Thursday, November 30, 2006

Steve Irwin in Action

Steve Irwin - Conservationist hero or self-serving egotist?

Give us your opinion in our little 'Steve Irwin' poll (sitting somewhere to the right of here!).

'Thanks mate'

A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that livestock generate more greenhouse gas emissions than transport and are also a major source of land and water degradation.

The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, 65 percent of nitrous oxide, 37 percent of methane and 64 percent of ammonia. Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20 percent of all terrestrial animal biomass.

The FAO report, Livestock’s Long Shadow –Environmental Issues and Options, says “The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level”.

This is set against a background of accelerating growth in the agricultural sector in general, and livestock in particular, driven by population pressures and rising standards of living around the world. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.

The future is vegetarian.

For the full report, click here.

Carbon Trading heats up.

Watch this.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In October the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) reported on the desperate plight of hippos in the Virunga National Park, on the border between Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In a two week period, an estimated 400 hippos had been slaughtered by the Mai Mai, a Congolese rebel militia group. The animals are killed for their meat and for the ivory from their tusks. A recent survey sponsored by ZSL reported fewer than 900 remaining hippos in the park, a huge decline from the 22,000 recorded there in 1988. If the killing continues at its present rate, it is feared that hippos will be extinct in the region by the end of this year.,,2-2410757,00.html
The United Nations Security Council established MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to enforce the 1999 Lusaka Accord. With a budget exceeding $1 bn, it is the UN's largest and most expensive peacekeeping mission.
More information about MONUC
UNESCO has alerted the Congolese authorities and MONUC on the worrying situation of the hippopotamus populations of Virunga National Park. As a result, UN peacekeepers based in North Kivu agreed to carry out a number of anti-poaching patrols to help reduce the devastating poaching epidemic that has broken out in the World Heritage properties. Without this UN help, the local game wardens are ill-equiped to fight the poachers. More than 100 guards in Virunga have been killed since 1996 while trying to prevent poaching, and one was killed as recently as this May. The guards were being paid only about 55p per month, although this has increased to about £15 per month with funds from UNESCO.

ZSL have launched an appeal to raise desperately need funds to support anti-poaching activities. Your money could buy any of the following items:
  • Food for a patrol ranger for a day: £1
  • Army issue water bottle: £3
  • Sleeping mat: £8
  • Jungle boots for ranger: £15
  • Waterproof patrol shelter: £20
  • Patrol medical kits: £25
  • Waterproof jacket: £30
  • Full ranger uniform (trousers, shirt, beret): £35
  • Patrol bicycle: £50
  • Medical training course: £250
Or 15 pence will buy you a kilo of black market hippo meat. A bargain.

To find out more about the hippos' desperate plight and to make a donation, click here.

Dear No.10

Click on image to read poll results.

Thank you to all who took part in the Climate Change poll here at the Coffee House. We now have over 100 votes in and therefore have closed the poll. The top two are no surprise;

(1st ) more renewables/electric vehicle use
(2nd) targeting of big business.

It’s the next three that are interesting;

(3rd) introduce a personal carbon credits scheme.
(4th) tax cheap airfares so people travel less.
(5th) ban city cars with engines greater than 2000cc (2lt).

This shows I believe that voters are willing to see tough policy measures put in place by government to tackle the causes of climate change. The government would be wise to take note. Of course these poll results are on their way to No.10 and City Hall. We shall see if they bother to reply! Once again, thank you to all who took part.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Serving up humble pie.

Caught an Horizon programme today (BBC) looking at how New Orleans is trying to pull itself together again after hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city. The over riding attitude that came from the folk interviewed is that man cannot take on nature and win. This is from the nation that espouses the 'American Dream', with the world's richest economy, that put the man on the moon, that won the last world war. Yet, one hurricane destroyed one major US city in 24hrs. The people of New Orleans know what that means. They have had to eat humble pie. It's not fair that they have had to do that but, nature doesn't pick and choose.

US Army engineers, scientists, town planning consultants and many citizens said time and again that there is no point in taking on nature because you cannot win. There are now plans to redraw the map of New Orleans to take account of the need for natural flood defences along the coast and rivers. This will involve the loss of 30,000 homes, affecting well over 100,000 people. The reclamation projects will take decades and billions of dollars.

There is just one problem. The funds needed for such works are slow in coming. Why? We can only guess but, 'Iraq' is a word that may be central to the answer. Billions upon billions are being swallowed up by that war. Sure, it goes into the US economy for military hardware and support services. Dick Cheney will know something about that. In the meantime 'protecting' New Orleans is just not important to the Bush administration. Bush would rather serve up humble pie to his citizens over thanks giving. That way he keeps them at his feet. And when he's ready........ he'll kick 'em in the guts again.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

In the latest issue of its quarterly magazine Your Environment, the UK Environment Agency has compiled a list of their top 100 eco-heroes. The list contains some predictable entries and some surprising ones. Charles Darwin (ranked 87), Henry David Thoreau (49), Petra Kelly (45) and Sir Peter Scott (21) will raise few eyebrows. Father Christmas (100), Joe Strummer (98) and G.K. Chesterton (52) may need a little thinking about.

Good to see there's no room for recently deceased blokeish Aussie animal-botherer Steve Irwin. Disappointing that bearded bumbling climate change sceptic David Bellamy charts at number 18 (not "with a bullet", sadly).

Here in reverse order are, or is, the Top Ten:

(10) Gro Harlem Brundtland
(9) Al Gore
(8) William Morris
(7) HRH Prince of Wales
(6) Wangari Maathai
(5) James Lovelock
(4) Sir David Attenborough
(3) Jonathon Porritt
(2) E.F. Schumacher

And the winner is ....

(1) Rachel Carson

Make of that what you will.

For the latest issue of Your Environment, with details of the full list and how it was compiled, click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Personal Carbon Allowances

Diagram: Aubrey Meyer, Director of The Global Commons Institute.

The UK is looking to reduce its overall carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. This will be difficult to achieve without a highly organised and coordinated approach to carbon reduction within all areas of society, involving all UK citizens. A system that is beginning to gain credence within political and academic circles is something called Personal Carbon Allowance (PCA). Basically all citizens will be allocated an annual carbon allowance to which all carbon based purchased will be deducted from throughout the year. Each time you pay for petrol for example, the carbon will be deducted using your PCA card. The same with your gas and electricity bills, and even no doubt a bag of coal for the BBQ.

Slowly but surely your allowance would be reduced until the desired carbon reduction is achieved overall for the UK. The PCA would operate as part of a carbon trading market so those who don't use all their allocation (e.g. no use of a car) can sell them to people who use more than their PCA limit (e.g. large house & 3 cars) . At the moment energy intensive businesses (e.g. power companies) are part of a similar carbon trading market and eventually no doubt all businesses will be a part of this, as will government and councils.

This appears at least, to be a smart idea designed to tackle the complex problem that is climate change. Obviously the UK would be looking towards other countries to take on a similar system. For more on this please go to the ECI's site.

If you think this is a good idea you can sign a petition on the website for 10 Downing Street to show your support for the scheme.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Apocalypse cancelled?

Christopher Monckton published two articles in the Sunday Telegraph on 5.11.2006 and 12.11.2006 challenging much of the science behind global warming. He claims the UN edited out the medieval warm period when temperatures were warmer than today; that they have ignored the fact that the sun has got warmer and have exaggerated the rise in temperature in the 20th century. Has the UN and the IPCC got it wrong or is this just the latest attempt to discredit good science by opponents of global warming?

Decide for yourself by reading the original articles by Christopher Monckton.

and George Monbiot's reply.

For a more scientific analysis read this article

Friday, November 17, 2006

Winds of change?

The US has had its mid-term elections. The Democrats are in but, what might this mean for the environment? A lot of negotiation on legislation goes on behind the scenes and particularly through various committees. It's largely out of sight and no doubt pretty tedious but, important none the less for what happens eventually with decisions regards environmental matters.

According to a report from we could begin to see some positive changes, albeit rather slowly. Their report comments that;

'Democrats will focus on cutting pollution blamed for global warming, accelerating toxic waste cleanups, reversing Bush administration tax and regulatory breaks for energy producers and switching the government's course back to strict protections for endangered species.

Energy companies will likely be put on the defensive. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the presumed next speaker of the House, has already promised to repeal oil industry subsidies.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the likely next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to investigate Republicans' oil subsidies included in the energy bill Bush signed into law last year. Dingell said he also was interested in revisiting Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive energy task force.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal California Democrat and one of the biggest environmental advocates on Capitol Hill, was named Tuesday to chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She replaces Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who says global warming is a hoax and wanted to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency established by President Richard Nixon.'

Do we detect winds of change for the better? More detail from .

Nuke Head Rolls At British Energy

The chief nuclear officer at British Energy (BE) has left the company. Roy Anderson, who was responsible for the company's nuclear generating operations, has stepped down with immediate effect. CEO Bill Coley will take direct control of nuclear operations.
The move is part of a major internal reorganisation as the company works to return four of its damaged reactors to service at 70% capacity by the end of January 2007. Problems at six of the group's seven ageing Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) have seriously affected the share price. Although bouncing back from below £4, at £4.60 the share price is well below its 12-month high of £7.60 in August 2006, and has fallen 2% today on the latest news.
The slump in the share price has delayed the UK government's plans to sell off part of its 65% stake in the company. There seems to be no relief in sight; BE predict there will be a “significant impact” on output and financial performance for the rest of the financial year.
How the problems will affect the UK public's attitude towards nuclear power remains to be seen. Perhaps BE's latest PR initiative will make a difference. "The Power Game" is a free game on CD-ROM. As BE's accompanying blurb puts it:

To illustrate the complex interactions between the UK's future electricity options we have developed "The Power Game". "The Power Game" lets you decide the future of the UK's electricity generation industry. As existing power stations close you must chose which new stations to build in order to meet the country's power demands. You could build a mix involving coal, gas, nuclear and a host of renewable technologies. You must choose carefully, however, as you must meet the country's commitment to reduce CO2 emissions as well as ensuring security of supply and affordable prices.

Anyone who really thinks the long-term future of the UK's, or indeed the world's, power supply is a game, can find out more here.

BE share price
BE Interim results

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Votes Are In, The Poll Is Closed

Back at the end of July, I set up a small poll on choices in food purchasing. This was never meant to be a comprehensive scientific survey, just a quick way of highlighting the factors that Joe Public has to consider when choosing from the huge range of goods offered by the typical retailer.
The editorial team has decided that the poll has been cluttering up our site for long enough, so the time has come to shut it down and review the 'results'.

29 vistors to this site have taken part in the poll. Of those, the overwhelming majority (69%) favour buying local goods, even though they're grown inorganically. Another 21% would choose organic, and would find transporting from Eastern Europe acceptable. Only 10% would choose Kenyan Fairtrade organic.

It would be completely unreasonable to claim this result as a defeat for those who advocate increased trade with developing countries, or as a victory for those who support localisation of food production. Hopefully, however, it has given some food for thought about the complexity of buying decisions and the issues involved.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

BREATHE (..............) AIR

We all want, need, to breathe fresh air. Great gulps of delicious fresh air. The oxygen races through our veins, pumped by our heart, feeding every part of our body. Sun, water, food, shelter and fresh air! Many of us take for granted that the air we breathe will stay healthy for our needs but, we shouldn't. As we pump more and more dirty carbon emissions into our fresh air supply we increasingly need our forestry cover to cleanse the air of these dirty emissions. These forests are our lungs. We really should start listening to the growing number of eminent folk who are looking to push the issue of forestry protection up the global political agenda.

Sir Nicholas Stern of The Stern Report recently said that the quickest way to tackle climate change was to halt deforestation of virgin forests. Such activity accounts for 18% of the causes of climate change. The new director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Professor Stephen Hopper suggests that there needs to be 'urgent financial incentives to stop land being cleared for farming'.

There are significant difficulties with cross border issues. The Coolearth Project, mentioned in a previous post, has probably run into difficulties before it has even got off the ground because, local governments are rightly suspicious of outside intervention. The Brazilian government is a case in point regards the Amazon. There are some brilliant ideas contained within the Coolearth mission but, its desire to utilize 21st century power (with the use of the internet) comes up against centuries old state controlled systems of governance and ownership. So what do we do? In stead of oil wars are we going to see forest wars? No, of course not! But we are beginning to see a head of steam build on the issue of protecting what many are seeing as global commons, essential to our planet's survival.

So just who is going to pull the parties together on this one? The UN? Probably not. Their grand attempt via the Kyoto Protocol didn't even seriously tackle the issues of deforestation. Initiatives such as the Coolearth project? I think they try to leapfrog government institutions at their peril. No, it has to be something in between. But what!?

Friday, November 10, 2006

The N-Club are singing their wicked little tune again. Whispering sweet nothings into the ears of government officials around the world. Promising the world, including solving the intractable N-waste problem. Here is a well written article from the Ecologist; .

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Result! Rummy the dummy is out!

Cartoon: De tekening van Matiz, 26-04-2006.

The lunatic of the wild west has finally fallen ..... taken out by his own Commander in Chief. Sometimes, just sometimes democracy actually works. I know, strange but true and it is probably why victories such as these are even sweeter. Let us raise our glasses and drink to his demise. :-))

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The 10 Most Polluted Places on the Planet

The Blacksmith Institute has published a report listing the world's ten most polluted places for 2006. And the winners are:

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine
  2. Dzerzhinsk, Russia
  3. Haina, Dominican Republic
  4. Kabwe, Zambia
  5. La Oroya, Peru
  6. Linfen, China
  7. Maiuu Suu, Kyrgyzstan
  8. Norilsk, Russia
  9. Ranipet, India
  10. Rudnaya Pristan/Dalnegorsk, Russia
I feel another t-shirt design coming on.

For information about the Blacksmith Institute and its anti-pollution work, click here.
For the full report, click here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Decisions, decisions

So you've got £76 billion to spare, and you're wondering how to spend it. The UK government wants to blow the lot on the ultimate box of boys' toys, our nuclear 'deterrent'. Just about everyone else thinks that's a crap idea, and would like to spend it on something useful.
An article in last Saturday's Guardian suggests that it might just possibly be a better idea to spend the money on fighting climate change. For the full text, click here.

£76 billion buys you new Trident missiles, new nuclear submarines and 30 years worth of running costs.
On the other hand, £76 billion spent on good stuff such as energy conservation, public transport and sustainable energy projects will reduce emissions by 60% over the next 25 years.

The UK government has stated repeatedly that climate change is the biggest single problem in the world today, yet spends less than £1 billion per year in addressing it. And emissions are still rising. The UK has also spent billions in waging a war which was 'justified' on the basis of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, yet is determined not only to keep its own WMD but to update them.

It's time for governments everywhere, not just in the UK, to wake up to the realities of the world we live in today. Dump nukes, spend a bit of the resulting peace dividend on maintaining appropriate conventional forces if you must, but for God's sake DO SOMETHING about climate change.

The evil carbon!

Photo: Penny, our resident protester. (Keith was there to).

Saturday's march/protest in London to highlight the problem of Climate Change was attended by 25,000 people. Apparently it was good humoured and attended by all ages. No 'free radicals' from the anti-globalisation movement in sight and that's the way it should be. Don't believe Blair & Brown attended although I hear a rumour they were spotted having lunch together, somewhere in Islington. This time it was Brown beaming from ear to ear. Lets just hope he means what he says and tackles the problems of climate change head on. First stop.....Ryanair & Easy-what'sit.

Welcome to the global consumer circus!

What's the UK's biggest export (drum roll) .......... fresh air! Yip, after all those goods from China have been off-loaded, the shipping companies scratch their heads looking around for something to fill them with. There's not a lot available but, there's not much point in those containers returning to China empty, as they're burning the fuel to go back east anyway.

Problem number two; what to do with the increasing amount of recycled paper and cardboard piling up in the UK? Aha! Lets fill up those empty containers. What do the Chinese do with it? They pulp it and turn it into packaging, ready for all those goods that will make their way back to us again. Hmm, seems like a neat cycle. Or is it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Animal farm.......2006.

Photo: Robert J. Galbraith .

The following quote is taken from the International Herald Tribune, Thursday, Nov 2, 2006 and is not related to the photographer of the above photo except that they are both linked to the war in Iraq;

From a doctor trained to work in battle with the US Army. He is speaking about his training before coming to Iraq:

' The idea is to work with live tissue. You get a pig and you keep it alive. Every time I did something to help him, they would wound him again. So you see what shock does and what happens when more wounds are received by a wounded creature. My pig....they shot him twice in the face with a 9 millimetre pistol, and then 6 times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire. I kept him alive for 15 hours....that was my pig.'

Bloodlust. Mission lost. Get out now.

'Icount'........a unique London approach to protest.

Photo; it reads: 'How ironic to live in fear of terrorism and die because of climate change'. Photo provided by 'Prophets of hope'. Click on photo for clearer view.

There are plenty of ironies here. The building to which they have projected their protest message on is the Battersea Power Station, once powered by coal until its closure in 1973. The building is currently playing host to the largest exhibition of contempory Chinese art. Next year the site will be developed into apartments that only the globally rich elite will be able to afford.