Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Creative Descent into the Stewardship of Earth

An excellent article has just been published over at the Energy Bulletin - Making us "future-proof" - the evolving role of horticulture

The end of cheap oil is going to have far reaching consequences to the way we live, breathe and eat. Think for a moment of modern day agriculture, of the large machines cultivating the fields, of the fertilizers used on the crops, of the trucks that transport the food from the farms to the supermarkets, sometimes thousands of kilometers away. Think of the plastic wrapping on those foods, think of the large refrigation cool rooms at each of those shops.

Each of these things are based around oil, as oil becomes more expensive, shopping for food will become a luxury, rather than a necessity. People will be forced to grow their own, which will mean a sharp learning curve for those of us that have not soiled our hands since we were children.

"The end of cheap oil means the end of cheap broad-scale mechanical cultivation, the end of cheap fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, and the end of cheap long-distance transport. In such a scenario, it is of genuine concern that we have (1) covered large areas of our most fertile, well-watered land with giant, sprawling cities, (2) filled these cities with pretty but unproductive parks, gardens, and streetscapes of mostly exotic plants on which we lavish water and fertilizers, (3) have come to rely on growing food at remote locations and transporting it over long distances to where it is consumed, and (4) devoted large areas of our land to growing surplus crops and products that need long-distance transport to distant countries. In an energy-descent world, horticulture and productive gardening, together with some wood production, will need to become more local - shifting back into our cities where they have traditionally been in more sustainable societies."

If we are to survive this massive change, we have a limited number of roads to go down. A lot of the population tends to put their trust in the scientists of the day, safe in the knowledge that the same wonderful technology that got us to this point will eventually solve all our woes. For those of us that don't fit into this category, some of us have decided that the world will indeed end, and there is nothing we can do about it but enjoy the time we've got, and others take as many steps as possible to limit their personal footprint, recycling, using alternative energies and growing their own food.

There is also a fourth group, a group of people who have a deep understanding of their place in the natural world. This group plans to ride the long sloping curve away from oil dependance, at the same time lessening their dominance over the land. This group see themselves not as masters of the universe, but as integral parts of it. They see their roles as stewards, not rulers. They see their final resting place ina world where...

"human populations are back in balance with the surrounding ecosystem; the use of energy and resources is matched to the natural capacity of the land people occupy"

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Champions of the Earth

The United Nations Environment Programme has just announced the 7 environmental leaders to receive the "Champions of the Earth" award for 2006.

The award was established in 2004, and recognizes environmental leaders around the world for their work.

This year, the winners are...

  • Tewolde Gebre Egziabher

  • Professor Tommy Koh

  • Mikhail Gorbachev

  • Rosa Elena Simeon Negrin

  • The Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

  • Mohamed El-Ashry

  • Massoumeh Ebtekar

  • UNEP’s Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer said: "I believe that this event comes at an exciting time, where the last 12 months will go down as a period in history when we rediscovered the crucial importance of the environment for our economic, social and spiritual lives"

    Full Story at Environmental News Science

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    The Glass is Almost Empty

    The first World Water Day was held on the 22nd March 1993. It was started by the UN in the hope of raising awareness of water as one of our most valuable resources. During the general assembly that created this day, the following observations were made as reasons to increase awareness...

  • The extent to which water resource development contributes to economic productivity and social well-being is not widely appreciated, although all social and economic activities rely heavily on the supply and quality of fresh water

  • As populations and economic activities grow, many countries are rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity or facing limits to economic development

  • The promotion of water conservation and sustainable management requires public awareness at local, national, regional and international levels

  • Fast forward 13 years to present day, and we find one fifth of all children in the world do not have access to safe clean drinking water, causing the death of 4,000 children every day. We find people being beaten, jailed and killed trying to defend their water resources. We find newspapers around the world talking of wars between countries over water, each one of these newspapers taking 10 litres of water to create.

    1 day out of 365 isn't enough. We need to dedicate our lives to conserving this resource. Each one of us needs to be harvesting the rainwater that lands on our property, and using it thoughtfully, rather than abusing it relentlessly.

    Related Links...

  • On World Water Day, glass half empty for fifth of world's children

  • Unsafe Water and Poor Sanitation Causes 4000 Children to Die Each Day

  • The 21st century’s most explosive commodity will be . . . WATER

  • World water wars warning sounded at forum

  • Citty Hippy Feature: World Water Day

  • Wikipedia: World Day for Water

  • WorldWaterDay.org
  • Monday, March 20, 2006

    Tree Power

    MagCap Engineering, a company based in Canton, Ohio, is working on extracting energy from trees. No, not the old fashiond way of sucking the black stuff out of trees long dead, but by converting the natural energy in living trees to usable, direct-current energy.

    Inventor Gordon W. Wadle says "As unbelievable as it sounds, we've been able to demonstrate the feasibility of generating electricity in this manner. While the development is in its infancy, it has the potential to provide an unlimited supply of constant, clean energy without relying on fossil fuels, a power generating plant complex or an elaborate transmission network."

    MagCap are now on the lookout for investors to help pay for the research needed to figure a way to increase the tree power from less than 2 volts to 12 volts sometime this year, creating an alternative to fossil fuels.

    If this research proves fruitful, we may see a future where there's a tree planted next to each parking space, with a hole to plug in your electric car. Other applications would be to provide power for signs, security lights, street, park and hiking trail lights, surveillance or sensor equipment, and the concept of decorating Christmas Trees could take a whole new turn...

    Wadle pointed out that there seems to be no limit to the amount of power that can be drawn from an individual tree, no matter how many "taps" are inserted -- each produces the same amount of energy, an average of 0.7 - 0.8 volts. Size of the tree also seems not to matter. Interestingly, while conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that the tree draws much of its energy from photosynthesis via its leaves, the voltage output actually increases to 1.2-1.3 volts in the winter after the leaves have fallen.

    More Information...

  • MagCap Engineering, LLC Announces 'Free' Unlimited Energy Source Developed That Draws Power from the Environment

  • Electrical tree: Energy for free

  • Plugged in: Startup hopes to tap electricity from trees

  • Canton firm's alternative to oil: Plug in to a tree

  • MagCap Engineering
  • Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Pull Yer Elbows In

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the Regional Population Growth figures for the 2004-05 financial year, and the figures are surprising in some areas.

    In the next 25 years, Sydney will need to find room for an extra million people. However, Queensland and Melbourne are growing at an even quicker rate than Sydney.

    Brisbanes growth rate of 1.9% is the highest of all Australias capital cities. If that growth rate continues, Brisbanes population (currently at 1,810,900) will double in just over 35 years. South East Queensland as a whole has been growing at a staggering 1,000 people per week.

    Queenslands Premiere Peter Beattie recently said "The biggest challenge I face every day is the challenge of growth. It's a huge problem for us."

    More Info...

  • Sydney falls behind in population growth

  • Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2004-05

  • Queensland: beautiful one day, basket case the next
  • Friday, March 17, 2006

    How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic

    The stages of grief are usually defined as Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair & Acceptance. In the face of the environmental issues of global warming and climate change, it seems that individuals are going through this process. Unfortunately, while some of us are at the Acceptance stage (I personally am somewhere between Despair & Acceptance), a lot of people seem to be still in Denial.

    So how do we deal with people in Denial? How do we get them to come to the realisation that we have; that something is terribly wrong, and something needs to be done? Well, in psychological terms, we should be non-judgemental and be good listeners. During the Denial stage, people will try to rationalise their belief that nothing is wrong, or that there is nothing that we can do about it.

    A lot of things have been claimed as the cause of global warming, A Russian scientist recently said it was caused by a meteor explosion a hundred years ago", a science professor says it is caused by cosmic rays from the stars, others think it has to do with cows farting.

    With a new theory seeming to pop up every day, it is getting harder and harder for us in Acceptance stage to convince those in Denial. Fortunately, there is blog that may be of help. A Few Things Ill Considered blog has a section titled How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic.

    So, next time someone tells you that action on global warming is suicide, point them in the direction of this blog. It may make them angry, but that's one of the next steps towards acceptance.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Senate Inquiry into Australia's future oil supply and alternative transport fuels

    In what is being touted as "Australia's first high-level consideration of alternative fuels", the Australian Government will be holding a senate inquiry into our future oil supply and alternative transport fuels.

    The enquiry begins early next month. The committee will sit in Melbourne on April 4th, Canberra on April 5th and Perth on the 11th & 12th April. The following issues are on the agenda to be addressed...

  • Projections of oil production and demand in Australia and globally and the implications for availability and pricing of transport fuels in Australia

  • Potential of new sources of oil and alternative transport fuels to meet a significant share of Australia’s fuel demands, taking into account technological developments and environmental and economic costs

  • Flow-on economic and social impacts in Australia from continuing rises in the price of transport fuel and potential reductions in oil supply

  • Options for reducing Australia’s transport fuel demands.

  • Unfortunately, submissions are now closed for the enquiry, but 156 have been received in total.

    More Information...

  • Information About the Inquiry

  • Senator Christine Milnes Website

  • Submissions Received by the Committee

  • Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
  • Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Bug Juice

    There are 1,000,000,000,000,000 (that's 1 quadrillion) termites on our planet (give or take a few), made up of about 2,500 different species. Living inside each of these termites are microbes. The termites, as we all know, eat wood. What you may not know is that the termites sustenance actually comes from the microbes turning the woody pulp into a syrupy vinegar substance.

    During this complex, symbiotic process, the microbes release the hydrogen stored in the wood as a "waste product", and it's this release of hydrogen that scientists are studying. Professor Daniel Kammen, of the University of California, believes that if we can unlock the secrets of this hydrogen release, we may see a clean way of producing hydrogen. From a single sheet of printer paper, a termite can produce two litres of the valuable, non polluting gas.

    Interesting stuff, but I'm a little concerned about where all this termite food will come from...

    More Info...

  • Termite Power: Can Pests' Guts Create New Fuel?

  • Could termite guts hold the key to the world's energy problems?
  • Queensland's Sustainable Housing Code - A Faltering Stumble in the Right Direction

    From the start of this month, the Queensland Government has put into place "Sustainable Housing Code". As part of this initiative, all new houses built must by law have the following...

  • Water efficient AAA-rated shower roses

  • Dual-flush toilets

  • Energy efficient lighting in at least 40 per cent of the house

  • Water pressure limiting devices in areas with high water pressure

  • Greenhouse efficient hot water systems such as solar, heat pump or gas hot water

  • This effort by the government has been praised by some environmentalists as a step in the right direction, but condemned as too small a step by others.

    The Government claims that this initiative will promote the use of rainwater tanks and greywater, however they have left it up to the local councils discretion whether they act upon these issues or not (and the majority of councils have thus far decided against it).

    Queensland Greens candidate Elissa Jenkins said "It's a shame that Minister Boyle has missed a great opportunity to solve any future water crisis by mandating rainwater tanks for new housing developments. That alone would have set South East Queensland firmly on the road to sustainability."

    More Information...

  • Sustainable Living - Local Government & Planning
  • Queensland Government: Putting the suss into sustainable
  • Qld Sustainable Housing Code starts today

  • Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bean

    A small company out of New York is creating a new type of plush toy, made of soy fiber.

    Biltmore World Trade Inc. has brought out a new line of stuffed toys called SoySilk Pals. Traditional methods for creating these childrens friends use petroleum based synthetic fur. These natural alternatives are poised to take the global billion dollar toy market by storm.

    Unfortunately, the thing holding them back at the moment is the price. These bears retails for around $40, triple the cost of their toxic counterparts. But what better way of making an ecological statement than buying something so environmentally friendly (and cute) for someone who has just entered our world.

    More info...

  • Soy now Comes in Teddy Bear Form

  • SOYSILK Pals
  • Carnival of the Green #18

    Carnival of the Green is bought to you in fine fashion by Dirty Greek this week, a-la green leprechaun mode.

    Dirty Greek takes a leisurely stroll around the green blogosphere, finding everything from breastfeeding to anger to trash inventory.

    If you want more info on the carnival, take a waltz over to City Hippy's or Triple Pundit's place, they'll fill you in.

    Enough green discussion to last you well into Carnival #19. What you waiting for? Head over to the Dirty Greek's now.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    WWOOF Around the World

    Do you know what WWOOF is? No, it isn't a dog with a stutter, it stands for "Willing Workers On Organic Farms". There are WWOOF organisations around the globe that keep lists of organic farms that welcome volunteer help.

    In return for volunteering, you usually receive food & accomodation. You also receive an abundance of farming & gardening knowledge, straight from the horses mouth (pardon the pun).

    WWOOF organisations are a wonderful opportunity for anyone planning a travelling holiday, not only does it save you money, it gives you the chance to meet likeminded people, offsets the environmental damage caused by travelling and supports farmers dedicated to using sustainable agricultural practices.

    WWOOF came into being in the early seventies in England (at the time it stood for Working Weekends on Organic Farms). It was the brainchild of city worker, Sue Coppard, who saw the need for people such as herself to "replant themselves back into the soil". Now, there are over 40 countries involved worldwide, and WWOOFing is growing from strength to strength.

    Have you had any experience with WWOOF? Feel free to leave a comment, we'd love to hear your stories...

    Related Links...

  • WWOOF Homepage

  • WWOOF National Organisations

  • News Article: Sue Coppard, Founder of WWOOF

  • News Article: Growth Experience
  • Join The March Against Global Warming

    The first couple of times I saw stopglobalwarming.org, I was a little sceptical. After all, a virtual march isn't as effective as a real one, right? It's just a bunch of people putting banners on their pages. Since then, I have done a little self analysis, and have realised that the reasoning behind the virtual march is the same as my reasoning behind this blog. It's just another avenue to spread the word. If each banner only makes one person change one light bulb, if each image only causes one person to question their actions, then it's worth it. So I'm joining the march against global warming, and I urge you to as well.

    I am marching for my kids, and for their kids.
    I am marching for the trees (for the trees cannot speak).
    I am marching for peace, the peace that comes with knowing that I am putting more in than I am taking out.
    I am marching for the animals, for the memory of those gone, and for the lives of those that remain.
    I am marching, because now that I know, I can't NOT march.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Gunning Down Tasmanias Old Growth Forests

    A worldwide protest took place outside Australian embassies in America, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom last week, demonstrating against the destruction of old-growth forests in Tasmania.

    The forests under threat are home to the world tallest hardwood trees, the Eucalypts, and also endangered wildlife species such as the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

    The protests are aimed at billion-dollar logging giant Gunns Ltd, who routinely chop down the equivalent of 44 football fields per day. The majority of this plunder is woodchipped and made into disposable paper products. Gunns has also resorted to biological warfare, killing hundreds of thousands of native mammals using carrots laced with a lethal super-toxin listed as a biological weapon in the U.S.

    20 activists and environmental groups are being sued by the woodchipping giant, to the tune of 6.3 million Australian dollars. Gunns claims that the protests have damaged their business and reputation.

    Related Links

  • Global protests mount over Tasmanian forest felling

  • International Protest Over Illegal Tasmanian Logging

  • Friends of Gunns 20

  • Trees not Gunns

  • McGunns

  • The Rainforest Action Network
  • Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Green Blogosphere Tool

    Mark Brandon, the Managing Director of First Sustainable, has put together a wonderful tool for green bloggers called "Headlines from the Green Blogosphere". You can see it in action on the right of this page.

    It costs no money to include this tool on your site, or to have your stories included in the tool.

    You can go here to request your feed be added to the tool, or to obtain the few lines of code needed to add it to your site.

    This is a great opportunity for those just starting out in the green blog world (such as myself), or for seasoned bloggers alike.

    Community is one of the values we environmentally conscious folk hold sacred, and this tool provides another way of linking together like minded people and promotes the sharing of ideas.

    Related Links

  • List of bloggers using the tool
  • Book Launch in Britain Meets With Mixed Response

    Tim Flannery, a leading Australian environmental scientist (previously mentioned in our story "We're doing Kyoto Anyway...") has been touring Britain to launch his new book, The Weather Makers.

    The book has been hailed as "The finest account of the overwhelming science behind global warming, blending poetical writing and historical perspective to argue for the urgent need to address the implications of climate change".

    His visit has been met with a mixed response, because of his ideas on nuclear energy. He claims that it is a necessity for countries like China and India to embrace nuclear energy, as their current energy situation is too far gone for renewable energies to be a viable option in the short term.

    However, he also claims that Australia should definitely be mining their uranium, but shouldn't be using it themselves, as they could reduce their reliance on coal and move to renewable energy sources fairly quickly.

    Tim Flannery will be touring the US next week to launch his book.

    Story from The Age

    Other Links...

  • Under the weather from the Culture Vulture Blog

  • The Weather Makers Website

  • Weather or Not from grist magazine
  • Dr Hermann Scheer Dismayed at Australian Energy Policy

    Dr Hermann ScheerAustralia is under increasing pressure to step up uranium mining. At the moment there are three uranium mines in Australia, with a fourth cleared to start construction in Honeymoon, South Australia.

    The uranium reserves in Australia account for 30% of the reserves in the whole world (the next two biggest being Kazakhstan at 17% and Canada at 12%). As the topic of uranium is being bought up more and more frequently by world leaders as the main source of alternative energy, eyes are turning to Australia as the source.

    German expert Dr Hermann Scheer visited Australia last week, meeting federal and state officials, and warning against nuclear power as the solution to the worlds energy crisis.

    Regardless of the well known risks associated with nuclear power, at current global consumption rates, a uranium solution would be short lived. All the worlds reserves would only last us about 50 years.

    Dr Scheer said "In no country in the world would it be easier to replace conventional energy with free, sustainable energy like wind and solar. Australia has all the preconditions for renewable energy - a large land mass, a small, well-educated population and quality technology."

    Unfortunately, the present government is making "clean oil and gas" a priority, showing little interest in these more sustainable technologies.

    Story from the Sydney Morning Herald

    More information...

  • Australia's Uranium and Who Buys It

  • Environmental research and supervision of uranium mining

  • The Power and the Passion

  • Australia's Uranium Mines
  • Friday, March 10, 2006

    Global Warming Saves the Seals

    The effects of global warming may cause this years Canadian seal massacre to be cancelled.

    The thickness of the ice, to be safe for the hunters, needs to be at least 30 centimetres. At the moment, a few weeks before the hunt is supposed to start, the ice is between 10 and 30 centimetres, and the weather forecasters are predicting more warmth.

    Less than a week ago, Beatles star Paul McCartney and his wife, along with other members of the Humane Society of the United States, visited this area to protest the annual seal hunt.

    More Information...

  • Paul and Heather McCartney join the seal cull protest

  • Mild weather likely to force seal hunt cancellation

  • Save Baby Seals: End the Seal Hunt

  • The Humane Society - Facts about the Canadian Seal Hunt

  • Stop Canadas Massive Seal Hunt
  • Packed With Compact Thinking

    "The Compact" is a group of people around the world who have decided to boycott consumerism for a full year. They aim to support local businesses, reduce clutter and simplify their lives.

    For the full year, they have agreed not to buy new products of any kind. This means anything they need has to be borrowed or bought used (with the obvious exceptions of food, drink, medicines, cleaning products, and underwear).

    There have been some hiccups in the first few months, with members needing to purchase wiper blades, drywall, etc, which has resulted in a further ironing out of the rules, but the general consensus is that this is a Very Good Thing (tm). The participants claim to be more at peace, have much more money in their pockets than usual, and get a general sense of doing something positive for themselves, the local community and the world.

    For more information...

  • The Compact Yahoo Group

  • The Compact Blog

  • Podcast interview with the founders at EcoTalk

  • Article & interview at SFGate.com

  • Another article at ContraCostaTimes
  • Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Warring with the elephants

    Less than 20 years ago, around the small farming town of Balai Raja, Indonesia, elephants had 40,000 acres of of forest at their disposal. At that time there were around 1,500 elephants. On average, that's 26 acres per elephant.

    The present population stands at about 400, but because of illegal deforestation and land clearing for the cultivation of palm oil, the elephants only have 500 acres of forest left. So now, each elephant has just over an acre.

    As a result, the elephant population has become increasingly dangerous, frantically searching for food, and fearlessly infiltrating villages. The villagers have resorted to violent retaliation in a bid to save their homes and families.

    Regardless, the Indonesian government is planning on stepping up the production of palm oil, with a target of seven and a half million acres being developed. The main use of this palm oil is to develop biofuels. It is the cheapest vegetable oil to produce, and the easiest to convert into fuel.

    But at what cost...?

    Related Links

  • As forest shrinks, Indonesian villagers fend off hungry elephants

  • Elephants fight humans for jungle home

  • Plan launched to reduce human-elephant conflict in Sumatra

  • Biofuel to Drive Indonesian Palm Oil Expansion

  • Save The Elephants
  • Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    CBS Eye on Energy

    On CBS News' website is a terrific tool for anyone interested in energy.

    It covers a wide range of energy sources, including a whole section on alternative energy, and gives a description of each one in a way that can be understood by everybody.

    So if you are interested in learning the basics of Solar, Wind, Geothermal, or any other energy source, this is a great place to start.

    Story found at AlternativeSource.org...

    Australian Labor Party Releases Energy Policy

    The Australian Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, has today released his party's energy policy, promising a reduction of 60% in grennhouse emmissions by 2050 if labor is to win the next federal election. He also said that he would ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

    He firmly rejected nuclear options, pushing more for solar and wind powered technologies, but acknowledged that fossil fuels would be around for still some time.

    At the policy launch, Kim Beazley had the following to say on Liberals stance on nuclear issues...

    "Australia is already the world's second largest supplier of mined uranium and will soon be the biggest.

    We have an obligation to get the NPT
    (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) back on track. And that's where John Howard's priorities should be, not looking at nuclear power for Australia when it's so unnecessary and uneconomic.

    But you mark my words, he's looking at it. And I want to be very clear about this: if John Howard wins the next Federal Election he will bring industry to Australia."

    The policy also promises solar panels on school rooves and incentives for homeowners adopting energy saving practices such as insulation and alternative energy sources.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Can't See the City for the Trees

    Residents in Sydney have taken to tree vandalism in an attempt to get city views, and the problem is getting worse. Holes have been bored into trunks, and filled with herbicides, others have been ring-barked, resulting in a slow death for the tree, and some have just plain been chopped right down.

    In some of the worst cases entire groves of mature trees have been poisoned to give uninterrupted views to nearby waterways. In the seaside suburb of Coogee, more than 75 native banksia, melaleucas, eucalyptus and other introduced species have been killed over the past six years in one beachside park alone.

    Local councils are doing their best to combat this problem, but quite often replanted trees are surreptitously being ripped straight back out again.

    From Planet Ark

    Wal-Mart Doubles Organic Food Offerings

    In a report at Reuters, Wal-Mart is aiming it sights on the organic market, and is planning on doubling the amount of organic foods available in it's stores over the next few weeks.

    The report states that Wal-Mart's push will have the ripple effect of creating more demand, thus causing greater production of organic foods.

    I hope this will be the case. More importantly, I hope that the produce will be grown locally, and not shipped, trucked, refrigerated and plastic wrapped.

    I personally would still prefer the local farmers market or the local fruit & veg shop any day.

    TreeHugger TV – The Future Is Green Watch It Here.

    Exciting news from Treehuger. They have officially launched Treehugger TV!

    You can catch the first 3 episodes at Google Video, and subscribe to the podcast at http://www.treehugger.com/tv/index.xml or, for the Video iPodders, http://www.treehugger.com/tv/itunes.xml

    Read about the launch at Treehugger...

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    We're doing Kyoto Anyway...

    The Solar Shop in South Australia had a couple of new advertisements teed up for Australian Free-to-Air television this week.

    Unfortunately, at the last minute, the advertisment was rejected by the Commercials Advice regulatory board. The official letter sent to Adrien Ferraretto (the Managing Director) included the following...

    "We do not consider these advertisements contain political matter, within the meaning of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and therefore political matter authorisation end tags are not required in our view.

    However, the opening statement of each ad "Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today" is problematic. In order to preserve the accuracy of the advertisements, can you please revisit this statement and consider using alternative wording as description of the issue of climate change."

    The opening statement in question is read by Tim Flannery, a prominent scientist here in Australia. Adrien seems to think, however, that the regulatory board may have had more of a problem with another statement made in the commercials...

    "Solar Shop - we're doing Kyoto anyway"

    Full Story at Sydney Morning Herald...

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    Rough Guide to Saving the Planet

    Mark Ellngham, founder of Rough Guides, and Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet, have included a new section in their popular travel publications.

    They are now warning their readers about the damage that flying around the globe does to the environment, and are giving people viable alternatives to casual air travel.

    For example, where possible, catch a train, spend more time in one place, instead of trying to fit 5 countries into one holiday.

    Around 6 million copies of Lonely Planet guidebooks are sold each year, so this is a wonderful opportunity to reach a great number of people. Well done guys.

    Trip to Thailand

    Cost of return flight in emissions: 2.1 tonnes of CO2
    Cost of offsetting it: £21.30 to a solar-panel scheme in Sri Lanka.
    Benefit to the Environment:Priceless

    Read the full story at The Guardian...

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Making the world a little cozier..

    The Heartland Institute has issued a statement in response to Al Gores planned public service campaign alerting the public about the effects of global warming.

    According to them, "The only current debate is over whether the moderate warming projected will marginally benefit or marginally harm mankind and the Earth's ecosystems. The early indications are this moderate warming will benefit life on Earth, just as past global warming periods have."

    So there you go, all this worry for naught, we can slap on our sunscreen and head for the beach in our gas guzzler, secure in the knowledge that we are benefitting our world and making it a little cozier for the rest of this planets inhabitants.

    Just imagine what a mess the planet would have been in if we weren't here to regulate the temperature...

    Oh, by the way, let's have a quick look at some of the key players at Heartland Institute, shall we?

  • James L. Johnston, Amoco Corporation (retired)
  • Thomas Walton, General Motors Corporation
  • Walter F. Buchholtz, ExxonMobil Corporation
  • Roy E. Marden, Philip Morris


  • Friday, March 03, 2006

    Next Course: Knowledge, Food, Change

    The folks at BeyondOrganic have cooked up a wonderful podcast this week, featuring an interview with Larry Bain.

    Larry is the Executive Director of Next Course; an organisation that has sent a team of chefs into San Fransisco County Jail, and is empowering the women inmates with the knowledge of food, cuisine and community.

    They teach these women the importance of organic food and it's physical and psychological benefits, the art of food preparation, and the sense of wholeness that comes from communing with others around a freshly made meal. The hope is that when these women get back into the community, they will have the knowledge to take control of a very important aspect of their lives.

    I urge you to head over to BeyondOrganic and listen to this insightful interview...

    Geoengineering - stop worrying, the world's in good hands

    Have you heard of the term "Geoengineering"? If you have, are you scared? I certainly am.

    Basically, geoengineering (or planetary engineering) is the process of modifying the planets environment on a global scale. So we humans have actually been unconsciously geoengineering over the last two hundred years, slowly changing our planets environment with our technological "advancements".

    But that's not the scary part, the scary part is that scientists and political leaders are looking at geoengineering as a valid way of combatting climate change. Here are a few of the ways that are being discussed and trialed...

  • Fertilizing the ocean with iron to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

  • Carbon sequestration (burying the carbon dioxide deep undergound or under ocean)

  • Modifying the climate using orbiting mirrors

  • I personally do not have enough knowledge on any of these methods to give a valid argument for or against, but my gut tells me that this is all very wrong. We should be reducing our dominance over the planet, we should be modifying the way we do things, to suit our planet, not modifying the planet to suit our way of doing things.

    The BBC has just posted an excellent article on Geoengineering, and in it, this quote sums up the reason we should be scared...

    "The knowledge that we maybe could engineer our way out of climate problems inevitably lessens the political will to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions"

    Read the BBC Article Here...

    Bronze Age Sky Disc

    I was reading an article on DW-World.de, about a 3,600 "sky disc" which was found in Goseck in 1999. A group of scientists have just determined that it was an "advanced astronomical clock".

    This got me to thinking. 3,600 years ago, when there was no television, internet, movies, playstation, computers and other such "time wasters", people would spend their time actually looking at the stars, watching the movement of the lunar cycle, studying the changing of the seasons, and being a part of the complex rhythmical cycle which is our universe.

    This clock, which scientists studied for 7 year to figure out it's purpose, was made simply by being a part of those rhythms. I envy the makers of this clock for their knowledge. Yes, it would be easy for me to google "astronomical lunar solar cycle" and find the information in minutes that it took them years of quiet communion with nature to figure out. But does that make me superior, smarter, more advanced than them? No, on the contrary, it makes me detached, it makes me an observer, instead of a part of this living breathing cyclic rhythm.

    Read the story at dw-world.de...

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Take the Ecological Footprint Quiz

    Ever wondered how much "nature" your lifestyle requires? You're about to find out.

    Put together by the good folk at Redefining Progress, the Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15 easy questions you'll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what other people use and to what is available on this planet.

    The Ecological Footprint measures the biologically productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to supply space for infrastructure, and to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

    The global ecological footprint in 1999 was 5.6 global acres per capita, while the Earth’s biocapacity was 4.7 global acres. In metric terms, these measurements are 2.3 global hectares per capita and 1.9 global hectares per capita.

    If you would like the kids to get involved, there is a children-friendly version of this quiz over at Bobbie Bigfoots website.

    Why peak oil is probably about now

    The Oil Drum has published a post in response to the New York Times article "The End of Oil".

    For a lot of us, this is not exactly "spit out my coffee" news. It is, however, always good to see these important issues getting mainstream media attention.

    They have done a wonderful job of summing up the peak oil issue, and it has resulted in a frenzy of commentary on their site. Head over there to read the article and join in the discussion.

    Winds of change could spell catastrophe for European winters

    The WWF have just bought out a new report (PDF) that summarizes recent scientific findings on future storm activity across western and central Europe under the scenario that the world continues on a business as usual pathway and that little to no action is taken to reduce emissions.

    The report examines three parameters: increase in the number of severe winter storms; increase in the number of days with extremely high wind speeds; and increase in maximum wind speeds. It covers seven countries; UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Italy.

    At the end of the report are details on the PowerSwitch campaign, whose goal is to get governments to cut CO2 pollution from coal power stations and force a switch to cleaner, more efficient power.

    More Details at WWF...

    Report: Most PNG logging illegal

    The vast majority of logging operations in Papua New Guinea are illegal, environmentally unsustainable and provide little benefit to the country, according to a new report Tuesday.

    The report, by the Washington-based Forest Trends non-profit organization, says logging in Papua New Guinea is dominated by Malaysian-owned companies, whose primary export markets are China, Japan, and South Korea.

    Once processed, many of the logs are exported to Europe and North America.

    Forest Trends says corruption is having a devastating affect on PNG living standards and calls on big importers of PNG timber such as China to take a "global leadership" role in overcoming illegal logging.

    The report is based on a five-year external review commissioned by the World Bank and the PNG government.

    It said that a study of 14 logging projects covering 3.17 million hectares found all were operating illegally and the harvested timber was not being sustainably managed.

    Full Story at CNN...

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    The Anatomy of the Plug-In Hybrid

    By Jacob Gordon

    You wake up in the morning and get ready for work. You go to your car, unplug it from the outlet in the garage (the same one the power drill is plugged into), and off you go. You go to work, stop for groceries on the way back home, pick up your kid, and then go out to dinner, and even though your car is a hybrid, the gasoline engine never goes on. You do your daily driving purely on electricity. The car is almost silent and even though there’s a tailpipe, nothing’s coming out of it. After dinner you decide to go to a movie. Between the restaurant and the theater the electric batteries finally run out of juice so…the regular hybrid system kicks in and you’re back to getting 40 or 50 mpg on gasoline. Until tomorrow.

    Full Story at Treehugger...

    Mild Winters Loose Bug on Canada's Forests

    By Doug Struck for Washington Post

    QUESNEL, B.C. -- Millions of acres of Canada's lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.

    The mountain pine beetle has infested an area three times the size of Maryland, devastating swaths of lodgepole pines and reshaping the future of the forest and the communities in it.

    "It's pretty gut-wrenching," said Allan Carroll, a research scientist at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, whose studies tracked a lock step between warmer winters and the spread of the beetle. "People say climate change is something for our kids to worry about. No. It's now."

    Full Story at Washington Post...

    Bird Flu Found in Cat in Germany


    BERLIN - The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in a cat in Germany, officials said Tuesday, the first time the virus has been identified in an animal other than a bird in central Europe.

    Health officials urged cat owners to keep pets indoors after the dead cat was discovered over the weekend on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain have been found.

    Full Story - Yahoo News...

    Bird Flu Fears Spur Tower of London to Move Ravens Indoors

    By James Owen for National Geographic News

    The famous ravens of the Tower of London have been moved indoors to protect them from the deadly strain of bird flu now threatening Britain.

    The H5N1 strain of avian influenza, first identified in China, has reached nearby France where in the past week two dead ducks were diagnosed as carrying the virus. The British government now says that bird flu is likely to arrive in the country.

    English legend says that a terrible evil will befall the kingdom if the Tower of London loses its ravens, which have lived at the landmark for more than 300 years.

    "The legend goes back to the early part of Charles II's reign," said the Tower's raven master, Derrick Coyle, who looks after the birds.

    King Charles II, who reigned from 1660 to 1685, decreed that at least six ravens should always be kept at the 11th-century fortress that sits on the River Thames.

    The Tower, one of Europe's top tourist attractions, also houses the Crown Jewels.

    Coyle, 61, says the ravens have been confined for both their own safety and that of the nation.

    The Tower's current resident ravens—Baldrick, Branwen, Gwyllum, Hugine, Munin, and Thor—are usually seen strutting about the Tower's green where they are popular with sightseers.

    "A lot of visitors are asking where the ravens are, but when we explain the reason why they've been put away, they completely understand," the raven master said.

    Full Story - National Geographic

    Armed Forces Are Put on Standby to Tackle Threat of Wars over Water

    by Ben Russell and Nigel Morris

    Across the world, they are coming: the water wars. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Botswana, arguments are going on over disputed water supplies that may soon burst into open conflict.
    Yesterday, Britain's Defence Secretary, John Reid, pointed to the factor hastening the violent collision between a rising world population and a shrinking world water resource: global warming.

    In a grim first intervention in the climate-change debate, the Defence Secretary issued a bleak forecast that violence and political conflict would become more likely in the next 20 to 30 years as climate change turned land into desert, melted ice fields and poisoned water supplies.

    Climate campaigners echoed Mr Reid's warning, and demanded that ministers redouble their efforts to curb carbon emissions.

    Tony Blair will today host a crisis Downing Street summit to address what he called "the major long-term threat facing our planet", signalling alarm within Government at the political consequences of failing to deal with the spectre of global warming.

    Full Story - Common Dreams.org...

    Vietnam: Rise of the New Fast Food Nation

    As Vietnam enjoys unprecedented economic growth, its people have discovered a taste for high-calorie, high-fat, Westernised food - and are beginning to suffer the consequences.

    Outside the Rex hotel in the centre of Saigon - the name by which most residents still refer to Ho Chi Minh City - the evening rush hour is a scene of motorised pandemonium. Tens of thousands of scooters sweep along the six-lane highways, blithely ignoring the rules of the road, like herds of migrating wildebeest across the Serengeti plains.

    As darkness falls, clusters of tiny plastic tables and stools spread across the pavements - improvised street-side restaurants to feed the armies of office workers. The acrid smell of pigs' trotters seared over charcoal braziers beside pans of meat bubbling on spirit burners fills the humid night air.

    The public health message was to eat less and exercise more but this was hard to get across to people raised in the shadow of hunger.

    Dr Anil Kapur, vice-president, World Diabetes FoundationThe transformation of this war-ravaged rural economy into a booming industrial power is happening at astonishing speed. Ten years ago, the bicycle was the dominant mode of transport. Now it is the motor scooter. Back then crisps, cola and ice-cream were novelties and fast-food restaurants featured only in Western magazines. Now they are part of the everyday scene. Vietnam, like its neighbour China to the north, is experiencing double-digit economic growth. Cranes festoon the skyline, factories complain of a shortage of labour - 20,000 extra workers are needed in the south of the country - and people are being drawn in growing numbers from the country to the towns.

    But progress has a price. Across the Far East, growing urbanisation, rapid industrialisation and increasing obesity associated with decreased physical activity is fuelling an epidemic that has killed as many as AIDS but has received a fraction of the attention.

    The disease is diabetes, and its incidence is accelerating around the world. From 170 million affected in 2000, doctors predict the total will rise to 370 million by 2025, leading to an epidemic of amputations and blindness, the two commonest effects of the condition. Developing nations will be hardest hit; they bear 90 per cent of the burden but have only 10 per cent of the resources to deal with it.

    Full Story - Common Dreams.org...