Saturday, October 30, 2010

Resource "wake-up call"

Technological advances shift demands for resources which in turn trigger economic and political power shifts. China is adjusting comfortably in the driver's seat. (GW)

Rare earth metals come from China - they are vital for production of a range of electronic items

China has reassured the US it has no intention of withholding "rare earth" minerals from the market, the US Secretary of State has said.

China suspended export of the metals, key to the global high-tech industry, to Japan after a diplomatic spat.

The US has pressed China, which has pledged not to use the minerals as a diplomatic weapon, to defuse the row.

Representatives from China and Japan also held informal talks on the fringes of an Asean conference in Vietnam.

US officials said Hillary Clinton's Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, told the US secretary of state that his country would not use rare earths as a diplomatic, political or economic tool in dealing with other countries.

Cooling the row

After the meeting, Hillary Clinton said: "Foreign Minister Yang clarified that China has no intention of withholding these minerals" from the world market, according to AFP.

China also said it did not want their export to become an issue in its foreign relations.

The US has encouraged China to cool the row with Japan and, according to Reuters, has offered to host a trilateral meeting with China and Japan to resolve the dispute between the two.

China produces some 97% of these valuable commodities, which are used to produce electronic items such as mobile phones and in the car industry.

During the 1990s and for much of the past decade, China was able to produce rare earths more cheaply than other countries, leading to the closure of mines elsewhere, notably in Australia and the US.

But Mrs Clinton has said the recent Chinese export restrictions are a "wake-up call" for the world to seek additional sources of rare earths.

The stoppage followed a spat between China and Japan last month over islands whose ownership is disputed.

The islands - known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu - are controlled by Japan, but claimed by China. They are close to key shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Oh Ontario" - Phasing out coal

Coal is the ultimate energy culprit when it comes to climate change. Ontario plans to phase out all of its coal plants by implementing an energy plan based on renewables, nukes and natural gas. This probably won't satisfy some environmentalists, but it does represent a serious step that has been under-reported. (GW)

Ontario's Crusade to Cut Coal

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"We are fighting from the trenches to slow down the growth of windfarms..."

Local opposition to land-based windfarms in the UK threatens to derail Britain's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Opponents major concern is the visual impact and suggest that all new wind projects be built offshore.

As the world burns....(GW)

Power failure: UK's wind farm plans in disarray

By Oliver Wright
The Independent
October 28, 2010

Objectors put green energy plans in doubt

Hundreds of local revolts against wind farms have jeopardised the plan to use them to generate more than a quarter of Britain's electricity, figures seen by The Independent reveal.

New wind farms are needed to have any chance of creating enough renewable energy to reduce reliance on coal and gas power production. But planning approvals for them in England are at an all-time low, with only one in three applications getting the go-ahead from councils in the face of angry and organised opposition from people living nearby.

More than 230 separate local campaign groups against wind farms are operating across the UK, from Scotland and Kent to Norfolk, Yorkshire and Cornwall. These groups are scoring striking successes in defeating planned wind farms - even when faced with the weight of official recommendations.

In the last 12 months to September, there has been a 50 per cent drop in planning approvals in England, and approvals for windfarms in Scotland have also fallen.

The number of new windfarms coming "on-stream" (becoming active) has also fallen by 30 per cent - partly as a result of the recession.

The figures are revealed in a report on the state of the industry which will be published next week and has been seen by The Independent.

They cast doubt on the ability of the Government to reach its target of generating 20 per cent of all our energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. Changes to planning laws due to be announced later this year are expected to make it harder still to get planning permission.

Campaigners say that although windfarms maybe needed to combat global warming, the turbines - often as tall as the London Eye - are an eyesore in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, unacceptably noisy and can decimate local bird population. They suggest that all new windfarms should be built off-shore.

But environmentalists and industry experts say this is unrealistic. The time needed to build off-shore wind farms can be up to seven years, they are more expensive and the technology is still a relatively immature.

If Britain is to meet its renewable targets, they say, it is vital that onshore wind farms continue to be built at a significant rate well into the 2020s.

The situation is typified by instances such as those in North Yorkshire, where local politicians recently vetoed plans to build seven turbines in the face of official advice that they should go-ahead after a concerted local campaign.

Permission for the windfarm was later granted on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate but Maurice Cann, head of planning at Hambleton District Council, said that might not happen under the Government's new localism plans.

"The court of public opinion plays a big role here," he said. "I can see the situation getting worse. Some of these structures are 125 metres high and have a huge visual impact. It does not surprise me at all that so many applications are getting rejected.

"With the Government's agenda to give a stronger voice to local politicians this is only going to become more of an issue."

Local councils are to get more power to make planning decisions in their areas and the Planning Inspectorate, which has given the go-ahead to a number of wind farm projects turned down by local planning authorities, is to be abolished.

It now takes on average nearly two years from the point of application for windfarms to be approved by local councils and even then up to three-quarters will be unsuccessful, according to the report by RenewableUK, which represents the windfarm industry.

This compares with a 70 per cent approval rating for other major infrastructure projects such as supermarkets and roads.

"The industry has significant concerns for both the rate and consistency of local decision making on projects yet to come forward for determination," the report concludes.

Gordon Edge, director of policy for RenewableUK, said that for every completed windfarm, 18 projects had been considered and rejected, either for feasibility or planning problems.

"One of the main issues for us is the cost and the unpredictability of the planning system. If we are going to meet our renewables target it is vital that we have a planning system that we can predict and depend on."

Martyn Williams, from Friends of the Earth, said he could understand why people were opposed to windfarms in their local areas but a compromise needed to be found.

"The dilemma is that we believe people should be able to say what they want where they live but at the same time every part of the country has to do its bit if we are to get emissions down to a sustainable level.

"What we would favour is for local area to be given their own carbon targets and make there own decisions on how they get - and that is very relevant to [David] Cameron's idea of the big society."

Michael Hird, from the Campaign against Windfarms, said they were proud of the fact that they had managed to significantly slow down the growth of turbines across Britain.

"We are fighting from the trenches to slow down the growth of windfarms until people understand just how bad they are.

"The windfarm industry had hoped to created 10,000 windfarms by now and they've only managed 2,500. That is some success but there is still a long way to go."

Mr Hird added that one of the problems they faced was the huge subsidies available to farmers prepared to have wind farms on their land.

"They've been unbelievably generous and a lot of farmers have been persuaded by the money on offer. The industry will build these things everywhere unless somebody stops them."

Gary Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Environment Board, insisted councillors were not to blame but the system.

"Councillors are elected to represent the interests and concerns of people in their area and will quite rightly take this into account when making decisions on whether to permit this sort of development," he said.

"The industry must do more to make sure that they choose suitable sites which get local support. The refusals are not a reflection on councils but on the poor quality of the applications.

"It is only when local communities can see clearly the benefits of renewable energy at both national and local level that individual proposals for renewable energy will be welcomed as a matter of course."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources”

Stepping back and taking in the bigger picture as the Navajos are doing with regard to their energy options, is something this nation desperately needs to do – immediately. Simple truths such as you cannot extract resources from a finite source forever or that maximizing profit does not lead to improved quality of life can help guide towards a sane and sustainable future. (GW)

Navajos Hope to Shift From Coal to Wind and Sun

By Mireya Navarro
New York Times
October 25, 2010

BLUE GAP, Ariz. — For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.

But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.

“At some point we have to wean ourselves,” Earl Tulley, a Navajo housing official, said of coal as he sat on the dirt floor of his family’s hogan, a traditional circular dwelling.

Mr. Tulley, who is running for vice president of the Navajo Nation in the Nov. 2 election, represents a growing movement among Navajos that embraces environmental healing and greater reliance on the sun and wind, abundant resources on a 17 million-acre reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“We need to look at the bigger picture of sustainable development,” said Mr. Tulley, the first environmentalist to run on a Navajo presidential ticket.

With nearly 300,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the country’s largest tribe, according to Census Bureau estimates, and it has the biggest reservation. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants on the reservation and on lands shared with the Hopi provide about 1,500 jobs and more than a third of the tribe’s annual operating budget, the largest source of revenue after government grants and taxes.

At the grass-roots level, the internal movement advocating a retreat from coal is both a reaction to the environmental damage and the health consequences of mining — water loss and contamination, smog and soot pollution — and a reconsideration of centuries-old tenets.

In Navajo culture, some spiritual guides say, digging up the earth to retrieve resources like coal and uranium (which the reservation also produced until health issues led to a ban in 2005) is tantamount to cutting skin and represents a betrayal of a duty to protect the land.

“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources,” said Anthony Lee Sr., president of the Diné Hataalii Association, a group of about 100 healers known as medicine men and women.

But the shift is also prompted by economic realities. Tribal leaders say the Navajo Nation’s income from coal has dwindled 15 percent to 20 percent in recent years as federal and state pollution regulations have imposed costly restrictions and lessened the demand for mining.

Two coal mines on the reservation have shut down in the last five years. One of them, the Black Mesa mine, ceased operations because the owners of the power plant it fed in Laughlin, Nev., chose to close the plant in 2005 rather than spend $1.2 billion on retrofitting it to meet pollution controls required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Early this month, the E.P.A. signaled that it would require an Arizona utility to install $717 million in emission controls at another site on the reservation, the Four Corners Power Plant in New Mexico, describing it as the highest emitter of nitrous oxide of any power plant in the nation. It is also weighing costly new rules for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona.

And states that rely on Navajo coal, like California, are increasingly imposing greenhouse gas emissions standards and requiring renewable energy purchases, banning or restricting the use of coal for electricity.

So even as they seek higher royalties and new markets for their vast coal reserves, tribal officials say they are working to draft the tribe’s first comprehensive energy policy and are gradually turning to casinos, renewable energy projects and other sources for income.

This year the tribal government approved a wind farm to be built west of Flagstaff, Ariz., to power up to 20,000 homes in the region. Last year, the tribal legislative council also created a Navajo Green Economy Commission to promote environmentally friendly jobs and businesses.

“We need to create our own businesses and control our destiny,” said Ben Shelly, the Navajo Nation vice president, who is now running for president against Lynda Lovejoy, a state senator in New Mexico and Mr. Tulley’s running mate.

That message is gaining traction among Navajos who have reaped few benefits from coal or who feel that their health has suffered because of it.

Curtis Yazzie, 43, for example, lives in northeastern Arizona without running water or electricity in a log cabin just a stone’s throw from the Kayenta mine.

Tribal officials, who say some families live so remotely that it would cost too much to run power lines to their homes, have begun bringing hybrid solar and wind power to some of the estimated 18,000 homes on the reservation without electricity. But Mr. Yazzie says that air and water pollution, not electricity, are his first concerns.

“Quite a few of my relatives have made a good living working for the coal mine, but a lot of them are beginning to have health problems,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.”

One of those relatives is Daniel Benally, 73, who says he lives with shortness of breath after working for the Black Mesa mine in the same area for 35 years as a heavy equipment operator. Coal provided for his family, including 15 children from two marriages, but he said he now believed that the job was not worth the health and environmental problems.

“There’s no equity between benefit and damage,” he said in Navajo through a translator.

About 600 mine, pipeline and power plant jobs were affected when the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada and Peabody’s Black Mesa mine shut down.

But that also meant that Peabody stopped drawing water from the local aquifer for the coal slurry carried by an underground pipeline to the power plant — a victory for Navajo and national environmental groups active in the area, like the Sierra Club.

Studies have shown serious declines in the water levels of the Navajo aquifer after decades of massive pumping for coal slurry operations. And the E.P.A. has singled out the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station as two of the largest air polluters in the country, affecting visibility in 27 of the area’s “most pristine and precious natural areas,” including the Grand Canyon.

The regional E.P.A. director, Jared Blumenfeld, said the plants were the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 emitters of nitrogen oxides, which form fine particulates resulting in cases of asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and premature deaths.

Environmentalists are now advocating for a more diversified Navajo economy and trying to push power plants to invest in wind and solar projects.

“It’s a new day for the Navajo people,” said Lori Goodman, an official with Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, a group founded 22 years ago by Mr. Tulley. “We can’t be trashing the land anymore.”

Both presidential candidates in the Navajo election have made the pursuit of cleaner energy a campaign theme, but significant hurdles remain, including that Indian tribes, as sovereign entities, are not eligible for tax credits that help finance renewable energy projects elsewhere.

And replacing coal revenue would not be easy. The mining jobs that remain, which pay union wages, are still precious on a reservation where unemployment is estimated at 50 percent to 60 percent.

“Mining on Black Mesa,” Peabody officials said in a statement, “has generated $12 billion in direct and implied economic benefits over the past 40 years, created thousands of jobs, sent thousands of students to college and restored lands to a condition that is as much as 20 times more productive than native range.”

They added, “Renewables won’t come close to matching the scale of these benefits.”

But many Navajos see the waning of coal as inevitable and are already looking ahead. Some residents and communities are joining together or pairing with outside companies to pursue small-scale renewable energy projects on their own.

Wahleah Johns, a member of the new Navajo Green Economy Commission, is studying the feasibility of a small solar project on reclaimed mining lands with two associates. In the meantime, she uses solar panels as a consciousness-raising tool.

“How can we utilize reclamation lands?” she said to Mr. Yazzie during a recent visit as they held their young daughters in his living room. “Maybe we can use them for solar panels to generate electricity for Los Angeles, to transform something that’s been devastating for our land and water into something that can generate revenue for your family, for your kids.”

Mr. Yazzie, who lives with his wife, three children and two brothers, said he liked the idea. “Once Peabody takes all the coal out, it’ll be gone,” he said. “Solar would be long-term. Solar and wind, we don’t have a problem with. It’s pretty windy out here.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What comes first...?

Substitute "projects" for "chicken" and "transmission system" for "egg" and you have the offshore wind energy version of that age-old question. Google and its financial partners are betting that if they build the transmission lines, the offshore wind projects will come. Some skeptics think that fossils and nukes might get there first. (GW)

What the Big Atlantic Backbone Transmission Buy-In Means for U.S. Offshore Wind

By Herman K. Trabish
greentech grid
October 25, 2010

Google and partners’ wires are a short-term shot-in-the-arm—and could help the U.S. catch up on Europe’s 20-year lead.

The U.S. wind industry is finally getting into the offshore game, and a new consortium of investors led by the Google Foundation just gave it a boost.

“We’re close to the take-off point,” said Jim Lanard, the Offshore Wind Development Coalition President, and “there will be a need for efficiencies in interconnection and transmission.”

Lanard was describing what the new multi-billion dollar investment in an Atlantic coast transmission backbone means for a U.S. offshore wind industry just being born, decades behind Europe’s and years behind China’s.

“In the offshore wind industry, the individual developers do not consider themselves one-off project teams,” said Lanard, who was an offshore wind developer before work with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) led him to the role of chief advocate for the offshore wind industry.

“They’re not thinking they’re going to build one project and retire,” Lanard said. They see each project as “the first of many. As the technology evolves, the turbines get larger, installing them gets cheaper, perhaps they go further offshore and eventually they become floating foundations,” he explained, “a transmission backbone is going to be essential.”

Lanard came back to the recent headlines. “What Google has done is jump-start that part of the future for offshore wind here in the United States.”

A recent Oceana study found that wind off the Atlantic Coast could supply nearly half the Eastern seaboard’s electricity needs. Other studies say there is even more potential. “Unlike Europe, where offshore wind has been operating since 1991,” Lanard said, “the United States offshore industry has yet to put its first steel in the ground.” But, he said, “The day for the first offshore wind farms is quickly approaching. There is still a lot of work to do but we’re going to see a robust industry.”

Google, renewable energy investor Good Energies and Japanese industrial power Marubeni Corporation are partners in the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) high voltage direct current (HVDC) offshore wind transmission backbone plan to be constructed by transmission specialist Trans-Elect Development Company. The project will have a 6,000-megawatt carrying capacity. Development of Atlantic Coast offshore wind, according to the AWC website, could create 215,000 new jobs by 2030.

Though offshore developers welcome the investment, it is only a small part of what the industry will eventually represent. And the AWC project, Lanard said, is also unlikely to be pivotal in offshore wind’s early growth. That will begin with small-scale projects in state-controlled waters less than three miles offshore “that could see construction begin in the 2012-2013 time frame.”

Cape Wind, the controversial Nantucket Sound project, was just awarded the first lease for offshore wind development in federal waters. “It will take a number of years to be developed, but they’re making great progress,” Lanard said. Cape Wind hopes to be generating electricity by 2016.

None of those projects or the ones that immediately follow need the AWC.

“The first generation of utility-scale projects in federal waters,” Lanard went on, “are planning to develop their own transmission interconnects,” he said. “When a developer is investing $1.5 billion to $2 billion for a utility-scale project, it must have an absolute guarantee that there is a system to get that power to market.” With that kind of investment at stake, developers will not leave interconnection to an untested consortium.

“We are very excited that Google and Good Energies and Marubeni have invested in Trans-Elect” and are “entering the offshore wind industry,” Lanard said. “If the Google investment in the Atlantic Wind Connection could somehow get far enough ahead of the developers’ projects that it could demonstrate a cost-effective result, then the wind developers might be willing to consider that interconnect. But the risk would have to be completely managed.”

On the other hand, “If during this process, permitting takes longer, raising the financing -- which is $1.8 billion to $5 billion -- takes longer, or if it takes longer to build because of engineering challenges that haven’t been identified yet,” Lanard explained, and it turns out AWC is not available, “developers’ assets would be stranded and that would make for a terrible outcome.”

Lanard said offshore wind developers see AWC “as a shot in the arm to this industry that has been working for years” to begin what Europe began two decades ago. Developers expect the AWC investment to motivate the federal government to streamline the problematic permitting process that remains one of three challenges presently facing offshore wind.

The second is “we need to create economic development opportunities and we need to create jobs that will create environmental benefits,” Lanard said, “so that if ratepayers are asked to pay somewhat more for their power in these early projects,” they will see “offsetting benefits.”

The third challenge is that “there need to be signals from the federal government and the state governments to give comfort to the manufacturers and the supply chain industry so that they are ready to set up shop” because, Lanard said, “this is not only a race to get the steel in the ground, it’s a race to get manufacturing up and running.”

The announcement of the AWC has buoyed Lanard’s optimism. “I know the people that are proposing and developing the Trans-Elect pipeline. Our group has met with them twice since the announcement and we’re going to continue to talk with the

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Be creative, have some fun, and help save humanity

GET BUCKY BALLS......................... GIVE DIRECT

This blog and my life's work have been inspired by Bucky. What he gave to the world is immeasurable. Supporting the Buckminster Fuller Institute either directly or by purchasing Buckyballs over the next three Mondays is one way to give back and in the process help put the world on a true path of sustainability. (GW)


Did you know that playing with your balls can help change the world?

That's right: Starting Monday, October 25th, and for the three Monday's following, 100% profits from Buckyballs online sales are being donated to The Buckminster Fuller Challenge! It's an annual $100,000 prize awarded to solve humanity's most pressing problems.

What can you do to help? Buy a set to lend a hand, give to the Buckminster Fuller Institute directly (the non-profit that runs the challenge) or, if today isn't Monday, enter your email for a reminder next Monday.

Buckyballs for a Buck'n good cause... How fun is that?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Inland fisheries key to sustaining the vitality of the fishing industry

The complexities of Nature's life-sustaining interconnected ecosystems are probably, in the end, beyond total human apprehension. However, our ability to understand how to preserve them is not. The need to focus our energies to that end has never been greater. (GW)

River and lake fish 'neglected but essential'

Inland fisheries provide employment for more people than their marine equivalents, as well as being a vital source of nutrients, a study concludes.

The UN-backed Blue Harvest study says that in Africa alone, fish from rivers and lakes are a key source of protein and minerals for 100 million people.

However, dams and other kinds of water management have drastically reduced yields, particularly in Europe.

Properly valuing these fisheries could lead to better forms of management.

The study was launched at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting here.

It puts the yield of fish from these predominantly freshwater sources at 13-30 million tonnes per year.

In terms of quantity, that is dwarfed by the amount coming from the oceans and aquaculture, which produce in the region of 50 million tonnes annually.

But because inland fishers generally deploy low-tech methods and use the fish for local consumption, the employment benefit is somewhat higher.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) says this is the first study to bring together inland fisheries data from across the world.

"This fascinating report has brought to the fore the often neglected subject of inland fisheries," said Unep's executive director Achim Steiner.

"While marine fisheries are under increasing scrutiny, those based on river and lake systems rarely engage the international community - an oversight of potentially profound implications."

End of the line

That scrunity is one of the factors that have led to governments, and fishing communities themselves, to take action to conserve marine fish stocks.

But in inland fisheries, the situation can be more complex.

Dams and other modifications of waterways can have big and unintended consequences for these fisheries, while communities and industries alongside can also disturb them with pollution.

"If you look at Japan, or countries around Europe that used to have commercial inland fisheries, they now don't exist," said Yumiko Kura of the WorldFish Center, a UN-supported research institute based in Malaysia.

Upstream dams can have dire downstream consequences

"The level of modification done to freshwater lakes and rivers has a lot to do with the productivity of those systems - many freshwater species are migratory, and connectivity between river systems and betwen rivers and the sea is very important."

Where inland fishing is possible in industrialised countries, she noted, it is usually for recreation rather than staple food, and often supported by the regular release of juvenile fish.

Basin cut

To illustrate the point, Blue Harvest compares the health of the salmon populations in two of North America's largest river systems, the Fraser and Columbia, which both supported major fisheries until the early 1900s.

Since then, nearly 150 dams have been built on the the Columbia and its tributaries; the Fraser has just a handful.

The Fraser is recognised as the biggest salmon-producing river basin in the world, while on the Columbia, most populations are under government protection, and have to be supported by hatcheries, the addition of measures such as fish ladders, and the regular transportation of fish between different parts of the basin.

The report warns that unless modifications in major developing world rivers such as the Mekong are carried out in ways that allow fish to flourish, there will be a decline in catches essential for millions of people.

This does not mean that dams and other infrastructure should not be built, it concludes - but that development must be appropriate, and decisions made only after properly assessing the economic, nutritional and social benefits of the fisheries.

A related concern, said Ms Kura, was preserving the diversity of inland water systems such as the Mekong, where fishers catch on the order of 500 different species.

"When you look at the fisherman's net, there are countless species in it - they don't rely on any particular one, but on all of them," she said at the launch here.

"In some years, certain species might not be available but other ones are, because different species have different ways of responding to environmental changes - so biodiversity is key to sustaining the vitality of the fishing industry."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yo! Yeo

I want a glass of this milk -- NOW! Check out the Yeo Valley official website and have a great weekend. (GW)

The sun is up,
the milk is chilled,
it's going to be a good one.
Yo, yo.

Yo, I'm rollin' in my Massey on a summer's day,
chugging cold milk while I'm baling hay.
Yeo Valley's approach is common sense,
harmony in nature takes precedence.
My ride's my pride that's why you never see it dirty,
and I love it here man, that's why I'm never leavin' early.
I'm looking good in my cap and my shirt,
I'm representing for the West so hard it hurts.


We make this look easy
'cause we're proper modern with this farmin', believe me.
Wind turbines are shining, baby,
it's solar farming no buts no maybes.
Here we're down with the soil association
and we do lots of what? Conservation!
Sustain, maintain, it ain't no thing,
We set the bar, real leaders by far.

We change the game, it will never be the same
Big up ya chest, represent the West

This isn't fictional farming, it's realer than real,
you won't find milk maidens, that's no longer the deal.
I'm in my wax coat 'n' boots, I'm proper farmer Giles,
now look, you urban folks done stole our style.
I'm not a city dweller, me I like to keep it country,
the air is clean and all those cars won't make me jumpy.
It's different strokes for different folks, my man,
Just enjoy the results with what we do with the land.

Check out Daisy she's a proper cow,
a pedigree Fresian with know how.
Her and her girls they got their own names,
We treat them good, they give us the cream.

We change the game, it will never be the same
Big up ya chest, represent the West

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"The economic invisibility of nature needs to change"

It is clear that if we had to pay for the life support services performed by Nature, we'd be bankrupt -- and extinct. We need to balance the attention paid to the awesome beauty of natural form with an appreciation of Nature's critical life-sustaining functions. (GW)

Insects £134bn, coral £109bn - UN puts a value on nature's resources

By Michael McCarthy
The Independent
October 21, 2010

Pioneering report equates biodiversity to cash in hope of encouraging conservation

Nature and the services it provides are worth trillions of dollars annually to human society, and governments and businesses must formally recognise this to halt the continuing degradation of the natural world, a groundbreaking UN report said yesterday.

The enormous economic value of forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs, as well as the social and economic consequences of their loss, must be factored into political and economic policies in all countries, according to the new study of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb).

It suggests, for example, that the value of human welfare benefits provided by coral reefs is between $30bn (£19bn) and $172bn annually. The destruction of coral reefs is not only damaging to marine life but also poses risks to communities, the report says. Some 30 million people around the world rely on reef-based resources for food production, and for their livelihoods.

In another example, the report reveals that the economic value of insect pollinators in global crop production is worth €153bn (£134bn) every year.

On the other hand, damage to natural capital including forests, wetlands and grasslands is valued at between $2trn and $4.5trn annually, but the figure is not included in economic data such as GDP, or in corporate accounts.

Released at the UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, the report is likely to mark a turning point in how the world deals with the growing global biodiversity crisis, with wildlife and ecosystems everywhere under mounting threat of extinction and destruction - a scenario highlighted by the fact that the international community has failed to meet the agreed target of halting the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

It is hoped that by underlining its economic value to people, the report will transform the understanding of biodiversity and its disappearance, just as the 2006 Stern Report widened the appreciation of the threat of climate change by stating how much it would cost, and stressing that acting to tackle it would be far cheaper than doing nothing.

Seen by many as the Stern Report for biodiversity, the Teeb report puts cash figures on the value of nature, disclosing that ecosystems such as freshwater, coral reefs and forests account for between 47 and 89 per cent of what the UN calls "the GDP of the poor", meaning the source of livelihood for the rural and forest-dwelling poor.

"This economic invisibility of nature is a problem," said Pavan Sukhdev, the Indian banker who led the Teeb study. "The invisibility needs to change, so steps can be taken to save these threatened ecosystems that are a vital source of food, water and income.

"Unfortunately, the lack of an economic lens to reflect these realities has meant that we have treated these matters lightly, that they are not centre stage when it comes to policy discussions, nor centre stage when it comes to business discussions," he said.

The report in numbers...

£31bn: Overfishing

The report says that £31bn a year is lost due to overfishing. It says that poor regulation and weak enforcement of existing regulations allow industrial fishing fleets to plunder valuable fish stocks without regard for sustainability, thus reducing the potential income from fishing.

£134bn: Insect pollination

The value of insects pollinating crops and flowers can be estimated at £134bn a year, according to the UN. The figure represents 9.5 per cent of all agricultural output used for human food.

£19bn-£109bn: Coral reefs

Home to an estimated three million species. Thirty million people in coastal and island communities are reliant on reef-based resources as their primary means of food production, income and livelihood. The UN report values coral reefs at between £19bn and £109bn annually.


Millionaires that have been made in the Hiware Bazaar district of India after 70 hectares of forest were regenerated, leading to the number of wells in the area doubling and grass production increasing. Income from agriculture increased too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“Photograffeur” extraordinaire

If only our political leaders could see the world and its people through the eyes of artists... (GW)

Award to Artist Who Gives Slums a Human Face

By Randy Kennedy
New York Times
October 19, 2010

It’s not common for important philanthropic prizes to go to people whose work involves criminal trespass and who make statements like the following: “You never know who’s part of the police and who’s not.”

But the TED conference, the California lecture series named for its roots in technology, entertainment and design, said on Tuesday that it planned to give its annual $100,000 prize for 2011 — awarded in the past to figures like Bill Clinton, Bono and the biologist E. O. Wilson — to the Parisian street artist known as J R, a shadowy figure who has made a name for himself by plastering colossal photographs in downtrodden neighborhoods around the world. The images usually extol local residents, to whom he has become a Robin Hood-like hero.

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday morning on a bus in Shanghai, where he was headed to work on a largely unauthorized photo-pasting project to draw attention to the city’s demolition of historic neighborhoods, J R said that he had learned of the prize only two weeks ago and that he had not yet had time to think of a wish.

But he said that it would undoubtedly involve his kind of guerrilla art, which he has been creating with the help of volunteers in slums in Brazil, Cambodia and Kenya — where the outsize photographs, printed on waterproof vinyl, doubled as new roofs for ramshackle houses. “I’m kind of stunned,” he said of the prize. “I’ve never applied for an award in my life and didn’t know that somebody had nominated me for this.”

At a time when street art is being embraced not only by the art world but also by branding interests, J R, who dislikes being called a street artist, preferring the term “photograffeur” (graffeur is French for graffiti artist) has become known for rejecting corporate sponsorship offers and other outside help. He said that he reinvested most of the money he makes by selling his art in galleries and at auction — one piece went for more than $35,000 at Sotheby’s in 2009 — into creating more ambitious projects, and that he would use the TED prize money for the same purpose.

“If there’s one thing I’ve always taken care of with my work, it’s that it’s never an advertisement for anything other than the work itself and for the people it’s about — no ‘Coca-Cola presents,’ ” he said, speaking in English. “I think the TED people knew that that was one of my main concerns, and I feel pretty sure that we can come up with a project that works that way.”

Amy Novogratz, the director of the prize, said that picking an artist like JR — he is 27 and fiercely protective of his anonymity, identifying himself only by his initials — was an unusual choice but that the prize committee felt that his work could “catalyze the whole TED community” to support an art-centered philanthropic project, which will be announced at the organization’s next conference in March.

“One of my concerns at first was that he wasn’t going to be accessible or available, which could be off-putting when you’re trying to get partners to get excited about a project,” she added. And, in fact, the first time prize officials had a Skype conversation with the artist, he appeared in sunglasses with a hat pulled low over his forehead.

“But then he said, ‘You know, I trust you guys,’ and he took them off,” Ms. Novogratz said, “and we just had a regular old conversation.”

During the interview on Wednesday morning, J R said that he had not been nearly as trusting of Chinese officials, as he and a crew of helpers erect towering pictures of elderly Shanghai residents on the walls of a neighborhood that is now more than three-quarters demolished.

“I keep thinking we are going to get into trouble,” he said, adding that anyone he talks to might be an undercover police officer. But then he described an illegal act: pasting a 20-foot-tall wrinkled face around the facade of an old water tower he spotted from the highway.

“We went into the building next door, and it was empty, and we went up to the tower, and nobody stopped us, so we just started working,” he said. “It’s crazy. This city is so huge and overgrown, the more you’re in the middle of things, the more you feel transparent.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Revealing the universe's playful irregularity

There are many internally consistent mathematical systems. Few, however bear a real resemblance to the structure of the natural world. Bucky Fuller and Benoît Mandelbrot were in pursuit of that system of systems. Both may have found it. (GW)

Benoît B Mandelbrot: the man who made geometry an art

By Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
October 19, 2010

The sphere of maths has borne few as provocative as the man whose 'fractals' demonstrated the universe's playful irregularity

Few recent thinkers have woven such a beautiful braid of art and science as Benoît B Mandelbrot, who has died aged 85 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (The B apparently doesn't stand for anything. He just felt like adding it.) Mandelbrot was a provocative mathematician, a subversive geometer. He left a beautiful legacy in visual art, for Mandelbrot was the man who named and explained fractals – those complex, apparently chaotic yet geometrically ordered shapes that delight the eye and fascinate the mind. They are icons of modern understanding of the universe's complexity.

The Mandelbrot set, one of the most famous fractal designs, is named after him. With its fizzing fringe of crystal-like microforms blossoming out of a conjunction of black circles, this fractal pattern looks crazy but is the outcome of geometrical calculations.

Geometry, said Mandelbrot, is seen as "dry" because it can only explain regular shapes like the square, the cylinder and the cone. Such shapes have been analysed mathematically since the time of the ancient Greeks, which is why traditional geometry is known as Euclidean geometry. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, physicists and mathematicians started to think beyond Euclid and his regular universe. Mandelbrot was not the first, but with his startling fractals concept he created a visual manifesto for a non-Euclidean universe.

Fractals – and I'd be delighted if mathematicians can give a better explanation below– are shapes that are irregular but repeat themselves at every scale: they contain themselves in themselves. Mandelbrot used the example of a cauliflower which, like a fern, is a fractal found in nature; if you look at the smallest sections of these vegetable forms, you see them mirroring the whole.

Mandelbrot, who worked at IBM before becoming a professor at Yale, started thinking about irregular shapes by looking at maps of Great Britain. The squiggly shape of the UK mainland fascinated him and he wondered whether it was possible to make a mathematical model of its perimeter. Can you measure the British coastline? He discovered that you can at a distance, but that then the closer you look, the more you find. In a sense, the British coastline is "infinite".

Monday, October 18, 2010

China is serious about wind energy

China is struggling to find the balance between their economic development and environmental goals. Last year it has reported widely that one new coal plant is being built somewhere in China each month. According to recent reports China is now erecting on average one new wind turbine every day. That's still an unbalanced equation, but the trend is headed in the right direction. (GW)

China Surpasses U.S. in Wind Power Capacity

By Zhanf Ruidan
Caixin Online
October 14, 2010

By mid-2010, China's wind power capacity has exceeded 2020 energy targets set by Chinese policymakers

(Beijing) -- China has replaced the United States to become the world's top nation in wind power growth in 2009, increasing capacity by adding another 13.8 million kilowatts, according to a recent research report.

A joint report released by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) on October 13 said that in 2009, the total for newly-added wind power capacity worldwide hit 158 million kws, in which China accounted for 13.8 million kws.

According to the report, by mid-2010, China's wind power capacity has reached 30 million kw, fulfilling the country's energy policy targets for 2020 in advance. The report predicted that over the next ten years, China's wind power capacity will grow by nine times from the current level to generate 464.9 billion kwhs of electricity every year.

The report also expected China's offshore wind power generation capacity to reach 32.8 million kws by 2020.

China has seen its wind power capacity doubled for four consecutive years and the growth has remained robust despite the global financial crisis. "In 2010, one of every three newly-added wind power generation units in the world is in China," said Steve Sawyer, chairman of GWEC.

According to Li Junfeng, Deputy Director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, China has been actively constructing seven wind power bases which will have a capacity of more than 10 million kws each. By the end of last year, 24 out of China's 34 provincial level districts had built wind farms.

However, in an earlier interview with Caixin, Sawyer warned that China's wind power industry has been facing a major bottleneck for wind generated electricity to get on the grid.

The report suggested that China should establish an efficient mechanism to encourage consumption of wind power, set a realistic development strategy, figure out the cost allocation for the transmission of wind power, as well as overcome various technological obstacles.

The report also noted that Chinese wind power equipment manufacturers are facing tests to guarantee and improve the quality of equipment.

The report described China's wind power development policies as successful but called for more detailed measures for encourage and coordinate different stakeholders.

On the issue of overcapacity, Sawyer said, "China may also face the challenge, but the consumption capacity of the Chinese market is quite high. As renewable energy currently only accounts for a little part of the country's energy consumption, the overcapacity issue will be solved as soon as the technology problems in transmission are settled," said Sawyer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Slavery is still a canker in Britain's society

Slavery remains a thriving activity around the world - often in places that many are shocked to learn. The fact that it exists speaks to one of the greatest failures of governments that continue to turn a blind eye to it. (GW)

Think slavery is a thing of the past? Think again

By Emily Dugan
The Independent
October 17, 2010

IoS campaign highlights the thousands who fall victim to enslavement in Britain almost 180 years after its abolition.

William Wilberforce said future generations of Britons would see slavery as "a disgrace and dishonour to this country", yet, more than 200 years since its abolition, the shaming trade and exploitation of human beings still thrives.

Tomorrow will mark Britain's first ever Anti-Slavery Day, intended to highlight the plight of the thousands of people in the UK and around the world who fall victim to its modern incarnation every year.

While Britain has much to celebrate since taking a determined stance against the trade in 1807, experts warn that the UK is failing to act against the continuing scandal of slavery on our doorstep.

Across the country, people of all ages and races are being coerced to work against their will, often under the threat of violence. Some of these "slaves" may get paid - but frequently their "wages" are derisory sums, far below the legal minimum.

They include the 4,000 people, mostly women, who are trafficked annually into the UK, to work in the sex trade; the hundreds of domestic servants locked away with no pay; the innumerable underground migrants forced to toil in fields for little or no wages by gangmasters; or the children smuggled into the country to farm drugs, beg or steal.

Anthony Steen, the former Tory MP for Totnes and now chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, saw his Private Member's Bill to establish a national Anti-Slavery Day go through all its Commons stages in February. "Everybody believes in the back of their minds that slavery has gone, but it hasn't; it's still a canker in our society," he said.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said: "When we're talking about slavery in the UK today, we are not using a metaphor. Slavery describes the condition of people controlled through either force or coercion and made to work without pay in our factories, restaurants and on building sites. Even everyday homes can hide people unable to escape slavery, including abused domestic workers, women trafficked into prostitution and children forced to be 'gardeners' on cannabis farms."

MPs will debate the issue tomorrow, but critics argue that the Government, for all the talk, is failing to live up to its ancestors' proud record.

Britain's anti-slavery legislation is now weaker than the rest of Europe's thanks to the coalition's decision to opt out of an EU directive on human trafficking. The directive includes an agreed definition of the crime that makes it easier to prosecute offenders and guarantees greater protection to victims. Police and legal experts complain that existing UK trafficking laws make it notoriously hard to prosecute offenders. There have been just 10 convictions for labour trafficking under the Asylum and Immigration Act of 2004, and 140 convictions for trafficking under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.

The hidden nature of the crime makes getting accurate victim numbers difficult - in part, because so little police, academic and government time is devoted to it. One senior police source said official inaction came down to one thing: "Victims of human trafficking cannot vote."

What statistical evidence exists offers a disturbing glimpse of the extent of the problem. Kalayaan, a charity working with domestic slaves, helped 356 escaping servitude last year alone. In April, a Scotland Yard investigation into organised networks trafficking children to the UK discovered that 180 children had been taken from a single Romanian village.

Despite this, the UK Human Trafficking Centre insists, in figures released today, that just 215 children were referred to the authorities as victims of trafficking between April 2009 and June 2010. In the same period, 59 Vietnamese children were referred to the authorities as potential victims, the vast majority brought to the UK to look after cannabis farms.

When suspected child victims are discovered and taken into care, such is the lack of protection given that many go missing and are believed to be lured back into the control of the gangs that brought them here.

Christine Beddoe, director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, said: "The Government's response is appalling. We don't just need to release people from the cannabis factory or brothels, we need to provide the support that means they can have their lives back and get back on the road to healthy adulthood. That's just not happening at the minute."

Ms Beddoe believes adopting the EU directive would improve matters. "It is unacceptable to put party politics ahead of the safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society."

Anti-slavery campaigners are also concerned that funding for Operation Golf, Scotland Yard's successful operation targeting Romanian gangs that force children into crime, will soon run out, and there is little confidence that it will be renewed. The Met's human trafficking team was closed nine months ago.

Funding for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) is also under threat. Set up following the Morecambe Bay disaster when at least 21 Chinese cocklepickers drowned while working for an illegal gang, its funding is threatened by cuts. Instead of facing cuts, critics argue, the GLA should be expanding its remit to tackle the exploitation of workers in industries other than agriculture, forestry and food processing.

Agricultural work: Trapped in a low-paid job from dawn till dusk

Nikhil, 25, was picking cabbages and cauliflower in a Gloucestershire field for an unlicensed gangmaster when The Independent on Sunday spoke to him. "I came here from India as a student to do a diploma in hotel management and I needed money. This is not what I thought I'd be doing; I thought I'd be working in a shopping mall or a restaurant, but I couldn't find other work.

"I'm picked up at 6am and get dropped back late in the evening. We get about £28 a day, but what we do is piecework. We are worried that if we don't pick enough the money will be low.

"I wasn't given any protective clothing - but my friends told me to buy some boots. I've heard that the minimum wage is £5.81 an hour, but my boss didn't tell me. I don't make anything near that amount. I'd rather work on my own land now, having seen what the jobs here are like.

"For people like myself, things will always be like this. And I can't protest or nobody else will employ me."

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority is currently investigating his employers.

Sex trafficking: Locked up and forced to have sex with 20 men a night

Thippawal, 36, from Bangkok, paid an agency to bring her to Britain for restaurant work in 2008 so she could send money home for her daughter's schooling. But when she arrived in the UK she was locked up and made to work as a prostitute.

"When I got to Heathrow, the man that met me took my passport. He took me to a house in west London and said I had to work as a prostitute. I showed them the contract which said I had to work in a restaurant, but they just laughed. They said if I tried to leave I would die. They made me work 24 hours a day saying I had to pay off my debt to them for bringing me over - which they said was £65,000. I had to have sex with 20 men a night and some of them would hit me.

"I tried to escape three times and when they caught me they stabbed my ankles with a knife. I was never paid. After a month I managed to get out and called the police from a hotel who saw my cuts and bruises but didn't take photos or interview me. So in court, there was not enough evidence. Now my family have been threatened."

Thippawal was sheltered in a safe house by the Poppy Project.

Domestic slavery: No pay for being on call 24 hours a day

Izzeldin Ahmed, 50, is a father of five from Sudan. For the past nine years he worked in virtual slavery for Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim and Naglagla Ibrahim - members of the Saudi royal family. The Ibrahims paid him nothing for working 24 hours a day during the six months of each year he spent in London - only giving him what amounted to less than £7 a day on his return to Saudi Arabia. Now an employment tribunal has ruled they must pay him almost £200,000 in unpaid wages. "For six months of the year the family would be in London. They would take my passport and they never paid me any wages in Britain. If we tried to leave in London we would get nothing. They would pay me in Saudi Arabia - and then it would be about £200 a month.

"I was on call 24 hours a day. I had to drive them around and stand for up to three hours at a time waiting for them outside restaurants or cinemas. I had to always be in sight. They would call me a donkey, a monkey, a dog.

"One day he told me I was sacked and put me out on the street in London. I had no way of getting home."

Child smuggling: Made to beg and steal in London

A group of 28 Romanian children were placed in care last week after a police raid on suspected child traffickers in east London. The children, aged from three to 17, were brought to the UK and forced to beg and steal in central London. A boy of three was taken to hospital with bruises and facial injuries. In some cases their parents in Romania are understood to have handed their kids over to gangs who have loaned them money at high interest rates.

Drugs trade: Children working on cannabis farm

A 15-year-old Vietnamese boy found during a police raid on a house in Doncaster, along with £85,000-worth of cannabis, had been working since he was 12, trafficked via France with the promise of a factory job. He was too scared to leave, having been beaten. He became aware that he was involved in criminal activity only nine days before his arrest, but was still sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to farming the drugs. The EU trafficking directive would protect victims like him from such sentences.

IoS campaign

The Independent on Sunday today launches a campaign urging the Government to sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking. The directive will strengthen our laws to protect victims and make it easier to prosecute those who enslave them. Readers can call on David Cameron and Nick Clegg to do the right thing by signing the petition on the campaigning website 38 Degrees.

To sign the petition, go to: