Solutions and Sustainability

Tony Marmont Speaks About His Energy Farm (audio or video)

Julian Darley, Global Public Media

Over the last thirty years, driven by increasing alarm over climate change and pollution, British engineer Tony Marmont has developed a highly unusual and innovative energy farm in the middle of England.

In this interview with GlobalPublicMedia’s Julian Darley, Marmont explains why and how it all works giving the viewer a sneek preview into the way a sustainable future might actually look.
(7 June 2005)

To market, to market

Quincy Cromer, Ukiah Daily Journal

It may be a global market out there for American businesses, but some Ukiahans are buying and selling on a strictly local level. Monday marked the fifth Ukiah Community Market, which debuted earlier in the month with local vendors meeting at Alex R. Thomas Plaza to sell goods and promote unrestricted local markets.

Although sales have been somewhat slow for the first few days, Ukiah Community Market Secretary Richard Johnson said it takes time for new markets to establish customers in any community, which he hopes will happen in years to come.

…Outdoor markets are a great way for people to support local vendors, Johnson added, and buy some great products with friends and family. “There is no intrinsic reason that fresh produce should only be sold in air-conditioned buildings under fluorescent lights. Open air markets should provide good selection, quality and price in order to attract a wide range of customers,” he said.

Along with the concept of free markets, Johnson said it is important to develop a local market to distribute and sell an increased number of local goods.

“Peak Oil — the phenomenon of infinitely rising transportation costs cause by depletion of world oil reserves — will require the removal of all barriers to increased local food production and direct sales to the public. UCM is blazing the trail towards this objective,” Johnson said.
(26 July 2005)

Going Green? Put Fruit in Your Tank, says Cyprus

Michele Kambas, Reuters via Planet Ark

NICOSIA – Cyprus’s abundance of fruits, grapes and potatoes could soon end up where you least expect it; in your fuel tank.

The island’s Commerce Ministry is poised to announce a pilot project by the end of this year for the introduction of liquid biofuels for motors in an attempt to cut down on pollution-spewing fossil fuels.

The initial target is for one percent of the island’s annual fuel consumption on road transport to be from renewable energy resources, said Georgios Roditis from the Applied Energy Centre of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

“Biofuels have been used in places like the United States for years, but it is innovative for Cyprus, even Europe,” Roditis told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday
(27 July 2005)

A Local Eating Rhapsody
Why not try a Hundred-Mile Meal? Third in a series.

J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, The Tyee

A few days ago, I went over to a friend’s house and he offered me a banana. It had been a while. Beginning with the first day of spring, my partner Alisa and I had made a commitment to buy no food or drink for home consumption that had travelled from farther than a hundred-mile radius. Well, I accepted the gift of the banana. I ate the damn thing, and wow, was it ever delicious.

Then I caught myself. Why get so hopped up about a banana? It’s not as though the Hundred-Mile Diet has been sparse and bland. Just a week ago I was literally pouring double handfuls of blueberries fresh off the bush and into my mouth, a moment of foodie decadence as great as any I’ve ever experienced. Alisa and I might have started eating close to home in order to explore what a truly sustainable diet could look like, but we aren’t people who get a charge out of feeling holier-than-thou. We like our pleasures real.

Below the megamart radar

As we talk about the Hundred-Mile Diet with various people, we hear again and again that our meals must be both spartan and shockingly repetitive. I understand where that impression comes from-the local grocery store. Living in a cargo-cult food culture, we now take for granted the fact that we can eat strawberries from New Zealand in January and might never see a Fraser Valley apple on the shelf. Take away certain global ingredients-like sugar cane-and whole aisles in the megamart might as well have vanished.

What we’re finding, however, is that there is a world of local foods to be found below the radar. In fact, as we creep into the growers’ high season, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Even in early spring-the leanest time of year, when few fresh foods are ready to harvest-we managed to make do. This was the menu for our first official Hundred-Mile Meal back in March: Hothouse cucumber slices with beet, carrot and kohlrabi slaw.
(27 July 2005)
The best series of articles I’ve seen on local food. See the original article for links to Parts 1 and 2

Moves afoot to counter U.S. Big Oil’s clout

Stephen Hesse, Japan Times

Reducing the greenhouse gases that derive from human activities and cause global warming is perhaps the most critical environmental challenge facing the world community.

The task is made even more difficult by the intransigence of the world’s largest economy and its leading oil company. Nevertheless, across the world, from Asia to Europe and even to the United States itself, there are glimmers of hope.
(28 July 2005)

Amy’s Kitchen pledges to use locally grown produce

Meg Landers, Mail Tribune (S. Oregon)

The nation’s leading natural frozen-food brand — Amy’s Kitchen — plans to harvest ingredients from local growers when its White City plant opens next year.

Owner Andy Berliner said the company already buys organically grown produce from Oregon.

“We’ll buy more and more from Oregon because of the great savings,” he said in a telephone interview from Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, adding that small and large farms alike will be considered.
(28 July 2005)

Within Limits: Symptoms of Overshoot

Sustainability Institute

By definition, overshoot is a condition in which the delayed signals from the environment are not yet strong enough to force an end to growth. How, then, can society tell if it is in overshoot? The short list here may help.

We’ve grouped symptoms of overshoot described in Limits To Growth: the Thirty Year Update, into three categories.
(6 Dec 2004)
“The Sustainability Institute was founded in 1996 by the late Donella (Dana) Meadows to apply systems thinking and organizational learning to economic, environmental and social challenges.” Lists its Top 20 Sustainable Stocks

Paul Geary, ENN has published its list of the world’s top 20 sustainable stocks. These are public companies that have been deemed by the analysts at to be at the forefront of creating a sustainable economy.

The list is designed both to educate the public and to help investors who want to put their money in socially responsible companies.

Companies are either producers of goods that help the environment, such as SolarWorld AG, or are companies that have internal practices that are designed to be greener. Swiss Re, for instance, is a reinsurance company. (Reinsurers insure other insurance companies against catastrophic loss.)

A number of industries are represented, and the geographic distribution is wide. While many of these companies may not be recognizable to the general public, some have had a reputation for environmental stewardship for some time, such as Whole Foods and Timberland.

Others such as Chiquita may surprise the person familiar with the history of that name, but it’s a very different company today.

Baldor Electric Co. (NYSE:BEZ)
Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ)
Chiquita Brands International (NYSE:CQB)
East Japan Railway (Tokyo:9020)
Electrolux AB (Stockholm: ELUXB)
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq:GMCR)
Henkel (Berlin: HEN.BE)
Herman Miller (NYSE:MLHR)
Natura Cosméticos SA (Sao Paolo:NATU3.SA)
Novozymes A/S (Copenhagen: NZYMb.CO)
Power Integrations (Nasdaq: POWI)
Sharp Corp. (Tokyo: 6753)
Sims Group Ltd. (Australia: SMS.AX)
SolarWorld AG (Berlin: SWV.BE)
STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE:STM)
Swiss Re (Geneva: RUKN:SWX)
Timberland Company (NYSE:TBL)
Umweltbank AG (Berlin: UBK.BE)
Vestas Wind Systems AS (Copenhagen: VWS.CO)
Whole Foods Market (WFMI)
Honorable Mention: Precious Woods (Geneva: PRWN: SWX)
(28 July 2005)
The issue of sustainable/responsible investing is fraught with contradictions, but it is interesting to see one group’s take on what sustainable businesses look like. -BA

First Field Tests in Germany of Low-Temperature Fuel Cells for Homes

Staff, Environmental News Network (ENN)

The utility company Baden-Württemberg EnBW Energie AG is expanding its state-wide program to promote the use of fuel cell technology for the supply of energy in homes. In addition to its work with high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), EnBW is now to start tests with low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) for use in single-family homes.

The technology for the project is being provided by European Fuel Cell GmbH, a member of the Baxi Group. Featuring an electrical output of 1.5 kilowatts and a thermal output of 3 kilowatts, the low-temperature PEMFC offers an ideal source of energy for single-family homes. This so-called beta prototype is the first fuel cell system of this type to be installed in a private household in Germany, and thus tested under everyday operating conditions. The project is based on a contract concluded by the two companies. “Fuel cells are a key technology for the future,” explains Prof. Thomas Hartkopf, EnBW Board of Management member for Technology. “In the medium term, they can provide an economical and ecological way of generating power and heat on a decentralized basis. Our activities are designed to promote the market launch of fuel cell systems, and thereby greater use of this environmentally friendly technology.”
(27 July 2005)


Global Warming’s Strange Harvest

Glenn Scherer, Grist via The Tyree

Humanity is on the threshold of a century of extraordinary bounty, courtesy of global climate change. That’s the opinion of Robert Balling, former scientific adviser to the Greening Earth Society, a lobbying arm of the power industry founded by the Western Fuels Association. In a world where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels soar from the burning of fossil fuels, he says, “crops will grow faster, larger, more water-use efficient, and more resistant to stress.” Quoting study after study, he invokes visions of massive melon yields, heftier potatoes, and “pumped-up pastureland.” Bumper crops of wheat and rice, he says, will benefit the world’s farmers and the hungry.

Balling’s assertions are backed by solid science: Gaseous CO2 fertilization does cause remarkable growth spurts in many plants, and could create a greener planet with beefier tomatoes and faster-growing, bigger trees. But there’s a catch: The insects, mammals, and impoverished people in developing countries who feed on this bounty may end up malnourished, or even starving.

A small but growing body of research is finding that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while increasing crop yield, decrease the nutritional value of plants. More than a hundred studies, for example, have found that when CO2 from fossil-fuel burning builds up in plant tissues, nitrogen (essential for making protein) declines. A smaller number of studies hint at another troubling impact: As atmospheric CO2 levels go up, trace elements in plants (such as zinc and iron, which are vital to animal and human life) go down, potentially malnourishing all those that subsist on the plants. This preliminary research has given scientists reason to worry about bigger unknowns: Virtually no studies have been done on the effects of elevated CO2 on other essential trace elements, such as selenium, an important antioxidant, or chromium, which is believed to regulate blood-sugar levels.
(26 July 2005)

Why steelhead would say: ‘It’s the water, stupid!’

Robert LaRosa, SF Chronicle (open forum)

When California’s governor vetoed money meant for imperiled salmon and steelhead, perhaps he knew that budget cuts don’t matter to fish born naturally in cold streams. Only artificially hatched and bred fish depend on public assistance. With the dismal record of government-sponsored salmon and steelhead recovery plans, it would take the entire state treasury to keep wild fish from sliding into the eco-abyss.

Actually, the critical ingredient needed to keep salmon from the same fate as the American bison and countless other species, is cool, clean water – – which has been in short supply ever since European settlers first came to California more than 200 years ago.

…Last century’s dream of balancing economic progress with ecologic protection has morphed into a frightening reality: overdrawn groundwater that sucks rivers dry and makes mudflats of coastal lagoons. Habitat restoration is being challenged as never before. But with hard work, simple technology and low-cost materials — not big tax dollar projects — volunteers like those of Project FISHER will bring back wild salmon and steelhead to California’s coastal streams. Such resourceful projects prove that smaller is better and moreover demonstrate a model that works to offset growing demand for scarce water.
(27 July 2005)

The Snow Must Go On

Emily Gertz, Grist

Inuit fight climate change with human-rights claim against U.S.
When Sheila Watt-Cloutier was growing up in Kuujjuaq, an Inuit village in far northern Quebec, summer days never got hot enough for shorts and T-shirts. Only the very brave ventured into the frigid local river for a swim. But now, she says, there are many warm days, and “the whole community goes down and spends days beaching it and trying to cool themselves off.”

Needless to say, a day at the beach is not a normal Arctic activity. The climate shifts responsible for that change are also melting ice sheets, eroding the region’s coastlines, and shrinking habitat for polar bears, caribou, and other animals the Inuit have long relied on for sustenance. While other citizens of the world debate the very existence of climate change, the Arctic is melting — and the mainstays of this indigenous northern culture are disappearing with it.

Watt-Cloutier refuses to stand by while that happens. The 51-year-old is the elected chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, a federation of Native nations representing about 150,000 people in Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the U.S. To save their homes, their prey, and themselves, the ICC is taking on the world’s largest, most recalcitrant greenhouse-gas emitter, the country the Inuit say is driving them extinct: the United States of America. The group is, as Watt-Cloutier puts it, “defending our right to be cold.”
(26 July 2005)

Australia: climate change wake-up call

Milanda Rout, Herald Sun

CLIMATE change is inevitable and is likely to cause an increase in heat exhaustion, stroke, heart attacks and asthma.

A Federal Government study says Australia should expect higher temperatures, more droughts and severe storms. Temperatures could rise by up to 6C by 2070, affecting native plants and animals, damaging urban areas and threatening agriculture.

“There is little doubt Australia will face some degree of climate change over the next 30 to 50 years,” it said. “Irrespective of global or local efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.”

Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the report was a wake-up call but he denied Australia needed to sign the Kyoto protocol
(27 July 2005)

Report: Big 5 ink new climate pact

Reuters via CNN

CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) — The United States, Australia, China, India and South Korea are likely to unveil later this week a regional pact to combat greenhouse gas emissions, an Australian government official said on Wednesday.

The official, who declined to be named, confirmed a report in national newspaper The Australian, which said the secretly negotiated pact to tackle climate change would be known as the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate.

The newspaper said the pact would aim to use unspecified technology to “rein in greenhouse gas emissions” but the official said that, unlike the Kyoto protocol, the new agreement would not be focused on reaching specific greenhouse gas emission targets.
(27 July 2005)
Also covered by Associated Press.

US: climate deal complements Kyoto

Mark Oliver and agencies, The Guardian

The US today insisted that its surprise announcement last night of a new pact over clean energy technologies with other five countries was not a threat to the Kyoto emissions treaty.

A deal between the US, Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan was announced late yesterday in a statement by the US president, George Bush. The news prompted widespread surprise – not least in Downing Street.

Details of what the pact involves were still sketchy today but its explicit aim was to promote the invention and sale of technologies ranging from “clean coal” and wind power to next-generation nuclear fission with the aim of reducing pollution and addressing climate concerns.

The announcement of the New Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate received a mixed reaction, alarming many environmentalists. Critics noted that the partnership, which apparently comes after a year of secret talks, is not binding and sets no targets for reducing pollution.

By contrast the Kyoto protocol, signed by 140 countries to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, which experts believe contribute to global warming, is legally binding.

The US, which accounts for 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and Australia are the only developed countries that have refused to sign the Kyoto protocol, which runs until 2012.

Greenpeace said the new pact sounded like a “dirty coal deal” that must not be “used by the US and Australia to escape domestic emissions reductions”.

The environmental campaigner and Guardian columnist George Monbiot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today that the pact was “a deliberate attempt to subvert and undermine the Kyoto protocol”.

Mr Monbiot said: “If you rely on alternative technology but don’t back that with regulation that says this technology must replace coal and oil and gas, then all you are doing is supplementing our existing energy use.”
(28 July 2005)

US moves to sideline Kyoto

Fiona Harvey in London, Caroline Daniel in Washington and Tim Johnston in Sydney, Financial Times

The US appeared poised on Wednesday to forge an agreement with several Asian nations on climate change which would strengthen its attempts to sideline the United Nations-brokered Kyoto protocol.

Ian Campbell, Australian environment minister, confirmed Canberra was working on a regional proposal to combat climate change but refused to be drawn on details. Australia and the US are the only developed countries to have rejected the Kyoto treaty, which requires developed countries to reduce their output of greenhouse gases by 2012.

Mr Campbell said: “We’ve been working on bilateral and multilateral arrangements on ‘beyond Kyoto’ for the past 12 months. We will be announcing any future proposals in the very near future.”
(27 July 2005)

Local Initiatives to Address Climate Change

Zarrin T. Caldwell, OneWorld USA via Common Dreams

WASHINGTON — U.S. state and local governments, businesses, NGOs, and individual citizens are taking the initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move towards alternative “clean energy” options.
OneWorld concludes this month’s three-part “IN-DEPTH” series on climate change from its new treeless magazine, Perspectives, which offers more background and context on the issue, viewpoints from non-profit organizations, and ways for individuals to get involved.
(27 July 2005)

Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions For Global Warming

David Letterman, The Late Show (CBS)
10. NASA mission to turn down the sun’s thermostat

9. Federal subsidies to boost production of Cool Ranch Doritos

8. Fast track Rumsfeld’s “Colonize Neptune” proposal

7. Convene Blue-Ribbon Committee to explore innovative ways of ignoring the problem

6. Let Hillary worry about it when she takes over

5. I dunno—tax cuts for the rich?

4. Give the boys at Halliburton 90-billion dollar contract to patch hole in ozone

3. Switch to celsius so scorching 98 becomes frosty 37

2. Keep plenty of Bud on ice

1. Invade Antartica
(25 July 2005)
Laugh, so you don’t cry.

When it comes to the carbon crunch

Tobias Webb, The Guardian
The rising costs of carbon trading compliance will hit both companies and consumers, says Tobias Webb
The day when the first major UK company issues a profit warning because of the rising cost of carbon emissions may be approaching.

Nick Robins, the head of socially responsibility investment funds at Henderson Global Investors, describes the impact of rising carbon costs on corporate profits as the “carbon crunch”.

Henderson – and other UK ethical investors – believe carbon is set to become a “critical factor in business strategy”. Its costs could, for example, influence the pattern of what companies buy and sell.

“There should be no surprise when the first carbon-driven profits warning is issued,” Mr Robins says.

Consumers will also be affected, says Chris Rowland, the head of utilities research at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. He believes EU power companies are finally beginning to take the emissions trading scheme seriously, and that climate change is likely to lead to higher prices for customers.

The carbon crunch will be a direct consequence of emissions trading, one of the mechanisms designed to meet the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto agreement – an agreement the US appears intent on sidelining with its own deal on climate change with several Asian countries.

The idea behind emissions trading is that carbon dioxide – a major cause of climate change – can be traded by those producing it. Companies producing more CO2 than they are allowed must buy allowances from those using less.

Starting at the beginning of this year, the EU emissions trading scheme requires the largest individual emitters of carbon dioxide to begin trading in carbon allowances.
Tobias Webb is the editor of Ethical Corporation magazine and
(28 July 2005)

Paleoclimate or Paleopolitics?

Derrick Jackson, Boston Globe via Common Dreams

HOUSE ENERGY and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton is so obstinate about global warming that he is harassing top scientists. Those scientists, who include Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, helped the United Nations global panel on climate change and the National Science Foundation conclude that the world has heated up dramatically in the last few decades compared with the several hundred years before
(27 July 2005)

Small planet seeking saviour

Flic Everett, The Guardian

Ecologists need a figurehead to stir us from selfish slumber, to help translate nebulous dread into action
Seemingly, we’ve become so disfranchised by modern politics, so stupefied by our growing belief that we can’t change the world, that we’ve simply given up trying. Of course, we separate our glass from our paper, but that’s because the council tells us to. It’s a rare individual who bikes to work in a downpour when there’s a car idling in the drive.

There is no revolution in the air any more, just a drifting fatalism, a feeling that if it was really important, the government would do something about it.

…There is no longer any rallying point for the ecologically confused. Apart, of course, from the least likely source imaginable – the royal family.

This week, Windsor Castle announced plans to convert to hydroelectric power. The ever-thrifty Queen, says a spokesperson, is “very aware” of the need to save energy. Prince Charles has made ecology his life’s work. Yet the royals’ sound directives have failed to filter down into ordinary society. The prince may be a passionate friend of the earth, but most of us are no more than its passing acquaintances.

Without a charismatic figurehead to guide us, to demonstrate exactly what we should be doing with our water, our deodorant and our fossil fuels, we’re adrift on an oily sea of ennui and confusion. Few people, after all, are going to convert their semi to hydroelectric power when they’ve already got gas central heating – or even adopt the recent Friends of the Earth tip of “don’t flush the loo every time you use it” when the neighbours are coming round.

But it’s clear that we need help. We need someone impassioned, intelligent and experienced in encouraging us to change our apathetic ways, to rouse us from our selfish slumber. All of which prompts one simple question: What’s Bob Geldof like at turning his taps off?
(27 July 2005)

A turn for the better
Designers at work making turbines tolerable

Steve Rose, The Guardian

With Britain’s plans for new wind farms proceeding apace in an effort to
meet the target of 10% renewable-sourced energy by 2010, the debate has
reached critical levels. Anti-wind farm groups have been springing up
wherever wind farms are proposed; some opponents say they would rather
have a nuclear power station in their backyard than see Britain’s rural
landscape covered in propellers on sticks.

And as long as propellers on sticks are the only option, pro- and anti-wind farm camps are unlikely to ever agree.

The debate is clearly as much about the aesthetics of wind power as the
politics and practicalities but, at present, wind turbines barely rank
above electricity pylons in terms of aesthetic consideration. Members of
the design community are beginning to rise to the challenge, however,
either by finding better places to put wind turbines or by making them
better looking.
(18 Jul 2005)

Researcher Puts Cows in a Bubble to Measure Emissions

Kathleen Hennessey, Associated Press

DAVIS, Calif. — How much gas does a cow pass?

It’s a serious question for California’s dairy farmers, because the answer could cost them big money to comply with new state air quality regulations coming down the pike.

And it’s certainly no laughing matter for Frank Mitloehner, whose work is quantifying bovine emissions. He doesn’t appreciate that his research at the University of California has been laughed off by some people.

“We’re not talking about flatulence,” Mitloehner says.

There are more than 3 million cows in California, the vast majority living in the Central Valley, home to some of the most polluted air in the country. How much to blame the cows and how much to blame the cars for the bad air is no small concern.

Mitloehner’s research has suggested that cows are responsible for far fewer of the compounds that contribute to smog, known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs, than previously thought, perhaps as little as half the amount.
(28 July 2005)

Dirty Words
In Garbage Land, Elizabeth Royte talks trash

Jim Motavalli, Grist

…It turns out that following your garbage wherever it leads is, like compost, darkly rich material. This is probably the best book ever about trash. Usually, garbage is too much “out of sight, out of mind” to make a lively subject, and what little coverage exists is dry and technical. But Royte, author of the much-lauded The Tapir’s Morning Bath, knows how to orchestrate telling statistics and vivid description to illuminate every dirty corner of the business (though if you were expecting the gory details of mob infiltration, you might be disappointed).

Americans generate more than four pounds of trash per person, each day — more than twice the per capita rate of Oslo, Norway. We have gifted the world with Styrofoam, non-returnable soda bottles, and innumerable forms of redundant packaging, all of which now litters every corner of our planet and is found washed up on even the most remote beaches. And now here’s Royte to tell us that even the most conscientiously managed landfills leak and leach and pollute.

The author lives in New York City, which for decades sent about 13,000 tons of trash a day to the largest landfill in the world, Fresh Kills on Staten Island. Intrepid to a fault, she refuses to be kept out of Fresh Kills — closed to regular use since 2001 — and ends up paddling around it in a boat. (Garbage Land is not for the squeamish, and you may not want to read it over dinner. Royte is very good at evoking the sights, sounds, and especially smells of the landfills and waste-processing plants she visits all over the New York metropolitan area, in rural Pennsylvania, and as far afield as San Francisco.)
28 Jul 2005
(28 July 2005)
This article is a review of Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte.