Organic Farms in Mexico Challenge Sustainability

Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 30, 2011

Planting the Beach: American demand for year-round organic fruits and vegetables has incited a farming boom in the arid deserts of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

Bill McKibben speaking in Raleigh, NC

WWF: Governments fail on ambition, courage at UN climate change talks


Durban, South Africa -- After two weeks of sparring and a day-long extension, governments once again failed today to provide the inspiration and ambition to tackle climate change and provide hope for hundreds of millions around the world who suffer and will continue to suffer from climate-related impacts.

Governments reached a weak agreement that established a Green Climate Fund with little money, postponed major decisions on the content of the Kyoto Protocol, and made an unclear commitment to a global agreement from 2020 that could leave us legally bound to 4 degrees of global warming.

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative issued the following statement:

“Governments did just enough to keep talking, but their job is to protect their people. They failed to do that here in Durban today. Science tells us that we need to act right now – because the extreme weather, droughts and heat waves caused by climate change will get worse.

“But it is clear today that the mandates of a few political leaders have outweighed the concerns of millions, leaving people and the natural world we depend on at risk. Catastrophe is a strong word but it is not strong enough for a future with 4 degrees of warming.

“Unfortunately, governments here have spent the last two crucial final days of negotiations focused on only a handful of specific words in the negotiating texts, instead of spending their political capital on committing to more and real action to address climate change.

“Some countries here, like the United States, showed they were not interested in supporting an ambitious outcome in Durban. The US -- afraid of the politics at home – fought over a few words, but missed the bigger story: limiting dangerous climate change.

“Overall, the responsibility for this lies with a handful of entrenched governments – like the US, Japan, Russia, and Canada – who have consistently resisted raising the level of ambition on climate change. This is what brought us to this point.

“One crumb of comfort in Durban has been the emergence of a large group of high ambition countries, led by the most vulnerable nations and small island states, including many in Africa.

“We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing, or we’re going to choke on our own carbon and run out of natural resources – and that means we won’t have food, water and energy for all.”

“We know climate change is a global problem and it needs a global response. This process didn’t deliver that today, but that doesn’t mean the global fight to tackle climate change has stopped, both within this process and outside of it.”

full article

Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases

By SETH BORENSTEIN - AP Science Writer | AP – Fri, Nov 4, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."

Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.

"The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?" Reilly said Thursday. "Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world."

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC's worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said the panel's emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel's worst case scenario "or something more extreme."

"Really dismaying," Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren."

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

In 1990, developed countries produced about 60 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, now it's probably less than 50 percent, Reilly said.

"We really need to get the developing world because if we don't, the problem is going to be running away from us," Weaver said. "And the problem is pretty close from running away from us."

___

Online:

Government carbon dioxide info center: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/

Energy: 

Who’s causing the environmental crisis: 7 billion or the 1%?

October 26, 2011 -- Grist via Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Ironically, while populationist groups focus attention on the 7 billion, protesters in the worldwide Occupy movement have identified the real source of environmental destruction: not the 7 billion, but the 1%

This article, published today on the environmental website Grist, has provoked a vigorous discussion there. Many of the comments defend variations of the “consumer sovereignty” argument,  that corporations only destroy the environment in order to provide the products and services consumers demand. We encourage readers to join that conversation.

* * *

By Ian Angus and Simon Butler

The United Nations says that the world’s population will reach 7 billion people this month.

The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world’s environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York’s Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that “human overpopulation is driving species extinct”. In London’s busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, “the battle to feed humanity is over” and the 1970s would be a time of global famines and ever-rising death rates. His predictions were all wrong, but four decades later his successors still use Ehrlich’s phrase — too many people! — to explain
environmental problems.

But most of the 7 billion are not endangering the Earth. The majority of the world’s people don’t destroy forests, don’t wipe out endangered species, don’t pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases.

Even in the rich countries of the global North, most environmental destruction is caused not by individuals or households, but by mines, factories and power plants run by corporations that care more about profit than about humanity’s survival.

No reduction in US population would have stopped BP from poisoning the Gulf of Mexico last year. Lower birthrates won’t shut down Canada’s tar sands, which Bill McKibben has justly called one of the most staggering crimes the world has ever seen.

Universal access to birth control should be a fundamental human right — but it would not have prevented Shell’s massive destruction of ecosystems in the Niger River delta, or the immeasurable damage that Chevron has caused to rainforests in Ecuador.

Ironically, while populationist groups focus attention on the 7 billion, protesters in the worldwide Occupy movement have identified the real source of environmental destruction: not the 7 billion, but the 1%, the handful of millionaires and billionaires who own more, consume more, control more and destroy more than all the rest of us put together.

read full article

The Down Side of Plastics

The Permaculture Movement Grows From Underground

By MICHAEL TORTORELLO

Published: July 27, 2011

AS a way to save the world, digging a ditch next to a hillock of sheep dung would seem to be a modest start. Granted, the ditch was not just a ditch. It was meant to be a “swale,” an earthwork for slowing the flow of water down a slope on a hobby farm in western Wisconsin.

And the trenchers, far from being day laborers, had paid $1,300 to $1,500 for the privilege of working their spades on a cement-skied Tuesday morning in late June.

Fourteen of us had assembled to learn permaculture, a simple system for designing sustainable human settlements, restoring soil, planting year-round food landscapes, conserving water, redirecting the waste stream, forming more companionable communities and, if everything went according to plan, turning the earth’s looming resource crisis into a new age of happiness.

It was going to have to be a pretty awesome ditch.

That was the sense I took away from auditing four days of a weeklong Permaculture Design Certificate course led by Wayne Weiseman, 58, the director of the Permaculture Project, in Carbondale, Ill.

The movement’s founders, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, coined the term permaculture in the mid-1970s, as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture.

In practice, permaculture is a growing and influential movement that runs deep beneath sustainable farming and urban food gardening. You can find permaculturists setting up worm trays and bee boxes, aquaponics ponds and chicken roosts, composting toilets and rain barrels, solar panels and earth houses.

read full article

Food Supply: 

The Cube Project

The Cube Project is an initiative of Dr Mike Page at the University of Hertfordshire who set out to build a compact home, no bigger than 3x3x3 metres on the inside, in which one person could live a comfortable, modern existence with a minimum impact on the environment.

Constructed from a variety of sustainable materials, the Cube provides everything that a single person (or two friendly people) might need. Within its 27 cubic metres it includes a lounge, with a table and two custom-made chairs, a small double bed (120cm wide), a full-size shower, a kitchen (with energy-efficient fridge, induction hob, re-circulating cooker hood, sink/drainer, combination microwave oven and storage cupboards), a washing machine, and a composting toilet. Lighting is achieved by ultra-efficient LED lights, and the Cube is heated using an Ecodan air-source heat pump, with heat being recovered from extracted air. It has cork flooring and there is two-metre head height throughout.

Here is a tour of the interior, filmed by Allan MacDonald at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

A tour of the Cube from Mike Page on Vimeo.

and a 360 degree panorama of the interior is available here.

Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation

Nevado_del_Sajama

John Vidal in La Paz
guardian.co.uk
Sunday 10 April 2011 18.17 BST

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".

"It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all", said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. "It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."

The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.

But the abstract new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.

read full article

Turning Waste to Fertilizer -- Humanure


After last year’s earthquake in Haiti more than a million people were left homeless and without access to proper sewage facilities. A new pilot project is bringing composting toilets to Haiti’s camps, and turning human waste into fertilizer.

GELLERMAN: When you gotta go, you gotta go. But to avoid embarrassment, we use all kinds of euphemisms. We visit the porcelain palace, do number two, and powder our noses, then it’s down the sewer, out of sight, and out of mind - at least for most of us. But 40 percent of the people on the planet lack a sanitary method for disposing of their own waste.

Poverty is a large part of the problem and it’s made worse when natural disaster strikes. In Haiti, where more than a million people are still homeless after last year’s earthquake, euphemisms don’t help. The waste from people is literally piling up, leading to death and disease. So for the past year, the organization Give Love has been running a pilot program in Haiti to turn human waste into “humanure.” Alisa Keesey is the group’s program director there.

KEESEY: Even before the earthquake, 50 percent of city dwellers did not have access to a proper toilet. People were what’s known in the business as open-defecators, or using plastic bags to dispose of their waste, or sometimes poorly maintained pit latrines. So it wasn’t a very pleasant thing to do, and it’s a situation everyone has to deal with everyday. And there really weren’t a lot of options for people.

Food Supply: 

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