Thursday, December 29, 2011

From rice to shrimps and ginger - adapting to saltwater intrusion

HANOI, 28 December 2011 (IRIN) - Rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion in Vietnam’s fertile Mekong Delta are forcing farmers and development agencies to rethink how livelihoods can be maintained, using methods such as genetic modification, new crop varieties and simple farming fixes

With support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in March 2011 launched a four-year project to introduce the flood-tolerant SUB1 gene and Saltol, a salt-tolerant gene, to Vietnamese rice varieties. 

Transferring the genetic information - a process known as introgression - is expected to take three years. Because the genes are being introduced to rice currently grown in Vietnam, farmers will not need to learn new farming practices. Transferring the genetic information - a process known as introgression - is expected to take three years. Because the genes are being introduced to rice currently grown in Vietnam, farmers will not need to learn new farming practices.

“We are on track. It’s three years, and in the fourth year, we’ll try to disseminate this new variety,” said Reiner Wassmann, a climate change specialist with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). 

The Mekong Delta is the country’s rice basket, and Vietnam is the world’s second largest rice exporter. With soil and crops already being damaged by saltwater intrusion, farmers and development agencies are troubleshooting ways to cope.  Some rice paddies in Thanh Hoa Province have been converted to shrimp ponds, according to Nguyen Viet Nghi, CARE’s project manager of a community-based mangrove reforestation programme in Thanh Hoa. 

“It was done by farmers themselves, and CARE is planning to support them combine mangroves and shrimp development in their ponds,” said Nghi. More

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Universal Library

MELBOURNE – Scholars have long dreamed of a universal library containing everything that has ever been written. Then, in 2004, Google announced that it would begin digitally scanning all the books held by five major research libraries. Suddenly, the library of utopia seemed within reach.

Indeed, a digital universal library would be even better than any earlier thinker could have imagined, because every work would be available to everyone, everywhere, at all times. And the library could include not only books and articles, but also paintings, music, films, and every other form of creative expression that can be captured in digital form. 
But Google’s plan had a catch. Most of the works held by those research libraries are still in copyright. Google said that it would scan the entire book, irrespective of its copyright status, but that users searching for something in copyrighted books would be shown only a snippet. This, it argued, was “fair use” – and thus permitted under copyright laws in the same way that one may quote a sentence or two from a book for the purpose of a review or discussion.

Publishers and authors disagreed, and some sued Google for breach of copyright, eventually agreeing to settle their claim in exchange for a share of Google’s revenue. Last month, in a Manhattan court, Judge Denny Chin rejected that proposed settlement, in part because it would have given Google a de factomonopoly over the digital versions of so-called “orphan” books – that is, books that are still in copyright, but no longer in print, and whose copyright ownership is difficult to determine. More



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Compassion Is Our New Currency

Notes on 2011’s Preoccupied Hearts and Minds 

Usually at year’s end, we’re supposed to look back at events just passed -- and forward, in prediction mode, to the year to come. But just look around you! This moment is so extraordinary that it has hardly registered. People in thousands of communities across the United States and elsewhere are living in public, experimenting with direct democracy, calling things by their true names, and obliging the media and politicians to do the same.

The breadth of this movement is one thing, its depth another. It has rejected not just the particulars of our economic system, but the whole set of moral and emotional assumptions on which it’s based. Take the pair shown in a photograph from Occupy Austin in Texas.  The amiable-looking elderlywoman is holding a sign whose computer-printed words say, “Money has stolen our vote.” The older man next to her with the baseball cap is holding a sign handwritten on cardboard that states, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”

The photo of the two of them offers just a peek into a single moment in the remarkable period we’re living through and the astonishing movement that’s drawn in… well, if not 99% of us, then a striking enough percentage: everyone from teen pop superstar Miley Cyrus with her Occupy-homage video to Alaska Yup’ik elder Esther Green ice-fishing and holding a sign that says “Yirqa Kuik” in big letters, with the translation -- “occupy the river” -- in little ones below.

The woman with the stolen-votes sign is referring to them. Her companion is talking about us, all of us, and our fundamental principles. His sign comes straight out of Genesis, a denial of what that competitive entrepreneur Cain said to God after foreclosing on his brother Abel’s life. He was not, he claimed, his brother’s keeper; we are not, he insisted, beholden to each other, but separate, isolated, each of us for ourselves.

Think of Cain as the first Social Darwinist and this Occupier in Austin as his opposite, claiming, no, our operating system should be love; we are all connected; we must take care of each other. And this movement, he’s saying, is about what the Argentinian uprising that began a decade ago, on December 19, 2001, called politica afectiva, the politics of affection.

If it’s a movement about love, it’s also about the money they so unjustly took, and continue to take, from us -- and about the fact that, right now, money and love are at war with each other. After all, in the American heartland, people are beginning to be imprisoned for debt, while the Occupy movement is arguing for debt forgiveness, renegotiation, and debt jubilees. More


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Durban and everything that matters

A HUNDRED years from now, looking back, the only question that will appear important about the historical moment in which we now live is the question of whether or not we did anything to arrest climate change. 

Everything else—the financial crisis, the life or death of the euro, authoritarianism or democracy in China and Russia, the Great Stagnation or the innovation renaissance, democratisation and/or political Islam in the Arab world, Newt or Mitt or another four years of Barack—all this will fade into insignificance beside the question of whether we managed to do anything about human industrial civilisation changing the climate of Planet Earth. It's extremely hard to focus on this, because environmentalism goes in and out of political fashion depending on the economy, war, and so forth. But from the perspective of our great-grandchildren, the only thing that's going to seem important is whether we burned all the fossil fuel on the planet and sent global temperatures up by at least 4 degrees Celsius in the next century, or whether we took collective action, shifted our energy sources, and held the global temperature rise to 2 degrees or less.

Actually, I take that back: there are two possibilities. The first is that global warming will seem to have been the overwhelmingly important question, a hundred years on. The other possibility is more depressing, but I'll get to that later.

So, the global climate change conference in Durban surprised most everyone and managed to pull out a deal at the last minute. I found this surprising because unlike other organised bodies that tend to swirl around in terrifyingly chaotic bickering before pulling out a deal at the last second, such as the United States Congress or the European Union, the global climate change conference doesn't have anything immediately at stake for any of the participants. No governments would have fallen if the negotiators in Durban had failed to reach an agreement (more's the pity). And yet they reached one. This seems to indicate that something in the politics of climate change may have shifted a bit. More

Friday, December 9, 2011

Robert Fisk: Bankers are the dictators of the West

Robert Fisk I salute you, you are the only one with large enough cajones to tell the truth.


Writing from the very region that produces more clichés per square foot than any other "story" – the Middle East – I should perhaps pause before I say I have never read so much garbage, so much utter drivel, as I have about the world financial crisis.

But I will not hold my fire. It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard "experts" who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster.

Let's kick off with the "Arab Spring" – in itself a grotesque verbal distortion of the great Arab/Muslim awakening which is shaking the Middle East – and the trashy parallels with the social protests in Western capitals. We've been deluged with reports of how the poor or the disadvantaged in the West have "taken a leaf" out of the "Arab spring" book, how demonstrators in America, Canada, Britain, Spain and Greece have been "inspired" by the huge demonstrations that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and – up to a point – Libya. But this is nonsense.

The real comparison, needless to say, has been dodged by Western reporters, so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore protests against "democratic" Western governments, so desperate to disparage these demonstrations, to suggest that they are merely picking up on the latest fad in the Arab world. The truth is somewhat different. What drove the Arabs in their tens of thousands and then their millions on to the streets of Middle East capitals was a demand for dignity and a refusal to accept that the local family-ruled dictators actually owned their countries. The Mubaraks and the Ben Alis and the Gaddafis and the kings and emirs of the Gulf (and Jordan) and the Assads all believed that they had property rights to their entire nations. Egypt belonged to Mubarak Inc, Tunisia to Ben Ali Inc (and the Traboulsi family), Libya to Gaddafi Inc. And so on. The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to prove that their countries belonged to their own people.

And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against "governments". What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people's power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of "experts" from America's top universities and "think tanks", who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters. More

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christine Lagarde: The Arab Spring, One Year On

Almost one year ago, countries in the Middle East region embarked upon a historical transformation. Today, the state of play remains uncertain, with the setbacks and intensity of disruptions larger than expected. 

Here, I am thinking especially of the deplorable loss of life in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen. And we are now moving into the most difficult, risky, and uncertain period of all.

As I mentioned in a speech today hosted by the Safadi Foundation at theWilson Center in Washington D.C., we are in the middle of a delicate transition between “rejecting the past” and “defining the future.” It is a period when hard choices must be made, when post-revolutionary euphoria must give some way to practical concerns. It also does not help that this is happening at a time of great turmoil in the global economy. But I remain hopeful. The final destination is clear: the Arab Spring is still poised to unleash the potential of the Arab people.

It will be important to manage this difficult transition in an orderly way. More


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is modern capitalism sustainable?

Cambridge, United Kingdom - I am often asked if the recent global financial crisis marks the beginning of the end of modern capitalism. It is a curious question, because it seems to presume that there is a viable replacement waiting in the wings. The truth of the matter is that, for now at least, the only serious alternatives to today's dominant Anglo-American paradigm are other forms of capitalism.

Continental European capitalism, which combines generous health and social benefits with reasonable working hours, long vacation periods, early retirement and relatively equal income distributions, would seem to have everything to recommend it - except sustainability. China's Darwinian capitalism, with its fierce 
competition among export firms, a weak social safety net, and widespread government intervention, is widely touted as the inevitable heir to Western capitalism, if only because of China's huge size and consistent outsize growth rate. Yet China's economic system is continually evolving.

Indeed, it is far from clear how far China's political, economic and financial structures will continue to transform themselves, and whether China will eventually morph into capitalism's new exemplar. In any case, China is still encumbered by the usual social, economic and financial vulnerabilities of a rapidly growing lower-income country.

Perhaps the real point is that, in the broad sweep of history, all current forms of capitalism are ultimately transitional. Modern-day capitalism has had an extraordinary run since the start of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, lifting billions of ordinary people out of abject poverty. Marxism and heavy-handed socialism have disastrous records by comparison. But, as industrialisation and technological progress spread to Asia (and now to Africa), someday the struggle for subsistence will no longer be a primary imperative, and contemporary capitalism's numerous flaws may loom larger.

First, even the leading capitalist economies have failed to price public goods such as clean air and water effectively. The failure of efforts to conclude a new global climate-change agreement is symptomatic of the paralysis. More

Obama attacks Republican economic theory: ‘It’s never worked’


President Obama, in one of his most expansive speeches to date, declared on Tuesday that supply-side economics is a failure and called “gaping inequality” across the country a moral shortcoming that is distorting American democracy.
Obama’s speech in Kansas was not just another attack on Congress, or a plea to pass his jobs bill. He did not roll out a new, snappy slogan – such as telling the audience that “we can’t wait” to enact new laws.
Instead, Obama delivered a searing indictment of Republican economic theory, setting the stage for the coming presidential campaign. Summoning the image of a populist Theodore Roosevelt — in the same town (Osawatomie) where Roosevelt delivered a famous speech on economic fairness in 1910 — Obama deployed the language of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness, in a lengthy address that aides said he largely wrote himself.
The theory of “trickle down economics,” which holds that greater wealth at the top generates jobs and income for the masses below, drew some of Obama’s harshest criticism.
“It’s a simple theory — one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work,” Obama said of supply-side economics, drawing extended applause. “It’s never worked.” More

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inuit hunter takes climate-change message to Durban conference

It took 30 hours of flying, but Inuit hunter Jordan Konek has arrived in the land of surfers and palm trees with a message for the world’s politicians: Climate change is real, and it could devastate Canada’s Arctic people.

At his home in Arviat on the western shores of Hudson Bay, the snow is arriving later and melting sooner. Hunters are falling through the ice or becoming trapped in slush. Polar bears are so desperate for food that they are raiding the town’s garbage dumps. “The Inuit see this and the world should know this,” Mr. Konek says. “It’s happening right before our eyes. If we’re going to be ignored, it’s like putting a shotgun in our mouth and pulling the trigger.”

Mr. Konek, 23, and his cousin, 21-year-old Curtis Konek, are hoping their message will get through to the negotiators from 190 countries who are struggling to reach agreement on how to combat global warming. But the Durban climate conference has failed to make much progress in its first week, and analysts are warning of a potential breakdown in its final week.

Unlike previous climate summits, few prominent leaders will attend the final days of negotiations, knowing there will be little glory to share. Only 12 heads of state, mostly from Africa and small Pacific islands, are scheduled to arrive in Durban this week. Most of the politicians here will be lower-ranking ministers, including Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, who was due to arrive late Sunday night. More

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Global rebellion: The coming chaos?

Santa Barbara, CA - As the crisis of global capitalism spirals out of control, the powers that be in the global system appear to be adrift and unable to proposal viable solutions. From the slaughter of dozens of young protesters by the army in Egypt to the brutal repression of the Occupy movement in the United States, and the water cannons brandished by the militarised police in Chile against students and workers, states and ruling classes are unable are to hold back the tide of worldwide popular rebellion and must resort to ever more generalised repression.

Simply put, the immense structural inequalities of the global political economy can no longer be contained through consensual mechanisms of social control. The ruling classes have lost legitimacy; we are witnessing a breakdown of ruling-class hegemony on a world scale.

To understand what is happening in this second decade of the new century we need to see the big picture in historic and structural context. Global elites had hoped and expected that the "Great Depression" that began with the mortgage crisis and the collapse of the global financial system in 2008 would be a cyclical downturn that could be resolved through state-sponsored bailouts and stimulus packages. But it has become clear that this is a structural crisis. Cyclical crises are on-going episodes in the capitalist system, occurring and about once a decade and usually last 18 months to two years. There were world recessions in the early 1980s, the early 1990s, and the early 21st century.

Structural crises are deeper; their resolution requires a fundamental restructuring of the system. Earlier world structural crises of the 1890s, the 1930s and the 1970s were resolved through a reorganisation of the system that produced new models of capitalism. "Resolved" does not mean that the problems faced by a majority of humanity under capitalism were resolved but that the reorganisation of the capitalist system in each case overcame the constraints to a resumption of capital accumulation on a world scale. The crisis of the 1890s was resolved in the cores of world capitalism through the export of capital and a new round of imperialist expansion. The Great Depression of the 1930s was resolved through the turn to variants of social democracy in both the North and the South - welfare, populist, or developmentalist capitalism that involved redistribution, the creation of public sectors, and state regulation of the market. More


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Democracy put to the test

Just as the mechanisms that made democracy function in city states were not adequate for governing nation states, representative democracies today are showing themselves incapable of managing, effectively and democratically, the system that is emerging in Europe, argues Jose Ignacio Torreblanca.
In what looks like a new phase of the crisis, the tensions generated by the euro crisis are starting to destabilise European democracies. Almost two years of doubts and divisions, of a lack of the courage and political vision needed to adopt a European solution, are fuelling popular disaffection – as much towards national democracies as towards the European project itself. As we have seen in Italy and in Greece, the deepening of the crisis has political leaders up against the wall. On the one hand, they fear that if they adopt new and more severe austerity measures without compensating stimulus plans that would guarantee a level of economic growth, the people will end up turning against them and – whether from the streets, the parliaments or the ballot boxes – finishing them off. But at the same time, they know perfectly well that if they resist those same austerity measures, the markets will penalise them by raising their risk premiums and forcing external intervention – which would precipitate their downfall, or lead their European colleagues to withdraw the financial support they have been providing (which would precipitate their downfall too).  

In these circumstances, the decline of traditional party politics and the substitution of political leaders with technocrats adds an extremely worrying element to this from the point of view of democracy. The new Greek prime minister, as well as the names that have been floated for the future prime minister of Italy, Giuliano Amato or Mario Monti, economists with distinguished careers in central banks or European institutions, are quintessential technocrats. The refusal of politicians to sacrifice control of either their past or future decisions to the people by way of early elections or referendums, highlights the fact that they are bowing down before the markets; that they don’t trust their own ability to resolve the crisis and, above all, that they suspect their legitimacy has worn out. And so instead of assuming their responsibilities, they step to one side and call in specialists who – supposedly – lack ideological bias and who – also supposedly – know the answers that will bring the country up out of the crisis.  More

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is democracy failing?

The world's statesmen no longer shape events but merely respond to them, in thrall to market force.

Are the following intimations of a global crisis in the legitimacy of western democracy? Ireland's confidential budget plan, unseen by the Irish electorate, is leaked by European finance officials to the German parliament where the proposals are examined by the German finance committee.

In Italy, Mario Monti, the country's unelected new prime minister and a former international adviser to Goldman Sachs, stands in the Giustiniani Palace as head of a cabinet of similarly unelected technocrats. Imposed in place of the corrupt, useless and seedy Silvio Berlusconi to satisfy the "markets", Monti promises what we are told the markets want, and that is "sacrifices".

In Greece, both left and right of the country unite against their own technocrat, the former head of Greece's Central Bank, Lucas Papademos, brought in, too, at the behest of the markets. And in Berlin on Friday, David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, which could not manage to secure a mandate to govern the UK on its own, sits down with a German chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose countrymen do not trust her to handle the eurozone crisis.

If the picture of our leaders in the midst of a worldwide crisis is not a terribly inspiring one – politicians with clay feet or in hock to business interest, unelected bureaucrats and politicians lacking support – it is because western democracy itself, by and large, is not looking very pretty either. All of which leads to a question, one that has more commonly been posed by those on the farther reaches of the left, but is now infiltrating the mainstream debate: has the intimate partnership between democracy and neoliberalism, the prominent dogma of our age and one which has shaped most of our politicians, has been toxic to democracy itself? More


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Iraq liars target Iran

The same people who lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to start a war are pushing for war on Iran.
Over the past several weeks, neoconservative hawks were gleefully predicting that the International Atomic Energy Agency's new report on Iran's nuclear program would provide the spark needed to ignite and justify a US or Israeli attack.

Sadly for them, the report did no such thing and the issue has been overshadowed by other stories. In fact, there was so little new in the IAEA report that Iran experts who had been scheduled to do media spots discussing the issue were told not to bother coming in. The Penn State cover-up, the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal, and now the Rick Perry brain freeze would continue to dominate the news cycle.

This does not mean that the Iran nuclear threat has passed, only that the IAEA did not demonstrate that it has intensified. Yes, Iran is taking steps that indicate clear interest in developing nuclear weapons. But neither the IAEA nor anyone else knows if the Iranian regime intends to develop weapons, how long it will take to develop them or what its nuclear posture would be if it had the bomb. For 30 years, various experts have predicted that Iran would have nuclear weapons in a year, five years, or whenever - with the date always receding into the horizon.

The IAEA report doesn't offer much clarification. As a senior US government official said, in a conference call with reporters: "The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program about how advanced the programs really are."

Of course, the usual suspects claim to know, just as they claimed to know that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that would someday produce Condoleezza Rice's infamous "mushroom cloud" over Washington. And those same suspects agree about what needs to be done to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. As with Iraq, the answer is preventative war. Sooner rather than later. More

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy the Agenda

The Occupy protests might have died in infancy if a senior police official had not pepper-sprayed young women on video. Harsh police measures in other cities, including a clash in Oakland that put a veteran in intensive care and the pepper-spraying of an 84-year-old woman in Seattle, built popular support.

Just in the last few days, Bloomberg — who in other respects has been an excellent mayor — rescued the movement from one of its biggest conundrums. It was stuck in a squalid encampment in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park: antagonizing local residents, scaring off would-be supporters, and facing months of debilitating snow and rain. Then the mayor helped save the demonstrators by clearing them out, thus solving their real estate problem and re-establishing their narrative of billionaires bullying the disenfranchised. Thanks to the mayor, the protests grew bigger than ever.

I watched in downtown Manhattan last week as the police moved in to drag off protesters — and several credentialed journalists — and the action seemed wildly over the top. Sure, the mayor had legitimate concerns about sanitation and safety, but have you looked around New York City? Many locations aren’t so clean and safe, but there usually aren’t hundreds of officers in riot gear showing up in the middle of the night to address the problem. More

Gaia's Garden - Intro to Permaculture

What is 'Permaculture' with Toby Hemenway from Roots To Fruits on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The lies of free market democracy

The political paradigm is changing. Politicians are proving once again to be slow learners, they are resisting change rather than embracing it and they will be swept away by the winds of change. Editor

On May 15, 2011, young people occupied the squares of the cities in Spain. They called themselves Los Indignados - "the indignant". I met them in Madrid where I was attending the meeting of the scientific committee that advises the Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Their declaration states: "Who are we? We are the people; we have come here freely as volunteers. Why are we here? We are here because we want a new society that gives more priority to life than to economic interest."

In the US, the ongoing "Occupy movement" commonly cries: "We are the 99 per cent". This people's protest, inspired by the Arab Spring, is directed against the unequal distribution of wealth; the "99 per cent" here refers to "the difference in wealth between the top one per cent and all the remaining citizens".

The fact that they were supported by actions around the world when they were to be evicted from Wall Street on October 14 shows that, everywhere, people are fed up with the current system. They are fed up with the power of corporations. They are fed up with the destruction of democracy and peoples' rights. They refuse to give their consent to the bailouts of banks by squeezing people of their lives and livelihoods. The contest, as "the 99 per cent" describe it, is between life and economic interests, between people and corporations, between democracy and economic dictatorship.

The organising style of the people's movements worldwide is based on the deepest and the most direct democracy. This is self-organisation. This is how life and democracy work. This is what Mahatma Gandhi called swaraj.

Those from the dominant system, used to hierarchy and domination do not understand the horizontal organising and call these movements "leaderless". More

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Diversity of life and cultures under threat - Seeds

Seeds are a gift of nature, of past generations and diverse cultures. As such it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect them and to pass them on to future generations. Seeds are the first link in the food chain, and the embodiment of biological and cultural diversity, and the repository of life’s future evolution.

Since the onset of the Neolithic Revolution some 10.000 years ago, farmers and communities have worked to improve yield, taste, nutritional and other qualities of seeds. They have expanded and passed on knowledge about health impacts and healing properties of plants as well as about the peculiar growing habits of plants and interaction with other plants and animals, soil and water. Rare initial events of hybridisation have boosted larger scale cultivation
of certain crops in their Centres of Origin (such as wheat in Mesopotamia, rice in Indochina and India, maize and potato in Central America), which have since spread around the globe.

Manifesto on the Future of Seeds

The free exchange of seed among farmers has been the basis to maintaining biodiversity as well as food security.
This exchange is based on cooperation and reciprocity, where farmers generally exchange equal quantities of seed. This freedom goes beyond the mere exchange of seed: it also involves the sharing and exchange of ideas and knowledge, of culture and heritage. More

Friday, November 11, 2011

Time to occupy the Democratic Party

The Occupy Wall Street movement is less than two months old, and its future trajectory is impossible to predict. But with the expansive strategy of last week's general strike in Oakland, which brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, it's beginning to look increasingly possible that it could be the emergence of a long-time force in US politics

The initial numbers are quite promising. While Congress' approval rating has registered as low as nine per cent in recent polls, Occupy Wall Street enjoyed landslide majority support of 67 per cent of New York City residents in a mid-October poll. Just before that, a Time Poll found that 54 per cent of Americans had a favourable view of OWS, vs 23 per cent unfavourable. Even more telling, Time went on to ask about "some of the issues the protestors have raised", and elicited even higher levels of agreement with the following statement: "Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington": 86/11 per cent agree/disagree. "The gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large": 79/7. "Executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted": 71/23. "The rich should pay more taxes": 68/28.

Meanwhile, also echoing the Occupy Wall Street message, a nearly simultaneous Washington Post/Bloomberg News Poll found the public overwhelmingly opposed to the Washington bipartisan consensus on slashing the welfare state. Respondents opposed "Reducing Medicare benefits" by 82/14 (77/18 among Republicans) and opposed "Reducing Social Security benefits" by 83/13 (79/16 among Republicans). Other polls have yielded similar results. When Occupy Wall Street says "we are the 99 per cent", the polling says they are right.

Yet, it's a long way from being a fledgling movement in sync with the public to building long-term influence and staying power. In the short run, the Occupy movement faces significant obstacles, not the least of which is big city Democratic mayors whose decisions have resulted in mass arrests, all too often involving police violence. Oakland is the obvious high-profile example, with an out-of-control police department that's been under federal court supervision since 2003, with little to show for it. The 2003 consent decree was not demonstration-specific, but covered a widespread pattern of police misconduct in the use of force. More

The Occupy Wall Street and other similar movements are asking for a sustainable society. They may not be stating this as one of their demands, however, if one analyses the motivations of these movements sustainability is inherent in their demands. The Occupy Wall Street movement will not go away, it may die down for some time but it will return. Cities, States and Governments must realize this point and start engaging with these movements. One only has to look at the Middle East to see change in action, the people have realized that the ultimate power rests with them. Therefore, "Embrace Change as an Opportunity or Change Will make you Irrelevant". Editor

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There's Nothing Idealistic About the One-State Solution

This is at least the third time in the past four years that philosophy professor Michael Neumann has used these pages to lambast the supporters of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. On each occasion he has offered a little more insight into why he so vehemently objects to what he terms the “delusions” of those who oppose – or, at least, gave up on – the two-state solution.

In his most recent essay, Neumann suggests that his previous reluctance to be more forthright was motivated by “politeness”. Well, I for one wish the professor had been franker from the outset. It might have saved us a lot of time and effort.

Even though I have identified myself as a supporter of the one-state solution, I find much to agree with in what Neumann writes on this occasion. Like him, I do not believe that a particular solution, or resolution, will occur simply because the Palestinians or their wellwishers make a good moral case for it. Success for the Palestinians will come when a wide array of regional developments force Israel to conclude that its current behaviour is untenable.

There are plenty of signs that just such a power shift is starting to take place in the Middle East: Iran’s possible development of a nuclear warhead; an awakening of democratic forces in Egypt and elsewhere; the fraying of the long and vital military alliance between Israel and Turkey; the exasperation of Saudi Arabia at Israel’s intransigence; the growing military sophistication of Hizbullah; and the complete discrediting of the US role in the region.

Neumann is wrong to assume that one has to be an idealist – believing in the political equivalent of fairies – to conclude that a one-state solution is on the cards. It does not have to be simply a case of wishful thinking. Rather, I will argue, it is likely to prove a realistic description of the turn of events over the next decade or more.

While Neumann and I agree on the causes of an Israeli change of direction, his and my analyses diverge sharply on what will follow from Israel’s realisation that its occupation is too costly to maintain.

Neumann proposes that, once cornered by regional forces it can no longer intimidate or bully, Israel will have to concede what he terms the “real” two-state solution. More

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Demographics Loom Large in State Failure

After a half-century of forming new states from former colonies and from the breakup of the Soviet Union, the international community is today faced with the opposite situation: the disintegration of states. Failing states are now a prominent feature of the international political landscape.

The most systematic ongoing effort to analyze countries’ vulnerability to failure is one undertaken by the Fund for Peace and published in each July/August issue of Foreign Policy. The research team analyzes 177 countries and ranks them according to “their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration,” based on 12 social, economic, and political indicators. Each indicator is scored from 0 to 10. A combined score of 120 would mean that a society is failing totally by every measure. Somalia, the country first on the list, scores 113.4. A score of 0 is the strongest score possible. Finland, number 177 on the list, is the strongest state with a score of 19.7.

Comparing the weakest states and strongest states reveals that rankings on the Failed States Index are closely linked with demographic indicators.

Women tend to have the most children where they lack access to family planning and where girls are not enrolled in school, as is the case in many of the top failing states. In Yemen, which has a fertility rate over 5 children per woman, 51 percent of married women have an unmet need for family planning—the highest rate in the world. One third of Yemen’s girls are not enrolled in primary school, among the lowest enrollment rates in the world. In contrast, the top strong states have low fertility rates, many falling below 2 children per woman. More

Sunday, November 6, 2011

90 Indigenous Organizations Say YES To Action Plan For Survival And Protection Of Life

In recent weeks, Indigenous representatives from 90 organizations in the Amazon region unanimously approved a new action plan that calls for an Amazon-wide "consolidation" for the survival of ancestral knowledge and the protection of forests, water, biodiversity and the climate.
The action plan, titled, "The Manaus Mandate: Indigenous Action for Life" is the end result of the First Regional Amazonian Summit, which took place in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, from August 15-18, 201l.
The four-day Summit, organized by The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon Basin (COICA), brought together representatives of Indigenous Peoples from all nine Amazonian countries, as well as government representatives, international organizations and members of civil society in the Amazon.

A wide range of issues were explored at the Summit including: the COP 17 meeting, to be held in December 2011 in Durban, South Africa and the Rio Conference 20 +, to be held in June 2012; The adequacy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the implementation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169; and the joint prioritization of the protection of biodiversity, genetic resources and ancestral knowledge. More

Government forces family living off grid growing own food on own land to return to societys rat race or face penalty

A family living an “off-grid” lifestyle say they face prison unless they move from their own land in Willand (Britain) and return to an existence in the benefits trap. Stig and Dinah Mason bought Muxbeare Orchard after a sudden windfall allowed them to quit their impoverished lives on a Hertfordshire council estate two years ago.

The Masons have transformed what they described as a derelict four-acre plot into a haven of self-sufficiency boasting a 400 sq m allotment, a polytunnel and greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables, chickens for egg production and an orchard they have regenerated by planting around 14 new apple trees of various species. The couple, who have two boys, aged eight and nine, say because they moved onto the site in order to work the land, Mid Devon District Council is turfing them off as officers do not consider them to be conserving an agricultural area.
They faced magistrates on March 31 when they were served with an injunction to leave within 28 days from June 1.
Dinah, 35, who spent a year with her husband clearing four-foot high nettles and thistles which engulfed the four-acre site, said: “How anybody can say the orchard was being conserved before is beyond my comprehension.”
Dinah works while Stig, 34, as well as making sure the children get to school on time, tends to the land on a daily basis where peas, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, raspberries and various produce have been growing since 2009. More

It seems to me that this kind of behavior by the council needs to be controlled. I envision a type of "Hippocratic Oath" covering the behavior of many entities (governments, corporations, financial institutions) that forces them for doing harm. Editor

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hu addresses commodity prices, energy, food security in G-20 summit speech

CANNES, France, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday delivered a speech at the G-20 summit on key issues such as the fluctuation of staple commodity prices, energy and food security and employment.

On the issue of the fluctuation of staple commodity prices, Hu noted that the G-20 needs to focus on the following three aspects:

First, seek a proper balance between the stabilization of staple commodity prices and the promotion of world economic growth.

The G-20 needs to adopt measures to expand productive capacity, stabilize supply and demand, strengthen supervision,increase the transparency of market transactions and curb speculation so as to maintain the stability of staple commodity prices at a reasonable level.

Second, achieve an equitable balance between the stability of staple commodity prices and the ensuring of global energy and food security.

The G-20 should take concerted actions in such areas as the real economy, and trade and finance, and establish an advanced promotion system for the research and development of energy and agricultural technologies, he said.

Hu said the G-20 should also build a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory international trading system so as to promote the sound, stable and orderly development of the international staple commodity market.

Third, strike a right balance between the stabilization of staple commodity prices and the promotion of international development and cooperation. The G-20 nations should promote technology transfers and financial support for the developing economies, and help them to ensure energy security and food security. More

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Europe’s overseas territories need more protection

Europe’s overseas territories need more protection
02 November 2011 |  Giant “Mountain Chicken” frogs, the 25 million bird island, and a rainforest the size of Portugal are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change and in need of greater protection, according to a new report published by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The study, Future Directions for Biodiversity Action in Europe overseas: Outcomes of the Review of the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, states that Europe’s commitment to the global biodiversity goals set by the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) will benefit from action in its overseas territories. In this respect, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its 20 Aichi Targets provide a strong framework of work not only at the global level, but also at the regional and national level.

The report calls for increased action to protect the natural heritage of the more than 30 EU territories and regions found outside the European continent. These territories, from the poles to the tropics, host the most of Europe’s biodiversity, which is globally significant and essential for the livelihoods of local people. The connection between local communities, biodiversity and the benefits provided by it, as well as the impact that climate change has must be recognized to help these regions flourish.

“It’s imperative that funding be realigned so that resources are proportionate to the significance of Europe’s overseas territories biodiversity,” says Dominique Benzaken, IUCN Europe Overseas Programme Coordinator and co-author of the publication. “There also needs to be increased local awareness of global obligations and effective participation in global, European, national and regional biodiversity policies and programmes.” More

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guyana's coastal population faces threat of sea level rise

MAHAICONY, Guyana (AlertNet) – Rising sea levels caused by climate change are threatening the coast of Guyana, where most of the country’s population and almost all of its economic activity are located.

Despite the presence of defensive walls, Guyana ’s coast is highly vulnerable to flooding linked to sea level rise. With the coastal population continually expanding, thousands of new homes are built on low-lying land every year.

“Here in Guyana the difficulty of planning is compounded because we are below sea level on the coast,” said Guyana ’s Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali.

“The threat of rising seas poses a difficulty, especially since a major segment of the population lives in (coastal) urban areas,” he said.

Ninety percent of this South American nation’s population of 755,000 now live within 100 km (60 miles) of the coast. More than 400,000 live in what researchers refer to as the lower elevation coastal zone, including about 240,000 residents of the capital, Georgetown .

From 2006 to 2010, over 18,000 new plots of land were allocated for housing construction in Guyana, mainly on the coast, according to the government.

HOUSES ON PILINGS?

The government and other experts are now exploring ways in which Guyanese will have to adapt to climate change if they are to continue living in coastal areas. Those may include building new homes on raised pilings, at least three feet above the ground, and improving drainage systems. More

Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Sense of 7 Billion People

On the last day of October 2011, the global population of an upstart branch of the primate order will reach 7 billion.
What does it mean?

In itself, not much: Seven billion is just a one-digit flicker from 6,999,999. But the number carries a deep existential weight, symbolizing themes central to humanity’s relationship with the rest of life on Earth.

For context, let’s consider a few other numbers. The first: 10,000. That’s approximately how many Homo sapiens existed 200,000 years ago, the date at which scientists mark the divergence of our species from the rest of Homo genus, of which we are the sole survivors.

From those humble origins, humans — thanks to our smarts, long-distance running skills, verbal ability and skill with plants — proliferated at an almost inconceivable rate.

Some may note that, in a big-picture biological sense, humanity has rivals: In total biomass, ants weigh as much as we do, oceanic krill weigh more than both of us combined, and bacteria dwarf us all. Those are interesting factoids, but they belie a larger point. More

Governments must plan for migration in response to climate change, researchers say

ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2011) — Governments around the world must be prepared for mass migrations caused by rising global temperatures or face the possibility of calamitous results, say University of Florida scientists on a research team reporting in the Oct. 28 edition of Science.

If global temperatures increase by only a few of degrees by 2100, as predicted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people around the world will be forced to migrate. But transplanting populations from one location to another is a complicated proposition that has left millions of people impoverished in recent years. The researchers say that a word of caution is in order and that governments should take care to understand the ramifications of forced migration.

A consortium of 12 scientists from around the world, including two UF researchers, gathered last year at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center to review 50 years of research related to population resettlement following natural disasters or the installation of infrastructure development projects such as dams and pipelines. The group determined that resettlement efforts in the past have left communities in ruin, and that policy makers need to use lessons from the past to protect people who are forced to relocate because of climate change. More

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Israel and Hamas: In the Wake of the Prisoners Exchange

The prisoner swap in which Hamas released Israeli captive Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons suggests that Israel and Hamas recognize each other's unmitigated reality and prerogatives.

The deal was unquestionably motivated by mutually beneficial political calculations made on both sides, including a desire to overshadow President Abbas' efforts to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, to which Hamas and Israel object. Nevertheless, without an outright rejection of terror and recognition that Israel cannot be destroyed, Hamas' growth as a political force will remain limited and potentially mired in failure. Similarly, without Israel recognizing that lasting security is unlikely unless Hamas is included in the political process, efforts to advance a two-state solution will be fruitless.
The growing influences of Egypt and Turkey on Hamas, the Arab Spring and the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative all provide avenues to bridge the gaps between Israel and Hamas. To do so, the Quartet must rethink its three demands on Hamas, (renounce violence, accept Israel's existence and agree to past agreements) which will keep the two-sides mired in a dangerous status quo. Overcoming these obstacles will require new thinking to find a formula that enables each side to save face by altering their positions to move forward in a political process. More

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Water emergencies grip Tuvalu & Tokelau

As governments and aid agencies scramble to deliver desalination plants and bottled water to drought stricken Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Tokelau, other Pacific Island nations - Samoa and the Cook Islands - are preparing for a similar fate.
Is this band-aid approach to solving this problem going to be enough?


Redina Auina, spokeswoman for the Tuvalu Faith Based Youth network, who partner with 350.org, is in Tuvalu and describes the feelings of people as they face the reality of less than 5 days of drinkable water in the nations capital, Funafuti --
Experts say the past 12 months have been the second driest in Funafuti's 78 years of records. While we do not make any claims to it being solely a climate change related event, the reality is that the line between what is normal climatic variation and what might be extremes resulting from accelerated climate change is being blurred. This is particularly true for the hydrological cycle, which is sensitive to even subtle variations in the global climate and often results in either too much water, or in our case at the moment, too little. With an intense La Nina weather pattern over much of the Pacific, we’re not likely to see rain for months to come. It’s these kind of extremes that we are told will become our new reality for Tuvalu and the Pacific region as a whole. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

World Food Day, 16 October 2011

Food prices - from crisis to stability

Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the


World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

“FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Monday, October 3, 2011

15 coolest cases biomimicry

Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain. - Leonardo Da Vinci


Biomimicry the practice of developing sustainable human technologies inspired by nature. Sometimes called Biomimetics or Bionics, it's basically biologically inspired engineering.

1. Velcro

The most famous example of biomimicry was the invention of Velcro brand fasteners. Invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who took the idea from the burrs that stuck tenaciously to his dog's hair. Under the microscope he noted the tiny hooks on the end of the burr's spines that caught anything with a loop - such as clothing, hair or animal fur. The 2-part Velcro fastener system uses strips or patches of a hooked material opposite strips or patches of a loose-looped weave of nylon that holds the hooks. Coolest application: Championship Velcro Jumping, first made popular in 1984 by David Letterman. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Film on Climate Refugees Strikes a Chord

During the shooting of his 2010 documentary “Climate Refugees,” the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about


18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.


Click here for film trailer

His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive. (Jeffrey Gettleman’s recent coverage of the Somali refugee crisis in The Times has offered some vivid and disturbing examples, although Somalia’s troubles are also inextricably linked to political turmoil.)

Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?

Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?

By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Food Security and Climate Change: The True Cost of Carbon

With wheat prices surging as major producers are hit by droughts and other extreme weather events, it’s costing everyone more to eat


Writing on page one in the New York Times Justin Gillis recently sounded the alarm on what Lester Brown has been warning us for years: Climate change is threatening our food supply.
With fuel prices down (not much) we’d like to think the economy will settle down. But volatility in markets, food baskets, and weather are rattling many. Indeed, food, feed, and fuel prices are contributing to the growing political instability across the globe.
The summer heat engulfed towns felled by fiendish twisters. The Mighty Mississippi breached shores all along its course after being pounded by heavy rains and nourished by melting snow, the hangover from a brutal winter. The hundred-year floods inundated homes, homesteads, and farms, taking a toll on communities and commodities.

The wide swings in weather were matched by major outlier events. All of us experienced the shifting weather patterns. This is the new norm. And as the climate changes, the extremes are proving especially costly for global food security. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Friday, September 30, 2011

Study Uncovers a Predictable Sequence Toward Coral Reef Collapse

ScienceDaily (Sep. 29, 2011) — Coral reefs that have lots of corals and appear healthy may, in fact, be heading toward collapse, according to a study published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups.


Using data from coral reef systems across the western Indian Ocean, an international team of researchers identified how overfishing creates a series of at least eight big changes on reefs that precipitate a final collapse. This information can help managers gauge the health of a reef and tell them when to restrict fishing in order to avoid a collapse of the ecosystem and fishery.

The study appears this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors of the study include: Tim R. McClanahan and Nyawira A. Muthiga of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Nicholas A.J. Graham and Joshua E. Cinner of James Cook University, Queensland, Australia; M. Aaron MacNeil of the Australian Institute of Marine Science; J. Henrich Bruggemann of Laboratoire d’Ecologie Marine, Université de la Réunion, La Réunion, France; and Shaun K. Wilson of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Western Australia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Economy, Peak Oil and Permaculture

Richard Heinberg- Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is a Permaculturist.





His latest book describes The End of Growth- isn't looking for when the recession will end and we'll get back to "normal". He believes our decades-long era of growth was based on aberrant set of conditions- namely cheap oil, but also cheap minerals, cheap food, etc- and that looking ahead, we need to prepare for a "new normal". The problem, according to Heinberg, is our natural resources just aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore, and he's not just talking about Peak Oil, Heinberg believes in Peak Everything (also the title of one of his books). Heinberg thinks for many, adjusting to a life where everything costs a bit more, could be very hard, but he also thinks the transition to a new normal might actually make life better. "Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we've gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don't make us happy. They've in fact hollowed out our lives. We've given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff- more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it's not making us happier. Well, guess what, it's possible to downsize, it's possible to use less, become more self sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person." This is not all theoretical. In the backyard of the home Heinberg shares with his wife, Janet Barocco, the couple grow most of their food during the summer months (i.e. 25 fruit & nut trees, veggies, potatoes.. they're just lack grains), raise chickens for eggs, capture rainwater, bake with solar cookers and a solar food drier and secure energy with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Their backyard reflects Heinberg's vision for our "new normal" and it's full of experiments, like the slightly less than 120-square-foot cottage that was inspired by the Small Home Movement. It was built with the help of some of Heinberg's college students (in one of the nation's first sustainability classes) using recycled and natural materials (like lime plaster). Heinberg admits it's not a real tiny house experiment since they don't actually live in it- his wife uses it as a massage studio, he meditates there and sometimes it's used as a guest house (though that's hush hush due to permitting issues). But their tiny cottage points to the bigger point behind why a transition to a less resource intensive future could equal greater happiness. "Simplify. Pay less attention to all of the stuff in your life and pay more attention to what's really important. Maybe for you it's gardening, maybe for you it's painting or music. You know we all have stuff that gives us real pleasure and most of us find we have less and less time for that because we have to devote so much time to shopping, paying bills and driving from here to there and so on. Well, how about if we cut out some of that stuff and spend more time doing what really feeds us emotionally and spiritually and in some cases even nutritionally." http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=cl8ZHDQQY7I

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Remote Island Paradise to Be Powered By Coconuts and Sunshine

In the Malay language, the coconut palm is called “pokok seribu guna,” meaning “the tree of a thousand uses.”





Make that one thousand and one. In just over a year’s time, the entire chain of the Tokelau islands plans to get 100 percent of their energy from a heavenly mix of coconuts and sunshine, according to United Press International.

It is perhaps incontestably appropriate that an island paradise should power itself with its two most plentiful resources. The new energy policy should also help to make these tiny, vulnerable tropical atolls more self-sufficient, as well as send the world a message about the feasibility of locally sourced renewable energy.

Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, consists of three small atolls located roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 people call Tokelau home. Since the highest point on the islands is only 16 feet, they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

Under the new energy plan, most of the islands’ power — 93 percent — is slated to come from solar energy. The coconut power will supply the remaining 7 percent, and will come into play when skies are overcast or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply.
More >>>

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Climate change threatens to hike hunger in the Pacific – report

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Climate change threatens to increase hunger and malnutrition among millions of poor people in the 14 small and geographically remote island nations of the Pacific unless action is taken, a new report by the Asian Development Bank said.


Food Security and Climate Change in the Pacific: Rethinking the Options urged Pacific nations, many of which are in fragile and conflict-affected situations and suffering from slow economic growth rates, to manage natural resources better and increase local food production, particularly of climate-resistant crops such as taro, yam, and cassava.

"Rising temperatures and rising tides due to climate change could reduce food supply in the Pacific,” Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, a senior economist in the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department who wrote the report, said in a statement.

“With over 10 million people in developing countries in the region, this is a threat that we cannot ignore," he added.

The region is already seeing a decline in agricultural production per capita and productivity has stagnated, the report said, partly due to an increase in migration from rural to urban areas and also because of fragile ecosystems and a limited natural resource base.

The Pacific is also considered one of the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change such as natural disasters and sea level rises, which are expected to reduce the agricultural output further. More >>>

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Efficiency is the Solution

If there is a way to get through the loss of fossil fuels, it lies in developing new and more efficient ways to generate renewable energy and more efficient ways of utilizing the fossil fuels we have left.


Renewable sources currently provide only 16 percent of our energy in the U.S. and 11 percent of our electric power. Unless the production of these renewables can be increased substantially in the next 50 years and the efficiency with which we use energy increased many fold, then the world is going to become a very dark and stagnant place.
There is running debate going on between people who believe all is lost without copious supplies of fossil fuels to power the global civilization and those who believe that the conservation and efficiency that will come with very high fossil fuel prices will provide a recognizable future for civilization. The great unknowns in all this is whether there will be sufficient financial and other resources available to effect the transition and whether or not the damage wrought by a changing climate will be so serious that a global transition to renewable energy will be difficult if not impossible.

For the immediate future, however, much of what life in the future will be like will depend on the technologies that will enable civilization to continue while using only a fraction of the energy that is consumed today and to develop the technology to produce large quantities of cheaper renewable fuels. The manner in which our fossil fuels are being used is so wasteful of the energy contained in fossil fuels that major reductions can be made with little real impact on the activities that consume energy. The prime examples of this waste is the internal combustion engine which uses only 14 percent of its fuel to turn the wheels while wasting most of the rest. Huge central power plants waste most of the energy that devours coal and natural gas, and produce much waste heat that is dumped into the air or local water bodies or in line losses. Without the massive waste, the fossil fuel age could last a lot longer. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 3 of the 2011 Amman Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The questions were flying fast and furious on day three of the workshop as students gain more understanding of the process. 

Topics for the day included Patterning of the landscape, Function and Species Assemblies. The use and importance of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was discussed  as an important element of Observational Planning.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day as Geoff Lawton has promised us that all the reams of data that have been given to us will come together, apparently with a flash of understanding, bringing instant permaculture enlightenment.

For a recent update of the Jordan Valley Permaculture Project see <http://permaculture.org.au/2011/08/30/jordan-valley-permaculture-project-august-2011-photo-update/>

And for my readers in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) here is a link to information on Permaculture in Cuba. <http://permaculture.org.au/2011/06/29/a-lesson-for-our-future-the-cuban-experience/>