Saturday, May 31, 2008

World Environment Day on 5 Jun 2008: Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy


World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June each year to increase environmental awareness and action. This year’s focus is on climate change, with the theme, Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy. There will be activities around the world on 5 June to highlight the problem of global warming and climate change, and how we can do our part to reduce carbon emissions. Check out the World Environment Day website for more details and activities.

The message for World Environment Day 2008 by United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is shown below:



Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions. Our world is in the grip of a dangerous carbon habit.

Coal and oil paved the way for the developed world’s industrial progress. Fast-developing countries are now taking the same path in search of equal living standards. Meanwhile, in the least developed countries, even less sustainable energy sources, such as charcoal, remain the only available option for the poor.

Our dependence on carbon-based energy has caused a significant build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put the final nail in the coffin of global warming sceptics. We know that climate change is happening, and we know that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we emit are the cause.

We don’t just burn carbon in the form of fossil fuels. Throughout the tropics, valuable forests are being felled for timber and making paper, for pasture and arable land and, increasingly, for plantations to supply a growing demand for biofuels. This further manifestation of our carbon habit not only releases vast amounts of CO2; it also destroys a valuable resource for absorbing atmospheric carbon, further contributing to climate change.

The environmental, economic and political implications of global warming are profound. Ecosystems — from mountain to ocean, from the Poles to the tropics — are undergoing rapid change. Low-lying cities face inundation, fertile lands are turning to desert, and weather patterns are becoming ever more unpredictable.

The cost will be borne by all. The poor will be hardest hit by weather-related disasters and by soaring price inflation for staple foods, but even the richest nations face the prospect of economic recession and a world in conflict over diminishing resources. Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit. This is the theme for World Environment Day 2008. “Kick the Habit: Towards a Low Carbon Economy”, recognizes the damaging extent of our addiction, and it shows the way forward.

Often we need a crisis to wake us to reality. With the climate crisis upon us, businesses and governments are realizing that, far from costing the Earth, addressing global warming can actually save money and invigorate economies. While the estimated costs of climate change are incalculable, the price tag for fighting it may be less than any of us may have thought. Some estimates put the cost at less than one per cent of global gross domestic product — a cheap price indeed for waging a global war.

Even better news is that technologies already exist or are under development to make our consumption of carbon-based fuels cleaner and more efficient and to harness the renewable power of sun, wind and waves. The private sector, in particular, is competing to capitalize on what they recognize as a massive business opportunity.

Around the world, nations, cities, organizations and businesses are looking afresh at green options. At the United Nations, I have instructed that the plan for renovating our New York headquarters should follow strict environmental guidelines. I have also asked the chief executives of all UN programmes, funds and specialized agencies to move swiftly towards carbon neutrality.

Earlier this year, the UN Environment Programme launched a climate neutral network — CN Net — to energize this growing trend. Its inaugural members, which include countries, cities and companies, are pioneers in a movement that I believe will increasingly define environmental, economic and political discourse and decision making over the coming decades.

The message of World Environment Day 2008 is that we are all part of the solution. Whether you are an individual, an organization, a business or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. It is message we all must take to heart.

Source: World Environment Day, UNEP. Image: World Environment Day, UNEP.

Masdar City Will Be World's First Zero-Carbon, Zero-Waste, Car-free City

With over a third of the world's cranes hard at work building artificial islands, an underwater hotel, and the world's tallest building, biggest mall and most expensive airport, the United Arab Emirates has now turned it attention to building the world's most sustainable city. Masdar City, a $22 billion initiative to build a brand new, zero-emissions city for 50,000 from scratch in Abu Dhabi, got underway last month.

The ambitious project, planned by British firm Foster + Partners, was one of the first ecocity projects to receive widespread coverage in the mainstream press (see the Guardian and BusinessWeek's coverage of the initiative), and is supported by, among others, the World Wildlife Fund. Even George W. Bush has expressed interest in the project.

Round table, read more click here.


Masdar City square

Green Utopia in the desertt

Masdar, overview (artist's conception)
©2007 Foster + Partners

Oil Emirate to Build First New Carfree City

The UK architecture firm of Foster + Partners has announced that the walled city of Masdar in Abu Dhabi, being designed by the firm, will be the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city. Masdar is a 6 sq-km (1500 acre) carfree walled city. Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company is the project sponsor and will locate its headquarters in the city, which will also include a new university, special economic zones, and an Innovation Center.

Norman Foster said, "The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative - zero carbon and waste free - are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future." The plans were unveiled 8 May 2007 at the Cityscape conference in Abu Dhabi. Masdar will be a dense, walled development built in two phases. Wind parks, photovoltaic farms, research fields, and plantations will be sited outside the walls, enabling the city to be fully self-sustaining, according to Foster. The development is set to open in late 2009.


Masdar, street (artist's conception)
©2007 Foster + Partners

Most interestingly, the project will be based on the traditional planning principles of walled cities, united with new technologies, to achieve the sustainability target. The city will be linked by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes to surrounding communities, the center of Abu Dhabi, and the international airport.

The maximum distance to public transport will be 200 meters (about 220 yards), and a compact network of streets will encourages walking. A personal rapid transport system will be constructed. Shaded walkways and narrow streets are expected to create a pedestrian-friendly environment, no mean feat in Abu Dhabi's scorching climate.

"Images: Foster unveils green utopia in the desert"
8 May 2007
"World's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi"
Foster + Partners


BBSNews 2008-03-18
-- DUBAI (IRIN) The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world, opened a US$22 billion eco-city project in Abu Dhabi in February 2008.

The project, known as Masdar City, will create the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city, officials say.

"It is a noble project to integrate all the components of a futuristic and eco-friendly city. It hopes to set the trend in property development, renewable energy, sustainable habitat and climate change mitigation all in one project. It is setting the bar high for other initiatives to follow and it will set a benchmark in the fight against further global warming," Habiba al-Marahi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), a local non-governmental organization, told IRIN.

The UAE is ranked 43rd by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change but its per capita emissions are among the highest in the world.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF - also known as the World-Wide Fund for Nature) 2006 report said the average person in the UAE puts greater demand on the global ecosystem than in any other country, because of the huge requirement for air-conditioning, the number of vehicles on the road, energy intensive desalination plants, and rapid development. The USA came second.

Masdar City is a One Planet LivingT project -- a global initiative launched by WWF and environmental consultancy BioRegional. "For projects to achieve the standard, they must have a sustainability action plan that addresses the 10 principles of sustainability as defined by One Planet Living, and must meet specific targets for each of those principles," Eduardo Gonçalves, global communications coordinator for One Planet Living at WWF International told IRIN. The 10 principles include zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable food and water, and use of local and sustainable materials.

Model for other countries?

According to Masdar City officials, the project will use photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. Cooling will be provided via concentrated solar power, while water will be made available through a solar-powered desalination plant. Landscaping within the city and crops grown outside the city will be irrigated with grey (recycled household) water and treated waste water.

"Every One Planet Living [project] is unique and faces different challenges because of soil, precipitation, climate, geology and existing regulations. For example, in this project it may be how to keep people cool without consuming huge amounts of energy, or feeding people sustainably without having to resort to large amounts of imports, Gonçalves said.

When completed, the project will serve as a model for other countries and will prove that the UAE can achieve high levels of economic development without compromising natural resources, according to Habib al-Habr, director of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) regional office for West Asia.

"There are many cities in the world which have designated a city or part of a city as zero-emission or carbon-free zones, like London. Several cities also adopted the concept of zero-waste. But the most important thing is to apply such concepts on a larger scale and put policies and measures in place to make existing cities more sustainable," he said.

Environment specialists say Masdar City will face some challenges. "The biggest challenge will be to source the expertise required to help Masdar meet all its objectives and in so doing create the market for high quality and measurably effective green developments," said Razan al-Mubarak, managing director of Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF).


World's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi

The first project as a result of the Masdar Initiative is a new 6 million square meter sustainable development that uses the traditional planning principals of a walled city, together with existing technologies, to achieve a zero carbon and zero waste community. Masterplanned by Foster + Partners, the initiative has been driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, and will be a centre for the development of new ideas for energy production. Masdar responds to the urban identity of Abu Dhabi while offering a sustainable urban blueprint for the future. Due to be launched at Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2007, it is an ambitious project that will attract the highest levels of international expertise and commerce, providing a mixed-use, high-density city. The exciting programme includes a new university, the Headquarters for Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, special economic zones and an Innovation Center.

Norman Foster said:
“The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative – zero carbon and waste free – are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future.”

The principle of the Masdar development is a dense walled city to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phasing that relies on the creation of a large photovoltaic power plant, which later becomes the site for the city’s second phase, allowing for urban growth yet avoiding low density sprawl. Strategically located for Abu Dhabi’s principal transport infrastructure, Masdar will be linked to surrounding communities, as well as the centre of Abu Dhabi and the international airport, by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.

Rooted in a zero carbon ambition, the city itself is car free. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets encourages walking and is complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. The shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. It also articulates the tightly planned, compact nature of traditional walled cities. With expansion carefully planned, the surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that the city will be entirely self-sustaining.

Ride a bike and save the world

by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola.

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." - H.G. Wells

Science has had a tremendous impact on the planet in an incredibly short time. In just the past few hundred of our 150,000 years on Earth, we have invented everything from steam engines, cars, and airplanes to sophisticated weapons and supercomputers. And the pace at which we keep inventing more complex and fascinating machines is increasing. Some of our inventions have been a great boon, some have been harmful, and some, such as cars, have turned out to be a mixed blessing.

But one invention is so efficient, beneficial, and simple that it may be the best thing we’ve ever made. People across the land will celebrate that invention as we ride into June, Bike Month. The "modern" version of the bicycle with pedals and cranks was invented by French carriage-maker Ernest Michaux in 1861. It’s come a long way since then, but whether it’s a high-tech racing bike or a one-gear street cruiser, the bike is still a marvel of ingenuity. In fact, it may well be the most efficient form of transportation yet invented.

The best part of the bike is that you, the rider, are the engine. The fuel is what you eat and drink. Putting the human engine together with the gears, wheels, and frame of a bike gives you a mode of transportation that uses less energy even than walking. As for our most popular method of getting around, the automobile, there’s no comparison. According to the WorldWatch Institute, a bicycle needs 35 calories per passenger mile, while a car uses 1,860. Buses and trains are somewhere in between.

During Bike Month, it’s worth thinking about the potential this amazing invention offers. With oil prices climbing and environmental damage from car emissions increasing, bikes are becoming a more attractive form of urban transportation every day. Cleaner air, reduced congestion, safer streets, and lower noise levels are just a few of the benefits. As more people get out of their cars and onto their bikes, they’ll also become fitter, leading to lower health-care spending. The money that could be saved nationally on things like health care - not to mention the infrastructure required to keep so many cars on the road - reaches into the billions, but the money an individual can save on fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs alone is also substantial. And because biking is a lot of fun, it will probably increase what the people of Bhutan call "gross national happiness"!

But we still have a ways to go. Canadians and Americans use bikes for fewer than one in a hundred trips - although in Vancouver where I live, it’s a bit higher, at about 2.3 per cent. Compare that to the 20 to 35 per cent of trips taken by bike in the European Union and 50 per cent in China. (Unfortunately, the trend is reversing in China as the country embraces car culture.)

Shifting from car dependence will take action at the individual level, with more people simply deciding to get on their bikes, but governments must also do more to make it easier for people to ride bikes. And they can. In just three years, from 1998 to 2001, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa of Bogotá, Colombia, turned his city of 6.5 million from a gridlocked parking lot into a city where public spaces live up to their name. He did this by restricting car use, increasing gas taxes, and building hundreds of kilometres of bike and pedestrian paths, as well as investing in buses.

Making our streets safer for cyclists by giving them space to ride is an essential first step. The investment required is far less than that required for infrastructure for cars. Tax breaks for cyclists also help. Last year in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty removed the provincial sales tax on bike helmets and bikes costing less than $1,000. Bikes are also exempt from PST in B.C., and the province’s $100 carbon-tax rebate could be put toward buying a bike or tuning up your old bike.

Employers can also help out by offering secure bike parking and showers for those who work up a sweat on the way to work.

Of course, cycling isn’t a panacea. In parts of Canada, the weather isn’t always conducive to cycling. And not everyone has the strength to ride up the hills in some of our cities. But if more of us choose bikes whenever possible, using public transport or at least energy-efficient vehicles when we can’t ride, we’d all be much better off.

So, get on your bike in June, and maybe you’ll like it enough to make it your preferred method of transportation year-round.

Take David Suzuki's Nature Challenge and learn more at

Friday, May 30, 2008

Global warming videos

Global Warming 101
Posted by: NationalGeographic

Video duration: 183 seconds

Global warming could do more than just melt polar ice. It could change our maps, and displace people from cities and tropical islands.
See all National Geographic videos:
http://video.nati ideo/?source=4001

Related: 101, environment, geographic, global, national, warming, weather

Global Warming
Posted by: elephantologist

Video duration: 222 seconds

Global Warming Music Video I made.
Video clips from BBC Motion
Music by Vanessa Mae (From Vivaldi)
Facts and info from Nature Magazine, National Geographic, Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund.

Related: antarctica, artic, global, warming

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nuclear energy: Is it good or bad?

A primer to atomic power’s hottest topics

By Victoria Schlesinger

Like a neutron colliding with an atom, two factors are igniting Americans, and particularly environmentalists, into reconciling a messy question: Do we or don’t we want to develop nuclear power? Eight years of the Bush Administration’s heavily pro-nuclear policies with billions in government subsidies have roused the ailing nuclear industry. Simultaneously, our search for clean, greenhouse gas-free energy sources has turned urgent in the face of climate change. The mix of influences is propelling nuclear energy into the lime light for serious reconsideration.

But many of the old concerns remain. Since the accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island power plant in 1979, no applications for new nuclear power plant building permits were submitted for almost 30 years. While no one was killed or even hurt following the reactor’s partial meltdown, the public glimpsed the potential for disaster.

Nonetheless, the industry has persevered, claiming improved oversight and potential to improve air quality, although it has found no long-term solution for disposing its radioactive waste. Today, 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states supply 20 percent of our electricity, making it our second largest energy source after coal.

Things began to heat up for the industry within two weeks of President Bush taking office in January 2001. He formed the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPD), headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, which produced a National Energy Policy report by May of that year, recommending “the President support the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States as a major component of our national energy policy.”

Following a long legal battle to force the release of NEPD documents to the public, environmental lawyers at Natural Resource Defense Council uncovered that industry lobbyists were integral in forming the president’s energy policy and his decision to launch a so-called ‘nuclear revival’. Over eight years the nuclear industry has received billions in government funds, while construction and operating license applications for 30 new reactors are in the works. Such support would likely increase if Arizona Senator John McCain takes office next year. He recently said, “… the French are able to generate 80 percent of their electricity with nuclear power. There’s no reason why America shouldn’t.”

Meanwhile, research has mounted documenting current and potential impacts of climate change. The IPCC found the world must drastically and quickly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases expelled into the atmosphere in order to avoid the worst impacts of a warmer planet, which include rising oceans, more severe weather, destruction of ecosystems, and the spread of animal- and insect-borne diseases.

But there are no easy, off-the-shelf technologies currently available to enable such reductions. Research is underway, alternatives are being built, and waste-cutting efficiencies implemented although none can yet accomplish the necessary cuts while feeding the world’s voracious and growing use of electricity. Accept for maybe nuclear power.

In the coming week, we’ll delve into some of the arguments for and against increasing nuclear energy, but here we’ve briefly summed up some of the hot topics:

Emissions: Compared to other major existing energy sources, such as coal and oil, nuclear power emits almost no greenhouse gasses, or nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, the primary components of air pollution.

Energy independence: Increasing American nuclear energy enables the country to reduce the amount of oil it imports from other parts of the world and provides reliable base-load power. However, there are limited stores of uranium isotope U-235, which is required for nuclear fission and is largely found in Canada, Australia, and Niger.

Cost: The expense of building two advanced technology nuclear reactors was originally estimated at around $7 billion. The price tag recently rose to $14 billion and construction hasn’t even begun. Champions of wind, solar, and other forms of alternative energy argue high cost and government support for nuclear are gobbling up money that could help develop less established industries.

Environmental health and safety: The risk of a catastrophic reactor accident, as well as significant waste disposal problems, hangs around nuclear power’s neck like a noose. Uranium mining can also endanger the health of miners and people living near mines, as well as the environment, as radioactive ore waste has been shown to contaminate surface and groundwater.

Security: Underlying a nuclear chain reaction in both an energy reactor and weapon is an isotope called uranium-235. Reactor grade uranium requires a 3-5 percent concentration of U-235, while weapon grade needs 90 percent concentration. Therefore anyone possessing U-235 and the necessary equipment can make either nuclear energy or bombs.

Impact on natural resources: The Union of Concerned Scientists calculated that to keep cool a typical 1,000 megawatt reactor requires approximately 476,500 gallons of water a minute be pumped through its system, a number that could nearly triple in some of the new, larger facilities. In some systems, the warmed water returned to its source – lake, river, ocean—contains low level radioactivity. Also aquatic life circulated through the cooling system can be killed.

Energy Future Scenarios

From Energy Bulletin. Archived on 25 May 2008.

by Future Scenarios

The Australian co-founder of the permaculture concept David Holmgren has today launched a new global scenario planning website, Future Scenarios:

peak oil and climate change logoHolmgren says his future scenarios will help both policy makers and activists come to terms with the end of the era of growth.

While the end of growth is so unthinkable to many policy makers and economists that they use the term ‘negative-growth’, Holmgren says we are already entering a generations-long era of ‘energy descent.’ We now face less and less available energy each year, coupled with a destabilised climate.

“The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges for human civilisation. Each limits the effective options for responses to the other,” writes Holmgren on

Holmgren uses a scenario planning framework to bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural and economic implications of peak oil and climate change.

“Scenario planning allows us to use stories about the future as a reference point for imagining how particular strategies and structures might thrive, fail or be transformed,” says Holmgren

Future Scenarios depicts four very different futures. Each is a permutation of mild or destructive climate change, combined with either slow or severe energy declines. Scenarios range from the relatively benign Green Tech to the near catastrophic Lifeboats scenario.

Brown Tech

“Many futurists are looking at Facebook, robot pets and other i-fads, whereas David has been studying a much bigger picture. He works from the fundamental resource and environmental constraints, and I’m convinced that he’s got his assumptions right where others have them very wrong. He has followed through with unusual insight, drawing on 30 years of permaculture thinking, which I would say makes him the most important futurist in the world right now,” said Adam Grubb founder of Energy Bulletin ( with over 400,000 visitors a month.)

Green Tech

“These aren’t two dimensional nightmarish scenarios designed simply to scare people into environmental action. They are compellingly fleshed out visions of quite plausible alternative futures which delve into energy, politics, agriculture, cultural and even spiritual trends. They help us reconcile our own competing fears and hopes for the future, and to consider the best strategies for adapting to a changing world,” says Grubb.

Earth Stewardship

Holmgren says “we will need resilience and adaptability in the face of radical change.”

‘Energy Descent’
Holmgren coined the term ‘energy descent’ in 2005 as a less negatively loaded way than ‘decline’ or ‘collapse’ for describing a future defined by constantly diminishing energy production.

“I chose the word ‘descent’ because it implies a long and sustained process through which it is possible to survive and even thrive. While energy descent does suggest the demise of globalised industrial civilisation, that process will play out over many decades, if not centuries. For individuals, households, organisations and communities focused on socially and ecologically adaptive design, energy descent is as much an opportunity as an obstacle. Realistic assessment of the larger forces at work in the world helps empower us to better refine our strategies.”

About Permaculture
Permaculture is an environmental design framework modelled on the patterns and relationships found in nature, yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.

About David Holmgren
david02.jpg Holmgren co-wrote the first permaculture text Permaculture One in 1976 with Bill Mollison (published in 1978). With his 2002 book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability David re-emerged from the relative shadows as the leading intellectual force of the permaculture movement. Rob Hopkins, founder of the popular Transition Towns initiatives in the UK, described Principles and Pathways as “the most important book of the last 15 years.”

David, his partner Su Dennett, and their son Oliver live at ‘Melliodora’ a small permaculture demonstration property in central Victoria, Australia where they are self sufficient in fruit, vegetables and animal products and provide most of their own energy needs.

Futher info:

Solving Global Warming the ‘Organic’ Way

Yesterday, Kyle sent me this mail:

I was youtubing it, enjoying my new broadband, and came across this interview snip with David Holmgren, founder of the “permaculture” project:

He’s talking about the future of suburbia, and is rather more optimistic than that bigot Kunstler. What I got out of it was that he expresses very well something I think, that we can’t be too hopeful about grand top-down plans - though he’s afraid of them, I’m not, I just think they’re not likely to happen - and he thinks positive change will come about from necessity. He presents it all as an “organic” process - by which he means a smooth and natural one, though of course organic processes are not always very neat and pleasant…

If you’re waiting around for government to do something, then things look pretty dark. If you’re looking for ways in which people can do things for themselves, then things look a bit brighter. So this is “green psychology” in that it’s a way of looking at the world which keeps you hopeful and focused. I’ve just seen quite a bit of loss of hope and frustration in the blogosphere lately, and seen it in your posts, too.

Kyle is right, I have been feeling a bit down lately, and frustrated, regarding the apparent lack of action. Nothing depresses more than driving on the freeway at peak hours, and being a part of this seemingly endless flow of CO2 spewing machines. I want someone to step in, and say stop. My fantasy of a conductor is going nowhere however. Not even Obama comes close, when I listen to him speak and propose his timid plan for cooling the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I know the man has to think about politics, and getting elected, and pushing only as far as the crowd will allow.

While watching the David Holmgren’s video, what struck me most was not so much what he had to say, as how he delivered his message. No rush, no fear, no need to control. Instead, calm assurance that events will lead us back to where we need to be again, and that individuals will naturally organize towards increased energy efficiency strategies. As somebody who is informed about the perils of climate change, I have found it hard to withstand the tension from not having an immediate, quick fix solution. David Holmgren is reminding us that the straight path may not be the way to go here.

I also connected with Homgren’s emphasis on ‘retrofitting‘. Many proposed solutions to global warming, jump to the creation of new infrastructures, new cars, new cities, new houses, new gadgets. Our throwaway culture has found its way in the climate fight. Less sexy, but a lot more sustainable, is the notion of retrofitting existing environments to enable a carbon neutral lifestyle. Maybe now is the time to make ours the 4R’s:


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jacqui's project

Sustainable Development course Project of Jacqui:

Promoting Sustainable Development education in primary schools.

Introduction and Idea:

The basic idea is that introducing children to sustainability and environmental issues at an early age, and encouraging children to respect and enjoy living in nature, should have a positive effect on their attitude, interests and behaviour as they develop into adults. Children are the future of our planet and it is worth investing in them to promote future generations of environmentally and globally aware citizens.


1. I started off making some phonecalls around local primary schools. Many said that they were too busy to talk but if I emailed them some questions they would be happy to help out.

2. I was also invited to a few schools to have a look at what they were doing pro-sustainability.

Of particular interest was a small rural school near St Andrews in Fife, called Dunino Primary School. This school is somewhat a pioneer of developing environmental issues into the curriculum, made easier I suspect by the small number of teachers and rural location. I was lucky enough to be invited out and shown around by some of the pupils who very enthusiastically showed me their greenhouse, sensory garden etc. for more information and examples see their website.

Other schools were less cooperative, and mostly wished to remain anonymous.

The most common way for schools to be working on environmental issues is through the Eco-schools programme.

Introduction to the Eco-school programme

This is a programme run by an NGO who are trying to promote the inclusion environmental awareness into the school curriculum. They invited me to one of their twilight beginners training sessions designed for teachers thinking of getting their school involved in the programme (it was very interesting and they even gave me a certificate for attending!).

They encourage schools by providing a framework to work through and as they progress, introducing new topics, the school is given the opportunity to receive awards (starting at Bronze through Gold to Green flag status – after three green flags are awarded, the school is granted permanent Eco-school status.) Topics included on the curriculum are Litter, Water, Waste minimisation, Energy, School Grounds, Biodiversity, Transport, Health and Well-being.

Schools are also awarded small financial grants to help towards the costs of becoming more environmentally friendly (eg to pay for training, advertising, green events etc).

The organisation also provides some training, and sends out representatives to assess the schools.

3. I decided to carry out an investigation of the Eco-school programme and find out how effective it was from the perspective of the school. I was also interested to find out how schools were benefiting, and whether any improvements, environmentally, were actually to be found as a result of participation in the programme.


While many schools were kind enough to fill in my survey, I ended up taking a broader sample area than expected – this is because I felt I had limited time and didn’t want to put too much pressure on schools to send the survey back really quickly – as a result I emailed the survey out to about 50 schools but only had a 40% return rate on time.

The results of my survey came up with the following general trends.

- Schools said they had a general positive impact of being involved.

- Teachers found it fairly easy to integrate the topics into the curriculum.

- Teachers found that the main constraints stopping the scheme from being more successful in their school was the lack of time to organise, lack of funding, and the lack of support.

- Some schools found no benefit to pupils (but no negative impact either), while some schools found a positive impact on the pupils – this was not reflected in general intelligence or performance, but on ‘life-skills’ such as communication, willingness to learn and wanting to achieve more for themselves and for their community. Most teachers thought that they saw some small benefits to the pupils.

- All schools considered the issues addressed to be very important; teachers were quite interested, and children generally very interested.

- Only a very small amount of time was actually dedicated towards extra time spent in the classroom on environmental issues, at most 1 – 2 hours a week.

- All schools saw the benefit of coordinating with and learning from other schools, although only one school had received any kind of support from another school, and only one school had given support to other schools.

- All schools stated that they would benefit from extra resources and training opportunities to help them work towards the awards; although none explicitly said they were discouraged by lack of funds, a lack of extra funds was often cited as a reason for not being more environmentally proactive.

- This is despite many schools stating that their teachers had gone to none of the free training sessions provided by Eco-schools, and the availability of training from other organisations.

- Most schools had given no feedback back to Eco-schools programme, despite having the contentions about lack of funding, training and support.

- Most schools were unaware that there is an Eco-school support group in their area.

- Most schools, with 2 exceptions, were unaware of other programmes and opportunities to be involved in.

- Lastly, all of the schools, with one exception, wanted more information on other involvement opportunities.


I have presented the results in a very readable format so it is quite obvious what the outcomes are:

For schools, being involved in the Eco-schools programme is good for the school, good for the pupils and good for the environment. As it stands it is a bit of a drain on over-worked teachers who would like to receive more support in any way they can, be that financial, support from parents, or more training to deliver the programme.

What I found from the session that I attended is that it should not be difficult to implement the programme, although I understand that some knowledge is required, as well as support from fellow-teachers within the school.

I think that teachers found it daunting and saw it as a whole lot of extra work, when in reality they did not realise that they do not have to do all the work themselves; most schools with green flags found that once a committee was set up, with parents on board, it became much easier and the benefits could really be seen. It might require a bit of effort to get going but the benefits far outweighed that.

I hoped that by doing the survey I had been able to draw schools and teachers’ attention towards some of the things they had perhaps been missing out on, such as the online Forum for sharing ideas, and the fact that other schools were available to support them with ideas and advice. After this evaluation I realised that more could be done.

Shortfalls of the Eco-schools programme, and Follow-up support

While I have highlighted many advantages of the programme, I was from time to time worried that schools may have got involved in the programme, not done very much over and above what they would have been doing anyway, and still neglecting to address issues such as global citizenship in the classroom.

I had asked in the survey whether schools were involved in any other organisation, programmes or similar. It turned out that a couple of schools had partner schools in Africa (Malawi and Zambia), and two schools were registered Fairtrade schools, but other than that there was a huge blank.

I did some research and put together an information file about other things that schools could be getting involved in. I have listed some of these below and put web addresses.

I also put together a list of organisations that provide training for teachers or other general sustainable development training, in the area.

I wanted to emphasise to schools that there is no shortage of information and support out there and that all they really need to do is to ask for help from some of these organisations. I even provided some information leaflets and details of people to contact within the organisation who were willing to supply help, training or workshops, having contacted them all myself beforehand.

For the schools who had requested it, I sent them out the information. I hope that you find it useful aswell.


I think that I am really quite lucky to have found that for my project there were already so many organisations set up and actually actively doing the things that I was interested to promote.

I know that that is not so true for many countries. I hope that the information provided is useful, and I certainly think that having an organisation or network of schools involved in the programme is a very motivating factor for schools to get involved.

I’m sure that if you know a local school in your country in need of some support, the organisations would be happy to be contacted.

Please contact me on if you have any questions about my project or would like me to help with your project about education.

Appendix of Information sources, websites and organisations (many of these are based in Scotland but there are also some international…)


Globe – and online resource for children, set up in England but now with links in over a hundred countries, allowing children to measure their environment at school and compare with other places in the world.

Fairtrade – the Fairtrade foundation has materials available for schools, such as leaflets and action packs.

ENO (Environment Online)

The Drops Of Life - a global play about tree planting and co-operation:
ENO Tree Planting Day 2007

Grounds for Learning, the UK School grounds charity (learning through landscapes) -

Sustainable Deveopment commission (UK government watchdog on SD issues) website – page at young people, learning,

One World Centre, Dundee – can provide training courses for teachers in Scotland including Fife. Last year these were: Introduction to Global Citizenship and the Global Schools Partnership.

They also visit schools to deliver tailormade workshops for teachers.

Scotdec – promoting global citizenship in schools in Scotland -

Tree trunk – a toolkit about trees and woodlands from the forestry commission:

Story-line Scotland

Rowanbank – a charity using performing arts to communicate environmental issues through workshops and performances

Rewilding Childhood – getting children out of doors and having fun in green spaces.

Plantlife – working to protect wild plants and their habitats, with loads of info on plantlife in the UK


Sunday, May 25, 2008


A future of possibility

Lama Foundation, located in the Mountains of New Mexico is host to Grow Here Now and Build Here Now. Annual workshops which bring together teachers as well as students of sustainability. Join us as we examine "what is permaculture" as we attend the Grow Here Now - Convergence at Lama.

Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970's to describe an "integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man" 'Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organize themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.

Claude William Genest is an actor and TV show host turned "permaculturalist" and Green Party VP. He's passionate about convincing people that a fully sustainable lifestyle is not only easy and good for our health, but can actually be achieved. Follow him to his country house to discover what permaculture is and how it has affected the way he thinks about the environment.

Permaculture expert Penny Livingston-Stark shows how natural systems can teach us better design practices. Learning to work with the earth not only creates a healthier environment, it also nourishes the people who live in it.

Part 1 - The Permaculture Concept

"The Permaculture Concept"

Bill Mollison explains the history and make up of his way of living for the future; Permaculture.

A must watch for all human beings. So simple, so easy to do. So satisfying.

Also...go to

Scroll down a little and on the right hand side of the screen you will see the title..."Greening The Desert".

Watch as the saltiest and driest place in the world is transformed into a little green oasis by using basic Permaculture principals.

Because it is easy and ANYONE can do it...we will not see the arrogant "Establishment" pushing it. If "they" cant control is and make a Trillion dollars off it they wont support it.

The fact that Permaculture living makes you independent of the "System" makes the bureaucrat shiver.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Peak Oil solutions

PERMACULTURE & PEAK OIL: Beyond 'Sustainability'

David Holmgren is co-originator (with Bill Mollison) of the permaculture concept and author of the recent book, PERMACULTURE: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. He talks about the need to move beyond the lulling hope that 'green tech' breakthroughs will allow world-wide 'sustainable consumption' to the recognition that dwindling oil supplies inevitably mean a mandatory 'energy descent' for human civilization across the planet. He argues that permaculture principles provide the best guide to a peaceful societal 'powering down."

Learning from Cuba's Response to Peak Oil

Megan Quinn of The Community Solution discusses her visit to Cuba, and the movie "The Power of Community". This young woman sees Peak Oil as an opportunity to create the communities we want, but notes that we must reduce our consumption despite environmentalists' assurances that biofuels will save us.

Sustainable Buildings

How a new way of thinking about the buildings we live in will help solve issues of sustainability by reducing carbon emissions so you can become carbon neutral. This is about making buildings 'nutritious' for mind, health and ecology.

Working towards sustainability

Sustainability video tips on sustainable practices

San Francisco Bay Area Sustainability Vision

The San Francisco Bay Area transform into a more sustainable region in this vision video. Made by the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities.

Sustainability Movement

Western Washington University in Bellingham WA prides itself on being one of the most influential educational institutions in the US in the race to go GREEN. Now Western is turning its focus to a sustainable future, developing new campus organizations, instituting sustainable action plans and opening new possibilities for the next generation of students. It is time to get involved, get informed and make a change.

Maybe just maybe

The worlds first Eco-Friendly rap song by Harvey Ruvin.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Towards a Golden Age? A Wisdom based Global Economy

London, UK - 23rd May 2008, 11:03 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

The response to the ATCA briefing "The Super Inflation Freeze -- Abrupt Financial Climate Change?" from amongst the distinguished members, luminaries and friends of ATCA and The Philanthropia has been overwhelmingly positive and extremely impressive. The executive summary of the points made, with intra- and extra-polation by the ATCA Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) as well as the mi2g Intelligence Unit, is as follows:

1. The synchronised combination of the Fuel, Food and Finance crises -- 3Fs -- is accelerating disruptive change across the world. This disruptive change is amplified by anytime, anywhere communications and is bringing about a metamorphosis in humanity's approach towards each other and the efficient management of key resources including human talent, skill-sets, energy, raw materials and waste.

2. The age of ignorance is coming to an end as humanity realises that every action has a reaction and all production, distribution and consumption has an externalised and internalised cost associated with it. Not all costs can be represented in profit and loss terms immediately but become evident in quality-of-life and financial terms over decades. The consequences are asymmetrically reversible. It may take a few years to cut down a forest to grow food for fuel and decades to grow it back.

3. The 3Fs and their consequence, super inflation, is the result of the mismanagement of expectations. The present socio-economic trajectory, which is ultimately incapable of sustaining six to seven billion people on the planet at median living standards of the West, is going to be drastically modified as false expectations are confronted and replaced with entirely new and holistic ones.

4. Asymmetric threats are multiplying and so are asymmetric solutions given the ingenuity of humanity for re-invention and innovation when pushed into a corner. From linear processes, which are essentially about fragmented production, consumption and waste, we are evolving towards non-linear and circular processes that have pervasive energy efficiency and holistic recycling as well as recyclability at their design core. Expect non-linear asymmetric solutions -- highly imaginative, inventive and innovative 'killer' applications -- in the area of group thinking, incentivisation models, continuous education and training paradigms, new science, radical management philosophies, focus on ultra energy efficiency, alternative sources of energy, drastic waste minimisation, total waste processing and pervasive recycling. Much of the new production and consumption methodologies are going to focus on utilising recycled and recyclable materials with extremely high energy efficiency as opposed to virgin raw materials and large quantities of energy and natural resources -- water, air and land -- generating excessive waste. There will be increased reliance on local sourcing as the 3Fs bite.

5. The number of asymmetric solutions deployed collectively in dealing with the 3Fs will become the 'gold measure' of resilience for that individual, family, community, organisation, corporation, region and nation state. Expect taxation to evolve dynamically to act as a penalty on laggards, who do not adopt the 'gold measures' swiftly.

6. The boundaries of the sovereign nation state are being superseded by trans-national entities -- corporations, NGOs, movements and ideologies -- and the sovereign individual in many asymmetric ways as they exploit arbitrage opportunities. The boundary-less environment is creating a globally inter-dependent matrix. The 3Fs are propelling humanity towards longevity and sustainability based on holistic thinking and collective good. This disruptive change will have extremely beneficial long term consequences for humanity and despite the short term pain, it may usher in a Golden Age of individual and global transformation. This Golden Age will be characterised by a Wisdom based Global Economy.

7. The characteristics of the Golden Age will be accelerated enlightenment, renaissance and reinvention of the individual's thinking, societal group think and the redesign of linear industrial age systems and support mechanisms towards non-linear and circular ones by corporations, organisations and governments. In the recent past, the West -- Europe and North America -- have had a huge lead and capacity to reinvent. Faced with the 3Fs, which are affecting poorer nations the most, Asia, South America and Africa are also going to be sources of asymmetric solutions over the coming years. Given their large-scale demographics, China and India, are going to be emerging leaders in finding global asymmetric solutions for the 3Fs. Japan's fantastic lead in energy efficiency will be copied, matched and eventually surpassed across many parts of the world, lowering global energy demand substantially.

8. Traditional and knee jerk responses from established governance organisations and regulatory institutions are not going to necessarily work and may indeed exacerbate the effects of the 3Fs. The modern solidarity society, ie, the nation state dependent society, which evolved in Europe and North America especially after the second world war is going to be severely tested by the 3Fs. On the present trajectory, the support mechanisms are capable of bankrupting many nation states. In the last two decades or so, those arcane systems have survived on the back of Chinese and Indian export of deflation and a relatively low cost of energy. As the 3Fs and super inflation remove the crutches, there will have to be socially and politically acceptable reformation. The model which will evolve will have non-linear asymmetric characteristics and point towards sustainability as measured against the 3Fs.

9. The step-by-step revolution has just begun and it has a long way to go as humanity realises its full potential by integrating the physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions to build a non-linear and circular economic model that produces near zero waste and consumes responsibly whilst being conscious of the consequences to the environment and upon itself. The concept that the environment, ie, the habitat and humanity are not separate from each other and are essentially one is going to gain ground as we seek to find asymmetric solutions for the 3Fs. What we do to others we do unto ourselves. With the elimination of duality, and confrontation of one-ness, how easy will it be to wage war with mutual assured damage and destruction? There is also the wisdom of another great spiritual poet -- Saadi -- to be considered:

"The human family is one body with many parts
Creations arising from one unseen essence
Any harm to any part summons an awakening
a dis-ease and a healing response from all parts
Those who fail to feel the pain of others cannot be called truly human.

10. The Golden Age's triumph will be the delivery of individual, societal and world harmony albeit with massive hurdles along the way, initiated as an extreme metamorphosis by the 3Fs.


To reflect further on this, please click here and read views as well as respond directly within the online forum.

We welcome your thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.

Best wishes

DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA) & The Philanthropia

Open ATCA, IntentBlog, Holistic Quantum Relativity Group
LinkedIn, Facebook, Ecademy, Xing, Spock, A&B Blog & QDOS

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations, private banks, non-governmental organisations and specialist advisors to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos, reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the younger generation through the appliance of science and technology, leveraging acumen and finance, as well as encouraging collaboration with a strong commitment to ethics. Philanthropia emphasises multi-faith spiritual values: introspection, healthy living and ecology. Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality; Eliminating radical poverty -- through micro-credit schemes, empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.