Nelson Mandela – A Giant of History

Nelson Mandela’s fantastic Nobel Lecture can be seen on . Watch and remember a truly unique man …

11 Inspiring Moments to Remember Nelson Mandela 

“But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

World leaders pay tribute to Nelson #Mandela

elson Mandela had one of the greatest encore careers ever! Bringing greatest gift to world after he turned 70! cc @encore

Nelson Mandela‘s legacy will live on forever. — Dalai Lama Foundation Found at

“Difficulties break some men but make others.” – Nelson Mandela Found at

@senatormilne 14m

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can choose to change the world.” #Mandela

“To those who observed him closely, Nelson
#Mandela always carried himself as one who was born to lead” | BBC obit 

Who says politics and sport don’t mix.. “
@Truckerpaddy: The greatest picture in the history of sport

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

@UNDP 50s

Nelson Mandela’s words & deeds will keep inspiring those who advance dignity & fight injustice – @HelenClarkUNDP:


The entire world should pause to acknowledge Mandela‘s long fight for equality, democracy, and reconciliation. We need many more like him.

Mandela the day after his release from prison in Soweto, South Africa. His life in pictures

@Newsweek 11s

Our cover when Nelson Mandela was freed

@thenation 3m

Mandela knew that the vision of creating a new kind of nation was bigger than a single leader:

#Mandela tribute w/ picture and quote on South African President Jacob Zuma’s official webpage

Nelson Mandela in 1962.

“It always seems impossible until its done.”- #Mandela

@JuliaGillard 3m

The world has lost a great man. As we grieve for Nelson Mandela we should also celebrate his tremendous victory over prejudice and hate. JG

@GuardianUS 4m

Mandela the day after his release from prison in Soweto, South Africa. His life in pictures

RIP Madiba #Mandela

“His goodness was mixed with a steely determination and shrewd political instincts”  #Mandela

Today’s top news @ABCNews24: one of most significant figures of the 20th and 21st centuries Nelson Mandela has died

With passing of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a leader who advanced the cause of equality

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” — Nelson Mandela. Thank you for your inspiration.

  1. Mandela survived an apartheid system that imprisoned him, only to fight for justice not revenge. Was he superhuman? No, an inspiring human.

  2. ‘I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all’ – Nelson Mandela, 1990 

  3. Africa’s Lincoln: Mandela stood head & shoulders above every leader of his generation, writes biographer John Carlin

Nelson Mandela has died. The UN stood in silence at the news “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains…

#BREAKING: Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 #Mandela #ABCNews24

@arusbridger 12m

Death of Mandela – the world reacts

@TonyAbbottMHR “When a man is denied the right to live t life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw” Mandela

  1. #NelsonMandela, #RIP. Sad farewell to best #leader of century, who believed in people & never gave up.

  2. “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Vale, Nelson Mandela.

My friend Seymour Papert knew Mandela before and after Mandela was imprisoned. Papert fled SA as an anti-apartheid dissident.

    1. 19m

      Nelson Mandela has died “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and… 

      1:59 PM – 5 Dec 13 · Details

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  1. An interactive look at Nelson Mandela‘s amazing life 

  2. Here the infamous 1962 document committing Nelson Mandela to prison: #MandelaCentre

  1. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw” Mandela

  2. Former South African president Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 

  3. Vale Nelson Mandela: a man of heroic compromise | Marius Benson 

  4. We saw in #Mandela “what we seek in ourselves,” President Jacob Zuma says. 

  5. Moving moment at United Nations Security Council, which was in session when the news came through. Stood in silence for a minute. #mandela

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”


  1. Hamba kahle Madiba. You did good, you made us whole. #NelsonMandela dies

  2. Today we lost not only a great man; we also lost one of the world’s greatest leaders  #Mandela

  3. Ban Ki-moon on #Mandela: A giant for justice & a down-to-earth human inspiration.

  4. Ban Ki-moon: “Nelson #Mandela was a giant for justice…No one did more to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.”

Some good words to live by in his memory. RIP Nelson Mandela Found at

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Iraq’s First National Park

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The Things That Matter A Conversation for Creating a Healthy Society

The Things That Matter

A Conversation for Creating a Healthy Society

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Where has my domain gone?

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John Seed, “Deep Ecology & The Conservation of Nature”

The passionate John Seed’s keynote to APNEC conference in Taiwan: “Deep Ecology & The Conservation of Nature” now @…

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WHAT WOULD IT TAKE … to shape a planet on which people, other living things and the systems that support us can sustainably co-exist?


WHAT WOULD IT TAKE … to shape a planet on which people, other living things and the systems that support us can sustainably co-exist?

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UN Report on Sustainability 2012

Global development

Guardian Global Development
Put planet and its people at the core of sustainable development, urges report

UN panel calls for sustainable development indicators that factor in poverty, inequality, science and gender equality

reddit this

Mark Tran in Addis Ababa, Monday 30 January 2012 12.00 GMT
Article history

Ban Ki-moon
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at the AU summit. Sustainable development will be a key focus of his second term. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Social and environmental costs need to be integrated into measurement of economic activity, a new UN report said on Monday as it urged world leaders to focus on the long-term resilience of the planet and its people.

The report from the high-level panel on global sustainability calls for a set of sustainable development indicators that go beyond the traditional approach of gross domestic product. It recommends that governments develop and apply a set of sustainable development goals that can mobilise global action.

At the report’s launch during the AU summit, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, made it plain that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office.

“We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” he said.

Ban established a 22-member panel in August 2010, co-chaired by Finland’s president Tarja Halonen and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. The group was tasked with producing a blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity.

The panel’s final report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: a Future Worth Choosing, contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.

Halonen stressed the importance of placing people at the centre of achieving sustainable development.

“Eradication of poverty and improving equity must remain priorities for the world community,” she said. “The panel has concluded that empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.”

The report feeds into preparations for the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012. Among its key points is that most goods and services sold today fail to bear the full environmental and social cost of production and consumption.

“Based on the science, we need to reach consensus, over time, on methodologies to price them properly. Costing environmental externalities could open new opportunities for green growth and green jobs,” says the report.

Underscoring the importance of science as an essential guide for decision-making on sustainability issues, the report calls on the UN secretary-general to lead efforts to produce a regular global sustainable development outlook report that integrates knowledge across sectors and institutions, and to consider creating a science advisory board or scientific advisor.

The report stresses the importance of gender equality in any serious shift towards sustainable development.

“Half of humankind’s collective intelligence and capacity is a resource we must nurture and develop, for the sake of multiple generations to come,” says the report. “The next increment of global growth could well come from the full economic empowerment of women.”

Among the recommendations for a sustainable economy, the report calls for a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and other “perverse or trade-distorting” subsidies by 2020. However, such decisions can be politically unpopular, as the unrest in Nigeria over a reduction in fuel subsidies underlined. Aware of the political sensitivities involved, the report says the reduction of subsidies must be done in a manner that protects the poor.

The report calls on governments to change the regulation of financial markets to promote longer-term and sustainable investment. It cites the example of Norway, where the ministry of finance is responsible for co-ordinating work on a national strategy covering the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development.

To implement this strategy, Norway has integrated sustainable development into the annual budget. In every yearly budget, follow-up is reported in a separate chapter that includes contributions from each government ministry as well as the statistics office.

As the report notes, Norway has developed 18 indicators that have become increasingly important in monitoring the extent to which the country’s activities are consistent with sustainable development targets.

While welcoming the panel’s vision, Oxfam said the recommendations were weak.

“The emphasis on women’s rights and the call for an ‘ever-green’ revolution in agriculture, so it is more resource-efficient and productive, is helpful, but concrete recommendations on reforming the food system are thin,” said Sarah Best of Oxfam. “There is nothing in the report on how to finance the recommendations – for instance, through a levy on international shipping and aviation, or a financial transaction tax – which has been backed by the UN panel on climate finance.”

The panel’s findings come 25 years after Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway, produced a landmark eponymous report that defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

“Since then, the world has gained a deeper understanding of the interconnected challenges we face and the fact that sustainable development provides the best opportunity for people to choose their future,” says the report. “This makes ours a propitious moment in history to make the right choices and move towards sustainable development in earnest.”

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Changing the way we eat

This summary of ways to change the way we eat was posted on  This site is a terrific resource and is highly recommended.

Change the Way You Eat

Based on The Glynwood Institute’s
Guide to Good Food

1. Educate yourself – Unfortunately, there is no all-encompassing guide that answers all sustainable food questions, so you need to learn what you can about the food industry and decide for yourself who deserves your support. The following books are a great place to start: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel. For more recommendations, check out Grist’s Favorite Food Books of 2010:

2. Shop sustainable – Where do you get your food? If you answered farmer’s market, CSA or food co-op, you are already concerned with sustainability. Wherever you shop, choose local, organic and/or sustainable items over their industrial, non-local counterparts. When buying meat and dairy, look for free-range, pasture-raised, and antibiotic free. Seek out items with less packaging or skip the packaging altogether by buying bulk items with your own bags. To find sustainable farms, restaurants and markets near you, visit Eat Well Guide or Local Harvest.

3. Ask questions – One of the greatest benefits of buying your food straight from the farmer is talking directly with the person who grew the food. We ask our farmers all sorts of questions, from ‘what’s the most delicious way to cook this lamb chop’ to ‘what’s integrated pest management’ and ‘do you use any synthetic fertilizers’? If your local grocery doesn’t carry local or organic foods, ask the manager about it! You’d be surprised at the buying power you plus a few friends possess. Check out Huffington Post’s Seven Great Questions to Ask Your Farmer or visit Sustainable Table’s Question Guide.

4. Eat Less Meat – Eating lots of meat is not only bad for you, it’s bad for the environment. Eating less meat can reduce your chances of developing chronic conditions like some types of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Meat, especially from industrial feedlots, is hugely energy intensive, requiring thousands of gallons of water and approximately 40 fossil-fuel calories for every edible calorie. When you do want to eat meat, make sure you support farms that raise and slaughter their animals in a humane and sustainable way. For recipes and resources for going meatless, visit Meatless Monday.

5. Eat seasonal – No matter the season, our supermarkets are filled with a vast array of produce from all around the world. But just because you can find a stalk of asparagus in January doesn’t mean you should eat it! Eating seasonally means buying produce that’s grown locally and eating it right away. Local food has a lesser environmental impact, is fresher, and is produced by your community. That means eating seasonally is healthier for you, your community and the environment! To find a Farmer’s Market near you, visit Local Harvest. To find a CSA in NYC, visit Just Food’s CSA finder.

6. Grow your own – There’s no better way to know your farmer than to be your farmer! Growing your own food guarantees the most healthful, freshest, and satisfying produce you can get your hands on. From a few herbs or sprouts in your kitchen window, to a full veggie patch at your local community garden, growing your own food is the coolest way to go green. For NYC dwellers, find a garden through Green Thumb. If you have high hopes and a tiny apartment, check out Windowfarms!

7. Cook – Eating out poses many challenges to the sustainable eater. How and where does the restaurant get its ingredients? How much food do they throw away? What’s their water consumption? The only guaranteed way to know your food is prepared sustainable is to see the meal start to finish; from buying (or growing?!) the ingredients, through the peeling, chopping, roasting, sautéing, and plating, clear to the last delicious bite. For culinary inspiration, visit Chef Michel Nischan’s recipe page.

8. Drink Local – Approximately 33% of the 2.4 million tons of PET plastic discarded every year is from water bottles—that means 800,000 tons of plastic water bottles will sit in a landfill for thousands of years before decomposing. Bottled water is no safer than tap water; in fact most bottled water is tap water! Trash the bottle and drink your local tap instead. To uncover more facts, watch the story of bottled water at Food & Water Watch. If you need a water refill, visit to locate a spout, or download their app!

9. Get Involved – Change happens because dedicated people like you support it. Decide on the issues that matter most to you and start or join the campaigns that protect them. Visit non-profits that are fighting for good, clean food like the Environmental Working Group and Slow Food USA to get started.

10. Enjoy! Eating can and should be the simplest joy we all have. Sharing a meal brings people together in a way that little else does. Knowing that the food you eat is grown with care for the environment, farmers, animals, and your own health will only add to your joyful food experience. For tips on creating a loving food environment, check out Laurie David’s new book “The Family Dinner.”

A simple way to help change the way you eat is to support local and nonprofit sustainable groups around the country. Below are affiliated with, and recommended by, our speakers and sponsors.

Regional Food Solutions
Regional Food Solutions LLC provides organizations and businesses with expert project development, writing, research, and facilitation. They focus on the community economic development power that comes from supporting family-scale, place-based farms in their work to produce food that is healthy for people and the planet.

Recirculating Farms Coalition
The Recirculating Farms Coalition is a collaborative group of farmers, educators, non-profit organizations and many others committed to building local sources of healthy, accessible food. They promote growing plants, fish, or a combination of both, without chemicals and antibiotics, while efficiently using water and energy.

James Beard Foundation
Food matters. You are what you eat not only because food is nutrition, but also because food is an integral part of our everyday lives. The James Beard Foundation is at the center of America’s culinary community, dedicated to exploring the way food enriches our lives.

Food and Water Watch
Food & Water Watch is a non-profit organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water.

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University
The Leopold Center is a research and education center on the campus of Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of farming and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources.

Bright Farms
Bright Farms designs, finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms at supermarkets, eliminating time, distance and cost from the food supply chain. diminishes hunger in America by educating, encouraging and enabling gardeners to donate their excess harvest to the needy in their community instead of allowing it to rot in the garden.

Humane Society of United States
The Humane Society is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization, backed by 11 million Americans. They work to reduce suffering and improve the lives of all animals

Center for a Livable Future
Within CLF’s program areas — farming, eating and living for our future — They are engaged in three principal activities: research, educational outreach, and community action.

Consumers Union
Consumers Union (CU) is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.

Real Time Farms
Real Time Farms is a crowd-sourced online food guide. They provide one location where you can learn about where your food comes from, whether staying in or eating out, so you can trust the food you eat.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

Center for Veterans Issues
CVI offers programs and services to veterans, including transitional housing; day services; education, training and employment services; drug and alcohol counseling; mental health services; food and nutritional programs; outreach to the community; motivational and self-esteem groups; money management and budgeting; helping veterans break the cycle of homelessness and move on to jobs and permanent housing.

Over the past 40 years we’ve worked to become more engaged with New York City and its citizens. Whether it’s operating the world famous Union Square Greenmarket, building a new community garden, training the next generation of immigrant farmers, teaching young people about the environment, or improving recycling awareness, if you’re a New Yorker, GrowNYC is working near you!

The Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) has worked for nearly twenty years to build a more beautiful, equitable and economically vibrant Bronx. We reach over 30,000 people annually through energy-efficient, healthy and affordable homes, early childhood education and youth development, family support, home-based childcare microenterprise and food business incubation.

Fenugreen FreshPaper keeps produce fresh for up to 2-4 times longer, and it’s all natural and biodegradable. They aim to address the massive and often overlooked global challenge of food spoilage (25% of the food supply is lost to spoilage each year)


Angiogenesis Foundation
Not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to conquering disease by controlling the blood vessels that feed them.

Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger
Works vigorously to end hunger in underserved neighborhoods of Brooklyn by providing emergency food access, food stamp screenings, and other initiatives.

Bees Without Borders
A New England organization that educates and trains impoverished individuals and communities in beekeeping skills for poverty alleviation.

Dairy Education Alliance
The Dairy Education Alliance (DEA) is a national coalition working collaboratively to tackle the environmental, social and economic problems associated with large dairy operations.

Edible Manhattan
This magazine and information service creates community based, local foods publications in the distinct culinary region of Manhattan.

Environmental Working Group
A non-profit organization that uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.

The Family Dinner
An inspirational green guide to unplugging and connecting with your family over healthy, fresh food.

Finance For Food
This group educates food system entrepreneurs about financing opportunities available to support their work.

Food Corps
A new national service program working to reverse childhood obesity while training a new generation of farmers and public health leaders.

Glynwood Center
Working to save farming through innovative programs including Keep Farming® regional slaughterhouse initiative, national Harvest Awards, and reports including The State of Agriculture in the Hudson Valley.  Also home to TEDxManhattan lead sponsor The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming.

Grow NYC
This is the New York City nonprofit that runs the city’s Greenmarkets, community gardens, composting and recycling, school food literacy and other essential environmental education programs.

Healthy Bodegas
A Grow NYC & Red Jacket Orchard initiative to get fresh, healthy produce in bodegas that are located in underserved neighborhoods

Know Your Farmer Know Your Food
This is a USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers.

Rogowski Farm
A second-generation family farm utilizing ecologically friendly and environmentally sound practices known also for their expertise in low-income and ethnic markets.

School Food Focus
This national initiative helps school districts procure more healthful, more sustainably produced and regionally sourced food.

Slow Food USA
This is a global movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.

Truck Farm
This is a Wicked Delicate film and food project: a mobile community farm and a documentary about urban agriculture.

Urban Design Lab
A joint laboratory of the Earth Institute and Columbia University’s GSAPP to create a designed-based approach to shaping sustainable urbanism.

Wholesome Wave
An organization that nourishes urban food deserts by supporting increased production and access to fresh, healthy food.

Window farms Project
Seeks to empower urban dwellers to grow some of their food year-round and to include them in a process they call R&D-I-Y

125th St. Business Improvement District
This group seeks to develop a community-based vision to maintain the heritage of 125th St. in Harlem through business development and job development.

ETHEL’s Truckstop
A program that examines, unites and honors indigenous communities, cultures and music.

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Top environment stories of 2011

As chosen by Sara Phillips, ABC environment journalist and editor

1) Fukushima

First there was an earthquake, then there was a tsunami. Then the nuclear power plant at Fukushima melted down after it was swamped by the sea. Thousands of people died in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, but the focus remained for months on the power plant: watching, waiting, wondering whether more radiation, more silent cancer would be released, of whether it would be wrestled under control.

It was only last week that the Japanese government announced they had achieved “cold shutdown” of the plant, ushering in a new period of rehabilitation for the area.

2) A price on carbon

Australians started the year with a new Climate Commission to tell us that climate change was indeed ¬¬- still, in fact – happening and a Multiparty Climate Change Committee to come up with a policy solution. By mid-year the government announced we would have a tax on the big emitters of carbon, morphing into an emissions trading scheme after three or so years. By the year’s end, both houses of parliament passed the relevant legislation meaning after more than a decade of debate and discussion, the government finally put a cost and therefore a disincentive on releasing carbon dioxide.

3) Durban

Also on the climate change front, the 17th meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17 of the UNFCCC) surprised everyone when they agreed to agree. After years of fraught negotiations and hopes dashed, 194 countries agreed to sign up to an agreement that would be drawn up four years hence. The result was simultaneously lauded and lamented by environmentalists who couldn’t seem to work out whether it was a good thing that agreement had been achieved, or a bad thing that it was all so vague and far-off.

4) Water, water everywhere

Australia spent a lot of the year mopping up. Queensland copped it bad when immediately after massive, dramatic floods swallowed its most populous areas, it was knocked again by Cyclone Yasi, one of the biggest cyclones the nation has ever seen. And while attention tended to focus on Queensland, down in Victoria and Tasmania they got out the gumboots and the kayaks and cleaned up their own widespread, slow-moving floods.

5) Coal seam gas

Farmers this year discovered they only own the top couple of metres of their land when gas companies exercised their right to dig around under the surface looking for resources. Encouraged by a similar backlash in the USA, farmers “locked the gate” against the miners. The resource in question is gas, created by seams of coal running underground. Proponents of the exploration say gas burns cleaner than coal and therefore exploiting the riches is a climate friendlier way of creating wealth and jobs than simply mining the coal. Opponents say it poisons and depletes the underground water that nurtures a lucrative agricultural industry. One thing is for sure, this argument has a long way yet to run.

Another story that will beef up in 2012 is the Murray-Darling Basin. With the proposed Basin Plan released only recently for comments, next year is sure to see a lot more debate over this peculiarly Australian issue.

My favourites from ABC Environment

We’ve published hundreds of stories on ABC Environment this year. We’ve had some of the world’s best writers on environment, such as Gro Harlem Brundtland, Yvo de Boer, Peter Singer, Achim Steiner, John Cook, Paul Gilding and even Malcolm Fraser. Here’s my favourites of the many, many great ones.

It’s not just about bike lanes
by Jan Garrard

Flying foxes may not be endangered
by Eugenia Lee

What if trees could sue?
by Peter Burdon

A carbon tax is not the solution
by Bjorn Lomborg

Wired to share
by Sue White

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Western watersheds polluted by mining

@mongabay ( claims 40 percent of Western watersheds are polluted by mining:   recently published this important oped

A Mining Law Whose Time Has Passed

Published: January 11, 2012

IN 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a mining law to spur the development of the West by giving hard-rock mining precedence over other uses of federal land. But the law has long since outlived its purpose, and its environmental consequences have been severe.

Related in Opinion

Mining claims for copper, gold, uranium and other minerals cover millions of those acres, and the law, now 140 years old, makes it nearly impossible to block extraction, no matter how serious the potential consequences. Soaring metal prices are now driving new mine proposals across the West.

Oregon’s Chetco River is one example. The river’s gin-clear waters teem with wild trout and salmon, including giant Chinook salmon tipping scales at more than 60 pounds. In 1988, Congress designated the Chetco a national wild and scenic river “to be protected for the benefit of present and future generations.”

But the river is now threatened by proposals to mine gold along almost half of its approximately 55-mile length. Suction dredges would vacuum up the river bottom searching for gold, muddying water and disrupting clean gravel that salmon need to spawn. Despite the Chetco’s rich fishery and status as a wild and scenic river, the United States Forest Service is virtually powerless to stop the mining because of the 1872 law.

As Michael P. Dombeck, a former chief of the Forest Service, explained to a Senate committee in 2008, “it is nearly impossible to prohibit mining under the current framework of the 1872 mining law, no matter how serious the impacts might be.”

Under the law, mining companies — not the government — decide whether and where to file their claims on public land. (National parks, monuments and wilderness areas are excluded.) Federal agencies review the plans, but they are approved as a matter of course. Mining companies pledge to protect rivers threatened by their operations. But the industry’s track record hardly inspires confidence.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that headwater streams in 40 percent of Western watersheds are polluted by mining. A scientific review in 2006 of 25 modern Western mines by the environmental group Earthworks found that more than three-fourths resulted in water contamination. Over all, the E.P.A. has estimated that it will cost $20 billion to $54 billion to clean up abandoned mine sites.

As fisheries scientists, we are deeply concerned about the impact mining has had on our nation’s dwindling fisheries and the inadequacy of the 1872 law to regulate modern mining. In contrast to the pick-and-shovel operations of a century ago, most modern mines are large-scale operations that use toxic chemicals to extract metals from the ore, and they generate vast amounts of mine waste. After these mines close, treating the polluted water in perpetuity is often necessary.

At Oregon’s Formosa mine, for instance, toxic metal-laden drainage from mines is contaminating 18 miles of prime salmon habitat. In Montana, the Zortman Landusky Mine has polluted a dozen streams with arsenic, selenium and other harmful metals. The acidic runoff will continue for centuries.

Last year, the Kensington mine in Alaska was permitted to dispose of toxic mine waste directly into a freshwater lake, decimating its native fish population. The Rock Creek and Montanore mines are proposing to tunnel under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in Montana. Scientists predict that these mines will deplete flows in wilderness streams, including essential habitat for the region’s threatened bull trout.

At the request of members of the Oregon Congressional delegation, the Forest Service proposed to withdraw a portion of the Chetco River temporarily from the jurisdiction of the 1872 mining law while seeking additional protection. This type of stopgap effort highlights the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the archaic law.

In a 2010 paper published in the journal Fisheries, we recommended important mining policy changes. Federal land managers must have discretion to balance mining with other land uses, and say “no” to mine proposals when necessary. No mines should be approved that can result in perpetual water pollution. There should be clear environmental standards, requirements to restore fish and wildlife habitat to pre-mining conditions and sufficient reclamation bonds to cover the full cost of cleanup. A dedicated source of funding should be established to pay for cleanup of the thousands of abandoned mines that continue to pollute our streams.

The mining industry has powerful friends in Washington, however, and nothing has come of our proposals or of other reform efforts. Now Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, is pushing a measure that would require mining companies to pay a royalty equal to what other industries have been paying for decades, provide safeguards for clean water and give communities and agencies a say about where mining is permitted.

The bill merits broad bipartisan support. It is unwise to let this 140-year-old law continue to operate at the expense of clean water, healthy fisheries, public lands and taxpayer dollars. America’s mining law must be brought into the 21st century.

Robert M. Hughes and Carol Ann Woody are fisheries scientists based in Corvallis, Ore., and Anchorage, respectively.

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Germany and Renewable Energy

Over Half of Germany’s Renewable Energy Owned By Citizens & Farmers, Not Utility Companies

Written by: Matthew McDermot          January 6, 2012

Germany’s promotion of renewable energy rightly gets singled out for its effectiveness, most often by me as an example of how to do things well versus the fits and starts method of promotion common in the US. Over at Wind-Works, Paul Gipe points out another interesting facet of the German renewable energy saga: 51% of all renewable energy in Germany is owned by individual citizens or farms, totaling $100 billion worth of private investment in clean energy.

Breaking that down into solar power and wind power, 50% of Germany’s solar PV is owned by individuals and farms, while 54% of its wind power is held by the same groups.

In total there’s roughly 17 GW of solar PV installed in Germany—versus roughly 3.6 GW in the US (based on SEIA’s figures for new installations though the third quarter of 2011 plus the 2.6 GW installed going into the year).

Remember, Germany now produces slightly over 20% of all its electricity from renewable sources.

The thing that got me though, other than the huge lead in solar PV installations Germany has over the US, thanks to good policy, and the fact that so much wind power isn’t owned by utilities, is what slightly over half of renewable energy being owned not by corporations but by actual biological people means—obviously a democratic shift in control of resources and a break from the way electricity and energy has been produced over the past century.

A good thing: Decentralized power generation, more relocalization and reregionalization of economic activity, the world getting smaller while more connected and therefore in a way bigger at the same time… taking a step backwards, and perhaps sideways, while moving forwards.

Tags: Germany | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | Wind Power

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Bolivia, Pachamama and Climate Change

A beautiful piece by the brilliant young Chloe Maxim on how the issue of climate change is viewed in Bolivia. With young people who understand as deeply as this, one would like to think the planet is in good hands.


A New Approach to Solving Climate Change, Part 3: Bolivia

Chloe Maxmin, a freshman at Harvard College, is the founder and president of the Climate Action Club (CAC) ( and First Here, Then Everywhere ( She views her life’s mission as making the climate crisis the defining issue of her generation.

more by this author

by Chloe Maxmin Harvard University

January 8, 2012

Bolivia has 10 million people, and 2.8 million live in the city of La Paz. Yet the country is the size of California. The Andes mountain range looms overhead, and the geography includes everything from glaciers to jungle. Bolivians have a close relationship to their natural surroundings. The land sustains them. The Andean religion arises from this relationship. It is centered on Pachamama, which is the Quechua word for Mother Earth. The people believe that nature is a living entity and that humans should live in a symbiotic relationship with Pachamama. For example, we harvest potatoes and, in turn, sacrifice a guinea pig: we take something, and then we give something. There is reciprocity, equality, and respect.

The awareness of the balance between humans and nature extends to global environmental problems. When it comes to climate change, Bolivians believe that melting glaciers and warming temperatures are Pachamama’s punishment for humans cutting down too many trees and mining the mountains. How has humanity compensated for taking these natural gifts? We haven’t, and Pachamama is angry.

For a country that wants to coexist with Pachamama, Bolivia still has many environmental dangers. Melting glaciers threaten water sources, unsafe mining practices pollute the land, and destructive agricultural practices are rampant. These human-made disasters arrive not because Bolivians have lost their connection to nature but because they must have some way to make money and sustain the economy. Bolivia is a resource-rich nation, and uninformed governments have created an economy based on exploiting natural resources. Yet these are people that are connected to nature; thus solutions have been crafted around this cultural outlook

I spent three months in Bolivia in 2010, during which time I interviewed Shamans, teenagers, and farmers. I wanted to understand how they thought about nature and current environmental problems. One 17-year-old said that the environment “is the air. If we contaminate it, we are hurting ourselves. We need to orient ourselves more with Pachamama.” Calixto, a Shaman, said “climate change is humanity’s fault. We angered our earth. We didn’t ask permission to take…We have to coexist with Pachamama and restore equality.”  David, a local farmer, had practical and spiritual insights. “I grew up in the countryside, and now we can’t grow lettuce because the soil is dry. Some plants are disappearing, and new plants and insects are appearing….If mountain snow goes, then water sources…dry up. I am an animal, too. The environment needs to be good for me to be good. My life depends on nature. Nature connects generations.”

These perspectives are drastically different from anything that I’ve heard in the United States. I have not heard many American youth talk about the environment in such a spiritual way. The 17-year-old was simply talking about what is important in his life. Calixto is not an intellectual or a politician, yet his theory about climate change is somewhat true. Humans have treated Mother Nature unfairly, and now we are paying the price. David can feel the effect of climate change on his livelihood, and he understands his connection with nature. Many Americans have not put these two pieces together.

Bolivia hosted the World People’s Conference on Climate Change in 2010, a meeting of NGOs, international governments, scientists, and activists to discuss solutions to climate change. The goal was to include the voices of poor and developing countries in international climate change agreements. One of the main outcomes of the conference was a People’s Agreement that proposed alternative solutions to mitigating global warming and illustrated a different cultural perspective.

The focus of the text emphasizes the need to restore equilibrium with Mother Nature. Humans have dominated the planet, taking too much and not giving back. The earth is imbalanced, and our current path will only lead to destruction. We must recognize Mother Earth as the source of all life and ensure a healthy planet for ourselves and future generations. We must change the way we interact with nature and find ways to develop society and maintain Pachamama’s health. It is an essential human right.

This language is in stark contrast to a speech that President Obama gave at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. Obama talked about how climate change posed a risk to national security and the economy. He stressed the need to change the way that we produce energy–to make it more sustainable for our economy and human life. The solution to climate change is “mitigation, transparency, financing.” Obama did not mention anthropogenic environmental degradation, nor did he mention the inextricable relationship between humans and their environment.

Bolivians need national policies that impose stringent environmental regulations. This is especially urgent in the mining and forestry sectors, where damage threatens the country’s ability to adapt to climate change. Solutions are also needed to maintain water supplies as glacial waters diminish. Green technologies will be needed to improve irrigation, harvest rain water, and purify glacial runoff.

The differences between the Cochabamba text and Obama’s speech and different mitigation strategies highlight how each country must approach climate change policy in their own way. Obama’s approach would not resonate with Bolivians, just as the spiritual perspective of Bolivians would not affect most Americans. This point further suggests the difficulties of bridging distinct cultural worldviews that international conferences face. Individualized and coordinated responses are needed from each government.

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Explaining the Occupy Phenomenon

In this clip from a U.S. talk show, Grayson encapsulates the Occupy Wall Street movement in a bit more than 30 seconds. It’s enough to earn the back-handed respect of fellow panelist P.J. O’Rourke

Grayson is a former member of Congress, hailing from central Florida. He’s a Harvard graduate who worked briefly as an economist before returning to Harvard to earn his law degree. He’s also a Democrat who was swept out of office this year after only one term in Capitol Hill, caught in the Republican riptide that regained control of the House.

And as you can see from this clip from “Real Time with Bill Maher,” his liberal mindset clicks with the stated grievances of the Occupy movement … .

Perhaps, as O’Rourke says, Grayson could be a rallying voice for the 99% movement.

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Richard Milne separates skepticism from denial

Dr Richard Milne from the University of Edinburgh has published an entertaining and educational lecture ‘Critical Thinking on Climate Change’. He explores the nature of science and genuine scientific skepticism while managing to pack in more cartoons, animations and jokes than ever seen in a climate lecture. He also debunks a number of climate myths, using some great metaphors. Definitely worth watching for any interested in climate science.

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Why, indeed we should all paint our roofs white

Why painting your roof white won’t help #climate change … just in
case you were thinking of doing it.

Response by Dr Paul Taylor

In the article, , it might be sensational for
Jacobson to say, painting your roof white may worsen global warming but this
claim is premature on two accounts.

It does not calculate the decreased warming due to reduced use of fossil
fuel for air conditioning, which could be significant. In Australia air con
is an accelerating use of energy from coal, which produces both greenhouse
gases and black carbon.

The paper argues that the increased radiation reflected back to the
atmosphere by white roofs would be absorbed by black carbon particulates in
the atmosphere, but does not take into account that reducing black carbon
particulates is one of the fastest ways we could reduce global warming. In a
real world we should paint our roofs white AND reduce particulates and its
the net effect as both those project proceed over decadal times scales that
concerns us – likely to be quite beneficial to most rapidly decelerate
global warning. (Cleaning up CO2 is also necessary, but won’t have much
impact on present warming in the pipeline because CO2 has an effective
residence time in the atmosphere of 100 years.)

Jacobson is the capable Stanford scientist who published the paper on
achieving 100% renewable on global scale in 2 or 3 decades, which supports
BZE work. It is interesting that he has developed a fine scale climate model
but he needs to take the next steps of including fossil fuel use and black
carbon reduction feedbacks as well.

Neigbours in the caldera have achieved 12 deg temp reductions inside their
home by using highly IR reflecting white paint treatment on their roof,
providing increased comfort while reducing fossil fuel and making a house
more capable of running off sunshine = even more fossil fuel reduction.  Now
we need to advocate cleaning up black carbon as an early an urgent step.

Yes, cleaning up particulates will also reduce global dimming and expose
more warming, which will need to be cured by transitioning to C free energy
and extracting C from the atmosphere. this will all be required to get
the camel of civilization through the eye of the global warming needle.

Dr Paul Taylor

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The Emperor Has No Clothes: Occupy Wall Street

Something’s Happening Here
Published: October 11, 2011

When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of ‘The Great Disruption.’  The other says that this is all part of ‘The Big Shift.’  You decide.
Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author of the book ‘The Great Disruption,‘ argues that these demonstrations are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits. “I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,’ which is what he means by the Great Disruption, said Gilding. “Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken. Think about the promise of global market capitalism. If we let the system work, if we let the rich get richer, if we let corporations focus on profit, if we let pollution go unpriced and unchecked, then we will all be better off. It may not be equally distributed, but the poor will get less poor, those who work hard will get jobs, those who study hard will get better jobs and we’ll have enough wealth to fix the environment.
‘What we now have — most extremely in the U.S. but pretty much everywhere — is the mother of all broken promises,’  Gilding adds.  ‘Yes, the rich are getting richer and the corporations are making profits — with their executives richly rewarded. But, meanwhile, the people are getting worse off — drowning in housing debt and/or tuition debt — many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off than they are.
This particular round of protests may build or may not, but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.’
Not so fast, says John Hagel III, who is the co-chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte, along with John Seely Brown. In their recent book, ‘The Power of Pull,’ they suggest that we’re in the early stages of a ‘Big Shift’,  precipitated by the merging of globalization and the Information Technology Revolution. In the early stages, we experience this Big Shift as mounting pressure, deteriorating performance and growing stress because we continue to operate with institutions and practices that are increasingly dysfunctional — so the eruption of protest movements is no surprise.
Yet, the Big Shift also unleashes a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities. This flow is constantly getting richer and faster. Today, they argue, tapping the global flow becomes the key to productivity, growth and prosperity. But to tap this flow effectively, every country, company and individual needs to be constantly growing their talents.
“We are living in a world where flow will prevail and topple any obstacles in its way,’  says Hagel. “As flow gains momentum, it undermines the precious knowledge stocks that in the past gave us security and wealth. It calls on us to learn faster by working together and to pull out of ourselves more of our true potential, both individually and collectively. It excites us with the possibilities that can only be realized by participating in a broader range of flows. That is the essence of the Big Shift.’
Yes, corporations now have access to more cheap software, robots, automation, labor and genius than ever. So holding a job takes more talent. But the flip side is that individuals — individuals — anywhere can now access the flow to take online courses at Stanford from a village in Africa, to start a new company with customers everywhere or to collaborate with people anywhere. We have more big problems than ever and more problem-solvers than ever.
So there you have it:  Two master narratives — one threat-based, one opportunity-based, but both involving seismic changes. Gilding is actually an optimist at heart. He believes that while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools of the Big Shift). Hagel is also an optimist. He knows the Great Disruption may be barreling down on us, but he believes that the Big Shift has also created a world where more people than ever have the tools, talents and potential to head it off. My heart is with Hagel, but my head says that you ignore Gilding at your peril.
You decide.
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When a Butterfly Flutters its Wings

This morning news came through that a Monarch Butterfly has landed in Dorset England. Below is the report that featured this morning on Wildlife Extra. While this may simply be a tray which has lost it’s way, it may also have implications for climate change and its impact on the conditions needed for these beautiful creatures. After all, as we know… WHEN A BUTTERFLY FLAPS IT’S WINGS…

Having been fortunate enough to do some honorary work as a visitor to America with Friends of the Monarch in Pacific Grove, California – known as ‘Butterfly Town’ here is a story I wrote that features on TripAdvisor (story also embedded below!)

Published on Trip Advisor

Monarch butterfly lands in Dorset

butterflies/2011/Monarch-(Shane-Austin)bcMonarch butterflies are more usually seen in North America – Photo by Shane Austin

Monarch butterfly turns up in Dorset

October 2011. A rare butterfly, normally found on the other side of the Atlantic, has been discovered on England’s South Coast. The Monarch buterfly, a spectacular black and orange vagrant butterfly, was seen on Buddleia plants in Ringstead Bay, in Dorset. It is not known if the butterfly was blown here as a result of the Indian summer currently gripping the UK or was deposited by hurricane winds from America.

Small populations in Spain
Monarchs are large and unmistakeable with the majority being found in North America, but a smaller population survives in Southern Spain and on the Canary Islands.

Vast migration
Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation said: “Monarchs are one of the wonders of the natural world. At this time of the year they migrate an astonishing 3,000 miles to their over-wintering grounds in mountains of Mexico. But storm systems on the Eastern Seaboard of America can pick them up and deposit them on the West Coast of Ireland and the Southwest of England.”

The last few weeks have also seen many rare vagrant birds from North America arriving in the UK as a result of the hurricane season. The last good Monarch year was in 1999 when scores turned up in the UK.

The butterfly was spotted by accountant Shelley Cunningham, 24, from Yeovil and trainee wildlife guide Shane Austin, 39, from Taunton. Shelley, who three years ago was confined to a wheelchair, is walking the South West Coast Path to raise money for the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) who treated her for curvature of the spine.

Shane said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Monarch, it was feeding on Buddleia with around 20 Red Admirals. It’s big and beautiful and doesn’t look like any butterflies you see here, it is just awe inspiring when you think how far it has flown.”

Shelley underwent three years of surgery to be able to walk again. She is five weeks into the gruelling six-week walk and has raised £3,000 for the charity Above and Beyond.

She said: “The BRI really helped me get back on my feet so this walk is to give something back, seeing the Monarch was just a fantastic added bonus.”

Monarch butterflies in North America
Read more about the fantastic Monarch butterfly migration from Canada to Mexico.

For more information about monarch butterflies and their migration, visit

Illustration from Nomads of the Wind and Other Wonders of the Butterfly World – Photographic Story of the Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterflies swarm around a few trees in winter in Mexico

(C) Julie Boyd

Published on Trip Advisor

Australia may have some of the strangest animals in the world, but America surely has some of the most playful.

From dancing with dolphins in Florida to swimming with sea lions in California and playing hide and seek with chipmunks in Michigan, their creatures seem as fascinated by humans as we are by them.

The most playful of their animals, and possibly the cutest, are sea otters. And the best place to see them – Monterey Bay in California. Otters were once hunted to near extinction and it is due to the persistence of people like Margaret Wentworth Owings, often called the Jane Goodall of California, and the Friends of the Sea Otters, that these little guys have survived and thrived.

Driving from San Francisco towards the Monterey Peninsula, the entrance sign to Point Lobos, a State Park so popular that bookings are essential even for a day trip, states proudly ‘Sea Otters in Residence’ with the pamphlet you are handed beginning ‘The sea otter is without doubt the most observed and beloved marine mammal in this park.’

The Monterey Peninsula itself is full of wonderful surprises. One doubts whether tourism was on anyone’s mind when John Steinbeck came out in the mid-1940s with his famous fictional classic, “Cannery Row,” but that novel ultimately had the effect of turning the Monterey Peninsula into one of the most popular destinations for a Northern California vacation. Aspiring writers find real pleasure in being able to walk the same streets as Steinbeck, where the smell of fish from the sardine factories, has now been replaced by the great coffee and wonderful food on offer at cafes and restaurants; and souvenir and book shops now grace the old buildings. Thank goodness this is not somewhere developers have been allowed to destroy the heritage which brings millions of visitors a year.

It’s always an advantage having friends who live locally and can show you around an area. If they are heavily involved in their local community, so much the better. My dear friends are docents (helpers) at the famed Monterey Bay aquarium just down the road from Cannery Row. Financed by David Packard (of Hewlett Packard) for his marine biologist daughter, Julie, who is currently Executive Director of the aquarium, this is not only possibly the most incredible aquarium in the world, it also houses a crucially important research institute. Located right on the famed San Andreas faultline, there is a submarine canyon immediately off Monterey which drops sharply to 3,600metres, so the research institute has access to some very unusual deepwater creatures. This also makes the water extremely cold, so swimming is not really an option, though it is one of the premier scuba diving spots in the world. The most famous aspect of the Monterey aquarium is a wall of glass, more than three storeys high which enables a view into a giant kelp forest and the habitat this provides. Outside the aquarium, a favourite pastime is kayaking out among the otters, though knowing the depth of the water beneath can be slightly intimidating.
I was visiting Monterey to attend a conference which was being held at the Asilomar Center (American spelling) in Pacific Grove, just down the road. Arguably one of the best conference locations in the world, Asilomar consists of a series of log cabins, the largest of which has an open fire which spans the entire wall, and is the perfect location for a fireside chat or glass of good Californian red. Venturing outside you simply walk down to the beach, past wild deer grazing on berries along the path, to craggy rocks from which you can see otters frolicking. These delightful little creatures have a very endearing, and highly practical habit of rolling themselves in kelp to sleep or eat, belly up, often with a very cute baby lying on top. The mums also roll their babies in kelp to keep them secure while mum is off finding shellfish for dinner. The sound of waves is accompanied by the knock, knock of the stones they hold in their paws to break open molluscs on their stomachs. They are also great parents and watching otters teaching their babies is one of the best time-wasting pleasures I’ve ever experienced.

An easy walk around the end of the small peninsula is a little like rounding a mini Cape Horn. Raging seas on one side give way to slightly calmer waters just around the corner. A park bench near the tip provides a welcome resting spot to otter watch, gaze at the sea of wildflowers which carpet walkways on this side, and the plethora of Victorian houses that frame the town. For those who remember a singer by the name of John Denver, this bench also carries a plaque in memory of his death, in a plane crash immediately off this point. Sitting there quietly you can hear ‘Annie’s Song’ being sung by the wind.

Pacific Grove also marks the beginning of the 17 mile drive – a large gated community which is home to many wealthy celebrities, which stretches from Pacific Grove to Carmel-on-the-sea. The lovely guy at the toll booth told us to be sure we visited the Lone Cypress. To Aussies used to seeing trees growing out of granite mountain-sides, this is nothing special, however here, for some reason, a single tree has become a major tourist attraction. This is just opposite the famed Pebble Beach golf course, home of the US Open. If you spend more than $25 at any of the Pebble Beach Company restaurants along the 17-Mile Drive, they’ll deduct the toll fee from your bill. Roy’s restaurant at the Inn at Spanish Bay is famous for their great views and service. Their prices are also much more reasonable than the Lodge at Pebble Beach, and after the fee was subtracted, our lunch bill was only a few dollars more than a mediocre breakfast we had in Carmel the previous day. My friend enjoys her food so much that she sings to it, often unconsciously, and her rendition of the day saw our bill reduced even further, much to our delight.

Carmel is a beautiful seaside village. The town is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history. In 1906, the San Francisco Call devoted a full page to the “artists, poets and writers of Carmel-by-the-Sea,” and in 1910 it reported that 60 percent of Carmel’s houses were built by citizens who were “devoting their lives to work connected to the aesthetic arts.” Early City Councils were dominated by artists, which may explain their street system, and the town has had several mayors who were poets or actors, including Clint Eastwood. He sat beside us at breakfast at the Carmel cafe with some of his mates, all of whom seemed to be fascinated by Aussie accents. The quaintness of the tiny houses is highlighted by the fact that no street numbers exist here, which made trying to find another friend an exercise all the more interesting with the cuteness of the homes continually distracting us.
Driving home, this time along the freeway, we took another detour as my friend, Laurel is also an avid supporter of the magnificent Monarch butterfly, and she was on duty, again, as a docent (trained volunteer) so I was fortunate to spend some time as a docent assistant at the butterfly Sanctuary.

Pacific Grove is often nicknamed “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.” The community has always welcomed the butterflies and fought for their protection. Citizens of Pacific Grove even voted to pay an additional tax to create the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The Pacific Grove Police Department continues to enforce strict regulations that prohibit the “molestation of butterflies.” The fine? $1,000.

Arriving in October, the Monarch Butterflies cluster together on the pines and eucalyptus trees of the Sanctuary so that the entire forest becomes a stunningly beautiful, giant moving entity.

That night, as a perfect finale, we visited the Feast of Lanterns, with a picnic. This Festival has evolved over its 100-plus year history to a lantern parade down to the beach and fireworks over the bay – a multi-cultural community event filled with entertainment. A special pageant on the final night celebrates the legend of the “Blue Willow”. While the origins of the story are a little obscure, the Pacific Grove version tells a story where the lovers fly away as Monarch Butterflies, to return again every fall(autumn).

The Monterey Peninsula is one of my favourite places in the world. Stunningly beautiful, teetering on the edge of Big Sur and the Monterey underwater canyon, it is not only full of playful animals, but wonderfully playful people. It is otterly delightful.

Monarch butterfly lands in Dorset

butterflies/2011/Monarch-(Shane-Austin)bcMonarch butterflies are more usually seen in North America – Photo by Shane Austin

Monarch butterfly turns up in Dorset

October 2011. A rare butterfly, normally found on the other side of the Atlantic, has been discovered on England’s South Coast. The Monarch buterfly, a spectacular black and orange vagrant butterfly, was seen on Buddleia plants in Ringstead Bay, in Dorset. It is not known if the butterfly was blown here as a result of the Indian summer currently gripping the UK or was deposited by hurricane winds from America.

Small populations in Spain
Monarchs are large and unmistakeable with the majority being found in North America, but a smaller population survives in Southern Spain and on the Canary Islands.

Vast migration
Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation said: “Monarchs are one of the wonders of the natural world. At this time of the year they migrate an astonishing 3,000 miles to their over-wintering grounds in mountains of Mexico. But storm systems on the Eastern Seaboard of America can pick them up and deposit them on the West Coast of Ireland and the Southwest of England.”

The last few weeks have also seen many rare vagrant birds from North America arriving in the UK as a result of the hurricane season. The last good Monarch year was in 1999 when scores turned up in the UK.

The butterfly was spotted by accountant Shelley Cunningham, 24, from Yeovil and trainee wildlife guide Shane Austin, 39, from Taunton. Shelley, who three years ago was confined to a wheelchair, is walking the South West Coast Path to raise money for the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) who treated her for curvature of the spine.

Shane said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Monarch, it was feeding on Buddleia with around 20 Red Admirals. It’s big and beautiful and doesn’t look like any butterflies you see here, it is just awe inspiring when you think how far it has flown.”

Shelley underwent three years of surgery to be able to walk again. She is five weeks into the gruelling six-week walk and has raised £3,000 for the charity Above and Beyond.

She said: “The BRI really helped me get back on my feet so this walk is to give something back, seeing the Monarch was just a fantastic added bonus.”

Monarch butterflies in North America
Read more about the fantastic Monarch butterfly migration from Canada to Mexico.

For more information about monarch butterflies and their migration, visit

Illustration from Nomads of the Wind and Other Wonders of the Butterfly World – Photographic Story of the Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterflies swarm around a few trees in winter in Mexico

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Forests dying – loss of key climate protection

The Forest for the Trees: In Arizona, trees are cut down to save forests from massive fires and to combat climate change.

Published: October 1, 2010

WISE RIVER, Mont. — The trees spanning many of the mountainsides of western Montana glow an earthy red, like a broadleaf forest at the beginning of autumn.

Temperature Rising

Trees at Risk

Articles in this series are focusing on the central arguments in the climate debate and examining the evidence for global warming and its consequences.

But these trees are not supposed to turn red. They are evergreens, falling victim to beetles that used to be controlled in part by bitterly cold winters. As the climate warms, scientists say, that control is no longer happening.

Across millions of acres, the pines of the northern and central Rockies are dying, just one among many types of forests that are showing signs of distress these days.

From the mountainous Southwest deep into Texas, wildfires raced across parched landscapes this summer, burning millions more acres. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s spectacular aspen forests have gone into decline because of a lack of water.

The devastation extends worldwide. The great euphorbia trees of southern Africa are succumbing to heat and water stress. So are the Atlas cedars of northern Algeria. Fires fed by hot, dry weather are killing enormous stretches of Siberian forest. Eucalyptus trees are succumbing on a large scale to a heat blast in Australia, and the Amazon recently suffered two “once a century” droughts just five years apart, killing many large trees.

Experts are scrambling to understand the situation, and to predict how serious it may become.

Scientists say the future habitability of the Earth might well depend on the answer. For, while a majority of the world’s people now live in cities, they depend more than ever on forests, in a way that few of them understand.

Scientists have figured out — with the precise numbers deduced only recently — that forests have been absorbing more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people are putting into the air by burning fossil fuels and other activities. It is an amount so large that trees are effectively absorbing the emissions from all the world’s cars and trucks.

Without that disposal service, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be rising faster. The gas traps heat from the sun, and human emissions are causing the planet to warm.

Yet the forests have only been able to restrain the increase, not halt it. And some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate-change victims on a massive scale.

“At the same time that we’re recognizing the potential great value of trees and forests in helping us deal with the excess carbon we’re generating, we’re starting to lose forests,” said Thomas W. Swetnam, an expert on forest history at the University of Arizona.

While some of the forests that died recently are expected to grow back, scientists say others are not, because of climate change.

If forests were to die on a sufficient scale, they would not only stop absorbing carbon dioxide, they might also start to burn up or decay at such a rate that they would spew huge amounts of the gas back into the air — as is already happening in some regions. That, in turn, could speed the warming of the planet, unlocking yet more carbon stored in once-cold places like the Arctic.

Scientists are not sure how likely this feedback loop is, and they are not eager to find out the hard way.

“It would be a very different world than the world we’re in,” said Christopher B. Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

It is clear that the point of no return has not been reached yet — and it may never be. Despite the troubles of recent years, forests continue to take up a large amount of carbon, with some regions, including the Eastern United States, being especially important as global carbon absorbers.

“I think we have a situation where both the ‘forces of growth’ and the ‘forces of death’ are strengthening, and have been for some time,” said Oliver L. Phillips, a prominent tropical forest researcher with the University of Leeds in England. “The latter are more eye-catching, but the former have in fact been more important so far.”

Scientists acknowledge that their attempts to use computers to project the future of forests are still crude. Some of those forecasts warn that climate change could cause potentially widespread forest death in places like the Amazon, while others show forests remaining robust carbon sponges throughout the 21st century.

“We’re not completely blind, but we’re not in good shape,” said William R. L. Anderegg, a researcher at Stanford University.

Many scientists say that ensuring the health of the world’s forests requires slowing human emissions of greenhouse gases. Most nations committed to doing so in a global environmental treaty in 1992, yet two decades of negotiations have yielded scant progress.

In the near term, experts say, more modest steps could be taken to protect forests. One promising plan calls for wealthy countries to pay those in the tropics to halt the destruction of their immense forests for agriculture and logging.

But now even that plan is at risk, for lack of money. Other strategies, like thinning overgrown forests in the American West to make them more resistant to fire and insect damage, are also going begging in straitened times. With growing economic problems and a Congress skeptical of both climate science and new spending, chances for additional funding appear remote.

So, even as potential solutions to forest problems languish, signs of trouble build.

In the 1990s, many of the white spruce trees of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula were wiped out by beetles. For more than a decade, other beetle varieties have been destroying trees across millions of acres of western North America. Red-hued mountainsides have become a familiar sight in a half-dozen states, including Montana and Colorado, as well as British Columbia in Canada.

Researchers refer to events like these as forest die-offs, and they have begun to document what appears to be a rising pattern of them around the world. Only some have been directly linked to global warming by scientific studies; many have yet to be analyzed in detail. Yet it is clear that hotter weather, of the sort that science has long predicted as a consequence of human activity, is playing a large role.

Many scientists had hoped that serious forest damage would not set in before the middle of the 21st century, and that people would have time to get emissions of heat-trapping gases under control before then. Some of them have been shocked in recent years by what they are seeing.

“The amount of area burning now in Siberia is just startling — individual years with 30 million acres burned,” Dr. Swetnam said, describing an area the size of Pennsylvania. “The big fires that are occurring in the American Southwest are extraordinary in terms of their severity, on time scales of thousands of years. If we were to continue at this rate through the century, you’re looking at the loss of at least half the forest landscape of the Southwest.”

The Carbon Dioxide Mystery

In the 1950s, when a scientist named Charles David Keeling first obtained accurate measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a mystery presented itself. Only about half the carbon that people were releasing into the sky seemed to be staying there. It took scientists decades to figure out where the rest was going. The most comprehensive estimates on the role of forests were published only a few weeks ago by an international team of scientists.

As best researchers can tell, the oceans are taking up about a quarter of the carbon emissions arising from human activities. That is causing the sea to become more acidic and is expected to damage marine life over the long run, perhaps catastrophically. But the chemistry is at least somewhat predictable, and scientists are reasonably confident the oceans will continue absorbing carbon for many decades.

Trees are taking up a similar amount of carbon, but whether this will continue is much less certain, as the recent forest damage illustrates.

Carbon dioxide is an essential part of the cycle of life on Earth, but geologic history suggests that too much can cause the climate to warm sharply. With enough time, the chemical cycles operating on the planet have a tendency to bury excess carbon.

In the 19th century, humans discovered the usefulness of some forms of buried carbon — coal, oil and natural gas — as a source of energy, and have been perturbing the natural order ever since. About 10 billion tons of carbon are pouring into the atmosphere every year from the combustion of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests.

The concentration of the gas in the atmosphere has jumped 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists fear it could double or even triple this century, with profound consequences.

While all types of plants absorb carbon dioxide, known as CO2, most of them return it to the atmosphere quickly because their vegetation decays, burns or is eaten. Every year, during the Northern Hemisphere growing season, plants and other organisms inhale some 120 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere, then exhale nearly the same amount as they decay in the winter.

Temperature Rising

Trees at Risk

Articles in this series are focusing on the central arguments in the climate debate and examining the evidence for global warming and its consequences.

It is mainly trees that have the ability to lock carbon into long-term storage, and they do so by making wood or transferring carbon into the soil. The wood may stand for centuries inside a living tree, and it is slow to decay even when the tree dies.

But the carbon in wood is vulnerable to rapid release. If a forest burns down, for instance, much of the carbon stored in it will re-enter the atmosphere.

Destruction by fires and insects is a part of the natural history of forests, and in isolation, such events would be no cause for alarm. Indeed, despite the recent problems, the new estimate, published Aug. 19 in the journal Science, suggests that when emissions from the destruction of forests are subtracted from the carbon they absorb, they are, on balance, packing more than a billion tons of carbon into long-term storage every year.

One major reason is that forests, like other types of plants, appear to be responding to the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by growing more vigorously. The gas is, after all, the main food supply for plants. Scientists have been surprised in recent years to learn that this factor is causing a growth spurt even in mature forests, a finding that overturned decades of ecological dogma.

Climate-change contrarians tend to focus on this “fertilization effect,” hailing it as a boon for forests and the food supply. “The ongoing rise of the air’s CO2 content is causing a great greening of the Earth,” one advocate of this position, Craig D. Idso, said at a contrarian meeting in Washington in July.

Dr. Idso and others assert that this effect is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, ameliorating any negative impacts on plant growth from rising temperatures. More mainstream scientists, while stating that CO2 fertilization is real, are much less certain about the long-term effects, saying that the heat and water stress associated with climate change seem to be making forests vulnerable to insect attack, fires and many other problems.

“Forests take a century to grow to maturity,” said Werner A. Kurz, a Canadian scientist who is a leading expert on forest carbon. “It takes only a single extreme climate event, a single attack by insects, to interrupt that hundred-year uptake of carbon.”

It is possible the recent die-backs will prove transitory — a coincidence, perhaps, that they all occurred at roughly the same time. The more troubling possibility, experts said, is that the die-offs might prove to be the leading edge of a more sweeping change.

“If this were happening in just a few places, it would be easier to deny and write off,” said David A. Cleaves, senior adviser for the United States Forest Service. “But it’s not. It’s happening all over the place. You’ve got to say, gee, what is the common element?”

Tracking an Ebb and Flow

So far, humanity has been lucky. While some forests are starting to release more carbon than they take up, that effect continues to be outweighed by forests that pack carbon away. Whether those healthy forests will predominate over coming decades, or will become sick themselves, is simply unclear.

The other day, deep in a healthy New England thicket of oaks, maples and hemlocks, two young men scrambled around on their hands and knees measuring twigs and sticks that had fallen from the trees.

“What was the diameter on that?” asked Jakob Lindaas, a Harvard student holding a pencil and clipboard.

Leland K. Werden, a researcher at the university, called out a metric measurement, and they moved to the next twig. It was one of thousands they would eventually have to measure as part of an effort to tell how fast the wood, knocked off the trees in an ice storm in 2008, was decaying.

The debris they were cataloging would not have struck a hiker as anything to notice, much less measure, but the Harvard Forest, 3,000 acres near Petersham, Mass., is one of the world’s most intensively studied patches of woods. The work the men were doing will become a small contribution toward solving one of the biggest accounting problems of modern science.

In every forest, carbon is constantly being absorbed as trees and other organisms grow, then released as they die or go dormant. These carbon fluxes, as they are called, vary through the day. They vary with seasons, with climate and weather extremes, with the health of the forests and with many other factors. Across the world, scientists are struggling to track and understand this ebb and flow.

Temperature Rising

Trees at Risk

Articles in this series are focusing on the central arguments in the climate debate and examining the evidence for global warming and its consequences.

A 100-foot tower stands in the middle of the Harvard Forest, studded with instruments. Put up in 1989, it was the first permanent tower of its kind in the world, built to help track the carbon fluxes. Now hundreds of them dot the planet.

Meticulous measurements over the decades have established that the Harvest Forest is gaining weight, roughly two tons per acre per year, on average. It is characteristic of a type of forest that is playing a big role in limiting the damage from human carbon emissions: a recovering forest.

Not so long ago, the land was not a forest at all. Close to where the men were working stood an old stone fence, a telltale sign of the land’s history.

“When the European colonists came to America, they saw trees, and they wanted fields and pastures,” explained J. William Munger, a Harvard research fellow who was supervising the measurements. So the colonists chopped down the original forest and built farmhouses, barns, paddocks and sturdy stone fences.

By the mid-19th century, the Erie Canal and the railroads had opened the interior of the country, and farmers plowing the thin, stony soils of New England could not compete with produce from the rich fields of the Midwest. So the old fields were abandoned, and trees have returned.

Today, the re-growing forests of the Eastern United States are among the most important carbon sponges in the world. In the Harvard Forest, the rate of carbon storage accelerated about a decade ago. As in much of the world, the temperature is warming there — by an average of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 40 years — and that has led to longer growing seasons, benefiting this particular forest more than hurting it, at least so far.

“We’re actually seeing that the leaves are falling off the trees later in the fall,” Mr. Werden said.

Scientists say that something similar may be happening in other forests, particularly in cold northern regions that are warming rapidly. In some places, the higher temperatures could aid tree growth or cause forests to expand into zones previously occupied by grasslands or tundra, storing more carbon.

Forests are re-growing on abandoned agricultural land across vast reaches of Europe and Russia. China, trying to slow the advance of a desert, has planted nearly 100 million acres of trees, and those forests, too, are absorbing carbon.

But, as a strategy for managing carbon emissions, these recovering forests have one big limitation: the planet simply does not have room for many more of them. To expand them significantly would require taking more farmland out of production, an unlikely prospect in a world where food demand and prices are rising.

“We’re basically running out of land,” Dr. Kurz said.

Even in forests that are relatively healthy now, like those of New England, climate risks are coming into focus. For instance, invasive insects that used to be killed off by cold winters are expected to spread north more readily as the temperature warms, attacking trees.

The Harvard Forest has already been invaded by an insect called the woolly adelgid that kills hemlock trees, and managers there fear a large die-off in coming years.

Wildfires and Bugs

Stripping the bark of a tree with a hatchet, Diana L. Six, a University of Montana insect scientist, pointed out the telltale signs of infestation by pine beetles: channels drilled by the creatures as they chewed their way through the juicy part of the tree.

The tree she was pointing out was already dead. Its needles, which should have been deep green, displayed the sickly red that has become so commonplace in the mountainous West. Because the beetles had cut off the tree’s nutrients, the chlorophyll that made the needles green was breaking down, leaving only reddish compounds.

Pine beetles are a natural part of the life cycle in Western forests, but this outbreak, under way for more than a decade in some areas, is by far the most extensive ever recorded. Scientists say winter temperatures used to fall to 40 degrees below zero in the mountains every few years, killing off many beetles. “It just doesn’t happen anymore,” said a leading climate scientist from the University of Montana, Steven W. Running, who was surveying the scene with Dr. Six one recent day.

As the climate has warmed, various beetle species have marauded across the landscape, from Arizona to Alaska. The situation is worst in British Columbia, which has lost millions of trees across an area the size of Wisconsin.

The species Dr. Six was pointing out, the mountain pine beetle, has pushed farther north into Canada than ever recorded. The beetles have jumped the Rocky Mountains into Alberta, and fears are rising that they could spread across the continent as temperatures rise in coming decades. Standing on a mountain plateau south of Missoula, Dr. Six and Dr. Running pointed to the devastation the beetles had wrought in the forest around them, consisting of a high-elevation species called whitebark pine.

“We were going to try to do like an eight-year study up here. But within three years, all this has happened,” Dr. Six said sadly.

“It’s game over,” Dr. Running said.

Later, flying in a small plane over the Montana wilderness, Dr. Running said beetles were not the only problem confronting the forests of the West.

Warmer temperatures are causing mountain snowpack, on which so much of the life in the region depends, to melt earlier in most years, he said. That is causing more severe water deficits in the summer, just as the higher temperatures cause trees to need extra water to survive. The whole landscape dries out, creating the conditions for intense fires. Even if the landscape does not burn, the trees become so stressed they are easy prey for beetles.

From the plane, Dr. Running pointed out huge scars where fires had destroyed stands of trees in recent years. “Nothing can stop the wildfires when they get to this magnitude,” he said. Some of the fire scars stood adjacent to stands of lodgepole pine destroyed by beetles.

At the moment, the most severe problems in the nation’s forests are being seen in the Southwestern United States, in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The region has been so dry that huge, explosive fires consumed millions of acres of vegetation and thousands of homes and other buildings this summer.

This year’s drought came against the background of an overall warming and drying of the Southwestern climate, which scientists say helps to explain the severe effects. But the role of climate change in causing the drought itself is unclear — the more immediate cause is an intermittent weather pattern called La Niña, and research is still under way on whether that cycle is being altered or intensified by global warming, as some researchers suspect. Because of the continuing climatic change, experts say some areas that are burning this year may never return as forest — they are more likely to grow back as heat-tolerant grass or shrub lands, storing far less carbon than the forests they replace.

“A lot of ecologists like me are starting to think all these agents, like insects and fires, are just the proximate cause, and the real culprit is water stress caused by climate change,” said Robert L. Crabtree, head of a center studying the Yellowstone region. “It doesn’t really matter what kills the trees — they’re on their way out. The big question is, Are they going to regrow? If they don’t, we could very well catastrophically lose our forests.”

Stalled Efforts

Scientists are coming to a sobering realization: There may be no such thing left on Earth as a natural forest.

However wild some of them may look, experts say, forests from the deepest Amazon to the remotest reaches of Siberia are now responding to human influences, including the rising level of carbon dioxide in the air, increasing heat and changing rainfall patterns. That raises the issue of what people can do to protect forests.

Some steps have already been taken in recent years, with millions of acres of public and private forest land being designated as conservation reserves, for instance. But other ideas are essentially stymied for lack of money.

Widespread areas of pine forest in the Western United States are a prime example. A scientific consensus has emerged that people mismanaged those particular forests over the past century, in part by suppressing the mild ground fires that used to clear out underbrush and limit tree density.

As a consequence, these overgrown forests have become tinderboxes that can be destroyed by high-intensity fires sweeping through the crowns. The government stance is that many forests throughout the West need to be thinned, and some environmental groups have come to agree.

But the small trees and brush that would be removed have a low commercial value, especially in a weak economy. With little money available to subsidize the thinning, the Forest Service is reduced to treating only small sections of forest that pose the biggest threat to life and property.

On an even larger scale, experts cite a lack of money as endangering a program to slow or halt the destruction of tropical forests at human hands.

Deforestation, usually to make way for agriculture, has been under way for decades, with Brazil and Indonesia being hotspots. The burning of tropical forests not only ends their ability to absorb carbon, it also produces an immediate flow of carbon back to the atmosphere, making it one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rich countries agreed in principle in recent years to pay poorer countries large amounts of money if they would protect their forests.

The wealthy countries have pledged nearly $5 billion, enough to get the program started, but far more money was eventually supposed to become available. The idea was that the rich countries would create ways to charge their companies for emissions of carbon dioxide, and some of this money would flow abroad for forest preservation.

Climate legislation stalled in the United States amid opposition from lawmakers worried about the economic effects, and some European countries have also balked at sending money abroad. That means it is not clear the forest program will ever get rolling in a substantial way.

“Like any other scheme to improve the human condition, it’s quite precarious because it is so grand in its ambitions,” said William Boyd, a University of Colorado law professor working to salvage the plan.

The best hope for the program now is that California, which is intent on battling global warming, will allow industries to comply with its rules partly by financing efforts to slow tropical deforestation. The idea is that other states or countries would eventually follow suit.

Yet, scientists emphasize that in the end, programs meant to conserve forests — or to render them more fire-resistant, as in the Western United States, or to plant new ones, as in China — are only partial measures. To ensure that forests are preserved for future generations, they say, society needs to limit the fossil-fuel burning that is altering the climate of the world.

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Why Our Trees are Dying

BIG swathes of forest from Perth to the South-West – the size of 50 Kings Parks – have died from drought and may never recover, scientists warn.

And they say the dying trees are fuelling “plague proportions” of destructive insects, which are invading the area in record numbers.

Meanwhile, food and water resources are drying up for native mammals, with studied fauna weighing 30 per cent less this year than last.

Aerial and ground surveys of WA‘s northern jarrah forest reveal that 20,000ha of ecosystem has collapsed, while other areas are on the verge of failure.

WA’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Woodland and Forest Health, which has been monitoring the forest from the Perth Hills to York and south to Collie since January, warns that the finding is the tip of the iceberg.

Centre director and ecologist Giles Hardy said the face of the Perth Hills was changing. Big trees some hundreds of years old were likely to become a thing of the past in some areas.

About 6 per cent of the jarrah ecosystem in the South-West had suffered the same fate, but the Perth Hills area was the worst affected, researchers said. Centre ecologist George Matusick described the collapse, which followed one of the hottest, driest summers on record, as dramatic and quick.

While the problem had been evident in the past few years, he said it became significantly worse in February when healthy trees began turning yellow and died within days. Those dying areas continued to expand until June.

“It’s a very dramatic change, I mean, what happened last summer (to the forest) was unprecedented,” Dr Matusick said.

An abundance of drought-stricken trees has made it easier for fungal diseases such as phytophthora dieback, as well as pests and insects to gain a stronger foothold.

Researchers say record levels of wood-boring insects have invaded the area. “There are up to 110 larvae per square metre where normally you would get just one or less,” Prof Hardy said.

“These are potentially plague proportions, nowhere in the literature can we find those sorts of numbers.”

Meanwhile, wildlife carers say mammals in the area weigh 30 per cent less than this time last year.

Conservation biologist Chris Phillips said the loss of the northern jarrah forest would cause the demise of unique wildlife species that relied on it.

“Black cockatoos are already under immense pressure from habitat loss and with this sudden and rapid decline of the jarrah forest many other vulnerable species of flora and fauna will face an uncertain future,” Mr Phillips said.

Jarrah trees aren’t the only victims, with wandoo, tuart and WA’s peppermint species agonis vital for the survival of the western ringtail possum also in decline.

The Department of Environment and Conservation said it supported the centre’s research and was not surprised by tree deaths in record dry conditions.

It said there was no feasible method of controlling wood borers in natural jarrah forests and more research into tree deaths was needed.

Modelling shows that WA’s South-West will be 40 per cent drier by 2070.

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Life on earth is inconceivable without trees

A beautiful piece of writing by ROSSLYN BEEBY
‘Life on earth is inconceivable without trees,” the great Russian playwright Anton Chekovwrote in a letter to a friend in the late 1880s. ”Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilisation nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe.”And in the first act of Uncle Vanya, there’s an environmental monologue, in which the country doctor Mikhail Astrov passionately rails against the destruction of Russia’s forests for firewood.”Why destroy the forests? The woods of Russia are trembling under the blows of the axe. Millions of trees have perished. The homes of the wild animals and birds have been desolated; the rivers are shrinking, and many beautiful landscapes are gone forever … Who but a stupid barbarian could burn so much beauty in his stove?”

Only last month, the Sydney Theatre Company performed a revival of Uncle Vanya at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in the lead roles, and Hugo Weaving playing Astrov. The New York Times gave it a glowing review, describing the production as ”deeply, outrageously funny [and] also heartbreaking enough to make you want to dive straight into a bottomless vodka bottle”.

What’s also heartbreaking enough to warrant a plunge into a bottomless bottle of booze, is that Chekov wrote his ”save the forests” monologue in 1897, maybe even earlier. More than century later – 114 years in fact – there is no equivalent eco-outburst in contemporary theatre. And in Australia, despite logging of old-growth forests being one of our most politically contentious issues, there are no Astrov inspired eco-monologues in any of our popular contemporary plays. Lots of social drama, but nothing to make a federal environment, or forestry minister squirm uncomfortably in their theatre seats. That’s if they’re inclined to go to the theatre.

Australia’s forests have provoked more than their fair share of political drama, and protests over their destruction pre-dates demonstrations with people dressed in fluffy koala suits. It began in the very early days of colonial settlement. Australian National University cultural historian and environmental lawyer Tim Bonyhady traces this concern in The Colonial Earth, shattering the myth that ”the invaders wreaked havoc on their new environment both gratuitously and as an inevitable part of the process of settlement”. Bonyhady shows our earliest forestry conservation battles date, not from the Daintree blockade of the 1980s, but the 1790s, when colonial magistrate Richard Atkins suggested Australia’s weather was changing ”in consequence of the country opening so fast” by land clearing for pasture and settlements. By 1804, several environmental protection and planning laws were in place, including what was ”probably the world’s first prohibition of cruelty to animals” writes Bonyhady.

Australia’s forests had their colonial champions, including the artist John Glover who described Tasmania’s eucalypt forests as ”a painter’s delight”. Within a month of becoming Governor of NSW in 1795, John Hunter banned the felling of native cedar trees on public land along the Hunter river.

”Australia perhaps more than anywhere else began with a form of colonialism alive to the importance of environmental protection and planning,” writes Bonyhady.

”Some species of eucalypt also acquired global significance … The Victorian mountain ash was acclaimed as a ‘wonder of the world’ after the government botanist Ferdinand von Mueller announced in 1866 that it was probably the tallest tree on earth, eclipsing the giant sequoias of California.”

Earlier this week, ANU forest ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer published a scientific paper that paints a shockingly bleak future of those old-growth mountain ash forests. Less than 1.1 per cent remain, destroyed by ”the interacting effects of wildfire [and] logging” creating a previously undocumented ecological condition called ”a landscape trap”.

Lindenmayer describes it as ”a positive feedback loop” between the frequency and severity of bushfires and the reduced age of trees in the mountain ash forests.

”These old growth forests are being wiped out, and up to 40 per cent of old trees are dying,” he says.

”They’re being replaced by young, fire-prone trees. that means a huge shift in the forest ecosystem. Young trees don’t have nesting hollows, they don’t have as extensive bark streamers which are essential foraging micro-habitats for wildlife …

”We’re seeing a whole lot of changes in vegetation structure that are likely to lead to irreversible losses of suitable habitat for around 40 species of animals that are dependent on big, old-growth trees with nesting hollows.”

Lindenmayer has called for an urgent review of all of Australia’s joint federal and state regional forestry agreements in the light of these findings. But both federal Forestry Minister Senator Joe Ludwig and Environment Minister Tony Burke have defended the 20 year agreements between the Federal Government, NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

”These agreements are already regularly reviewed,” a spokeswoman for Ludwig said.

Burke said an assessment last year by the former Bureau of Resources Sciences found that 73 per cent of all old-growth forests in areas covered by the agreements were in protected areas.

”The effective management of these forests is important, so any published research that can support improved management is welcome,” he said.

Lindenmayer co-authored his recent research paper with three of the world’s most distinguished ecologists – Professor Gene Likens, Professor Richard Hobbs and Emeritus Professor Charles Krebs. Likens pioneered the study of acid rain and its impacts on ecosystems, and was awarded a a US National Medal of Science for science leadership. Krebs, from the University of British Columbia, is the author of several influential ecology textbooks (one standard work, widely used for ecology courses at universities throughout the world, is simply referred to as ”Krebs”) and an expert on cool climate forest ecosystems.

Hobbs, from the University of Western Australia, is an Australian Research Council Laureate, and of the world’s top experts on restoration ecology.

In the world of environmental science, these are four names that resonate loudly, and the paper – Lindenmayer is the lead author – published this week in the United States in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is already creating more than a ripple of interest. But not, it seems, among Australia’s politicians. Lindenmayer has not met Burke or Ludwig, and no one from the Federal Government has contacted him following news reports of his findings. And despite being one of Australia’s most published and awarded scientists (more than 20 books, a Harvard University forest ecology fellowship) he has never been asked to brief a federal minister on forestry conservation or related biodiversity issues. He has also not been asked to brief the Coalition or the Greens.

”There is a general disrespect for science these days among politicians. The Government will pick up the phone to talk to lobbyists before they will – if ever – talk to a scientist,” he says.

”As a result we have an atrocious forest management policy, and as a result if that we will see extinctions within 20 to 30 years.”

Lindenmayer says he’s been told by federal contacts that Burke has ruled out any changes to the regional forestry agreements although, as Environment Minister, he has the capacity to request a review.

”I’ve been told the RFAs are right off the table,” Lindenmayer says.

”That’s crazy because we have had massive changes in recent years, not least the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. We need to revisit those agreements, and do it immediately.”

The agreement for Victoria’s southern highlands was drafted in 1997, and states in its biodiversity technical report that ”effects of timber harvesting and wildfire on water harvesting is not well understood” and biodiversity data ”is incomplete”. It notes populations of 13 wildlife species – including Leadbeater’s possum and squirrel gliders – have declined, and the status of a further 15 species ”is unknown”.

But a 2010 independent review of the agreement made no new recommendations regarding ecologically sustainable forest management, but did recommend giving ”priority to monitoring of sustainability indicators to enable comprehensive reporting in the next State of the Forests report due in 2013. The next five-year review of the agreement is due by June 2014.

Lindenmayer says this is ”way too late, and far too bureaucratic to be in any way meaningful”.

”How can you not review a forestry agreement after a massive loss of resources caused by one of Australia’s worst bushfires? How can you not review the agreement when you discover you’ve already lost 99 per cent of old-growth mountain forests? It’s insane.”

The Australian Forest Products Association has unexpectedly backed Lindenmayer’s call for a review of the agreement. The association’s policy manger Mick Stephens says there is a need for ”new discussions”, in order to give certainty – or adequate compensation, in some cases – to sectors of the forestry industry.

”We don’t always agree with David Lindenmayer, but in this case, we would support him in calling for a review of the regional forest agreements. We have been advocating a review for some time, including comprehensive re-assessment of wood supplies,” Stephens says.

”We also want to see monitoring and performance of all forest land tenures to ensure environmental and biodiversity management objectives are being met. That’s a necessity.”

But Australian Greens forests spokeswoman Senator Lee Rhiannon wants the agreements scrapped. She said the Greens had already written to Ludwig ”pressing for a review of regional forest agreements and we will continue this call in the Senate”.

Rhiannon described Lindenmayer’s research paper as painting ”a devastating picture of a landscape that is irreversibly changing from healthy old growth forests to young fire-prone forests without hollows and microclimates for habitat”. She has accused the Gillard Government of ”sleepwalking into an environmental disaster”, with a forests policy that is failing to protect biodiversity, water catchments and local communities.

Lindenmayer has thrown down a challenge for Burke to visit the old-growth mountain ash forests in Victoria’s southern highlands. In recent weeks, he has taken some of the world’s top forest ecologist on a tour of the research sites where he has worked for more than 20 years on one of Australia’s longest-running environmental studies.

”They have been emotionally and physically sickened by what they saw,” he says.

”These are some of the world’s leading authorities – from Seattle, Japan, Vancouver – and they have all asked me how the hell something like this could happen. How could Australia allow this?”

He says University of Washington ecologist Professor Jerry Franklin – was ”rendered speechless by the scale of devastation” and angrily demanded ”why science had failed these forests. Franklin, who has advised the White House on forest conservation, is also writing a paper on the devastation of Australia’s old-growth mountain ash forests. So, memo to federal ministers, this is about to go global.

Lindenmayer says the ”landscape trap” described in this week’s scientific paper is ”historically unprecedented”. It is a landscape that is in ”start contrast” to the mountain ash forest landscape recorded last century, both in historical accounts and photographs. He explains that data analysis in the two years following the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires show ”young forest burns at higher severity than mature forest” and is more fire prone. Therefore, it increases the risk of bushfire, and also ecological functions such as carbon storage, water production and wildlife habitat.

”The irony in all of this is that we’re going to get a carbon tax, and yet the Government is not willing to do anything to protect one of the most important carbon storages in the world, that’s worth tens of billions of dollars,” he says.

”These old growth mountain ash forests are the world’s most carbon-dense forest. There’s a lot of talk about the need to stop logging tropical forests in developing countries, but why not have a forests policy that starts by recognising the carbon benefits to be gained from protecting our own native forests.”

Any chance of getting Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, co-directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, to rework an Australian version of Uncle Vanya? David Lindenmayer could surely offer them a few ideas about an updating Astrov’s forestry speech.

Rosslyn Beeby is Science and Environment reporter.

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Save the Environment – put a $ value on it

Nothing will change until a $value is put on environmental features. Old growth forests will continue to be plundered until the Value of a Tree is calculated!

See how it was done by an Indian Scientist.

See why it needs to be done

Hazel Henderson started the dialogue about Natural Economics in the 80’s and 90’s(see other entries on this blog). Until we have the capablity to measure our natural assets and include them in GDP– the plunderers won’t be able to be stopped. Question is how much is ‘progress’ costing, not how much is being generated in $ terms

Marine survey uncovers a deep sea treasure trove

Andrew Darby Hobart

WHAT price nature? When it comes to adding up the ecological benefits to Australia of its huge marine domain, the first serious stab at a value is $25 billion.

While marine industries such as fishing, oil and gas exploration and marine tourism have long been accounted for, ecosystems themselves have been ignored, a report released today says.

Building on UN Environment Program biodiversity assessments, the Sydney Centre for Policy Development has counted up the worth of nature hidden beneath the sea’s surface.

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The greatest single value lay in the ocean’s use as a carbon sink. Using the Gillard government‘s proposed $23 per tonne carbon price, the centre estimated Australia’s marine domain to be worth $15.8 billion. In the report, Stocking Up: Securing Our Marine Economy, the centre’s research director, Laura Eadie, said small but relatively intensive carbon sinks such as coastal seagrass beds and coral reefs could be worth $79 per hectare. Open ocean, which makes up most of the 10.2 million square kilometre marine territory counted in the report, was worth much less as a sink at $9 per hectare.

The report also calculated dollar values of the oceans to the economy in recreational fisheries, providing ”nursery” services to fish, and in disease control.

Ms Eadie said that as the first ecosystem service valuation study done for a whole sector of the environment, conservative estimates had been made and true values were likely to be much larger. She said the study shone a light on the marine economy as a whole, before rising pressures such as greater global food demand, and ecosystem disruption caused by climate change.

”This report shows the clear economic benefits of protecting our marine economy through sensible measures like establishing marine parks and setting targets to increase fish stocks.”

It comes at what the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, says is a once-in-a-generation chance to protect the marine environment.

Marine plans covering the waters around most of the coastline are to be settled before the end of next year. The report said stronger protections in these waters could set Australia up to benefit at a time when global fisheries were being depleted.

”If global fishing continues unabated … the value of commercial fish production from sustainably managed Australian fisheries could increase by 42 per cent, to $3.3 billion per year,” it said.

The National Seafood Industry Alliance said Australia already had more waters in marine reserves than the international target of 10 per cent by 2020.

However, in a dire assessment of global fisheries, a group of international marine scientists concluded there is a persuasive argument for shutting down all deep sea fisheries. Rapid serial collapses of these fisheries resemble mining operations rather than sustainable fishing, said the US scientist Elliott Norse in the journal Marine Policy.

”Ending deep sea fisheries would be particularly appropriate for the high seas outside the [exclusive economic zones] of maritime countries, where fisheries from a few countries are harming the biodiversity that is a vital interest for all of humankind.”

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Save Hastings Point – the Final Battle of Hastings

Please help save the last remaining pristine estuary on the Far North Coast of NSW. This magnificiant area is threatened with a large housing development right on it’s banks. Currently  a tiny seaside village located halfway between Byron Bay and Coolangatta, and overseen by the infamous Tweed Council (which was dismissed for corruption of process- then same peope were reinstated!) filled with retirees and beach shacks this development aims to turn this piece of paradise into suburbia. The community have been fighting for 30 years to save this village and environment. WE NEED URGENT HELP as this is our last ditch stand. The key issue is that the village is built on a floodplain right where an estuary with a huge catchment area feeds into the ocean. Existing housing will be caught between the proposed development and the ocea leaving nowhere for stormwater to escape and no accommodation for sealevel rise whihc is impacting beaches here right now. Submissions due c.o.b. Monday 5 September 2011

See photos of Hastings Point here

The developers claim

– it’s ok to put a road in the riparian zone along the banks of the estuary

– they should be exempt from adhering to 50m riparian zones around the estuary

– filling a 10ha area to 3.9metres will not impact the flow of water into adjoining properties which are at ground level

stormwater runoff is not an issue as it will ‘disperse naturally’ regardless of whether the ground is supersaturated and the tide is incoming.

Please send and email through the following link to the NSW Department of Planning as the consent body for this.

Further information about the 20 year fight to save the village may be found at

To provide a submission click on

Section for putting in a submission is at the bottom of the page


Submission for LOT 156, Creek St – 06_0153 – PPR

The Hastings Point DCP has been put in place to protect the interests of all current and future residents of Hastings Point. This flawed proposal LOT 156, Creek St – 06_0153 – PPR fails to comply and puts at serious risk the environment, estuary, groundwater; as well as the safety, property and commercial interests of every existing resident and owner in Creek Street. It is unconscionable that one developers return should be allowed to override the rights of every other owner in Creek Street when there is a reasonable alternative which would enable this developer a reasonable return while minimising the risk to everyone else.

I object to the referenced proposal and fully support the submissions of the Hastings Point Progress Association and community experts.



Director, Metropolitan & Regional Projects North

Department of Planning & Infrastructure

GPO Box 39

Sydney NSW 2001

Submission for LOT 156, Creek St – 06_0153 – PPR

The Hastings Point DCP has been put in place to protect the interests of all current and future residents of Hastings Point. This flawed proposal LOT 156, Creek St – 06_0153 – PPR fails to comply and puts at serious risk the environment, estuary, groundwater; as well as the safety, property and commercial interests of every existing resident and owner in Creek Street. It is unconscionable that one developers return should be allowed to override the rights of every other owner in Creek Street when there is a reasonable alternative which would enable this developer a reasonable return while minimising the risk to everyone else.

I object to the referenced proposal for the following reasons:


The Hastings Point DCP provides for restoration of riparian land for protection of the environment, natural habitat and flood hazard.  The proposal ignores this in most places.

The restoration requirement applies on & around the proposed development site where vegetation was illegally removed and landform changed, including filling the estuary.

The proponent has overlaid riparian buffer zones with a midge zone These are two completely separate issues with different vegetation requirements and are in total conflict. They must be kept separate entities.

The proposal does not include vegetated buffers from wetland communities & EECs.

Vegetated buffers of 50-100 m should be imposed after reestablishing the estuary and EEC communities in the restored riparian zones as provided by HPDCP.

Any midge buffer should follow the vegetated buffer before the development.

The developer’s vegetation mapping of Lot 156 is wrong as are its flaura and fauna reports which should be assessed by experts experienced with this site.

Lot 156 sits in a wildlife corridor with endangered species that visit and breed in the area including the bush and beach stone curlews, jabirus and others.  The extent of the development proposed in this area will destroy this habitat.

The flood access road with cycle path proposed will adversely affect the environment and wildlife which inhabits this area.  The volume of human traffic using this area and the construction of such a road requires an environmental impact statement. Destroys the safety and amenity of adjacent residents.  It is contrary to its 7A protection zoning.  It should be restored as provided in HPDC

Foreshore access points which exist & do not destroy buffer should be retained/returned.

There is no open public space and a park should be included as per HPDC.


Groundwater is a dynamic resource around an estuary and cannot be measured with a single ‘snapshot.’ The level of groundwater in Hastings Point varies on a daily basis and as such the estuary and aquifers both require the largest saltmarsh zones to retain health.

The saltmarsh is also a dynamic resource and cannot be confined to a ‘zone. Saltmarsh is mown weekly by the developers in order to claim a ‘grassed area’ however inspection of the site show clearly immature saltmarsh species attempting to regenerate. The speed of regeneration of this area, when this is allowed to occur, is seen clearly in the Part 7A zone which has only regrown in the past 4 years.

It was understood at the inspection meeting on November 2010 DoP planner Marek Holin advised that the developers had been ordered to stop mowing in specified areas. This has not occurred.


This community has fought since 1980 to preserve the amenity of this area and a DCP exists for the area. This must be adhered to. Lot 156 Creek St is an integral component of this DCP.


Use of an area flood plan is inappropriate and dangerous. A localised flood study must be completed.

The developer’s flood models are flawed and must be investigated. Lot 156 was completely under water in 2005 flood – knee deep – as was half of north star and Creek Street.  They go under water with heavy rain events.  Reports & models to the contrary are false & do not depict even the current flood hazard state of the local area. The catchments to north of North Star flow north to south through the park – mapping that shows it flows east to west is false.

Stormwater drains located in 2 Creek St routinely fills to capacity in heavy storms (eg this week) and on an incoming king (or often high) tide there is simply nowhere for stormwater to escape.

It is inappropriate to fill the only flood plain available to drain the surrounding catchments.  It exists for a purpose.

Storm water and drainage solutions are inadequate and adjoining properties including my own will be adversely affected.

There is no satisfactory solution for the redirection of water flow.  The change in water levels/flows will damage critical habitat and wetland ecosystems

A restored estuary will improve flow to reduce flood hazard and improve water quality.


No accommodation has been made for any level of sea-level rise in this proposal. Given the recent, serious ingress of sea to Kingscliff beach necessitating seawall development, Pottsville beach necessitating seawall development and severe erosion of Hastings Point Beach, and experience by local residents of seawater filling stormwater drains in Hastings Point on a regular basis, it is a reasonable assumption that if this development was to proceed, a major seawall construction would be required to be funded (by ratepayers or state govt) in the near future. This is an unreasonable impost.

  1. FILL

The level of fill proposed for the development and the emergency access road will increase flood hazard to an unacceptable level.

There are significant inconsistencies from the proponent. E.g. They claim that the maximum fill height is 3.4 m whereas their own engineers cross sections of the site show 3.9m approx. The Visual Height impact Assessment uses a max floor height of 3.1m.

Any level of fill is inappropriate for this property. Any proposed development must be required to use stump housing rather than fill to enable uninhibited flow of water during major storm events.

This developer has a seriously flawed record with the use of fill. The type of fill proposed for Lot 156 is Class M (see engineering impact stt). This would not allow sufficient absorption of stormwater. Given that the developer claims to have his own source of fill it is reasonable to presume this is the same fill as used on 4-6 Creek St (also owned by these developers). With 4 and 6 Creek St these developers went to considerable lengths to justify the development on the grounds that absorption of water into the storm water table, and retention of existing trees on site only to fill the site with clay based fill and remove most existing trees.

These developers have been required by Council to remove such fill from 4-6 Creek St, but have again failed to comply.


Proposed upgrade of Creek St does nothing to improve safety of resident in fact makes it more hazardous

–          the increase in traffic volume, which will far exceed 100% will create excessive noise and endanger the number of young children in the street who currently play together on the verges.

–          There is no curb barrier in Creek St. This is not wanted by residents but this is a safety issue.

–          No traffic calming means that Creek St will become more of a speed hazard. This has already become a significant issue for local residents since development commenced at Lot 156.

–          Inappropriate footpaths proposed for the elderly and disabled (blind) residents of the street. ‘Meandering paths’ are totally inappropriate for guide god usage.

The Proposed ‘ACCESS Rd requires a number of assumptions each of which provides significant

risk to the environment and other owners in Creek Street

  1. The traffic noise will impact severely and adversely, the commercial retuens for owners of holiday properties at 2 Creek St. These owners invested in good faith and are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their properties.
  2. Access necessitates severe impact on the riparian zone which should be restored under the Hastings Point DCP and not further damaged. This road has not only been rejected by Council because it is contrary to the primary objective of the 7a Environmental Protection zone (a slim buffer which sits adjacent to wetland and EECs), but can now be rejected on the basis that it is inconsistent with one of the main strategies and desired future character objectives of HPDC; namely, “The natural environment along the foreshore of Christies Creek is to be protected and restored where clearing and changes to the landform have occurred
  1. IMPACT on COMMERCIAL and Private Investment

This development will place our lives and properties at risk.

This will decrease the value of our properties and increase the cost of insurance.

Emergency access roads do not exist for North Star Resort and increased flood hazard will trap us in flood times.

I fear for my safety, life and ability to access safe refuge.


Proposed changes to the intersection of Coast Rd and Creek St will have a significant impact on the properties on that intersection. The impact on the investment and commercial returns of owners of rental and holiday accommodation will be particularly impacted and will require compensation.


Functioning of the sewerage pumping station in Creek Street has been of ongoing concern to residents in the area over the past decade. Any increase in volume through the station is of concern.


This developer should not be allowed to profit from accumulated misdeeds perpetuated by both themselves and the previous owner. Failure by successive agencies to enforce the restitution of Christies Creek estuary has resulted in an inappropriate zoning being attributed to this site.

The current owner purchased the site in the full knowledge that it was highly constrained yet has continued to degrade the land, the estuary and the community in his own commercial interests to the detriment of every other owner.

Hastings Point already has an example of a failed development at ‘The Point’ where current residents clearly warned of failure=


The environment and amenity of Hastings Point is enjoyed by thousands of students, visitors and locals.  The safety of existing residents and visitors must not be compromised, and the proposal that one developer’s yield should be paramount over the commercial viability of an existing development in the street and private investment which has been classified as ‘waterfront’ for rates purposes for decades is unconscionable.

Ecological & Zoning

1.       The proposal is an overdevelopment of the site which fails to deal adequately with the constraints of the site such as incorporating sufficient buffers to estuary and wetland/riparian zones. (HPDC sets out clearly the heavy constraints of the site – “development is problematic”)

2.       Irrespective of a 1980’s zoning of residential, the proposal must be assessed against current law and policy which provide for and deal with the relevant constraints.

3.       The riparian zones must be “restored”, “re-established” (HPDC) – restored means returned to their original state i.e. with either estuary or EEC riparian communities which will enhance and protect the immediate riparian zone and the estuary.  HPDC is very strong on this point.  It does not limit itself to simply vegetate i.e. with anything.

4.       From these restored areas, vegetated buffers of 50-100 m must be imposed from which further midge buffers should be designed (HPDC, TCEMP, Tweed DCPA5, CDG etc – refer law in my original submissions, TSC and Aus Wetland Subs)

5.       Justifications for the proposed buffers areas are no different than those detailed at length by Australian Wetlands and TSC’s original submissions to the EA of the concept plan.

6.       The proposed Emergency Access Road is contrary to the objectives of 7A zoned land and the law and policy which applies re restoration and buffers as noted in 3, 4 and 5 above.  The road is not restricted to the current lawn only and is proposed over estuary, mangrove and saltmarsh. (MHWM has not been adequately proven by proponent)

7.       Given this, Council’s consent should be refused for filling and building a bridged road in the road reserve owned by it which joins the sewerage pump station with Lot 156 and is necessary to access LOT 156 land where the proponent’s emergency access road is proposed.  It would be reasonable to refuse consent given Council’s strong objection to this road in this 7A zone.  The bridged road would also require removal of trees on the edge of the road reserve which presence are protected in the Locality Plan – view lines.

8.       Proper application of law and policy re 3, 4 & 5 in respect of restoration and buffers, means that the majority of the middle of the development site and the north western part should not be supported by TSC.


9.       Removal of an emergency access road because of environmental constraints would also mean that any development on Lot 156 would necessarily require a waiver of the application of the emergency access road requirement under the Flood Liable Land DCP.

10.   Such waiver and departure from the Flood Liable Land DCP could only be condoned for a small no. of houses – so it is a matter of no development or a small development which shows respect for the flood liable lands policy and the significant environmental law and policy outlined in 3, 4 & 5 above.

11.   There are serious questions regarding the regional flood modelling of BMT WBM given that it incorrectly depicts areas dry on Lot 156 and various parts of the Northern Precinct which were under ½ m of water in the 2005 flood and seriously inundated in heavy rain events.

12.   There are serious questions regarding the drainage model of OPUS given that it incorrectly depicts the flow paths of water for the northern catchment and North Star precinct.

13.   On the basis of these flawed models, the community does not accept that there will be no increase in flood hazard to them.  These inaccuracies are serious.  OPUS was corrected by Danny Rose on the flow directions but it continues to misrepresent them.

14.   Given the true directional flows of water in the Northern Precinct, fill in Creek St is a serious issue and the consent authority requiring fill for existing houses or a small no. of additional houses should be reconsidered.  Raised houses can provide sufficient flood immunity and at the same time reduce storm water and flooding impacts on other residents.  It would improve permeability of water and protect the integrity of the ground water for the local environment.


Flora and Fauna 

15.   The failure to incorporate appropriate buffers from the development and the changes in hydrology through filling the site will have a significant impact on local fauna and flora.

16.   There are significant endangered species and migrating birds in the area that require specific riparian zoned areas which contain EEC communities which are vital for their survival.  Rhonda James, Dave Milledge and other experts will be addressing these issues.  I have just received more contact from bird advocates who visit Hastings Point who can list regular sightings of various protected migrating species and again, regular sightings of the beach stone curlew on the south eastern parts of Lot 156.  They will be corresponding with Rhonda James this week and I will have Rhonda contact Sandy Pimms to provide this additional evidence.

17.   Significant Impact assessment (EPBC Act and Threatened Species Act) is crucial given the number of migratory and endangered birds that use this corridor and edges of Lot 156 as habitat.

Views & Amenity

18.   The view lines will be breached under the locality plan and the suggestion that the dwellings will fall within the midlayer box which drops from 20 Creek Street when viewed from the headland and bridge is false.  These houses will sit clearly above the midlayer box as represented by the proponent’s own diagrams.

19.   The views and amenity of Creek St residents will be severely affected by the raised emergency access road and filled site.  Any suggestion to the contrary is unrealistic.  Given the past illegal activity and its effect on their amenity already, this would be highly inappropriate.

20.   Foreshore access should be returned to the locals given the manner in which it was illegally removed and foreshore crown land stolen.

21.   The amenity of Hastings Point is its views, naturalness and diverse environment.  It is highly prized for this reason.  This proposal will adversely affect this amenity and in doing so reduce the use and enjoyment for the public and locals of the area.

Roads & Footpaths

22.   Any change in the height of Creek St will have a significant impact on the residents on the northern side of Creek St.

23.   The change in the width of the road plus a footpath on the southern side will result in the green verge becoming nearly non existent.  This is not supported by the Locality Plan or the community- but the contrary – retain green verge.  This needs to be respected.  The HPDC is a newer instrument which is specific for Hastings Point and which underwent significant community consultation.  Legally, there is sufficient case precedent to support that it takes priority over a shirewide DCP to the extent of any conflict.  Widening of the road and inclusion of a footpath further reduces the filtration capacity of this land which will not be removed by swale drains and must be maximised given the flatness of the land.  This is evident in heavy rain events.  I will have resident provide you with further photos in this regard.

24.   A smaller development will resolve the traffic issues where Creek St meets Coast Road.

Education and Economic

25.   The proposed development will significantly impact the environment and in turn the potential viability of the education programme run by Hastings Point Marine Education Centre.  This receives thousands of students annually – all schools and students are putting in submissions.

26.   It also impacts on the potential return of the owners of North Star and 2 Creek Street as the safety and amenity of the area is significantly impacted.

27.   In reducing the amenity and increasing the flood hazard to the area, it reduces the value of people’s properties considerably.

28.   Any claim by the proponent that reducing the development would provide no economic return to him is false.  Given that the developer paid $1.2 mill for the land, a small development of 6-12 houses would still provide him with a great return.

Planning – General

In short, the constraints to the land in respect of “adjoining environmental zones, flooding, acid sulphate soils, flora and fauna protection, the identified visual settings, sea level rise and access” have been specifically addressed by HPDC in respect of the Lot 156 site to conclude: “As such development of the site is problematic”.


The legal support to respect these constraints exists and should be applied.   In considering the constraints of the land, it is a recurring mandate in HPDC to protect and restore/re-establish where clearing and changes to the landform have occurred.

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Climate Change Is Affecting Traditional Knowledge

BOGOTA, Aug 16, 2011 (Tierramérica) – The traditional knowledge of nature developed since ancestral times by Colombia’s indigenous peoples is increasingly challenged by the unnatural effects of climate change, a phenomenon that is deeply troubling to the keepers of this knowledge, says biologist Brigitte Baptiste.

This observation is based on personal contacts with indigenous elders, since the government has no policies that recognise or support traditional knowledge, said Baptiste, 47, a respected academic with a PhD in environmental sciences and an environmental activist with close ties to peasant and indigenous communities.

Fortunately, however, these problems are being discussed by the country’s sabedores (literally, “those who know”, the keepers of this knowledge), she added.

Since January, Baptiste has been the director of Colombia’s Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute. She is the author of dozens of articles and book chapters on a wide range of subjects including bioethics and gender diversity. Tierramérica talked with her about some of the points she raised during her presentation at the Second National Climate Congress held in Bogota on Aug. 3-5.

Q: At the Congress you stated that traditional knowledge is losing validity as a result of climate change. Have concrete effects been detected, for example, in the traditional observation systems of indigenous communities?

A: No, because we have not investigated this in depth. The government has no concrete policy to promote traditional knowledge or to recognise its importance. We know because of personal contacts with taitas (wise elders) in the Putumayo, with the curacas of the Mirití River, and the mamos of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, who have begun to say that there are signs that are varying from the usual patterns which have traditionally been used for making decisions.

When certain plants stop flowering for three or four years, they say, we have no memory of this ever happening before. The indigenous system of monitoring is based on people’s memory, fed by all of their ancestral knowledge, but it is very local.

When this happens, they say, they need to “converse” to see if anyone remembers this ever happening anywhere else, and what happened later: if it was the announcement of a major drought, or the deterioration of the soil, or that there was going to be 10 or 15 years of malaria. The good thing is that they are doing it. There is active discussion among indigenous sabedores. But we actually hear very little about it.

Q: You also said that it isn’t known what effect climate change will have on biodiversity in Colombia. Why is that?

A: Life forms react in surprising ways to pressures of any kind. Species don’t adapt one by one. One might think that if it heats up, the species that are susceptible to high temperatures will disappear. But no. Every organism in a species has differentiated genetic information. So part of the population of a given species may react in a different way from another.

And species are linked to one another. Consider the figures in Colombia: 784 species of amphibians, 1,714 species of birds, 35,000 species of plants, and they will not react one by one. They will react as ecological groups, full of trophic interactions – who eats whom – predatory interactions.

We need figures and data from 10, 20, 30 years ago, and that is something we don’t have. Colombia has no system for monitoring biodiversity that could indicate what might be happening.

It is only now that we have some high-quality satellite images, from about 20 years back. And certain very precise records from 20th-century researchers, from 50, 60 years ago. This is reliable information that we can use to begin to speculate and construct models as to how biodiversity is going to respond, if it gets warmer, rains more, or becomes much drier.

Q: You mentioned that there are species of birds that are changing thermal layers, altitude ranges.

A: Some preliminary studies have identified some species that might suffer from this problem. Birds are associated with a certain type of forest – for example, forests that are found at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level. Eventually this forest may move upward, and the birds will move up as well.

But what happens if, farther up, the soil isn’t appropriate for the survival of this forest? Then the forest will no longer be able to continue moving up, and as a result, the birds will not have a habitat.

Q: What are the international “rankings” of Colombian biodiversity?

A: Colombia is the country with the greatest wealth of birds. More than 15 percent of the world’s birds live in Colombia. It is probably first or second in terms of amphibians, frogs. We compete with Indonesia above all with regard to endemic species: what determines if a country has a greater or lesser wealth of biodiversity tends to be the species that have developed exclusively in that country’s environments.

In terms of plants we are also in first or second place worldwide, comparable only to Brazil. And we are in third or fourth place in terms of mammals. And also freshwater and marine fish species, although the latter tend to be shared more with other countries.

The Magdalena River is unique in the world. It runs from south to north, crossing almost all of the equatorial territory. It is tremendously fertile, receiving all of the nutritional contributions of the forests of the entire Andean sub-region. Almost all of its fauna is endemic. Close to 40 percent of the organisms that live in the Magdalena are only found in the Magdalena, which makes this river basin, in general, a world treasure of biodiversity.

Q: Even though the riverbanks are so destroyed?

A: Data on total extinction still do not indicate the collapse of biodiversity. Despite the mercury and the excessive sedimentation, the Magdalena River continues to have an extremely important level of biodiversity.

Q: Can biodiversity also help us adapt to climate change?

A: Yes, and this is very important. We try to raise awareness among the productive sectors that the best insurance for production lies in biodiversity. Because the biological controls of the future will be found in biodiversity, the ecosystem services that can mitigate the effects of drought or some nutritional dysfunction.

The productive sectors need to better understand the system of ecological functions in which they are immersed and recognise that, if these ecological functions are lost, they will have to reach into their own pockets to replace them. Abundant and healthy biodiversity is a clear determinant of lower expenditure on controlling productive processes.

And that is because biodiversity mitigates the effects of climate change, although we don’t know how exactly. There are practical reasons for maintaining biodiversity and investing resources in its management, because when biodiversity is lost, it never comes back.

* Constanza Vieira is an IPS correspondent. This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank. (END)

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2011 Sustainability Oration

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Visual Anthropology

As more of our land and culture is threatened the preservation of all that makes us human is becoming increasing important,

Benoit SEGUR is a brilliant cinematographer who captures wonderful moments for posterity.

I’ve just watched Morin Khuur: The Soul Of The Mongolian Horseman – a wonderful documentary about four city children who travel to the Mongolian steppes to learn the Morin Khuur, an ancestral horsehair fiddle that is said to have healing powers. The children then take their new skills, traditional costumes and dances back to teach others. A great example of how culture can be retained if urbalisation is overcome by children maintaining a link with country and the earth. In Australia- we need to High School kids to spend time in the country and on farms to learn about food and real living.

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Bill Maher on why Climate Change cannot be voted for


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Jan Cameron of Katmandu installs conservationist as woodchip mill manager in Tasmania

JanCameron is an amazing woman appoints conservationist to run woodchip mill in Tasmania   
One of Australia’s wealthiest individuals gives away much of her fortune each year. She is  best known as the founder of retail chain Kathmandu, which she sold in 2006 for a personal profit of about $236 million.

Cameron, who lives in Tasmania, says she does a lot of work from a local cafe “mostly by telephone, I don’t use computers.”

Cameron also revealed that one of the secrets to her success – frugality.

“The only time I fly business class is when I use frequent flyer upgrades. It’s a state of mind, you get on a plane and turn off and go into your own little world. To this day I try and extract the value out of everything that I do. Clothes, I wear into the ground. The ironic thing is I’ve made a fortune selling clothes and spend so little buying clothes for myself.”

“Personally I give away my income for the year. For the past four years I think I’ve donated about $35 million into a charitable fund.”

While those in the industry will be concerned, they need to realise they are in good hands.

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Debunking Monckton

Monckton interviewed by Adam Spencer

Christopher Monckton was so annoying when interviewed by Adam Spencer that Spencer hung up on him before finishing the interview later on. The Australian was so impressed by Monckton’s performance that they posted a partial transcript. Moth at New Anthropocene corrects many of Monckton’s misrepresentations, so I’ll just cover what was in the transcript posted by The Australian — presumably they think those are his strongest points.

Spencer: Can I just clarify sir, are you a member of the House of Lords?

Monckton: Yes, but without the right to sit or vote.

Spencer: Because the House of Lords, when you’ve made that claim before, have repeatedly asked you to stop calling yourself as such, haven’t they?

Monckton: No they haven’t because they have not yet repealed the letters patent creating the peerage and until they do I am a member of the House as my passport records. It says I’m the Right Honourable Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, so get used to it.

Christopher Monckton told to stop claiming he is a member of the Lords:

The House of Lords has stepped up its efforts to make Lord Monckton – climate sceptic and deputy leader of the UK Independence party – desist in his repeated claims that he is a member of the upper house.

The push comes as Buckingham Palace has also been drawn into the affair, over his use of a logo similar to parliament’s famous portcullis emblem.

Last month Michael Pownall, clerk of the parliaments, wrote to Lord Monckton, a hereditary peer, stressing that he should not refer to himself as a member of the House of Lords, nor should he use any emblem representing the portcullis. …

The House of Lords said today it strongly rejects Monckton’s interpretation. A spokeswoman said: “Lord Monckton is not and never has been a member of the House of Lords. The clerk of the parliaments has written to Lord Monckton, confirming that he has no association with the House and advising him to stop branding himself as such.”

Back to the interview:

Spencer: Are you a Nobel Laureate as is claimed on many websites?

Monckton: No website that I control says any such thing. It is, however, quite clear that after a seminar that I had given, Professor of Physics David Douglas kindly presented me with a little prize pin which I wear from time to time.

That’s what we on the centre-Right would call “a joke”. It is something you on the Left at the ABC might not fully understand.

Later in the interview Monckton directs listeners to where it states that he is the Chief Policy Advisor and that

His contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 – the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise – earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate.

Now it is possible that is a joke, but only if the rest of Monckton’s biography there is a joke, along with all his writings on climate science. If so, I think it’s time he let us in on the jape. Update: Barry Bickmore adds:

In April of last year, I personally informed Bob Ferguson (president of SPPI) about his organization’s complicity in Monckton’s résumé padding in an e-mail conversation.

Spencer: J. P. Abraham presented to you a list of dozens of them, including Dr [Ola] Johannessen for example.

Monckton: Right. Now can you please tell me what I got wrong in Dr Johannessen’s paper?

Allow me. See slide 76 of Abraham’s presentation. Monckton put up a slide asserting “Greenland ice sheet is just fine” citing Johannessen et al 2005 and said:

Here is a paper by Johannessen et al, a very diligent Danish researcher using laser altimetry and what he found was that from 1992 to 2003 the average thickness of Greenland’s ice sheet increased by 2 inches a year.

Johannessen is Norwegian, not Danish. His study used radar altimetry, not laser altimetry. And most importantly, the area studied did not cover the entire ice sheet so you cannot conclude from the study that the ice sheet is “just fine”. Johannessen et al clearly state:

First, we cannot make an integrated assessment of elevation changes–let alone ice volume and its equivalent sea-level change–for the whole Greenland Ice Sheet, including its outlet glaciers, from these observations alone, because the marginal areas are not measured completely using ERS-1/ERS-2 altimetry (see Fig. 1).

Monckton was just repeating a misrepresentation of Johannessen’s work made by the CEI and refuted back in 2006.

In the interview Monckton offered this defence:

What so-called Professor Abraham had said was that I had not mentioned a paper published by Ola Johannessen in 2009 — that’s a different paper — in which 273 billion tons, he said, had gone from the Greenland ice sheet into the ocean. I didn’t because that paper hadn’t reached me, partly because it hadn’t been published at the time I gave the talk because he made his criticism of me eight months later.

The paper referred to was not published by Johannessen but rather was sent to Abraham by Johannessen when Abraham asked Johannessen if Monckton had accurately presented Johannessen’s work. While it was published after Monckton’s talk, Abraham cited four more papers, all published before Monckton’s talk and all showing Greenland losing ice. Monckton continued with:

I calculated that was 6 inches of the two feet of ice that had accumulated had gone back over the next few years, swings and roundabouts, into the ocean and that would have caused sea level to rise globally by exactly 0.7 mm. And that is the point Abraham held against me. Had he talked to Professor Johannessen? Not as far as I know.

The paper did not say that the total ice loss was 273 gigatons, but that the total from 2000-2008 was 1500 gigatons and the rate after 2006 was 273 gigatons per year. And again, Johannessen’s earlier paper did not cover the entire ice sheet so you cannot say that 2 feet of ice had accumulated on average over the whole sheet. Abraham had contacted Johannessen — the email form Johannessen was even included in his presentation.

The Conversation has created a Monckton Watch page to correct Monckton’s misinformation.

by Tim Lambert

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Forests are the key to reducing carbon emissions’

LONG understood to be the lungs of the earth, the world’s great forests are much more important in the carbon cycle than was previously believed, soaking up one-third of all fossil fuel emissions, according to new research.

Standing forests remove 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon a year from the atmosphere, almost five times Australia’s total emissions.
On the other side of the carbon ledger, forest logging releases about 10 billion tones of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
The research, published today in the leading journal, Science, estimates that reducing logging, most notably in Indonesia and Brazil, could yield up to 2.9 billion tonnes of CO2 a year to be traded as carbon permits to offset emissions in developed countries.
The findings underpin global efforts to establish an avoided deforestation scheme, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, in the developing world.
They also underpin demands in Australia that some of the $1 billion biodiversity fund established as part of the federal government’s carbon tax plan be used to stop logging in state forests.
CSIRO scientist and co-author of the paper, “A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests”, Pep Canadell, said research proved forests should become a priority in any climate protection strategy.
The study showed “the capacity of forests to make a difference for climate protection is much bigger than we thought”, Dr Canadell said. “This is because the emission flux from cutting the trees down and releasing the carbon into the air is two to three times what we had been saying in the past.”
The research has been undertaken as part of the Australian Climate Change Science Program, funded jointly by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO.
Dr Canadell said the research showed the amount of carbon available in avoided deforestation schemes was much larger than previously thought.
Forest groups in Australia have long called for the inclusion of state forests in the nation’s carbon account. According to the Australian Forest and Climate Alliance, state forest logging in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW contributes an estimated 10 per cent of Australia’s emissions total.
Wilderness Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders said recognising the carbon potential of forests was a “game changer”.
“The combined values of carbon sinks, biodiversity and ecological services, such as clean water, provided by forests make it imperative that urgent steps are taken to conserve what’s left,” Mr Schneiders said.
Dr Canadell said forest management was an issue for individual governments. For developing countries, he said, the research suggested the benefits of avoiding deforestation through the UN-backed REDD scheme were larger than previously appreciated.
Dr Canadell said a surprising finding was the large capacity of tropical forest regrowth to remove atmospheric CO2.

Written by  Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor

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The Future of Solar Panels

Highly efficient solar panels; the most powerful transistors ever; the ability to make a fighter jet invisible. Each of these breakthroughs has been announced in the last two weeks. Each relies on a “wonder substance” called graphene. It’s made from graphite — the same stuff you find in the center of a pencil. Except graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms.

Let’s hopscotch through these new developments…

Researchers in India have discovered how to build solar panels using graphene – a development that could finally make widespread solar energy economical.

Graphene solar panels have several advantages over silicon solar panels – starting with a better ability to absorb light. The problem is that up to now, they’ve been a lot more expensive — because the graphene requires other materials to move the electrons around just right.

The Indian scientists put two and two together. They realized that you can also build solar panels using “quantum dots” – microscopic quantities of particles like cadmium or lead. The problem with that is that cadmium and lead are highly toxic.

So…they wondered…what if they built “graphene quantum dots”?

Here’s what makes the scientists’ findings, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, so promising: The graphene quantum dots can transport electrical current more quickly than silicon.

That makes it much more efficient. So instead of waiting 10 years for silicon-based solar panels to “pay for themselves,” you might have to wait only five years or less.

Meanwhile, researchers at MIT have figured out a way to make more graphene more quickly.

Up to now the process has involved – literally – taking sticky tape to a chunk of graphite and flaking it off. The MIT scientists have gone this one better, adding chemicals like iodine chloride or iodine bromide to make the atoms flake off in more-even layers.

These flakes are already good enough to build transistors, although more work still needs to be done.

This is the biggest promise of graphene – as a replacement for the silicon that’s been used to make transistors for over 50 years. With graphene transistors, almost any electronic device will work faster and use less power.

You could download a 3-D high-definition movie in mere seconds; using today’s technology, it’s 45 minutes.

Here’s the most far-out graphene development of the last two weeks – a cloak of invisibility, just like those Klingon warships had on Star Trek.

Researchers at the University of Texas are manipulating graphene to develop an “active, dynamically tunable invisibility cloak.” Basically, it involves bombarding the graphene with microwaves.

While it’s possible to use this graphene to make aircraft invisible, a more likely near-term use is noninvasive sensors – think medical imaging devices that won’t do the harm X-rays do.

No wonder the discovery of graphene won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics.

But here’s the thing: For something that goes into a plain old No. 2 pencil, graphite is a lot less common a substance than you’d think…

“Good graphite is not that easy to find,” remarks our resident geologist Byron King. “Graphite prices have more than doubled in recent years. Based on recent quotes, a ton of 97% pure graphite goes for over $2,000. A ton of ultra-pure, 99.99% graphite will set you back over $20,000.”

Another wrinkle: “China controls 80% of the global graphite market – just like China runs 97% of the world supply of rare earths. But the Chinese are running low on graphite reserves – same story as with rare earths.”

Addison Wiggin

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Great arguments for the Australian Carbon Price

Great arguments for the Australian Carbon Price. Germany strongest economy, toughest climate laws. Coincidence?

“The Abbott fear rhetoric already sounds hollow”

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Jim Hanson’s “Storms of my Grandchildren”

Jim Hanson’s “Storms of my Grandchildren is an important look at climate reality from a man who knows, and is scared and angry.

In summary the only way to limit atmospheric CO2 to 450 ppm is to stop burning coal, now, and to leave the “alternative fossil fuels” – hard to reach oil, shale oil, tar sands and coal gas in the ground.  All the readily available oil and gas will be burned no matter what; and it will be needed and must be conserved for building the necessary renewable energy infrastructure over the next generation. Burning that will take us to 425 ppm with a chance to bring it back into a safe range below 350 ppm.

That lays out our program for Australia – absolutely no to more coal power plants, a stop to coal burning, mining and exporting unless it is used with C capture (unlikely). That could save the world, as it gives us leverage to demand other countries stop.  No harm to our economy or lifestyle, only benefits as we replace coal electricity with efficiency and renewables as it phases out, reduce pollution, including particulates and mercury, and export renewable energy tech instead of coal into huge and eager markets.

Now to the Carbon price policy.  I can’t help but agree with Jim that the far better method is a fee on C excised at the mine or source – no exceptions.  All the money goes back to the people, not industry. That way we support vibrant new innovation and industry that has low C intensity by choosing where we spend our money. We will keep more of our refunded $ by shopping for low C intense products (such as renewable electricity, insulation, organic food etc) to avoid high C fees.  We won’t mind increasing fees – necessary to position the true cost of fossil C use vs. renewables so renewables will quickly flourish – because every increase will be just more $ back to us that we can spend to make ourselves more resilient and secure.

Cap and trade is a disaster. Has not worked, will not work.  The only advantage to cap and trade is for the energy companies and the traders. Its a scam to support business as usual including the traders at Goldman Sachs who just about bought the world economy down with their “rip the face of the client” attitude (I also just read 13 Bankers), their humungous lobbying, control of Washington, and revolving door employment. With their huge bail outs the banks are more concentrated and powerful than ever. They will only get wealthier off of us (a form of tax socialized to the wealthy), and bring the fiscal and environmental system to its knees again, because they know the government will bail them out for being “too big to fail.”

Trading and derivative games with not just our fiscal system but our environment is really a pact with the devil.

As Hanson says (read him):
Policy makers pretend the Cap and Trade is not a tax, therefore they will keep the price low – we need a high price that gives an accurate market signal of the true cost of releasing fossil C, otherwise the market can only fail us, as it has almost terminally
The Cap is always not across the board as policy makers succumb to lobbyists.
The cap puts a floor on emissions.
Any special efforts made by individuals or businesses only release others from curbing their emissions.
The promised offsets rarely work to offset the already emitted emissions – they are usually scams to start with and incompletely monitored. Nature is requiring all emissions to be stopped – moving the lawn furniture makes money for the traders who arrange the moves, but doesn’t fool nature.
Handing out some money for renewables seems beneficial, but that money could and should have come from removing fossil subsidies. If pollution and waste are priced and people have the money, the market along with some regulation will find the best products.
Gov getting their hands on the money just means they dole it out for favours. They tote up the 5 billion for clean energy, but don’t emphasize how much of its going back to the polluters for oxymoronic clean coal, or even much more in exceptions, and free permits, or the $ lost in inefficient schemes at the whim of unknowledgeable, uncaring, lobbied policy makers.

The Australian scheme is partly right: a price with $ back to the people but is spoiled by having exclusions, handouts to polluters, and allowing offsets and trading in the future. Those must be stopped.  The fight is on.


Paul Taylor, PhD
Author: The Biochar Revolution
Transforming Agriculture and the Environment

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Al Gore Launches New Organisation

algoreAl Gore

Follow @climatereality an org I just launched to help tell the truth abt the climate crisis:
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Why Climate Deniers are Simply Wrong

Letters from climate change deniers cover the gamut from supposed incompleteness of the second law of thermodynamics to “… there is a growing body of scientific evidence that the planet is moving into another ice age.” and asked “…why are so many key politicians and multi-national special interest groups indoctrinating us with the dire warning of global warming?” Their answer: because “…these people stand to make huge profits from this new economic opportunity.” Huh? Guess he is not familiar with the humungous profits made by the banking and fossil fuel industries that are actually driving the disinformation.

From ice cores covering over 500,000 years we know a lot, including that the climate is
very sensitive to small energy inputs (forcings). Transitions between glacial and warm
periods were triggered by tiny fractions of a % changes in seasonal solar input, due
to cyclical variations in the earth’s inclination and distance from the sun, amplified by
powerful feedbacks that we are now triggering again. Over time changes in snow and ice
build up changed the amount of sunlight reflected back into space. As the earth warms
the oceans release CO2, which being a greenhouse gas causes the earth to retain more of
the sun’s heat. From the ice cores we know the composition of the atmosphere and the
temperature, and from geology we know the extent of the icecaps. Thus we can work
out the difference in forcing between the middle of the last ice age, when the mean global
temperature was 5 deg cooler, and the present extraglacial: 3.5 watts per square meter
due to the reduced ice sheets and 3 watts due to greenhouse gases. Thus we can calculate
the climate sensitivity as 5 deg per 6.5 watts or about ¾ deg per watt. A doubling of CO2
leads to a climate forcing of 4 watts, so the sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is 3 deg. This is
not theory, this is empirical.

Our civilization developed in the unusually stable climate and sea level that has existed
since the last ice age, but we have already increased CO2 by 40% since preindustrial times, and the earth is obviously warming. In fact business as usual is guaranteed to double CO2 and bring us 3 deg, possibly substantially more, of warming this century.

So where is our climate heading? Certainly not to an ice age as claimed by Chris. The net
human caused forcing is already 1.5 watts per square meter, between 10 and 1000 times
larger than variations in solar forcing or other natural forcings. Over the entire surface the
human caused increase in energy input to the earth is 750 terawatts, the equivalent of the
heat release from several major hurricanes running all year every year! Humans are now
incontrovertibly in control of the climate, but scientists fear our control will be very short
lived – as little as just the next few years they warn!

The past climate record shows that in a warmer world additional feedbacks come into
play, such as release of methane ice from below shallow seas that can kick in runaway
climate change completely beyond our ability to claw back.

The last time the earth was 2-3 deg warmer than today, three million years ago, the ocean
was 25 meters higher, taking away the land now occupied by 1 billion people. The danger
can be much worse: scientists estimate the carrying capacity of a 4 deg warmer world this
century is less than 1 billion people!

So to answer questions: most climate scientists, but a small minority of politicians,
are issuing dire warnings because…well…what’s coming in our children’s time is dire. Is
this gloom and doom? No! This is reality! What will doom us is the gloomy and defeatist
outlook, stemming from the distorted self-interest of business as usual, combined with
the denialist ideologies of their apologists. In fact we have everything we need, if we can
inspire courage and generosity of spirit, to save our butts by rapidly deploying a low
carbon emission economy while creating fuller employment, and a safer and happier

Paul Taylor, PhD (from Germany)

Note names of some individual deniers have been removed.

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Bureaucracy gone mad

A COUPLE living an “off-grid” lifestyle say they face prison unless they move from their own land in Willand and return to an existence in the benefits trap.   

Stig and Dinah Mason bought Muxbeare Orchard after a sudden windfall allowed them to quit their impoverished lives on a Hertfordshire council estate two years ago.
The Masons have transformed what they described as a derelict four-acre plot into a haven of self-sufficiency boasting a 400 allotment, a polytunnel and greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables, chickens for egg production and an orchard they have regenerated by planting around 14 new apple trees of various species.
The couple, who have two boys, aged eight and nine, say because they moved onto the site in order to work the land, Mid Devon District Council is turfing them off as officers do not consider them to be conserving an agricultural area.
They faced magistrates on March 31 when they were served with an injunction to leave within 28 days from June 1.
Dinah, 35, who spent a year with her husband clearing four-foot high nettles and thistles which engulfed the four-acre site, said: “How anybody can say the orchard was being conserved before is beyond my comprehension.    Dinah works while Stig, 34, as well as making sure the children get to school on time, tends to the land on a daily basis where peas, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, raspberries and various produce have been growing since 2009.
Vegetarians Stig and Dinah claim council officers offered them bed and breakfast accommodation in Cullompton at taxpayers’ expense and suggested they live on take aways, which are likely to cost around £20 for each family meal.
Dinah’s income currently provides the family with everything they need which they cannot grow themselves but is unlikely to stretch to cover kennelling costs for their dog, Moo.
They say they currently receive no state hand-outs but by giving up their “off grid” way of life, they fear they will end up in a council house, claiming housing and council tax benefits, as well as seeking grants to help pay for high utility bills.
Stig, chairman of the Willand Composting Scheme and a member of the primary school’s PTFA, sells eggs, produce, and hopefully cider in the future but explained that planning permission to live and work on the land was refused in 2009 which they are appealing against.
He said one of the council’s reasons for refusal was based on a belief the couple had did not have a “sound enough business plan.”
As well as plans to sell more produce locally, the couple say it is only likely to take them a further two years to get to a stage where they will be able to grow six to eight months’ worth of vegetables.  Dinah, who is a community care worker, cub leader and also a member of the PTFA, said: “To live in an agricultural area you need to have a financial need, but this gives us enough to live on, but our whole ethos is not about making money.
“The council is saying by us living here it becomes mixed-use and is therefore no longer deemed agricultural.”
Dinah was bequeathed money from the sudden death of her aunt and £47,000 was spent on the land to create the smallholding where wood burners and solar panels provide their energy needs.
Dinah said removing them from their land will render them homeless and is concerned they will have to pull their children out of Willand Primary School if they have to move out of the area.   But several people from across the country have written to the council in support of the family’s retention.
Anne Wallington, whose family has had an interest in the village for 44 years, wrote to the council in support of the Masons by praising their hard work in reclaiming what was “rapidly becoming derelict land.” David Thompson, who also lives in the village, said “they are trying to live up to the Government’s pledge to take better care of the environment and this is the last orchard in the vicinity of Willand.”
John Clarke, planning enforcement officer, said: “To get planning permission to move onto agricultural land, you have to prove first there is a need for someone to live there, for example, to tend livestock and look after crops, and second, that the enterprise can provide living income for at least one worker.
“Neither condition was met and therefore took the necessary action to protect the nature of the rural landscape and prevent unlawful habitation.”
The council said it cannot comment on individual cases of housing need and said bed and breakfast accommodation is offered if people are homeless.

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Australia’s Carbon Tax -Old Growth Forest Woodchips no longer considered renewable resource

A Major Win for Environmentalists who have been fighting to conserve old growth forests

One of the most telling and historic parts of the carbon price deal was a tiny announcement, barely noticed in the media coverage. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Greens announced yesterday that the carbon price package prevents native forest woodchips being counted as a renewable energy fuel.

This Greens initiative has saved Australia’s native forests from being burned as a renewable energy source, which is good news for conservation and also for the solar and wind industries.

Parliament has only just debated the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) legislation. The CFI allowed the woodchip industry to burn chips from native forests for the production of electricity and count this as renewable energy.

Native biomass generators would have been able to gain a financial subsidy in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates, which are supposed to be used by solar, wind and other genuine renewable energy technologies.

During the debate, the Opposition argued for the National Association of Forest Industries, to broaden access for electricity generation to any native forest under state or Commonwealth management arrangements.

The end of native forest biomass generation is a big boost for the Greens in Tasmania, where they are part of Government, which has been controversial. The environmental movement will be very glad, especially the Wilderness Society and local groups in other states, such as South East Region Conservation Alliance, which has been fighting the proposal to burn woodchips at the Eden mill, south of Sydney.

Here is SERCA‘s submission against the Eden biomass power station proposal.

The problem with native forest biomass is the same problem with woodchipping in the first place. It was always supposed to be based on waste but it became driver of logging. Woodchipping has been the Trojan Horse for the timber industry over the past 20 years, which drove its expansion into native forests.

Without today’s announcement by the Government and the Greens native forest biomass would have entrenched logging for decades to come, at the very time we need to be protecting them for their carbon, water and biodiversity values.

Wilderness Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders, captures the significance of the win:

  • This is a far-reaching reform that represents a turning point. For more than 30 years, the need to change our economy to conserve the life support mechanisms of our planet through reduced emissions, has been resisted by government and industry.
  • This package is not perfect, but it is a start. The details of the package are less important than the message these reforms send and the direction these reforms take our economy. These reforms will change the game and have confirmed that the protection of nature makes sense both environmentally and economically.

The renewables industry will benefit from this announcement, because native forest biomass companies would be able to sell large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act. This would compete with legitimate solar and wind generators, lowering the price and thus the profitability of those industries.

The Clean Energy Future is the culmination of a decades long cultural reaction to the scientific discovery that we are part of nature, not merely the manager of the natural resource factory.

The same mechanistic, anti-ecological thinking that was blind to the value of native forests is still blind to the value of renewable energy. Senator Christine Milne‘s brilliant contribution to the CEF are the many details that shift the decision-making power from the Greenhouse Mafia, to the renewable energy. This is her way of pushing ecological thinking into energy policy, for the first time in Australian history.

This victory will become more decisive over the next term of the Senate, as solar PV becomes cheaper than coal-fired electricity for consumers all over Australia and indeed, the world. That is when solar, which grew 480% last year, will reach an explosive take-off point. When solar is commonplace, that will consolidate the turning away from coal which Greens senators Brown and Milne have spoken about over the past 24 hours.

From Albany to Alabama, from Sydney to Saigon, consumers will be installing solar PV, without subsidies.

The growth of consumer, cheap solar PV will continue to a point of ‘saturation’ where the grids that were built for coal power are unable to distribute and balance solar electricity. The legacy of a coal-fired conspiracy will prevent people them from taking charge of their own energy costs. This will impact on every solar owner, whether they vote Liberal, National, Labor, Greens or independent. That will be a politically-explosive situation and another tipping point in green politics.

Dan Cass is a lobbyist with over 20 years’ experience working in the environment movement, both in Australia and overseas.

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Fight against Climate Change must be directed against Transnational Corporate Greed – environmentalists


According to IBON data, TNCs account for 50 percent of all oil, gas and coal extraction and refining. Only 10 TNCs account for about 41 percent of world production of oil and gas, and TNCs control 80 percent of land worldwide which is cultivated for cash crops. Only 20 TNCs account for about 90 percent of the sales of hazardous pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. As one of the activities of the International Festival for Peoples’ Rights and Struggles (IFPRS) which ran from July 5 to 6 in the Philippines, environmental networks held a forum dubbed “the Current Challenges of Climate Change” in Quezon City. Organizers said that they wanted to raise awareness on the science and politics of climate change as well as present critiques on the various responses to climate change. Guests from New Zealand, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan shared how their respective countries deal with climate change and its devastating effects. Unquantifiable loss of culture, heritage Dr. Timote Viaoeleti of Impact New Zealand shared that it was also urgent to address the issue of climate change because of its impact on the cultural life, heritage and history of peoples. “This loss is not quantifiable, and what has been destroyed can never be restored,”he said. He explained that the massive floods that hit areas like Kirabati, Rarotonga, Somoa and Fiji destroyed more than the terrain and the livelihood of residents, but also the burial grounds and ancestral lands of the people. The other effects of climate change such as coral bleaching, soil erosion, decreased water supply, storm surges, ocean acidification also alter the face of New Zealand and with it comes the destruction of cultural history and the people’s emotional connection to the land. Resource persons on the Forum on the Current Challenges of Climate Change said that the issue of injustice is at the root of the climate crisis. They said that for all their posturing, governments of advanced capitalist countries and their corporations have not only refused to fully honor their obligations to reduce emissions and support climate actions in the more impoverished countries, they have also exploited the climate crisis to enforce false solutions that create new profit opportunities, expand their control over natural resources and worsen global warming. (From left Vaioleti, Tek Vannara , Irina Gilfanova)(Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / “It’s not usual that the social, spiritual and epistemological issues are considered when discussing the effect of climate change; but in the case for instance of New Zealand, these issues cannot be neglected. Take the destruction of burial grounds or the flooding of ancestral lands — the emotional relationship of people with the land is all but erased, and memories are not enough to contain the grief over what was lost. People are forced to move and leave behind all that they have built and nurtured for centuries. There is a saying and a belief in Samoa: If my village is good, then I am good. If there is something wrong with my village, then there’s something wrong with me. The connection between the environment and the self is very present; there is the acknowledgment that environmental destruction destroys more than forests, oceans or livelihood: it eradicates the self,” he said. Devastating impact on people’s livelihood The presentation given by Tek Vannara from the group Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA) in Cambodia,in the meantime, gave emphasis on the loss of livelihood in his country because of the climate change. According to him, Cambodians are being forced to find alternative means of livelihood because the industries of fishing and animal husbandry have been severely affected. “Two main rivers in Cambodia, the Tonesap and the Mekong have alternately flooded or overflowed or loss massive quantities of their water because of droughts. Floods and droughts are among the major contributors to the poverty of Cambodians. Rice production decreased by as much as 70 percent from 1998 to 2002, and the following years have not been much better. The quality of water has also been affected. Our economy is tied to farming, raising animals and fishing, but the effects of climate change have been drastic and thousands have lost their livelihood,” Vannara said. Uzbekistan has not been spared from the effects of climate change either. Irina Gilfanova, head of the Youth Environmental Network of Uzbekistan said that the changes in her country have been alarming. She said that 90 percent of all accessible water sources in Uzbekistan are used for irrigation needs, but because of the droughts, farmers have found it almost impossible to cope. “Even our lakes are shrinking. One of the biggest lakes in the world is the Aral Lake, but it has shrunk to 10 percent of it original size in recent years. There is constantly high temperature even in our mountainous areas, and there’s a decreasing number of frosty days and snow covers. There is almost no more difference between the hot periods during daytime and the colder weather at night time. There is also decreasing mountain snow-glacier resources,” she said. Gilfanova shared that they can no longer predict or determine changes in the country’s precipitate levels. ? “We are an agro-industrial country and deeply reliant on irrigation from natural water sources, but now there’s widespread drought. Connected to this is the worsening desertification of our soil. The survival of many plant varieties and animal species has been affected. As of now we don’t know if any have become extinct or drastically altered if they have been able to adapt to the climate change,” she said. In the year 2000, Uzbekistan suffered the worst drought in 100 years. Gilfanova said that water levels dropped by an average of 20-40 percent in all rivers. A famine also occurred, affecting one million people of Uzbekistan’s 27 million population. According to Gilfanova, their government was unable to provide adequate relief for the people and was forced to seek the help of the international community. Blame Climate Change on corporate greed and destruction The speaker from Bangladesh, S. Jahangir Hasan Masum, said that most people do not really understand what climate change is,” but they can understand it when we mention floods, tornadoes, cyclones, droughts, erosion and earthquakes. These are all effects of climate change. But more important than knowing the effects of climate change is knowing what causes it, or who,” he said. Masum said that it is crucial for people of the world to know that it is the leading governments in the world and their corporations and industries that are at fault when it comes to climate change. “They have done their best to destroy the environment by clearing thousands of hectares of forests. They have mined the earth to destruction, and poisoned the seas and the air. Because of their insatiable greed for profit, they have killed the planet. The ice covering the Himalayas is melting, and how else can you deny that there is something seriously wrong with the climate?” , he said. According to Masum the island country of Maldives might disappear under ocean waters in 100 years. “The tsunamis are getting bigger and stronger all the time, and they are also an effect of climate change,” he said. The Bangladeshi activist presented tabulations of countries most vulnerable to climate change, and he said that it was highly ironic that the countries who have the least CO2 emissions are the ones most seriously affected.

“The industrialized countries with their high technology industries are the least affected, but they are the ones who have the highest carbon output and emissions,” he said. “The destruction is caused by the economic activities of the economically advanced countries, but the suffering is mostly borne by those living in the poorer countries. This is a point that constantly needs to be raised when we demand a stop to climate change and call for environmental reforms,” he said.

Masum said that the global fight against climate change should be led by the poor people of the world because they are the ones most affected and the least to blame. He pointed out that there is worldwide livelihood and food insecurity because of how unstable the environment has become, and this should be enough reason for the poor and working people to fight for definitive reforms.
“People are not sitting idly by; 200 people can come up with 200 ideas on how to fight climate change. We have the capacity to see and understand the problem as it is and we have the capacity to come up with solutions if we all unite. We cannot and should not rely on politicians because they are more focused on using issues of the environment to promote and bolster their own careers,” he said.

Consult the grassroots for policy reforms

The presenter from India Dominic D’ Souza of Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) said that in crafting policy reforms and advocacies on the environment, the people must be consulted first and their voices heard. “This is an ongoing practice in India where residents of the severely affected communities conduct multilateral dialogues with environmental advocacy groups and political leaders to put together campaigns on how to mitigate the impact of climate change,” he said.

Speaker from Bangladesh, S. Jahangir Hasan Masum (Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio /

D’Souza said that the parties most affected are the working people, the farmers, fisherfolk, those who make a living from cultivating the earth. “The economic activities of the ordinary people produce very low levels of carbon, but they are the most severely affected by climate change because they have no means to cope. We have to address the cause of climate change — the irresponsible and undisciplined economic and industrial practices of the rich nations. If we cannot see that this is the problem, then we cannot come up with viable solutions,” he said.

According to the People’s Movement for Climate Change (PMCC) the issue of injustice is at the root of the climate crisis, saying that a tiny minority of the world’s population based in the advanced capitalist countries are primarily responsible for accelerating climate change. The group said that for all their posturing, governments of these advanced countries and their corporations have not only refused to fully honor their obligations to reduce emissions and support climate actions in the more impoverished countries in the world’s southern hemisphere, but they have exploited the climate crisis to enforce false solutions that create new profit opportunities, expand their control over natural resources and worsen global warming.

Global warming due to chaotic capitalist system

Rosario Bella Guzman of IBON Foundation said that industrialized countries and their transnational corporations (TNCs) promote a chaotic production system and unsustainable pattern of consumption.

“They are to blame mainly for global warming. The vulnerability of the poorer countries may be due to due to their geographic and climatological features, but this natural vulnerability is worsened because TNCs have control over their economies and critical resources. In the meantime, the supposed “solutions” and “assistance” industrialized countries and their multilateral organizations and international financial institutions are all within the profit-oriented framework and undoubtedly still at expense of the peoples of the Third World,” she said.

According to IBON data, TNCs account for 50 percent of all oil, gas and coal extraction and refining. Only 10 TNCs account for about 41 percent of world production of oil and gas, and TNCs control 80 percent of land worldwide which is cultivated for cash crops. Only 20 TNCs account for about 90 percent of the sales of hazardous pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. TNCs also dominate and control extractive industries that have irreversible effects on the environment, such as metal mining and energy extraction.

“In our fight against climate change, we have to reject false solutions that allow rich nations and their TNCs to continue harming the environment. Climate funds are compensation and not aid — what we are calling for is climate justice, and we can start to achieve this by demanding the abolition of all carbon markets; by ending emissions trading and offsetting as mechanisms for northern countries to meet emission commitments,” she said.

Stop destructive mining projects, agrofuel production

Center for Environmental Concerns’ Ces Quimpo said that “Global warming is affecting everyone across continents now and it is the majority of the world who are poor are the ones paying the dearest price with their lives. It is for this reason that the poor people of the world must also unite in the fight for climate justice,” she said.

Quimpo said that the CEC and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment have been campaigning for a stop to large-scale commercial production and use of agrofuels in the country and against large-scale, open-pit mining that .She said that large-scale agrofuel production worsens GHG emissions by forcing the extensive conversion of farmlands, forests and grasslands into plantations that release carbon into the atmosphere. Mega-mining projects in the meantime cause massive dislocation of farmers and indigenous peoples even as it destroys forests and agricultural lands contributing to climate change.

Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the Agham Scientists for the People group said that all the organizations involved in the global campaign against climate change should strengthen their networks and hold united climate actions worldwide.

“We should all advance a strong, grassroots-based movement on climate change that puts to the fore the people’s agenda on climate action and social transformation. The fight against environmental destruction and climate change is a fight against imperialism,” he said.

The participants also asked for deep and drastic cuts on greenhouse gas emissions particularly of the United States, the European Union and Japan. They said that focus on the negotiations should be on protecting the people’s needs and welfare, reducing existing vulnerabilities from the local to the regional levels, and reviewing and repealing policies, frameworks and programs which contribute to the cumulative effect of reducing people’s capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.

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The Climate Show

Here’s an internet-based TV show called The Climate Show:

It’s a really good show (15 episodes so far) – well worth watching.

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Climate debate deserves more than hysteria and populism.

A terrific article by Barry Jones – possibly the most brilliant man I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking to.

First published in the National Times Australia


Labor has not explained the climate change problem with conviction.

The science behind the climate change controversy – despite recent hysterical attacks on scientific integrity – is robust, and not particularly recent. And yet, despite the heat (without depth) of the controversy about the proposed carbon tax, politicians on both sides fail to address the scientific evidence for human contribution to climate change. They say ”I believe” or ”I reject” without examination or analysis. There has been a spectacular failure to distinguish between genuine expertise and strongly held opinions, and an excessive deference to vested interests.

In 1824, the French mathematician Joseph Fourier anticipated what we came to call ”the greenhouse effect”, arguing that surface heat on Earth was maintained by the atmosphere – otherwise the planet’s orbit was too remote from the sun for a temperature that could support life.

In 1859, the Irish physicist John Tyndall identified the role of water vapour, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) as key factors in maintaining temperature despite their tiny percentage of the total atmosphere.

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In 1896, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius named ”the greenhouse effect” and calculated the relationship between changes in CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature with astonishing accuracy.

In 1925, the prodigious American statistician Alfred James Lotka (1880-1949) described what we now call ”anthropogenic climate change”, a century after Fourier’s work.

Economically, we are living on our capital; biologically, we are changing radically the complexion of our share in the carbon cycle by throwing into the atmosphere, from coal fires and metallurgical furnaces, 10 times as much carbon dioxide as in the natural process of breathing.

Lotka referred to ”the present regime of ‘evaporating’ our coal mines . . . into the air”. World population has increased by 350 per cent since Lotka wrote, and per capita fuel usage has increased exponentially.

Each tonne of coal produces three tonnes of CO2 on burning. At present, the consumer pays for the coal but takes no responsibility for the cost of disposing of the exponentially increased residue. As Sir Nicholas (later Lord) Stern argued in his review for the British government, The Economics of Climate Change (2006), this is treated as a ”free good” by the purchaser/user, a spectacular market failure. The downstream impact of consumption of coal and oil, dug up and put into the air, is a long-term contribution to atmospheric pollution taking decades (perhaps centuries – the issue is deeply controversial) to disperse.

There is a striking contrast between the ease with which the international community and the corporate sector accepted the argument that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer, although their volume as a percentage of the atmosphere is tiny compared to CO2 and methane, and the combination of fury, hysteria and mendacity against evidence of global warming. The central difference is that in the case of CFCs every chemical company was convinced that there were economic advantages in getting in first with an alternative propellant (HFCs), while to much of the fossil fuel industries the global warming issue is a fight to the death.

Scientists arguing for the mainstream view have been subject to strong attack (even, it is reported, death threats) by denialists/confusionists who assert that they are quasi-religious zealots who are missionaries for a green religion. In reality, it was the denialist/ confusionist position to rely on faith, the conviction that there were many complex reasons for climate change but only one could be confidently rejected: the role of human activity.

The basic attack was on scientific research and scientific method, and the illusion was created that scientists are corrupt while lobbyists are pure. One of the false assertions is that scientists who take the mainstream position are rewarded while dissenters are punished (similar to Galileo and the Inquisition). In the past decade in the United States and Australia, the contrary was true.

Oddly, denialists rarely refer to observed phenomena (disappearance of Arctic ice, thinning of Greenland’s glaciers, fractures at the edge of the West Antarctic ice shelf, ocean acidification, thawing of Siberian tundra, changes in bird migration, earlier flowering of plants) – and there is generally no analysis of risk, either.

In Australia, the quality of public debate – Ross Garnaut, Will Steffen, David Karoly, Tim Flannery aside – has been deplorable: soporific on one side and hysterical on the other, ugly, dumb and bullying, marked by a ”Gotcha!” approach in sections of the media, with relentless emphasis on fear, the short term, vested interests and a mindless populism. At a government level, failure to explain a very strong case has been a cause of profound disquiet under the Rudd/Gillard prime ministerships.

There has been some hesitancy by both Kevin Rudd and the present prime minister to acknowledge that as the world’s highest per capita emitter of CO2 and a huge coal exporter, Australia should be leading international debate on the climate change problem. There has been an obvious unwillingness to even utter the ”C” word – ”coal”. We rarely talk about the moral dimension of reducing our energy footprint, nor do we promote energy efficiency.

These subjects may have been thoroughly examined in the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change. I hope so, but the issues need to be explained, with conviction, to the community generally. The failure of the opposition (Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull excepted) to play a meaningful role in discussions on mitigating climate change is a profound historic misjudgment.

W.B. Yeats was right: ”The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” (The Second Coming, 1919.)

Barry Jones was minister for science 1983-90 and is a Fellow of all four of Australia’s learned academies.

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A gap in the denial of climate change science

Terrific article by Nicole Hodgson first published in


For climate change ‘sceptics’, denialists, contrarians or what Barry Jones recently called ‘confusionists’ to be right about the science of climate change, an alternative reality must be both plausible and logical.

Firstly, the consensus amongst climate change scientists that human activity is a significant contributing factor to climate change must be misguided at best. The 97 per cent of active publishing climate scientists surveyed in 2009 or the 97 to 98 per cent of climate experts who support the consensus, as evidenced by a 2010 study, must all be wrong.

In addition, the Joint Science Academies from the G8+5 countries statement on climate change must also be misguided, as must be the large number of scientific bodies from around the world which support the consensus on anthropogenic climate change (just part of the long list includes NAASA, American Institute of Physics, in Australia – the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, in Europe the European Federation of Geologists, and the Royal Society of the UK).

In this alternative reality, climate scientists exhibit impressive worldwide powers of persuasion to be able to mislead their scientific peers so decisively.

In this alternative reality, consensus on climate science is anyway irrelevant in the case of climate science – “the language of consensus is the language of politics not science” – but curiously only half the time: consensus in this alternative reality is important when lists are compiled to demonstrate the ostensibly large number of “scientists” who do not support the consensus.

The expertise of those “scientists” is not important when it comes to demonstrating an opposition to the scientific consensus – geologists with links to the mining and fossil fuel industries are just as valid as climate scientists here. Those inhabiting this alternative reality, who cannot help but notice that the actual scientific consensus is quite compelling, procure another explanation: the consensus only exists because of malpractice, a stifling of critics and a misuse of the peer review process.

The argument appears to be: the vast majority of publishing climate scientists agree with the basic hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change, therefore it demonstrates that climate scientists are just ‘following the pack’, primarily because they want to keep their funding grants.  Those scientists with views contrary to the consensus therefore cannot get funding or cannot be published in the peer-reviewed literature. This is where the narrative of this alternative reality becomes extremely illogical.

Somewhere in the process of doing science around the world, this alternative reality presumes that there must be an inherent bias towards the confirmation of anthropogenic climate change.  That is, some people, somewhere (in government perhaps, or the public funding institutions such as the Australian Research Council) only want to see research that confirms the human causes of climate change, and somehow those people monopolise the funding process to secure that outcome.

Given that climate research is mostly conducted by universities or research institutes funded out of the public purse, this means that in this alternative reality, governments right around the world, regardless of their ideology, have funded scientists for decades and, for reasons unknown, only to affirm anthropogenic climate change.

This is despite the fact that the outcomes of this research are in conflict with the same governments’ status-quo economic interests, energy systems and transport systems. In this alternative reality, governments around the world have conspired to fund the creation of a problem that they prove incapable of solving. Why the public research funding bodies of countries such as the US and Australia, whose governments were so opposed to action on climate change in the early to mid 2000s, would at the same time be perverting the independence of the scientific process and directing the science towards enshrining anthropogenic climate change defies a plausible explanation – except in this alternative reality.

In the real world, one could argue that it speaks volumes of the relative independence of the scientific process that important research on climate change could continue to be published in the US and Australia during the early to mid-2000s when the governments in both countries refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and actively undermined the global policy making efforts. Additionally, in the case of the US, the federal government was shown to have significant political influence in preventing the communication of the current climate science.  In Australia, the self-styled greenhouse mafia consisting of key figures from the fossil fuel industry was shown by whistleblower Guy Pearse to be responsible for much of the Federal Government’s policy on climate change at the time.

Back to the alternative reality, where the bias surrounding climate research is ensuring that only outcomes supportive of anthropogenic climate change are produced. Given the global spread of climate research institutes, this must be happening in every country with a major scientific research program, and in just about every university with a climate research program. In the alternative reality, there is some kind of globally orchestrated program to influence the public funders of science in every country, to in turn influence all the universities and other scientists, to ‘toe the line’ on climate change and keep developing this apparently fundamentally flawed body of science.

Pause for a moment and consider the plausibility of this scenario in the real world. Is there any group of people clever enough to be able to sustain this level of deception for three decades or more?  This would require the orchestration of a staggering number of people, funding processes and scientists right across the world.  Where are the whistleblowers?  Where are the exposés?  Where are the investigative journalists uncovering this conspiracy? Where are the Auditor-General departments (or their equivalents) monitoring such a blatant and indefensible misallocation of public funds?

The explanation, in the alternative reality, that there must be implicit vested interests behind the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change is one way of explaining away yet another striking anomaly – the demonstrated links between the fossil fuel industry and the manufacture of doubt about the validity of climate science.  The logic here seems to be if there are demonstrated vested interests on one side of the so-called debate, then there must be vested interests on the other side to explain the scientific consensus on climate change.

In 2006, BBC journalist Richard Black invited so-called sceptics to send in documentation or other firm evidence of bias, undertaking to look into any concrete claims. Expecting a deluge, he received only “one first-hand claim of bias in scientific journals, which was not backed up by documentary evidence; and three second-hand claims, two well-known and one that the scientist in question does not consider evidence of anti-sceptic feeling”.

So far the sum total of published explanations of this alternative reality seems to be Michael Crichton’s fictional State of Fear. The underlying motivation for this scale of scientific fraud is even more difficult to fathom. Most people who subscribe to this alternative reality rely on some creative conspiracy theory, ranging from neo-fascism or Communism (often in the same breath), or the creation of a new world order, to a plot by environmentalists who have a secret agenda to bring down industrial society.

Yet, this bizarre alternative reality is what many in the Australian community are (implicitly) choosing to accept in escalating numbers when they dismiss the science of climate change.  It is no real surprise that many people would not want to accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change.  The full implications of the process we’ve set underway are daunting. Taking meaningful action on climate change will require an economic and energy revolution in societies who appear paralysed by the status quo.

For those with conservative political views, in an increasingly ideologically polarised debate, the prospect of action that requires some level of government intervention is fundamentally at odds with their neo-liberal views.

Yet it is time that we started to recognise this alternative reality for what it is – an elaborate, illogical and implausible work of fiction.

Nicole Hodgson lectures in sustainability at Murdoch University

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If Catastrophic Weather Events Don’t Get Us, Irrationality Might. How Language Changes our Choices

Whether people accept manmade global warming as real may depend on the weather outside that particular day, a new study finds.

Weather and climate

The study results suggest that because global warming and climate are complex and long-term trends, people may be more likely to grasp onto a simpler, more easily accessible explanation — the weather.

Ye Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Columbia Business School’s Center for Decision Sciences, said in a statement.”Global warming is so complex, it appears some people are ready to be persuaded by whether their own day is warmer or cooler than usual, rather than think about whether the entire world is becoming warmer or cooler,” “It is striking that society has spent so much money, time and effort educating people about this issue, yet people are still so easily influenced.”

Li, the study’s lead researcher, added that this would be analogous to a person looking in his or her wallet to make a call on how well the economy is doing.

However, climatologists explain that pinning climate change on a single event makes no sense, since climate includes the weather over the long term.

Research last year showed that about 75 percent of Americans accept human-caused global warming, a number that was down from 84 percent in 2007. Those researchers attributed the decline to perceptions of recent weather changes by those who are skeptical of climate change.

Swayed by the weather

In the new study, the researchers first surveyed 582 U.S. and Australian participants who reported how convinced they were “that global warming is happening,” and how much they “personally worried about global warming.” Participants also indicated how much colder or warmer the weather was from normal for that time of year.

“People who thought the current day’s temperature was warmer than usual were more likely to believe in and worry about global warming than people who thought the current day’s temperature was colder than usual,” the researchers write in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science. For those who said the weather was either “much colder” or “much warmer” than usual, there was a 1-point difference on a 4-point scale in both belief and concern about global warming.

The team used a statistical model to figure out whether a person’s views of global warming affected their ratings of temperature (perhaps these individuals are more attuned to the weather) rather than the other way around. Results showed that wasn’t the case, suggesting temperature was causing the beliefs and concerns about global warming.

To find out whether these swayed beliefs affected behavior, the team had a different set of 251 participants answer the same questions as in the study but also indicate whether they’d donate some of the fee awarded for participating in the study to the Clean Air-Cool Planet, an organization focused on finding and promoting global warming solutions.

Sixty-three percent of participants who rated the day as much warmer than usual donated money, with an average donation of $2.04, whereas just 24 percent of participants who rated weather as much colder than usual donated, with the average donation being 48 cents.

The researchers interpret the results as suggesting people in general use an easily accessible judgment (current weather) instead of a more complex and less accessible one (global temperature trends) when thinking about climate change.

Here are five more ridiculously simple things that get people to change their minds:

What’s on TV. Remember the 2004 hit film The Day After Tomorrow, in which global warming throws Earth into a new ice age, all of a sudden, much to everyone’s surprise. After the movie came out, one study showed, people believed in global warming more, worried about it more, and felt it was more dangerous than they had a few weeks earlier. Where data fail, have Jake Gyllenhaal run through the streets of an ice-bound New York.

Wording of what’s happening. About 10% more people think weird things will happen to Earth’s climate when you call those weird things “climate change” than “global warming,” a study in March found—because the exact phrasing is what’s really important here, not the weird-climatic-things part.

Wording of what we should do. It’s no secret that feelings on climate change are split along party lines, or that Republicans/Australian Liberals don’t much care for taxes. If you ask people to shell out extra cash for a plane ticket because of a carbon tax that will make up for the trip’s environmental effects, they won’t. But, according to a 2010 study when the price bump is called an offset rather than a tax, all will pay up. One extra syllable to garner bipartisan consensus? Wow, that was easy.

The order of the options. People asked “paper or plastic?” will tend to go for the recyclable paper bags, while people asked “plastic or paper?” will often choose the environment-strangling plastic bags, says psychologist Elke Weber, who studies how people make decisions related to climate change and the many ways in which those decisions don’t make sense. For choices like this where we don’t much care—and really, paper and plastic bags are equally easy to carry home— query theory tells us that people often pick what they want based on how the options are presented; they tend to go for whatever they heard first. Even if it’s only a three-word question. (By the way, it’s not actually that clear whether paper or plastic is better, but it seems most people haven’t heard that, based on the fact that they keep asking or assuming it’s paper.)

Whether we get a pep talk. Irreversible change to the planet’s climate is a scary thing. But people are less likely to believe that climate change exists when they’re told what a disaster it will be, a recent study showed, then when they’re giving an “upbeat message” about solutions. So, the worse it is, the more people are convinced it’s not happening. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?

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Carl Sagan: Our Pale Blue Dot

This beautiful, artistic video discusses Carl Sagan’s image and how he used astronomy to get across humanitarian and environmental messages.

The universe is humbling. To realize the immensity of the universe is to recognize that the earth is just a speck of dust in comparison. From a humanist perspective it sheds light on the fact that all the wars, conflicts and land disputes are over just a fraction of this speck in the universe. Is it all really worth it?

From an environmentalist perspective, earth is the only planet discovered thus far that can hold life. It is our home. Despite our differences, whether they be cultural, religious, ethnic, geographic or otherwise, we all share this speck of dust in our universe. Yet, we seem to treat our home as if it were indestructible. We exploit its resources, create mountains of trash, and pollute the air, water and soil that provide us with food and water to survive. We use the earth’s precious resources like they will always be available to us, and we treat those we share our home with like strangers, as if there is no common ground that unites us.

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We are yet to price, supply and use water, or trees efficiently

Until we are able to put a price on not just carbon, but on trees, and water and food- entrepreneurs and governments will not turn their hands sufficiently to saving our civilisation.

Our planet is covered with water, but we are yet to price, supply and use it efficiently, writes Rebecca Gill

Below FIrst Posted on August 29, 2010

This sign that is up at the Singapore Zoo. Should be up in every park!

The functional value of a tree was determined by Professor T.M. Das of the University of Calcutta as ‘a tree living for 50 years will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control , control soil erosion and increase soil fertility to the tune of $31,250, recycle $37,500 worth of water and provide a home for animals worth $31,250, This figure does not include the value of the fruits, lumber or beauty derived from the trees.’

A 150-year-old Hopea sangal Tree was chopped down by a property management firm more than three years ago. The firm was fined $8,000 for chopping down the tree and an additional $76,000 in compensation. Now, a similar offence could result in a $50,000 fine for chopping down the tree and even more in compensation.

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NASA Satellites Detect Extensive Drought Impact On Amazon Forests

NASA Satellites Detect Extensive Drought Impact On Amazon Forests (click to go to full article)

  • Source: NASA HQ
  • Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2011

WASHINGTON — A new NASA-funded study has revealed widespread reductions in the greenness of Amazon forests caused by last year’s record-breaking drought.

“The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation — a measure of its health — decreased dramatically over an area more than three and one-half times the size of Texas,” said Liang Xu, the study’s lead author from Boston University. “It did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010.”

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Magnificent Aurora Borealis

CHeck out the might and beauty of the biggest aurora borealis shows in recent years captured using timelapse photography

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2010 hottest, wettest year on record

2010 hottest, wettest year on record, say climatologists via @guardian
Not only the warmest on record, but the wettest, with several other near
highs as well, such as snow blizzards in Europe and extent of arctic ice
melt, all predicted consequences of global warming (wetter because of more
moisture in the air in a hotter world, more blizzards in Europe because of
the new arctic high pressure zone developing as the ice free oceans soak up
Lester Brown of World Future Society writes about the impending Great Food Crisis of 2011 

As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. 

Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. 

India is wrestling with an 18-percent annual food inflation rate, sparking protests. 

China is looking abroad for potentially massive quantities of wheat and corn. 

The Mexican government is buying corn futures to avoid unmanageable tortilla price rises. 

And on January 5, the U.N. Food and Agricultural organization announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high.
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Business Gets Real About Sustainability

The real power of achieving sustainable  life on the planet does lie to a large degree with the response of business. While there are business people who are more concerned about their own economic sustainability than social and ecological sustainability, at least they are starting the conversation and reaslising that it is impacting their bottom line.

The work Hazel Henderson did back in the 1990s is finally starting to bear fruit.

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Global Natural Disasters 1900 to 2009

In 2010 we saw massive floods in Pakistan, a heat wave in the northern hemisphere, and more recently, unusually cold weather in Europe and North America (which counter-intuitively, has been linked to global warming).

And of course, there are the recent floods right up the East coast of Australia.

How do these events fit into global trends for natural disasters?

Check out this graph:

It shows the number of natural disasters reported from 1900 to 2009. It doesn’t show unreported disasters (no idea how many there could have been but the low results pre-50s is probably due to less reporting combined with lower population [hence less people affected]).

It also doesn’t indicate the severity of disasters (e.g. strength of storms, number killed, $ damage). But it does show an unmistakable rise in the number of storms & flood disasters reported from the 70s onwards. You can see that the growth in earthquakes is minimal by comparison. Earthquakes aren’t caused by global warming (if you ignore glacier movement), and their limited growth is probably due to better reporting & population growth.

It’s clear what’s happening.

How much more do these graphs have to balloon out before the public, in countries like Australia & the US, gets serious about global warming?

950 natural catastrophes make 2010 the costliest year of disasters in decades |

Check for natural disasters 2010

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Australian sea level rise projections Sea level rise projections for some areas of Australia released including Sydney suburbs at risk

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Click here for links to help you live more frugally (and greenly)

Click here for links to help you live more frugally (and greenly):

A terrific and useful list of website links for you to peruse

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