Archive for March 4, 2009

Phones answer the green call

eco-phone1

Mobile makers are improving their environmental credentials, writes Richard Wray.

A man checks his phone below a giant poster at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. PICTURE: APA man checks his phone below a giant poster at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. PICTURE: AP

Perhaps. After years of being criticised by environmental campaigners for their poor green credentials, companies were falling over each other at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the sector’s biggest annual get-together, to proclaim their transformation. The industry’s trade body, the GSM Association, has corralled handset makers and mobile networks to create a universal mobile phone charger (hopefully to be introduced later in the year), as chargers often outlast phones.

Meanwhile, LG and Samsung unveiled handsets with built-in solar panels: 10 minutes of sunlight and you can make a short phone call. Samsung has a track record in green technology and its current SGH-F268 was named by Greenpeace in its most recent audit as the “world’s greenest mass-market phone”. LG has pledged to remove brominated flame retardants, chlorinated flame retardants and PVC from its manufacturing process by next year. Both companies are also working hard to create “green” packaging, even down to the use of soy-based inks instead of traditional dyes.

Last year, Nokia unveiled a green concept clamshell phone named Remade. While the Finnish giant – which makes four out of every 10 handsets sold worldwide – did not show any new green devices, its chief executive, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, told the press that “being green should be about more than creating one-off green devices and features”. The company can recycle phones in 85 countries and its chargers are greener than most, but we are still waiting for the Remade to make it into production. Greenpeace named Nokia’s 6210 Navigator as the greenest smartphone in its survey – although it scored lower than Samsung’s device.

China’s biggest handset manufacturer, ZTE, has its sights set on the developing world, where a solar panel could help in areas where electricity supply is patchy or relies upon environmentally unfriendly diesel generators. Those generators are also often used to power the mobile phone masts that provide signals in rural areas. Several mast providers were displaying solar and even wind-powered masts at the show. Digicel, which has operations in areas such as the South Pacific islands, is one of many companies rolling out solar-powered base stations.

However, the mobile phone industry has a long way to go before it can count itself as “green”, because the industry retains customers by throwing ever shinier mobile phones at them, based on replacement cycles of one to two years. Ultimately, “green” phones need to be accompanied with proper recycling programs. Steps are being taken – just ask your operator how you can dispose of your old handset in an environmentally friendly way – but too many old mobiles are still cropping up in landfill sites in the developing world.

[Guardian via Sydney Morning Herald]

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more about “Microsoft shows a glimpse at the futu…“, posted with vodpod

This is an interesting little clip on how we might live in 2019 – with the support of information technology and according to Microsoft. The clip is a compilation; once watched the player will give you access to the four parts it’s been made from: the futures in retail, health, banking and manufacture. Looks nice and sleek, but of course: the shedding of 5.000 jobs might already put Microsoft’s contribution to its vision a bit on the backfoot. And then of course, this future dreaming is based on the old paradigm on perpetual growth, and that really should be declared dead. Apart from the collapse of the neo-liberal world of unfettered market forces let’s also see what climate change might have to say over the next 10 years …

[Source: Engadget via Harry]

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uranium-tailings

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Photographer Edward Burtynsky once got lost while driving in West Virginia, stumbling onto a surreal landscape. The mountaintops had been dumped into streams and valleys in order to mine the coal deep within the mountains. It was a hideous but fascinating landscape that set him on a path to document mankind’s devastating impact on the earth’s natural landscape. If Ansel Adams became famous for his achingly beautiful images of nature’s grandeur, Burtynsky brings the same fine-arts aesthetic to his images of colossus-sized industrial production.

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I got a rich introduction to Burtynsky’s work recently when I watched his 2006 film, Manufactured Landscapes, on DVD. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, the film travels the world with Burtynsky as he sets about taking large-scale images of huge quarry pits that go on forever, vast mountains of recycled materials, the massive Three Gorges Dam in China, and “ship breakers” in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where oil supertankers are disassembled piece by piece to recycle the metal.

The power of Burtynsky’s work lies in the dispassionate presentation. It avoids polemics and even interpretation. This is clear from the memorable opening shot of the film, a single tracking shot that spends ten minutes gliding past aisle after aisle of a Chinese factory of 23,000 employees where most of the world’s irons are made. The mind-boggling scale of the factory and the submerged individuality of so many people in yellow aprons dedicated to a single task – producing boxes of irons for export – is sobering and a bit frightening.

Manufactured Landscapes is intent on showing us the human and natural realities of globalized industry and commerce. Americans are quite casual about acquiring cheap products from stores and then throwing away huge amounts of garbage. Well, that stuff comes from somewhere, and goes to somewhere. The people of China play a significant role in handling the invisible “backend” of the world’s consumerism.

recycling

Besides showing the bee-like colony of factory workers, Burtynsky visits Chinese villages where peasants disassemble discarded computers and electronic equipment in order to recover precious metals. Squatting amidst huge piles of electronic wastes, women pick apart printed-circuit boards and scrape off metal components from chips. Of course, the process exposes them to all sorts of carcinogenic and disease-inducing substances, many of which leach into the ground and poison groundwater.

Burtynsky also visits the Three Gorges Dam, which at 600 kilometers long, is the world largest dam ever. It has taken 17 years to build, and will generate 85 billion kilowatts per year after it starts up in 2009. To build it, the Chinese government displaced an estimated 1.1 million people and obliterated thirteen cities brick-by-brick.

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By roaming some of the largest “manufactured landscapes” of Asia, Burtynsky shows us the eye-popping impact of “normal” industrialized life on the earth. Our dependence on oil requires fleets of supertankers, and those ships need to be made, maintained and recycled. The “ship breakers” on the beaches of Bangladesh are one small part of this process. Barefoot young men wade thigh-deep into the residues of oil in supertankers in order to scoop out oily sludge and disassemble the massive iron sides and floors of ships. They are manually dragged onto shore, to be recycled. No Occupational Safety and Health Administration “intruding” into people’s lives here.

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The photo shoot of the ship-breakers prompts Burtynsky to muse about his personal dependence on oil:

I arrived in my car made of iron, filled with gas. I pulled out a metal tripod for a camera with film, which is filled with silver. So everything I’m doing is connected to the thing I’m photographing. Looking at these ships in Bangaldesh, the connection was clear: at some point I filled a tank of gas from oil delivered by one of these tankers.

And now that peak oil is imminent, how shall we remake our daily lives?

One reviewer said of this film, “Taken as a whole, Manufactured Landscapes is a mesmerizing work of visual oncology, a witness to a cancer that’s visible only at a distance but entwined with the DNA of everything we buy and everywhere we shop.” Unfortunately, the film is more a series of vignettes than an unfolding narrative, and one gets the sense after an hour that there will be no further revelations, just more beautifully appalling photos. Still, if you wish to see the underside of the consumer fantasyland that we are encouraged to live in, it’s worth renting Manufactured Landscapes, the DVD: a remarkable documentary.

You can watch a trailer on YouTube here, a short promo-interview with Edward Burtynsky here, and you can visit Burtynsky’s website – with a great collection of photos – here.

[Source text: David Bollier in an On The Commons article titled: “Depicting the Earthly Devastation of Global Commerce”]

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This is a post from September last year; I’m republishing it here because it has ongoing relevance.

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By Frosty Wooldridge, Denver Post

Re: “High, Dry and Devastated” Pankratz/9/17/08 Denver Post

When you realize humans kill 100 million sharks in the planet’s oceans annually, you scratch your head in dismay, or, at least, consternation. Unknown to most humans, thousands of species suffer extinction at the hands of humanity annually. (Source: Life, August , 1991, “Sharks: Predator becomes prey” Fussman)

When you read startling headlines in the Denver Post announcing devastating drought, you scratch your mind further as to why humans steam forward as if they cannot be touched by nature’s vengeance. What do we possess in our arrogance as to denial of our own vulnerability in the scheme of life?

At a Gamow lecture at Colorado University, Boulder, Colorado, I listened to a lecture by Oxford University professor Dr. Norman Meyers. He explained his personal research in the Amazon and other rain forests around the world that humans cause the extinction of 50 to 100 species every day of the year. I didn’t think much of it until, I too, visited the Amazon.

Humans burn 1.5 acres every second in the Amazon and worldwide to make way for crops in the shallow soils of the rain forests. What forms the foundation of the Amazon rain forests? Answer: sand dunes! Note that the Amazon rain forests took millennia to cover those dunes with minimum topsoil. Once exhausted, farmlands become wastelands.

As I explored the Amazon, I watched roads being built into its interior all the way to Manous on the Amazon River. I saw firsthand the fires and the relentless cutting of huge trees. Animals and plants lose their homes at a rate of a landmass the size of Colorado every year. No wonder Myers reported 100 species suffer extinction daily!

Back in the United States, famed Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson states, “We cannot save the planet if we don’t understand it.”

I might add that we cannot save our planet home if we fail to stabilize human population growth. But never mind, because in the end, Mother Nature WILL stabilize human population growth, rather brutally.

In an excellent report, Mark Matousek, “Rescuing Earth” said, “The man widely considered to be Charles Darwin’s heir wants to build an ark, a virtual one at that.”

“It will be the greatest scientific achievements of the 21st century,” Wilson, 79, said. “We need this information about our world in order to save it.” Wilson expects to identify earth’s creatures in his “Encyclopedia of Life.” Estimates project 30 million species inhabit this planet.

While Wilson’s quest promotes noble intentions, first of all, humans rampage across the planet with devastating results to our ecological systems, but in the end, we cannot ‘save it’. A harsh reality faces humanity: this planet can and will erase humans without shedding a tear or issuing a burp!

The sad aspect of our destroying the environmental foundation of the planet in the past 100 years: we drive the sixth extinction session of millions of fellow creatures by our irresponsible fecundity.

“Scientists agree that the world has entered the first great extinction to be caused by humans,” Matousek said. “Global warming, deforestation, abuse of arable land, and destruction of natural habitats threaten to wipe out half the species of plants and animals on the planet by the end of the century.”

Wilson said, “Half the world’s plant and animal species could be extinct by the end of the century.”

As someone who witnessed massive kill-off of species in the Amazon, I direct your attention to a movie starring Sean Connery: “Medicine Man”.

By viewing the movie, you may see the species loss by their habitat cut and burned into oblivion. Not discussed in this sixth extinction session, you might consider what I call the “cascade effect”. For an example, in the United States, prairie dogs suffer horrific destruction of their colonies via human development. In states like Colorado, that slaps asphalt and concrete on 100,000 acres annually, those rodents vanish overnight.

When prairie dogs die, 67 other species, which depend on the rodents, also suffer decline and extinction. Voila! “Cascade effect”!

By not taking time to identify earth’s biodiversity, “It’s like a doctor trying to treat a patient knowing only 10 percent of the organs,” Wilson said.

As a scientist, Wilson suffers the slings and arrows of the Committee Against Racism and religious groups, but his scientific integrity remains unquestioned.

If humanity expects to flourish into the 21st century, it must take action with its intellect rather than its emotional and religious paradigms that prove outdated, outmoded and irrelevant. E.O.Wilson leads the struggle to bring about a viable future on planet Earth.

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Bob Woodruff of ABC asked input from all citizens concerning the future of our planet. Go to www.earth2100.tv for a sobering reality check as to what we face and to what I have been writing about for the past 20 years. Our ‘window’ to change to a balanced population and non-polluting energy diminishes every day we listen to irresponsible media and thus ignore the blatant symptoms manifesting all over America and the planet.

To take action: www.numbersusa.com ; www.thesocialcontract.com ; www.fairus.org ; www.Capsweb.org ; www.vdare.org ; www.proenglish.org ; www.alipac.us ; www.firecoalition.com ; www.patriotunion.org

Become a member of “Frosty’s Press Agent Corps” whereby you volunteer a few hours to send out emails to top TV and radio hosts to offer top speakers on America’s overpopulation crisis driven by unending immigration. Email frostyw@juno.com and receive two informational letters showing you exactly what to do.

Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents – from the Arctic to the South Pole – as well as six times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis in America: and what you can do about it” to civic clubs, church groups, high schools and colleges. He works to bring about sensible world population balance at www.frostywooldridge.com

From: Frosty Wooldridge

This three minute interview with Adam Schrager on “Your Show” May 4, 2008, NBC Channel 9 News, addresses the ramifications of adding 120 million people to USA in 35 years and six million people to Colorado as to water shortages, air pollution, loss of farmland, energy costs and degradation of quality of life. In the interview, Frosty Wooldridge explains the ramifications of adding 120 million people to the USA in 35 years. He advances new concepts such as a “Colorado Carrying Capacity Policy”; “Colorado Environmental Impact Policy”; “Colorado Water Usage Policy”; “Colorado Sustainable Population Policy”. Nationally, the USA needs a “National Sustainable Population Policy” to determine the carrying capacity of this nation for the short and long term. Wooldridge is available for interviews on radio and TV having interviewed on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX.

Click the link to view the 3 minute interview with NBC’s Adam Schrager:

http://www.9news.com/video/player.aspx?aid=52364

Frosty Wooldridge

www.frostywooldridge.com

Encyclopedia of Earth published an in-depth article on a new sustainability index that attempts to determine the different degrees to which countries meet its criteria – in other words: how sustainable are countries around the world?

When the lead authors of the index, Geurt van de Kerk and Arthur R. Manuel,were looking for a suitable yardstick to measure the level of sustainability of a country they couldn’t find any suitable instrument that met their needs. They defined the main shortcomings as a limited definition of sustainability, a lack of transparency or high complexity and an absence of regular updates. Consequently they developed a new index – the Sustainable Society Index (SSI), which integrates the most important aspects of sustainability and quality of life of a national society in a simple and transparent way.

I am not an expert of sustainability, but both their sustainability definition and their SSI categories and indicators seem to make a lot of sense. Using the well-known and worldwide respected definition of the Brundtland Commission as a starting point, van de Kerk and Manuel define a sustainable society as a society

  • that meets the needs of the present generation,
  • that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,
  • in which each human being has the opportunity to develop itself in freedom, within a well-balanced society and in harmony with its surroundings.

It first came as a bit of a surprise to me that they didn’t include the economy in their definition of sustainability, but on second thoughts I think that their argument that the economy of a country, rather than being a condition for sustainability, has to be developed within the limits set by sustainability sounds convincing. Another note of reflection: the SSI is very anthropocentric; I’d be curious to know whether and how much other indexes take a different, more inclusive approach.

The SSI consists of only 22 indicators, grouped into 5 categories as the following table shows:

I Personal Development

1 Healthy Life
2 Sufficient Food
3 Sufficient to Drink
4 Safe Sanitation
5 Education Opportunities
6 Gender Equality

II Healthy Environment

7 Air Quality
8 Surface Water Quality
9 Land Quality

III Well-balanced Society

10 Good Governance
11 Employment
12 Population Growth
13 Income Distribution
14 Public Debt

IV Sustainable Use of Resources

15 Waste Recycling
16 Use of Renewable Water Resources
17 Consumption of Renewable Energy

V Sustainable World

18 Forest Area
19 Preservation of Biodiversity
20 Emission of Greenhouse Gases
21 Ecological Footprint
22 International Cooperation

Using data from public sources, the SSI was initially developed for 150 countries and published in 2006. In 2008 the first of two-yearly updates was published with results for 151 countries for which the SSI could be calculated. The resulting SSI scores on a scale of 0 to 10 allow a quick comparison between countries as is shown on a world map. The underlying data, some of which are included in the article, allow in-depth analysis of the differences between countries. Two-yearly updates enable to follow developments over time. Although the time lap is relatively short, the results of the SSI-2006 and SSI-2008 seem to indicate a slight improvement in the worldwide average score.

The article outlines the development of the SSI and the calculation methodology and gives the main results. It also summarises the need for further research and development of the SSI.

For those interested which countries fare best 😉 : Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Vietnam, Georgia, New Zealand and Latvia comprise the first ten countries in this order; Australia ranks 64 out of 151 countries.

Click here to read more about the SSI and its application.


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