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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

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

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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 – www.akinyi-princess.de – 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.

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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 –  www.akinyi-princess.de. More works as yet unpublished and a children’s fantasy/thriller.

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Short URL: http://www.tomwilt.com/?p=48161

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http://www.tomwilt.com/re-colonization-of-africa-through-buying-agricultural-land-wealthy-nations-and-their-multinationals-on-the-rampage/8548161/

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

The labyrinth at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Cindy Hadish, Eastern Iowa Life (SourceMedia Group), easterniowalife.com

 

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The Gazette

HIAWATHA — With more than 40 years in the making, Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a nature festival.

After purchasing farmland in 1962 as a potential site for a regional headquarters, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wis., had numerous offers to buy the land on the Cedar Rapids/Hiawatha border.

“The sisters could have made millions,” says Prairiewoods Director Barry Donaghue of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. “But they said, ‘Let’s see if we can make it an oasis. Let’s take care of it.’”

Betty Daugherty, a Franciscan nun and one of six founding members of Prairiewoods, initiated weekly committee meetings to determine the future of the site.

Betty Daugherty

“It was a gradual process,” says Daugherty, who still resides at the center at 120 E. Boyson Road in Hiawatha.

Joann Gehling, another Franciscan nun and founding member, says planning began in earnest in 1994, once the philosophy was determined to combine ecology and spirituality into what would become known as an ecospirituality center.

Gehling, who lives near the center, says other religious communities had similar undertakings elsewhere in the country, but nothing like Prairiewoods existed in Iowa.

Joann Gehling

Their vision, based on the Franciscan philosophy of God revealed in the natural world, included restoration of the prairie and ecological practices, such as the use of natural materials and renewable energy in the buildings.

Doors of the center opened in 1996.

With 30 acres of tallgrass prairie and 40 acres of oak woodlands, the site offers the oasis that the sisters envisioned.

Picnickers and hikers walk the center’s woodland trails. Business workers find respite at retreats in the center’s main building, which sports meeting rooms, a fully-staffed kitchen and meditation room with inspiring view of the woods. Meals, cooked to perfection by chef Jill Jones, use produce grown on-site and other local foods.

One hundred solar panels generate 22,500-kilowatt hours of electricity annually and classes use a new building as a solar training facility.

Barry Donaghue

Artists and writers find solitude in Prairiewoods’ two hermitages. A 19-room guesthouse also provides overnight accommodations.

People of all backgrounds and faiths use an outdoor labyrinth and traditional sweat lodge.

As Donaghue describes it, the center isn’t focused on Catholicism or any particular religion.

“We don’t proselytize,” says Donaghue, who has studied and ministered in Australia, England, Ireland, France, Israel and the Fiji Islands. “Basically, we’re trying to get people to think.”

With that in mind, Prairiewoods is home base for groups such as Wednesday Women, who meet 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays to explore topics related to spiritual growth, and Green Living Group, which meets 6:30-8 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month to discuss subjects such as voluntary simplicity.

Holistic treatments, including massage and reflexology, are scheduled by appointment.

Prairiewoods also offers retreats and events, including Nature Fest, scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, to celebrate the center’s 15th anniversary.

The celebration features music, games, blessing of animals, an ice cream social and environmental art and poetry from Iowa winners of the 2011 River of Words.

In a column Daugherty wrote about exploring ecospirituality, she notes that “eco” comes from oikos, a Greek word for “home.”

“Hence, ecospirituality is not about a relationship with a God in a far-away heaven,” she writes. “The Divine can be found in our daily lives, in our human relationships and in our relationship with Earth.”

 

FYI

 

What: Nature Fest at Prairiewoods

Where: 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2

Other: Event features live music by Deep Dish Divas and Bob Ballantyne; games, nature tours and outdoor activities. Ice cream social begins at 1:45 p.m.; message from Sen. Rob Hogg and storytelling at 2 p.m.; blessing of animals at 2:45 p.m. and more.

The event includes the only Eastern Iowa showing of winners of River of Words, an environmental art and poetry competition for youths ages 5 to 19.

More information: www.prairiewoods.org

A deer roams the woods at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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http://easterniowalife.com/2011/09/24/prairiewoods-celebrating-15-years-as-ecospirituality-oasis/

 

A Climate Convergence in San Francisco

A Climate Convergence in San Francisco

Organizers call San Francisco “flagship” event for worldwide campaign

Christopher Penalosa / KQED More than a thousand people marched down Market Street in San Francisco for the Moving Planet rally.

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Sarah Terry-Cobo, KQED News – Climate Watch, blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch/

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About a thousand people marched in San Francisco on Saturday, chanting slogans, carrying signs and wearing costumes. But unlike many demonstrations that frequent the City by the Bay, the Moving Planet rally was one of hundreds around the world, calling for action and awareness to halt global climate change.

Organized by 350.org, the non-profit founded by author and activist Bill McKibben, the San Francisco rally brought together some predictable allies, such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Berkeley-based Ecology Center, but it also included groups with broader aims, such as the National Organization for Women, Food Not Bombs and 100,000 Poets for Peace. McKibben’s group is devoted to reducing carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million (from the current 390 ppm), a number that some scientists estimate could stave off catastrophic effects of climate change.

Chris Penalosa / KQED Bill McKibben addresses the crowd at the Moving Planet rally in San Francisco

“Every country on Earth — except for probably, North Korea — is having rallies around this wonky data point, 350 parts per million CO2,” said McKibben in an interview after addressing the San Francisco gathering.

n the absence of national climate change legislation, McKibben told the crowd, it’s important to “put our bodies on the line.” The Vermont-based activist is one of about 1,200 people that was arrested August 20 for protesting in front of the White House the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

Michael Brune, President of the national Sierra Club noted that his organization was the first to create “blue-green” alliances between environmental and labor groups.

“What we’re trying to do is find a way to make this an issue that brings us together, that doesn’t divide folks, so this doesn’t punish one industry and reward another,” said Brune in a separate interview.

Brune added that the Sierra Club is working with clean technology companies to ramp up renewable energy. “We firmly believe the road to a clean energy future is one that will make our country more economically resilient,” he said.

Chris Penalosa / KQED Carl Anthony, a long-time Bay Area activist for environmental and social justice, addressed the crowd.

Another focus of the afternoon rally was the connection to environmental justice, the concept that poor communities and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by pollution of all types. Carl Anthony, founder of Urban Habitat, one of the nation’s oldest environmental justice organizations, spoke to an energetic crowd packed into Civic Center Plaza. He emphasized that people, not just polar bears, are affected by climate change.

“Global warming is a climate justice issue,” he told the rally. “The people of color, the poor people, the indigenous people will bear the burden of climate change, even though they, less than anyone else, are responsible for our CO2 emissions.”

He continued, “This means that any solution we come up with for climate change must also be a solution for social and racial justice.”

“We have the opportunity in California, to take money away from suburban sprawl…to rebuild a public transportation system that works for poor people as well as rich people,” Anthony said, citing the Sustainable Communities legislation that would redirect $218 billion to rebuild public transportation.

Many people took public transit to the day’s event. Cassie Barr rode BART to the rally from Oakland with her six-year-old son, Philip. She said she wanted to make a statement that people should do more to avert climate change and that she supports an outright tax on carbon emissions. “I think it’s the only way to get businesses — corporations — serious about lowering their CO2 levels,” said Barr.

Jordan Pacheco also took BART from Moraga with his five-year-old daughter, Macy, “…because this is her planet too.” Pacheco works for the solar panel installation company Sungevity, on the firm’s design and engineering team.

In the future, he said, “I would like to see a more openness to any kind of alternative energy, whether its solar, wind, anything. I think the politics have taken over to the point where there’s no common sense anymore.”

Chris Penalosa / KQED Employees from Sungevity hold a parachute painted with a depiction of the Earth.

Bill Carney, president of Sustainable San Rafael helped to organize participation from Marin county. In recent years, activists there won state approval for a community-owned energy company, after much resistance from the investor-owned Pacific Gas & Electric, he said.

“There are many sources of renewables: hydro, solar wind, or methane and with the funding to our local power provider, they are able to buy that energy but [also] create a local marketplace for additional generators of that clean electricity,” said Carney.

Falling back on a familiar metaphor with a global warming theme, Carney said, “Events like this really are the tip of the iceberg of public awareness that is really growing by leaps and bounds.”

More:

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http://blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch/2011/09/24/a-thousand-descend-on-san-francisco-for-climate-rally/

Five modern trends in sustainable architecture

 

Five modern trends in sustainable architecture

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Posted24 September 2011, by Pratik Basu, EcoFriend (Instamedia), ecofriend.com

 

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With so many ecological concerns coming up every year, the need for the hour is to grasp the concept of Eco-friendly and sustainable architecture. The dawn of this green architecture came from the Eco-build in London, Cannes and the Earth Day and it seems to be develop rapidly in the developed countries. Green architecture can change the world. With rapid advancements in the field of Eco-friendly products, there is a huge demand for making buildings and construction techniques more greener and sustainable and less harmful for Earth. The world has grasped this idea very well. The need for new techniques and materials which can be easily recycled are taken into consideration. Here’s showcasing 5 trends in green and sustainable architecture which is a focus of attention amongst Eco-designers.

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1. Vertical Farming

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Vertical farming. Trends in sustainable architecture

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With an expected increase in population to 9.1 billion people within the year 2050, feeding all the people around the globe is a cause for major concern. Food production needs to increase by 70%. This would mean having higher crop yields and expansion of the area cultivated. However land available for cultivation is not evenly distributed, while others are suitable for cultivating only a few crops. Thus architects have been designing buildings where one can grow crops on all the edges surrounding the building. This gives more area for cultivation and helps solve the expansion crisis. The vertical farms can be integrated with residential buildings too, with farms being set up on the external periphery of the buildings. This provides a clean environment for the residents to live in.

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2. Straw

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Straw House. Trends in sustainable architecture

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Straw is a sustainable material which can be used as a building material. Many designers and builders today are making use of this natural material to make phenomenal designs which are Eco-friendly. These buildings can be made from prefabricated panels using straw. These panels can be assembled from locally sourced star which can be fit into the panel frame made from timber. This production style helps save money and energy and decrease build times and carbon emissions. Electricity can be generated by photovoltaic and solar thermal panels and the extra electricity can be sold to the electricity grid. The homes made by straw would be considerably cheaper, as straw is a product which is available in vast quantity. This low cost makes it more popular to the general masses.

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3. Phase change materials (PCMs)

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House from PCMTrends in sustainable architecture

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Phase change materials are used to store both cooling and heating energy. These new age materials can be embedded in the ceiling and the wall tiles from where they absorb heat to keep the space cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. These Phase change material tiles have micro capsules made of a special wax which is developed to contain heat during the day. Some companies selling phase change materials claim that using the material reduces temperature of your indoor surrounding by almost 7ºC, hence reducing air conditioning costs.

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4. Bees and biodiversity

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Bees and diversityTrends in sustainable architecture

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Bees are an integral part of our biodiversity. A small garden or a rooftop is all that is required to keep bees. They help in making delicious honey from plants and flowers in your gardens, parks and the tree lined roads. It is important to make an environment in cities that safeguards wildlife and also helps in further diversity. By incorporating biodiversity into architecture, we can make a cleaner and greener world. Hence keeping bees and making bee hives are an important step that needs to be taken to ensure a cleaner, greener environment. In London, vast number of bee hives have been created on the roof tops of buildings, attracting many bees.

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5. Sustainable materials

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Sustainable materialsTrends in sustainable architecture

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Apart from the many products used in construction made from recycled materials, many researchers are looking at the construction industry for other sustainable materials from other sectors which are rarely used in design and construction.

Thousands of samples have been taken from countries all over the world. These selected materials provide an Eco-friendly alternative to other resource hungry materials which generally have many by products which are harmful to the environment. These samples are being studied and their properties are made good use of. So it is essential that we find sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and are durable and appropriate for construction.

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http://www.ecofriend.com/entry/modern-trends-sustainable-architecture/

How to build a solar energy generator for less than $300

 

How to build a solar energy generator for less than $300

Connection diagram for a solar power generatorThis diagram will show you if you have made the connections in the correct order

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Posted23 September 2011, by Aravind Balasubramanya, EcoFriend (Instamedia), ecofriend.com

 

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The sun is a great supplier! The solar energy from a single day can meet all the needs of the planet for a few months. The challenge, however, has been in capturing this tremendous energy in a usable form. Like many things great and grand, we can make a humble beginning in this endeavor too. It turns out that with a little patience and effort, we can generate usable solar energy at our own homes. Since this is a DIY, the end result will come at a very economical cost. Let us get to the tutorial right away.

Difficulty level

This can be set to ‘moderate’. Requires some basic knowledge about drilling and making electrical connections, but any adult can easily venture into this project without much worry.

Time Required

About one to two hours must be sufficient once you have the necessary materials ready. This is a lovely DIY project to occupy a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Resources Required

  1. A small solar panel rated 12V or above.
  2. Deep cycle, rechargeable, 12V lead/acid or gel batteries.
  3. A battery box to cover the exposed terminals.
  4. A triple inlet model DC input ( adapter) for 12V to act as charge controller.
  5. An inverter to convert the battery-stored DC power to AC power.
  6. A multimeter to get various readings
  7. Few lengths of insulated wire
  8. A wire stripper
  9. A drill
  10. Bungee cords

Estimated Cost

You would be able to build a generator for under $300 and we are not going to crank up the prices! Maybe we shall enlist probable prices to help you in your purchase. The solar panel would cost about $100. Bought at a bargain, the batteries would cost about $50-60. The battery box is about $25 and the DC input will cost another $10. The inverter will cost about $50-100.

Instructions

  1. Use the drill to attach the multimeter and the DC input on top of the battery box.
  2. Start connecting the wires by matching the polarities ( + and – ).
  3. Connect the solar panel to the DC input or the adapter.
  4. Connect the DC inlet or adapter to the batteries. The red wires depict the positive terminals while the grey wires depict the negative terminal.

    Initial connections This diagram shows how you connect the solar panel to the batteries via the charge controller or DC inlet

    Initial connectionsThis diagram shows how you connect the solar panel to the batteries via the charge controller or DC inlet.
  5. Connect the batteries to the inverter. Some batteries have separate input and output terminals, some do not. If the battery has separate terminals, connect the output terminals to the inverter and input terminals to the DC inlet or adapter. If there is only one terminal each for the positive and negative on the battery, both the wires ( from the inverter and the DC inlet) go to the same terminals ( positive to positive and negative to negative).
  6. You can use a bungee cord to keep all the parts together.
  7. Your completed connections must be in the order as shown in the diagram at the beginning of the tutorial. Please check it once before finalizing the generator. The solar generator is now ready for use.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) For making the solar energy generator, could I make use of car batteries?

Car batteries are not deep cycle batteries. They are cranking batteries for occasional use, like starting your engine. Since our use is going to be continuous in nature, it is imperative that you use deep cycle, rechargeable batteries.

2) There are so many inverters available. Which is the best one to purchase?

Quality always comes with a price. The better quality of inverter you choose, the more it will cost you. That apart, it would be recommended that you make a rough estimate of the watts you would be using. For instance, to use a television (=60W) and a DVD player (=20W), you would need about 80W. You will have to necessarily get an inverter that gives you the desired wattage.

3) Do I need the DC inlet or adapter? Can I not connect the solar panel directly to the batteries?

If you notice, the DC inlet or adapter has the same specifics as the batteries (viz. 12V). This inlet is necessary as a charge controller. If not for this, surges in current may damage the batteries.

Quick Tips

  1. You could do a little more for the environment by getting ‘green’ rechargeable batteries from companies like batteries.com or Greenbatteries Store.
  2. If you are installing your generator in a pumpshed, garage or boat, you could save a few more dollars by avoiding the purchase of the battery box which is meant only to keep children safe.
  3. You could look at the DC input of appliances like fans, hair dryers, lights etc. to get a good idea of the DC input to purchase.
  4. The solar panel, the DC inlet, the batteries and the inverter have clear labels for the positive and negative terminals. Just refer to them as you make the connections.
  5. Connect all the negative terminals first and then connect the positive terminals.
  6. It will take about 5-8 hours to recharge a dead battery and about 1-3 hours to recharge a weak one.
  7. If it is your first time and you are a bit diffident, you could check the connections by making a diagram and getting it certified by your local electrician.

Things to watch out for

  1. While making the connections, handle only one wire at a time. This will save you a lot of confusion.
  2. Keep the solar panel covered and in the shade while making the connections. We do not want any shocking experiences along the way.
  3. This construction is scalable and can be made with larger panels, batteries and inverters. It is better to start small and then replicate the success to bigger projects.

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China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology


China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology

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Posted 21 September 2011, by Li Le, The Epoch Times, theepochtimes.com

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Angry villagers argue with Jinko Solar staff over its pollution in Yuanhua Township, Zhejiang Province, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

A four-day protest outside a solar manufacturing plant in a small Chinese township illustrates the harsh realities of China’s green energy manufacturing boom. While China is producing solar products for export at cutthroat prices, Chinese people get none of the green benefits. Instead they have to put up with the manufacturers’ cancer-causing pollution and get beaten up by police if they talk about it.

Villagers from Yuanhua Township of Haining City in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province had enough of a local solar company’s pollution. Anywhere between five hundred and a thousand local people staged a four-day protest that began on Sept. 15, to try and hold Jinko Solar Holding Co. accountable for its pollution and force an investigation into local residents increased cancer rate.

Authorities dispatched riot police who injured many protesters. Two local reporters who were on location were beaten by the solar company’s employees.

Jinko Solar Holding Co. is a manufacturer of solar silicon wafers and ingots. It was established in 2006 and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Local villagers told New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) that Jinko Solar Holding Co., has been discharging waste water since moving into the Hongxiao Village of Yuanghua Township in 2006. The pollution has caused fish to die and is threatening local people’s health.

Mr. Zhou, a villager, told The Epoch Times: “More than 10 villagers have developed leukemia and dozens have developed other cancers. We have been living in fear, and been constantly lodging complaints regarding the pollution to local authorities and the Jinko company.”

Because neither the authorities nor Jinko responded to their numerous requests, villagers went to the county government on Sept. 15 and demanded Jinko’s closure. But no one at the county government responded to them, so the villagers went on to Jinko’s, but were refused entry. Angry villagers then broke down the gate and rushed into the plant where they vandalized offices and work areas, Zhou said.

Protesters overturn and vandalize a vehicle; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

Jinko staff called the police, which quickly arrived, totaling one or two thousand. Police used tear gas to disperse people, injuring many, and took away an unknown number of villagers, according to Zhou.

One netizen said on a blog that he witnessed police beating even young girls and the elderly. He said he saw four police beating one elderly person.

Another netizen said: “A girl, aged 17 or 18, was chased and beaten into a coma and somehow fell into the river. Her body has not been recovered.”

Chinese media reported that protesters overturned eight cars in the solar company’s parking lot and damaged four police vehicles.

According to Zhejian Online News, Jinko staff beat two reporters from Zhejiang TV. The reporters’ video camera was also smashed and tapes were taken.

An NTDTV reporter called Jinko on the afternoon of Sept. 15. The person who answered acknowledged that there was a protest but would not provide details.

Haining municipal authorities announced on Sept. 17 that Jinko was ordered to stop production and that a villager surnamed Sun had been arrested for spreading “untruthful information” over the Internet.

Sun had posted information about the pollution produced by Jinko, saying it caused local people to have health problems.

Mr. Guo, a local resident, told The Epoch Times that a few years ago several young women working at Jinko had health checks because they weren’t able to get pregnant. Medical checkup revealed that they had radiation damage and would never be able to have children. After that came out, young women who planned on having families avoided working for the company, Guo said.

Local authorities dispatch riot police to squash the protest; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (Weibo.com)

Some Internet postings said that the company is located 300 meters (984 ft.) away from a daycare center and only 100 meters away from an elementary school, and that the impact on the health of the children and neighboring residents is devastating.

According to latest reports by Chinese media, local authorities have detained 31 people, while Haning Environmental Protection Department fined Jinko 470,000 yuan (US$75,625).

Local villagers said they are not satisfied with the outcome; they want Jinko to leave Haning City.

The production of silicon involves high energy consumption and high pollution, Hu Chuli, director of the Institute for Industrial and Technical Economic Studies, National Development and Reform Commission, said at China’s Low Carbon Technology Innovation Forum on Dec. 17, 2010.

Hu pointed out that in the solar photovoltaic industry, China accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s silicon production, yet Chinese people do not have the privilege to enjoy this kind of clean energy at all, because 95 percent of the production is for export.

In fact, the most unique characteristic of China’s solar photovoltaic industry is that production and resource consumption occur inside China, whereas product use and conservation of energy takes place outside of China, according to Meng Xiangan, secretary general of China Renewable Energy Society.

Hong Kong scholar and economics commentator, Larry Hsien Ping Lang said, “China protects the environment of other countries by exporting green products, but keeps all the pollution inside the country.”

Low labor cost in China, as well as disregard for the environment, and government subsidies to domestic enterprises make it often impossible for foreign companies to compete with Chinese manufacturing. California’s solar industry is an example according to Xia Ming, professor of political science at the City University of New York. Because of price subsidies paid by the Chinese regime and low labor costs, Solyndra, a California Solar company, announced bankruptcy on Aug. 31 Xia told the Epoch Times for a previous report.

Read the original Chinese article.

chinareports@epochtimes.com

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http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china-news/chinas-solar-technology-pollutes-local-ecology-61860.html

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

 

 

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

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Posted 19 September 2011, by Vrushti Mawani, Industry Leaders Magazine, industryleadersmagazine.com

 

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An ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health, the Eye of Horus has been reproduced in its most physically monumental form on the Isla Playa de Cleopatra in Turkey in the form of Naomi Campbell’s eco-palace.

The 25-bedroom home, designed by Spanish architect Luis de Garrido, reported as being the architect’s gift to Campbell, has been designed to function in a largely self-sufficient manner.

With features that enhance the ability of the building to be self-sufficient in terms of its energy and water needs, Campbell’s new island mansion functions as an off-grid home complete with photovoltaic panels, a sophisticated geothermal system and an interior landscaped terrace.

Eye-ball Home Details

Naomi Campbell’s palatial eco-home, with its over two dozen bedrooms and five lounges, is one of the latest to join the rapidly growing list of eco-friendly celebrity island abodes, like Johnny Depp’s solar hydrogen fuel powered home in the Bahamas.

The large steel-and-glass dome, the eyeball of the Eye of Horus, is light and transparent, letting in natural light and warmth all year round. The intensity of how much light and warmth filter in is controlled by horizontal louvers, landscaping, and glazed windows.

Campbell’s personal Eye of Horus in Turkey has been designed by devising an ingenious system of structuring photovoltaic panels which helps generate a large share of the energy required to run the building. The rest of the energy requirement is met by a highly sophisticated geothermal system and passive design.

The design of this eco-mansion also includes a detailed rainwater harvesting system, while wastewater from the home is treated on site with the use of a biological treatment system, further increasing this home’s overall energy efficiency.

The architect has also tried to ensure that the house is well-ventilated, to address any concerns about the greenhouse effect creating an uncomfortable humidity level. The indoor landscaped terrace on the top floor of this eco-palace further contributes to the home’s superior microclimate.

Architect Luis de Garrido

Architect Luis de Garrido has, over the last few years, been in the spotlight for his signature style of creating designs based on the theme of “artificial nature”.

Luis De Garrido’s bold, yet respectful, design philosophy states “The architect can even surpass Nature, but to do so, they must understand it, take it in, and love it with all their souls.”

De Garrido’s expertise where new-age sustainable architectural technologies are concerned is demonstrated perfectly in projects like GREEN BOX, which is the first modular Garden-House that is prefabricated, can be built in just 15 days, is reusable, transportable, has an infinite life cycle, is bioclimatic, has zero energy consumption, and does not generate waste.

Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBU) awarded Luis de Garrido the 2008 Architect of the Year Award for his sustainable Bio-climatic architecture, educational symposiums and the innovative award winning architectural designs.

 

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http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com/the-personal-mega-sized-eye-of-horus-naomi-campbell%E2%80%99s-eco-mansion/