Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Systems View of Life - Fritjof Capra

"In this first lecture of the course, I would like to give you an outline of the new understanding of life that is now emerging at the forefront of science. As I mentioned before, it is a conception of life based on systemic thinking and some of the new concepts and mathematical techniques of complexity theory. It allows us for the first time to integrate the biological, cognitive, and social dimensions of life" - Fritjof Capra.

Systemic Wisdom

Page 390 in "The Turning Point"
Fritjof Capra:

The recognition of the non-linear nature of all systems dynamics is the very essence of ecological awareness, the essence of "systemic wisdom", as Bateson called it (1972, page 434). This kind of wisdom is characteristic of traditional non literature cultures but has been sadly neglected in our over rational and mechanised society.

Systemic wisdom is based on a profound respect for the wisdom of nature, which is totally consistent with the insights of modern ecology.

One natural environment consists of ecosystems inhabited by countless organisms which have co-evolved over billions of years, continuously using and recycling the same molecules of soil, water and air. The organising principles of these principles must be considered superior to those of human technologies bases on recent inventions, and, very often, on short term linear projections.

The respect for nature's wisdom is further supported by the insight that the dynamics of self organisation in ecosystems is basically the same as in human organisms, which forces us to realise that our natural environment is not only alive but also mindful. The mindfulness of ecosystems, as opposed to many human institutions, manifests itself in the pervasive tendency to establish cooperative relationships that facilitate the harmonius integration of systems components at all levels of organization.

Intro Part1 Part2 Part3 Part4 Index

The Systems View of Life

Chapter 8 of The Turning Point

by Fritjof Capra (1982)

Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia - the Southern Winter of 1996

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

Table of Contents

Lester R. Brown - 2006

Preface (pdf)

1. Entering a New World (pdf)
The Nature of the New World
Learning from China
Learning from the Past
The Emerging Politics of Scarcity
Getting the Price Right
Plan B—A Plan of Hope


2. Beyond the Oil Peak (pdf)
The Coming Decline of Oil
The Oil Intensity of Food
The Falling Wheat-Oil Exchange Rate
Food and Fuel Compete for Land
Cities and Suburbs after Peak Oil
The World After Oil Peaks

3. Emerging Water Shortages (pdf)
Falling Water Tables
Rivers Running Dry
Disappearing Lakes

Farmers Losing to Cities

Scarcity Crossing National Borders

A Food Bubble Economy

4. Rising Temperatures and Rising Seas (pdf)
Rising Temperature and its Effects
The Crop Yield Effect

Reservoirs in the Sky

Melting Ice and Rising Seas

More Destructive Storms

Subsidizing Climate Change

5. Natural Systems Under Stress (pdf)

Shrinking Forests: The Costs

Losing Soil

Deteriorating Rangelands

Advancing Deserts

Collapsing Fisheries

Disappearing Plants and Animals

6. Early Signs of Decline (pdf)

Our Socially Divided World

Health Challenge Growing

Throwaway Economy in Trouble

Population and Resource Conflicts
Environmental Refugees on the Rise
Failed States and Terrorism


7. Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population (pdf)
Universal Basic Education
Stabilizing Population

Better Health for All

Curbing the HIV Epidemic

Reducing Farm Subsidies and Debt

A Poverty-Eradication Budget

8. Restoring the Earth (pdf)
Protecting and Restoring Forests

Conserving and Rebuilding Soils

Meeting Nature’s Water Needs

Regenerating Fisheries

Protecting Plant and Animal Diversity

The Earth Restoration Budget

9. Feeding Seven Billion Well (pdf)

Rethinking Land Productivity

Raising Water Productivity

Producing Protein More Efficiently

New Protein Production Systems

Moving Down the Food Chain

Action on Many Fronts

10. Stabilizing Climate (pdf)

Raising Energy Productivity

Harnessing the Wind

Hybrid Cars and Wind Power

Converting Sunlight to Electricity

Energy From the Earth

Cutting Carbon Emissions Fast

11. Designing Sustainable Cities (pdf)

The Ecology of Cities

Redesigning Urban Transport

Farming in the City

Reducing Urban Water Use

The Challenge of Urban Slums

Cities for People


12. Building a New Economy
Shifting Taxes
Shifting Subsidies

Ecolabeling: Voting With Our Wallets

A New Materials Economy

New Industries, New Jobs

The Environmental Revolution

13. Plan B: Building a New Future (pdf)

Listening for Wake-up Calls

A Wartime Mobilization

Mobilizing to Save Civilization

A Call to Greatness

You and Me

Additional Resources

Notes in pdf


About the Author (pdf)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Environmental Economics: Basic Concepts and Debates

by Ethan Goffman



Economic activity that harms the environment creates present or future losses to humans in the form of damaged health, lower productivity, depleted natural resources, and reduced enjoyment of nature. Environmental economics seeks to quantify these losses and determine the most efficient way to reduce them, as well as to compare the cost of environmental damage to the cost of mitigation. To analyze the costs and benefits of reduced environmental damage, economists must compare changes in economic well being today with changes in economic well being in the future. This involves judging the extent to which future generations will have higher income and better methods for mitigating pollution affects.

smokestacks thicken the air
Environmental Economics analyzes how to protect common assets, such as air


Of the three factors of production in classical economics, land, labor, and capital, land may be the most difficult to define. Does it refer to just the land itself? Or is land a generic term referring to all natural resources? Air, sunshine, and water, necessary to make land productive, are all part of the surrounding ecosystems. While ownership of land itself can easily be demarcated, ownership of mobile, associated resources is trickier.

diagram of land, labor, & capital leading to consumer wealth
The classical factors of production

The problem is that the way owners use their land may affect others. If they dump garbage on their neighbors' land, clearly they are infringing upon others' rights. But how about if they burn garbage and the resulting smoke blows onto nearby properties? What if they pollute a stream and it ends up affecting everyone's water source, or flush sewage away and it ends up in an ecologically stressed bay? Although the field of economics traditionally likes to deal with items that can be easily demarcated, quantified, and tagged with ownership, this becomes difficult when dealing with our shared ecosystems. Economics has dealt with this largely by labeling such items externalities, costs for which the responsible party does not pay. It then becomes up to the community, and usually the government, to decide how to deal with externalities.

Externalities are implicit in Garret Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. In this scenario, a shared grazing area eventually suffers from overuse and ecosystem collapse. It always benefits each herdsman individually to add another cow to the pasture, and that addition by itself will cause little ecological stress. However, if each does so whenever possible, as economics dictates, over time all will be ruined. As Hardin puts it,

Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.
Similarly, in a purely capitalist system with no government constraints, economic logic compels individual businesses to pollute the environmental commons of the air and the water. If it is possible to save money by doing so, it will happen. Any given business must rationally fear that its competitors are doing so and thereby gaining an advantage. To remain competitive and avoid being put out of business, they must do so themselves. Socialist systems face different problems, being subject to political pressures to maximize short run production that may result in equal or greater environmental damage.

There are several ways to internalize the externalities created by common ownership. One way is to create an ownership interest for the producer. In the example above, a herdsman who owns his pasture has an interest in preserving the land for his own and his family's future income. However, ownership is not always possible, particularly regarding large natural phenomenon such as air or bodies of water. When responsible ownership is impossible or impractical, other solutions must be sought to limit the external costs of production or to compensate those who bear the costs. Determining and enforcing solutions can be extremely difficult because costs are often borne by persons living in different political jurisdictions from the producer or consumer and in different time periods.

To regulate environmental common areas, local, state or national governmental interventions are often required, balancing the interests of one set of producers and consumers with the interests of another set who otherwise bear the costs of the first set. The simplest form of such intervention is to simply prohibit pollution. Unfortunately this is impossible, for all businesses, by their very nature, create some waste products. The trick is how to minimize the harmfulness and/or amount of waste products and the impact of their disposal. Finding ways to compel companies to do so efficiently, while still maintaining the robustness created by a free market system, is the task of environmental economists.

Arising out of Resource Economics, Environmental Economics evolved from work done at the research institute Resources for the Future ( in the 1950s, which began to define the economic values of environmental resources. A more thorough and rigorous definition of the task of Environmental Economics is inherent in the National Bureau of Economic Research Environmental Economics Working Group, which, according to its website

undertakes theoretical or empirical studies of the economic effects of national or local environmental policies around the world, including effects on pollution, research and development, physical investment, labor supply, economic efficiency, and the distribution of real income. Particular issues include the costs and benefits of alternative environmental policies to deal with air pollution, water quality, toxic substances, solid waste, and global warming. (NBER)

Go To Using Economics to Regulate the Environment

Special thanks to Sonia Conly for her support, thoughtful suggestions, and careful editing

© 2007, ProQuest CSA LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just Bin It!

Singapore - Creative Digital Photography Competition

"A clean city is a strong reflection of our moral and civic values. But clean cities do not just come by chance. They require much responsibility and dedication to maintain".


1st Prize

Title: Be A Sport, Just Bin It

Caption: It takes a team effort to keep Singapore litter-free. Be a sport, Just Bin It!

Photographer: Benjamin Ng Chia Liang (SXXX4016A)

2nd Prize

Title: Lazy Is OK!

Caption: It doesn’t really matter HOW you do… Just make sure you BIN it.

Photographer: Selena Soh Ting En (SXXX0121B)

3rd Prize

Title: Throw Litter To Where It Belongs

Caption: Never look back on your decision to keep the environment litter-free.

Photographer: How Gui Lin (SXXX3481A)

Merit Prize

Title: Don't Trash My Home

Caption: Trash not only makes the environment ugly, but also destroys the habitat of living things.

Photographer: Joel Liang Yao Jie (SXXX2593F)

Merit Prize

Title: New System of Disposing Litter

Caption: The pupils in the picture demonstrated they took ownership of their litter and what impressed me is the orderly manner they did it – by queuing up, pupils practically reduced the possibility of dropping their litter out of the dustbin to zero.

Photographer: Kong Ze Qing (SXXX4773Z)

Merit Prize

Title: Unnatural

Caption: Trash destroys the natural beauty of our plants and breeds mosquitoes.

Photographer: Vera Li Min (SXXX7737B)


1st Prize

Title: Goal!

Caption: Civic responsibility meets World Cup fever...

Photographer: Rajiv Ravi (SXXX3584B)

2nd Prize

Title: Just Bin It

Caption: --

Photographer: Bernard Poh Lye Kiat (SXXX7071E)

3rd Prize

Title: Lord Of The Bins - The Litter-Free Singapore

Caption: The photo is like a movie poster from “Lord of the Ring”. It shows that the canned drink’s tab, though small in significance but ‘big’ in destruction. The many types of dustbins to the rescue, like the heros of the movie.

Photographer: Art Lim Kiat Guan (SXXX1093E)

Merit Prize

Title: Differentiating The Right Thing To The Right Bin

Caption: To show different bin to collect different kind of rubbish.

Photographer: Seah Bee Jan (SXXX9096H)

Merit Prize

Title: Just Bin It

Caption: Be responsible for your own litter and keep our environment clean.

Photographer: Vincent Ng Wei Chean (SXXX1262A)

Merit Prize

Title: Throw Paper In The Bin

Caption: The children can help throw the paper in the bin can keep the environment clean.

Photographer: Gina Ng Ching Poh (SXXX5431D)

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Future of Food

future of foodThere is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America -- a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat.

THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, THE FUTURE OF FOOD examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Green Links

21st Century Citizen

A Buddhist Response to Global Warming

About My Planet

Allian of Religion and Conservation

Active Living Resource Center

Alliance of Civilizations - United Nations

Ananda College

Another Green World

Architecture for Humanity

Ask Nature - the Biomimicry Portal


A World of Possibility 

Balanced Green Living

Be A Green Teen

Be Green Minded

Best Green Blogs

Bicycle City

Bicycle Fixation

Big Picture TV



Build Green Schools

Building Green

CABE Publications

Carbusters Magazine


Center for Ecoliteracy

Centre for Alternative Technology

Changemakers - Open Sourcing Social Solutions

Cities Go Green

Cities and Sustainability

Climate change

Climate Change Connections

Climate Change - Solutions

Climate Change Economics

Community Planning

Creative Class

Creative Climate Project

Global Warming, Climate Change Education

Greater Good Magazine

Climate Change Education

Climate Change EPA

Climate Solutions

CNN - Eco Solutions

Community and Education

Community Solutions

Connect to Earth

Conscious Community

Context Institute

Cool Green Gadgets

Daily Eco Tips

Daily Planet

David Suzuki Foundation: Climate Change: Solutions

Development Alternatives

Do The Green Thing

Dot Earth

Earth Easy

Earth Healing

Earth Policy Institute

Echoing Green Blog

Eco Blogs

ECOnsciously Living

Eco Geek

Eco Matters






Education and Training

Education about Religions andBeliefs

Education for Life


EEK! Environmental Education for Kids

Energy Planet

Environment Solutions

Environmental Education, Community Development

Environmental Leader

Environmental Magazine

Environmental News Network

Enviro Speak TV

EPA for Kids

Everyday Environmentalist

Facing the Future

FAO: SD Dimensions

Fat Knowledge

Field Notes from the Future

Forum For The Future & Green Futures

Future Scenarios

Good Guide 

Global Action Plan International

Global Footprint Network

Global Public Media

Global Stewards

Global System Change

Global Warming Education

Global Warming Survive Guide

Go Green AE

Going Green

Good Life Zen

Green Daily

Green Facts

Green For Good

Green Girls Global Blog

Green Hearts

Green Heart Education

Green Ideas

Green Innovations

Green Life Buzz

Green Life Smart Life

Green Living Ideas

Green (Living) Review

Green Maven - The Green Search Engine

Green Options

Green Parents

Green Playbook

Green Productivity (GP)

Green Roofs are Cool - How Green Roofs Help the Environment

Green Teachers

Green Teen Guide

Green TV

Green Wikia


Greener Every Day 

Greener Magazine

Greening Schools



Greenroof Education



Handbook of Sustainability Literacy

Healthy and Green Living

Home Energy Web

How to Save the World

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability 

Improv Encyclopedia

Intelligent Travel Blog

International Making Cities Livable

Journey to Forever

La Marguerite

Lazy Environmentalist

Lessons for Hope

Life Goggles

LifeTips Green Living Tip of the Day

Lighter Footstep

Live the Solution

Living Green

Living Here - Kids Page

Living Sustainably

Living Values Education

Local Cooling

Local Future

Low Carbon World

Low Impact Living

Matter Network

Meditation Photography

MIT Open Course Ware

National Geographic - Environment

Natural Capitalism

Nature Rock

New Dream

New Geography

New Literacy Project

New Urbanism Sustainability

No Impact Man

NRDC's Green Living Toolkit

Open Society Sustainability Initiative

Organic Architect

Our Home. Our City. Our Planet

Peace Corps World Wise Schools

Peak Moment Television

Permaculture Activist


Planet Earth online

Planet Green

Planet Thoughts

Plenty Magazine


Post Carbon Institute

Practical Action

Practical Environmentalist

Project for Public Spaces 

Project: Green Living

Remodeling This Life

Resilience Alliance

Resilience Science

Resources for Rethinking


Rethinking Schools

Reuters Environment Blog

Saving Gaia

Seeds for Thought

SEED Magazine 

Sentient Times 

Sharing Sustainable Solutions

Short Sharp Science

Sierra Club Green

Slow Food

Slow Movement 

Smart Growth Online

Sustain Dane

Sustain Magazine 

Sustainability At Work

Sustainable ABC

Sustainable Cities

Sustainable Cities Network

Sustainable Consumption & Production

Sustainable Destinations

Sustainable Development Commission UK

Sustainable Development Update 

Sustainable Development Virtual Library

Sustainable Style

Sustainable Table

Sustainable Technology Education Project

Sustainable Transport Magazine

Sustainable Urban Transport Project 


Teachable Moment

Teaching Economics As If People Mattered

Telegraph UK on Greener Living

The Ashevillage Institute

The Bold Life

The City Fix

The Cloud Instititute for Sustainability Education

The Conscious Consumer on Yahoo! Green

The Earth Blog

The Earth Charter Initiative

The Ecologist

the EcoTipping Point Project

The Environmental Literacy Council

The Good Human

The Green Guide

The Green House

The Happiness Project

The New Green Economy 

The Venus Project

Things That Make You Go Green

Tide global learning

Towards Sustainability

Transition Culture

Transport 2012 

Tree Hugger

Urban Design

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


UNEP - Green Economy

UNESCO Learning for a Sustainable Future

United Nations Cyberschoolbus

Urban Environmental Management

Urban Garden

We Are What We Do

Whole System Design

Wiser Earth

World Agroforestry Centre

World Changing

Worldwatch Institute

WWF Learning

YES! Magazine

Zen Habits

ZERI Education Initiative

Zero Footprint