Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Solar May Produce Most of World’s Power by 2060, IEA Says

Solar generators may produce the majority of the world’s power within 50 years, slashing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment, according to a projection by the International Energy Agency.

Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world’s demand for electricity by 2060 — and half of all energy needs — with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation, Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the Paris-based agency, said in an Aug. 26 phone interview.

“Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity,” Philibert said. “You’ll have a lot more electricity than today but most of it will be produced by solar-electric technologies.”

The solar findings, set to be published in a report later this year, go beyond the IEA’s previous forecast, which envisaged the two technologies meeting about 21 percent of the world’s power needs in 2050. The scenario suggests investors able to pick the industry’s winners may reap significant returns as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kingdom of Magical Rhinking

In 1935, an oilman visiting the Middle East reported back to his headquarters, "The future leaves them cold. They want money now."

Although the temptation of overspending has repeatedly undermined oil-rich governments from Caracas to Tehran, Saudi Arabia avoided this trap over the last decade through fiscal discipline that has kept its expenditures below its swelling oil receipts.

But in a recent report striking for the candor of its unpalatable conclusions, Saudi investment bank Jadwa laid out the kingdom's inexorable fiscal challenge: how to balance soaring government spending, rapidly rising domestic oil demand, and a world oil market that gives little room for further revenue increases. And that was before the recent economic turmoil knocked $20 per barrel off oil prices.

Saudi Arabia's government spending, flat since the last oil boom in the 1970s, is now rising at 10 percent or more annually. And it will rise faster still: The House of Saud's survival instinct in the wake of the initial Arab revolutions led King Abdullah to announce $130 billion of largesse in February and March. The resulting increases in government employment and salaries can be cut only at the cost of more discontent.

And that's only what the kingdom is spending on its "counterrevolution" at home. Saudi Arabia will pay the lion's share of the pledged $25 billion of Gulf Cooperation Council aid to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman. With Iraq, Syria, and Yemen likely flashpoints yet to come, the bill will only increase. Already, nearly a third of the Saudi budget goes toward defense, a proportion that could rise in the face of a perceived Iranian threat. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Friday, August 26, 2011

Live Streaming of the International Permaculture Conference - IPC 10

For those who cannot make it to the IPC10 in Jordan next month (September 2011), my announcement here should hopefully be gladly received! PRI Australia has put up the funds for the additional equipment I needed to enable me to live-stream the International Permaculture Conference (IPC10) to the internet.

I’ll be live-streaming the 1-day Conference, and with a bit of luck perhaps even parts of the 4-day Convergence (the latter I’m not so confident about as I need to see if the internet connection is up to par when I physically get there, but from reports it’s looking positive).
Even if you cannot make the exact times of the live-streams, the system we’re using will subsequently have the streams available on-demand — so you can play them later.

This will be the first time an IPC has been live-streamed. (I’m told there was an attempt to do this at IPC9 in Malawi, but the internet connection was insufficient for the task.) More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Irrigation and climate change

While attention has, appropriately, been focused on getting food and medicines to the victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, many observers are asking about longer-term solutions, especially if droughts such as the current one become more frequent with climate change. One possibility is to expand irrigation.

Currently, only about 4 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land is irrigated; the rest is rain-fed, meaning it is susceptible to droughts and floods. Yet, irrigated land can have yields that are up to five times those of rain-fed areas. It must be the case that the costs of irrigation—capital, recurrent, administrative, political—are sufficiently high to outweigh these benefits. But if you take into account the possibility of more frequent floods and droughts, which would make irrigated land relatively more attractive, does the benefit-cost calculation change?

The short answer is yes. In a calculation for the Zambezi basin, Aziz Bouzaher and I estimate that the costs of tripling the irrigated area are about equal to the benefits—if you ignore the effects of climate change. It is not surprising therefore that there has not been much investment in irrigation. But when you include as benefits of irrigation the avoided damage from increasingly frequent droughts (using fairly conservative assumptions), the overall benefits are double the costs. Recognizing that the effects of climate change will increasingly affect rain-fed agriculture may tip the scales in favor of more irrigation in Africa, and lead to higher yields for African farmers.

More information on the costs and benefits of irrigation in the Zambezi River Basin (PDF)

Location:Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Expanding Deserts, Falling Water Tables, and Toxic Pollutants Driving People from Their Homes

People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option.

Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.

Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast. The Sahelian region of Africa—the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa—is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land. A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.

In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts or a lack of water number in the thousands. In Brazil, some 250,000 square miles of land are affected by desertification, much of it concentrated in the country’s northeast. In Mexico, many of the migrants who leave rural communities in arid and semiarid regions of the country each year are doing so because of desertification. Some of these environmental refugees end up in Mexican cities, others cross the northern border into the United States. U.S. analysts estimate that Mexico is forced to abandon 400 square miles of farmland to desertification each year.

In China, desert expansion has accelerated in each successive decade since 1950. Desert scholar Wang Tao reports that over the last half-century or so some 24,000 villages in northern and western China have been abandoned either entirely or partly because of desert expansion. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Tourist island of Zanzibar to host climate change conference in December

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) - Standing among small island states threatened by effects of climate change, the tourist island of Zanzibar has organized a three-day symposium to deliberate the impact of climate change in small island states.

Scheduled from December 12 to 14 this year, the symposium bears the theme of “First International Symposium on Impact and Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Small Island Developing States.”

Organizers of the event, the State University of Zanzibar, said the symposium is aimed to raise national and international awareness on threats of climate change to small island states, which are leading tourist attraction destinations in the world, including the island of Zanzibar.

Climate change scientists had earlier raised their concern over climate changes in Zanzibar and threats to rising water levels of the Indian Ocean, and predicted dangers ahead, among them, a possible sinking of some islands which make the Zanzibar archipelago.

Experts further warned of a possibility to see key beaches of Zanzibar and a big part of this island totally sinking in the Indian Ocean within the coming 100 years.

According to the State University of Zanzibar, key speakers will be drawn from other island states including Samoa and Japan. Other speakers confirmed to attend will come from Tanzania and South Africa. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farming overhaul vital for food, water security: UN

Agricultural methods need to be radically overhauled to ensure food production rises to meet increasing demand but that water resources are not depleted further by doing so, research showed on Monday.

A radical overhaul of agriculture could create farms that enhance, rather than degrade, the world's ecosystems, said a report led by the United Nations' Environment Programme and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
"Managing water for food and ecosystems will bring great benefits, but there is no escaping the urgency of the situation," said David Molden, deputy director general for research at IWMI.
"We are heading for disaster if we don't change our practices from business as usual," he added.
Water limits are close to being "reached or being breached" in areas such as northern China, India's Punjab and western United States, said the report, entitled 'An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water and Food Security'. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clean energy is path for security, not the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

The August 13 Washington Post editorial (Oil pipeline politics) diagnoses the problems with tar sands and then gets the solution wrong.

The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will take us in the wrong direction, making global warming worse and bringing additional dangers of oil spills to America’s heartland. The United States is the main market for the bitumen that is strip-mined and drilled from under Canada’s Boreal forest. Despite Canadian claims that they’ll sell tar sands to China if we don’t take it, not only are there no major pipelines to the Canadian coasts, but opposition to these pipeline proposals is fierce. Instead of providing energy security, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will give oil companies a Gulf Coast deepwater port for export and raise gas prices in the Midwest. After a summer of droughts and heat waves, we need to be working harder than ever to reduce our demand for oil. With fuel efficiency standards and cleaner ways to move people around, America can be a leader in clean energy rather than giving into our oil addiction. That is the path of true energy security. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Saturday, August 20, 2011

NYU’s Nouriel 'Dr. Doom' Roubini: ‘Karl Marx Was Right’

There's an old axiom that goes "wise is the person who appreciates candor almost as much as good news" and with that as a guide, place the forthcoming decidedly in the category of candor.

NYU Economics Professor Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini said unless there's another round of massive fiscal stimulus or a universal debt restructuring, capitalism will continue to experience a crisis due to a systemic flaw first identified by economist Karl Marx more than a century ago.

Economist Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini, the New York University professor who four years ago accurately predicted the global financial crisis, said one of economist Karl Marx's critiques of capitalism is playing itself out in the current global financial crisis.

Sees Marx's Critique Playing Itself Out Now

Marx, among other theories, argued that capitalism had an internal contradiction that would cyclically lead to crises, and that, at minimum, would place pressure on the economic system.

Companies, Roubini said, are motivated to minimize costs, to save and stockpile cash, but this leads to less money in the hands of employees, which means they have less money to spend and flow back to companies.

Now, in current financial crisis, consumers, in addition to having less money to spend due to the above, are also motivated to minimize costs, to save and stockpile cash, magnifying the effect of less money flowing back to companies.
More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Monday, August 15, 2011

Biodiversity Key to Earth’s Life-Support Functions in a Changing World

The biological diversity of organisms on Earth is not just something we enjoy when taking a walk through a blossoming meadow in spring; it is also the basis for countless products and services provided by nature, including food, building materials, and medicines as well as the self-purifying qualities of water and protection against erosion.

These so-called ecosystem services are what makes Earth inhabitable for humans. They are based on ecological processes, such as photosynthesis, the production of biomass, or nutrient cycles.

Since biodiversity is on the decline, both on a global and a local scale, researchers are asking the question as to what role the diversity of organisms plays in maintaining these ecological processes and thus in providing the ecosystem’s vital products and services.

In an international research group led by Prof. Dr. Michel Loreau from Canada, ecologists from ten different universities and research institutes, including Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen from the University of Freiburg, compiled findings from numerous biodiversity experiments and reanalyzed them. These experiments simulated the loss of plant species and attempted to determine the consequences for the functioning of ecosystems, most of them coming to the conclusion that a higher level of biodiversity is accompanied by an increase in ecosystem processes. However, the findings were always only valid for a certain combination of environmental conditions present at the locations at which the experiments were conducted and for a limited range of ecosystem processes. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The IMF on trial

The world is undergoing seismic economic changes, from the international financial crisis to the shifting balance of power between developed and developing countries. 

In this new world order the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the most prestigious and powerful international economic organisation on the planet, is reduced to a mere advisor, even spectator.

This bastion of capitalist ideologies and neo-liberal policies is coming under attack from all sides.  The developing world accuses the IMF of exploitation and favouritism, and the current scandals have only added to their woes. And the developing world refuses to be treated by the IMF as if was merely developing.

But in the last three years the global economy has shifted and the old divides between east and west, north and south have become blurred.  Many nations are looking at what the fund has to offer and are increasingly saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The IMF talks about reform, but is it empty rhetoric? Will it or can it change to reflect the new reality?

And more importantly, with bailouts, defaults and rich nations living in a state of permanent crisis, are the IMF's free-market policies part of the solution, or just perpetuating the problems? More >>>

On thin ice

The Arctic — a mosaic of oceans, glaciers and the northernmost projections of several countries — is a place most of us will never see. We can imagine it, though, and our mental picture is dominated by one feature: ice.

Yet the Arctic sea ice is changing dramatically, and its presence shouldn’t be taken for granted, even over the course of our lifetimes. According to new research from MIT, the most recent global climate report fails to capture trends in Arctic sea-ice thinning and drift, and in some cases substantially underestimates these trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, forecasts an ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2100, among other predictions. But Pierre Rampal, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and colleagues say it may happen several decades earlier. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 11, 2011

International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011

The biennial International Permaculture Conference is the world's premier permaculture gathering.

The next International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011. The theme is "Plan Jordan ~ Water".

The 1-day IPC10 Conference (open to all) and 4-day IPC10 Convergence (open to Permaculture Design Certificate graduates only) will be held in Jordan (Amman and Wadi Rum, respectively) and will be coordinated by Nadia 'Abu Yahia' Lawton. Prior to the start of the Conference and subsequent Convergence, a two-week International Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course will be taught by a team of respected permaculture educators and pratitioners, and all three events will be followed by tours and permaculture site visits.

The theme of IPC10 is highly appropriate given the United Nations have just launched their Decades for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification. We have the solutions!

You are cordially invited to support this valuable initiative with your presence and involvement! We welcome submissions for appropriate articles to appear below! More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Pacific Moves Towards Integrated DRR and Climate Change Strategy

Pacific Moves Towards Integrated DRR and Climate Change Strategy
2 August 2011: The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) announced the launch of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR11), titled "Revealing Risk, Redefining Development."

The report was launched in Auckland, New Zealand, at the Third Session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management, co-convened by UN/ISDR and the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

In his opening remarks to the Third Session, Russell Howorth, Director, SOPAC, said a key outcome anticipated from the meeting is the adoption of a “Roadmap” to develop an integrated regional strategy for disaster risk management and climate change, for endorsement in 2015. Currently the Pacific region is guided by the Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Management Framework for Action, and the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change. Both of these regional policies expire in 2015, paving the way for an integrated approach from 2015 onwards.

Howorth further noted that several Pacific Island Countries, including the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), already are moving forward with the integration of national strategies on DRR and climate change. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Fifty Million Dollar Tipping Point?

At a press conference on July 21, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was contributing $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club, called it a “game changer”. It is that, but it also could push the United States, and indeed the world, to a tipping point on the climate issue.
It is one thing for Michael Brune to say coal has to go, but quite another when Michael Bloomberg says so. Few outside the environmental community know who Michael Brune is, but every business person knows Michael Bloomberg as one of the most successful business entrepreneurs of his generation.

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has two main goals. The first is to prevent the permitting and construction of new coal-fired power plants. So far 153 proposed power plants have been taken off the board. The second goal is to close the 492 existing plants. The Sierra Club lists 71 plants already scheduled for total or partial closure, most of them by 2016.

The efforts to stabilize climate will be won or lost with coal, the world’s largest source of carbon emissions. The effort to phase out coal is now well under way in the United States, the world’s second ranking coal user after China. More >>>

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tanana -- Tiny City in Yukon Takes a Giant Renewable Step

A city of 300 in Alaska is at the cutting edge of bioenergy.

The Backstory

It's ironic. In resource- and fossil fuel-rich Alaska, Tanana residents are paying more than seven times the national rate for their electricity and are shipping in diesel fuel to heat their buildings and water.

Probably the name Tanana (pronounced TAN-uh-naw) doesn't ring a bell. No wonder: It's not just rural, it's remote. Accessible only by air and river (which is how the diesel arrives), this central Alaskan city is about an hour's flight from Fairbanks and two miles below where the Tanana and Yukon Rivers meet.

A Subsistence Lifestyle

Tanana is helping put woody biomass on the Alaskan map. By harvesting local wood for energy, the city is becoming more efficient and self-sufficient. The plan is to reap wider benefits by sharing their experience with other rural communities. (Image: Alaska Community Database Community Information Summaries)
About 80 percent of Tananans are Native American, 18 percent Caucasian, and there's a smattering of Latinos and others.

"Subsistence is the primary way of life," city manager Bear Ketzler says. "Be it hauling water or getting your own firewood or harvesting berry products and moose and fish and things like this."

Utilizing local natural resources is key in a place where staples like milk (at about $10/gallon) and fresh vegetables (tomatoes fetch about $7-8 each, a head of lettuce about $6-7) are luxuries.

Dogs probably outnumber people there, says Ketzler, as they are integral to the economy, whether for trapping, breeding or that big Alaskan business: dog-racing.

Tanana, incorporated as a city in 1961 and as a "first class city" in 1980, is co-governed by a city council and a Native council. The median household income is about $30,000 per year with most of the jobs coming from the local government (Tanana school teachers are among the highest paid) and to a lesser extent construction.

Smokehouses are common. There's a school, a senior center, a firehouse, a tribal building, and city offices. There's one B&B, one general store, and 38 traffic lights (in the process of being updated with LEDs). More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

SIDS DOCK Launched to Catalyze Renewable Energy

3 August 2011: The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has announced the launch of SIDS DOCK, an international organization intended to catalyze sustainable energy projects in small island developing States (SIDS).

With US$14.5 million in funding from Denmark's parliament, SIDS DOCK will operate as a "docking station," connecting small islands with US and EU technologies, capital and carbon markets. SIDS DOCK is expected to be operational by September 2011.

According to Vince Henderson, Dominica's Ambassador to the UN, and Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, the majority of small islands currently rely on fossil fuel imports and face growing debt as a result. In order to "radically transform" their economies, SIDS DOCK was developed jointly by AOSIS, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). SIDS DOCK will be led by an Executive Director and overseen by a Board of Directors, including AOSIS members, development partner organizations and technical experts. The organization also will partner with the World Bank and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

National Coordinators of SIDS DOCK will be responsible for coordinating the development of national, regional and inter-regional priorities in renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects, and for ensuring successful project coordination and outcomes. The first meeting of the SIDS DOCK National Coordinators, held from 27-28 July 2011, served as the launch.

According to AOSIS, SIDS DOCK aims to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy sector in small islands, providing the foundation for low carbon economic growth and adaptation to climate change, with the result of assisting small islands to generate at least 50 percent of their electric power from renewable sources, decrease petroleum use by 20 to 30 percent, and increase energy efficiency by 25 percent (using a 2005 baseline) by 2033.
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

GDP IS DEAD: Will the world be happier without it?

Memo to politicians: Stop promising to grow GDP and start targeting social benefits you can actually deliver—or prepare to face angry mobs. Nothing grows forever on a finite planet, not even the US economy.

It’s not surprising that everyone from President Obama to Michele Bachmann is assuring the electorate that he or she can deliver more GDP growth. When GDP numbers are up, more jobs appear and investments reap higher returns. When GDP is down, economic mayhem ensues.

Yet there are signs that more GDP growth may not be in the cards, regardless whose economic remedy is chosen. In fact, the day may have arrived when GDP itself has outlived whatever usefulness it ever had.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a number indicating the total spending occurring in a national economy annually. Since WWII, policy makers have used GDP as their primary index of national economic health. During the late 20th century, with the world awash in cheap energy to fuel ever more industrial output and transport-driven trade, the numbers kept going up—and most economists concluded they’d continue doing so forever.

A few contrarians (including Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968) suggested that relying on GDP wasn’t a good idea. Although soaring numbers lead to financial euphoria, they can hide social ills like growing inequality; moreover, GDP fails to distinguish between waste, luxury, and the satisfaction of basic human needs. Perversely, GDP often rises during wars or after environmental disasters, due to increased government spending.

Despite criticisms, economists and policy makers have stuck with GDP—perhaps because tracking a single number makes their jobs easier.

But now, the US may have reached its practical GDP limit. The bursting of a once-in-a-lifetime credit bubble, the maxing out of consumer borrowing and spending capacity, and tightening global resource constraints (showing up as stubbornly high oil prices) have caught national economic output in an undertow. Much of the rest of the world is being drawn in, with Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy swirling ever closer to the drain. During the past two years, Americans bought an anemic recovery—a few hundred billion dollars’ worth of GDP growth—but at the cost of trillions in added government debt.

Now, as Washington descends deeper into partisan acrimony, efforts to generate further growth with yet more debt have become political orphans that no Republican and few Democrats will claim as their own. If the “recovery” was all smoke and mirrors, we’ve just run out of mirrors.
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Few Good Resources

Plan Jordan ~ Water

The biennial International Permaculture Conference is the world's premier permaculture gathering. The next International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011. The theme is "Plan Jordan ~ Water".

The 1-day IPC10 Conference (open to all) and 4-day IPC10 Convergence (open to Permaculture Design Certificate graduates only) will be held in Jordan (Amman and Wadi Rum, respectively) and will be coordinated by Nadia 'Abu Yahia' Lawton. Prior to the start of the Conference and subsequent Convergence, a two-week International Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course will be taught by a team of respected permaculture educators and pratitioners, and all three events will be followed by tours and permaculture site visits.

The theme of IPC10 is highly appropriate given the United Nations have just launched their Decades for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification. We have the solutions!

You are cordially invited to support this valuable initiative with your presence and involvement! Click the links at left to learn more about the events and to book. http://www.ipcon.org/

The Dutyion Root Hydration Filtering Irrigation Pipe System

DTI-r has developed a subsurface Irrigation technology which allows the use of brackish / salted water without the need for either expensive purification or fine filtering before irrigating plants / crops and trees.

Sea Water Greenhouse

Climate change, together with rising world populations and unsustainable farming practices, are causing the exhaustion of fresh water and food resources. The necessity for both is expected to exceed availability in the foreseeable future. It is the simple reality of this situation which gave rise to the idea for the Seawater Greenhouse.

The Seawater Greenhouse provides a low-cost solution by enabling year-round crop production in some of the world’s hottest and driest regions. It does this using seawater and sunlight. The technology imitates natural processes, helping to restore the environment while significantly reducing the operating costs of greenhouse horticulture.
Our dedicated team spans a variety of expertise. We have come together to produce a solution to the problem of fresh water depletion and are keen to share our ideas and advice with those wanting to become more sustainable and profitable growers.
We also want to provide a leading example of the capability that restorative greenhouse agriculture can have for the environment.


Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress

Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend upon the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
—Milton Friedman (economist)

Many analysts who focus on the problems of population growth, resource depletion, and climate change foresee gradually tightening constraints on world economic activity. In most cases the prognosis they offer is for worsening environmental problems, more expensive energy and materials, and slowing economic growth.

However, their analyses often fail to factor in the impacts to and from a financial system built on the expectation of further growth—a system that could come unhinged in a non-linear, catastrophic fashion as growth ends. Financial and monetary systems can crash suddenly and completely. This almost happened in September 2008 as the result of a combination of a decline in the housing market, reliance on overly complex and in many cases fraudulent financial instruments, and skyrocketing energy prices. Another sovereign debt crisis in Europe could bring the world to a similar precipice. Indeed, there is a line-up of actors waiting to take center stage in the years ahead, each capable of bringing the curtain down on the global banking system or one of the world’s major currencies. Each derives its destructive potency from its ability to strangle growth, thus setting off chain reactions of default, bankruptcy, and currency failure. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

We Will Grow The Economy By Shrinking It - Really?

We are guided by our superstitions. The newest one? We can grow the economy by shrinking it.

Throughout human history societies have been informed and instructed by the superstitions of their age. For thousands of years we believed a single person—a king, a pharaoh, a high priest— should have life and death power over us. Any other social structure was unthinkable. We believed the gods that brought drought could be appeased only by animal and, sometimes, human sacrifice.

Today these superstitions seem ridiculous. How could thinking people ever have believed such preposterous notions?
But here we are. August 2011. And the zeitgeist has given birth to a new superstition. One that will bewilder future generations as much as the belief in the absolute power of pharaohs or drought reflecting the anger of the gods does ours.

What is this new superstition? The belief that we can grow the economy by shrinking it.

The idea defies common sense. And yet in just two short years it has become the fundamental guiding principle of public policy.

The story begins with the financial and economic collapse of 2008. Housing starts ground to a halt. By early 2009 unemployment was in the process of doubling. The economy was all but dead in the water.

With private investment having all but dried up, the government stepped in. The three year stimulus bill, passed in early 2009 was too modest, a result of President Obama’s mistaken belief that if he asked for less and made tax credits to business almost as large as the direct job creation component Republicans would be supportive. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Better Desalination Technology Key to Solving World's Water Shortage

ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2011) — Over one-third of the world's population already lives in areas struggling to keep up with the demand for fresh water. By 2025, that number will nearly double.

Some countries have met the challenge by tapping into natural sources of fresh water, but as many examples -- such as the much-depleted Jordan River -- have demonstrated, many of these practices are far from sustainable.

A new Yale University study argues that seawater desalination should play an important role in helping combat worldwide fresh water shortages -- once conservation, reuse and other methods have been exhausted -- and provides insight into how desalination technology can be made more affordable and energy efficient.

"The globe's oceans are a virtually inexhaustible source of water, but the process of removing its salt is expensive and energy intensive," said Menachem Elimelech, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale and lead author of the study, which appears in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal Science.

Reverse osmosis -- forcing seawater through a membrane that filters out the salt -- is the leading method for seawater desalination in the world today. For years, scientists have focused on increasing the membrane's water flux using novel materials, such as carbon nanotubes, to reduce the amount of energy required to push water through it.

In the new study, Elimelech and William Phillip, now at the University of Notre Dame, demonstrate that reverse osmosis requires a minimum amount of energy that cannot be overcome, and that current technology is already starting to approach that limit. Instead of higher water flux membranes, Elimelech and Phillip suggest that the real gains in efficiency can be made during the pre- and post-treatment stages of desalination. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Small island faces huge threat from climate change

4 August 2011 - When the United Nations Security Council took up the issue of climate change for the first time in four years last month, the president of the world’s smallest island nation delivered a grim warning and impassioned appeal to the international community.

Marcus Stephen of Nauru described to the council how rising sea levels are threatening the eight-square-mile Pacific island and, in turn, the security and survival of its people. Climate change should be a Security Council priority, he argued, because of the security risks it poses, from the physical loss of territory to the pressure on human habitat to the increased demand on limited food and water resources.

Stephen’s speech fell on deaf ears for some, however, as entrenched divisions on the issue of climate change reemerged among member states. Countries such as China and Russia opposed the Security Council’s involvement, while the United States, Australia, Germany, and others voiced their support for it.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called the council’s lack of leadership “more than disappointing.”

“It’s pathetic,” she said in her speech. “It’s shortsighted, and frankly it’s a dereliction of duty.” More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Friday, August 5, 2011

Millennium development goal eight: Develop a global partnership for development

The millennium development goals seek to solve some of the world's biggest problems by 2015

MDG8: develop a global partnership for development

To develop further an open, rule-based trading and financial system, address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked and small-island developing states, deal comprehensively with debt burdens for developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines, and increase access to new technologies. To also foster global links between the public and private sector to drive more and better development. Visit the UN webpage to read more about MDG8 and its progress. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Greening the desert II

Greening the Desert II with Arabic subtitles from nadia attar on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The World Needs a New Language

We know it is dangerous to cross a red light, so we wait until it turns green.

We do not go out sailing when the weather forecast promises a great storm. We accept it when a doctor tells us to take medicine to prevent hypertension.

We do not drink the water if there is sign saying that it is contaminated. We are constantly accepting different potential risks and manoeuvring to limit them.

But when it comes to climate change, our willingness to accept it as a potential great risk is missing - and so is our motivation to respond to it with our normal risk-behaviour.

97 percent of the climate scientists believe global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible and that we need to take action now. From their perspective there is a mountain of evidence on the reality of climate change; the nearest thing to an open-and-shut case that scientist can produce. They are constantly trying to convince us -- the public -- of this fact.

But still the concern shared by almost every scientist is not concurrent with the general public opinion. 44 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is primarily caused by planetary trends, according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports conducted in April. And 36 percent do not believe climate change is a serious problem.

Thus we are currently witnessing an enormous reality gap between science and the public -- with very different perceptions of the risks posed by climate change.

If scientists could solve climate change on their own, the lacking public support wouldn't be a problem. But they can't. Without the endorsement from the general public, the fight against climate change does not stand much of a chance. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

First Regional Summit in the Amazon: Ancestral knowledge


The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon Basin (COICA) shall hold the First Regional Summit in the Amazon: ‘Ancestral knowledge’, people and life in full harmony with the forests. The meeting will take place on 15-18 August in the Hotel Taj Mahal Hotel, in the city of Manaus, Amazon state’s capital. With the aim of exchanging knowledge and experiences among the different stakeholders on issues such as ancestral knowledge, climate change, conservation and sustainable use of forests, the meeting will bring together representatives of indigenous peoples from the nine Amazonian countries, government representatives from these countries, international organizations and civil society based in the Amazon region, and developed countries. It is hoped this meeting makes political commitments and puts forwards practical actions for the conservation and sustainable use of forests in the Amazon basin and Latin America.

Indigenous peoples and international negotiations
Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and measure progress and developments made in the UN Climate Conference in order to develop jointly-agreed arrangements to be referred to COP 17 meeting, to be held in December 2011 in Durban, South Africa, and to the Rio Conference 20 +, to be held in June 2012. The focus of these arrangements will be the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of full life in harmony with the forest and climate change.

There will also be room for the analysis of positive and negative impacts of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD), held in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. Brazil was one of the first countries to ratify the protocol in February 2011. 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 are the main documents on rights of indigenous peoples in the international sphere, therefore, shall also be addressed during the meeting in Manaus. Local people also expect they can provide recommendations and policy commitments during the Summit to be taken into consideration in the Rio+ 20 Conference.

The Summit seeks to enhance the ancestral wisdom and knowledge of their people, find strategies to address cli-mate change and convey to the world the way these people understand and preserve the nature, as well as to pro-mote food security and medical techniques developed by indigenous peoples and populations that depend on the Amazon rainforest.

For more information please contact: Juan Carlos Jintiach, Coordinator of the indigenous organizations of the Amazon Basin - COICA E-mail:juanka@coica.org.ec

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UNGA Debate on Right to Water Highlights Impact of Climate Change

27 July 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a debate on the human right to water and sanitation, during which a number of speakers highlighted that climate change constitutes an obstacle to the enjoyment of this right, stressing the particular situations of small island low-lying States.

The debate took place on 27 July 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. In his opening address, Joseph Deiss, UNGA President, recalled that, in July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, which he said was an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.

Egypt said States must take all necessary measures to extend human rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. He added that Egypt’s efforts were challenged by funding, climate change, population growth and other factors, and indicated that his Government had adopted an integrated national plan to address these challenges. Senegal stressed the need to address climate change and drought in order to achieve the right to water, calling for increased assistance.

Cuba called for enhanced cooperation in the face of climate change, calling for the creation of mechanisms that are not dependant on the international financial institutions.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for the UNGA resolution by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. He underlined that his country's achievements in terms of ensuring the realization of that right, considering its limited resources, illustrate the importance of political will. He emphasized the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely climate change and desertification. He added that his country often resorts to transporting water by ship and said sea-level rise would have a disastrous effect. He concluded by calling for mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda.

Maldives explained that her country's main source of water is shallow groundwater, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to water scarcity. She called for considering the legally binding right to water in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands