto Protocol, though the treaty will go into effect in less than two weeks, with the conspicuous noncooperation of the world's most heavily polluting nation.

But, even as the Bush administration tries its darndest to pretend that nothing fishy is afoot with the climate, a handful of Republicans in the Senate are emerging as leaders in the fight against global warming -- and we don't just mean John McCain. [...]"

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Greening of Evangelicals

"There is growing evidence -- in polling and in public statements of church leaders -- that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible."

Is this apparently influential voting bloc truly getting serious about the environment? Let's hope (and/or pray).

(Article may require free registration.)

open source project idea

Thanks in part to Brazil, Mozilla's Firefox browser, and the tsunami relief effort, open source is getting a lot of press lately. Click here to read about open source technology and its implications.

Wikibooks is one facilitator of open source book writing, a very new, edge of the trends idea. And one of the books the public is invited to help write is on climate change. So if your paper is on the topic of climate change, you can contribute it to the wikibook on the topic.

Climate change - Wikibooks: "This wikibook will cover the entire topic of climate change. Please feel free to add / edit any content you wish."

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A chemist ahead of his time

Guardian Unlimited | Life | A chemist ahead of his time: "The story starts in 1827 with the French mathematician Fourier. He coined the term 'greenhouse effect' and provided an explanation for the relatively small temperature difference between daytime and night-time on the Earth - and the development of a climate that was, among other things, suitable for human beings. Then, in 1860, British scientist John Tyndall measured the atmosphere's absorption of radioactive energy, and discovered that it was the minority gases, carbon dioxide and water vapour, that produced the greenhouse effect, not nitrogen or oxygen.

Following this, in 1896, a Swedish chemist named Svante Arrhenius asked the key question: 'Is the mean temperature of the ground in any way influenced by the presence of the heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere?' He made the first attempt to investigate the effect doubling CO2would have on the global climate.

Using a simple physical model, he estimated that if the level of CO2 in the atmosphere doubled, the average global temperature would rise by 5-6C. That estimate made in 1896 is not so very different from most modern attempts to calculate the temperature change due to increasing CO2 levels...

"It was not until nearly 15 years after his death, that GS Callendar, in Britain, concluded - from his analysis of data collected from 200 weather stations worldwide since 1880 - that global warming was occurring.

Until around 1960, most scientists thought it implausible that humans could significantly affect average global temperatures. These days, serious evidence backs the conclusion that the Earth's climate is changing due to fossil fuel usage. Average global temperatures have risen by 0.6C over the past century and the concentration of CO2 has reached a level not seen on Earth for more than 740,000 years. It is now very likely that the doubling of CO2 levels supposed in Arrenhius's calculation back in 1896 will have occurred in another 80-90 years, unless global action to reduce emissions is brought into force."

Oil firms fund climate change 'denial'

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Oil firms fund climate change 'denial': "Lobby groups funded by the US oil industry are targeting Britain in a bid to play down the threat of climate change and derail action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists have warned...

"Last month the Scientific Alliance published a joint report with the George C Marshall Institute in Washington that claimed to "undermine" climate change claims. The Marshall institute received £51,000 from ExxonMobil for its "global climate change programme" in 2003 and an undisclosed sum this month. [...]"

Friday, February 04, 2005

Environmental Conference: Urban Jungle

Environmental Sociology Blog

This sounds like it will be fantastic to see. It's open to everyone.

The Rice Environmental Club would like to invite the public to their
13th Annual Environmental Conference, "Urban Jungle: Cities in the
Image of Nature." The day will begin with a discussion of the
incorporation of greenspace into the planning of cities. Experts will
speak about the difficulties as well as the benefits of including
public parks, gardens and conservation easements into urban
environments. Speakers and panels will then speak on the built
environment and discuss how cities can be made to function more like
natural environments. By building homes and offices that consume (and
even produce) water, energy, and other resources similar to the
biological world, we may be able to design healthier cities with some
of the benefits of natural environments while reducing costs.

The conference will be held at McMurtry Auditorium in Duncan Hall on
the Rice University Campus from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM on Saturday, February
12th. The event is free and open to the public with lunch provided.
Please check
for more information. Come for a single presentation or the whole day!

8:30 - 9:00

9:00 - 9:15
Opening Remarks

9:15 - 10:15
Impacts of Greenspace on Urban Areas
Keith Crenshaw - Urban Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Houston

10:15 - 11:45
Greenspace Panel:
Roksan Okan-Vick - Houston Parks Board
Gary Woods - Trees for Houston - The Benefits of Trees
Anne Olson/Scott Barnes - Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Linda Shead - Trust for Public Land

11:45 - 12:30
How Land Use Decisions are Made, Urban Planning
David Crossley - President of the Gulf Coast Institute

12:30 - 1:30

1:30 - 2:30
Building Solutions: A Maximum Potential Perspective
Pliny Fisk III - Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

2:30 - 4:00
Green Building Panel - Conceptual Solutions from the Built Environment
Rives Taylor - Architect
Carl Hacker - UT Health Science Center
Mike Myers - Aspen Building Systems

4:00 - 5:00
Ron Jones - Sierra Custom Builders, Placitas, New Mexico

5:00 - 5:30
Closing Remarks
Brian Yeoman - Houston Advanced Research Center

looking for resources on energy consumption in the office or home?

Energy Savers: When to Turn Lights and Computers Off to Save Energy and Money : "Coal fired power plants produce about 50 percent of the electricity in the United States. Natural gas fired power plants provide about 15 percent, nuclear plants about 18 percent, hydro dams about 10 percent, and the rest is from oil (about 3 percent) and 'renewable' sources such as biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar power plants. Fossil fuel combustion power plants (coal, gas, and oil) emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide (mainly from coal and oil fired power plants), nitrous oxides, and particulates and heavy metals such as mercury (coal fired power plants). Regardless of the source of electricity, if you consume less, you are reducing the impact you have on the environment."

anyone interested in writing a paper on ecotourism?

This story from this morning's NPR Morning Edition might be a good place to begin your research...

NPR : Living in the Shadow of a Million Butterflies: "Millions of Monarch butterflies are now in the fir forests of central Mexico, having made the 2,000-mile journey from their breeding grounds in North America to their winter retreat.

Scientists hail the annual migration as one of nature's great mysteries. But as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, some of those who live in the area the butterflies descend upon from November to March see it as a mixed blessing. [...]"

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Changemakers: Barefoot Solar Engineers

Changemakers: "Gulab Devi is illiterate, but she talks about circuits, transformers and condensers as other women talk about cooking and sewing. She is one of many barefoot solar engineers - mostly women -- working across eight states of India...

"Gulab is one of the many Barefoot Solar Engineers (BSEs) working across eight Indian states (Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Sikkim) to establish solar energy systems in areas where electric supply is either non-existent or highly erratic. A majority of these engineers, mostly women, are illiterate like Gulab or semi-literate at best. But they talk of transformers, coils and condensers like other women would talk of cooking and sewing. Their dexterity with spanners and screwdrivers is impressive, to say the least.

The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, the European Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support the Barefoot Solar Engineering programme. It is implemented by the Barefoot College, also known as the Social Work Research Centre or SWRC, an NGO based in Tilonia, Rajasthan. Set up by noted social worker Bunker Roy, the Barefoot College addresses community problems by building upon people's skills and placing the solutions to their problems in their own hands. [...]"

Deciding How Much Global Warming Is Too Much

NYTimes: "Under the first treaty addressing global warming, 193 countries, including the United States, pledged to avoid "dangerous" human interference with the climate.

There was one small problem with that treaty, enacted 11 years ago. No one defined dangerous. With no clear goal, smokestack and tailpipe emissions of gases linked to rising temperatures relentlessly climbed.

On Feb. 16, a stricter addendum to that treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, enters into force, requiring participating industrialized countries to cut such emissions.

But its targets and timetable were negotiated with no agreement on what amount of cuts would lead the world toward climatic stability. The arbitrary terms were cited by President Bush when he rejected the Kyoto pact in 2001, leaving the world's biggest source of such gases on the sidelines.

After a decade of cautious circling, some scientists and policy makers are now trying to agree on how much warming is too much. One possible step toward clarity comes today, as 200 experts from around the world meet at the invitation of Prime Minister Tony Blair in Exeter for three days of talks on defining "dangerous climate change" and how to avoid it...

"Some scientists have criticized this approach, saying understanding of the impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere remains far too primitive to manage emissions and thus avoid a particular temperature target.

Others say the most logical response to the problem is to make societies more resilient to inherent extremes of climate. 'If we just significantly minimize our vulnerabilities to the extremes which occurred during the last 250 years, we'll be O.K. for the next 100,' said Dr. John Christy, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama who has long opposed cuts in emissions. As for rising seas, he said, 'You've got 100 years to move inland.'

Dr. Michael Schlesinger, who directs climate research at the University of Illinois, will contend at the meeting that the persistent uncertainty itself about big climate perils is precisely the reason to invest now in modest mandatory curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions. Only with such a prod will societies move toward less-polluting choices, even as research continues on energy options that could in a few decades sharply reduce the human contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Without global participation in such emission curbs, though, the shared atmosphere will essentially remain a dump with no gate or tipping fee for countries rejecting action.

Any consensus on climate risks will likely intensify pressure on the Bush administration to shift from its current opposition to any cuts in the gases. [...]"
Click here to read the full text (free registration required)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Experts debate global impact of greenhouse gases

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Experts debate global impact of greenhouse gases: "Scientists from around the world are today meeting at a climate change summit to discuss the long-term implications of the increase in greenhouse gases.

Over the next three days, participants will discuss the scientific implications of climate change.

Discussion papers include the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and sea level rise; the role of tropical forests; problems caused by rapid climate change; critical levels of greenhouse gases; stabilisation scenarios and the implications for global decisions. [...]"