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  1. Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the January 16 issue of the journal Science. The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen). Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”. “Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” says Lead author, Professor Will Steffen, researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra. “In this new analysis we have improved our quantification of where these risks lie.” The new paper is a development of the Planetary Boundaries concept, which was first published in 2009, identifying nine global priorities relating to human-induced changes to the environment. The science shows that these nine processes and systems regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System – the interactions of land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide conditions upon which our societies depend. The research builds on a large number of scientific publications critically assessing and improving the planetary boundaries research since its original publication. It confirms the original set of boundaries and provides updated analysis and quantification for several of them, including phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, land-system change, freshwater use and biosphere integrity. Though the framework keeps the same processes as in 2009, two of them have been given new names, to better reflect what they represent, and yet others have now also been assessed on a regional level. “Loss of biodiversity” is now called “Change in biosphere integrity.” Biological diversity is vitally important, but the framework now emphasizes the impact of humans on ecosystem functioning. Chemical pollution has been given the new name “Introduction of novel entities,” to reflect the fact that humans can influence the Earth system through new technologies in many ways. “Pollution by toxic synthetic substances is an important component, but we also need to be aware of other potential systemic global risks, such as the release of radioactive materials or nanomaterials,” says Sarah Cornell, coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries research at the Centre. “We believe that these new names better represent the scale and scope of the boundaries,” she continues. In addition to the globally aggregated Planetary Boundaries, regional-level boundaries have now been developed for biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, land-system change and freshwater use. At present only one regional boundary (South Asian Monsoon) can be established for atmospheric aerosol loading. “Planetary Boundaries do not dictate how human societies should develop but they can aid decision-makers by defining a safe operating space for humanity,” says co-author Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen. Nine planetary boundaries: Climate change Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction) Stratospheric ozone depletion Ocean acidification Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles) Land-system change (for example deforestation) Freshwater use Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms) Introduction of novel entities (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
  2. Planetary Boundaries 2015

    Updated research finds that four of nine planetary boundaries have been crossed: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen). Source: Steffen et al, Science, Jan. 16 2015.
  3. In a culture that recycles over 150 million metric tons of metallic materials each year in the US alone, one cannot honestly say that there is no recycling effort taking place. Yet, many people are not aware of the many benefits that can be derived from a comprehensive effort to clean up the environment. Our article below covers several direct benefits produced today by scrap metal recycling operations across the US. Economic Reasons The US scrap metal recycling industry in 2008 resulted in the creation of more than 85,000 jobs and $86 billion being generated in revenue. That same year, the US exported roughly 44 million metric tons of scrap commodities that resulted in a more balanced US trade economy. Production of everyday items such as staples, paper clips, fasteners, jewelry, tools, city infrastructures and elements of buildings themselves all make up the scrap metal industry. Today, the industry is not only good for the environment, but it's good for business as well. Over 450,000 new jobs were created within the last three years at a time when the economy appeared to be in dire straits. Best of all, they were high quality, good-paying jobs that fed money back into a fragile and stagnant economy. Energy/Natural Resources Producing metals from virgin ore is an expensive process--both naturally and economically. However, the recycled scrap metal process not only reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, but it also helps preserve the earth’s precious natural resources. For instance, using recycled material saves up to 92 percent aluminum, 90 percent copper and more than 56 percent of steel stockpiles. Moreover, the recycling of just one ton of steel preserves more than 2,500 pounds of iron, 1,400 pounds of coal and more than 120 pounds of limestone. In addition, one ton of recycled aluminum helps conserve 8 tons of bauxite ore and 14 megawatt hours of electrical energy. Ecological/Environmental Benefits In a concentrated effort to preserve the ecological system, one cannot stress enough the importance of having a comprehensive program for recycling of scrap metals. Being that scrap metals are as usable, malleable and less expensive to produce then virgin material, it’s crucially important to have professional recyclers do the taxing work of removal and recycling according to General Recycling Industries Ltd., one of the many Edmonton scrap yards. All things considered, there are no valid reasons for not recycling scrap metals. The scrap metal industry consistently proves itself as being cost effective for those involved inside the industry and outside of it. But more importantly, as the obvious stewards of earth’s resources, scrap metal processing just may help avoid a possible future ecological disaster.
  4. How To Keep Snakes Away

    There is no doubt that snakes serve an important part in our ecosystem, especially with regards to keeping populations of rats and mice under control. However, there are situations where you wish to restrict the areas they can access, such as chicken coops, dog pens, aviaries and backyards frequented by children. It is therefore important to limit their access in a way that do not harm them or the environment. Several methods of discouraging snakes are being bandied around various forums with everything from old-wives tales to innovative technologies. This post aims to discuss the various options and their effectiveness. Keeping it short Keeping the grass short is a frequent advice to limit snakes, as the snakes do not like to be out in the open, as they are exposed to flying predators. However, during the warmer months, snakes desperate for water can easily venture over short grass, dirt and paved areas, attracted by the pets’ water bowls. Snake Fencing As Australia is heading into snake season with the warmer weather, Murray Stewart, owner of The Fencing Store has noticed a significant increase in enquiries for snake proof fencing mesh as people are taking precautions to protect pets, livestock and children from the slithering animals. Murray recommends a fine 6.5mm or 9.5mm square wire mesh that will keep most snakes out as long as the fence is constructed in the right manner. On his website, Murray has added a blog post about a customer who created a snake proof fence for their beloved dogs. Setting up snake proof fences is undoubtedly one of the best ways to keep snakes away while not harming the environment, as it keeps the snakes free to roam outside the fencing while not harming them. Naphthalene This falls under the old-wives tale category. I read regular forum posts advising to use naphthalene as snake repellent. Naphthalene is an ingredient in mothballs, and it’s scent is supposed to repel snakes. Naphthalene is also a toxic substance as covered on It is not recommended to place this substance out in nature, where it can be ingested by wildlife and cause terminal damage. Besides, studies show that Naphthalene is ineffective in repelling some snakes in the first place. Vibration Most snakes are wary of humans and larger animals, and sense our presence by the vibration our footsteps make when moving around. If awake, this vibration normally results in most snakes evacuating the area. retails a solar-powered snake shield, which in effect is a stake that emits a vibrating pulse into the ground, which should deter the snakes without hurting them or the environment. The only negative, is that it might repel the snakes from your shed as well, leaving rats and mice to roam free. Liquid snake repellent Liquid Fence have created a liquid and granular snake repellent that according to their website works by emitting a scent that “confuses and irritates the snake’s chemosensory systems”, making them look for another place to inhabit. The website further claims that the product is all natural, but at the time of writing, I have not had the opportunity to test it out, so I cannot cast any judgement on it. Conclusion For permanent areas, I recommend setting up a snake proof fence to keep snakes out. The vibrating snake shield would be a great investment for portable applications, such as camping trips.
  5. The traditional construction tools used to be noisy and non-eco-friendly. Even if these power tools made our construction jobs easier, they used to be terrible air and noise polluters. Fortunately, lately the things have started to change in the construction industry in accord with the general attention on environmentally friendly products. Among the latest developments in the construction industry nowadays are the greener tools. Many homeowners are choosing these green tools in order to stop stressing the power grid and to lower their electricity usage. For some others the motivation to choose greener tools is their environmental consciousness that push them to find ways to cut down on oil and gas from a desire to stop burning through the planet’s energy resources. Still others are motivated by a simple desire to not to smell and breathe the toxic and unpleasant fumes that some construction tools produce. We will take a look in this article at some popular green construction tools that are easier on the environment, nose, ears, and even the wallet, and rely on cleaner energy. Rechargeable chain saw For the big wood cutting jobs are usually used chain saws. Their fuel based on oil and gas mixture is so pollutant that many chain saw emissions break some state laws on pollution emission. The electric chain saw was developed as a greener alternative. You can even use an electric chain saw indoors, unlike a fuel-powered chain saw, since it doesn't produce any fumes. Other advantages to an electric chain saw are that it tends to be less noisy and lighter, and you don't worry about running out of gas before completed the task. Another alternative to a fuel-powered chain saw is a rechargeable chain saw. There are chain saws on the market that comes with interchangeable nickel-cadmium batteries or with an 18-volt lithium-ion battery. These are less noisy and lighter than gas chain saws and also offer the advantage of a convenient cordless design. Today's rechargeable chain saw designs provide enough cutting power for most of the jobs and they are friendlier to the environment. Rechargeable drill There are many construction tools that have adopted this design lately. For example, you can choose a rechargeable drill that comes with an attached LED light that focuses on your work area. These cordless tools are not only incredibly easy to handle due to their lightweight design, but also provide you with more flexibility and the liberty to work far from a power source. Certainly, working with a power drill makes your job easier than using a hand drill. However, the power cord can stay in your way and make your task awkward if you need to stretch it into the backyard or across your garage. The rechargeable and cordless drill solves this issue and frees you from the annoying cord. It is also a greener tool because is using far less energy while still packing enough power. Bottom line You can also find nowadays complete kits with green construction tools that are rechargeable and cordless. Some even come with interchangeable backup batteries to ensure you won’t run out of power in the middle of your job. The higher battery amp-hours or Ah, the longest use of the tool you can enjoy. The higher amp-hours mean you can use the tool more hours between two consecutive charges.
  6. Green Industrial Design is Possible

    Excessive production of various products and overdoing with loads of both necessary and unnecessary items lead to a huge global pollution problem, which we are already experiencing and which will become even harsher in the next few decades. Consumerism and aggressive marketing campaigns which persuade us to buy a new mobile or tablet every couple of years push the world into a never-ending whirlpool of tons of garbage that is nod easily disposable. Ecology and industrial design meet at this spot, since industrial design should try and use as many reusable materials as possible to save natural resources. Here are some strategies how ecology and industrial design can intertwine and make a joint effort to contribute to the environment preservation process. Industrial ecology and ecological design These two fields of research have a strong bond and a lot of overlapping in the process of industrial design. Industrial ecology refers to applying eco-friendly strategies and techniques in the process of industrial production. On the other hand, ecological design seeks for optimal design methods that do not harm the environment. Industrial design based on these two interdisciplinary scientific branches tends to help the global efforts to overcome the environmental problems. The basic concepts that industrial design borrows from these two scientific fields are production sustainability and the flow of materials. Materials or products that have already been used and thrown away should be reused or recycled whenever it is possible to do so. By applying this strategy, we lower the expenses for the overall industrial production and also cut the costs on the material-gaining side, as well. That way companies do not have to spend money on transporting oil producing plastic from scratch, for instance, but the old plastic can be recycled. The role of local authorities is also very important here, since they have to ensure conditions for collecting old materials to make them ready for the recycling process. Products made of recycled materials As the pressure on the environment is increasing, many businesses are looking for sustainable solutions in their development. A lot of governments give subsidies to green-friendly companies, which is why many industrial design companies are moving forward to using recyclable materials, especially plastic and glass. Plastic is particularly interesting when it comes to industrial design and possible green solutions. This material is made from oil and it is not bio-degradable. The fact that plastic is made from oil means that the production of plastic is not environmentally-friendly, since it includes oil drilling and other procedure connected with oil. The non-organic quality of plastic makes it extremely harmful for the environment. When all these facts are taken into consideration, the best ecological option for products made of plastic is manufacturing plastic products from recycled plastic. By doing this, we save the natural world from the damage plastic might cause to it. Going green when manufacturing new product requires a larger initial investment. However, over the next period, you will have less trouble with some other expenses that non-green businesses have. That is why investing in eco-friendly industrial design means securing the future of your company and taking care of the environment.
  7. The Impacts of Washing Your Own Car

    Despite the innocence associated with washing your car on a Sunday afternoon with the kids in your driveway, a do-it-yourself car wash can actually have more of an impact on the environment than you might expect. In fact, many jurisdictions in Canada have banned washing cars at home altogether. Citizens of the Canadian city Calgary could face a $3,000 fine if they wash their vehicle with soap at home, and most aren’t even aware of it. Washing cars in the driveway is surprisingly one of the most environmentally damaging chores that can be done around the house. When you wash your car yourself, the product of this wash is water that goes directly into the storm drains, and ultimately ends up in rivers, streams and creeks where it becomes poisonous to aquatic life and can disrupts the numerous ecosystems that live there. After all, the water in question is contaminated with gasoline, as well as oil and residues from exhaust fumes, in addition to the chemical rich detergents being used for the washing itself. This water, unlike household wastewater that enters sewers or septic systems, undergoes zero treatment before it is discharged into the environment. Not to mention the activity wastes city water, according to one report, on average, washing a car at home uses between 80 and 140 gallons of water. Despite the added personal expense, going to a commercial car wash can be much better for the environment as most drain their wastewater into sewer systems (USA and Canada have federal laws stating this). What is more carwash institutions often use computer controlled systems and high pressure nozzles which limit water usage. Many commercial car washes have systems in place to recycle the water they use too. Depending on where in the world you live, you can make the choice to wash your own car if you insist upon it. In this case, there are ways in which can limit the damage on the environment. For instance, you can choose to use a biodegradable soap which is made especially for vehicle use. In addition, the location in which you choose to wash your car can also make a difference to where the potentially toxic water will end up. Washing your car on your lawn or over soil can be beneficial as the water can be absorbed and neutralized in the soil as opposed to flowing directly into storm drains or open bodies of water. Mopping up the excess water afterwards can help keep thirsty animals safe too. This article was written by Chloe Hashemi on behalf of Credo Asset Finance who provide car finance in Norwich and Norfolk.
  8. Geography Trivia: Mt. Davidson

    How much do you know about Mt.Davidson? Besides being the highest point in California and one of the original Seven Hills there is so much more to this interesting feature that will definitely intrigue you. It is also one of the 44 hills in San Francisco. This is just the basic stuff. Do you know anything about the origins, how it got its name? Well, this one is for you. The mountain was given an honorary name after George Davidson, then Chief of the US Coast & General Survey’s Pacific Operations. He was also a scientist, and one of his notable projects was commissioning an astronomical observatory on the West Coast. Click here for more facts Hiking The mountain is at 125 Dalewood Way. The 0.44 mile distance marks an interesting hiking experience for hikers, the distance to the top of the hill. The trailers are usually graded properly though from time to time you might find them slightly overgrown with vegetation. It is an incredibly easy hike all the same. In terms of the exposure, the trail is characteristic of lots of shade and a little sun here and there, moderate traffic and dirt trails. It should take you roughly one hour to make the hike. One of the best things about hiking on Mt.Davidson is that you can basically plan your hiking at any time, any season, though it is open between 6 in the morning and 10 in the evening. On the brighter side for pet lovers, you are allowed to bring your dogs with you. Tourist attraction The lush greens turn into a major tourist attraction in February just as the season turns. This brings forth wildflowers like the mule’s ears and the California poppy, the hog fennel and the checker bloom among a host of other incredible plantation that blooms right around that time. The privately owned summit does attract a lot of visitors, and the park at the top of the hill is also another incredible feature that will definitely appeal to visitors. There is public transportation all the way to the Park, 36 Teresita Muni line. The Cross Besides the naturel attraction that it is, Mt.Davidson has since become famous especially for those who are religious, for the cross, a gigantic one that was first erected at the site in 1923. Later on in 1924 another cross was erected, but it was burned down a year later. In 1931 arsonists torched a third cross that was also erected atop the mountain. The cross is significant to those of Christian faith especially Catholics, and this cross is often illuminated during Easter every other year. In 1933 after the third arsonist attack, the burned down cross was replaced with a steel and concrete cross. If you are a serious movie fan, this was the iconic cross in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 set, Dirty Harry. Every year during Easter there are walking tours held through the trail. Apart from that there is a clean-up session every month that is aimed at keeping the mountain area clean and free of debris.
  9. It is estimated that seven million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away every year by people in the UK. Approximately one fifth of this is food that could have been consumed, equating to 1,400,000 tonnes in total (the equivalent weight of over 250,000 bull elephants). This is an astounding quantity of waste which has a significant environmental, social and economic impact on both the UK and the planet. Figures released earlier this year have discovered that recommendations to food banks have risen by 163% with more than 900,000 people who require food banks. 50% of these referrals are a result of benefit delays or cuts, leading to 582,933 adults and 330,205 children who depend on food banks to eat. With the UK having the sixth richest economy globally, this number of people going hungry is a real issue, especially with the vast quantities of decent food going to waste. Last year, almost 2,500 tonnes of food was contributed to food banks, which is an incredible figure– but this only makes up a mere 3% of 7 million tonnes of binned food. The difference the food could have made had it not been thrown away would have been great for those in need, as well as to the environment. As well as accepting food donations, food banks gladly welcome monetary contributions, for example Best of Suffolk, a company specialising Suffolk cottages and other holiday cottages in the area recently donated £3,000 to the East Suffolk Food Bank, a scheme seeded by the Trussell Trust. Business director, Naomi Tarry describes that “The ability to feed yourself and your family is such a basic need that needs to be met”. So, contributing to a needy cause can be done so by…? Needlessly throwing away food is very costly as well. Although binning that moulding banana might not seem like that much, it all adds up in the long run. On average, the price of discarded food is setting back the average household by almost £470 each year. For families with offspring, food waste can amount to approximately £60 each month, equating to £700 a year. Intentionally planning meals, writing shopping lists and not getting fooled by offers is a great way to reduce the household waste and the binning of excess food. The planting, growing, harvesting and packaging of food can all immensely contribute to both an individual’s carbon and water footprint. A small percentage of people are aware that it takes a shocking twenty of litres of water to produce a single egg and if you throw that away, you’re basically throwing away all that water. The waste of decent food is presently connected for almost 5% of the UK’s total water footprint. Additionally, wasted food is accountable for a substantial amount of the UK’s carbon footprint. If no food was made futile whatsoever in the UK, the carbon saved would be equal to taking one quarter of the cars of the of the road. To lessen your waste in your home, attempt and make an active attempt to be alert of the food you have in your refrigerator and cupboards and plan your weekly meals to try and use what needs eating before everything expires. By simply not throwing food away, you will be shrinking the impact you are having on the environment and will help save yourself valuable cash.
  10. Moving Home the Green Way

    When moving house it feels like there’s a million details to sort out and consider, but one you might not have thought of is making your move a green one. It’s more easily done than you might think, just changing a few details can make a big difference and often it’s more economical for you as well. Don’t throw away – Reuse or Recycle Moving house is often synonymous with de-cluttering but what you do with your unwanted belongings can have an impact on the environment. So, instead of taking several trips to the dump and creating yet more waste, try to find another home for your belongings. There are various options for this; Gumtree, eBay and even a car boot sale for those knick-knacks you’re not sure anyone really wants. Or, if you have a bit of time and artistic flare you could try upcycling them. One easy option is the British Heart Foundation, they have furniture stores across the UK and will collect your unwanted furniture for free and sell it to raise money for charity, given it’s in good enough condition for them to sell on. It helps the environment because you’re not throwing it away and creating rubbish, it raises money for charity and someone gets a reasonably priced piece of furniture. It’s a win, win and all it takes from you is a simple phone call. If your mission to sell or even give away your stuff doesn't work, you can probably recycle it rather than just throwing it away. Recycle now is the official UK recycling site which tells you what items you can recycle and where you can recycle them in your local area as well as providing useful info on how recycling works and why it’s important. Eco Cleaning Products Before you leave your home for good it’s likely it’s going to need a good clean, especially if you’re moving from a rental property and hoping for a full deposit back. So, you should consider getting some environmentally responsible cleaning products to help you, if you get the right ones they’re just as effective at cleaning and you won’t leave the property with a chemical stench. Wasted Packaging The materials you use to move can also have a big impact on the environment, moving companies often like to use new boxes because of the stability and then throw them away after one use. Often you don’t need all new boxes and rolls of bubble wrap to pack up your home. Newspaper, towels and clothes work just as well to protect fragile items and you can often get old boxes from supermarkets or friends. There are even companies where you can rent removal boxes or removal companies that do this for you. Pick the Right Moving Company It’s worth looking into who helps you move, for instance Abels removal company have environmentally responsible moving vans. The environment is a growing concern across all industries and it’s worth doing a little research to find a company which can help you to make your move as green as possible. Moving internationally We all know airplane travel is the ultimate environmental sin however sometimes it’s a necessity, especially if you’re moving a great distance internationally. If this is the case you might want to think about offsetting your carbon footprint. There are various companies and websites that set to help you do this and it’s usually as simple as transferring a small fee to get some trees re-planted or support reforestation. If you’re not moving home so far you could consider transporting you and your belongings by more environmental means.
  11. Renewable energy companies have been in a tough situation for more than twenty years (since the beginning of renewables' sector). Two fires, two enemies to fight, the first is the entire fossil fuels' sector, the second is the internal competition in its own sector. The first is a strong, old and rich institution, with thousands of billion of dollars and has exponents like Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron. The second is also strong and in a long-term can monopolize the entire energy market, it's the internal competition in renewable energy sector, where companies double their profits in less than a year (like First Solar or SunPower) and hydroelectric sector growth rises every year of 3.1%. The slow but inevitable ascent of renewables in the energy market can't be stopped although it can be delayed and this delay can represent a high environmental price and the Earth (and also us) will pay it. We're talking about the deadly consequences of climate change, triggered by an abudance of fossil fuels usage. It's vital, for our lives and for our environment, that fossil fuels leave the market in the fastest way as possible and to do that alternatives are required, strong alternatives. To improve and strengthen remewable energy market one of the two enemies must be fought: fossil fuels (already happening) and internal competition. How can renewable energy companies overpass this obstacle and become a strong, united market? Joint ventures. Someone already thought about that, like Solar Power Inc. The company, which 71% is owned by China's LDK Solar Co., has formed a partnership with Wircon GmbH to build projects in the U.K. The joint venture intends to own and sell the projects it develops in the U.K., Roseville, California-based Solar Power said today in a statement. The company initially intends to build about 55 megawatts of capacity. This will go to reach U.K. goal of the 30% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2020. In Japan the lack of land territory brought Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. to build two solar power stations designed to float on the surface of reservoirs. I've mentioned it already before but it's here again: DESERTEC project, building renewable power plants in territories with an abundance of solar and wind energy and connecting three continents with energy infrastructures. The consortium which administrates the project is one of the biggest companies union in the world. The Dii GmbH is composed by E.ON, ABB, Siemens, Enel Green Power, Terna, State Grid Croporation of China, Deutsche Bank, Flagsol, Abengoa Solar, Schott Solar and RWE. This consortium administrates more than $500 billion and operates in three continents. Another consortium focused on energy infrastructures is Medgrid (focused more on Middle East) and formed by Abengoa, GDF Suez, EDF and other companies. Between the many examples of joint ventures in the world there's the cooperation between First Solar and BELECTRIC for the construction of PV power plants or 3SUN, the biggest solar power joint venture in Europe including Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics. Joint ventures help new companies to invest in foreign countries and strengthen relationships between companies increasing the profits and the total capacity of renewable energy power plants all over the world. But if we want to accelerate the process the number of joint ventures and consortia have to double. The final target? A global renewble energy network, connecting all the companies of the sector. In fact, a renewable energy OPEC doesn't exist, it must be created. In a world where everything is connected it's unthinkable that renewable energy companies are isolated and under the pressure of fossil fuels companies. Like oil is transported from Middle East to the U.S. so renewable energy must be an international fuel to power a clean and green future.
  12. Texas professor Dr. Jeff Wilson moved in a dumpster to make a bold statement and to inspire a nation to consider micro-living. The environmental studies professor wanted to show his students and the world that you can be happy and healthy in a very small space. Dr. Wilson took this extreme step to live in a dumpster for a year, because he wanted to raise awareness of the growing population (past 7 billion people) and the limited resources we have. The "mad" professor wanted to get his students out of their seats and get them excited about environmental problems. He wanted to pull everything out of the classroom, do something extreme, radical, crazy and meaningful. Ideally people will take away a lot of things from this project and ideas how to implement the lessons learned in further environmental projects. The dumpster itself got cleaned and equipped with a few necessities such as blanket, pillow, Persian rug, lights, hanger, etc. Ideally, Wilson wanted the dumpster to "be designed to a standard that even my mother would give it a go for a night". He plans to make it even more attractive by introducing an xBox. He considers his dumpster as a "luxurious camping" opportunity with convertible roof that provides an excellent view under the Austin stars. Sounds magical doesn't it? Before you decide to move in to one yourself, you should know it is not all butterflies. Dr. Wilson has battled leaky roofs, endured bucket-style showers and his dumpster was carted off by the council once. To donate for the cause, or read more, visit:
  13. Have you heard of the 7 days of garbage project carried by Gregg Segal? It is as interesting as it sounds! Despite just highlighting how much Americans consume in a week's time, it also raises awareness of how our rubbish affects the environment. After all, no one wants to lie in their own trash like this, right? Someday we may have to, if we don't cut pollution. Here is an interesting fact - the average American produces around 4 lb (nearly 2 kg) of rubbish everyday. The figure has doubled since 1960s. A single person, therefore, produces 14 kg a week, or roughly around 728 kg a year. A family of four thus, produces around 2912 kg (nearly 3 tons) of waste a year. When Gregg Segal found out about this disturbing rate at which we swamp our planet earth, he came up with "7 days of garbage". He hopes he can expand his project, shoot different locations and help people understand how pervasive clutter and garbage is and how important repurposing and upcycling are. He wants to show people that most of their clutter is unnecessary, anyway. Gregg says some of the participants volunteered because they believed the cause is worthwhile and others endured the shootings for monetary benefits. Either way he got different people from a variety of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. He even participated with his own family, because in his own words he believed: "we are all a part of the problem" And if Gregg's project can't inspire you here are a few more thoughts. According to professional carpet cleaners there is no cleaning a cluttered home. Clutter stands on the way of performing elementary tasks effectively. It stands on the way of having a productive day and puts pressure on the individual. In fact, de-cluttering might help you conceive, as according to Fung Shui when you have clutter, you have a leakage of energy.
  14. For some time, the bee population has been steadily declining worldwide, and this is most directly attributed to the negative impact of pesticides. Now, there's a lot of buzz around a recent study by Dutch researchers, which has found that the toxic chemicals we use are having a ripple effect farther up the food chain, causing insectivorous birds to rapidly decline in number. The study was the collaborative effort of researchers with the Radboud University Institute of Water and Wetland Research, the Dutch Center for Field Ornithology, and Birdlife Netherlands. In a joint statement, the researchers declared, "Neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects on non-target invertebrate species. Invertebrates constitute a substantial part of the diet of many bird species during the breeding season and are indispensible for raising offspring. In the Netherlands," for example, "local bird population trends were significantly more negative in areas with higher surface-water concentrations of imidacloprid," a type of pesticide. "At imidacloprid concentrations of more than 20 nanograms per liter, bird populations tended to decline by 3.5 percent on average, annually," they continued. The overall results of the study, they said, shows "that the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent pesticides in the past. Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects [of insecticides] on ecosystems." Neonicotinoids are interesting in that their origins lie with two corporations already strongly linked with outright for-profit environmental destruction: Royal Dutch Shell and Bayer. These insecticides, which are chemically similar to nicotine, were first developed and used in the 1980s by the Shell, and in the 1990s by the German chemical and pharmaceutical company. In 2009, on the specific neonicotinoid called imidacloprid that the Dutch researchers referenced, Bayer made a profit of over one billion alone, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. There is, however, a loss occurring, albeit an ecological one, not a financial one. Such was the conclusion of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which conducted another recent report on the matter. They explained, "Neonicotinoids persist for months and in some cases years, and environmental concentrations can build up. This effectively increases their toxicity by increasing the duration of exposure of non-target species. The effects of exposure [in wildlife] range from instant and lethal to chronic." Effects could include "altered feeding behavior and reduced food intake [in birds], reduced foraging in bees, and altered tunneling behavior in earthworms." Dr. David Gibbons, head of the Center for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, remarked, "This elegant and important study provides worrying evidence of negative impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on birds. Usage of these pesticides has been particularly high in some parts of the Netherlands. Monitoring of pollution in soils and waterways is urgently required, as is further research into the effects of these insecticides on wildlife."
  15. It's lunch time. You drive your car and go to grocery store for preparing something delicious. You pick chicken and a pre-made salad. Have you noticed that such actions affect environment? How could it be possible? Let me explain. When you go by car, it releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Air gets polluted. The store that you went into, require light which is powered by coal and as you know that coal mining destroy our ecosystem. What about that salad? Its ingredients grown on farm using harmful pesticides and then washed into local streams poisoning the fish and aquatic plants. Water gets polluted. Even chicken transported by trucks that emits poisonous gas. A smallest action of human creates an environmental change. Think of a bigger picture. Humans are completely dependent on mother nature for survival. But, what you give back? Harmful chemicals that pollutes water, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide such undesirable gases causing air pollution. We really need to think on this and stop some where. Have you ever wonder which is one of the main reason in determining the nature? Industrial pollution is the main cause. Earlier industries were limited and so they were less harmful to en vironment. But, with growing population several industries evolved on a large scale with massive production. This has depleted certain natural resources damaging the environment permanently. Best example is deforestation which is clearing of forest for sake of production. “ Grow More Trees” is our motto. Do you think we took this seriously? Just to increase production level, what are we doing? Cutting down the trees and cripple the system. Greed can lead to catastrophic accidents and eventually society has to suffer. Mainly primary industries has caused a massive damage to earth especially mining of coal. This has become one of the biggest issue today. Coal, one of the fossil fuel, is mined with an aim of producing electricity. Imagine a day without electricity. I remember a day when the light goes off just for an hour and I was like yelling and calling at electricity office. We really could not live without it. Not even an hour. Now, you might have come to know how coal is important and so its mining as well. But Wait! All good things come with something not acceptable. Have you ever think of how much damage is caused to surface of earth while mining coal? Let me list down all the drastic consequences that comes along with mining of it. 1. Emission of harmful gases deteriorates ambient air quality With an aim to extract coal from underground mines, mining operation is done. Such operation includes drilling, hauling, collection and transportation and this results into emission of harmful gases like methane, sulfur-dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide . Just like other fossil fuels, combustion of coal produces CO2 affecting the green house effect. This even increase in global warming. This even has major impact like global warming. Don't you think such release of gases will pollute the air? Off-course Yes. Much more air quality deterioration is caused due to opencast mining in which mining operation is carried without any tunnel or shafts. Imagine how much destructive it will be? Such emission leads to serious health hazards with a rapid increase of respiratory disease such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. Really, we need to think on this otherwise the day is no far where we are left alone by nature. Within last few year production of coal is sky-rocketing. You can figure it out how the production of coal has been incresed in china in last few years. 2. Adverse impact to hydrological regime Process of mining, burning the coal and waste storage of coal pollutes the water. How? A flowing water comes into contact of coal mining activities that has exposed rocks. Such rocks contains pyrite, a sulphur bearing mineral. This mineral reacts with water forming sulphuric acid. Such runoff results into a metal rich water that is Acid mine drainage (AMD). How dreadful it would be to those aquatic plants and animals? And what about us? We too are affected as we drink that contaminated water. Other reasons that pollutes the water are erosion of mine benches , overloaded and reject dumps, failing dams and even during discharging of million litres of water itself. “Water is life” But, we have made it such that becomes dangerous to your life. How mean we are? 3. Enormous Land Disturbance Caused due to mining operation Mining operation goes through large scale excavation, creation of negligent land, removal of top soil, dumping of solid waste and cutting of roads. Usually, mine collapse in underground mining and land above it start to sink result into an interruption. News about such catastrophe is frequently heard. But, opencast mining is more destructive than underground mining. It scraps away earth and rock to get coal buried near the surface. It destroy landscapes, forest, wildlife, contaminates ground water and result into air and noise pollution. Such environmental affects are so profound that recovery of it is next to impossible. So, why we become so careless and constantly dig though it affects our environment. 4. Mining causes noise and vibration Do you like someone screaming? No Why? Because it is too unpleasant to our ears. Think of a blast or something weird sound at a high volume. How terrible it might be for our ears. Think of people living around the areas where mining activities takes place. Why? Because such mining operation produces lot of noise and vibration as well. Hundreds of tones of explosives blast in the mining area and this creates a massive noise pollution. Hearing loss of human ears is one of the major consequence of noise. Imagine how dreadful it might be? Beast in forest are more sensitive to such noise and so they are more affected than humans. Want to improve environmental sustainability in industries? There has been established many institutional bodies that offers diploma in Environmental Management. Many of them even offer excellent trainig and one of my friend has experienced best training of workplace environmental at Brisbane in Australia. Being a part of this wonderful nature, each and every individual is responsible for such destruction. Why we have become so greedy that we don't care of its frighting consequences. There is still time to save our nature otherwise it will be too late to sum up everything.
  16. Have a birthday or anniversary party coming up? Why not make the celebration a bit greener in order to help the environment? Check out this article for some eco-friendly tips on how to reduce your party’s carbon footprint. Hint: it should also lower the budget for the event. An eco-friendly party doesn’t necessarily have to be for an environmental cause. It doesn’t even need to have a nature theme or anything like that. People usually believe that throwing a greener party will mean upping their costs or annoying their guests by bringing up environmental issues. It doesn’t have to be that way – in order to help the planet you only have to keep in mind that the choices you make in the planning stage will inevitably affect the environment. It’s just up to you how much. We have plenty of resources available to help raise awareness on environmental issues. If you’re looking to make a difference for the planet, every small effort counts. You can use the special occasion coming up to inspire loved ones to make more eco-friendly choices in their everyday life, while keeping your budget manageable and making planning much more fun. If you follow a few simple guidelines, any event can become a bit greener, regardless of size or occasion. Forget about paper invitations Paper’s impact on the environment is significant – so spread the word about your gathering without leaving a paper trail. There are plenty of invite sites that allow you to create and personalize online invitations to send to your guests via e-mail or social networks. In case you’re looking for something fancier, Paperless Post lets you choose from plenty of elegant designs to suit every occasion. Additionally, every virtual card is delivered in a personalized envelope, and the website allows you to manage your RSVP list online. Say no to disposable plates and cups Reducing waste should be one of our main concerns when it comes to environmental issues. After all, each item we throw away is a waste of resources and a burden to the environment. Most of our trash ends up in landfills, which pollute the atmosphere and can have possible harmful effects on our health. Instead of using disposable plates and cups at your event, which you’ll only end up throwing away afterward, go for reusable ones. The cleanup may take you longer, but the planet will be grateful. If you don’t have enough dishes, borrow from friends and neighbors. Don’t worry about mixing colors and patterns – you can actually add an eclectic element to your event this way. Go green with your catering When it comes to cooking for the event, it is wise to have at least one dish that’s completely meat-free. According to the Meatless Monday movement, the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. By serving your guests a delicious vegetarian meal, you show them that meatless dishes don’t have to be free of taste. To green up you cooking for the party, you should also use organic and local ingredients as much as possible. Additionally, you can serve food that your guests can eat with their hands to minimize the need for plates and cutlery. Don’t buy new décor Don’t buy new decorations. Instead, make use of decorations you already have or make your own, personalized ones using material you have lying around the house. Check out Pinterest for inspiration on how to make homemade party decorations that will save you some cash and add some personality to your gathering at the same time. Cut back on carbon emissions Being in charge of your RSVP list, you can easily find out where your guests are coming from. If possible, try to coordinate small groups for carpooling parties in order to cut back on carbon emissions. As a bonus, people will know beforehand who the designated drivers will be, which can come in handy in case you’ll be serving alcohol. Offer plants as party favors If you’re looking to give away some party favors, plants are always a good idea. Miniature potted plants make great parting gifts that your guests will enjoy for a long period of time. You can even organize a fun party activity and invite everyone to decorate their own pots with reusable materials. Other great ideas for party favors: sustainable bags and homemade goodies. All parties can be green parties when you’re looking to become more environmentally-friendly. After all, it’s our duty to keep the planet as safe as possible so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same natural resources and healthy surroundings as we do now. With minimal effort on your part, you can put together a remarkable gathering which will also remind your guests about the importance of preserving the environment, in every way possible.
  17. British Columbia's controversial annual spring grizzly bear hunt began on Apr. 1, with an estimated 1,800 hunting authorizations being issued - one of the highest numbers in recent years. Grizzlies, which are considered "threatened" by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, do not have the population numbers that black bears do, and activists including conservation groups, animal rights supporters, and First Nation tribe members have serious qualms about the hunting of these bears for pure sport. This year's grizzly hunt lasts until the end of May, and is followed by an autumn hunt that takes place Oct. 1 through mid-November. On average, about 300 of these bears are killed by hunters per year, but that number might increase from an uptick in hunting authorizations. The Canadian province where the activity will take place is home to about a quarter of the remaining North American grizzly population. Robert Johnson and Jason Moody, two brothers from the Heiltsuk First Nation, recalled commonly seeing a grizzly bear while working as field technicians in a coastal estuary, flanked by what was known as the Great Bear Rainforest. The young male bear, whom they nicknamed "Cheeky," would follow them around from a distance, often poking his head out at them and sticking out his tongue. The brothers were also there on the day that Cheeky was shot to death by a big-game trophy hunter. The bear's killer, Clayton Stoner, skinned Cheeky and took his hide. He chopped off Cheeky's head and paws. Though the brothers arrived too late to stop the hunt, they did find Cheeky's mangled remains, which had been left there to rot. "I was devastated," said Moody. "I had hoped to save his life." He and his brother, he said, had developed quite a bond with the bear, who had a playful curiosity and friendliness. Johnson remarked that during their time there, "We started talking with Cheeky, telling him what we were doing there. We got to know him quite well, to the point we could go in our boat and get off and walk around in the area without having to worry about him." Stoner kept the bear as a trophy, even balancing the animal's severed head on his knee and posing for a photo. Brothers Johnson and Moody, meanwhile, returned to their research camp near the estuary and wept for the loss of their friend. This is merely a single example of what is increasingly being viewed across Canada as a moral atrocity, and British Columbia is now seriously debating the continuation of grizzly trophy hunts. Thirteen years ago in April, a moratorium on the hunt was enacted, but quickly overturned within months. On Feb. 15, protesters gathered at the B.C. legislature buildings in the provincial capital of Victoria, demanding a permanent province wide ban on grizzly bear trophy hunting. And they posed their argument not merely in moral terms, but in economic terms as well, noting that over 11,000 tourists came to Canada to visit the bears in 2012, and contributed $9.54 million to the GDP. Trophy hunting, on the other hand, only generated $0.7 million that year. Chelsea Turner, daughter of British Columbian wildlife filmmakers Jeff and Sue Turner, spoke at the demonstration, remarking, "I realized that when we go out on location to film this spring, it will be the same time the spring trophy hunt begins. It's just appalling to me. It breaks my heart to think that one day we're working with these bears and shooting them with our cameras, and the next day trophy hunters can show up and shoot them with their high-powered rifles. This is completely the wrong direction that we're moving in." Biologist Paul Paquet of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation said grizzlies could be too few in numbers to risk a trophy hunt at this time. "The real numbers could be somewhere as low as 6,000 or as high as 18,000," he said. "We just don't know." But the real question he said, is, "is this ethical, to be hunting bears? That's really what's at issue. This is a trophy hunt, as opposed to a hunt for food." And according to First Nation members, these big game hunters are not doing anything particularly brave, difficult, or admirable. The bears in the area are accustomed to seeing people, due to tourism, and thus do not fear guns - until it's too late. Doug Neasloss of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais Nation suggested it isn't so much a hunt as it is senseless slaughter. When asked whether a grizzly is hard to catch, Neasloss replied, "No. My grandmother could shoot a grizzly." This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  18. Today, a month and two days after Spring Equinox, is the Earth Day. A few days ago we celebrated the Earth Hour and now we dedicate an entire day to environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970 and now it's organized by the Earth Day Network and takes place in more than 192 countries each year. Over the years milions of people all over the world take action to make the Earth greener and safer and today everybody can act to contribute the Earth Day. But what is the sense? Will something really change? Will climate change end today? Of course not but what we do today should be repeated every day of our lives. All these daily actions will make the difference. In the past years the word has been spread and a new green generation is ready to face and solve the problems made in the past years. Earth Day this year is dedicated to green cities. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effects of climate change worsen, our cities have to evolve. According to the Earth Day Network we have to improve three aspects of our cities: Energy. Most of the world currently relies on outdated electric generation structures that are extremely inefficient and dirty. Renewable energy is the energy of this century. Green Buildings. Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Through simple efficiency and design improvements to buildings we can reduce those emissions drastically. Transportation. The fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. We need to improve standards, increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve city walkability and bikeability. But what you can do today not to feel guilty and to help the environment? If you want to join this global movement there are two ways: Online activism. Lend your voice, spread the word from your computer. Local campaigns. More than 192 countries (almost all in the world) are celebrating Earth Day. Join the nearest campaign to you. One of the causes that brought to the first Earth Day was an oil spill in California and today we're still fighting against the same dirty and polluting kind of energy source. It sounds repetitive but change is necessary and change depends from the number of people involved, so let everybody know that today is the Earth Day. For more details on green cities and global campaigns go to
  19. The effects of global warming will be “severe, pervasive and irreversible” and will leave no one untouched. That is the conclusion of the newly released IPCC report, which scientists and officials say is the most comprehensive study to date on the impacts of climate change. This report is “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. Earlier we could, to a certain extent, say that people damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”. But “now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said at a news conference in Yokohama, Japan, where the report was presented. While the world’s natural systems are currently bearing the brunt of climate change, the impact on us humans is expected to grow significantly in the near future, the IPCC report warns. Rising global temperatures will result in more floods and cause changes to crop yields and water availability – effectively threatening our homes, health, food and safety. Or in the words of the report itself: “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” We will be able to adapt to some of these changes, but only within certain limits. In response to the IPCC report, Ed Davey, the UK Energy and Climate Secretary said that “the recent flooding in the UK is a testament to the devastation that climate change could bring to our daily lives.” “The science has clearly spoken,” Davey said. “Left unchecked, climate change will impact on many aspects of our society, with far reaching consequences to human health, global food security and economic development.” The IPCC report, which is based on 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies, details both short-term and long-term impacts of global warming. These include threats to natural systems that in turn will have severe effects for humans. A 2C rise in temperatures would mean a “very high” risk to unique natural systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs. Oceans will become more acidic, which will threaten coral and the species that depend on them. Fish species, that are a critical source of food for many people, will move to new territories because of warmer waters. It is expected that in some parts of the tropics and in Antarctica, potential fish catches could decline by more than 50 percent. Plants, animals and other species on land will also begin to move towards higher grounds, towards the poles as the climate gets warmer and their current habitats changes. As mentioned earlier, the natural systems will feel the worst impacts first. Humans will be increasingly affected as the century goes on, the IPCC report claims. Highlighted in the report for being a significant concern is food security. Crop yields for rice, wheat and maize are all expected to be taking severe hits leading up to 2050, with projections showing potential losses of over 25 percent in yields. And after 2050, the risk of even more severe impacts on yields increases. At the same time, a rising population estimated at around 9 billion people will increase the demand for food. “Going into the future, the risks only increase, and these are about people, the impacts on crops, on the availability of water and particularly, the extreme events on people's lives and livelihoods,” said Professor, and co-author of the IPCC report, Neil Adger from the University of Exeter in England. The IPCC report also raises concerns over human migration due to climate change, as well as increasing risks of conflicts that will pose a threat to national and global security. As climate change worsens, so will society’s current problems. Poverty, violence, sickness, and refugees will all get worse according to the report. Climate change will also slow down the modernization of our society and effectively hampering economic growth, among other things. But although the impacts of climate change will be felt everywhere and hit everyone, the severity won’t affect people equally. Poor people, and developing countries, will feel the impact first and hardest. Climate change is expected to further increase the gaps between rich and poor. But the rich won’t be able to escape from the realities of global warming. “The rich are going to have to think about climate change,” said Dr Saleemul Huq, a lead author on one of the chapters in the IPCC report. “We're seeing that in the UK, with the floods we had a few months ago, and the storms we had in the US and the drought in California. These are multibillion dollar events that the rich are going to have to pay for.” Despite all the doom and gloom, the report makes it clear that we still have time to act to limit and adapt to some of the climate changes. In their next report, which will be published on April the 13th, IPCC will discuss what we can do to stop this negative progress. “Climate change is really important but we have a lot of the tools for dealing effectively with it - we just need to be smart about it,” said the IPCC report's chair, Dr Chris Field.
  20. The spill of about 7,500 gallons of a chemical substance from a cistern has polluted the Elk River in West Virginia, forcing 300,000 residents of nine counties not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or bathing since Jan. 9. The chemical material, used in coal processing, came out from a tank of the Freedom Industries Inc. complex, near the river. Freedom Industries president apologized for the spill said the company is working with state and federal officials. The operations to clean up the water of the river Elk Meanwhile go on, and the purification plant near the spill showed only small traces of the toxic chemical substance, ended up in the river. The day before yesterday the Democratic Governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, has decided to revoke a ban on the consumption of tap water in some areas of the State, after the water analysis. An estimated 35,000 residents in Charleston had water restored as of early yesterday, West Virginia American Water said. Responsibilities have to be ensured, although the lack of controls is obvious. West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said the last time the site of the spill was inspected was in 1991. Also the location of the chemical plant to the water was a hazard and the risk is evident. What is happening right now in West Virginia is unbelievable and not just for the gravity of the situation. There had been other accidents in 2008 and 2009 that brought to a NY Times investigation that revealed violations of pollution laws from some companies in the same valley of the chemical spill case. How many disasters have to happen to change this situation? What is more incredible is that three years ago a team of experts in the United States Chemical Safety Board had asked West Virginia to create a new program to prevent accidents in the Kanawha Valley, the valley of the accident. No program was established by West Virginia and now the population have to pay the price. Chemical and mining companies are an important part of W. Virginia economy so there must be a way to prevent future accidents and not to destroy an important part of the state economy. Still, according to the critics, laws and controls aren’t effective to counteract these accidents. Now the damages are visible, the signal is loud and clear: a strengthening of the regulations and the controls of this area is required. These controls shouldn’t affect the economy too much and they have to prevent similar accidents in the future. References: Bloomberg News Photo from Fox News
  21. Top 10 environmental issues of 2013

    It's been another year of environmental disasters in the U.S. - some fueled by corporate profiteering, others by climate change. However, it's important to take note of progress where it's due: steps forward have been made in expanding solar energy, as well as curbing carbon and mercury emissions. Nevertheless, in light of what's happened to the climate this past year, let's take a look at 10 of the biggest issues of 2013 and see what lessons can be learned from them going forward. 10. Wolves Wolves were under attack this year, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed in June to strip federal Endangered Species Act protections from them. The population is already at an all-time low. Experts believe that doing more to protect these animals, not less, is in our best interest, and that we would benefit economically and ecologically from such an endeavor. Fortunately, on Dec. 17, one million Americans stated their opposition to removing wolf protections, via conservation groups that collected their comments and sent them along to the Fish and Wildlife Service. So while wolves were certainly a hot topic in 2013, if enough people stand up for them, this issue need not devolve into a disaster. 9. Petcoke Residents in southeast Chicago are lamenting the continued nuisance of petcoke (short for oil waste called "petroleum coke"), which is currently piling up near their neighborhoods. The smoke from the stuff is drifting into their homes, disturbing family events, and causing endless health concerns. It's disconcerting to know that the billionaire Koch brothers have been technically responsible: KCBX Terminals, which has done some of the dumping, is a division of Koch Industries, which has been implicated in numerous other environmental disasters. 8. Fracking Fracking, a process through which natural gas is extracted from the ground, has not proven too popular with residents affected by toxic water, towns enduring small earthquakes from the drilling, and environmental activists who have come to realize that fracking is anything but safe. The process has persisted throughout 2013 and, even more worrying, the fossil fuel industry is increasingly setting its sights on natural gas, seeing it as a cheaper alternative to coal. But there are better alternatives. 7. Poaching Though average Americans seem not to realize it, an all-out war is being waged on the rhinoceros, particularly in South Africa, where they are prized for their horns. Poachers have evolved with the times and grown more dangerous, now wielding high-powered rifles and assault vehicles. The western black rhino is now extinct, and other species, like the northern white rhino and the Javan rhino, are at risk. The illegal wildlife trade is growing to such an extent that experts believe more rhinos will soon be slaughtered than born. 6. Wildfires They continue to burn in California even now, as winter approaches. This has been a particularly bad year - amidst a whole string of recent bad years - for areas at risk for wildfires. A look back at California's Rim Fire, which began on Aug. 17 and burned 257,314 acres, is sobering. The third largest wildfire in the state's history, its rapid spread was certainly made worse by a climate change-fueled drought and heat wave, as well as Forest Service budget cuts. It was also one of 17 major brushfires (burning 1,000 acres or more) in the U.S. this year. 5. Carbon emissions On a more positive note, the Environmental Protection Agency, bolstered by the willingness of President Obama to confront climate change head-on, has done a number of good things in 2013. One of the most important has been the curbing of carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. This is part of a long-term series of safeguards enacted by the Obama administration this year, a followup to the EPA's 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which sought to reduce mercury output. 4. Oil Possibly the number one word on the tip of every environmental activist's tongue this year, for a variety of unpleasant reasons. Numerous pipelines have burst and spewed oil. The most severe of these occurred in Mayflower, Arkansas, where the town was plagued by pools of tar sands oil after the 65-year-old ExxonMobil-owned Pegasus pipeline ruptured. Meanwhile, things were no safer by train. One recent disaster involved an Oct. 19 derailment in Alberta, Canada. But the worst was a June 6 derailment and crash in Quebec, in the town of Lac-Mégantec, which caused major explosions and killed 47 people. Finally, the other oil-related issue haunting environmentalists is the fact that 3 million barrels of crude are currently being loaded into the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline - operations for that leg of the project are supposed to start next month. One can only hope another Mayflower-scale accident does not occur. 3. Solar energy If there has been progress made in any department this year, it's that of solar energy. It is seen as increasingly viable by companies, and there have been a number of good developments in solar on the East Coast. New Jersey, ranked in 2012 as number one in solar, is turning 800 landfills and 10,000 abandoned industrial areas into massive solar farms. This is a big win for a state with a messy history of pollution and environmental damage. Meanwhile, New York is installing a 47-acre solar plant in Staten Island's Fresh Kills Park, which is currently the site of the world's largest landfill. Less pollution zones and more solar power is a win-win for the environment, and the reason why solar energy was on the minds of many East Coasters in 2013. 2. Fukushima Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown is creating a panic years after the fact, due to the disaster's ripple effect. It will not only have dire consequences for the environment, but for human health and livelihoods as well. When Typhoon Wipha lashed Tokyo in October this year, it only made the situation worse. The still-leaking radioactive output from the Fukushima plant increased twofold after the storm hit, with spillage over 14,000 times what is considered safe pouring into the sea. The Fukushima cleanup deadline has been extended to 2017, but the fallout will have repercussions for decades to come. 1. Climate change And finally, the root of many of the problems on this list. Republican politicians continue to deny its existence in the interest of corporate profits. Scientists continue to warn that if we don't take measures soon, it will be irreversible. Others maintain that it's already too late to undo the damage. And the odd weather - with snow on the Egyptian pyramids for the first time in 112 years - serves as a constant reminder of the severity of global warming. The threat is imminent and the need for response through collective action is urgent. Most would argue, in fact, that climate change not only was the largest issue for environmentalists this year, it was the largest issue for everyone. And, sadly, we can surely expect it to go the same way in 2014. The photo shows a camel experiencing snow for the first time in Cairo, Egypt (source: Twitter). This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  22. Ever got told that you should off the lights when it is not in use; or to always recycle your used paper? Going out of your way to practice this may seem to intuitive and logical for the preservattion of ourenvironment Well, today you are going to find out why you SHOULDN'T be doing all these.. Lest you start causing environmental degredation instead. Through in depth reasearches at the National Technological University of Singapore, we have concluded that many of such practices are perpetuating the destruction of our mother earth. Watch this video, and you will find out why.. nough said. We dont need to convince you why this has all been a conspiracy.
  23. The mass media and our environment

    The media these days are just another big business managed not more differently than any other industry. The mainstream media is very global in its scope (just think on CNN as an example) and like any other business its owned by a handful of large transnational corporations, or TNCs. General Electric (GE) is an example of a media owning TNC as it operates NBC Universal in USA. But how did it come to this? How come TNCs have such a big influence? If we look back in the US history we find some explanations. In the early days corporations was actually a public institution designed to serve the citizens in USA. It might be hard to imagine today in USA but the state had a great control over these political created corporations. But as time moved on these corporations became increasingly privatized. This was in the beginning fueled by the need to create private finances to help in war efforts and colonial state expansion and imperialism which took place during this period. But as corporations grew bigger and richer their political powers increased even further. During the nineteenth century the privatization increased rapidly as laws and ideologies were introduced to accommodate the corporate interests. In 1868 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor for private corporations to be given the same rights and protections as a "natural person" under the nations constitution. This meant that corporations were now free to influence the government with the very same rights as individual citizens had. This paved the way for corporate donations and lobbying which was used to "dominate public thought and discourse". Elizabeth Campbell notes that as a result corporations today basically controls individual politicians and whole political parties in the USA. When it comes to the media it wasn't until around the twentieth century that things changed and a new corporate media industry started to emerge. Before the twentieth century most of the media was local and national and not as globalized or privatized as they are today. The first forms of global media was the radio broadcasting and the film industry. 85% of all the films people were watching in cinemas by 1914 was coming from the US. And it was around this time that corporations and nations started to realize the importance of media as a political tool. At the end of World War II the USA successfully used the global media to reinforce the picture of its nation as a leading superpower in the world. After World War II the transition from local and public-owned media to global and corporate owned media begun. And with the successful spread of English media around the world commercials and advertising increased rapidly. Mass media and advertising Because mainstream media is privately owned their end goal is of course to make money from their business. And like one can imagine advertising is one of the main income sources. This means that the media have to comply with and cater to their advertisers wishes so they don't lose their income source. And those who can afford to advertise are the transnational corporations who all share and push the free-market capitalistic ideology. Campbell writes that these large corporate advertisers rarely want to sponsor shows or programs that involves any kind of serious environmental, social or political criticism towards any corporate activities. Product-placement in the media, for example when Pepsi pays to have their soda drink visible in a TV-show, is a multi-billion-dollar industry these days. And to be able to influence the public, i.e. their consumers, corporations spend more than half as much per capita on advertising than what is spent on education around the world. With the help of advertising corporations can construct needs and desires among the public for their various products. The ideology which is spread with the help from the mainstream media and the advertising industry encourages mass consumption on an unquestioned level and promotes consumption as happiness. Because corporations are all about profit margins they want to advertise their products to the largest audience possible. And when the media is profit-driven they want to attract as many viewers or readers as possible to be able to sell more advertisements and increase their sponsor income. And as Campbell notes it seems that the largest audiences can be brought together by offering celebrity gossip news, sex, violence or other shock value tactics. And of course this is what the mainstream media will concentrate their coverage on then. Thus the more in-depth and the more complex social, political or environmental issues gets left behind in the shadows of the spotlight on the "infotainment" news and "advertorials". See the above image screenshot for example. Corporate media means less diversity In the beginning of this post I mentioned General Electric as one of the media owning TNCs. GE is one of the six firms that controls most of the news, commentary and entertainment in the USA. Besides GE these six firms are AOL-Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, NewsCorp and Bertelsmann. They are also ranked among the world's richest corporations. Just 25 years ago there were around 50 different corporate owners in the US media. So as one can imagine if there are only six corporations in the USA, who all concentrate on their own self-interests, while controlling the majority of all the media consumed it results in less diversity for their audiences. And it doesn't matter then, as Campbell notes, if there are more information available if there is a lack of diversity. Less diversity means less democratic media. Let me explain this a bit further. In USA the top media sources such as CNN, Fox News and the New York Times etc supply the local papers and broadcasters with national and international news. So while the news are being described in many various media actors the news and opinions all originates from the same source. Richard Peet and Elaine Hartwick also notes that the mainstream media rarely have any coverage or debates about leftist and socialistic theories of development which are critical of our current capitalistic society. They argue this is because the mainstream media is so much largely controlled by private interests who only want to cover conservative and "at most" liberal viewpoints and topics. "Indeed, most people even in the "free democracies" go through life without even hearing the great critical ideas and the political-economic motives of leftist intellectuals," they write. And in an effort to increase their incomes and securing their profit-margins the corporate media is cutting their costs wherever they can. And unfortunately this means less quality and objective news journalism and more cheap "infotainment" like I've mentioned before. A big cost for the news media corporations are their overseas and field reporters. In-depth and field-based reporting is even on a national and local level expensive and reporters based overseas is in turn even more costly. Another result of the cost-saving measurements is that the media gets gradually more and more dependent on "official sources" in their reporting. Campbell notes that the global mainstream media is backing up their stories with information from "experts" provided by businesses and governments. An example of this is the Pentagon, as a government funded department, and Exxon Mobil, as a privately owned corporation, who both has the funds available to offer news organizations with everything from "experts" available for questioning to press statements, quotes and photo opportunities. According to Campbell this reliance is risky as it can make the reporters and journalists hesitant to confront, challenge or debate the information provided by these governmental and corporate bodies as it might "damage their established relationship". It also means that only the wealthy are able to fully access and exercise their right to free speech in the media. PR firms and think-tanks are the media tools for the corporations Due to their size, power and involvement in our societies these media corporations play one of the biggest roles in shaping each generations own personal values and thoughts, as well as people's political and environmental stances. According to Campbell today's media corporations have "almost total power" to decide what kind of topics will and will not be covered and discussed in our TVs, radios and newspapers. And as Campbell points out environmental topics in the mainstream media are never debated in a way that points out corporations as the source of the problem or the environmental degradation. Her example here is global warming. In USA the climate change debate has been mostly centered around the question if it is a problem or not. This question has managed to stay alive in the media debates mostly thanks to the work of corporate funded think-tanks and PR firms. These PR firms and think-tanks have managed to create a feeling among the public that there still are clear doubts and that the arguments are balanced on both sides of the global warming spectrum. A Gallup survey released last year shows that an increasing number of Americans (41%) believe that global warming is being "exaggerated" in the media. According to Gallup this is the highest level of public skepticism ever reported when it comes to the coverage on global warming by the mainstream media in USA. The same survey also shows that Americans have started to feel a bit less worried about climate change. The overall worry has decreased from 65% in 2007 and 66% in 2008 to 60% in 2009. According to Gallup global warming was the only environmental issue that "dropped significantly" among the public concerns during 2008. And lastly the survey shows that 16%, a new record-high for Gallup, of Americans believe the effects of climate change will never occur. But it's still important to note that a majority of Americans still believe that climate change is being correctly portrayed, or even underestimated, in the media. And as people usually tend to only favor actions on issues that there seems to be no clear doubts about one must say that these PR firms and think-tanks have succeeded in their work of creating "manufactured doubt". The Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the CATO institute, all situated in the political centre in Washington D.C., are examples of powerful corporate funded think-tanks who has a huge influence in shaping the global warming debate in the media. These think-tanks use both emotional arguments as well as scare tactics to create their "manufactured doubt" in the media. Examples of arguments can be that any cuts in our energy consumption would harm workers, elder and poor people around the world. Or that renewable energy is both expensive and damaging to the environment. They also promote the views of a selected few scientists who disagree with the strong consensus and the vast majority of scientists and scientific institutions on man-made climate change. Another example is the now disbanded Global Climate Coalition which was carefully created by PR firms to give the impression of a friendly grassroots organization while actually lobbying against environmental reforms. This so-called grassroots organization had around 50 different trade associations and corporations who were involved in the oil, coal, gas, automobile and chemical industry. The tactics used by the agrichemical industry back in 1962 alongside the release of the widely popular book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is yet another example. Carson's book criticized the use of dangerous toxins such as DDT and helped create awareness of environmental destruction. The agrichemical industry responded by distributing thousands of negative book reviews of Silent Spring and at the same time they doubled their PR budget. According to Campbell it is estimated that corporations and businesses in USA spends $1 billion every year on PR firms and think-tanks who help them lobby against environmental reforms, laws and protection in the media. Earlier this year Greenpeace exposed the US-based Koch Industries, a privately owned oil company, as a major financial contributor to global warming skeptics in both Europe and USA. According to Greenpeace Koch Industries donated around $48 million to different climate skeptic groups and think-tanks between 1997 and 2008. The money went to many well-known conservative and libertarian think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato institute and the Foundation for research on economics and the environment. Greenpeace claims all of these think-tanks are "at the forefront of the anti-global warming debate". The Guardian also writes that Koch Industries also spent nearly $6 million ($5.7m) on various political campaigns and another $37 on lobbying in support of fossil fuels. "Koch industries is playing a quiet but dominant role in the global warming debate. This private, out-of-sight corporation has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. On repeated occasions organisations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, 'green jobs', renewable energy and climate policy progress." Now one might think that these climate denying think-tanks are solely funded by oil, gas and coal corporations who might have something to win by creating a fog of confusion and doubt around global warming. But this is not entirely the case. The CATO institute is for example funded by well-known corporations such as Comcast, FedEx, GM, Honda, Microsoft, TimeWarner, Toyota, Visa, VW, and WalMart among others. These corporations was, according to Cato's own annual report in 2007, contributing financially to the think-tank and helped fund an "absurd anti-scientific denier ad" in major American newspapers such as the The New York Times in 2009. Campbell claims that government action on environmental issues such as global warming is lagging behind because these topics can't be discussed "seriously" in the mainstream media. Instead, she says, the mainstream media and their corporate owners put the spotlight on simplistic topics such as discrediting individual environmentalists and "controversial scientific reports" instead of debating the larger and harder questions. Campbell writes that: "By reducing complex issues like global warming to simplistic special interest-driven sound bites about whether or not it really exists, citizens consuming the media become incapable of understanding and acting on real debate and questioning and instead prefer easy answers, quick fixes, and easy-to-grasp phrases. Audiences thus grow apathetic, cynical, and quiescent about media presentations of environmental issues, which has resulted in an increasingly widespread lack of interest in engaging in them." And this lack of interest is a major threat to democracy which requires a actively involved and informed citizen to function properly. Campbell concludes that a so-called democracy that only caters to corporate interests "will never pursue a path toward social and environmental sustainability". Journalismgate A paper on what kind of role the media plays in how we perceive and react to environmental issues around us is not complete without talking about "Climategate", as the media calls it. Climategate is what climate skeptics labeled as "the final nail in the coffin" of "the theory of global warming". The root of this "climate scandal", as the mainstream media portrayed it, was some email conversations between scientists at a climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. The emails, who were illegally hacked, was reported to be evidence of some sort of attempt to manipulate and prevent scientific climate data to be released to the public. One can easily remember all the news reports, debates and commentaries from scientists who claimed the emails were taken out of context and all the various climate skeptics who claimed this was the evidence which exposed man-made climate change as a fraud last year. Even here in Sweden climate skeptics seemed to breathe fresh air from the major Climategate news coverage. Lars Bern who is one of the founders of the Stockholm Initiative, a Swedish think-tank which opposes the strong link between climate change and human activity, claimed that this was evidence on the "systematically manipulation" of temperature data from UN climate scientists. But was Climategate really the big scandal that the climate skeptics and largely the mainstream media portrayed it as? Of course not. Recently an independent inquiry set up to investigate the Climategate affair came to the conclusion that there was "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever." Lord Oxburgh said that "whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly". But did this exoneration for the involved scientists from the University of East Anglia get as much coverage in the mainstream media as the false claims from the climate skeptics did? Did anyone in the mass media try to figure out who hacked the emails? Well from my own, and many others, experience they did not. Why is it, like Johann Hari says, that: "...when it comes to coverage of global warming, we are trapped in the logic of a guerrilla insurgency. The climate scientists have to be right 100 percent of the time, or their 0.01 percent error becomes Glaciergate, and they are frauds. By contrast, the deniers only have to be right 0.01 percent of the time for their narrative--See! The global warming story is falling apart!--to be reinforced by the media. It doesn't matter that their alternative theories are based on demonstrably false claims, as they are with all the leading "thinkers" in this movement." I would say that we can find the answers in the mainstream media's recent corporate development to why the climate skeptics only have to be right "0.01 percent of the time" to get their claims reinforced in the media. I have with the help from Campbell and others tried to make it apparent that the global mainstream media only cares about their profit-margins and rather want to focus on "infotainment" news, and stories like Climategate, as it helps them pursue their corporate owners free-market and consumption-driven agenda. My main and most obvious example of how corporations have controlled the debates and reports in the mainstream media has been global warming. But there are of course other examples of environmental issues and topics that the media has failed to adequately report on. Two of those are for example the topic of the garbage's created by our society and the various energy related issues. The media fails to inform the public on the issue of the millions of metric tons of household, chemical and corporate waste that are affecting a large population of people very day. Campbell argues that it becomes an "nonissue" because those people affected by the waste are not "key power holders" or the media corporations main target audience. When it comes to energy related issues such as oil drilling the media often simplify it to a question of whether who is for or against it. But these "both sides of the story" reports can not cover the complete story in such a complex issue as energy is. The corporate media also fails to explain or examine for their viewers and readers about the connections between energy production and consumption, our dependence on fossil fuels and those who control these energy sources. Simply put, the media is failing to relate environmental and social problems with the socioeconomic factors and powers that have created them. Campbell argues that as an result of this people gets the impression from the media that the war on terrorism, energy consumption and corporate power for example are totally unrelated issues to each other. Rush Limbaugh might be an extreme example of a conservative corporate mainstream media. But he works just fine as a shock example. In the ongoing BP offshore oil drilling scandal, out in the Gulf of Mexico, Limbaugh is claiming that the explosion could have been an inside "Earth Day eco-sabotage" and that the cleanup is unnecessary: "The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there," Limbaugh said. "It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is". So if we want to be able to have informed citizens, move towards a more environmental and socially sustainable society and a media which not only the wealthy have right to access and use we need to deal with the corporate mainstream media. Otherwise we will soon face a major threat to our fragile democracy. After all, those who have the control over the mass media controls our culture and society. References Gould, Kenneth A. and Tammy L. Lewis, 2008: Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology. Oxford University Press. Campbell H., Elizabeth, 2008: Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology. Oxford University Press. Peet, Richard and Elaine Hartwick 2009: Theories of Development: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives. The Guilford Press.
  24. What is equality and development? And what kind of influence has the environment on both of these relations? For me, environmentalism has always been about caring about the well-state and equality of everyone and everything. Al Gore said, during the annual World Economic Forum Meeting in 2008, that you can't solve climate change or poverty in the developing world "without dealing with the other": "Earlier this year, Bono and I spoke about the intersection between the extreme poverty in the developing world - especially in Africa - and the climate crisis. It is impossible to solve one of these issues without dealing with the other (Gore, 2008)". So if we are to solve the equality in the world, our uneven development and environmental problems we just can't work on one of them. They are all connected and thus we have to deal with all of them at once. The future is in the past Could we really call today's capitalist system based on a never-ending and unsustainable consumption as development? Why does one count the consumption of our nature as an income, as something free to use whenever and how we feel for it? The current global development is uneven, lacks equality and comes with a heavy environmental price. And as we today face a climate and ecological crisis beyond our wildest dreams we can see that the crisis and our problems have roots not just in our modern industrial and fossil burning society, but also in ancient Rome and in our colonial history. You know how the old saying goes: "it was better before". But was it? Just as John Bellamy Foster writes in The Vulnerable Planet "many of our fundamental ecological problems date back to preindustrial times." The early civilizations were largely made up of agriculture economies and so they were vulnerable to ecological collapse from the degradation of soil. The Sumerian, Indus valley, Greek, Phoenician, Mayan and Roman societies all failed, as historical and archaeological evidence shows, in part to ecological factors (Foster, 1999: 36-37). The Romans made huge impacts on their surrounding environment, which can still be seen today. Examples are deforestation, depletion of natural resources, loss of wildlife and pollution from cities and industries. Abandoned olive presses from the Roman Empire can be found in North Africa - where once trees and olives flourished there is now just deserts. The Roman smelting industries polluted the surrounding environments and poisoned its workers with lead, mercury and arsenic. Studies of the Greenland ice cap even show dramatic increases of lead in the atmosphere during the Roman era. Donald Hughes notes in Rethinking Environmental History, that the awful health and environmental conditions must have "favoured" the plague and helped it spread across the Mediterranean (Hughes, 2007: 27, 33, 35-37). The collapse of the old civilizations can be seen as examples of what is happening today. You can think of the current world as a bigger and more advanced version of the Roman or Mayan empires. The environmental problems we face today is a mixture of old and new problems such as toxic and radioactive waste into waterways, deforestation in light of increased palm oil farming, dead seabed's due to increased discharge of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, species extinction on a much larger scale etc. Instead of just destroying local areas of the planet we are now in the business of global destruction. The early civilizations lacked proper understanding of economic and environmental policies, but we have that knowledge. And as our future is decided on our actions in the past we must not follow in the same direction as older and failed civilizations have. I wouldn't blame technology for our ecological problems. And I don't believe that if we reject our modern world we can reach ecological harmony. The root to our problem lies in our social systems, and so we need to basically reformulate and reorganize our society in order for a more sustainable and ecological friendly world to emerge (Foster, 1999: 35-36). The rise of the North Economies and development are in the end "constrained by ecological conditions". As deforestation, "agriculture intensification" and other environmental problems contributed to the fall of the Roman and Greek civilizations even the people in ancient Rome made this connection (Hughes, 2007: 4, 12). But something that earlier was confined to more local areas of the world have due to globalization become global problems. As Clive Ponting shows, the uneven development and global problems we face today comes from our colonial history and the rise of Europe, which "drastically affected a whole range of ecosystems" and "reshaped the relationships between different regions" (Ponting, 1991: 194). The rise and expansion of Europe created, what we today call the Third World or Global South, and literally forced the world into a single system and world economy dominated by the "North". European powers such as Portugal, Spain and Great Britain created colonies and plantations around the world so that they could grow crops for their "luxury market" and for industrial needs during the 15th and the 18th century. These were crops, such as sugar cane and tobacco, which for some reason could not be grown in Europe. This was either because the climate was not suitable or they missed cheap labour, mainly in form of slaves, convicts or indentured servants (Ponting, 1991: 194-195, 198 also Foster 1999). The territories under colonial ruling, in the Canary Islands, Cuba, Peru, Australia, Brazil, Hawaii etc, were exploited and used just to benefit the home economy. The crops were only a selected few and were mainly grown on huge plantations owned and managed by Europeans which took up the best lands and displaced local farmers to smaller and less fertile grounds. The Europeans in control was only a tiny fraction of the total population and wanted others to do the manual work as they regarded the job done on the plantations as "degrading". These "others" were usually slaves from places like Africa (Ponting, 1991: 196). When slavery later was abolished in the 19th century the colonial powers used cheap indentured labour from countries such as India and China (Ponting, 1991: 196, 199). Different laws and taxes were also introduced by the Europeans, such as the agrarian land law introduced in Indonesia by the Dutch in 1870, which gave them complete control of all unused land (Ponting, 1991: 201), and the British hut and poll taxes in East Africa (Ponting, 1991: 203). These different taxes and laws resulted in that the local farmers had to work and grow the colonials "cash crops" to earn money. Or it created a similar "peculiar mixed system that was neither a true plantation nor a smallholding" where the farmers growing the crop "were neither slaves, as on islands such as Jamaica, nor landless labours as in Puerto Rico" but still forced to grow an particular crop for the Europeans (Ponting, 1991: 201). Also, import duties were introduced to pay for the costs for goods to Africans, but goods intended for the European farmers in Africa where exempted. By 1930 the African economy had been transformed and integrated into the international economy controlled by the white Europeans and increasingly the Americans (Ponting, 1991: 204). The legacy of imperialism Even after the countries previously under colonial rule achieved political independence and sovereignty not much changed. They were, and still are, under the influence of the Western world, their former colonial rulers. The plantations are still there and a majority of them still produced one single crop or resource. But now they were managed by large multinational corporations and companies such as the Firestone Rubber Company, who owned a 127,000 acres large plantation in Liberia, and the United Fruit Company (Ponting, 1991: 206, 212). It did not matter if the companies were disposed of the land and plantations they previously had owned or by being nationalised. The multinational corporations still dominated the processing and manufacturing of the raw commodities. And due to the overwhelming financial and economic powers the western countries had gained the trade was still in their favour. For example, the companies leave out many of the countries from the more profitable parts by not building any smelters or processing plants. Instead they export the raw commodities to their own home market where the final product can be worth many times more when it's been refined. Another example is that the "North" around mid-1950 put a tax on already processed timber which meant that the Third World countries must export wood that hasn't been processed and then import back value-added boards and papers (Ponting, 1991: 214, 216, 218). In the beginning of the twentieth century Europe and the US had managed to transform former self-sufficient countries in the Third World to countries where the development took the form of providing raw resources and growing a selected few crops, or in some cases just a single crop, for other countries. In one word: monoculture. This in turn brought with it environmental damages to the soil, deforestation and a loss of biodiversity as the crop growing was produced over huge areas. Every year the production of export crops from the Third World grew by three-and-a-half percent while the actual food production for the home market grew much slower than the actual rise in population. This meant that the countries had to import a majority of the food needed. Cuba, Fiji and Tahiti are good examples of this. By 1950 the growing of sugar crops took up 60% of all farmland and consisted of up to 75% of the countries export in Cuba. Because of this Cuba had to import over half of its food. In Fiji during the early 1980's the sugar was over 80% of all exports while it only employed 20% of the population. And in Tahiti during the 1950's 75% of the farmland was used to grow crops that were only meant for export (Ponting, 1991: 212-214). James O'Connor argues that the "uncontrolled expansion of monoculture" in Third World countries is the result of uneven development. Brazil and sugar production in the 16th and 17th century, as an example, pushed the country into "deep poverty", which it has never really recovered from. An example of the devastating effects on the environment uneven development "under the aegis of colonialism and of mindless economic expansion", as O'Connor puts it, has brought forth was the vast deforestation around the world during the 19th and 20th century (O'Connor, 1989: 4-5). It is worth noting that Japan was never colonized by the "North" and thus the country was able to be ranked among the other advanced capitalistic states by 1890 (Foster, 1999: 89, 91). So the former colonial powers have created a world and economic system where the countries in the Third World are bound and intertwined to supply the "North" with crops and other raw commodities (Tabb, 2007: 33). Twenty percent of the total food grown in the world goes from the Third World to the developed and industrialised countries while only 12% goes in the opposite direction. The "South" still exports more food than it imports, even during major periods of hunger and starvation. For example in the famine of 1876-1877 in India wheat was still being exported to the Great Britain (Ponting, 1991: 214). Ponting says that the "North" became developed and received their high material and living standard on the expense of the poor people in the Third World via economic and environmental exploitation with poverty and human suffering as a result (Ponting, 1991: 222-223). O'Connor says that the worst environmental and human disasters "as a rule occur in the Third World" and that the victims "are typically the rural poor", but also the "oppressed minorities and poor in the First World", i.e. the West (O'Connor, 1989: 2).And when it comes to climate change it is, unfortunately, the ones that are the least responsible for the climate crisis, primarily the poor people in the Third World, who are the most vulnerable and will be affected the worst from the devastating effects a changing climate will bring (McMichael, 2008: 15). After the former colonial rulers had left during the end of the 18th and early 19th century and the countries gained independence they did not just face economical or environmental problems but also more deadly ones such as genocides and wars over resources. The norm for many new countries and their leaders after they had gained independence was complete control of the army and the power to intimidate and bully its own people. An example of this is Rwanda. There the Belgians had ruled the country by giving the native minority of Tutsi chief's superior status and control over the Hutus, a large native group in the country. After the Belgians left the country in 1962 Tutsi dictators were left to rule, which in turn led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 (Tabb, 2007: 33). William K. Tabb argues that these dictators and other ruthless leaders are fuelled by easily extracted resources and that this resource extraction still in today's world continues to "spur extremes of violence and war". A study by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner in 1997 shows that the higher a country depends on the export of their natural resources slows down the countries growth and that it "significantly and substantially increases the risk of conflict" and civil wars (quoted in Tabb, 2007: 33). The struggle over oil And here is where the oil comes in. In today's world traditional wars where you normally fight for a specific land area are very rare. Instead civil wars over resources have become the standard. Countries rich on oil such as Nigeria, Gabon, Sudan, Congo and Chad have a long history of military dictatorship and coups which have resulted in starvation, diseases and the death of millions of people and the destruction of the local environment. In Angola, for example, millions of people have died in the civil war that was started because of the "wholesale looting" of the countries oil reserve and natural recourses (Tabb, 2007: 34-35). The huge sums of money generated from the valuable resources was sent to banks overseas and almost never found its way to the people of Angola. Today imperialism has taken the form of global organisations such as the World Bank, IMF and the WTO. And as Tabb points out that in these troubled areas where you can find precious resources you will find foreign corporations and the World Bank ready to work with the local leaders for their share of the cut. Global Witness reports that even though Congo Brazzaville is the fourth largest oil producer in Africa it has a debt of over $6.4 billion. This huge debt is a consequence of the "influence peddling and bribery" of the former French state company Elf Aquitaine (cited in Tabb, 2007: 34-35, 40). In the past countries and their governments would be directly involved in these troubled areas. But today they have to some extent been replaced by global organisations and corporations. When it comes to the Iraq war and occupation many corporations and organisations besides the US army is involved. One example is Blackwater Worldwide, a private military company which has played a substantial role as a contractor for the US government in Iraq. As peak oil (also called Hubbert's peak) comes closer and world oil demands and prices soar - the demand grew by 1.5% in 2002, 1.9% in 2003 and 3.7% in 2004 (Tabb, 2007: 39) - the former "Anglo-American petroleum dominance" in the world is loosing ground to state-controlled producers such as Kuwait Petroleum, Abu Dhabi National Oil, Saudi Aramco and Sonatrach, but also from Western oil producers such as StatoilHydro. These state-controlled companies holds "at least half of the world's proven" reserves and a quarter of current oil production. Instead of investing into alternative and renewable energy sources to combat the high energy costs and becoming energy independent USA and Great Britain have panicked and is using "force to reassert dominance" via "state terror and coercion" in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately these occupations and resource wars have failed and instead of creating stable governments it has resulted in more terrorism, the alienation of the rest of the world and an increasing cost of oil (Tabb, 2007: 38-40). But it is not just in the Middle East there is an energy struggle going on. Latin America currently supplies more oil to the US than the Middle East does (Davis, 2004: 2). And Third World countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, both oil rich nations, have in recent years tried to stand up against the North's energy and political influence. Venezuela and its democratically elected leader Hugo Chavez has increased the nations stake in major energy projects from 40% to 60% in the countries oil company Petroleos de Venezuela. Norway's share in StatoilHydro is for example about 62% ( And instead of going the same path as Congo Brazzaville, Hugo Chavez has used the money generated from his country's oil to raise his people's living standard. The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales have nationalised the countries energy industry, similar to what is happening in Venezuela. For this Evo Morales have gained support back home with an approval rating of 80%. This can be compared to George Bush's own 33% approval rating back home in USA. For this, both Morales and Chavez have been criticized by the "North" for their "weak commitment to democracy" (Tabb, 2007: 39-40). In Columbia leftwing ELN guerrillas are threatening the oilfields and pipelines operated by the US-based company Occidental Petroleum. That is why Special Forces, the CIA and private security contractors from the US is currently involved in an "an ongoing reign of terror" called "Operation Red Moon" in the Arauca province. T. Christian Miller, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, says that the consequence has been that "mass arrests of politicians and union leaders have become common. Refugees fleeing combat have streamed into local cities. And killings have soared as right-wing paramilitaries have targeted leftwing critics" (quoted in Davis, 2004: 2). And in the Straits of Malacca, a narrow passage of East Asia's oil supply, the Malaysian foreign minister have complained that USA is "exaggerating the threat of terrorist piracy" to justify deploying military forces there (Davis, 2004: 2). Climate change Because our development and "global market infrastructure" is based almost solely on the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, the earth is warming up and our climate is changing. And as we stand in front of the biggest environmental crisis ever, namely man-made climate change, our efforts on slowing down the devastating effects can scuttle because of our worlds uneven development. James Lovelock, known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, has said that he believes that climate change is now irreversible. He predicts that the major part of the humans, more than six billion people, will get wiped out of the face of the earth due to wars, starvation, epidemics and chaos during the rest of the century due to the effects of a changing climate. Lovelock estimates that by year 2100 there will only be around 500 millions people left who struggles to survive on the few remaining liveable places on earth: Scandinavia, Canada and Iceland (Goodell, 2007). Lovelock writes that: "Gaia, the living Earth, is old and not as strong as she was two billion years ago. She struggles to keep the Earth cool enough for her myriad forms of life against the ineluctable increase of the sun's heat. But to add to her difficulties, one of those forms of life, humans, disputatious tribal animals with dreams of conquest even of other planets, has tried to rule the Earth for their own benefit alone. With breathtaking insolence they have taken the stores of carbon that Gaia buried to keep oxygen at its proper level and burnt them. In so doing they have usurped Gaia's authority and thwarted her obligation to keep the planet fit for life; they thought only of their own comfort and convenience. (quoted in Lovelock, 2006: 146)" Gore says that our "overdependence" on fossil fuels and our weak policies on climate change show what can happen "when reason is replaced by the influence of wealth and power" (Gore, 2007: 191). Since the "market" has become one with development, McMichael argues, we have responded to this climate crisis by framing "solutions to climate change in market terms". This, McMichael warns, results in "commodification of the ecological commons through green market solutions such as carbon trading, emission offsets, and biofuels, to sustain, rather than question, current trajectories of accumulation and consumption". McMichael says that because the world is already now warming up much faster than what the IPCC's "conservative" numbers estimated and that the world's resources are finite and "deeply unequal", the idea of the green growth is an "oxymoron". McMichael argues that the fog of "promises of market prosperity" has covered the effects and impacts of development on our climate, "let alone be recognized for the catastrophe that it already is", warning that it "will remain so long as market solutions prevail". The world is slowly realising this. The 2007/2008 Human Development Report says that "climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation". And the eight Conference of Parties (COP8) of the UNFCCC in Dehli declared that "climate change is a serious risk to poverty reduction and threatens to undo decades of development efforts" (McMichael, 2008: 1-2). When it comes to responsibility for the current climate crisis the world is just as uneven and unequal. The "North", i.e. the West, is responsible for about 80% of the worlds CO2 increase. An average person living in Great Britain will in only 11 days emit as much CO2 as an average person in Bangladesh will during a whole year. And just a single power plant in West Yorkshire in Great Britain will produce more CO2 every year than all the 139 million people combined living in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique (McMichael, 2008: 2). But still, in light of these unequal differences USA demands that they won't lower their emissions before the Third World countries does. And this is exactly why the current climate talks aren't getting anywhere. The old colonial past and today's imperialism in the shape of the World Bank, IMF and the WTO (Tabb, 2007: 40) has created a rift between the "North" and the "South" and their relationships today. Or as George Monbiot puts it: "Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals" (The Guardian, Tuesday August 26 2008). This rift takes the form in expression of criticisms such as the comment from the Argentinean President Kirchner who said that "the North should meet its "˜environmental debts' just as it demands the "South" meet its "˜financial debts'". Or Brazil's President Lula who said in February 2007 that "the wealthy countries are very smart, approving protocols, holding big speeches on the need to avoid deforestation, but they already deforested everything" (Philip McMichael, 2008: 3-4). You can say that the "de-localization" of crop growing to countries in the Third World with low wages and a weak environmental system was done to conserve the environment in Europe (McMichael, 2005: 284). An example of how the "North" has been able to get away easily from their climate and ecological responsibilities is Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a part of something that Philip McMichael calls "market environmentalism". CDM encourages Western countries to meet their very own reduction targets, not by reducing their CO2 emitting sources back home, but by investing in cheap solutions in the "South" (McMichael, 2008: 6, 16). The European Union agreed on a new climate deal during the end days of the 2008 United Nations Climate Change Conference in PoznaÅ„, which was held during December 1-12. The EU promised that they will cut their emissions with 20% by 2020. But the actual emission cuts could end up being as little as 4% by 2020 (Black, BBC News, 2008). That is because of special exemptions for dirty industries in Europe as well as allowing cheap emission cuts overseas to be counted to the EU total (WWF, 2008). These emission cuts done overseas will make it easier for us in the "North" to reduce "˜our' emissions but harder for the developing countries in the "South" to reduce theirs. Monbiot calls this "carbon colonialism, in which Europe picks the low-hanging fruit in developing countries, leaving them with much tougher choices later on" (The Guardian, Friday 12 December 2008). Roberts and Parks argue (quoted in McMichael, 2008: 3) that "when powerful states disregard weaker states' position in the international division of labor in areas where they possess structural power, they run a high risk of weaker states "˜reciprocating' in policy areas where they possess more bargaining leverage. The issue of global climate change - which itself is characterized by tremendous inequality in vulnerability, responsibility, and mitigation - can therefore not be viewed, analyzed, or responded to in isolation from the larger crisis of global inequality." Robert and Parks also list three points from where this "rift" and "mistrust" comes from: 1) Wasteful Western consumption, 2) A state's ability for environmental reforms is a function of the state's position in the international scene of labour, and 3) The West's approach to more sustainable and environmental issues will hinder the "South" from their economic development. John Rapley argues that we in the West must "probably have to bear the expense of environmental adjustment", because if we don't the countries in the Third World will continue to take advantage of cheap and CO2 polluting technologies. If we don't manage to get away from this rift between "North" and "South", developed and underdeveloped, we will never be able to agree on any lasting climate policies that will be powerful enough to combat climate change and its devastating effects (McMichael, 2008: 3-5). What development and for whom? In the beginning I asked if we really could call our current capitalistic system for development. But, what should be developed and for whom? McMichael lists two different forms of development: food security through the global market, and its alternative: food sovereignty. The privatization of food security through the global market was constructed in 1986-1994 during the Uruguay Round, a forerunner to the WTO's agreement on Agriculture in 1995. This agreement means that nations no longer have the right to independent and sustainable food within its borders. Instead of letting the producers and consumers manage and decide over the food system it puts corporations and the demands of the global market in control of it. McMichael calls this the corporate food regime, and says that the only benefactors of this "political construct" are about 15% the world's population. Food sovereignty is an alternative way to reach food security. The concept of this idea was put forward by Via Campesina, an international movement of mainly farmers, during the World Food Summit in 1996. Simply put: food sovereignty lets people and nations decide and define their own food and agriculture production. Food sovereignty does not rule out trade, instead it creates a more sustainable and self reliant trade between nations (McMichael, 2004: 277-278 and McMichael, 2005: 269-270, 281, 290-291). Capitalism destroys and divides As we know, capitalism is all about profit. The higher the profit is, the higher the growth rate will in theory be, which in turn leads to a higher rate of depletion of various recourses which ultimately leads to a higher rate of pollution (O'Connor, 1989: 11). At the end of capitalism there is environmental destruction. An example on what kind of effects capitalism can have is the current financial crisis in the auto industry. The auto giants, such as GM, Ford and Chrysler, have for years in their race for short-sighted economic gains resisted and done everything in their powers to stop stronger compulsory MPG and CO2 emission standards. They have even denied climate change and their promises that they could cut their greenhouse gases voluntarily have all failed. As a result the average car sold in the US today is less efficient than the Model T Ford from 1908 (The Guardian, Tuesday 7 October 2008). Why? Because as Henry Ford II once explained: "minicars make miniprofits". And like John Z. DeLorean, former GM executive, have said: "When we should have been planning switches to smaller, more fuel-efficient, lighter cars in the late 1960s in response to a growing demand in the marketplace, GM management refused because "˜we make more money on big cars' "(quoted in Foster, 1999: 124). And with help from the US government, Standard Oil and Firestone Tire these auto companies deliberately dismantled earlier mass transportation system in the US during the 1930s to the 1950s. During most of the twentieth century the US government decreased funding for public transportation while they wastefully poured money into highways in an effort to increase the corporate profits that comes with private motoring. While this was happening the auto companies bought up electric streetcar lines and converted them to busses. This is today known as "the Great American streetcar scandal", "General Motors streetcar conspiracy" or "the National City Lines conspiracy" ( Between 1936 and 1955 the number of electric streetcar lines had dropped from around 40000 to 5000 in the US as a result. GM also used it's nearly monopolistic control over the bus and locomotive market to make sure that public transportation kept loosing ground to private motoring. And so with devastating effects for the environment, but also in a technology sense, USA today have to rely on private motoring for 90% of all ground transportation of goods and people, which is more than any other country in the world. One can't defend these actions by claiming they did not know about the effects. Bradford Snell, a U.S. government attorney, once stated in a famous report to a US Senate committee that: "motor vehicle travel is possibly the most inefficient method of transportation devised by modern man" (Foster, 1999: 114-116, 124). John Bellamy Foster argues that capitalism has had "overwhelmingly negative results" for our planet (Foster, 1999: 32). For example, the commercial trade, i.e. capitalism, in fur has led to the destruction of entire ecosystem and an enormous and never before seen slaughter of wildlife. Some of the animals worst affected by the fur-trade during the 16th and 17th century was beavers, martens, seals, bears, raccoons etc. Between 1797 and 1803 on the island of Mas Afuera in the Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast off Chile, over 3 million seals were killed for their fur. In the early 19th century six million southern fur seals were clubbed to death resulting in the nearly extinction of fur seals in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean (Foster, 1999: 42-43). Capitalism doesn't just result in environmental destruction and resource depletion but it also divides people. A fine example of this is the memorandum from Lawrence Summers. On December 12, 1991, Lawrence Summers, the chief economist for the World Bank, wrote an internal memo that was leaked to the British publication the Economist on February 8, 1992. In it he says that the World Bank should be "encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]", and that "the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable". He also writes that "the demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity" (quoted in Foster, 2002: 60-61). In fewer words: Summers says that people in the Third World are worth less than people in the North, and thus they could be exploited more by the capitalistic world system. But it's not just in the Third World that capitalism takes the form as environmental racism. In Los Angeles over 70% of African Americans and 50% of Latinos live in areas with the highest amount of air pollution. This can be compared to the 34% of white people living in the same areas (Foster, 1999: 138). Karl Marx came up with the term "metabolic rift" to explain the rift capitalism have created between social systems and natural systems. This rift, he claimed, led to ecological crisis and the exploitation of the environment. As people moved into cities they lost the contact with nature, and thus they became less likely to consider what the best for the environment was, and how their actions and decisions affected it (McMichael, 2008: 11 and Foster, 1999: 63-64). Marx also noted that as the income for the workers in the cities increased companies (capitalists) searched for cheaper workers outside of the city (Moore, 2000: 136-137). Today when half of the world's people live in cities this is happening on a much larger and more global scale. More people than ever have lost the direct contact with nature (Satterthwaite, in the Guardian 2007). And instead of companies and corporations looking for cheaper workers in the countryside they now look outside the nation's borders, mainly in Third World countries. When it comes to climate change McMichael says that the "only sound solution" is by basically reformulating the generally accepted perspective of development. But he warns that resistance, for what science says needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis, will come from "corporate interests", "politicians with short-time horizons" but also from strong talks "of neo-liberalism that represents market solutions as commonsense" (McMichael, 2008: 14). He concludes that the "de-carbonization of the material economy will require substantial de-commodification to establish sustainable development, which in turn means the development subject would no longer be the high-mass consumer, but a politically-mobilized social and ecological steward". And that this time the goal for the "North" is not just to supply and "secure" its home markets with valuable raw materials and other commodities. Now it's also about supplying the Third World with "environmental repair or caretaker services" to be able to lessen the damages and problems that the system itself has created (McMichael, 2008: 16-17). Immanuel Wallerstein says that he is "relentlessly pessimistic" on how sustainable development could be possible under capitalism (Hornborg, 2007: 22-23). He also says that we are "in the middle of a transition" away from capitalism to something else. But what that is and if it will be better or worse he do not know. "The outcome will be decided by the political activity of everyone now and in the next twenty-five to fifty years", he writes (Wallerstein, 2007: 384-385). Hopefully. Another world is possible. Further reading Ponting, Clive (1991). "Creating the Third World," in A Green History of the World. New York: St. Martin's Press, 194-223. O'Connor, James (1989). "Uneven and Combined Development and Ecological Crisis: A Theoretical Introduction," Race & Class Hornborg, Alf (2007). "Introduction: Environmental History as Political Ecology," in Hornborg, et al., Rethinking Environmental History McMichael, Philip (forthcoming 2009). "Contemporary Contradictions of the Global Development Project: Geopolitics, Global Ecology and the "˜Development Climate," Third World Quarterly. McMichael, Philip (2005). "Global Development and the Corporate Food Regime," Research in Rural Sociology and Development Tabb, William K. (2007). "Resource Wars," Monthly Review 58(8) Wallerstein, Immanuel (2007), "The Ecology and the Economy: What Is Rational?" Foster, Bellamy, John (1999). "The Vulnerable Planet" Foster, Bellamy, John (2002) "Ecology Against Capitalism" Gore, Al (2007), "The Assault on Reason" Lovelock, James (2006), "The Revenge of Gaia" Al Gore, "A set back" (August 13, 2008) George Monbiot, The Guardian, (Tuesday August 26 2008) George Monbiot, The Guardian, (Friday 12 December 2008) George Monbiot, The Guardian, (Tuesday 7 October 2008) David Satterthwaite, The Guardian, (Wednesday January 17 2007) StatoilHydro, Wikipedia "The Great American streetcar scandal", Wikipedia Richard Black, BBC News, Earth Watch, (12 December 2008) WWF, (12 December 2008) Jeff Goodell, RollingStone (1 November 2007)