Archive for March 24, 2009

Paying Bills

The following analysis is classic Marxism. While it simplifies the complexity of reality by negating the psychological nature of human beings, it does make some very important points: people’s work and therefore their lives are strongly influenced by their work, which in turn is largely conditioned by our ‘economic’ system: capitalism. Our jobs depend on how much profit our employer wants to generate as well as on the larger systemic movements and cycles of the capitalist economy.

Losing our job therefore has often more to do with these external circumstances than our skills, commitment, willingness to work, etc.. And why then do we so often see it as personal failure when we lose our job? Because we are discouraged form understanding the nature of capitalism; understanding it could make us question it, and that could make as dangerous. So, we don’t get an education how capitalism works, and  in addition, our attention is diverted to the trivial outputs of our society’s cultural production.

All of this is just one side of the picture, but one so important that we need to learn to understand it.

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They’re calling it “global weirding” – the way in which rising temperatures are causing species to change their ranges, the timing of their migrations, and the way they interact with other living things. And the implications of all this are only beginning to be understood.

by john waldman, environment360

global-weirdingThe concept of “global weirding” is emerging as a notable complement to its cause, global warming. Coined by Hunter Lovins, a founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, it describes the consequences of the rise in average global temperatures, which are expected to amplify the abnormal: hotter heat spells, longer and sharper droughts, more violent storms, and more intense flooding.

Given anticipated warming trajectories, many of these physical changes are statistically predictable and can be fairly accurately modeled. But as an ecologist, I fear it is the alterations to the living realm where “weirdness” will be a most apropos, if not downright tepid, label. This is certainly the case in my area of study — the aquatic realm — where global weirding is already well underway.

Forecasted biological changes due to warming often are as rudimentary as plots on maps where a species’ heat tolerances are superimposed on modeled temperature increases. This initial, or “first order,” assessment

Warming is forcing the planet to launch a giant ecological experiment in which organisms will increasingly interact with other organisms.

usually results in calculations of the species’ range shifting poleward — often accentuating actual movements already detected. Thus, if you live north of the equator you may learn that some beetle, bird, or vine is advancing from the south and may be seen in your backyard by 2018. New information, to be sure, but so what? What of its interactions with other organisms, including you? That is, how will it fit in the speedily evolving ecosystem and will it play a new role? And what of the effects of other species deserting locations they’ve long inhabited?

In New York’s Hudson River estuary, for example, rainbow smelt historically ran up its many tributaries, where they were enthusiastically netted for food as the first anadromous fish to appear each spring. But as a boreal species at the southern end of its range in a warming river, the Hudson’s rainbow smelt runs faded in the late 20th century, with the last individuals seen in 1998 — part of its general retreat northward from the waters of New York and southern New England.

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obama-garden

I saw this article already three days ago and originally didn’t want to re-post it but I had second thoughts. I might not agree with most of Obama’s politics, but his wife’s passion for organic gardening, healthy eating and community involvement deserves to be positively acknowledged.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern. “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set). Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

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abode1

CULVER CITY, Calif. – SolarCity and Abode Communities in collaboration with Los Angeles City Council took part in a new affordable housing community project for seniors at Morgan Place in South Los Angeles. The 55-unit building was designed for sustainability and community development, combining best practices in green building with an open courtyard, on-site services and ADA-accessible apartments. The building revitalized an abandoned lot in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles, and provides affordable housing to seniors earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the area median income.

Over the next 25 years, the Morgan Place solar array is estimated to offset 2.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, more than 7,000 pounds of nitrous oxide and 443 pounds of particulates. SolarCity expects the 49.2 kilowatt (DC) system to produce enough electricity to power 75 percent of the common areas in the building. Other green elements of the facility include Energy Star-rated heating and cooling systems, Energy Star-qualified appliances in all apartments, high-performance windows, 100 percent compact fluorescent lighting, optic skylights and recycled-content carpets. While the building was under construction, SolarCity provided a site survey, custom consultation and assistance in the permitting and rebate process, and designed and installed the solar system.

Abode Communities is an non-profit organisation whose mission is to lead the industry nationwide in providing well-designed and developed affordable housing; it specialies in architecture, development, housing services and resident services for low-income individuals and families. According to their self-understanding, they collaborate with community members from design and development to management and advocacy,  with the aim to instill a sense of ownership, pride and empowerment that ensures long-term neighborhood revitalisation.

The Morgan Place development seems to be a great example for combining elements of social justice and environmental principles  to achieve long-term sustainability for communities.

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By Devinder Sharma, Mar 24, 2009
Devinder Sharma’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

Lies, damn lies, and the Monsanto website. Tell a lie a hundred times, and the chances are that it will eventually appear to be true. When it comes to genetically modified crops, Monsanto makes such an effort – and it could be that you too are duped into accepting their distortions as truth.

My attention has been drawn to an article titled “Do GM crops increase yield?” on Monsanto’s web page, although I must confess that this is the first time I have visited their site.

This is how it begins: “Recently, there have been a number of claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically-modified (GM) crops don’t increase yields. Some have claimed that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM crops. Both claims are simply false.”

It then goes on to explain the terms germplasm, breeding, biotechnology, and then finally explains yield.

Here is what it says: “The introduction of GM traits through biotechnology has led to increased yields independent of breeding. Take for example statistics cited by PG Economics, which annually tallies the benefits of GM crops, taking data from numerous studies around the world:

  • Mexico – yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybean of 9 percent.
  • Romania – yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybeans have averaged 31 percent.
  • Philippines – average yield increase of 15 percent with herbicide tolerant corn.
  • Philippines – average yield increase of 24 percent with insect resistant corn.
  • Hawaii – virus resistant papaya has increased yields by an average of 40 percent.
  • India – insect resistant cotton has led to yield increases on average more than 50 percent.”

These assertions are not amusing, and can no longer be taken lightly. I am not only shocked but also disgusted at the way corporations try to fabricate and distort the scientific facts, and dress them up in such a manner that the so-called ‘educated’ of today will accept them without asking any questions.

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microgeneration

Ireland expects to boost its rural economies with a new long-term feed-in tariff program encouraging consumers to install renewables energy generation projects on homes and farms.

The incentives are expected to help with the long-term cost of projects, but the government limited the scope of the incentives in order to push for fast action on the part of consumers.

Irish Energy Minister Eamon Ryan established the tariff of €0.19 ($0.26) per kilowatt hour, but the rate only applies for the first 4,000 projects registered during the next three years. The incentive applies to wind, solar, hydro and combined heat-and-power projects.

Ireland’s national energy agency, Sustainable Energy Ireland, is taking applications for grants to cover 40 percent of the cost of projects 50 kilowatts or less, but only 50 projects are expected to qualify.

Ireland has also taken long-term steps, such as removing the need for small-scale renewable energy projects to seek permission from planning authorities. ESB Networks, which operates the country’s electricity distribution network, has established a policy to reduce the length and complexity of the process to connect to the grid.

“We are changing the rules and changing the nature of electricity generation in Ireland,” Ryan said in a news release. “This type of long-term investment with a guaranteed return represents the best value for spending and lending.”

Ireland expects public and private entities to spend €8.5 billion to realize its energy plan through 2013, including €276 million on renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as €150 million in energy research and innovation (see Ireland launches marine power initiative and Ireland to pump $16.5B into renewables).

Ireland imports more than 90 percent of its energy requirements, according to a white paper released by the government in 2007.

By 2020, Ireland plans for renewables to contribute 33 percent of its power generation, while natural gas is expected to be just under 50 percent. Ireland imports 87 percent of its natural gas from the UK.

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While Australian governments of all persuasions and on all levels choose to stay in bed with our powerful coal and gas industries, Denmark is banking on alternative energies to become fossil fuel independent. We have one of the largest coast lines of any country in the world, yet we use and build coal fired power stations. And what a better place for wind farms than offshore (I hope sea birds feel the same way).

horns-rev-21COPENHAGEN: DONG Energy, Siemens and A2SEA have installed the first turbine at the offshore wind farm Horns Rev 2 in the North Sea. When inaugurated later this year, Horns Rev 2 will be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm.

The installation was carried out using the installation vessel Sea Power and was complete after 12 hours. Horns Rev 2 is scheduled for completion in late 2009, just in time to “light up” the international climate change conference, COP 15, to be held in Copenhagen in December.

The 91 turbines making up the wind farm will have a total net installed capacity of 209 MW, making it possible to supply a volume of CO2 free power equivalent to the consumption of more than 200,000 households. The turbines, with a rotor diameter of 93 meters (305 ft) are being supplied by Siemens. The combined output capacity will be 209 MW. Horns Rev 2 will be the first offshore wind farm to have its own accommodation platform. The wind farm eventually will cover an area of just under 35 square kilometers (13.5 sq mi),  some 30 to 40 kilometers (19 to 25 mi) off the west coast of Denmark.

“The entire Danish population will benefit from the commissioning of the turbines at Horns Rev 2. The establishment of Horns Rev 2 is an important step in the Danish Government’s long-term ambition for Denmark to become independent of fossil fuels,” commented Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard.

Through climate partnerships, several Danish enterprises and municipalities have agreed to purchase power from the turbines, including Novozymes, Novo Nordisk and KMD and the municipalities of Albertslund, Ballerup, Fredericia and Kalundborg.

The wind farm is a sister project to Horns Rev 1, which began operation in 2003.

EnergyCurrent
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