We’re on a Different Planet in Fighting Global Warming

Bill Robinson, in the Independent on Sunday (UK)
Environmental policy used to be the province of the beard and sandal brigade. Today the suits have to pay attention.

Climate change has become a big issue, and the UK is using its presidency of the G8 to move it even further up the political and business agenda. The long-term aim is the strict implementation of the ‘polluter pays’ principle, as applied to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. There is now a price attached to these: in future, energy users will have to pay for every ton of CO2 they release into the atmosphere. …
But it is hard to find a serious scientist now who thinks the recent rise in global temperatures can be explained by this kind of natural variation. The chief cause is energy consumption. …
(3 July 2005)
Bill Robinson is director of economics at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ocean species at risk from global warming: scientists

Staff, ABC (Au.)
Thousands of marine species are at risk from global warming because of acidification of the world’s oceans, scientists said.

Britain’s Royal Society said in a report that the seas were currently absorbing one tonne of carbon dioxide – the prime greenhouse gas, per person per year and were simply running out of capacity to absorb it.

It called on next week’s summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations to take action. “Our world leaders meeting at next week’s G8 summit must commit to taking decisive and significant action to cut carbon dioxide emissions,” society oceanic expert John Raven said.

“Failure to do so may mean that there is no place in the oceans of the future for many species and ecosystems that we know today,” he said. …
(30 June 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Have mercy, I cry, City!

Gil Friend & Jane Byrd
As the recent World Environment Day events recently reminded us, we now live on a majority urban planet. Back to the land? Ain’t gonna happen, folks – and probably shouldn’t, since six or 10 or 12 billion people spread out across the landscape could make many aspects of the human footprint worse instead of better.
…The key to surviving urban density: photosynthesis, economy, convivality.

So much surface area. So little time. But what if cities weren’t desolate badlands with hard hot surfaces and minimal plant life. What if native plant life could colonize city surfaces, roof tops and walls? And what if it wasn’t that hard to do? And oh so easy to live with/within?

What if cities – the inventors of agriculture, according to Jane Jacobs – could once again (or for the first time) be net producers of food, energy, clean water and clean air?

A flowering of projects – some new, some quite venerable – address cities as living systems. Living systems with metabolisms – flows and transformations of energy and materials into product and non-product, desired and undesired results – that, if understood, can perhaps guide us to creating cities that, like living systems, produce net value, powered by sun and wind.
(2 July 2005)

Who is afraid of fiscal federalism and Resource Control?

Dominic Ebi Aboro, Vanguard (Nigeria)
What happens here in Nigeria is a wasteful federal government who corners all the wealth and wastes it. We should take a leaf from Australia. Let the states control their resources and let the federal government generate its funds from taxation to meet the cost of running its expenses in carrying out its responsibilities and functions.

Resource control is not about oil and gas resources. Resources include men and material and natural resources including land and water. Participatory democracy without resource control is a farce. Reform programmes for sustainable development are nothing more than deceits without resource control. Resource control is meant to involve the stakeholders of the resource in the management, exploration and exploitation of the sources. …
(4 July 2005)

Homage to Patagonia

Sergio de Gheldere, WorldChanging
The raw materials, the production conditions, the built-in: the clothing industry has its share of problems. Conventionally grown cotton requires large amounts of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, about one quarter of all agrochemicals used worldwide. Clothing supply chains and manufacturing conditions are shady at best and this cycle of environmental and social un-sustainability is accelerated by an ever shorter fashion cycle which makes clothes outdated long before their technical life cycle is over.

More than a decade ago, Patagonia, an outdoors clothing company, decided to become a transformer instead of transmitter, and took a good look at themselves. The foreword of the 1993 winter catalogue, written by founder Yvon Chouinard, read: “Last fall, we underwent an environmental audit to investigate the impact of the clothing we make…. To no one’s surprise the news is bad. Everything we make pollutes. Polyester, because it’s made from petroleum, is an obvious villain, but cotton and wool are not any better. To kill the boll weevil, cotton is sprayed with pesticides so poisonous they generally render cotton fields barren; cotton fabric is often treated with formaldehyde…” Pretty honest for a clothing company.

Since then Patagonia has gone on to become the archetypical Natural Capitalist company by instilling sustainability in all aspects of its business…
(1 July 2005)

Evolving the Market Square

Emeka Okafor, WorldChanging
The most overlooked engine of indigenous rural and urban activity in Africa is the market square. Bartering without par, continuous pricing adjustments and product flow, recycling ad infinitum, organic produce et al are but some of its unremitting attributes. The Market, ‘Afia’ as it is called amongst the Igbo’s of southeastern Nigeria or the Jua Kali as it known in Kenya, is the fulcrum of commercial and social activity.

The significance of this entity has never been truly acknowledged nor has its developmental potential been even minimally fulfilled….
(1 July 2005)
Comment: The farmers market is an underutilized organizing opportunity in the USA as well.

First hydrogen plane tested in US

A US company says it has successfully completed test flights of a potentially environment-friendly aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen stored on board and oxygen extracted from the air are combined in fuel cells. The electricity generated drives the propellers.

California-based AeroVironment says a full tank of hydrogen would keep the unmanned plane in the air for 24 hours. Planes using fuel cells might help curb greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.
(2 July 2005)

Chinese premier urges building of energy-saving society

Staff, People’s Daily Online (China)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for building an energy-saving society and developing a recycling economy at a national video and telephone working meeting held Thursday in Beijing.

The strain on energy and other resources will increase significantly as China’s industrialization, urbanization and modernization press forward. Therefore, the efficient utilization of resources is crucial, said Premier Wen at the meeting, presided over by Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan.

The key tasks for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2005 and 2006 in building an energy-saving society includes the conservation of energy, water, raw materials, land resources, and utilization of mineral resources, industrial waste and recyclable resources. …
(1 July 2005)
See Xinhaunet for similar report.

Less is more as colleges turn eco-friendly

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
BEREA, Ky. — Professor Richard K. Olson’s voice swelled with pride as he reached the final stop — the bathroom — on a tour of Berea College’s newest student housing.

”The throne!” he declared, displaying a massive, cream-colored composting toilet.

With its state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system, recycled wood cabinets, and low-energy fluorescent lighting, Berea’s $10 million ”Ecological Village” represents the cutting edge of environmental architecture. And while this small southern Appalachian college still consumes plenty of natural resources, it has spent several years trying to preserve its surroundings by conserving energy and shifting to recycling. …
(3 July 2005)

CalCars Plans Commercial Spin-off for Plug-In Hybrid Conversions

Staff, Green Car Congress (US)
CalCars, the non-profit organization that dramatically increased awareness of the potential of plug-in hybrids (PHEV) simply by just doing it and converting a standard Prius to a plug-in Prius, is planning a commercial spin-off for plug-in conversions.

CalCars’ new company will partner with a major auto maker as a Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) to define, to engineer and to produce PHEV versions of hybrid cars and SUVs.

CalCars anticipates a growing short-term market demand from public and private fleets and individuals for between 10,000-100,000 PHEVs. …
(28 June 2005)