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Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage

Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage


Posted 26 September 2011, by Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo, Tom Wilt News,


The global food crisis of 2007/2008 that triggered riots from Cape to Cairo and from Senegal to Haiti made governments and their agriculturally-engaged companies to get on the saddle and gallop – with their thinking caps on. Export tariffs were slapped on staple food crops to minimise how much could be sold outside their countries.  In my book – Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A Critical Observation of Neighbouring Continents, I mentioned, rather apocalyptically, that if we Africans don’t take care then the outside world will turn our continent into “a timber plantation.” This is now happening, but on a worst-case scenario. Africans are being colonised again and this time not with the power of  weapons but through Africans themselves selling their continent willingly. The 99- and 999-year lease – a remnant of colonialists – surely cannot fool anybody. This is equivalent to a full century and/or full millennium which translates into three and a half to thirty-four consecutive generations of Africans.

Africans are selling the one natural resource they can’t afford to sell – their land. Especially arable land. In Antananarivo, Madagascar, earlier in 2009, President Ravalomanana’s government was overthrown by angry urban poor who were already spending two thirds of their income to feed themselves ever since the 2008 massive rise in global prices for commodities like rice and wheat. This was not just because of his own private jet bought from a member of the Disney family for his own use with public funds – no. President Ravalomanana was leasing 1.3 hectares (half the size of Belgium and half of Madagascar’s arable land) to South Korea’s Daewoo for 99 years to grow maize and palm oil and send all harvests during this period back home to feed South Koreans. Daewoo paid nothing: they PROMISED to improve the island’s infra structure. And of course they would provide “jobs for the citizens of Madagascar by farming it, which is good for Madagascar” (read cheap slave labour). As usual the public was kept in the dark. Until the news was leaked by London’s Financial Times. This is the first government in the world to be toppled by angry mobs and the military for “land-grabbing”. Kudos to the people.

There are more than 100 similar land-grabs globally, since September 2008, where huge tracts of farmland are bought up by wealthy countries as well international corporations. Mark Weston, Britain’s international development policy consultant does the colourful canvas thus: “Imagine if China, following a brief negotiation with a British government desperate for foreign cash after the collapse of the economy, bought up the whole of Wales, replaced most of its inhabitants with Chinese workers, turned the entire country into an enormous rice field and sent all the rice produced there for the next 99 years back to China… Imagine that neither the evicted Welch nor the rest of the British public knew what they were getting in return for this, having to content themselves with vague promises that the new landlords would upgrade a few ports and create jobs for the local people.

“Then, imagine that, after a few years – and bearing in mind that recession and the plummeting pound have already made it difficult for the UK to buy food from abroad – an oil-price spike or an environmental disaster in one of the world’s big grain-producing nations drives global food prices sharply upwards and beyond the reach of many Britons. While the Chinese next door in Wales continue sending rice back to China, the starving British look helplessly on, ruing the day their government sold off half their arable land. Some of them plot the violent recapture of the Welch valley.”

This – huge tracts of land being “sold” to foreigners for “promises” – is what is happening all over Africa this very minute. Except that in my experience not many Africans are that good at organising themselves as a unified force to recapture their valley. They would either fall upon each other with machetes for a few grains some “kind” soul dropped them from the air, or they’d turn into a trillion factions with double the number of “generals”.

Even the great pope of the free market, Financial Times, has used words like “rapacious” for the likes of Daewoo, warning that it was the most “brazen example of a wider phenomenon” where rich nations are trotting the globe buying up the natural resources of poor countries. The new colonialism is vast in Africa, with the buyers being wealthy countries unable to grow their own food. The Arabs are back fleeing their barren sands to turn Africa into their granary like they did one and a half millennia ago (in Egypt at the time). The Gulf states are in the lead in this new investment. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, controlling between them 45% of the world’s oil, are snatching AGRICULTURAL LAND in Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, but also in Cambodia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. South Korea has grabbed a staggering 960,000 hectares in Sudan, the largest country in Africa, where at least 6 other rich countries are said to have secured large land-holding – and precisely where the local population are among the hungriest and least secure in the world. The Saudis are negotiating 500,000 hectares (not acres) in Tanzania. Companies for the United Arab Emirates have snapped up 324,000 hectares in Pakistan. Highly populated countries like China, South Korea and India have acquired swathes of African farmland to produce food for export. India recently lowered tariffs for Ethiopian commodities that could enter India after the Indian government lent money to 80 Indian companies to buy 350,000 hectares of farmland in Africa, particularly huge tracts in Kenya and Ethiopia. And this is the same Kenya where, in the year 2008, the locals of African descent were chopping each other’s limbs off, being shot by their own police and armed forces and burning innocent men, women and children locked up in churches – because of the land tenure! This is the Kenya where the Gallmanns, Briatores and Bransons and many others own private ranches the size of 3 Cypruses, where Prince William and his girlfriend spend a bit of “Hollywood in the bush” once or so a year – the rest of the time, all the above celebrities have their small states looked after by their private property “my Africans” – while 75% of Afro-Kenyans have no scratch of land to plant a tomato!

Kenya made a deal with Qatar, an Arab land with only 1% arable land, to acquire 40,000 hectares of land to grow food. A third of Kenya’s population was facing food shortages and President Kibaki had no better answer for hungry Kenyans opposing the deal but to impose a state of emergency and then turn around to appeal for international food relief. Where is the logic here, by the bony ancients? If Qatar can grow food on Kenyan soil to feed Qataris, why can’t Kenya grow food in Kenya to feed Kenyans? The land offered to Qatar is in the fertile Tana River delta with an abundance of fresh water. Some 150,000 Kenyan farming and pastoralist families for whom the land is communal graze their 60,000 cattle there. It is no wonder that, supported by opposition activists and environmentalists fearing the destruction of a pristine ecosystem of mangrove swamps, savannah and forests, the people now threaten armed resistance. When that happens, the rest of the world will only report about “warring African tribes”, not a group of people fighting to keep their land and ecosystem instead of allowing it delivered to Qatari farmers to feed their Arabs.

Next door in Uganda, 400 small farmers comprising a total of 2,000 people, were driven out (using violence through the Ugandan army) of their land in 2001 to make room for the German coffee grower Neumann Kaffee Gruppe. This was against the OECD guidelines for multinational concerns. On 24th August 2001, the concern’s boss, Michael R Neumann, together with President Museveni inaugurated the plantation. The people who were driven off their land can since then neither feed themselves adequately nor pay school fees for their children. This is another in a long line of  violations of social human rights perpetrated by yet another African so-called leader against his own citizens. Are Africans surprised when the rest of the world view them as some strange pathogens? Who is polishing the patina of Africa’s “bad image”?

Mozambique has signed a $ 2bn deal to give 10,000 Chinese “settlers” land in return for $ 3m in military aid from Beijing. Right. Take the land for 99- or 999-year lease and settle down while you give the starving Mozambicans both reason and means to kill each other off, leaving Mozambique a Chinese province. Food is a weapon is a weapon is a weapon….

But the list is long. The British investor Cru Investment Management has grabbed tracts of the fruitful agricultural land in dirt poor Malawi. US investment banker Philippe Heilberg, assisted by a “warlord”, acquired 4,000 square kilometres of land in southern Sudan. Congo-Brazzaville is allegedly selling 10 million hectares to Euroancestral South Africans to farm. Multinational finance concerns such as Deutsche Bank, Blackstone Group, Goldman & Sachs and Dexion Capital all have invested in African agricultural land. The World Bank and International Finance Corporation are engaged in “the development of agro-business” big time in Africa and other developing countries ever since the food crisis of 2008, pumping billions to agro-concerns to ensure food production in Africa for their own countries. All such investors no longer want to depend on speculators, they want to eliminate middlemen and take control themselves. Cru Investment spokesman, Duncan Parker maintains, “Africa has what it takes to be one of the leading food producers worldwide. Her potential in workers is big, her soil productive and there’s plenty of sun and water.”

Is the man not talking about the same Africa whose people are starving and dying of diseases that could be avoided by mere clean drinking water?

And Philippe Heilberg told the US media that whatever political and legal risks he is taking in Africa at the moment will pay most lucratively because he expects several African states in the coming years to simply fall apart. Can Africans legitimately blame Heilberg for his arrogance and indifference? Besides, when one listens between the words, there is always a plan-in-motion behind such blatant utterances. Africans may well be the next Palestinians – pariahs in their own land.

And now food is not the only thing that African land is needed for. Think of the recent EU Desertec cordoning off the Sahara for solar energy for Europe. In the Desertec Concept are the words:

In the upcoming decades, several global developments will create new challenges for mankind. We will be confronted with problems and obstacles such as climate change, population growth beyond earth’s capacity, and an increase in demand for energy and water caused by a strive for prosperity and expansion.The DESERTEC Concept provides a way to solve these challenges.

The question is, SOLVE THEM FOR WHO? Certainly not for Africans. And how does this concept work?

It works just like a coal steam power plant, with the difference that concentrated solar power is used for steam production, instead of coal. Large mirrors are positioned in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the sunlight onto a certain point much like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens. A major advantage of this technology is that a part of the sun’s heat can be collected in heat storage tanks during the day and then run through steam circuits at night or specifically during peak hours, depending on the demand. With this technology, renewable and controlled energy can be provided according to the demand of the electricity grid.

Yet Africans, fifty years down independence road and with the technology already existing and sitting their for a price they can more than afford, cannot position large mirrors in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the abundant African sunlight like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens! Africans have had the Sahara forever – but they just couldn’t come up with the idea of getting some solar energy from this vast desert. No idea from the whole of Sunny Africa? Yes they could, if Africans start thinking of themselves as worthwhile human beings too, and join forces to keep what is theirs theirs. Otherwise Africans might as well follow the butcher meekly to the slaughter house because that’s where they’re going to end up – in “native reserves” dying off as a people until the few Africans left are put in museums like they were once the main attraction in circuses all over the West in the 18th through early 20th centuries.

German, British and American companies have also bought land in Tanzania and Ethiopia to grow biofuels. Ethiopia – the byword for famine – argues that since it imports oil, biofuels will set off price fluctuations and dependency on oil! What about the environmental impact – 75% of the land allocated to the foreign biofuel firms are forested and these forests will have to be chopped off! The Chinese chopstick manufacturers are delighted.

A Norwegian biofuel company will create “the largest jatropha plantation in the world” by deforesting vast tracts of land in northern Ghana. The company was back to darkest Europe when it flagrantly cheated an illiterate chief to sign 38,000 hectares with his thumbprint. Jatropha is a non-too-demanding plant that produces oily seeds from which biodiesel can be made.

This entire new scramble for poor countries’ land is the result of the food crisis of 2007-2008 when the price of wheat, rice and other cereals skyrocketed across the globe. When the food-grower countries applied tariffs to minimize the amount of staple crops that left their countries, the supply was further tightened resulting in prices shooting further up. It was a policy-created scarcity rather than the true-and-tried traditional supply and demand. A situation arose where rich countries reliant on massive food imports put on their thinking caps. They began to put the fundamentals of global trade (that each country should concentrate on its best product and then trade it) under the microscope. The Gulf states, among other rich countries, with their unimaginable amounts of cash from trading oil suddenly realised you can’t eat cash dipped in oil. Nor can you gnaw on a Rolls-Royce. Or feed your children computer chips. The sheikhs & associates saw that the costs of food imports had doubled in five years. The future boded for worse – both regional and global markets were no longer reliable.

The perfect answer was to own agricultural land. “Control of foreign farmland”, writes Paul Vallely, “would not only secure food supplies, it would eliminate the cut taken by middlemen and reduce food-import bills by more than 20 percent. And the benefits could only increase.” Because the fundamental conditions that had ushered in the worldwide food crisis remain unchanged and could easily get worse.

According to the UN the world population will double by 2050. To grow enough food to feed 9bn people choke the planet. So, long term strategies are the right response. When the Prime Minister Taro of Japan (the world’s largest food importer) asked the G8 leaders in Italy: “Is the current food crisis just another market vagary?” he answered his own question: “Evidence suggests not; we are undergoing a transition to a new equilibrium, reflecting a new economic, climatic, demographic and ecological reality.”

Not that the market is asleep either. The cost of land is rising rapidly, making the irresponsible but insatiable African leaders salivate. And we Africans sit with our hands folded on our laps, waiting for some force of nature to come to our rescue. Many are not even aware of the fact that their ancestral land is being offered for re-colonisation, because their governments are big boys who believe informing their citizens of what is going on puts the boys in a subservient position. These are the chaps in this world who are unaware that they are servants of their people.

The food and financial crises combined have made agricultural farmland the new strategic asset. Veteran speculator Jim Rogers, in league with fellow veterans like Lord Jacob Rothschild, said in July 2009: “I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time.” This should actually augur well for Africa because there is land in abundance in the continent, and the agricultural sector – Africa’s backbone – is in need of capital and technology. A win-win situation. Except that Africans are auctioning their continent’s most sacred possession for nought and a staggering 99- or 999-year lease (depending on which salivating leader is dealing with whom. There are leaders out there offering the old colonial 999-year lease). That interprets into three and a half to thirty-four generations of Africans – left in limbo. Or as eventual specimens in museums of the wealthy.

Producing enough food to feed 9bn people in 2050 will crush the planet, denuding forests and drainage rivers and ruining arable land. In Copenhagen, capital saw to it that their lackeys, known as governments the world over, treated climate change as Father Christmas – a fairy tale. But, to capital’s delight, oil prices continue to rise in direct relation to fertilizer and tractor fuel – hence biofuels to further cut the land that would be available for food crops. The horrors are ahead because the fat harvest times are over – there won’t be enough food for the table even for the filthy rich – unless they can afford €3m a day residency in outer space. The market economy will this time – as always – not provide for all and sundry as falsely proclaimed. Land prices have jumped from 15% to 30% globally.

After the financial crisis in mortgage-based derivatives, agricultural land is the new strategic asset. An asset that nobody can manufacture or erect, and then sell. Once given away, it is gone and there’s no replica or spare parts, Africans.

Marginally seen, it could be a good thing for African countries. Apart from the staggering and varied natural resources, some of which cannot be found anywhere on the planet, land, as already said, is what Africans have in plenty. All Africa needs is capital to develop her agriculture. A mammoth share of this capital is ferreted out of the continent by the handful few wrongly-wired Africans to develop economies NOT AFRICAN. The Big Curse for which Africans only have themselves to blame. The rest of the world call it capital flight – as if this staggering amount of money simply made up its mind to take to the air and fly to the West – the mad terminologies of our times where human beings call their own dead “collateral damages”.

The financial global players who brought on the crisis are the very same ones now roaming the agricultural landscape and grabbing chunks of it. These land deals should bring investments, technology and know-how to local farmers, reduce dependency on food aid and similar maladies. They should provide infrastructure that goes beyond roads leading from the foreign leaseholder’s farms to the port that transport 100% of their harvests back to their own countries. The deals should enable the building of schools and health centres for the whole community. They should provide enough taxes to the government for more development – assuming African governments would at last invest in their own countries and people instead of castles and numbered accounts overseas. African so-called leaders have some inborn dread of educated and healthy citizens. Instead of recognising the greatest potential to their nations of human resources they see adversaries.

Then there is the problem of monoculture in growing plantation of large-scale food crops dependent of huge amounts of pesticides and fertilisers. This would ruin the long-term sustainability of tropical soils not suited to intensive cultivation, as well as damage the local water table. Soil erosion will occur and ruin long-term land fertility. The diversity of plants, animals and insect life will be drastically threatened while the intensive usage of agrochemicals bring in water-quality maladies. In addition the irrigation of the foreign investors’ plantations would take water away from the indigenous users. So these grabs are in effect water grabs – the most valuable part of these deals – instead of land grabs, since once you own the land you own the water beneath it.

The chief executive of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe puts it this way: “Water withdrawal for agriculture continue to increase rapidly. In some of the most fertile regions of the world (America, southern Europe, northern India, north-eastern China), over-use of water, mainly for agriculture, is leading to sinking water tables. Groundwater is being withdrawn, no longer as a buffer over the year but in a structural way, mainly because water is seen as a free good.”

It is not. The average person in the world uses 3,000-6,000 litres of water daily, less than a tenth of which is used for hygiene or manufacturing. The rest goes to farming. Meat-eating has increased and meat requires ten times more water per calorie than plants. The thirstiest products on earth are biofuels. To grow Soya for one litre of biodiesel takes up to 9,100 litres of water and up to 4,000 litres to transform corn into bioethanol. Brabeck-Letmathe predicts, “Under the present conditions and with the way water is being managed, we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel.” India and the USA combined produce a third of the world’s cereals, but Frank Rijsberman of the International Water Management Institute cautions, “we could be facing annual losses equivalent to the grain crops” of India and the USA.

The land grabs are now a pandemic. As with natural resources in Africa, there is no transparency and foreign governments and multinationals engaged in bribes have no great fear of prosecution in poor countries. In their own wealthy countries, at least somebody may publicly cry foul or demonstrate with huge placards in the streets without fearing being shot down by the police or armed forces.

In Africa land rights are not just written, they also exist through custom and practice. There should indeed be (if nothing else) compulsory sharing of benefits such as construction of schools and health centres. Short leases, or better still contract farming, would leave smallholders in control of their land and contract to investors. On the other hand the investors must never have the right to export entire harvests especially during a food crisis in the host country.

Land-grabs represent a serious violation of the human right to food. Humankind’s most primordial fight was over food. It is food that makes the fittest who then survives. I therefore call to all Africans, Continental and Diaspora, and all friends and fans of Africa, to join me in this fight by going to my web site – – and signing in the with both your name, the words and your valid email address. In addition, please spread the word to your friends, families, social network chums and pals, chat room and forum acquaintances around the globe to join us in the fight. I need at least 25,000 authentic email “signatures” to enable me to write a petition to the AU Commissioner in Addis Ababa demanding that African governments may not simply “negotiate” land grab deals with foreign governments and multinationals without prior consultations with their respective citizens in the form of a referendum. The petition is now being professionally drafted and will be posted in my web site ASAP.


A graduate journalist – the London Schools of Journalism as well as an economics graduate of the London School of Economics. Been writing as a freelance journalist since 1980, columnist with various dailies and monthly magazines in Africa and Europe. Gives lectures and seminars in various German universities, colleges and high schools on topics ranging from socio-economy in Africa, Business English, African literature and the socio-ethnological conflicts in the traditions of Africans and the West in general. Written and published articles, papers, novels in Engish and German. Her non-fiction book “Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A critical Observation of the Neighbour Continents” published in 2008 by a New York publisher. Full CV – More works as yet unpublished and a children’s fantasy/thriller.

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Navajo President fails the Earth and the Navajo People

Navajo President fails the Earth and the Navajo People


Posted 23 September 2011, by Calvin Johnson, Censored News,


Navajo President Ben Shelly, who urged the protection of the earth and respect for Dine’ culture at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, has line item vetoed the Navajo Green  Economy Office.
President Shelly’s words to the world will be meaningless if he continues to promote coal-fired power plants. The Navajo Nation already has three coal-fired power plants, with coal mines, and Shelly is pushing for another coal fired power plant.



By Calvin Johnson, Navajo from Leupp, Ariz.

Censored News

Calvin Johnson

This is a response to a video of Navajo President Ben Shelly at the United Nations making a plea for Protection of San Francisco Peaks. The Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly as a leader of Navajo Nation had a prime opportunity in February of 2011 to negotiate usage of reclaimed water of San Francisco Peaks. At the time, The City of Flagstaff wanted to drill 6 new wells utilizing C-Aquifer on Red Gap Ranch which is city-owned land near Winslow. Then Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly then threatened to file a suit against the City of Flagstaff. But then in May of 2011, Navajo Nation and City of Flagstaff agreed to a deal regarding C-Aquifer water usage of up to 2.6 trillion gallons a year.

Why would the Navajo Nation agree to such a deal when the City of Flagstaff is selling reclaimed water for skiing? The Navajo Nation President missed the prime opportunity to negotiate the taking of the reclaimed water usage off the table. This is so (bleeped) up!!!

The City of Flagstaff wants to use clean Navajo water underlying the Navajo Nation but the Nation buckles down to City of Flagstaff (Non-Natives including Corporations). I wished our Navajo Nation leaders would take a stand and defend human rights and protect sacred sites, period.

Now am watching the video of Ben Shelly pleading for help, it is sickening — am sorry this is not defending human rights and protecting sacred sites. Maybe this will be a lesson learned from our leaders. But kudos for finally speaking up.

Calvin Johnson
PO Box 5527
Leupp, AZ 86035

Also see: Anna Rondon: Navajo president vetoes Navajo Green Economy Office funding



The Great Bee Count

The Great Bee Count

Long-horned Bee or Sunflower Bee - Svastra obliqua by Lynette S. (Photo not part of the original article, retrieved from the Web by Only Ed)


Posted 18 September 2011, by Ben Gelber, NBC4i,


Please visit the original site to view the News Video associated with this article, or click the following link:


OSU Scientists Abuzz About Bee Population, In the wake of the loss of a quarter of Ohio’s bee population, OSU experts are looking at ways to maintain diversity among the population of bee survivors—-who are critical to successful crops.



The loss of about a quarter of Ohio’s honeybees, due to a mysterious illness and parasites in the past several years, has forced researchers to take a hard look at the diversity of Ohio’s 500 native bee populations to ensure their environment is protected.

Ohio State researchers in the Environment Ecology and Organismal  Biology Department, such as Dr. Karen Goodell, are studying bees in the Wilds in Muskingum County, an area once mined for coal that has been restored as prairie land.

The Great  Bee Count on July 16 and August 20 brought attention to USA bee populations by enlisting tens of thousand of volunteers around the country to count bees on Sunflowers and other target plant species during a 25-minute period.

This project will provide “a foundation for asking more detailed questions about the status of bees,” said Dr. Goodell.

While not identifying specific bee populations that may be at risk, the volunteer information nonetheless is “complementary to that collected by ecologists.”

For additional information, stay with NBC4 and refresh

View More: Biology Department, Environment, Goodell, Karen, Muskingum County, Ohio, United States


Life in an unhealthy climate


Life in an unhealthy climate


Posted 16 September 2011, by Mandi Smallhorne, The Mail & Guardian (M&G Media, Newtrust Company Botswana Limited and Guardian Newspapers Limited),



Too hot to handle A firefighter battles a fire fuelled by strong winds and record temperatures in Vyksa, Russia. (Mikhail Voskresensky, Reuters)

Krish Perumal does not look forward to Durban’s summers. A ­middle-aged ­supervisor in a rubber-producing company, he was struck by asthma about 25 years ago when he was in his early 30s. “It’s worse when it’s hot and humid,” he says. “When you get bad wheezing, then you can get the flu.”

Perumal believes his condition is caused by industrial pollution — and he may be right. He lives in south Durban, home to two of South Africa’s biggest oil refineries and more than 120 industries, and more than 280 000 people. The area is a notorious pollution hot spot and a study done a few years ago showed that children here were twice as likely to get asthma as those in the northern parts of the city.

But there is reason to believe that global warming may be playing a part in the rise in respiratory disease here and elsewhere (asthma rates have been soaring around the world in the past three decades). Average temperatures in Southern Africa have risen by 1.5°C over the past century as opposed to 0.8°C globally, according to Dr Francois Engelbrecht of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The combination of higher temperatures and industrial pollutants is bad news for asthma sufferers like Perumal — and gives him a special interest in the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), which will take place in Durban from November 28.

The pollutant by-product of interest here is ozone, which is something most of us connect to the hole in the ozone layer happening in the Antarctic high up in the sky. But ground-level ozone is common in our cities. It forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx, a product of combustion in cars, trucks, industrial processes and coal-fired power plants) react with volatile organic compounds in sunlight, explains Dan Ferber, co-author with Dr Paul Epstein of Changing Planet, Changing Health (University of California Press).

Ground-level ozone irritates the respiratory system, damages lung tissue and reduces lung function. It triggers coughing, chest discomfort, a scratchy feeling in the throat and other symptoms. It makes people more susceptible to respiratory infections and it exacerbates asthma and emphysema.

Effects on health
When he started working on the book, Ferber says, he had no idea what he would discover. “The overall scope of the potential health problems was surprising to me.”

Ferber says that because scientists focus on their own specialities, the public receives information about climate change piecemeal — a study that looks at how crops are being affected; research on expanding ranges for mosquitoes; insight into changing patterns of rainfall. It is only when you step back and try to take in the whole picture that you realise this should be framed “as a public health crisis”, he says.

Consider how all-encompassing the effects on health are. Most of South Africa has been malaria-free hitherto. But it is common cause that climate change will likely increase the range of the Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria. It will also alter — sometimes increasing, sometimes reducing — the range of other insects that carry disease, such as the ticks that carry Congo fever. South Africa needs to be prepared for a possible rise in insect-borne diseases.

Then there is water. “Water is the primary medium through which people in Africa will experience climate change impacts. By 2020, it is estimated that 75-million to 250-million Africans will be exposed to increased water stress,” writes Dr Mary Galvin in a forthcoming publication by the Environmental Monitoring Group, Water and Climate Change: An Exploration for the Concerned and Curious. Projections indicate that South Africa will not benefit from the fact that warmer air holds more moisture: specific climatic features mean that, overall, we will be hotter but not get much increase in useful rainfall.

Some of the rainfall will come in extreme weather events such as the recent floods in the Newcastle and Upington regions, which can damage crops and do not necessarily sink into the underground water table, instead running off and washing away precious topsoil.

What does this mean for our health? Water is, of course, a vital nutrient, but it is also crucial to a secure food supply. A reduced rainfall, combined with changes in times when crops can be planted and harvested because of higher temperatures, will likely add to greater food insecurity. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, DC, has estimated that for every 1C increase in temperature, yields of staple grains will drop by 10%. This, of course, like all the impacts of climate change, will hit the poor hardest.

“I can say with confidence that there is a link between rising food prices and climate change,” says Ferber. Drought in Australia, wildfires in Russia and other events affect global food supply. In August, for example, China Daily reported that South Korea’s rice harvest was expected to reach a 10-year low next year because of abnormal weather conditions, which we should perhaps be calling the “new normal”.

An absence of fresh, clean water in adequate amounts for drinking and washing, coupled with undernourished people add up to a perfect health storm: water-borne diseases like cholera thrive in such conditions and malnourished people’s immune systems are unable to mount a sufficient defence.

We should be putting thought into adapting to a water-poor future, says Galvin: “Sustainable water usage solutions that could be implemented not simply by ecologically progressive households or municipalities but on a national scale include rainwater-harvesting landscapes for growing food, from commercial agriculture to small-scale farms to homestead gardens; the use of grey water to irrigate agriculture, parks and public sites; ecological treatment of sewage; dry sanitation systems such as compost toilets and pit latrines; and reducing water leaks.

“Adaptation will also require improving river and local wetland health; adjusting farming practice with resilient crops and shifting seasons; expanding the number of households with food gardens; and preparing for drought or floods.”

Heat effects on productivity
We all know about the 2003 heat wave, the hottest on record in more than 450 years, which killed about 40 000 people in Europe. Perhaps we dismiss the significance of this in our minds because the news focus was on the elderly people who died in great numbers. What went largely unnoticed at the time was a significant increase in deaths among those under 65 — demonstrating that heat has a substantial effect on younger people too. Interestingly, although far more elderly women than men died, men were about twice as likely to die as women in the younger age group.

Heat waves will be more common in future, but the increase in average temperatures alone is likely to have an impact on human health in ways that will reduce productivity, shorten life spans and decrease wellbeing significantly, as Professor Tord Kjellstrom and his South African colleagues pointed out at a seminar at the University of Johannesburg in August. Kjellstrom is an internationally recognised expert on the health impacts of climate change — he is part-time professor and visiting fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University in Canberra and is developing a global programme of studies on high occupational temperature health and productivity suppression (Hothaps) that is aimed at quantifying the impacts of heat exposure at work.

In a warming world we will experience the highest temperatures during the day, while we are at work. The majority of workers will not be able to escape the heat in air-conditioned offices. They will be out in the fields harvesting crops, labouring on construction sites or in factories that are inadequately cooled — doing the work that feeds us and gives us the pleasant and useful things in life.

Professor Angela Mathee, head of the Medical Research Council’s Environment and Health Research Unit, and colleagues Joy Oba and Andre Rose have done a pilot study as part of Hothaps. They demonstrated that many outdoor workers were already exposed to alarmingly severe health and productivity impacts from heat exposure.

Focus groups in Johannesburg and Upington spoke of increased thirst, excessive sweating, exhaustion, dry noses, blisters, burning eyes, headaches, nose bleeds and dizziness, among a host of other effects including chronic tiredness: “When it is very hot, sometimes when you wake up in the morning you feel exhausted,” said one Upington participant. As temperatures rise further in the near future, symptoms like these will have to be urgently addressed by employers and the government.

Sweating it out
Excessive perspiration is a serious heat-related health concern that can become a killer. Kjellstrom spoke about South American sugar-cane cutters who sweated several litres of fluid in a day, but only brought two litres of water to work with them because they had to walk and could not carry more. Because the employers did not provide water in the field, each day they would have to wait until knock-off time to replace the deficit, which had led to a spate of life-threatening kidney conditions in relatively young workers.

The imbalance of salts that results from heavy sweating is one reason why heat exposure reduces productivity: it leads to a lessened ability to work intensively and a loss of perceptual and motor performance — even mild dehydration has been shown to decrease mental performance. The brain also sends a signal to decrease muscle tone, which leaves people feeling tired and listless.

People will be working at a slower pace — if you are working in a consistent temperature above 28°C you should work only half your normal hours, says the professor — and their risk of accidents on the job also will increase. There are psychosocial effects as well: aggression rises, for example, increasing the risk of conflict and interpersonal friction in the workplace.

In addition, Kjellstrom points out, heat in many workplaces will interact with chemicals such as solvents and pesticides used on the job; these will evaporate faster, boosting the danger of exposure for workers. And workers who wear protective clothing will be hotter while at the same time being less able to perspire as effectively. In Southeast Asia, innovators are coming up with concepts to tackle this problem. One inventor has developed a vest containing tubes of material that stay frozen solid until about 25°C — when the temperature hits 30°C you stick it in the freezer again.

South African research
“We’ve known about the effects of heat in the workplace for a long time,” says Kjellstrom. But it is only recently that people have begun to link this knowledge with the oncoming juggernaut of climate change.

Interestingly, the original research on heat and labour was done right here in South Africa about 60 years ago. Dr CH Wyndham tested the work capacity of fit young men who came to work in the hot underground of Johannesburg’s mines. He found that although about 64% of men could cope with moderate physical labour in hot conditions, only a few were able to cope with heavy labour. He decided to acclimatise them by having them exercise in a “warm gym” daily for a few weeks, after which the number who could do hard labour jumped to 29% — still less than a third. Wyndham’s concept is still in use to acclimatise and harden new recruits and men who return to the mines after holidays.

Will our future climate be hot enough to trigger these on-the-job health problems? The answer is yes. At the CSIR recently, atmospheric modeller Dr Francois Engelbrecht presented the results of six simulations or models of our future, the largest exercise of its kind ever done here. The news is not good: Southern Africa has an observed temperature increase over the past century of double the global average, and this trend will continue over the decades between now and century’s end. So if — and it’s an unlikely prospect — we manage to keep the global increase down to two degrees, Southern Africa will experience four. This means that whereas a pleasant Gauteng January day between 1960 and 2000 was usually about 25°C, it would in future be about 29°C. If, as many scientists now believe is likely, the increase is three or four degrees globally, we are going to have some stinking hot summers.

The middle class and the wealthy will be able to buy their way out of many of these impacts for the next decade or so — air conditioners and filters will protect us from the heat and pollutants and insect repellents from mozzies and ticks. And we will probably moan at the price of water and food. But climate change will affect the poor the most, worsening the divide between rich and poor and placing serious demands on the public purse.

Few hold out much hope for a meaningful and binding treaty at COP17. But the dark picture experts paint of our future health prospects if we do not act, and act now, ­provides South Africans with urgent reasons to hope — and lobby — for an outcome that holds some promise.



Water evaporated from trees cools global climate

Water evaporated from trees cools global climate


Posted 14 September 2011, by Ken Caldeira (Carnegie Institution for Science), EurakAlert (American Association for the Advancement of Science),


Washington, DC. — Scientists have long debated about the impact on global climate of water evaporated from vegetation. New research from Carnegie’s Global Ecology department concludes that evaporated water helps cool the earth as a whole, not just the local area of evaporation, demonstrating that evaporation of water from trees and lakes could have a cooling effect on the entire atmosphere. These findings, published September 14 in Environmental Research Letters, have major implications for land-use decision making.

Evaporative cooling is the process by which a local area is cooled by the energy used in the evaporation process, energy that would have otherwise heated the area’s surface. It is well known that the paving over of urban areas and the clearing of forests can contribute to local warming by decreasing local evaporative cooling, but it was not understood whether this decreased evaporation would also contribute to global warming

The Earth has been getting warmer over at least the past several decades, primarily as a result of the emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, as well as the clearing of forests. But because water vapor plays so many roles in the climate system, the global climate effects of changes in evaporation were not well understood.

The researchers even thought it was possible that evaporation could have a warming effect on global climate, because water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Also, the energy taken up in evaporating water is released back into the environment when the water vapor condenses and returns to earth, mostly as rain. Globally, this cycle of evaporation and condensation moves energy around, but cannot create or destroy energy. So, evaporation cannot directly affect the global balance of energy on our planet.

The team led by George Ban-Weiss, formerly of Carnegie and currently at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, included Carnegie’s Long Cao, Julia Pongratz and Ken Caldeira, as well as Govindasamy Bala of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Using a climate model, they found that increased evaporation actually had an overall cooling effect on the global climate.

Increased evaporation tends to cause clouds to form low in the atmosphere, which act to reflect the sun’s warming rays back out into space. This has a cooling influence.

“This shows us that the evaporation of water from trees and lakes in urban parks, like New York’s Central Park, not only help keep our cities cool, but also helps keep the whole planet cool,” Caldeira said. “Our research also shows that we need to improve our understanding of how our daily activities can drive changes in both local and global climate. That steam coming out of your tea-kettle may be helping to cool the Earth, but that cooling influence will be overwhelmed if that water was boiled by burning gas or coal.”


The Department of Global Ecology was established in 2002 to help build the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. The department is located on the campus of Stanford University, but is an independent research organization funded by the Carnegie Institution. Its scientists conduct basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity.

The Carnegie Institution for Science ( is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.


Subversive Environmental History

Subversive Environmental History


Posted 13 September 2011, by Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout,


Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust storm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma, USA, April 1936. (Photo: Arthur Rothstein / Farm Security Administration)

In an original essay Aldo Leopold wrote in volume 31 of the “Journal of Forestry,” in 1933, he connected the survival of America to an abiding respect for nature, especially the integrity of the land.

Leopold was professor at the University of Wisconsin. He was disturbed by America’s misuse of its forests, land and wildlife. He drew an intimate connection between land and civilization, insisting that civilization “is a state of mutual and interdependent cooperation between human animals, other animals, plants and soils, which may be disrupted at any moment by the failure of any of them.”

Disruption on a huge scale did take place in the United States in the 1930s, in Leopold’s time. In his classic, “A Sand County Almanac” (Oxford University Press, 1966), he likened the United States to “a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy.”

In fact, Leopold saw the American obsession spreading throughout the world. He lamented: “The whole world is so greedy for more bathtubs that it has lost the stability necessary to build them, or even to turn off the tap” (p. xi).

Industrialized farmers “broke” the land causing a dust bowl in the Great Plains that dusted out some 3.5 million Okies, especially from Kansas and Oklahoma. Wrecking the land triggered the calamity of the Great Plains.

Some 30 years later, in the early 1960s, three books elaborated Leopold’s message to some degree. The first was “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson (Boston, 1962). Carson documented the misuse of pesticides, the heedless dumping of millions upon millions of pounds of biocides all over America, but especially in the lands of industrialized farmers.

The second book was “The Quiet Crisis” by Stewart Udall (New York, 1963). This is an absorbing history of what America did to its pristine and abundant, natural treasures of land, forests, rivers, lakes and mountains.

Udall paints not a pretty picture. He keeps talking of over-grazing, over-farming, cut-and-run policies of the timber barons, land grabbers, great giveaway, every man for himself and lumber tycoons in order to capture the violent relations of Americans toward nature in the first century and a half of the country’s life. The main characteristic of that era was plundering of the natural world by corporations and individuals.

White Americans also nearly exterminated the indigenous population, the only humans in the continent who had a land ethic. Whites also were responsible for the near annihilation of the beaver and the buffalo.

However, thanks to thinkers and activists like John Muir and Leopold and the policies of a few statesmen like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, America, after the dust bowls of the 1930s, made the late transition to “conservation” policies, which are some kind of a tenuous truce in its ever-present war against nature.

Udall writes with doubtful conviction. He was in a position of power in the 1960s, but he failed to walk the talk.

Udall was the secretary of the Interior Department under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He did precious little to stop the plunder of nature in America, especially in California when corporate farmers violated the law in grabbing subsidized water, incessantly becoming larger and larger.

The Department of the Interior was then and remains the largest owner of land in the United States.

Udall could have stopped the rising agribusiness empire in the West, ending the water subsidies to huge corporate farmers, putting an end to the decimation of public lands by ranchers and land grabbers, projects of both agribusiness and state and federal governments. However, he did nothing of the sort. His eloquent book was, in some measure, a quiet apologia steeped in guilt.

The third book is “Pesticides and the Living Landscape” by Robert L. Rudd (Madison, Wisconsin, 1964). This is a variation of the theme explored by Carson, only more scholarly and suggestive of the futility of trying to dominate nature with toxins. Rudd talks about the ruthless arrogance and the scientific incompetence and greed of those exploiting the land, hubris pitted against the eternal values and verities of the natural world.

These studies, especially “Silent Spring,” triggered all kinds of alarms in the country. The chemical industry called Carson “communist,” an old spinster who did not know science. President Kennedy and a few senators praised Carson.

The federal government, however, stayed on the sidelines. It started half-hearted policies of trying to control pollution and ecological despoliation.

The environmentalists also sided with Carson. Yet, for many of them it was not easy to fall in love with nature. They had the guilt of moneyed men who meant to do good while not infringing on the privileges of their class. With such muddled thinking, “environmentalism,” always deferential of corporations, never captured the country’s soul.

On the other hand, corporations remained on the offensive. Their armies of lobbyists and purchased academics have been killing the ecological idea even before it makes it to the print or public debate, especially that. They fight ferociously any plan to “regulate” their industrial activities while spreading disinformation about the environment, denying the country’s severe ecological crisis, even rejecting the toxic effects of agribusiness and the calamity of global warming.

On the face of such corporate audacity verging on gangsterism, the federal government remains polite and silent and supportive of corporations.

For example, in 1966, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Department of the Interior administered by Udall published a pamphlet, “Fish, Wildlife and Pesticides” in which it described the serious ecological harm caused by farm sprays while assuring Americans, “There has been no Silent Spring – yet. The frogs croak their love songs, the wild geese fly north on schedule and the salmon splash their way upstream to spawn.”

Aside from this gentle if misleading treatment of pollution and death in nature, the FWS ignored the damming of the rivers threatening the salmon with extinction.

In December 1969, the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare elaborated the pesticide danger in greater detail in the hefty “Report of the Secretary’s Commission on Pesticides and Their Relationship to Environmental Health.”

The report said that, yes, pesticides are hazardous, indeed, they are threat to global ecosystems, but Americans have no choice but to adapt to them: they are indispensable to food production.

The report also, for the first time ever, documented environmental racism in America. Blacks receive greater dosages of pesticides than whites. The following figure shows the unequal amounts of poison in the form of DDT in the blood of whites and blacks:

Once the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came into being, it also started studying the effects of agricultural sprays. In the early 1970s, it completed 11 reports examining the uses of pesticides everywhere in nature and society: in forests, aquatic environment, suburban homes and farms.

The EPA’s Herbicide Report (1974) was an example of good science serving the public interest. The report, prepared by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, was groundbreaking in its assessment of weed killers, bringing to light startling news: herbicides altering the nutrition value of crops, changing their physiology, making them appetizing to insects. Herbicides also cause insect-pest outbreaks while stimulating their reproduction (pp. 45, 61).

The EPA, however, did nothing with the findings of this report. In 1974, the EPA had some more bad news about the farmers’ spays, challenging the assumption that farmers use pesticides to increase food production. “Farmer’s Pesticide Use Decisions and Attitudes on Alternate Crop Protection Methods” by Rosmarie von Rumker, an EPA consultant, reported that farmers turned to pesticide merchants for advice and, second, chlorine-based sprays reduced the yield of corn and soybeans, the implication being that all toxics are inimical to crops.

This was the time of Jimmy Carter in the White House. Carter spoke about the 1970s being “a decade of environmental progress,” which started on January 1, 1970, with the signing into law of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Carter was effusive in his comments about NEPA calling it “the nation’s charter for protecting and improving the environment.”

However, Carter’s rosy picture of environmental progress was wrong. The NEPA is a good law but, like so many other good laws, corporations and their lobbyists, who had plenty to do in the writing of these laws, kept working through their purchased members of Congress, crippling the NEPA’s effectiveness, making it a routine administrative program of endless assessments without teeth. In addition, when it comes to agribusiness issues, the chemical industry, assisted by the scientists of the land grant universities, controls the mind and the policies of both farmers and policymakers, thus neutralizing the NEPA and all other legislation.

In July 1980, only a few months before the election of Reagan, the EPA published “Acid Rain,” a report on the sulfuric and nitric acids coming out of the stacks of American factories and cars burning fossil fuels. These acids travel hundreds of miles with the wind and then fall to the earth, forming deadly acid rain. Now, we know that the same factories and cars burning coal and petroleum also emit carbon dioxide, thus causing global warming.

One of the EPA scientists responsible for the preparation of the “Acid Rain” report, Richard Laska, said to me on March 17, 1988, that Reagan’s first EPA administrator, Anne Gorsuch, was so enraged by the findings of the “Acid Rain” report she “burned” it, perhaps symbolically.

The Carter administration also studied America’s agricultural crisis, the rural exodus of family farmers and the threatening rise of agribusiness as the dominant force in rural America. And, again, just before the Reagan men and women took over the government, the Carter Department of Agriculture (USDA) published two pioneering studies, one on organic agriculture: “Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming” (July 1980) and another on the precarious nature of American agriculture, becoming primarily agribusiness, “A Time to Choose” (January 1981).

Yet, the time to choose had just about expired. Agribusiness was in the saddle all over the country.

Robert van den Bosch, professor of biology at Berkeley, exposed the corruption in America’s agricultural and environmental education and policy establishment in his pioneering “The Pesticide Conspiracy” (New York, 1978).

The story van den Bosch tells is extraordinary, but true: Merchants of poison bribe professors and politicians, fund the suppression of research into traditional farming and treat the USDA and the EPA like subsidiaries of the chemical industry. They write the laws and enjoy the protection of the government.

From my experience at the EPA, where I worked from 1979 to 2004, I can certify that van den Bosch is right: the government envelops the industry’s corruption with the epiphenomena of science and regulation, so that the actions of the chemical industry mafia look both legal and routine.

Whether one is concerned about spreading cancer, the general decline in the quality of life throughout nature and society, global warming, the killing of America’s democratic family farming or children eating food contaminated with toxins, the source of the problem is the same: powerful corporations abusing society’s trust and the political system for their profits, using methods for food production which are not safe for humans or wildlife.

Indeed, I would argue that the mafia model is the unspoken factor in the government-industrial-academic complex determining the fate of agriculture, public health and the environment in the United States.

Consider these additional examples:

  1.  Children are by far the greatest victims of our toxic agriculture: Two scientists with the Environmental Defense Fund, now Environmental Defense, Stephanie G. Harris and Joseph H. Highland, reported that the late 1970s, when they studied children, were not “normal times,” children being “the defenseless victims of environmental pollution.” Their report, “Birthright Denied” (New York, 1977), was thorough and timely, examining all kinds of toxins found in mothers’ milk, including dioxins.Like Harris, a former reporter for The New York Times, Philip Shabecoff and his wife Alice Shabecoff, investigated the fate of children born and growing up in a toxic world. The result is “Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children” (New York, 2008), a powerful indictment of giant corporate polluters; agribusiness; large farmers and other poisoners responsible for higher rates of birth defects, cancer, asthma, autism and other deadly diseases of America’s children.
  2. In her 1983 book, “A Bitter Fog,” Carol Van Strum dissects the forces at work allowing for the endless spraying and contamination of nature by pesticides, especially those carrying with them dioxins, by far the most lethal of toxic substances of industrialized societies. Van Strum said to me in the spring of 1989 that, once the Sierra Club published her book, it immediately pulled it back from the market. She had no doubt that it was herbicide merchants who set fire to her house, killing her children in the woods of Oregon.
  3. In order to undermine the public’s fear of cancer and dilute the charge it was approving cancer-causing chemicals for food, in the mid-1980s, the EPA, with the blessings of the Reagan White House and Congress, funded the US National Academy of Sciences to “study” the Delaney Clause, the only provision in the federal law prohibiting cancer-causing chemicals – carcinogens – in processed food. In its 1987 report, “Regulating Pesticides in Food,” the Academy prepared the ground for the EPA to dismantle the Delaney Clause, which the Academy renamed the “Delaney Paradox.”By 1987, cancer-causing sprays were pervasive in American crops and food. Sixty percent of weed killers were carcinogens, 90 percent of crop disease-fighting chemicals (fungicides) were carcinogens and 30 percent of insect sprays were also cancer-causing chemicals. And since most of the crop spays concentrate in processed food, the easy, but dangerous, option for the EPA was to get rid of the troubling prohibition, which the EPA did with fanfare in 1996 under a Republican-dominated Congress, but a Democratic White House. President Bill Clinton; the EPA administrator Carol Browner; and Dr. Lynn Goldman, a pediatrician and assistant administrator for pesticides at the EPA, signed off on that abhorrent policy.
  4. While the united Democrats-Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House and the EPA were celebrating the elimination of the Delaney Clause, three researchers, two environmental scientists and one journalist, Theo Colborn, John Peterson Myers and Dianne Dumanoski authored “Our Stolen Future” (New York, 1996). This was another silent spring-like story, updated to include the effects of hormone-like toxins, many of them farm sprays, on humans and wildlife. The book documented the effects of the toxic hormone imposters to be global and lasting – causing malformations of newborns and declining fertility in wildlife and humans.

Al Gore, vice president of the United States, wrote the preface to “Our Stolen Future.” Yet, his former personal assistant who had become the EPA administrator, Browner, ignored the tragedy of the hormone-like sprays in the environment.

In this shameless fashion, Gore repeated his inaction on global warming about which he wrote a good book while a US senator: “Earth in the Balance” (Boston, 1992). Gore was vice president and Browner the administrator of the EPA from 1993 to 2001. Gore did nothing on global warming and Browner did nothing to protect human health and nature from the torrent of dangers issuing from America’s industrial establishment.

However, being out of power brought Gore back to his senses and he became a passionate defender of the earth, publishing an honest and eloquent book on global warming: “An Inconvenient Truth” (Rodale Press) in 2005. On October 12, 2007, he earned the Nobel Prize for peace for his eloquent and courageous stand on the environmental emergency we face because of global warming.

Gore’s late conversion does not diminish his failure as a politician. Adding insult to injury, the Clinton-Gore administration appointed a woman pediatrician, Goldman, to administer the EPA’s largest office, which was responsible for pesticides and other toxic chemicals, my base for most of the years of my tenure at the EPA.

Goldman kept talking about children’s health, but her policies, like those of Browner, left children in the same terrible condition they had been and continue to be under Republican and Democratic administrations.

Environmentalism is in crisis in the United States. Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus (“The Death of Environmentalism,” Grist Magazine, January 13, 2005) argue – still persuasively six years later – that environmentalists have to rethink everything they do.

Environmentalists do not fail because they don’t have consistent or attractive values. They do. Environmentalists fail because their opponents – mafia-like corporate plunderers of nature, unethical academic scientists, large farmers, oil companies, power companies, mountain destroyers, developers of wetlands, loggers, industrial fishers  and other industrialists – are armed to the teeth.

These businessmen make up the military-industrial complex. They often do their work under various covers. Some of them operate behind the façade of nonprofit or faith-based organizations, as well as domestic and international development.

They make up a kleptocracy instrumental in the making of environmental policy. For example, preachers like Pat Robertson and Republican politicians set the tone of the George W. Bush administration’s outrageous attack against both nature and public health.

The Obama administration comes perilously close to following on the footsteps of the Bush administration. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, an EPA colleague fired by the Bush administration, wrote a letter to the EPA administrator Lisa Jackson (August 5, 2011) in which she accused her of fostering “a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation.”

Evaggelos Vallianatos
Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of “This Land is Their Land” and “The Passion of the Greeks.”

Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Posted 12 September 2011, by Matt Smith, Green Building Elements (Important Media),



For several years now, people have been aware that our over-reliance on fossil fuels, specifically oil, is dangerous because it is a finite resource and soon the supply won’t be able to reach our outrageous demands. This infographic, from, describes the peak oil problem and how we have arrived at this point. It also describes why the few alternative fossil fuels are equally as unfeasible. The infographic mentions that there are positives to the peak oil problem, in that because we are aware that the oil is running low, people are more interested in trying to find alternatives to oil. Hopefully that sort of research will bear fruit, because it is clear that we can’t continue to rely so heavily on oil as a means to power our world.



Rigoberta Menchú and Nobel Peace Laureates: Halt tar sands

Rigoberta Menchú and Nobel Peace Laureates: Halt tar sands

Nobel Peace Laureates Dalai Lama, Rigoberta Menchu and Desmund Tutu among nine urging: Halt tar sands

The 14th Dalai Lama


Posted 07 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News,


Censored News

Rigoberta Menchú

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchú of Guatemala and Archbishop Desmund Tutu of South Africa, joined six other Nobel Peace Laureates urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, an environmental disaster in the making.

The Nobel Peace Laureates recognized those arrested during the past two weeks of sit-ins at the White House. The 1,252 arrested included members of the Indigenous Environmental Network arrested with author and activist Naomi Klein. First Nations from Canada arrested included actress Tantoo Cardinal, Cree, from Alberta, Canada, where tar sands mining is already destroying the homelands of First Nations.

Debra White Plume, Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way, Lakota grandmother and activist from Oglala land in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, was arrested in the Indigenous delegation. After being released from jail, White Plume, along with Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, met with US State Department official Daniel A. Clune, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental and Scientific Affairs. There they urged the State Department to consult at high levels with Native leaders and to consider Section 106 (tribal consultations) in line with free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mossett has lost two young friends to deaths because of the heavy oil and gas traffic that the boom industry has brought to her homeland of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara in North Dakota. Mossett sent a message to President Obama, to look her in the eyes and listen to her story before approving the tarsands pipeline. During the arrests in front of the White House, Obama did not acknowledge or address the protesters, which included Dene Chief Bill Erasmus from Yellowknife, Canada.

The Nobel Peace Laureates reminded Obama of his own promise for creating a clean energy economy. The Nobel Peace Laureates’ statement comes as another dirty war was waged over the dirty tar sands. In the dirty war of deceptive media, a tarsands campaign was waged on the Oprah Winfrey Network by the so-called “Ethical Oil” campaign which attempts to muddy the truth about the tarsands. This dirty media campaign promotes the tarsands by muddying the water about human rights. A counter-campaign called for a boycott of the Oprah Winfrey Network on Wednesday until the “Ethical Oil” advertisements cease.

The Nobel Peace Laureates point out the immense Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains, in the heartland of the United States, which the proposed tarsands pipeline would cross, if approved. Those lands, between Alberta, Canada and Texas, include Indian country. The highly corrosive tarsands oil is likely to result in a pipeline spill and contaminate the region’s drinking water in the Ogallala aquifer. The danger to this water source brought Nebraska farmers to the White House where they were arrested during the past two weeks.

Dear President Obama,

We—a group of Nobel Peace Laureates—are writing today to ask you to do the right thing for our environment and reject the proposal to build the Keystone XL, a 1700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

It is your decision to make.

The night you were nominated for president, you told the world that under your leadership—and working together—the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal. You spoke of creating a clean energy economy. This is a critical moment to make good on that pledge, and make a lasting contribution to the health and well being of everyone of this planet.

In asking you to make this decision, we recognize the more than 1200 Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd. These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in facing authority. They represent millions of people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected by construction and operation of the pipeline in Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

All along its prospective route, the pipeline endangers farms, wildlife and precious water aquifers—including the Ogallala Aquifer, the US’ main source of freshwater for America’s heartland. We are aware that Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman—as well as two Nebraska Senators—has urged you to reconsider the pathway of the pipeline. In his letter to you he clearly stated his concern about the threat to this crucial water source for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The aquifer supplies drinking water to two million people in Nebraska and seven other states. We know that another pipeline that covers some of the same route as the proposed pipeline, and built by the same company proposing to build Keystone XL, already leaked 14 times over its first year of operation. Like you, we understand that strip-mining and drilling tar sands from under Alberta’s Boreal forests and then transporting thousands of barrels of oil a day from Canada through to Texas will not only hurt people in the US—but will also endanger the entire planet. After the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, the full development of the Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, this is “essentially game over for the climate.”

There is a better way.

Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.

We urge you to say ‘no’ to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions. This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community: energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) – Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) – South Africa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate (1989) – Tibet
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala
José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) – East Timor
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran


Everything I need to know about eco friendly bricks


Everything I need to know about eco friendly bricks

Eco Friendly Bricks. Here’s all you need to know about Eco Friendly Bricks


Posted 03 September 2011, by A Dutta, EcoFriend (Instamedia),


It is no longer just about “living green” but also “living in green”. With eco friendly bricks, you can make your dream home sturdy as well as eco friendly. With the environmental friendly lifestyle becoming the buzzword these days, many people have opted for greener lifestyles with new houses facilitating itself with renewable sources of energy. But very few people have actually thought of going green from the ‘foundational’ level. Check out few existing methods of making eco friendly bricks:


1. Eco friendly brick made from coal-power plant byproducts:

Like conventional clay bricks these are used for building houses to buildings and factories. They’re called eco friendly since they are built from a toxic byproduct produced from powerplants burning coal and the toxins instead of being released into the atmosphere are pumped into bricks.

The waste product is also fly ash and is loaded with toxic chemicals like mercury, lead. It is a very huge expenditure costing over millions, for the power-plants to dispose the byproduct. Until now, they were buried in specially designed waste centres and ponds.

The bricks are manufactured by mixing fly ash in water and then a procedure follows which compacts them.These bricks unlike the clay bricks aren’t heated with natural gas so the process is more green. The lack of heating also reduces the price.

2. Ecobrique: Bricks made from water-treatment plant wastes:

With the increase in water pollution, and its contamination leading to thousands of deaths each year, purified water is a modern necessity. But the residue found in these water-treatment plant basins are swelling landfills and becoming a burden to dispose. With an aim to find a solution to this and to produce eco friendly bricks with cheap raw material supply, the VBC has made bricks from the residue found in the basins along with clay. Known as ecobrique, these green bricks are relieving the environment from yet another problem of water treatment plant wastes. It is as strong as an ordinary brick and durable too.

3. Recycled fly-ash bricks:

The ‘fly ash’ emitted from the coal fired plants have also always been a concern for health and environment. To find a remedy for this, researchers have come up with a solution by developing recycled bricks made from fly ash and the coal fired power-plant waste.

These bricks are way more safer than we give them credit for!

4. Solar Powered Glowing Bricks:

Glowing Bricks! Yes, you heard that right. A dark pigment enclosed in a real bulb glows, which in turn is enclosed in a solid block made of Acrylic Resin which gives it more incandescence. It gives an unusual but pretty optical effect which is generated by the diffraction of light within the space of the block. It is charged by solar energy which enables it to glow in the dark and effectively acts as a night bulb. The glow is available in two colors – green and blue. Technically the phenomenon is called “photoluminescence”.

The Benefits

The processes involved efficiently disposes of waste products like fly ash from coal power plants and residue from water treatment plant basins. The lack of heating the bricks also reduces the price. They are better insulated so there is less energy spent at home. The materials of green bricks are lightweight and easy for worker so it cuts down construction time and costs.

The Lowdown

The disadvantages of green bricks are that as they begin to enter the market, they are still not available in some areas and have to be ordered.

The Impact

The Green Bricks are fast replacing clay bricks. They burn longer and require half the storage space. They are much cleaner than coal and give less soot output. Being environmentally friendly, they are considered carbon neutral since the CO2 emitted on combustion is negligible. It is imminent that Eco bricks will be the future of architectural foundation!