Monday, October 30, 2006

March For Global Climate Justice
This Saturday, 4th November a demonstration and rally are being held in London just before the next round of UN Climate Talks to be held at Nairobi on 6th-17th November. It begins at 12pm with a rally at Grosvenor Square outside the American Embassy before marching to Trafalgar Square at 2.00pm. Check the details at http://www.icount.org.uk/Default.asp
See you there?

The 'Cool Earth' Project.


Are you interested in slowing or even stopping the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest? Would you like to own a piece of the forest while helping the local people at the same time to improve their lives? Well guess what? The Cool Earth Project is looking for your support. Here's some more information, summarised from their site and written by one of the founders Frank Field MP;

'Last March I came across a Sunday Times news report on the wealthy businessman Johan Eliasch. Johan had just bought a part of the Brazilian rainforest larger than the size of London. His goal was to protect the forest from further illegal logging. Johan’s estate consists of over 400,000 acres. I liked the idea and thought I might stretch my resources to buy 40 acres, a sniff in comparison to Johan’s impact. But it occurred to me that there were out there tens of millions of ordinary people like myself who would jump at the opportunity of playing their part in literally saving the planet. I emailed Johan asking if he would be interested in setting up an international trust to protect the rainforest which acts, quite literally, as the world’s lungs. Cool Earth, Johan’s title for our great adventure, was born from that initial meeting.


Cool Earth is about harnessing mass people power, along with big business, to leapfrog the clanking machinery of government. Around such an idea as Cool Earth, and utilising the internet, the political voice of individuals can be heard immediately. Our aim, by the end of the year, is to have launched this international trust which will allow every individual, family, school, university, church, trade union, women’s institute, youth group, to own and protect part of the world’s lungs. Chips will be placed in the trees so that each of us can, by satellite, keep an eye on our part of the forest by calling it up on our laptops.


Recognition of this economic necessity is the second unique aspect of Cool Earth. Our aim is to allow those countries who own the rainforest to draw down its capital value in a positive way. Cool Earth will offer trading arrangements with countries with rainforests, paying up front a capitalised rent for areas of the forest. Protecting the forest from illegal logging will immediately start to reduce these large carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Cool Earth will then sell on to individuals, voluntary organisations and companies and others, the stewardship of plots of this land above its market value. This second payment will be used to build hospitals, schools and environmentally sound transportation networks in participation with local and state governments.

It is time for a new people-based global organisation, one which doesn’t simply talk about saving the planet, but puts it money where its mouth is. I hope you will be part of that solution. '

To register your support for this idea and to get more information please go to; http://www.coolearth.org/ .

Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change

Sir Nicholas Stern's long-awaited report, commissioned by the Treasury during the UK's G8 presidency, has been released from captivity. The full document can be downloaded from here.

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/
stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_report.cfm

Sir Nicholas, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, says it's a "false economy" to postpone climate change action since costs will only rise, with the impact of global warming costing as much as 20 per cent of the world's GDP.

Climate change risks raising average temperatures by over 5°C from pre-industrial levels, transforming the physical geography of our planet.

All countries will be affected by climate change and the response must be an international one - but it is the poorest countries who will suffer earliest and most.

Sir Nicholas concludes on an optimistic note:

"There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and act internationally. Governments, businesses and individuals all need to work together to respond to the challenge. Strong, deliberate policy choices by governments are essential to motivate change."

Key recommendations include:

  1. Expanding and linking emissions trading schemes around the world
  2. Doubling support for energy research and setting international product standards for energy-efficiency
  3. Fully-integrating climate change adaptation into development policy, so that rich countries honour their pledges to increase support.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The 'Siberian Time bomb'.



Update 26/10: Most traffic to this site right now is looking for further info on 'The Siberian Timebomb' or, the warming of the Siberian permafrost. I've put in a request to the editors of the BBC to repeat their programme on this topic and are awaiting their response. Until then further information can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725124.500 .

Update 27/10: 'The Official Tree' in Geneva, as it's known, traditionally heralds in spring when the chestnut begins to bloom. The locals there could be forgiven for thinking that winter never arrived and that they've found themselves leapfrogging into spring. Yesterday a very confused Official Tree burst into bloom thanks to a very warm Swiss autumn.


There's a lot of scary stuff around at the moment about global warming and its consequences; consequences like here in London, where this year we've had our warmest July, September and probably October on record. My olive tree likes it but, the birds and bees don't. Global warming is misleading. Why? Watch the BBC's 'The Siberian Timebomb' by David Shukman. It's an amazing piece of investigative journalism which has the BBC crew travel up to the Arctic circle in Siberia to look at the rapid melting of the permafrost. They team up with Russian and US scientists who have been studying this area for at least 20 years.


The scariest moment was when they took their readings for CO2 gases being released from the permafrost. As they stuck their instrument into the soil we saw the initial reading of 380ppm quickly rise to nearly 600ppm!!

That's global inferno not warming. Weather turmoil and their consequences are going to hit overdrive. We've already seen this with New Orleans, the Arctic ice retreat, the hole over Antarctica, to name but a few major trends.

And what did these scientists show us in their nearby lakes....methane, bubbling up like there was no tomorrow (no pun please!). Yes the global inferno gas of them all. So, will technological break throughs save the day. No they won't. The best we can do is try to forewarn ourselves, adjust as best we can and hope that it ain't our city, our families that bear the brunt of what's coming. You think I'm joking?............. the scientists certainly weren't.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Monkey puzzle!


Have a laugh! ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a15KgyXBX24 . The world of human monkeys, or is it monkey humans?

Thanks to Keith for finding this one.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chinese eco-city....London to follow.

'The Mayor of London today announced from Shanghai plans for a new zero carbon development in London. The development, which is likely to be situated in the Thames Gateway.... will be up to 1000 units in size.'

Ken Livingston's inspiration comes from seeing a presentation in Shanghai of Shanghai's Dongtan sustainable-city project. He said it 'is breathtaking in scale and ambition and if it works it will be a beacon to the world on how to achieve a low-carbon future.' More on his announcement at http://www.arup.com/newsitem.cfm?pageid=8295 .

For the new Chinese eco-city; 'Ecologically sensitive design will be a key element of the masterplan. The site is mostly agricultural land adjacent to a huge wetland of global importance. This will be a significant opportunity to apply our integrated sustainability and urban planning expertise to the benefit of the eco-city.' .....according to Arup, the project leader.

'Priority projects for phase 1 include capturing and purifying water, waste management recycling, reducing landfills that damage the environment, and creating combined heat and power systems, linked to the use of renewables, that will provide the technology to source clean and reliable energy.' More from Arup at http://www.arup.com/eastasia/project.cfm?pageid=7047 .

Are these one off show projects or 'a beacon to the world on how to achieve a low-carbon future.'?

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Fat Man gets it.



David Nicholson-Lord has penned an article for the Ecologist called the 'Numbers Game'. As he rightly points out 'trying to discuss human population growth these days is like placing your head on a stand at a coconut shy.' You're caught between a rock and a hard place...'The Right will accuse you of authoritarianism and permissiveness, the Left of being racist, fascistic or neo-Malthusian.'

It's true and utterly ridiculous that the hugely important issue of human population numbers is now skimmed over, avoided, become the elephant in the room, so to speak. All the so-called joined up thinking that is meant to go on with environmental issues is wasted if the population subject is left out of the equation. In fact it is morally irresponsible to do so and I for one cannot take a campaigning organisation seriously if they don't take the issue head on. What we get instead are arguments around the impact of Western countries' 'ecological footprints'. The 'fat man' of the west is consuming more per person than the 'skinny Indian', way more. OK, all true and a very important area to focus on but, population numbers must be part of the discussion.

By 2050 planet earth is expected to have 9 billion human beings competing for its resources, up from the current 6 billion. Some demographers theorize that this number will begin to tail off as we head on towards 2100. Apparently more folk will head into the'middle classes' and have less children, just like in the 'west'.

Tied up with the population issue are other weighty topics like economic wealth , imigration and nationalism. Governments believe their population must continue to grow to help feed such dynamics as pensions growth. Some accept some sort of immigration process to help feed such needs and other countries like Japan would prefer their own women would have more children.

The point is is that the issue of 'population growth' is so explosive, even emotional, that many organisations avoid it altogether for fear of alienating their membership and therefore their funding base. This is wrong, it is morally corrupt and plainly irresponsible. For now it seems.....The Fat Man gets it.

To see an introduction to the article , the Numbers Game from the latest issue of The Ecologist go to; The Numbers Game.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Jericho Deconstructed
The new drama series from CBS is now two episodes old. It's moderately exciting, nicely photographed, well acted (within the limitations of the script) and I'll keep watching. But this isn't a TV review column, I'm much more interested in what Jericho tells us about contemporary America. What zeitgeist is the show capturing?
It's easy to see Jericho as an allegory of America's geopolitical imagination; for the town, read the USA; for the rest of the world, read, well, the rest of the world. Hemmed in on all sides by violence and uncertainty, the mayor's call for unity might have been penned by a White House scriptwriter; "We can fight all enemies", "Are we going to use our imaginations to cause problems or to solve them?" and best of all "People, don't you break my heart again". All good stuff. Motherhood, apple pie and Geiger counters. Presumably followed by starvation, contaminated water and a lingering death. Or, more likely, an uplifting happy ending laced with tragedy, soundtracked by Hank Williams or, God forbid, Coldplay.
There's another sub-text that suggests itself. Ignore the specifics of nuclear terrorism. The new world of Jericho is one of resource shortages, infrastructure breakdowns and social collapse. Danger lurks just beyond the "Welcome to Jericho" sign at the edge of town. Looking forward into the near future, these are all characteristics of the world of Peak Oil. In his book 'The Long Emergency', James Howard Kunstler depicts the unsustainability of the American suburban settlement model without readily available cheap energy. Jericho, with a population of 5000 people, potentially self-sufficient for food and social infrastructure, is a model for the type of settlement that Kunstler and many others regard as best placed to survive the inevitable upheavals of the new century.
The End Of Suburbia