Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Training Event: 'Sustainable Land-Water Management: Towards Climate-Smart Agriculture' course was delivered in Lilongwe, Malawi from May 29 - 31, 2012. It was in association with Africa Region Environment Unit (AFTEN) and University of Malawi's, Bunda College of Agriculture. The course included modules on climate change, variability and impact; addressing food security; climate resilience and mitigation; assessing climate risks and investments; climate-smart agriculture in a landscape approach. It also comprised new modules on water harvesting, watershed/landscape approaches, agro-forestry, weather index crop insurance, as well as climate change negotiations in agriculture. The course received good participation from Government departments, NGOs, Training Institution and Media. With positive feedback for the course, WBI in collaboration with University of Malawi will organize training of trainer event and thereafter the WBI content on 'Sustainable Land-Water Management: Towards Climate-Smart Agriculture' is also invited to be added in their study curriculum. More
In recent years, the shrinkage of forests in tropical regions has released 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually. Meanwhile, expanding forests in the temperate regions are absorbing close to 700 million tons of carbon. On balance, therefore, some 1.5 billion tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere each year from forest loss, roughly one fourth as much as from fossil fuel burning.
Fortunately, there is a vast unrealized potential in all countries to lessen the various demands that are shrinking the earth’s forest cover. In industrial nations, the greatest opportunity lies in reducing the amount of wood used to make paper. The goal is first to reduce paper use and then to recycle as much as possible. The rates of paper recycling in the top 10 paper-producing countries range widely, but South Korea, which recycles an impressive 91 percent, stands out. If every country recycled as much of its paper as South Korea does, the amount of wood pulp used to produce paper worldwide would drop by more than one third.
In developing countries, the focus needs to be on reducing fuelwood use. Indeed, fuelwood accounts for just over half of all wood removed from the world’s forests. Some international aid agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Foundation, are sponsoring projects to increase fuelwood efficiency through the use of more efficient cookstoves. Over the longer term, pressure on forests can be reduced by replacing firewood with solar thermal cookers or even with electric hotplates powered with renewable energy. More
Saturday, July 28, 2012
But there’s something brewing that looks like it might be a blueprint to effectively take on Wall Street: a plan to allow local governments to take on the problem of neighborhoods blighted by toxic home loans and foreclosures through the use of eminent domain. I can't speak for how well the program will work, but it's certaily been effective in scaring the hell out of Wall Street.
Under the proposal, towns would essentially be seizing and condemning the man-made mess resulting from the housing bubble. Cooked up by a small group of businessmen and ex-venture capitalists, the audacious idea falls under the category of "That’s so crazy, it just might work!" One of the plan’s originators described it to me as a "four-bank pool shot."
Here’s how the New York Times described it in an article from earlier this week entitled, "California County Weighs Drastic Plan to Aid Homeowners":
I’ve been following this story for months now – I was tipped off that this was coming earlier this past spring – and in the time since I’ve become more convinced the idea might actually work, thanks mainly to the extremely lucky accident that the plan doesn’t require the permission of anyone up in the political Olympus. More
Desperate for a way out of a housing collapse that has crippled the region, officials in San Bernardino County … are exploring a drastic option — using eminent domain to buy up mortgages for homes that are underwater.
Then, the idea goes, the county could cut the mortgages to the current value of the homes and resell the mortgages to a private investment firm, which would allow homeowners to lower their monthly payments and hang onto their property.
Friday, July 27, 2012
doesn't measure things that are good for our economy and society, like home production and volunteer work, and doesn't count things that are bad, like inequality and pollution. More pressingly, GDP cannot reflect the importance of ecosystem services and without valuing them, preserving them becomes only a cost and not a benefit. As we see more and more impacts from climate change, ecosystems play a vital role in adaptation and mitigation practices, not just as carbon sinks, but also by reducing erosion, providing shade and providing fresh air and water. Yet, their importance does not show up in GDP calculations.
The main difficulty with valuing ecosystems has always been pricing- how do you put a price on forests that act as carbon sinks? There are efforts to start to capture these values, including the System for Environment and Economic Accounts, which provides methods for countries to account for natural resources like minerals, timber and fisheries. There is also the Inclusive Wealth Index, which includes natural capital, in addition to manufactured and human capital, as part of a nation's overall capital assets. Currently, at least 24 countries use some form of natural capital accounting.
While not widely used yet, capturing the value that ecosystems currently provide seems tangible. The more challenging accounting question is how do we capture future costs? The recent heat waves are causing damage not just to natural environments, but also to our built environments. Airplanes are getting stuck in asphalt that has softened from heat, subway trains are derailing after tracks become warped, and highways are shrinking, leading to cracking, because the soil under them is getting too dry. So, how do we capture the role that healthy ecosystems play in preventing these future impacts and costs? More
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Two months ago in Washington DC, a poor black man called Edward Dorsey Sr was convicted of peddling 5.5 grams of crack cocaine. Because he was charged before a recent relative amelioration in sentencing, he was given a mandatory 10 years in jail.
Last week, managers from Britain's biggest bank, HSBC, lined up before the Senate's permanent sub-committee on investigations – just across the Potomac river from the scene of Dorsey's crime – to be asked questions such as: "It took three or four years to close a suspicious account. Is there any way that should be allowed to happen?"
The "suspicious account" was that of a "casa de cambio", a currency exchange house operated in Mexico on behalf of the largest criminal syndicate in the world and one of the most savage, the Sinaloa drug-trafficking cartel. The dealings had been flagged up to HSBC bosses by an anti-money laundering officer, but to no avail – the dirty business continued. "No, senator," came the reply from a bespectacled Brit called Paul Thurston, chief executive, retail banking and wealth management, HSBC Holdings plc.
The same casa de cambio, called Puebla, was known to be under investigation in another case involving the Wachovia bank during the time HSBC was entertaining its money. US authorities had seized $11m from Wachovia's Miami office, on the way to securing the biggest settlement in banking history with Wachovia in March 2010, detailed in this newspaper last year. More
Sunday, July 22, 2012
An earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials. Designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, New Mexico, the homes are primarily constructed to work as autonomous buildings and are generally made of earth-filled tires, using thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperature. They also usually have their own special natural ventilation system. Earthships are generally off-the-grid homes, minimizing their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. Earthships are built to utilize the available local resources, especially energy from the sun. For example, windows on sun-facing walls admit lighting and heating, and the buildings are often horseshoe-shaped to maximize natural light and solar-gain during winter months. The thick, dense inner walls provide thermal mass that naturally regulates the interior temperature during both cold and hot outside temperatures.
Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete and are referred to as tin can walls. These walls are usually thickly plastered with stucco. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship
This type of construction would be perfect in any desert climate. For example in Pakistan where temperatures are hitting 49 degrees celcius. Editor
While critics have described the conference as an “epic failure” in that it resulted in just a“document brimming with good intentions but low on concrete plans,” Basu thought otherwise.
“The Rio+20 conference was not totally a failure, although the youth were not happy with the text,” Basu told Gulf News, adding with much optimism: “Prior to this conference, oceans, mountains and small islands were not considered important, but now, they are considered the main focus points for achieving sustainable development.”
Basu, who was recognised as the youngest international delegate in the summit, said the problem boiled down to one thing — too much talking. More
Saturday, July 21, 2012
I argued that the violent reaction to Occupy and other protests around the world had to do with the 1%ers' fear of the rank and file exposing massive fraud if they ever managed get their hands on the books. At that time, I had no evidence of this motivation beyond the fact that financial system reform and increased transparency were at the top of many protesters' list of demands.
But this week presents a sick-making trove of new data that abundantly fills in this hypothesis and confirms this picture. The notion that the entire global financial system is riddled with systemic fraud – and that key players in the gatekeeper roles, both in finance and in government, including regulatory bodies, know it and choose to quietly sustain this reality – is one that would have only recently seemed like the frenzied hypothesis of tinhat-wearers, but this week's headlines make such a conclusion, sadly, inevitable.
The New York Times business section on 12 July shows multiple exposes of systemic fraud throughout banks: banks colluding with other banks in manipulation of interest rates, regulators aware of systemic fraud, and key government officials (at least one banker who became the most key government official) aware of it and colluding as well. Fraud in banks has been understood conventionally and, I would say, messaged as a glitch. As in London Mayor Boris Johnson's full-throated defense of Barclay's leadership last week, bank fraud is portrayed as a case, when it surfaces, of a few "bad apples" gone astray. More
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Until 1883 the Wakhan included the whole valley of the Panj River and thePamir River, as well as the upper flow of the Panj River known as the Wakhan River. An 1873 agreement between Britain and Russia split the Wakhan by delimiting spheres of influence for the two countries at the Panj and Pamir rivers, and an agreement between Britain and Afghanistan in 1893 confirmed the new border. Since then, the name Wakhan is now generally used to refer to the Afghan area south of the two rivers. The northern part of the historic Wakhan is now part of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province inTajikistan.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Saturday, July 14, 2012
|Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen|
The global battle for natural resources – from food and water to energyand precious metals – is only beginning, and will intensify to proportions that could mean enormous upheavals for every country, leading academics and business figures told a conference in Oxford on Thursday.
Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, who convened the two-day Resource 2012 conference, told the Guardian: "We are nowhere near realising the full impact of this yet. We have seen the first indications – rising food prices, pressure on water supplies, a land grab by some countries for mining rights and fertile agricultural land, and rising prices for energy and for key resources [such as] metals. But we need to do far more to deal with these problems before they become even more acute, and we are not doing enough yet."
Countries that are not prepared for this rapid change will soon – perhaps irrevocably – lose out, with serious damage to their economies and way of life, the conference was told.
Amartya Sen, a Nobel prize-winning economist, said that the free market would not necessarily provide the best solution to sharing out the world's resources. Governments would need to step in, he said, to ensure that people had access to the basics of life, and that the interests of businesses and the financial markets did not win out over more fundamental human needs.
Sen has played a key role as an academic in showing how the way resources are distributed can impact famine and surplus more than the actual amount of resources, that are available, particularly food.
David Nabarro, special representative for food security and nutrition at the United Nations Special, defended the outcomes of last month's Rio+20 conference – a global summit that was intended to address resource issues and other environmental problems, including pollution, climate change and the loss of biodiversity, all of which are likely to have knock-on effects that will exacerbate resource shortages. More
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
In many places across America, families scaled back their 4th of July festivities this year on account of searing heat. The threat of wildfires from unusually dry weather meant that some towns throughout the West cut back on fireworks displays. This should prompt everyone—especially political and business leaders—to think more seriously about the threat of climate disruption. But it’s also an occasion to consider the ways in which the pursuit of happiness in years to come will depend on linking our desire for independence to our need for interdependence. What happens throughout the world will increasingly affect life at home in the United States.
At that time there was little discussion of the commons, except as a “tragedy”. But this declaration could be seen as one of the founding documents of the movement that’s emerging now to preserve and sustain what belongs to all of us for the benefit of everyone, including future generations. —Jay Walljasper
A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE
The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, 1975
When in the course of history the threat of extinction confronts (hu)mankind, it
is necessary for the people of the United States to declare their
interdependence with the people of all nations and to embrace those
principles and build those institutions which will enable mankind to survive
and civilization to flourish.
Two centuries ago our forefathers brought forth a new nation; now we must
join with others to bring forth a new world order. On this historic occasion
it is proper that the American people should reaffirm those principles on
which the United States of America was founded, acknowledge the new crises
which confront them, accept the new obligations which history imposes upon
them, and set for the causes which impel them to affirm before all peoples
their commitment to a Declaration of Interdependence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men (and women) are
created equal; that the inequalities and injustices which afflict so much of
the human race are the product of history and society, not of God or nature;
that people everywhere are entitled to the blessings of life and liberty,
peace and security (and dignity) and the realization of their full
potential; that they have an inescapable moral obligation to preserve those
rights for posterity; and that to achieve these ends all the peoples and
nations of the globe should acknowledge their interdependence and join
together to dedicate their minds and their hearts to the solution of those
problems which threaten their survival.
Let us then join together to vindicate and realize this great truth that
(hu)mankind is one, and as one will nobly save or irreparably lose the
heritage of thousands of years of civilization. And let us set forth the
principles which should animate and inspire us if our civilization is to
Monday, July 9, 2012
John D. Liu Interview (Part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXJPpo01jOc
What If We Change social media project:
Rhamis Kent is a permaculture consultant in the aid and development field: http://permaculture.org.au/author/Rhamis%20Kent
International Permaculture Day is an ongoing celebration of permaculture around the world, culminating in a global day of celebration on the first Sunday in May annually. The next global day will take place on SUNDAY 5TH MAY 2013. If you have any permaculture news or stories to share with the international community, in the meantime, please send them our way.
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/IntPermacultureDay
Saturday, July 7, 2012
"Environment, in the broader sense of environmental sustainability, is no longer something you can consider an afterthought, it is no longer the luxury of the well off. In fact it is the survival of the poor, that is most directly linked to understanding environmental sustainability."
Polly Higgins describes her latest campaign 'Who is Charles Grant?' at the British Humanist Conference in Cardiff. The campaign aims to find an influential business leader who will embrace and spread the law of ecocide. Please visit www.WhoIsCharlesGrant.com to nominate your business leader and find out more!
Friday, July 6, 2012
“It’s the fastest expansion of solar energy anywhere in the world,” said Formanul Islam of Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company, which is working with the World Bank to install solar home systems across the
About half of Bangladesh’s 150 million people still don’t have access to reliable electricity, but with the low prices for solar PV panels, among other factors, installations under the Bank-supported project have doubled in the past two years to 40,000 a month.
“It is changing the face of the remote, rural areas of Bangladesh,” said Zubair Sadeque, Energy Finance Specialist in the World Bank’s Dhaka office.
Zubair is the task team leader of the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development project in Bangladesh, for which the World Bank approved a $130 million zero-interest International Development Association (IDA) loan in 2009 and another $172 million loan in 2011. An earlier IDA credit had launched the project in 2002. What has changed is the pace of installations. “It has simply skyrocketed in the last couple of years,” he said.
The combination of competitively-priced solar PV panels and a well-designed financing scheme is now delivering life-changing—and zero-carbon—electricity to bottom-of-the-pyramid families on a scale that was inconceivable only a few years ago.
This drop in price of solar PV panels, combined with high prices for fossil fuels, slow pace of grid connections, along with the scale of cell-phone penetration among the poor, which is driving demand, has created vast new potential for off-grid solar—not just in Bangladesh, but in many other low-income countries. || Vijay Iyer, Director, Sustainable Energy Department, The World Bank
“It is a remarkable alignment of positive factors,” said Vijay Iyer, Director of the Bank’s Sustainable Energy department, who was instrumental in launching the project almost a decade ago. “This drop in price of solar PV panels, combined with high prices for fossil fuels, slow pace of grid connections, along with the scale of cell-phone penetration among the poor, which is driving demand, has created vast new potential for off-grid solar—not just in Bangladesh, but in many other low-income countries.”
Off-grid solar power, while not considered an option among high-intensity electricity consuming rich-country households, does meet the immediate needs of low-income households and small businesses in developing countries. A 40-to-120-watt solar panel is enough for a couple of lights and to charge a cellphone, which can transform lives in rural areas of Bangladesh.
As leaders prepare for the June 20-22 Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development, clean energy solutions like this one that deliver electricity to the world’s poor while also opening market opportunities should attract interest not only among donors, but private investors as well. The Bangladesh solar experience may provide a model to help achieve the goals of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, namely universal access to electricity, double the share of renewable energy in the global mix, and double the rate of improvement of energy efficiency.
The project is implemented by a partnership between the Bangladesh Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL) and about 40 non-governmental organizations, including private sector companies and microcredit agencies. More
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Pakistan's national mammal, markhor are known for their spectacular, corkscrew horns that can reach nearly five feet in length. They are an important prey species for large carnivores such as wolves and snow leopards. Markhor have been listed as Endangered by IUCN since 1994, with a 2008 global population estimate of less than 2,500 animals across five countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and India. They are threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction, and competition from domestic goats and sheep.
"We are thrilled that markhor conservation efforts in Pakistan are paying off," said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director of Asia programs. "Markhor are part of Pakistan's natural heritage, and we are proud to be assisting the communities of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Government of Pakistan to safeguard this iconic species." More
Monday, July 2, 2012
In a statement, Mr Agius said: "The buck stops with me."
Last week Barclays was fined £290m ($450m) for attempting to manipulate the Libor inter-bank lending rate.
Barclays' chief executive Bob Diamond will appear before MPs on the Treasury Committee on Wednesday.
Mr Agius is due to answer their questions on Thursday.
Mr Agius has also stepped down as chairman of the British Bankers' Association, which is responsible for compiling Libor.
But, Barclays said Mr Agius would remain in his post at the bank until "an orderly succession is assured".
Mr Agius, who also serves on the BBC's executive board, said last week's events were evidence of "unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank".
He said the findings had "dealt a devastating blow" to Barclays' reputation. More
The statement in the headline applies to not only the financial industry, but also to the nuclear industry (with hindsight into Fukushima), governments which are being unduly influenced by corporate lobbyists and the oil companies. Corporate Social Responsability must become the norm. Editor