The Planet Positive Chronicles
Eskimo elder brings Inuit Climate Teachings to London School
On April 27th, Planet Positive invited Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder, to deliver the Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man ceremony to raise awareness on climate change to the pupils and parents at Crampton Primary School. The children, aged 7-11, took part in the ceremony which involved encircling Angaangaq while he performed his ceremony by chanting, drumming and talking about the climate change impacts to his homeland, Greenland. The moving ceremony touched many of the students, faculty and parents.
Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq led the children out to the playground to encircle him while he burned logs to ‘create smoke’ as a part of his spiritual tradition. This is a means of powerful cleansing in his tradition, which uses the planet spirit to take away what does not belong to us and restore balance. He also chanted to them with his drum.
As a part of their ‘Act’ pledge, Crampton Primary School hosted the spiritual ceremony, which was conducted by Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder whose family belongs to the traditional healers of the Far North from Kalaallit Nunaat in Greenland. The ceremony integrates the wisdom of traditional Inuit teachings with the healing traditions of the Eskimo-Kalaallit people to raise awareness on climate change. Angaangaq describes his ancestors’ experience of witnessing the melting of the glaciers in Greenland, that ‘water was trickling out of the Big Ice at the Big Wall’.
In most parts of the world, the retreat of glaciers has been dramatic, including Greenland’s massive ice sheet. Between 1961 and 1997, the world’s glaciers lost 890 cubic miles of ice and the melt is accelerating. Today there are hundreds of roaring rivers coming off the glacier year round.
Steve Malkin, CEO of Planet Positive, said: ‘We are proud to be working with schools and educating children on the impacts of climate change. The Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man ceremony provides children with a spiritual and firsthand account of the impact of climate change.’
South Africa’s Request for WB loan to finance coal-fired plant & the larger picture.
South Africa’s power organisation Eskom has put forward loan proposals to several loan and aid agencies including a proposal to the World Bank for a $3.75 billion loan of which $3bn would go towards financing a coal-fired plant.
The power plant is scheduled to operate in Medupi, in the ecologically sensitive area of Waterberg. It would be the world’s fourth more carbon intensive coal fired plant, with plans to supply 4,800 megawatts of electricity.
Eskom and the leaders of South Africa say they need energy and a coal fired plant is the most sensible route to filling the gap between need and availability. NGOs and other countries, like the US & the UK, have urged the World Bank to disapprove the proposal on the grounds of environmental harm and possible debt problems. This real-live story quintessentially illustrates the chasm between energy poverty experienced in many developing countries and the low carbon goals of developed countries. It shows why it is so difficult to come to an international agreement regarding carbon reduction; why developing countries are hesitant to sign over their freedom to develop energy cheaply and why developed countries are reluctant to leave developing countries out of the deal.
The Situation in the eyes of Eskom and the South African Government.
Today the South African economy is two-thirds larger than it was in 1994. As with most growth, with it has come an increased demand for electricity. Supply has not met demand - about 30% of South Africans have no access to energy. A lot of this growth has been centred on mines and factories, which themselves need electricity. If there is no access to energy, prospects for growth will be undermined. Eskom projects that by 2028 there will be a demand of 80,000 megawatts of electricity that they will not be able to meet if they do not have access to the coal.
The finance minister of South Africa, Pravin Gordhan, believes that energy from coal is the “only responsible way forward”. It’s abundant, it’s affordable. South Africa has large deposits of coal – why shouldn’t they use a natural resource they have? In addition, he argues that developing countries need to get themselves on sustainable growth tracks in order to be in a position to play a part in preserving the environment. In the same light, “You cannot have poverty alleviation without economic growth…and you cannot have economic growth without access to energy” (World Bank 2010).
Eskom is the only electricity supplier in South Africa. It also supplies 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa with electricity including Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. If Eskom cannot provide energy, a lot of Sub-Saharan countries will suffer.
As the critics see it.
There are three basic arguments against Eskom’s proposal: one is that the coal-fired plant is environmentally harmful to the point where it’s detrimental to the economy and of course to our Planet; two, the loan and the debt are likely to lead to a currency crash and lead the public towards more energy poverty; and finally there are doubts about Eskom, their management skills and their projections.
This coal fired plant is projected to emit 25 million tonnes of carbon a year. 200 local organisations have signed up to protest against the plant. It is expected that the coal plant will lead to complete degradation of water sources, air pollution and a rise in mercury.
A typical 500 megawatt coal-fired plant draws about 2.2 billion gallons of water every year from nearby water sources including rivers, lakes and oceans in order to create steam. This would be enough water for 250,000 people. This Eskom coal plant is a lot larger than the typical coal-fired plant, almost 10 times larger.
By borrowing another $3.75 billion, South Africa is putting itself in a fragile situation. Their currency has crashed 5 times since 1996; even more loans are likely to increase the likelihood of another crash. There is also going to be a price increase of electricity for South Africans. Eskom originally requested a 45% increase of price each year over the next three years. The government didn’t allow this, but they did allow a 25% increase in price for the next three years. Eskom has been and is catering significantly to the major energy intensive industrial users whom they have been giving dirt cheap energy prices to in order to keep the mining companies and others in the country. It offers the world’s cheapest electricity to export-orientated metals and mining multi-national corporations.
Last year Eskom lost US$1.3 billion, highlighting its problems with management. Also, Eskom would not be able to get such a large loan from the World Bank if they did not have such high projections of energy demand in the future. Some, including the World Resource Institute, say it’s debatable whether there is an 80,000 megawatt projection for 2028 is realistic. Projected electricity demand may be unrealistically high to justify the huge capital investment.
So what do you think? If you take away the questions about mismanagement, exaggerated demand projection and strip this issue down to its bare bones – does moving a country out of energy poverty using an abundant and affordable energy source override the need for a healthy environment and a low-carbon future? Do you think that we have no right to tell a country that they shouldn’t use their natural resource because developed countries have already done that and have already ruined the environment? Or do you think that regardless of what happened in the past we need to be future and forward looking despite the present circumstances? Maybe Brown, Stern and the others meeting in London this week in the attempt to come up with a way to raise $100 billion a year to help developing countries move towards a low-carbon economy should set their already high aims higher.
World Water Day - “Clean Water for a Healthy World”
Today, the 22nd March is an international day set aside to bring global attention to the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. There are still over 884 million people in the world living without access to a safe and accessible supply of water and a staggering 2.2billion without some form of safe sanitation. This year, the world water day places attention on the need to ensure that water is available in an appropriate quantity and at an acceptable quality.
What is the point in providing water in abundance which is unsafe to drink?
Water and sanitation go hand in hand. Without the safe disposal of our poo, potentially deadly faecal matter can contaminate water supplies and food. Where safe water supply is limited diseases such as typhoid, Cholera and shigella can be deadly, with children under 5 most vulnerable. An estimated 1.5million children under the age of 5 die every year from preventable diarrhoeal diseases.
It’s not only a lack of sanitation that is affecting water quality. Increasingly chemical contamination is being identified within drinking waters. In the 1990’s Arsenic hit the headlines in many countries in Asia, whether a result of new tubewells, increased abstraction, or increased use of fertilisers, arsenic was causing arsenicosis, a cancer which affected 85million people in Bangladesh alone (affecting more than ½ of the total population). As a result of arsenic testing and awareness campaigns rolled out through local governments and NGOs, communities are able to identify safe water or implement low cost arsenic removal technologies. However, something of increasing concern is showing its wrath in many rapidly developing countries.
Chemical pollution from industries is contaminating ground and surface waters making them unsafe for consumption. From firsthand experience, I have seen how with little other choice, communities are often forced to drink waters contaminated with heavy metals from tanneries and pharmaceuticals. The clean-up requirements are complex and costs are disproportionate, beyond the capacity of local governments and local communities.
The continuing chemical pollution by industries continues to leave its legacy on vulnerable and vital surface and groundwater sources making then unsafe for consumption.
This morning I attended the Worlds Longest Queue at Westminster, an event organised by the international coalition End Water Poverty Campaign. 51 countries across the world broke the Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Toilet Queue – it is hoped that this will encourage Gordon Brown to demonstrate continued leadership to tackle the sanitation and water crisis at the high level meeting on water and sanitation in Washington next month.
Water and sanitation are so critical, as not only are they directly related to health, they also underpin so many other important issues from education to maternal and child health to economic growth.
If you didn’t make the queue but want to show your support please sign up to the petition on http://www.worldtoiletqueue.org
Happy World Water Day!
A personal journey with vegetarianism and the issues generated by reading Jonathan Saffron Foer’s book Eating Animals
This month marks my two year anniversary as a [cheating] vegetarian. Quite appropriately I have just finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If I wasn’t a vegetarian I more than likely wouldn’t have been able to get through the first chapter. It reminds me of how I felt when I read White Lies by Nick Davies when I was a teenager. The racism, hatred and ignorance captured in Davies’ writings frustrated me to the point where the book was literally thrown to the floor – it took me several months the finish a book that would normally be read in one week. Similarly the treatment and disregard for animals displayed in Safran Foer’s book makes me want to yell. But will these feelings last?
I didn’t become a vegetarian because of a deep resolve regarding animal rights or disgust with the lack of animal welfare evident in the industry. It was just a point in my life where everything added up and it made perfect sense to wean off the meat. An image of a huge truck on the highway in China stacked high with cages with a pig packed tightly in each was etched into my consciousness. I was becoming increasingly interested in environmental issues hence increasingly aware of the environmental damages caused by factory farming and transporting. According to the UN FAO the livestock sector generates 18% of the greenhouse gases produced - more than the transport sector. Additionally livestock uses 30% of the earth’s entire land surface. And finally I visited a local farm in my hometown (not for interest in the animals but in search for their manure for a composting project) where I saw where the pigs lived. My original plan was to only eat local, free-range meat, as well as wild fish. But when I started this new diet I was home in the Bahamas where local, free-range meat wasn’t clearly advertised, so my free-range only diet became a veggie only diet and very quickly I was turned off the whole idea of eating meat at all. I don’t really understand why; I promise myself at least once a month I’ll eat less chocolate, but I can never find the willpower to stop. Maybe it’s because the moral aspect of vegetarianism is stronger than the image and health argument against chocolate?
Safran Foer’s book brilliantly captures this moral aspect through the portal of factory farming industry in the US – the inhumane, filthy, unhealthy and ‘adulterous’ practices of the trade. Safran Foer himself became a vegetarian during his research and his book advocates for vegetarianism but also for ‘another, wiser animal agriculture and more honourable omnivory’. While he mentions environmental as well as labour arguments for changing the industry, his main focus in on animal rights and/or welfare. A section of the book entitled The Life and Death of a Bird vividly captures the life and death of a chicken in a factory farm step by step – from the early days of unending light so they are tricked into thinking they can and should eat all as much as possible, to the diseases and deformities they live with (three out of four birds will have some degree of walking impairment, one out of four have significant trouble walking), to the way they are stuffed into crates to travel to the slaughter house (“30 percent of all live birds arriving at the slaughterhouse have freshly broken bones”), to the electricity shower that is supposed to render them unconscious but usually just immobilises them leaving them awake and aware (about four million birds each year in the US reach the scalding tank still alive and conscious), to the soaking of the chicken meat in a bath where the ‘faecal soup’ is absorbed into the meat (about 11% of the chicken meat sold in the US is essentially this faecal soup).
According to the Vegetarian Society there are about four million vegetarians in the UK – about 7 percent of the population. People become vegetarian for a handful of different reasons: health concerns (“vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher levels of dietary fibre, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals”), religious restrictions (Hinduism and Buddhism hold vegetarianism as an ideal as well as Seven Day Adventists and Jains), environmental degradation (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gases), and food safety (about 5,000 people die a year in the United States from food borne diseases like e.coli and salmonella). However, the main and most popular reason remains moral – vegetarians force themselves to “remember” as Safran Foer describes it.
A lot of what Safran Foer writes forces me to look at things that I normally consciously try to ‘not remember’. I have somewhat divorced the idea of me not eating meat from everything else in my life. My husband is a very active meat-eater and just last Sunday, in the middle of reading Eating Animals, I prepared a roast dinner of a lamb breast joint. It was surprisingly easy to just not think about it, unroll the baby sheep breast, stuff it, roll it up, and put it in the oven. I had no desire to eat it, but I had no problem cooking it. What does this mean for my conviction? We eat less meat in our household because we’ve compromised to cook two vegetarian meals weekly, but otherwise it’s eating as usual. Do I not remember enough?
During my two year journey I have always been a [cheating] vegetarian. I have never stopped eating fish or conch (a popular mollusc and dish in the Bahamas). When I am home most of the fish I eat is caught by someone I know, a lot of the time by my father who is the captain of a boat. I was or am able to justify it to myself by arguing that you can’t get any more local than that and the fish have a good life before… right? I have also been fishing since I was a toddler. And it struck me hard while reading Safran Foer’s book that I never really considered the suffering of the fish I pulled up. Of course I experienced a pang of guilt and turned my head when my dad was taking the hook out of the mouth, but it never really bothered me to the point that I would change the fact that the fish we caught were thrown into a bucket or the floor of the boat left to suffocate and suffer. How was I able to disconnect myself from that, even as a vegetarian? Is it because I’ve disassociated fish from feeling animals, or because I’ve always been around it and have become desensitised? I just don’t know.
I have somewhat come to the conclusion that I will stay away from fish while I’m living in the UK. But what about when I go home? Fish is a huge part of my diet, of my culture. Many Sundays my dad spends hours in the kitchen preparing his famous stew fish. It is tradition that every Boxing Day our extended family and friends come to our house for boiled grouper, stewed fish and chicken souse. Where would I stand if I didn’t share in this food companionship? Safran Foer focuses on this too and how eating meat together is a tradition, a form of familial companionship.
He suggests breaking this tradition of eating meat and making it into something better where eventually it will turn around completely and our kids will say ‘how did they eat that stuff?’
Will we remember enough?
Decline in Climate Change Awareness
Ten years ago, if we envisioned ourselves entering into the second decade of the third millennium, we more than likely pictures ourselves more knowledgeable about the science behind climate change. Undoubtedly we have grown smarter and more aware of climate change in the last 10 years; however, within the last year, the process has been reversed and we have taken steps backward in our understanding of climate change and how we have impacted it.
The Guardian has recently published an article that reports that there has been a sharp decline in Britons’ belief that climate change is actually happening. The amount of people who believe climate change is “definitely” a reality dropped by 30% since 2009. There has been a particularly large plunge in the amount of people whom believe they have played a role in inducing climate change – 1 out of 3 people one year ago felt the problem of global warming is manmade but now only 1 out of 5 Brits believe this.
This trend is not restricted to Britain; it’s being reported throughout the world and not least in the United States. An article in Issues in Governance Studies by Rabe & Borick in January 2010 reported that less people believed in 2009, than in 2008, that the average temperature is rising and that global warming was a serious problem.
It’s depressing but not that surprising. Both polls were taken during the hacked emails debacle and cries of climategate, which have seriously undermined the authority of climate change scientists in the eyes of much of the public. Sometimes the scientists do get it wrong – the IPCC’s report that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was wrong by a factor of 10. The failure of Copenhagen has discouraged regularly enthusiastic yay-sayers and the show of the lack of political will and commitment has added to the screen of doubt that the climate change issue is a serious one. Questions pop up – ‘If the leaders of our society aren’t showing that they care maybe it’s not that serious?’ Along with this other issues have clouded the horizon – the economic climate, health care policy and international relations. Euro RSCG, a marketing communications group, has also suggested that the public is being desensitized to the natural disasters caused by climate change like atypical weather, floods and hurricanes. It doesn’t help that the 2009 hurricane season was uneventful and that Europe and the US is experiencing a very cold and snowy winter.
A writer for the Guardian Ian Katz suggests that to fix this climate scientists must commit to a greater level of openness; the case for the action needs to be reargued from the ground up, the credibility of the IPCC needs to be restored, but ultimately the push needs to come from civil society – from us. Katz has a good point – “anyone who cares about this issue must fight to keep it alive”.
Planet Positive business, Jennewein, promotes Planet Positive Atomic RENU Ski Boot!
We were thrilled to find out that one of our Planet Positive businesses, Jennewein is actively promoting another Planet Positive product, the Atomic Ski Boot.
Jennewein pure sports is a winter sports specialist in Austria’s renowned ski resort St. Anton am Arlberg. Offering the winter sport world’s leading brands combined with competent and friendly service on an international level, Jennewein pure sports offers customers a pure winter sport experience in every one of the pure sports shops. Jeenwein pure sports currently has three cutting-edge stores; 2 rental stops with the latest ski & snowboard models and one shop upon the mountain in the heart of the Arlberg’s skiing area.
The Atomic RENU Ski Boot boasts high environmental credentials. The Renu is central to Atomic’s campaign to Keep Winters White. Atomic has measured and reduced the carbon emissions in production and hasinvested 110% of its remaining footprint into verified carbon projects. Made from 80% bioplastic, cotton and bamboo fibre for reduced ecological footprint. Natural colour makes Renu easy to recycle. 13% reduction in embodied carbon emissions in production. 50% reduction in fossil fuel use. 58% reduction in eco-toxicity. WOW!
The climate change refugee
Global warming is an observable fact threatening our future that much is certain. But, for many, climate change is affecting the here and now. More and more we are witnessing the human cost of climate change: human migration.
In 2008, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate related natural disasters such as cyclones, heavy floods and rains. A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation claims global warming could create as many as 150 million refugees by 2050.
Most often the communities hit hardest are the poorest, lacking education on climate change, least able to adapt to changing circumstances and with the smallest carbon footprints on the planet.
Later on this year, the population of around 2500 of the Cartarel Islands, of Papua New Guinea, will be forced from their homes to neighbouring islands as their homes fall victim to rising sea levels. This will not only adversely affecting fishing, destroying plantation and therefore compromising future food sources, but is more tragically ‘swallowing’, as they say, the picturesque tropical island.
Murray Island, one of the 18 inhabited islands of the Torres Strait, lying between the far north-eastern tip of the Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea, with a total population of 7000 people is also feeling the effects of climate change. Inhabitants’ traditional ways of life living on the islands beaches is increasingly plagued by abnormally high tides flooding and eroding the islands and shifting seasons leaving inhabitants unsure as to when to plant crops.Changing animal migration patterns means birds, turtles and sea cows traditionally hunted for meat are now progressively scarce. One inhabitant claims it is usually customary to see hundreds of turtles on the beach during mating season, in 2008, however, she saw only 5 or 6.
Pacific ocean islands, such as Kiribati with a population of 100,000 and Tuvalu with a population of 11,000, are also suffering from rising sea levels engulfing their landsresulting in salt water mixing with groundwater, contaminating wells and food sources such as plants and trees beginning to die out. In 2007, over 3,000 Tuvaluans fled the island to the largest exile community in Auckland, New Zealand.
As of yet ,there are no extensive research studies into whether climate change is in fact behind this phenomenon and if these people are in fact ‘environmental refugees’. There are many that believe this phenomenon is a result of the natural movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates which is causing islands to ‘sink’.
However, research shows that the River Nile is also shrinking. The river, crucial to the economy in many parts of Uganda, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, acting as a source of food and a means of producing a livelihood threatens these populations’ ways of life. Other parts of these countries increasingly suffer from rising temperatures attracting higher numbers of pests and mosquitoes leading to rising health problems and damaging crops local communities depend upon such as coffee crops in Uganda.
Other countries increasingly affected by climate change are Bangladesh, small island developing states such as the Maldives, which is witnessing the erosion of its coral reefs due to warmer waters, and the Seychelles.
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), regions such as Darfur have been transformed from sustainable agricultural lands into partial deserts leading to tension and conflict over access to food and a means of generating a living
These ‘climate refugees’ grow increasingly scared that their identities and cultures, which they believe to be tied to their land, will be lost. Are we facing the extinction of our world’s different cultures?
It is clear that, before long, the observable trend of inhabitants forced from their homes due to climate change will inevitably become a human rights issue, one which remains at present underdeveloped. For this to happen however there remain legal complexities which must be solved before positive action can be taken such as who is or becomes responsible for these environmental refugees? Neighbouring countries? Who is then to blame for their forced displacement and obligated to provide compensation? Corporations that emit the greenhouse gases that have resulted in anthropogenic climate change? Changes will have to be made to international law to deal with the effects of climate change.
What is certain is that the futures of populations such as those mentioned remain uncertain and in the hands of those with the power to do something for them, namely developing nations.
“Why I Went to COP15″ – My Short Contribution to Planet Positive’s 2020 Vision Campaign” - Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman, Editor of Global Warming is Real, spoke to Christina Wood, Head of Policy & International Development at Planet Positive, at COP15 and gave us his 2020 Vision. Read his post and watch his video here
Coral Reefs - Extinct by 2050
In 2008, 19% of the world’s coral reefs, some of the most biodiverse places on Earth, were destroyed by pollution like agricultural run-off and sewage, calcification of the oceans, and over fishing. 35% of the remaining reefs are currently under threat.
These reefs took 240 million years to develop into the incredibly beautiful, intricate and important life centres they are. We could be destroying them in a heartbeat.
Their ecological value has been estimated at 172 - 375 Billion dollars per year, and they support many of the 500 million people who live within 100 km of a reef. Will we lose the reefs?
Watch this informative short video from Earth Touch on the issues at stake.
2020 Vision Spotlight - Paul King, Chairman of UK Green Buildings Council
Next week we’ll be visiting Paul King, Chairman of UK Green Buildings Council to film his vision for a low carbon, greener future by 2020 as a part of our 2020 Vision Campaign
We will also have the opportunity to ask him a few questions and we wanted to take this opportunity to ask YOU, our readers, to post some questions that you may have.
Please add your question to the comments and we’ll post the interview on our blog.