Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Saudi Women Granted Right To Vote (And Save Planet)

 

Saudi Women Granted Right To Vote (And Save Planet)

Why women’s right to vote is important not only for gender equality but for the planet

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet, greenprophet.com

 

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It been a political roller-coaster of a year for the Middle East and it doesn’t look set to stop just yet. Yesterday, an event many thought would never happen in their lifetime finally happened- Saudi women were granted the right to vote. Not only did this de-bunk claims made by ‘Ethical Oil’ that Canadian tar sands were better than Saudi oil due to the latter’s gender bias but it also meant that women in the country were strengthening their ability to fight climate change and better resist the devastating impact it could have on them.

It is widely accepted that women will be worst affected by climate change and troubling phenomenons such as land grabs due to gender inequality which means they are less equipped to secure their own protection. For example, in the case of land grabs a recent report by Oxfam highlights their particular vulnerability as they lack the same land rights as most men and so they are more likely to be mistreated. Consequently, the recent move in Saudi to grant women an equal voice in the political sphere by 2015 is an important step to achieving gender equality which is vital if women are to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Saudi Women Gain Green Political Voice

Not that Saudi women weren’t working to tackle environmental problems facing the country prior to the vote. I spoke to the pioneering green women-led Saudi intiative Naqa’a around a year ago and they showed great concern about the need to stop climate change and deal with environmental issues in Saudi such as water shortages and wastefulness.

Although a women-led group, they also highlighted the fact that the need to protect the environment was a duty required of every Muslim – man and woman. However, the right to vote means that eco-friendly women in the country now have a stronger voice and will be able to express their views at the polls and at government policy level.

Building on protests demanding women’s right to drive in Saudi, it finally looks like the establishment (who are probably keen to avoid full-scale protests such as those in Syria and in Bahrain by pushing through these much-needed reforms) are paying attention to their citizens and their demands for change.

Clear Restrictions Which Need Challenging

Even so, there are some clear limitations to the recent news. For one, the law won’t take effect till another four years and some have criticized the overall democratic nature of governance in Saudi stating that the vote doesn’t really have an influence on the way the country is run. What’s more, women still cannot drive or travel abroad alone so there is still some way to go for gender and political equality.

Despite these restriction, it is encouraging to hear that women in Saudi have been granted the right to vote and stand for elections. It’s a step in the right direction and these are really exciting time we are living through at the moment in the Middle East – let’s hope that they will be just as green.

: Image via en_el_houston/flickr.

For more on Saudi and the environment see:

King Abdullah Gives Saudi Women Right To Vote

Interview With Naqa’a: Saudi Women Fight For Environment

Saudi Spring For Women Drivers In Saudi Begins Now!

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http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/09/saudi-women-vote-save-planet/

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Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Wangari Maathai

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Editor, Vanguard, vanguardngr.com

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ON Sunday, September 25, 2011, one of the most famous African women in modern times took her exit from the planet earth which she served with distinction.

Her name was Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (April 1, 1940 to September 25, 2011). She succumbed to the scourge of cancer in a Nairobi hospital.

Since her transition was announced by her family, tributes have poured from various quarters, high and low from around the world. From President Barack Obama of the USA to the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon; from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former US Vice-President, Al Gore all the way down to many non-governmental interest groups devoted to earth conservation, such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, The National Geographic organisations and the so many websites and blogsites committed to conservation, the world has been unsparing in its tributes to the first female Nobel Laureate from Africa.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, “Wangeri Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short-term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilise communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

Wangari was an extraordinary woman, who ensured that her high quality education was not just for her own benefit but for the rural communities in her native Kenya and the world at large. She was an evangelist for the preservation of the environment. As far back as the early 1970s when she was but a young woman, she founded the Green Belt Movement, with which she mobilised thousands of women to plant trees and raise environmental consciousness. The Movement enlisted over 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and over the years planted about 45 million trees.

She was also a women rights activist. As the first East African woman to be awarded the Ph.D. when she graduated from the University College of Nairobi in the field of Anatomy, she was a female pioneer in most of the posts she worked. While she taught in the university, she fought for equal status for both male and female staff of the university and would have formed the first academic staff union (similar to our own Academic Union of Universities, ASUU) in the institution had the courts not turned the effort down.

She was a fierce force against the long dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, who made sure she never emerged as the President of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) until one of her opponents favoured by Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, suddenly withdrew for her to emerge unopposed. She went on to join partisan politics and win a seat as a member of her country’s parliament. Her Right Livelihood Award of 1984 served as an appetiser for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.

Unfortunately, Prof. Wangari Maathai fell victim to cancer, one of the major consequences of pollution and deforestation, which she fought against in over 40 years of her lifetime.

The life lived by this amazing woman is worthy of emulation, especially by other African women. In spite of her divorce a few years into her marriage, she devoted the rest of her life to battles to save the earth, banish autocracy from her country and advance the cause of women.

Africa will honour her memory adequately if African countries take seriously the challenge of continuing the struggle to save the environment, especially in the face of rapid advance of the Sahara Desert, intensification of coastal erosion and gradual disappearance of fresh water resources around the continent and the globe at large. Africa must join hands to make the continent “the last man in defence” against deforestation by massive planting of trees, especially economic trees.

It is heroes and heroines of Africa like Prof. Maathai Wangari that we want our leaders to honour (not sit-tight dictators) as we celebrate a life of uncommon achievements.

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari Maathai. Rest in peace.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/adieu-earth-mother-wangari/

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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Practicing Akido in a Suicide Economy


Practicing Akido in a Suicide Economy

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Posted 25 September 2011, by Brent McMillan, OpEdNews, opednews.com

 

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The current economy is hell bent to head over a cliff and I don’t want to go along for the ride. Therefore I choose to step aside, to the degree that I am able, and got off the bus. I would like to compare notes with others that have also chosen to do so. I’m not going to try to convince the rest of you of anything, it’s too late for that. Either you get it at this point or you don’t. The evidence is overwhelming.

A lot of authors, websites, etc. talk about preparing for what’s coming, hell, I’m already there. Where are the articles and websites for us? I no longer have health insurance. I haven’t had regular work for almost nine months. I pick up a little work here and there. The dystopian future is already here for me. I find myself watching movies like The Road, The Book of Eli, and No Country for Old Men, etc. It’s what I identify with. There’s a kind of comfort in watching them. I don’t have cable but I do still have internet access, for now. I got excited about watching the series “Falling Skies” over the summer. I’m looking forward to the return of “The Walking Dead” in the fall. Hulu has “Jeremiah” online for free. I picked up a copy of Season one of “Jericho” for ten dollars from a closing Blockbuster store that was selling off it’s inventory.

Late last year I moved back to the area that I grew up. My family has maintained a farm there for almost 30 years. Today I own 20 acres outright and am making payments to the bank on another 12 acres. I’m anxious about having any debt at all at this point. I cut up and canceled my credit cards in 1998 and payed off all unsecured debt over the next six years. I made a policy of only engaging in secured debt, now I’m not even confident about that.

Last year I started making a lot of lists, including a “List of Lists”. What will I need to step aside? To remove myself, to the degree that I am able, from this suicide economy.

One of the tools that I’ve found helpful is to take inventory. I have attempted to inventory everything I own before but didn’t get very far. I’m working at it now with a vigor unmatched by previous efforts. This is helping me to pare down. I’m selling, giving away, or throwing out stuff on almost a daily basis. For some reason the act of actually writing it down in an inventory helps me make a decision about whether to keep it or not.

I have been selling books at a local used book store. I sold off a bunch of my VHS tapes at a pawn shop. I sold off much of my records and cassettes at a local used music store. I regularly donate stuff to the Salvation Army. (I worked on a project for the Salvation Army in Indianapolis years ago and came away impressed with their efficiency and effectiveness.) Sometimes I have to set and just breath for a bit before I throw something away. (Okay, so I’m a bit of a hoarder. It’s a family trait. I’m working on it.) I joined Freecycle. I also have an account on Craig’s List.

I occasionally add an item. Someone gave me a ten tyne rake, which I needed. I bought a new handle for that mattock I’ve been keeping around for years and installed it, etc. I have been doing a lot of tool maintenance over the last nine months.

I’m trying to empty out a storage space that I’ve been making monthly payment on for almost eight years. I can’t afford it anymore. Each time I go there I try to get rid of at least one box of stuff. I usually hit a wall of resistance at some point, then I call it a day. I try not to be too hard on myself. Good orderly discipline, at least one box each visit. In time I’ll get there. It won’t be much longer.

I’m working to become a part of a community. I’m overwhelmed to even try doing this alone. That is not going to happen. Survival through this thing is a “We” thing, not an “I” thing. One of my mantras when I feel anxious is, “God didn’t get me this far to drop me on my ass.”

I work on my mental attitude. I have to remember to take this thing one day at a time. Don’t give up. I keep daily meditation books by my bed. When I wake up in the morning I read an entry to help direct my thinking for the day.

Pattern thinking. Establishing basic patterns: composting, vegetable garden, etc. The flavor of the veggies from my garden is amazing compared to grocery store food. (Michael Pollen has a general rule to the effect that If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant don’t. I am moving towards that rule quickly.) I look forward to Pot lucks. I probably go to at least one a month. I’ve cut down on going to restaurants. I believe that money spent sharing food with others is money well spent, but I rarely go to a restaurant otherwise, now.

I’m working to create a cultural map. Where are the farmers markets? Where are the second hand stores? Where are the public libraries?

I don’t own a car. I borrow or rent one on occasion. I’m working on getting back into shape. I mostly either walk or take a bus to get around. I walk a lot. My record since returning to Fort Wayne is over eleven miles in one day. That’s a huge improvement in what I was willing/able to do since the start of this year. I’ve taken in my belt three notches so far. I heard that the average Cuban lost 30 lbs of body weight during the “Special Period” from 1990 to 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I’ve lost 20 lb. this year and 15 lb. last year for a total of 35 lb. It’s not all bad.

 

Brent McMillan is the Executive Director of the Green Party of the United States. A former Republican, McMillan first became involved in the Green Party in 1991 with the Delaware County Greens in Muncie, Indiana and served as secretary for the (more…)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of OpEdNews or its editors.

 

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http://www.opednews.com/articles/Practicing-Akido-in-a-Suic-by-Brent-McMillan-110924-779.html

Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem

 

Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem

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Posted 25 September 2011, by Tom Atwell, Maine Sunday Telegram (MaineToday Media Inc.), pressherald.com

 

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The Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco has given a new name to its organic garden.

“We are calling it a ‘sustainable food ecosystem,’ ” said John Ibsen, coordinator of the school’s Food for Thought program. “This garden is our feeble attempt to replicate a natural ecosystem.”

Ibsen showed a bit of a twinkle when he mentioned the new name, but it fits with the school’s goals.

“Our focus is on the science of ecology,” said executive director Drew Dumsch, “and the practice of sustainability. It is sustainability applied to ecology.”

Founded in 1999, Ferry Beach Ecology School hosts students from other schools for as little as an afternoon or as long as a week, taking advantage of the seven natural ecosystems within walking distance of the school and teaching about nature and ecology. It’s located at a Unitarian summer camp that was established in 1901, and uses the buildings when the camp isn’t. So far, 80,000 students have taken part in the program.

The garden is located on a challenging site that was built on beach sand on secondary dunes and buffeted by ocean winds. But the students and staff have slowed the winds by creating woven fences from trees cut down for projects elsewhere on the property.

The soil is improved by a no-till method of lasagna gardening, where layers of organic matter and newspapers are put down and allowed to decompose to create a rich topsoil.

“We teach that it takes 5,000 years in nature to create an inch of topsoil, but we can make it a lot faster,” Dumsch said.

Ibsen stresses putting plants close together, having mulch and compost on the soil and gardening vertically, to make the most of a garden that is about the size of a small house lot.

“Bare soil is like an open wound, letting out soil moisture and soil fertility,” Ibsen said.

He combines the permaculture and American Indian practice of the three sisters with a crop rotation in several plots in the garden. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. The corn provides structure for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the other two plants, and the squash shades the soil to keep weeds to a minimum.

The planting pattern is more like a forest, Ibsen said, where there is a mixture of plants rather than the distinct rows of a traditional vegetable garden.

After the squash is harvested in October, Ibsen has the students plant garlic, which is supposed to cleanse the soil. This year, he planted some summer squash around the garlic a few weeks before the garlic harvest to make more use of the soil.

Next year, that plot will be planted with peas, rye and vetch, all of which improve the soil.

In another area, Ibsen uses more combination planting with an apple tree as a centerpiece. Rhubarb will improve the soil. Fennel is believed to repel a lot of apple-tree pests. And bee balm will attract a lot of pollinators.

Ibsen was especially proud of a tomato cage that was about 7 feet tall and 6 feet long, made entirely from items taken from a Dumpster at a school construction project.

The wood for the frame came from discarded pallets. The tomatoes climb metal reinforcing grids that usually go into a concrete floor.

All of this is put together in a package that will please older elementary and middle-school students. There are wanted posters for some of the bad bugs, such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms.

The little red garden shed has snacks from the garden as well as tools. The woven fences are both whimsical and practical. The mammoth sunflowers are about 8 feet tall with foot-wide seed heads.

Although the garden provides only a small percentage of the food served at the school, the dining hall is used as a teaching tool.

“With the kind of teaching we do here, we didn’t want the cafeteria food to be from Sysco,” Dumsch said.

It costs the school about an extra $30,000 a year to get organic and local food, he said, but donations help pay for it.

One of the major fundraisers for the school will be Eco Appetito, to be held from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 2 at Cinque Terre, 36 Wharf St. in Portland.

Chef Lee Skawinski and his staff will be preparing locally sourced food, wine and beer. There also will be live entertainment, door prizes and a silent auction. Tickets are $40.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/life/homeandgarden/ferry-beach-students-elevate-garden-to-a-sustainable-ecosystem_2011-09-25.html

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/

Swedish Oil Spill a Preview of the Alaskan Arctic?

Swedish Oil Spill a Preview of the Alaskan Arctic?

Shell secures permits to drill for oil in America’s Arctic waters in 2012.

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Posted20 September 2011, by David Lawlor, unEARTHED (Earthjustice), earthjustice.org/blog/

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A massive oil spill announced this week off the coast of western Sweden feels like an ominous harbinger for America’s Arctic Ocean.

Just days following the spill near the Swedish island of Tjörn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued air permits for Shell Oil’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. EPA issued the permits despite the fact that Shell’s oil spill response plan for the region’s icy, remote waters is totally inadequate.

Sweden’s disaster serves as a cautionary tale for America’s Arctic Ocean.

The spill near Tjörn—a small island renowned for its natural beauty—is killing birds, polluting the shoreline and may not be cleaned up until next summer, threatening the area’s tourist industry. Bad weather is complicating spill response efforts (hmm, I wonder if they ever get bad weather in the Alaskan Arctic?), and locals who want to help have been turned away as the spill’s toxic nature is a serious threat to human health.

Shell’s Arctic drilling would involve many large ships, and the EPA’s permits are for air pollution coming from the stacks of the drill ship Discoverer and associated drilling fleet in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. This is Shell’s second go-round on obtaining the air permits after the EPA’s reviewing court, the Environmental Appeals Board, determined the original permits did not meet Clean Air Act requirements.

We are disappointed the EPA decided to issue permits that are less protective than they could and should be. Green lighting Shell’s plans for 2012 is another step toward Arctic Ocean oil drilling by the Obama administration without first ensuring that an oil spill could be cleaned up in the region. Earthjustice attorneys are reviewing the air permits and will make decisions about the next steps based on that review.

 

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One year ago, the BP oil spill had just started turning the Gulf of Mexico’s blue waters to the color of rust. Triggered on April 20, 2010 by a well-r…

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http://earthjustice.org/blog/2011-september/swedish-oil-spill-a-preview-of-the-alaskan-arctic