Archive for the category “Sustainability”

News update

OMG… Greenland’s ice sheets are melting fast
The Guardian UK
An urgent attempt to study the rate at which Greenland’s mighty ice sheets are melting has been launched by Nasa. The aim of the six-year project, called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG), is to understand how fast the world’s warming seas are now eroding the edges of the island’s vast icecaps. Warming air temperatures are already causing considerable glacier loss there, but the factors involving the sea that laps the bases of its great ice masses, and which is also heating up, are less well understood.

Snatching Defeat
Albert Bates, The Great Change
Last week we concluded our post on climate change with a quote from James Hansen, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations. All this year we have been leading up to our collective fin de seicle moment in December, the grand denouement of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol in Paris. At this late date, we are frankly pessimistic for the outcome there.

Undamming Rivers: A Chance For New Clean Energy Source
John Waldman & Karin Limburg, Yale Environment 360
Many hydroelectric dams produce modest amounts of power yet do enormous damage to rivers and fish populations. Why not take down these aging structures, build solar farms in the drained reservoirs, and restore the natural ecology of the rivers?

The Devil in Obama’s New Emissions Target for the US Lies in Base Year Details
Vasudevan Mukunth, The Wire
The US’s carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2005, at 5,828.63 million metric tons. This convenient choice of a base year allows the US a leeway that’s 18.64% higher than its 1990 emissions – 1990 being the year that the Kyoto Protocol uses as a base. The absence of any rules on what can or can’t constitute base years is leveraged by many countries. In Europe, for example, the base year is 1990 because that’s when emissions peaked followed by a steady decline in industrial activity as well as a growing adoption of renewable energy options.

Japan restarts first nuclear reactor since Fukushima disaster
The Guardian UK
Japan has begun a controversial return to nuclear power generation with the restart of a reactor in the country’s south-west, four and a half years after its faith in atomic energy was shattered by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Kyushu Electric Power, the operator of the Sendai plant, said it had restarted one of the facility’s two reactors on Tuesday morning, in defiance of strong local opposition. The move marks the first time Japan has generated nuclear power since a post-Fukushima shutdown of all its 44 operable reactors two years ago.

Space mining is closer than you think, and the prospects are great
Andrew Dempster, The Conversation
Recently, the American cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson gushed about the prospects of mining in space, and the benefits that might afford humanity. Is this really plausible? What can we mine in space? And will it really deliver world peace, or just another realm for competition and conflict? Perhaps a look at the immediate past and near future may help us answer some of these questions.

Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism
Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta, The Guardian UK
In the face of worsening ecological and economic crises and continuing social deprivation, the last two decades have seen two broad trends emerge among those seeking sustainability, equality and justice. First there are the green economy and sustainable development approaches that dominate the upcoming Paris climate summit and the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). To date, such measures have failed to deliver a harmonisation of economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection. Political ecology paradigms, on the other hand, call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development based on fossil fuels, neoliberal capitalism and related forms of so-called representative democracy.

News update

New coal plants most urgent threat to the planet, warns OECD head
The Guardian UK
Governments must rethink plans for new coal-fired power plants around the world, as these are now the “most urgent” threat to the future of the planet, the head of the OECD has warned. In unusually strong terms for the organisation – best known as a club of the world’s richest countries – its secretary general Angel Gurria, told governments to think “twice, or three, or four times” before allowing new coal-fired plants to go ahead.

Wars, Water Shortages & Heat Waves: Are You Prepared ?
Prachi Salve, IndiaSpend.com
Lives, properties and economies stand to be affected by climate change as we understand it. While debates on the significance and impact of climate change rage furiously, a new multi-nation study has argued that preparing for the risks of climate change is an imperative now. Particularly so for a country like India which is likely to have a greater economic impact as prosperity rises in the coming years.

Unnatural Disaster: How Global Warming Helped Cause India’s Catastrophic Flood
Daniel Grossman, Yale Environment 360
The flood that swept through the Indian state of Uttarakhand two years ago killed thousands of people and was one of the worst disasters in the nation’s recent history. Now researchers are saying that melting glaciers and shifting storm tracks played a major role in the catastrophe and should be a warning about how global warming could lead to more damaging floods in the future.

With One-Third of Largest Aquifers Highly Stressed, It’s Time to Explore and Assess the Planet’s Groundwater
National Geographic
One-third of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are highly stressed to over-stressed, according to a companion study published in the same issue of WRR. The eight most highly stressed aquifers receive almost no natural recharge to offset human use – including aquifers in Saudi Arabia, northwestern India and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabias solar-for-oil plan is a ray of hope
Damian Carrington, The Guardian UK
So what to make of the statement by Saudi Arabia’s oil minister that the world’s biggest oil exporter could stop using fossil fuels as soon as 2040 and become a “global power” in solar and wind energy? Ali Al-Naimi’s statement is striking as Saudi Arabia’s wealth and influence is entirely founded on its huge oil wealth and the nation has been one of the strongest voices against climate change action at UN summits.

Why a Leading Indian Politician Is Now an Environmental Hawk
Yale Environment 360
Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh believes the “cult” of unfettered economic growth has been ruinous for India’s environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his vision of “green growth,” which he says is essential for his nation’s future.

The Limits to Growth and Greece: systemic or financial collapse?
Ugo Bardi
Could it be that all the financial circus that we are seeing dancing in and around Greece be just the effect of much deeper causes? The effect of something that gnaws at the very foundations not only of Greece, but of the whole Western World? Lets take a step back, and take a look at the 1972 study titled The Limits to Growth (LTG). Look at the base case scenario, the one which used as input the data that seemed to be the most reliable at the time. Here it is, in the 2004 version of the study, with updated data in input.

The Mystery of the Missing Carbon
Courtney White, A Carbon Pilgrim
It’s a whodunit with huge consequences for life on Earth. Somehow, a whole lot of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has gone missing and it’s becoming a scientific detective story to figure out where it went and why. The Principle Investigator into this mystery is NASA, which launched a satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) on July 2nd, 2014, into an orbit around the Earth in hopes of cracking the case.

The Multi-Trillion Dollar Oil Market Swindle
Leonard Brecken, Oilprice.com
In the past, I documented the overstatements by both the IEA and EIA in 2014 & 2015 in terms of supply, inventory and understatements of demand. Others also noticed these distortions and, whether intentional or not, they exist and they are very large in dollar terms. These distortions, which are affecting price through media hype and/or direct/indirect price manipulation, are quite possibly the largest in financial history.

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble
Samuel Alexander, The Conversation
According to the most recent data from the Global Footprint Network, humanity as a whole is currently in ecological overshoot, demanding one and a half planet’s worth of Earth’s biocapacity. As the global population continues its trend toward 11 billion people, and while the growth fetish continues to shape the global economy, the extent of overshoot is only going to increase.

First Ecologise! workshop at Nakre, near Udupi, Karnataka

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Ecologise is a programme through which those living in cities can explore living in an ecologically more sensitive and sustainable manner. Specifically, it is a programme involving stay and work on an organic farm for varying periods, as a volunteer. The programme will be preceded by a weekend orientation workshop , during which the participant may decide which farm they wish to work on, and for how long. The duration will vary according to the needs and land cycles of each farm.

There will be a few break periods’ during which participants can go home or travel. It is possible that participants may not be in a position to commit for a longer period. They can still attend the orientation workshop . This workshop will also introduce the volunteer to practices one can incorporate in one’s life to live a more healthy and a less resource-intensive lifestyle. Read more…

Sustainable Development: Stories from those making it possible

A publication by FLEDGE, Chennai

From the Preface:
While a large amount of time and energy is spent on deciding the future of sustainability using the Rio+20 outcome document ‘The Future We Want’, limited space is available for local communities to tell their stories on how simple, on-the-ground initiatives are being pursued enabling them to secure their livelihoods. In the absence of our ability to listen to the experiences from the ground, informed policy making and setting the agendas related to SDGs would be weakened.

In the process of looking out for the case studies and experiences on how community based interventions could provide long-term solutions for sustainable development, we came across a number of inspirational stories that range from simple interventions to secure income for local people though value-addition to biodiversity to house-hold actions to secure food and nutrition.

In this publication, we have made an attempt to collate the experiences of a range of communities in using biological resources as basis for securing livelihoods and moving towards the path of local level development, supported by a number of spirited Non-Governmental Organizations in India. One important undercurrent to the compilation is that for development to happen one need to innovate but innovate according to the needs of the local people. Read more…

More video interviews by Mansoor Khan

Here are some more additions to Peak Oil India member Mansoor Khans ongoing series of  video interviews with experts in various fields from ecology to energy to economics. The interviews take off from the themes covered in Mansoors book, The Third Curve: The End of Growth. As We Know It!.

View more videos at: The Third Curve YouTube channel 

Claude Alvarez
Claude Alvares is an environmentalist based in Goa, India. He is the editor of the Other India Press publication based in India and the Director of the Goa Foundation, an environmental monitoring action group. He is a member of the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). and the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on Hazardous Wastes constituted by the Supreme Court of India.
Read more…

News update

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
The Guardian UK
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The IMF Tells a Half-Truth
Richard Heinberg
It’s certainly helpful to have an accounting of the externalities of our collective fossil fuel consumption. But the choice of the word “subsidies” over the more precise “externalities” makes a difference: governments can cancel subsidies in the forms of tax breaks and gifts, but they can’t so easily cancel fossil fuel externalities without curtailing fossil fuel consumption—and that’s a big job, if they’re to do it in a way that doesn’t entail the rapid, uncontrolled collapse of society.

Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels?
Larry Elliott, The Guardian UK
In terms of reducing global poverty capitalism has been a success, but this growth has put pressure on the planet. The question, therefore, is whether it is possible to marry two seemingly contradictory objectives. Can we imagine a future that is cleaner, greener and sustainable – one that avoids climate armageddon – without abandoning the idea of growth and, thus, forcing living standards into decline? The answer is that it will be hellishly difficult, but it is just about feasible if we make the right choices – and start making them now.

Seven Surprising Realities Behind The Great Transition to Renewable Energy
Earth Policy Institute
The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossils is well under way, with remarkable developments happening every day. The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney, and Emily Adams lays out a tremendous range of these developments – here are seven that may surprise you.

How Sustainable is PV Solar Power?
Low Tech Magazine
Its generally assumed that it only takes a few years before solar panels have generated as much energy as it took to make them, resulting in very low greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional grid electricity. A more critical analysis shows that the cumulative energy and CO2 balance of the industry is negative, meaning that solar PV has actually increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions instead of lowering them.

The Counterfeit Shale Revolution (pdf)
Arthur Berman
The shale revolution is counterfeit. Tight oil and shale gas are imitations of something valuable and shale promoters intentionally deceive the public about their true value. It is counterfeit because the cost of produc4on is more than the global economy can bear. Producers and analysts deceive the public with misleading and incorrect break-even prices that exclude important costs or are based on exaggerated reserves. There is no shale revolution: it is a final, desperate effort to squeeze the last remaining petroleum from the worst possible rock.

Are we approaching peak population growth?
Max Roser
Since the 18th century, the world population has seen a rapid increase; between 1900 and 2000 the increase in world population was three times as great as the increase during the entire previous history of humankind – in just 100 years the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. But this development is now coming to an end, and we will not experience a similarly rapid increase in population growth over the course of this century.

Book Review of Overshoot by William R. Catton Jr.
Craig Straub, The Social Contract
Catton concludes that the human community is condemned to bet on an uncertain future. Misperception of the human situation will motivate efforts to pursue solutions which make matters worse. An ecological understanding of the human predicament will help avoid constructing the road to hell paved with good intentions.

Breakthrough Institute: An Ecomodernist Manifesto

The Breakthrough Institute


From the Introduction:
To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands. Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.

A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world. In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.

These two ideals can no longer be reconciled. Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being. Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts.

These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Togetherthey allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty. Although we have to date written separately, our views are increasingly discussed as a whole. We call ourselves ecopragmatists and ecomodernists. We offer this statement to affirm and to clarify our views and to describe our vision for putting humankind’s extraordinary powers in the service of creating a good Anthropocene.

View/download An Ecomodernist Manifesto
Read Kurt Cobbs stinging critique An Ecomodernist Manifesto: Truth and confusion in the same breath which questions some of the fundamental assumptions behind the manifesto.

Mihir Mathur: Local Exchange Systems

Local Exchange Systems: Designing Community Initiatives
A discussion paper on Alternate Economics to Strengthen Local Economy and Facilitate Sustainable Adaptation

Mihir Mathur & Mithika DCruz  Watershed Organization Trust, Pune

Abstract
Economic Globalization in its current form is a centralising juggernaut which often causes large-scale resource depletion in remote eco-systems, unpredictable price variations in essential commodities and lead to macroeconomic upheaval. Coupled with this is the potential of widespread impacts of Climate Change which increases the vulnerability of human settlements especially the resource poor within. In context of the dual risks of economic globalization and climate change, Localisation appears to be the most systemic response mechanism. Localisation is the manifestation of a decentralised, democratised economy that allows communities to develop ecosystems based Climate Resilient Economies.


Download the paper:
Local Exchange Systems: Designing Community Initiatives

Three Leading Think-tanks Studying Global Crises

The Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
The Future of Humanity Institute is a leading research centre looking at big-picture questions for human civilization. The last few centuries have seen tremendous change, and this century might transform the human condition in even more fundamental ways.  Using the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science, we explore the risks and opportunities that will arise from technological change, weigh ethical dilemmas, and evaluate global priorities.  Our goal is to clarify the choices that will shape humanity’s long-term future.


Visit the Future of Humanity Institute website
Learn about FHIs Global Priorities Project
Read Aeon magazines excellent profile of FHI


Centre for Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University
An existential risk is one that threatens the existence of our entire species.  The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) — a joint initiative between a philosopher, a scientist, and a software entrepreneur — was founded on the conviction that these risks require a great deal more scientific investigation than they presently receive.  CSER is a multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction. It is led by astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees and its advisors include Stephen Hawking.

CSER LogoVisit the CSER website
Watch Earth in its final century? A TED talk by Sir Martin Rees, CSER head


Global Challenges Foundation
The Global Challenges Foundation works to raise awareness of the greatest threats facing humanity. In particular climate change, other environmental damage and political violence, and how these threats are linked to poverty and the rapid growth in global population. These problems appear insurmountable without an international body with decision-making mandate. The Foundation is therefore working to identify possible solutions and models as to how the United Nations can develop, and initiate new ideas on working global governance.

Visit the Global Challenges Foundation website
Read/download the GCF report: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

Badanavalu Satyagraha A Report

Vijay Kundaji, Bangalore Notes

  

Badanavalu is 10 kilometers from Nanjangud along the road to Chamarajnagar in Mysuru (Mysore) District of Karnataka.  In 1927, a Khadi and Gramodyog Center was established here by Dalit women and Gandhian activists, which later grew to enlist many hundred workers, producing close to 50,000 lbs of handspun cotton yarn by 1938.  Hearing about this center, and on the persuasion of his ardent follower, Tagadur Ramachandra Rao, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi visited the center in the years around 1927 (there is some confusion in the sources about whether his first visit to Badanavalu was in 1927 or 1932) thereby putting it on the map of Gandhian pilgrimage and Gandhiana.

The now dilapidated Khadi and Gramodyog center, located on the other side of the tracks from the tiny Narasambudhi station, came back to life in the days leading up to April 19, 2015 for the Badanavalu Satyagraha when several hundreds of sustainable living (susthira baduku) activists, practitioners and enthusiasts converged here to share, hear from others and express solidarity with the growing legions of people, of all persuasions, who have concerns about the unsustainable path of development that India (and indeed the world) is on. Read more…

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