Archive for September 5th, 2011

Italian town Filettino declares independence

Italian town Filettino declares independence

.

Posted 03 September 2011, by David Willey, BBC News, bbc.co.uk

.

A small town in central Italy has declared its independence and started to print its own banknotes.

The authorities in Filettino, 100km (70 miles) east of Rome, are protesting against austerity measures.

It has only 550 inhabitants and under new rules aimed at cutting local administration costs it will be forced to merge with neighbouring Trevi.

Town mayor Luca Sellari, who stands to lose his job because of the eurozone crisis, came up with the idea.

He created his own currency, called the Fiorito. Banknotes have his head on the back, and they are already being used in local shops and being bought as souvenirs by tourists who have started to throng the normally quiet streets.

The mayor says there is enormous enthusiasm about declaring the independence of the new principality.

There has been such an outcry by small towns across Italy at the government move to abolish local councils and merge them with larger towns that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition may be forced to backtrack.

In the meantime the new Principality of Filettino – complete with coat of arms and website – is suddenly enjoying international fame.

TV stations from as far afield as Russia have been running news features about Filettino.

After all, the mayor says, Italy was once made up of dozens of principalities and dukedoms. As he says, the landlocked republic of San Marino still manages to survive, so why not Filettino?

 

(Ed Note; Please visit the original site for a photograph associated with this article.)

.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14774526

Advertisements

An economy and biosphere in need of a plan B

 

An economy and biosphere in need of a plan B

 

Posted 03 September 2011, by Stuart Lovatt, Heat My Home, heatmyhome.co.uk

 

How much of the economic growth, the comfortable wealth, the salaries and pensions pots that our older generations accepted as normal, necessary even, over the last 60 years, was created by borrowing, both financially and ecologically- speaking and which cannot now be sustained either for the current or the next generations?

Look at Ireland as an example. Even its bricks and mortar economy is a mirage which now stands empty and worthless, as the whole economy is built on debt.

To sustain this illusion further, we have inflicted more environmental damage to the planet’s living eco- systems since the 1950’s than was achieved by humanity in the previous 100,000 years. This damage will last for centuries, compared to the benefits which won’t last even one more year. Ireland’s broken economy is showing us what the future holds.

Once our basic human needs were met, continued economic growth did little for most people. During the second half of this economic growth spurt, unemployment rose, inequality rose, social mobility declined, the poorer members of our society lost their basic amenities (such as council housing) while the rich enhanced theirs with second homes.

In 2004, at the height of the biggest economic expansion that the United Kingdom had experienced, there was a huge rise in mental health issues, which are associated with the improvements in economic growth.

Last week, the New York Wall Street consultant Nouriel Roubini, one of the few people who predicted the credit crunch, spelled out the problems:

  • Governments can’t afford to bail out the big banks yet again.
  • Monetary quantitative easing cannot help our currency depreciation.
  • Italy and Spain will be forced to default with Germany not paying out any further aid.
  • Karl Marx was partly right when he argued that globalisation and redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital will lead to capitalism’s self-destruction.

Energy is civilisations blood stream

The current economic system cannot address the environmental crisis. The current system advocates economic growth and any environmental damage could be sorted with better technology and efficiency, which will allow us to use fewer resources while increasing economic output.

Nothing remotely like this is happening and in all cases there has been a higher overall consumption of these resources, leading to them being taken from more environmental places such as the Arctic and the Antarctic.

To date, governments have responded to the crisis facing capitalism by seeking to invoke the old political magic again, by trying to ‘kick start the engine’ once more. The means to do this no longer exists anymore. Even if they succeeded, this would only delay the underlying issues.

The recent riots highlighted our underlying social problems, namely:
  • Mass youth unemployment and lack of future prospects.
  • The inability for people to afford basic housing and get on the housing ladder.
  • The affordability of basic amenities such as home energy and food.

The basic ‘glue’ by which any society is bound is cheap energy, and we are faced with a break down or complete collapse. We are at last beginning to talk about issues that are being ignored: exclusion, equality, the unequal rich and the displaced poor.

Are politicians now prepared to ask the big question ‘prosperity without growth’? It’s a revolutionary but much needed idea which is now two years old, and the time has now come.

The credit crunch was not caused by isolated malpractice but by the systematic deregulation of the banking system, in order to stimulate economic growth by creating more and more debt to keep growth going. Growth and the need to encourage growth is the problem.

Although it is accepted that material wellbeing is crucial for prosperity, and that growth is essential to the poorest nations, in already stable countries such as the United Kingdom and other prosperous nations, continued growth and the policies which promote it undermines prosperity, causing adversity or affliction and meaning community bonds, confidence about the future, and a sense of purpose is taken away from the younger generation of the present and those to come.

So how do you escape from growth without risking the economy and our prosperity? Well, under the current financial system, you can’t, because when growth stops, it collapses – but likewise we cannot continue growth on a finite planet with finite resources.

Developing a macro-economic model allows economic output to be stabilised. Possible experiments with measuring the ratio of investment to consumption, changing the nature and conditions of investment, thus shifting the balance from private to public spending, while staying within tight constraints on the use of natural resources, may be the answer.

The redistribution of both income and employment through shorter working hours is essential, to provide everyone with employment and social satisfaction. So is re-regulation of the banks, enhanced taxation of resources and pollution, which discourages manic consumption, the like of which we have seen in the past, with much tighter restrictions on advertising.

This system isn’t much different to today’s system: people will still spend and save, companies will still produce goods and services, governments will still raise taxes and spend money. It requires more governmental intervention; but so does every option we face from now on, especially if we try to sustain the current growth illusion.

The results, though, are radically different, with a more stable economic system which avoids both financial and environmental collapse.

I fear we may be entering a stage of a positive feedback loop environmentally. Stronger larger hurricanes blow down houses – mankind uses more natural resources to repair the damage, meaning even more CO2 emissions and forest depletion resulting in stronger future hurricanes – mankind chops down more trees to repair the damage – and so on.

From this day forward, doing nothing is not an option, so re-investing in new ways to power our civilisation is now possible, and at least we have the beginnings of a plan B.

If you are serious about reducing your household’s dependence on conventional energy, then I would recommend more financially attractive micro generation systems such as solar panels and air source heat pumps.

Zanzibar bans use of plastic bags

Zanzibar bans use of plastic bags

.

Posted 05 September 2011, by James Mwakisyala, East African Business Week, busiweek.com

 

.

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA– The Zanzibar Government has banned imports, manufacture and use of plastic bags and encouraged the use of bio-degradable materials for carrying shopping.

The ban, imposed recently under the Environment (Protection) Act – Plastic Ban Regulation No. 49, 2008, will penalize anyone who breaches it with a six-month jail term or a fine of Tshs 1.5 million (US$925)  or both.

The move against use of the hazardous plastic bags according to the Isles Minister of State in the First Vice-President’s Office (Environment, HIV and Disabled Persons), Ms Fatma Abdul-Habib Fereji, is intended to save the Isles.

Immigration officials have been instructed to enforce the ban at all entry points that include airports and seaports, and markets and along streets.

The Zanzibar Government has been working on the matter since 2008 when the first ban on the use of plastic bags – below 30 microns – was imposed, but the business community virtually ignored it.

The Government noted that use  of the banned materials and littering  was intense and was threatening the environment and as well being an eyesore.  Statistics show that “between 184,349 and 553,047 plastics bags are dumped in Zanzibar every day, polluting the environment extensively,” said the Minister.

The ban will encourage shopkeepers and marketers to start using paper and sisal bags, and women will be encouraged to use straw bags. The ban comes at the time Zanzibar has been chosen to host a three-day climate change conference on December 12 to 14, 2011. The conference is in recognition of the fact that the twin Zanzibar Isles are among small island states threatened by effects of climate change.

Zanzibar, who se income comes mainly from tourism, organized the three-day symposium to deliberate the impact of climate change in small island states.

The symposium bears the theme of “First International Symposium on Impact and Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Small Island Developing States.” It is being organized by the State University of Zanzibar to raise national and international awareness on threats of climate change to small island states, which are leading tourist attraction destinations in the world, including the island of Zanzibar.

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

Experts further warned of a possibility of  key beaches of Zanzibar and a big part of this island being submerged by the Indian Ocean within the the next 100 years.

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

A number of topics have been drawn for discussion by climate change experts and policymakers. Key topics for discussion are: Climate Change and Biodiversity; Climate Change and Tourism; Climate Change and Ecosystem Services; Climate Change and Agriculture and Food Security; Climate Change, Land Use, and Forestry; and Climate Change and Human Health, among many others.

Zanzibar is made up of two major islands in the Indian Ocean. Unguja is the main island and Pemba Island in the northern side is the small one, with a series of other, small uninhabited fishing coral islands.

 

http://www.busiweek.com/11/news/tanzania/1652-zanzibar-bans-use-of-plastic-bags

Climate change and our economy

 

Climate change and our economy

 

Posted 05 September 2011, by Ewah Otu Eleri, BusinessDay, businessdayonline.com

 

It was a particularly wet day in Abuja. The rain was heavy and I was driving with my cousin, David.  David is a Lagos banker. He told me we were lucky in Abuja. It rains non-stop in Lagos, and the floods last month have cost him a good chunk of money.

That day in Lagos, David and his driver were returning from the airport. Near the Falomo Bridge, the water was so high that the engine compartment of the four-wheel drive was soaked. At some point, the engine stopped completely. He and the driver pulled up their trousers, and pushed the beast through the pool to the shoulder of the road. A week later, he got a bill of Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira from the mechanic. David told me it was time to talk about climate change.

According to the Red Cross, 102 lives were lost in the recent Ibadan floods. The University of Ibadan alone estimates a loss of 10 billion Naira in infrastructure damage. Estimates of the financial cost of this year’s floods in Lagos vary. According to newspaper reports, perhaps a Hundred Billion Naira may have been lost. Nationwide, this year’s floods may have cost us an equivalent of about 300 billion Naira or nearly two percent of GDP. This does not include the lives that were washed away, or the daily stories of human suffering. But our government doesn’t stop to count the cost – the cost of its inaction.

Actions required to tackle climate change are often in our national economic interest. Take for one, the issue of gas flaring. This is Africa’s most important single source of harmful greenhouse gases that cause global warming. If we had the courage to switch off this evil fire, there will be enough gas for our power plants, and we can expand our economy and create jobs. And we may also have spared the pain we cause the people and environment of the Niger Delta. The benefits of reducing the emission of these harmful gases would only have been a bonus to the fight against global warming.

Another example is the four billion US Dollars we spend on fuel subsidy – an unnecessary donation to the rich who own cars. Had we spent this amount annually on modernisation of railways or innovative urban mass transport systems, the poor will benefit. We will also have cleaner urban air quality and help address global warming.

From ending gas flaring, expanding transportation infrastructure such as the BRT in Lagos, scaling up renewable energy supply and encouraging energy efficiency – actions needed to grow our economy are exactly what the doctors ordered for addressing global warming. Since the impacts of climate change are already here, we can also build more climate resilient infrastructure – better roads, bridges, drainages, dams and create insurance schemes for our farmers. But this is not happening.

Making progress against climate change in Nigeria will require a stronger policy and institutional framework. Today, there is no clear political ownership on this issue. The National Climate Change Commission Bill passed by the National Assembly is lost in the Presidency.  Nobody knows where the file is. The result is a costly dereliction of responsibility by our government, and a general sense of drift on climate change.

A suite of key issues are important in the government’s future response to climate change. One is finance. Implementation of the Gas Master Plan or what the government now calls the Gas Revolution will cost tens of billions of dollars. So will the expansion of public transport infrastructure and renewable energy supply. Opening up the pipeline of domestic and international sources of finance for these programmes should be left, right and centre of our international climate engagement.

In previous negotiations, we have joined bigger development countries in endless bickering over access to high end climate change technologies. But our women need everyday survival technologies such as clean cookstoves and cheaper solar lanterns. Over 79,000 Nigerians, mostly women die every year of smoke from household cooking with wood. This is Nigeria’s silent killer. But clean cookstoves save lives, money and our forests. These are flesh and blood issues that cry for attention.

Even if our government wakes up to its responsibilities and begin to take the right mitigation and adaptation steps at home, our actions alone will not be enough. Nigeria must step up pressure on richer countries to take more ambitions reductions of emissions. That’s our only hope of reducing the menacing floods of the future, and stopping the Sahara Desert from eating deep into our country. And we must also be courageous enough to encourage our friends among the bigger developing countries like Brazil, China and India to take stronger and perhaps more binding actions. A climate deal without China and the bigger developing countries will be a waste of efforts.

As we prepare for the climate negations in Durban by the end of the year, our domestic needs for finance, technology and capacity building in delivering energy, infrastructure and resilience in agriculture should form the bedrock of our positions. We must also be ready to push rich countries and the bigger developing countries to take on more ambitious emission reduction measures. This will be our only hope of averting the floods of the future, and the costs we all must pay.

 

http://www.businessdayonline.com/NG/index.php/analysis/commentary/26838-climate-change-and-our-economy

Exotic Earthworms Threatening Ecosystems In America

Exotic Earthworms Threatening Ecosystems In America

A new study suggests that the dispersal by humans of exotic earthworms in the forests of Northern America is having a detrimental impact on ecosystems.

.

Posted 05 September 2011, by Mark Dunphy, Irish Weather Online, irishweatheronline.com


.

The study, published online in Springer’s journal Human Ecology, by Dara Seidl and Peter Klepeis of Colgate University in New York traces the ways in which humans are the principal agents of dispersal of exotic earthworms.

Their findings suggest that humans spread earthworms both inadvertently via horticulture and land disturbance, in the tires and underbodies of vehicles, but also knowingly through composting and careless disposal of fish bait.

Non-native species of earthworms can have a detrimental effect on the flora and fauna of the forests. They can be responsible for accelerating the breakdown of the organic material on the surface of the forest floor, thereby reducing the habitat for the animals living there and possibly increasing soil erosion.

The researchers conducted a case study in Webb, New York, a large township in the Adirondack State Park, home to the largest unbroken temperate forest in the world. They first analysed the environmental history of the area and followed this up with a mail survey of 150 Webb residents to assess their recreation and environmental practices related to earthworm dispersal.

The authors found that the introduction of exotic earthworm species can be traced as far back as European settlers arriving in North America and dumping ship ballast, a mixture of soil and gravel, onto the land. Today, the main culprits are recreational fishing, gardening, composting and the movement of egg cases on vehicles which are mostly to blame for their continued spread.

The authors conclude that even the most environmentally conscious individuals do not currently realize what a threat these earthworms pose. They suggest that, in particular, gardening clubs and convenience stores which sell worms to anglers should be targeted with information and that “the public needs to be empowered to implement behaviour that helps mitigate the introduction of earthworms.”

.

http://www.irishweatheronline.com/news/earth-science/nature/exotic-earthworms-threatening-ecosystems-in-america/35729.html

Give women a bigger role in saving the environment

Give women a bigger role in saving the environment

 

Posted 24 August 2011, by Amna Sultan Al Malki, The Peninsula News Paper, thepeninsulaqatar.com

 

The environmental activists in the developed countries focus on making women aware of the environment and focus on their effective role in the management of the house and the promotion of positive thinking and behaviour in children.

If we managed to achieve a satisfactory level of environmental awareness among the most important segment of community (women), it will be beneficial for the country and its citizens in terms of the economy, environment, health and society, which deserve attention and care.

If we started with the smallest things such as how to deal with chemicals and household cleaners, economy in the use of electricity, water and food, and establishment of gardens, it will bring multiple benefits to the environment and the family, and will be a commendable achievement.

Some may find it difficult to achieve, but we know very well that the environmentally developed countries began their journey from zero. The secret of their success was strict government policies to force the citizens to actively participate in maintaining the environment through simple practices of everyday life, beginning with the house and the neighbourhood street.

There is no doubt that the reflection of environmental awareness in our behaviour is the object we aspire to. Every institution, employer, housewife and the manager of a mosque and school must start issuing environmental regulations and implementing them. I point out here the US city of New York, where cleaners in schools are obliged to use safe non-contaminated cleaning products such as chlorine. In New Jersey, the electric switches are installed in such a way that the lights go off if there is no movement in the room. In our environment we require the efforts, awareness and a genuine partnership between the citizen and the government in order to make a difference and, most importantly, the issuance of binding legislation to limit damage to the environment. More than 100,000 chemical products that leaked into the air, soil and water during the last century have been linked with health problems such as breast cancer, infertility, autism and learning difficulties in children.

G H Brundtland,  the former prime minister of Norway and the Director General of the World Health Organisation, says “we must find out the long-term plans to address the changes in our world and we must not overlook the women, as they are, especially in the developing countries, suffering perhaps more than men from the deterioration of environmental conditions. The women represent 50 percent of the total world population and one-third of the workforce, but they do not have the force parallel to their share in the census and we must participate in the production and economic activities. There is no one who is more sensitive than a working woman or housewife to the importance of environmental health and we must not ignore their experience in saving our common future”.

In spite of the difference of the reports on the environmental impacts on the land is between pessimistic and optimistic and the value and nature of the damage that will occur and its expected dates. All agree that the planet is going towards old age thanks to the early futility of human being and his apathy.

In spite of the decisions taken by the Kyoto conference to reduce carbon emissions by five percent until 2012 and the pledge of the European Commission to reduce 30 percent of it by 2020 and the pledge of the international community to reduce it up to 50 percent by 2050 the acceleration of the negative effects of climate on the land may be greater than those actions to be taken reluctantly.

Finally, I would like to point out what Einstein said (that the environment is another myself). If the conviction generates in us that this safe environment is what must surround us with safety in all circles of our movement, the universe will be a safer and cleaner place.

 

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/–amna-sultan-al-malki—/162473-give-women-a-bigger-role-in-saving-the-environment.html

Women demand more climate action

Women demand more climate action

.

Posted 04 September 2011, by Staff (Government Communication and Information System), BuaNews, buanews.gov.za

.

Pretoria – A two-day environmental conference ended in Pretoria on Sunday with a call by delegates for the South African government to move urgently towards the implementation of policies that would ensure more participation of women on issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Delegates at the Women in Media and Environment Conference, convened by government, also pledged to utilise “every available opportunity at our disposal” to raise awareness of climate change among South Africa’s women.

South Africa will host this year’s United Nations Climate Change summit in Durban and resolutions coming out of the conference this past weekend are expected to feed up to a number of proposals that are expected to form the country’s position at COP 17.

But the more than 200 delegates, drawn from the country’s media and environment sector, on Sunday expressed concern at what they described as a lack of public awareness on the subject of climate change among the country’s poor, especially women.

They said that women will bear the brunt of environmental degradation as a result of climate change.

“Imploring world governments and all delegates to the COP17/CMP7 to act decisively and with requisite urgency to restore the integrity of international climate change negotiations,” read a declaration that followed intense discussions.

“Recognising that our continent, Africa, is already experiencing dire consequences of climate change and that the continent is likely to suffer the most from these consequences we are calling on women and society at large to take greater interest in matters relating to environmental health and climate change,” it said.

Delegates further urged African negotiators at the COP17 to speak with one voice and represent the best interests of African people at the conference adding that Africa stood to suffer the most from climate change.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, who was part of a government delegation at the conference, had earlier said that developing nations will foster ahead with their demand for a binding international treaty on climate change and called on women to take a lead in the Durban deliberations.

“We as women should be demanding an international climate regime that balances adaptation and mitigation recognising the development needs of poor countries…so it’s not about the fight between rich and poor countries but something that needs and has to be done,” Molewa said.

COP 17 in Durban comes at a critical moment when it’s only one year left before the expiry in 2012 of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 countries to specific carbon emission reductions targets.

Developing countries demand that the Kyoto obligations be extended and new targets adopted while industrial countries have been pushing for emerging economies to accept similar binding commitments. Decisions on the future of the treaty were deferred until the Durban summit.

It remains to be seen whether countries will sign up for a second commitment period to cut emissions beyond 2012.

It’s understood that the Group of 77 countries and China are in consultation with the European Union for the second commitment period.

Deputy Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency Dina Pule, who led the talks at the Women in Media and Environment Conference, said the lack of awareness on issues of climate change among rural women, was what needed to be addressed ahead of COP 17 and beyond.

“What we are saying is that greater emphasis needs to be placed on awareness and dissemination of information that is why we are calling on women in media to help us address this challenge,” Pule said.

Speaking to BuaNews, she also called on the private sector to identify responses to climate change that would include technology innovations that are championed by women and young people.

A call has also been made to all sectors of society to work together and implement campaigns, like nationwide tree-planting, in order to raise public awareness on environmental health and climate change.

Pule noted that an ongoing climate awareness strategy will need to be in place to enable South Africa to meet its mitigation obligations long after COP 17.

“We need ongoing training on issues of waste management, green economy, research and technology things that will eventually make it easy for not only mitigate but to adapt to the changing environment,” she said. -BuaNews

.

http://www.buanews.gov.za/news/11/11090414251002