Monday, 28 February 2011

Water, water everywhere but not enough to drink?

Here’s a blog post on water/future droughts from Joe Romm of Climate Progress

New study puts the ‘hell’ in Hell and High Water Must-read NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path.

And next an article from Reuters  which draws attention to the risks investors face -

  “Investors Warned of Hidden Financial Risks of Water Shortages”

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SANDRA POSTEL & ELIZABETH ROYTE discuss why water footprints are so important and what people can do to reduce the amount of fresh water they use.
Sandra Postel is Water Fellow at Post Carbon Institute and National Geographic's first Fresh Water Fellow. She directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and is the author of numerous books and reports about international fresh water issues.
Elizabeth Royte is a journalist and science/nature author. She is best known for her books Garbage Land, The Tapir's Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest and Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It.
*note: Due to Sandra's location on a mesa in New Mexico, her video feed is intermittent and choppy.

Impressive figures next but beware of the super-cheesy grin at the end of this info-advertisement!

They got the figures in the ad from here – click for source

Grist article about cities and future water supplies titled “Redesigning our cities for the dawning age of global freshwater scarcity”

Although I've already featured it almost a year ago, here's another chance to see Annie Leonard's Story of Bottled Water

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Snippets from the Interwebs 4

 

The film: THE 6TH EXTINCTION

Teaser for Sixth Extinction Documentary from 6thExtinctionDoc on Vimeo.

The 6th Extinction is a grassroots documentary project. Few people realize that we are in the midst of a mass extinction crisis that rivals that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   The extinction rate has risen to more than 1000 times the pre-human rate and far outpaces the rate of evolution. Of the 45,000 species evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2008, 17,000 faced at least a high risk of extinction in the wild. Orang-utans, rhinos, tigers, bees, polar bears, chimpanzees, blue-finned tuna…the list of species in trouble is extensive with some scientists predicting that half of all species will go extinct in this century.

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Heinz Ketchup is Going “Green” with Coca-Cola

coke and heinz
 
coke plant bottle
At a press conference on 23rd February 2011, the Coca-Cola Company and H.J. Heinz Company announced a strategic partnership that enables Heinz to produce its ketchup bottles using Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging.

This shift in packaging will be the biggest change to Heinz’s iconic ketchup bottles since the company first introduced plastic in 1983.  Heinz plans to convert to PlantBottle globally, beginning with the 20-ounce variety of Heinz Ketchup, which will be rolled out to US consumers this summer. The plastic bottles which are PET, and thus full recyclable have received awards. They are,  so far made from a 30% plant based material but the intention is to move towards a 100% plant based plastic

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Biofuels have had a bit of a bad press. Dubya Bush’s government went gung ho for corn (maize really – they’re Americans you know…) to ethanol production which had elements of pork barrel politics about it

http://www.jouleunlimited.com/

Joule's Helioculture™ platform has a production cycle with up to 50 times the efficiencies of biofuel production to convert sunlight and waste CO2 directly into clean diesel fuel that can substitute directly for the fossil fuelled product. Based on empirical measurements, Joule can directly produce 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually, as compared to 3,000 gallons of biodiesel produced indirectly from algae.

joule-final

Requiring only sunlight and waste CO2, this system can produce renewable diesel fuel in virtually unlimited quantities at costs as low as $30/barrel equivalent

Here’s a link to an accessible Press release about the process from a couple of days ago (Feb 17th).  Here’s a link to a scientific paper

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Not widely reported in the Sun, Mail or Express newspapers was the Global Compact LEAD. Whassat? I hear you cry.

 

Taken from Triple pundit.com:

“U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced the creation of the Global Compact LEAD on January 28, 2011 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. A total of 54 companies are members, including Intel, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell, Tata Steel, Total and Unilever. Participating companies are also part of the UN Global Compact, which requires members to commit their company’s to align their strategies and operations with ten “universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.”

The companies have committed to the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability leadership

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WindMade is a new “eco label” so people can tell if a product has been manufactured using wind power. Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas wants to make it easier to do. Announced just prior to the 2011 Zayed Future Energy prize, which Vestas won, the new consumer label is shown below.

windmade

 

It’s early days yet but I’ll be watching out for it. I remember campaigning for the Forest Stewardship Council standard (widely recognised logo below) to be applied to wood in the early 90’s – now it’s mainstream on an awful lot of timber and timber products such as paper.

FSC_logo_for_website

Click for further info about Windmade

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“Invasivore” Diet Making Headway as Next Locavore Movement

Locavores try to eat only food that is grown or made locally. Slightly “out there” is this new idea. Invasive species were introduced to areas by the process of  international trade. They often have few native predators so their numbers increase wildly without check. This idea encourages people to eat the invaders…

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Reinsurer Munich Re assesses extreme climate events. Reinsurers are amongst the most hard nosed calculators of probabilities that there are – it’s their business. If they didn’t know what was really going on they would go out of business so when they say (click for link) that the last 12 months have shown exceptional destructive climatic events, maybe the denialist propagandists might just think again.

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A compostable toothbrush from Australia. Aus $36 for a pack of 12. Invented by a Brisbane dentist, “The Environmental Toothbrush” is a simple solution. Made from bamboo, a natural cellulose fibre, they are 100% biodegradable, environmentally sustainable, and do not pollute the environment.

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Electric vehicles tend to cost more than the fossil fuelled vehicles they are based on. Step forward Tata of India. From an article by Gizmag:

“The Tata Indica Vista EV hits the market early in 2011, carries four people, has excellent performance and can run 150 miles on a charge. Most importantly, the EV is based on a best-selling, mass-market car from the Indian market where it sells for less than US$9000 and its performance in the recent Future Car Challenge verifies its extreme energy efficiency.”

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San Jose, California, bans plastic bags

In December, the San Jose City Council banned single use plastic shopping bags and prohibited retailers from giving away paper bags in a 10 to one vote. The ban will take effect on January 1, 2012. In 2012, retailers will have to charge 10 cents for a paper bag, and 25 cents in 2013. San Jose is the third largest U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags.

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U.K. Prime Minister  David Cameron has been talking about a “happiness index” for the U.K. He has directed the Office of National Statistics to develop metrics to measure the UK’s “general well-being”. Using different ways to measure success than the brutally simplistic and out-dated GDP figures is a powerful way to make things better.

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M&S early on delivering their sustainability goals – four years early! Companies are outpacing governments in being (somewhat) environmentally friendlier

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Pedal powered lawn mower.. Get fit, save money!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The answer!

Ever since I saw the original information passed on in my recent post – we’re ***’ed – I’ve been  a bit subdued in an “it’s too late already” sort of way.  Just to attempt to show willing by spreading some worthwhile ideas further, I am posting a copy of an essay by Rob Dietz about the potential a “steady state” economy has to fix just about all the current problems we have. Its basic thesis is that unending growth is no longer desirable, probably disastrous, despite virtually all mainstream economists taking it as a article of faith that growth must continue to grow…

As a consequence of the century old obsession with unending growth by the top level advisers to governments, we now have a situation where virtually all the people with power over our lives accept, and are being fooled by, a system that is long past its use by date. The 7 billion innocent bystanders, who hope that governments will get things right, have an unjustified faith that, because the system appears to have worked so well for more than their lifetimes, that it will continue to work indefinitely. Familiarity bred confidence. Pride goeth before a fall.

Newton’s laws of motion etc needed to be added to by the theories of Einstein to explain why the motion of objects at extreme speeds (nearing light speed) differed from that predicted by basic Newtonian mechanics. In an interesting parallel, the standard theories of “growth economics” work OK in what can be described as an empty world – one in which there is a relatively slow economy with apparently endless space to expand into and pollute and endless resources to exploit, such as when there were far fewer than 2 billion people around (who also had a modest environmental footprint).

Nowadays our economy, our demands and the numbers of us have expanded exponentially and we are bumping up against the environmental and resource availability limits of the planet. We are metaphorically approaching the speed of light economically where the well worn ordinary laws of economics clearly start to break down. Using Newton’s laws to plot a high speed course amongst the planets would lead to failure to get where one wanted. So too if standard economic theory and advisers are used to cope with economic meltdowns, climate change etc. We need the equivalent of a theory of relativity to light the way. Ecological economics is it. Developed by Herman Daly almost 40 years ago, it is “the answer”.

The following article was posted on the Post Growth blog which reposted it from the original source on the ”The Daly News”, which is part of the CASSE (Center for the advancement of the Steady State Economy.

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Economics of the Story of Stuff

by Rob Dietz on May 15, 2010

We’re pleased to introduce our first guest contributor, Rob Dietz, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. This is a cross-posting of his most recent work on The Daly News, CASSE’s blog.

Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, the explosive online video (now also expanded into a book), provides an entertaining explanation of a glaring economic flaw.  The Story of Stuff takes a look at the economy’s linear system that runs from extraction to production to distribution to consumption to disposal. As Annie says, “… you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely.” You especially can’t grow the size of that linear system indefinitely. But that’s the misguided aim of current economic goals and policies. Misguided as it is, however, we know why politicians and economists push economic growth and consumer spending. As soon as we slow down our shopping and buy less stuff, the economy spirals into a recession. That’s when we start hearing about and experiencing real problems – problems like people losing their jobs, their homes, and even their ability to take care of basic needs.

What a dilemma! The planet can’t sustain our pattern of consumption, but people get steamrolled in the economy when consumption slows down. The solution is to figure out how to structure the economy so that people can meet their needs without trashing the planet. But restructuring the economy is no simple task. Even gathering the will to take a shot at it is difficult.

The main reason is that economics is a subject most of us avoid. The majority of people understand that it’s good to have money in their pockets, but they don’t necessarily want to get involved in the policies of the Federal Reserve, the inner workings of the Treasury Department, or banking regulations. That’s the job of economists, right? But 99% of economists are entrenched in the old way of thinking. Their training and their methods are aimed at growing the unsustainable linear system. Economists are always talking about growth. Growth, growth, growth. They seem to believe that getting bigger is the only recipe for getting better. It’s worked for them in the past and it’s what they know. And they mostly haven’t studied ecology or physics or other fields that would help inform them about the effects of their policies on the planet.

As a result, economists are doing what they can to prop up the old system, and politicians and the public are inclined to listen to them. Politicians are especially susceptible to the spin. They don’t usually know much at all about economics, but they do know they’ll be thrown out of office if people are losing their jobs and their sense of security.

Why do we grant so much latitude to economists, especially when they have proven time and time again that they can’t predict momentous economic events? With few exceptions, they didn’t know the financial and economic crisis of 2008 was coming. We’ve pursued and achieved economic growth for several centuries, and through official policy for over 50 years. If their prescription of continuous economic growth is the answer, why are we facing so many profound environmental and economic problems? Why should we be worried about global warming and losing our jobs at the same time?

It will take a lot of effort to get the ball rolling on changing our economic structure. On the positive side, ecological economists have already developed the foundation for a new economy. A steady state economy provides a real potential for sustainability that simply cannot derive from continuous pursuit of economic growth. A steady state economy respects limits and strives for stability in population, consumption, and overall use of energy and materials. To get a feel for how this works, think of a healthy mature forest. It does not grow in size, but it is a living system with a complex web of parts. Remarkably diverse groups of species cooperate and compete within the forest, and there are opportunities for new species and ecosystem functions to develop over time.

Just like in the forest, stability in a steady state economy is very different from stagnation. Ecological economists actually call this kind of stability a dynamic equilibrium. This fancy term simply means that a steady state economy is dynamic – it changes and develops over time – but it balances with the natural environment. The idea is to right-size the economy, to find that Goldilocks size that’s not too small and not too big, but just right.

The old economy has one major rule: grow or die. Unfortunately, we’re getting to the point where that rule is changing to grow AND die. In contrast, the new steady state economy lives by four main rules described below. It’s very hard to argue against any of these four rules. In fact, as a test, let’s consider the opposite of each rule as well…

Rule 1

Maintain healthy ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems provide the life-support services for the planet. Ecosystems tend to be resilient, so they can handle quite a bit of disturbance. But if economic activities grow too large, they can disrupt the ability of those ecosystems to do their job.

The opposite of Rule 1 is that we destroy healthy ecosystems or maintain unhealthy ecosystems, clearly not a good idea (assuming we want to maintain life on the planet).

Rule 2

Extract renewable resources at a rate no faster than they can be regenerated. Renewable resources, like forests and stocks of fish, provide goods for the economy. The amazing part about them is that they can go on providing goods year after year, so long as we don’t overdo it. If we take only the number of trees and fish that can be regenerated (economists call this sustainable yield), we can keep consuming timber and fish for generations to come.

The opposite of Rule 2 is that we extract renewable resources at a rate faster than they can be regenerated. Following such a course of action would wipe out the forest and drive the fish population to extinction. It would be like killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

Rule 3

Use non-renewable resources at a rate no faster than we can find renewable substitutes. To use a non-renewable resource, like a fossil fuel or mineral, really means to use it up. There will be less of it available for future generations. This condition doesn’t mean that we have to leave all non-renewable resources untouched. But it does mean that there is a clear limit to their exploitation, and we should be working toward replacing them with renewable substitutes as we use them up.

The opposite of Rule 3 is to use non-renewable resources without finding renewable substitutes.

Following this course of action would deplete the bounty of planetary resources in short order. It would be like winning a million dollar lottery, leaving behind a job, and throwing a million dollars’ worth of lavish parties for one year. It might have been one heck of a year, but at the end of it, the money would be all gone, and future prospects wouldn’t be so bright.

Rule 4

Dump wastes into the environment no faster than they can be safely assimilated. Depositing wastes faster than they can break down means that we have to live in our own piles of refuse. It makes for unpleasant and unhealthy living conditions.

The opposite of Rule 4 is to dump wastes as fast as we please. We don’t have to imagine the consequences of this course of action. We’ve seen them in the past – remember when it wasn’t all that uncommon for a river to catch on fire? And we see them today in the form of climate change and rising cancer rates.

Before we can go about building an economy based on these rules, we need to tell our economists and politicians that enough is enough (signing the CASSE position is a good start). We need to stop avoiding the thorny subject of economics and demand a new economic framework — preferably a steady state economy that provides a happy ending to The Story of Stuff.

Image credit: Flickr.com/Adam Crowe. Creative Commons license. Share/Save/Bookmark

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Hugh Fearnley-Wizard of Oz

Landshare was the one of the  “big concepts” started by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage in Dorset a couple of years ago. The idea is that River Cottage acts as hub to put people who have surplus or unused land together with people who will tend it and grow things on it for mutual benefit. So far they have 58,396 members (20th Feb) across the UK. But it didn't just stop there. Hugh recenty launched Fish Fight – to prevent or reduce the discarding of fish which are “over quota”. Currently 648,000 people have signed up for that one.

LandShare Australia, which is about as far as you can get from Dorset, is just starting up and will be using Hugh’s principles.

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Saturday, 19 February 2011

We’re ***’ed

It’s the weekend. Got plans? Hope they’re not long term ones… Have a look at this latest post from Climate Progress - one of the best, well referenced antidotes to the insane complacency, breathtaking stupidity and unjustified arrogance of the denialist disinformation websites and blogs.

The post is entitled:

NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100

Click on the title to read the original post. It’ll stop you worrying about your pension.

The title might sound dramatic but wait until you read the text. It’s also worth reading the comments too for the sense of resignation that previously hopeful people are starting to express. In there (at #82) you will find one from yours truly delineating the latest thoughts from Greg Craven (the author of “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” – the book I assisted with that is linked to in this blog’s side bar). Greg recently did a speech, to the assembled multitudes of the American Geophysical Union, which was astonishingly powerful. Afterwards he talked to some members about their private thoughts. These are his own words (from the Manpollo.org site):

Oh, and one last thing. You deserve the full story, but for now here’s the bottom line: we’re ****ed. AGU rattled me to the core because my worst-case fears were not just confirmed, but exceeded (I found four paleoclimatologists who admitted to making plans for survival retreats), and my last hope–for the scientific community to enter the public debate–was completely dashed.

Paleoclimatologists are the guys who work out what happened to Earth’s climate tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years ago. They know how the climate could turn (probably will now as this latest information suggests) because it has turned dangerously in the past under less of a kick than we are currently giving it. They know about prehistoric mass extinction events, due to this type of climatic kick, when large proportions of life on Earth died out and things didn’t settle down again for hundreds of thousands of years – millions in some cases.  When the Lindzen’s of this world preach to their faithful (I use the word advisedly) followers on Wattsupwiththat that climate sensitivity is lower than the IPCC best estimates and claim that any warming will be small and inconsequential, remember what is probably happening already and the knock on consequences.

Friedrich Schiller said: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens," which means "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."

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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Errm, I’ll have a rump steak and a handbag please…

This video shows “Marlow and Daughters” a Brooklyn, N.Y. butchers which is next door to the linked Marlow and Sons - a restaurant. In addition to using locally sourced animals for the butchery which supplies the restaurant too they actually get the hides of the animals they use made into leatherwear such as handbags which they sell to diners (see picture below video).

Some might see a “yuck” factor here. People could avoid the restaurant completely because animal rights beliefs make them too grossed out or fashionistas may adore the convenient idea of simultaneously eating while shopping for designer items. It’s innovative and, at the very least, they are thinking outside the box and making creative connections between their supply chain, waste material and end product. Those last couple of sentences stolen from Food & Drink Digital contributor Kristin Craik
marlow and sons
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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cartoon wars

There is  a denialist video on Youtube called “Global Warming Panic explained” in which two characters from a video game have been “hacked” to have a dialogue about those awful climate scientists and the way they are hoaxing everybody but the brave “sceptics”.  As is usual with all but a fraction of the sceptic/denialist material out there, it is chock full of strawmen and dishonest/stupid insinuations  with an unhealthy amount of paranoid conspiracy type thinking. Greenfyre has put together, using the same characters and “game engine”, a rather good riposte which covers and discredits a very large number of the sort of rubbish arguments that echo endlessly around the denialosphere .

 

First look at the dangerous and misleading propaganda version then the one that attempts to correct it.

 

Global Warming Panic explained

 

 

Global Warming Panic explained

 

By the way, if anyone wants to make one of these  cartoon videos (saying whatever you want), just go to http://www.xtranormal.com and create your own account.

 

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Friday, 11 February 2011

First big Internet people’s revolution

The “Dignity” revolution.

 

 

 

 

walk like an egyptian

 

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Both sides now

Bows and flows of angel hair,
And Ice-cream castles in the air,
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way – Joni Mitchell


Silver Lining from Kym Fielke on Vimeo.

Join the cloud appreciation society http://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

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Monday, 7 February 2011

If Jupiter was the same distance as the Moon…

Brad Goodspeed did the following animation. As always with Vimeo videos, click on the four arrows (bottom right) to get full screen HD. Here's how he introduced it.

 

"Here's an animation I did to make you feel small, and also convey the deep awe I feel at the feet of the Universe. While watching the video of the lunar eclipse I posted the other day I was looking at the curvature of the earth's shadow on the moon. It made me think about how large the earth might look if an exact copy of it was up there instead of the moon. Soon curiosity got the better of me, and I was animating! So the basic idea is, each planet you see is the size it would appear in the sky if it shared an orbit with the moon, 380,000 kms from earth. I created this video in After Effects, and because of certain technical considerations had to keep the field of view at 62 degrees. That means the foreground element is not precisely to scale. I realized this after the fact and may update the video at some point in the future. All planets are to correct scale with one another in any case. Please watch full screen in HD if possible. Oh! And please consider sharing with your friends on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Music: Where We're Calling From - Doves"

Scale from Brad Goodspeed on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011